‘Guaranteed in time for Christmas’ is a statement you’ll see a lot in the coming weeks, when looking to order furniture. But is it still true in these uncertain times? An expert offers top tips for ordering furniture online in time for Christmas – it’s only 6 weeks now!
Christmas shopping this year, in light of current lockdown measures and the closure of all but essential shops, will mostly be online. When using online channels to purchase furniture it is always worth double checking specifications. Asking for fabric swatches and dimensions, to be certain what you’re buying is exactly what you envisioned and will fit.
There are certain rights to return goods that are enhanced for distance purchases, but checking first will avoid disappointment later.
‘As we approach the festive season, customers are offered an additional layer of protection when shopping with retailers enrolled with an Ombudsman scheme’ explains Kevin Grix, CEO and Chief Ombudsman, Furniture and Home Improvement Ombudsman.
‘It reinforces a commitment to manage complaints formally and at a higher level than the law prescribes. Our members demonstrate responsible retailer practise by helping to raise industry standards, promoting fair trade and trusting us with their most prized asset – their customers’.
Here are his top tips for getting that sofa in time for Christmas movie season…
Tips for ordering furniture online in time for Christmas
1. Check the projected delivery date
Double check the delivery date for the furniture and keep a note of the estimated timeframe. Make sure the suggested date and times (if specified) are suitable, before placing the order.
2. Keep a record
If the retailer agrees to delivery for a date that is essential to the consumer, they should both keep a written record. Whether that be an email or printed agreement.
3. Keep in touch with the retailer
Regularly check that they are going to be able to deliver on time. It’s not nagging to be on their case, it enhances your expectations as a customer.
4. Shop with reassurance
Despite best endeavors, sometimes even the best plans go wrong. Shopping with a member of the Ombudsman can ensure there is a level of protection for consumers. It’s advisable to check the list of members before making a purchase – to see if your chosen retailer is onboard.
5. Have a back-up
Don’t dispose of any old furniture until the new items have arrived. Keep hold of enough furniture to all be seated comfortably throughout out the Christmas period…just in case! No one wants to watch Elf while crouched uncomfortably on the living room floor.
What are the legal consequences of late delivery?
‘Whether customers can rely on statements made in advertising, depends upon what is said and how detailed those statements are. Consumers are advised to check carefully to make sure the promise relates to the specific item that is being ordered and notify the retailer of any requirements that they have in relation to their order.’
What can we do to ensure that goods ordered will arrive in time?
‘In the event of items not arriving in time for Christmas, if that was promised by a retailer, there are several things that a customer can do’ Kevin explains.
‘If the item was ordered online, then there is a 14 day right to cancel which starts on the day after goods are received. Alternatively there may be a the right to withdraw – but that’s not much use if the order was a gift for someone else, or if their dining table has already been given away to charity.’
‘Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, goods should be delivered within 30 days of the order being placed, unless agreed otherwise. This can sometimes be in the terms and conditions or specified on the order documentation. Often with large items of furniture otherwise known as ‘big ticket’ items, there can be a longer lead-time. Particularly at the moment, it is very important for consumers to check these lead times. And ask the retailer for details of anything that might cause a delay.’
What if the contract cannot go ahead due to Lockdown Laws?
‘In the presently uncertain landscape, a retailer may be unable to meet its obligations due to circumstances that are outside of their control. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has provided some guidance on the application of the legal principle of “frustration” to contracts that are prevented from going ahead as agreed, or at all, due to lockdown laws.’
‘This sets out the CMA’s expectation that the consumer will be entitled to a full refund. Without necessarily having to ask for it, including any deposit that they have paid. Retailers should not ask the consumer to take “unreasonable or unnecessary steps” to obtain the refund. They will be in breach of consumer protection law if they do so. That said, there is nothing to prevent a consumer and retailer coming to an arrangement that is suitable to both of them. This can be one advantage of alternative dispute resolution at this time.’
This is by no means here to put you off purchases, merely help you get exactly what you signed up for when you’re ordering furniture online in time for Christmas.