SALLY SORTS IT: Can Argos refuse to refund phone because I opened box?


I purchased a £400 Samsung Galaxy A53 mobile phone online through Argos. But when I opened the box, I discovered that the phone was too heavy for me to hold as I have arthritic hands. I thought it would be no problem to return it.

However, Argos refused to take the phone back because I had opened the box. How can I assess if something is suitable without opening the box?

I emailed the company, which responded that its refund rejection was because of EU law relating to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the fact there could be personal information stored on the phone. This law apparently supersedes our own distance-selling laws.

No returns: Argos refused to accept a mobile phone back, despite it not having been used, on the grounds that the box had been opened

I would have thought that it would be easy to check the phone to ensure that it did not contain such information.

Even if you can’t help me, I feel that if something is not done about this, anyone who buys a tech item from Argos and needs to return it will be stuck.

C. N., Loughborough.

Sally Hamilton replies: I have ordered mobile phones online before, but since I’ve never had to return one, I haven’t encountered a nasty little loophole like this.

When I got in touch with Sainsbury’s, which owns Argos, it confirmed its position but agreed to refund you as a ‘goodwill gesture’. It added: ‘Customers have 30 days to return an item in line with our returns policy. Some items, including DVDs, music and software products, must be unused and in original sealed packaging to be returned/refunded.

‘Smartphones are also exempt from the 30-day money-back guarantee as they can store personal data and therefore cannot be resold.’

I knew about the rule on DVDs, software and music, which makes perfect sense as someone could theoretically buy these items, copy them and return the originals for a refund. But I felt something was not right about the conditions being applied to smartphones.

I searched online briefly but saw no mention of this mobile phone return exemption on the websites of other retailers.

I spoke to consumer champion Martyn James who was incredulous. He told me he had never before heard of this ‘totally incorrect’ interpretation of the GDPR rules — legislation designed to protect an individual’s personal data.

He says: ‘I will add it to my ever-increasing list of bonkers claims businesses make because of this much-misunderstood legislation.

‘Sometimes I find that, when you dig a little deeper, some staff at businesses develop what I call “urban GDPR myths”. They do a training course, someone draws a random conclusion, it spreads like wildfire and then becomes unofficial policy.

‘In this case, as with most of them, it’s totally wrong.

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Anyone approached by a claims management company should be very cautious and check the FCA’s register to make sure it is an authorised firm (register.fca.org.uk).

‘If the customer has only taken the phone out of the packaging, it hasn’t got her details on it. Phones don’t magically absorb the data of your previous phone, as anyone who has laboured through a set-up process will attest.

‘And even if she had done so, that’s why we have the ‘‘restore to factory settings” button.’

He believes this looks more like a restrictive returns policy by the company than anything to do with GDPR, and therefore should be spelt out at the point of sale.

I trawled the Argos website, as well as the returns policy it sent me, for the explicit terms and conditions regarding the return of mobile phones. They were nowhere to be seen.

Taking on board Mr James’s comments, I asked Argos to double-check its position.

Not long afterwards, a red-faced employee came back to me and apologised, confirming that the customer service representative who originally dealt with you had indeed incorrectly quoted GDPR rules in relation to mobile phones.

You were relieved — and so was I. Having arthritic hands is painful enough without running into a brick wall when trying to return a purchase.

Can’t close my late wife’s Halifax Isa

I lost my wife of 54 years in April. Since then, I have been trying to close her Halifax Isa with the help of my daughter, but to no avail.

Scottish Widows, the part of the bank that administers the Isa, confirmed that it has received the relevant form, a copy of her death certificate and her will.

The claim form has also been countersigned by our solicitor, as required.

But still Scottish Widows has refused to release the £16,773.

I have called numerous times but got nowhere.

This is very stressful, and I have costs that I will need to meet after the funeral.

Sally Hamilton replies: Unravelling the financial affairs of a loved one after they die is an extremely painful and often daunting task.

And it is a job made all the harder when companies drag their heels or force the bereaved to jump through hoops to obtain money that is rightfully theirs.

Money Mail sees too many cases like this one and has campaigned for years to encourage firms to improve their methods for dealing with grief-stricken relatives.

I contacted Scottish Widows and asked the firm to investigate the delays in your case. A few days later, it came back to me to apologise and confirmed that you had in fact supplied the correct paperwork and that the claim was now being processed.

A spokesman says: ‘We have spoken with G. L. and apologised for the lack of clarity in respect of our requirements and the delay this caused. We have confirmed that no further documentation is needed.’

Scottish Widows has now transferred the funds and added 8 pc interest on the Isa balance, plus another £300 for the inconvenience caused.

You were pleased with this result and have made a donation to the charity Marie Curie as a token of thanks for my involvement.

Straight to the point 

I accidentally paid twice for probate after my mother died — once over the phone and again when filling in an online form. I was told it may take a while to get a refund, but it’s been almost a year now!

M.H., Bury St Edmunds.

A spokesman for HM Courts & Tribunals Service says your refund request was one of several which were incorrectly processed. Your £216.50 has now been repaid.

*** 

It has been 15 months since I switched to ScottishPower via the website TopCashback and I’m still waiting for the £180 incentive.

A. S., Hampshire.

It appears there was an issue tracking the claim. But the cashback website accepts it should not have taken this long to resolve the problem, and has now sent the money.

*** 

I paid £320 to take my three daughters to Alton Towers. We spent most of the day queueing for rides, which then stopped working. In the end, they only managed to go on two. It’s very poor value for money.

C. G., Sapcote, Leics.

An Alton Towers spokesman apologises for your poor experience, but insists that its terms and conditions state that all rides are subject to availability. It would only offer you a £10-per-person discount on another visit.

*** 

Last year, I took £12,000 out of my pension after I was made redundant. I was taxed on this money but got a rebate in June 2021. 

Since April, I have taken a further £7,000 out of my pot, but have been taxed £1,910. I have still not received a rebate and desperately need the money.

K. E., via email.

HMRC apologises for the delay and says it has now sent you a cheque in the post.

 

  • Write to Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email sally@dailymail.co.uk — include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organisation giving them permission to talk to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given. 

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