By all accounts online retailer Zavvi made a mistake when it mailed out a PlayStation Vita and Tearaway bundle to UK customers who simply ordered only the PS Vita game, but the company's response to customers is what's making news this morning. According to Eurogamer, the retailer has sent customers who received the PS Vita bundle by accident emails filled with ultimatums and legal threats.
"We are very sorry to inform you that due to an error in our warehouse we have dispatched the incorrect product," an initial email sent to customers read (by way of Eurogamer but originally posted online by Darkzero).
"We are contacting you in order for us to arrange a collection of the incorrect item which is on the way to you. If possible, please keep the parcel in its original packaging ready to hand back to the courier."
Zavvi has apparently sent out what it categorized as a "final notice" to customers regarding the issue and said that anyone affected must contact the company immediately by 5pm UK time today to arrange a courier to pick the item up.
"This is our final notice to politely remind you that you did not order, or pay for, a PS Vita and if you fail to contact us by 5pm (UK time) on 10th December 2013 to arrange a convenient time for the PS Vita to be collected we reserve the right to enforce any and/or all legal remedies available to us," Zavvi wrote.
"Please email email@example.com with the correct collection details. We look forward to hearing from you shortly."
There is a bit of confusion amongst consumer rights sites in the UK about if a company can force a customer to send back an item they never asked for.
Consumer advice website What Consumer says that Distance Selling Regulations state that "if you've been sent unsolicited goods, you are entitled to treat them as an unconditional gift and do with them as you choose. You are not required to keep them for any amount of time and you are certainly not required to pay for them. Any attempt to demand payment (by threatening means or otherwise) is unlawful."
But another consumer site called The Citizen's Advice puts the issue into a murky, gray area:
"The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations say you have a right to keep goods delivered to you that you didn't ask for," it states. "But if goods are sent to you by mistake, you need to contact whoever sent them to let them know and ask them to collect the goods. You might get goods sent by mistake if they are meant for someone else or you've been sent duplicate or extra items on top of what you ordered. If you receive goods you have not ordered and which haven't been sent by mistake, you can treat the goods as an unconditional gift and you can do what you want with them."
Whatever the law may be, being heavy-handed with consumers and threatening them with legal action for a mistake your company made is horrible for your image and just plain bad customer service.
We'll have more on this story as it develops.