Online Retailer Threatens Legal Action Against Customers for a Mistake it Made

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 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.

Source: Eurogamer

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  1. 0
    Neeneko says:

    The way I read it, if you get something you did not order and the company demands payment, then you get to keep it.  If you get something you did not order and the company asks for it back, you must return it.

    The law was intended to prevent a specific kind of fraud, which this is not  a case of.  People are abusing the law to try to keep free stuff and not sound like the bad guys.

  2. 0
    Wymorence says:

    That is one hell of a vague law if TCA's write up is correct… Basically if you're sent something you didn't order you can keep it, but only if they don't say sometime down the line (is there an actual limit to how long they have?) that it was sent to you by "mistake"…

    I can understand the desire to get the product back since they'll be out quite a chunk of money if they don't, but this is going to be awfully interesting to watch develop.

  3. 0
    Neeneko says:

    Sounds like they are not legally permitted to do that, if I understand correctly.

    Also, looking at what limited information the piece has about the sequence of events, the customers were already being dicks about it and Zaavi finally had to put its foot down.

  4. 0
    Neeneko says:

    A while back I won an auction but the seller accidently sent the item to another person.  The seller was very apologetic to me and attempted to get the item back so she could resend it.

    The other buyer on the other hand was incredibly nasty and narcissistic about it.   It can be a nice feeling to get more then you paid for by someone else's accident, but such luck is tainted with the fact it means someone else lost out.   Given the behavior I watched with this customer I could easily picture why a company would want to get heavy handed on the issue.

    The annoying irony is I imagine these same customers who do not want to send back the mistake would be up in arms and demand immediate corrections if they were sent a lower priced item instead.  I have even seen people demand that they keep the lower priced item AND get the correct one.

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