Newest Review: ... online as my Mum was putting the fridge freezer on her credit card so we had to buy instore. ~Comet, Hamilton - My Experience~ Comet ... more
Sell 'em cheap and deny everything
Member Name: grahamt
Advantages: They're everywhere ; they're cheap.
Disadvantages: They're no more trustworthy when things go wrong after 12 months.
Until recently I was a big fan of Comet. I had bought several items from them, ranging from the normal kitchen white goods to TVs and the like. I had always had good service from them and they had handled problems with those that had suffered problems within the first 12 months. However, I now had a TV that had expired (a 19" LG, reviewed here) after just 21 months of use and so this would be the first test of whether Comet could be trusted to honour their obligations under the Law or not.
Most of you will be aware that you rarely have a problem with retailers when the product in question is less than 12 months old; retailers such as Comet and Currys/Dixons buy their products from manufacturers at knock-down prices on the understanding that the manufacturer will have no obligations for products that fail after 12 months. This is why retailers will move heaven and earth to avoid their own obligations as the organisation that actually sold the product to you.
When you buy a product from retailers like these you always get the sales pitch to extend the warranty for a period of 3 or 5 years. I usually avoid these add-ons for low priced items as I just don't consider them good value for money and this is, indeed, the general consensus from market commentators. I have only once bought such a warranty and this wasn't for a purchase from a High Street chain but from a specialist PC dealer and it was for a laptop that cost approaching £2,000. I did get good value out of that warranty!
The law on consumer purchases (Sale of Goods Act 1979) is generally misunderstood. The primary tests of a product relate to "fitness for purpose" and "satisfactory quality". It is in the interpretation of these guidelines that many retailers try to wriggle out of their obligations. Also, depending upon the type of product involved, there may be an obligation to repair, replace or refund for up to 6 years after purchase! With retailers like Comet and PC World, you are likely to have a battle on your hands, as I have discovered with both, but perseverance can be worthwhile.
I think we would all agree that a modern TV should be expected to last longer than 21 months. One that doesn't, in my opinion, has demonstrated prima facie that, no matter how well it initially seemed to perform, it had an inherent fault from the start. It was just failing over a rather longer timespan that might otherwise have been expected but, failing it was.
This was my position when I took it back to Comet. As they had before with other faults, they tested it in-store, plugging it in to aerial feeds and power, and trying to switch it on. After 5 minutes of trying different leads and so on, they agreed with me that the TV was completely dead. It was obvious to all concerned that the power supply had failed but they would not admit as such.
I was offered that they would take the TV into their workshops to "diagnose the problem". We all knew what the problem was! This would cost £99 and would cover the cost of repair, non-refundable, no matter what they found to be the "actual" problem. I was offered the opportunity to take it to one of their "approved" repairers for them to carry out an independent examination in order to establish the exact component that had failed but with no assurance about what would happen if they established that the part that had failed shouldn't have.
I decided at this point to take the TV to an electronics repairers not far from where we live (ICTV in Farnborough), who we have used in the past and who have done good work at a reasonable price. They offered to diagnose the problem to establish if a repair could be carried out, for £50 and, if we decided to have them repair it, discount this from the cost of the repair. I told them to go ahead. They called me a couple of days later, confirming that it was the power supply that had failed and that they could repair it for just over £90.
Now, in the meantime I did what I should have done right from the start: I contacted LG Customer Support, through their website, and asked them if there were any known problems with this model. I got a reply a few days later confirming that there was a known manufacturing problem with the power supply. Not only that but they stated that, if the TV was delivered to one of their service units, they would repair it for free! Too late now: the TV was already being repaired at ICTV. However, I did at least now have the evidence I required to prove to Comet that the TV had a known manufacturing defect and that they were liable under Law. It was neither of satisfactory quality nor fit for purpose.
With this evidence I wrote recorded delivery to Comet's HQ in Hull. I set out the sequence of events and detailed the reaction of their store staff at the store from which I had originally bought the TV. I enclosed a copy of the original receipt, the email from LG confirming that the TV had a known manufacturing fault, and the invoice for repairs from ICTV, and claimed from them the cost of repairs. I few days later I got a letter from Comet totally denying all responsibility. They claimed that the manufacturer had not notified them of the fault with this product though they didn't deny that fact of the fault!
I started reviewing the procedure to make a Small Claims Court claim against Comet when another letter arrived, this one from LG. In it they enclosed a form offering complete recompense for the cost of repairs, without any admission of responsibility. That was good enough for me and so I accepted their offer. It seems that Comet had off-loaded their own obligation onto LG. At least LG had acted honourably!
So, what have we learned from this?
1) Comet is no better nor trustworthy than many similar retailers when products bought from them fail.
2) When products fail, it might pay dividends to consult the manufacturer first; you might save yourself a lot of grief or, at the very least, get valuable evidence to support your claim against the retailer.
3) Be persistent; in most cases the retailer WILL be liable, no matter how much they try to wriggle out of it. They are trying to evade responsibility because otherwise it cuts into already slim profit-margins.
4) LG is an honourable manufacturer and will be getting much more of my business in future.
5) Comet will be getting none of my business in future.
Summary: Just another High Street trader who wants your money but not your problems.