The real scandal at Comet

This is a short rant about Comet.

For the non-UK bods, Comet is a large electrical goods chain that has been in financial trouble for YEARS.  Last year, it was sold for just two pounds sterling.  This week, it finally kicked its legs in the air and went into administration.

Okay, fair enough. Although perhaps not for the two and a half thousand employees who may be unemployed by Christmas, obviously.

The trouble is that, when people buy white goods or large ticket items, they save up over time (or get into debt with payday loan companies and weekly payment schemes, but that’s another story).  They often gather gift vouchers and cards to put towards their major purchase for a considerable period of time.

The television pundits advised people with vouchers lying in a drawer to get out at the weekend and spend them before the administrators moved in.

This was a problem because the first thing the administrators did was refuse to accept all vouchers and gift cards.

Now, I don’t consider myself a MASSIVE expert on retail economics, but I’m pretty sure that when you buy a gift card for someone, you have ALREADY PAID THE MONEY to the retailer.

To then turn around to the holder of, what essentially amounts to a receipt for funds already paid, and tell them they cannot take the goods that have already been paid for, is just not on.

In fact, strictly speaking, I think it’s theft, as defined by the Theft Act 1969 (as amended), because it is the taking of payment for goods or services you have no intention of supplying.  That’s the definition of theft. Or to put it another way, that the Bill fans might find more familiar, it is the taking away with the intent to permanently deprive.

Now, conveniently, as at 19:16 today, 6 November 2012, the BBC News website says that Comet vouchers have now been reinstated, so this little boy can now redeem his voucher.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-20191490

If you normally skip the links, read this one.

The refusal of this little boy’s voucher caused public ire on a scale I have rarely seen. We get annoyed, we sigh, we mutter amongst ourselves, when large companies misbehave, but we rarely see fury on the scale that this generated. The fact that they have now backed down is, frankly, the safest thing they could have done.

There were those who tried to explain the concept of creditors and the rules of administration, but no one was listening.

And on this occasion, I think the “people” were right. People who have purchased vouchers should not be treated as creditors, and if the law needs to be changed in this area, then so be it. Sort it out, legislators, because this cannot be allowed to happen again. Ever. Even for three days.

Once payment has been made, consumers should always have the right to claim their goods. Anything else is a shameful state of affairs that needs remedying forthwith.

End rant.

This piece will be reblogged on Consumer, Fight Back, for fairly obvious reasons.

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