Case Study

November / December 2015

The Windsor Bed: This lady wanted to buy an adjustable bed for her husband who, now in his eighties, was suffering a degree of immobility. On seeing the leaflet in a TV magazine, she phoned Westminster Recliners for a brochure. The man she spoke to insisted that it would be much better to have a demonstration visit because they could see how the product worked. Persuaded that this was a good idea the lady agreed and subsequently on the Friday afternoon two sales people turned up, one of whom came straight from playing a game of golf, ten miles down the road. They then proceeded to setup and demonstrate a collapsible model of the product. After measuring up her husband, who was plainly of average build, and enquiring about his medical history and his blood pressure, as if this was somehow relevant, they got her to agree to a sale and to hand over her debit card to pay the deposit. They took a deposit of £1,557 for a bottom of the range 3ft single Windsor bed. The total cost of the bed, she was informed, would be £3,097, the balance was due to be paid on delivery of the bed.

Pressurised Into Buying: Feeling that she had perhaps made a mistake and been pressurised into agreeing to something she shouldn't have, she took some advice from a friend and the next morning posted a letter cancelling the agreement. This letter was sent by recorded delivery and arrived at the offices of Westminster Recliners immediately after the weekend on the following Monday morning. This meant that just the weekend had elapsed between the agreement being signed on the Friday afternoon and the letter arriving to cancel it on the Monday morning, so there was no chance for Westminster Recliners to say that the order had been started. She received an acknowledgement letter from Westminster Recliners saying that they were sorry she had decided to cancel the agreement and that they would refund her deposit within 14 days. So far everything looked ok.

Promises Promises: Over the following next few weeks the money did not appear back in the lady's account and the lady made several phone calls to the company to find out what was happening about the return of her deposit. She was told on each occasion by Sue Bashford, who answers the aftersales line, that the money would be back in her account within three to five days. However, each time this turned out to be untrue and in breach of their own terms and conditions, and the content of their letter, they did not return her deposit. They also consistently lied to her about it.

That's What She Told Me! The lady had two sons that took up the case on her behalf to find out what was happening about the return of the deposit and they both made phone calls to the company. Sue Bashford, who deals with aftersales, said to the first son that she had the spreadsheet in front of her and didn't know why the money had not been returned. She said it should have been done and that she would deal with it and the money would be returned into the lady's account within three to five days and would be there by the end of the week. When asked if this would be definite this time and asked by the son that if this was communicated to his mum that she would not be let down, Sue Bashford stuttered and was hesitant, but said yes, it should be. By her tone it was evident that she was probably not telling the truth, however, taken at her word the time was allowed. When the first son relayed this information to his mum, his mum said that that's exactly what she had been told by Sue Bashford on each of the occasions she had phoned.

The Elusive Director: When the week had passed and the time was up the first son phoned again. This time Sue Bashford told him that the director would be phoning people himself and had several instances of customers to call. The son asked how many other people were owed money and asked if the company was in financial difficulty. She said no, and reiterated that she didn't know why it had not been dealt with but that the director would phone. The son asked if he was expected to believe that she didn't know what was going on, and she assured him that she didn't. The director never did phone and the following week the son called again. Sue Bashford avoided answering the call this time and someone called Amanda answered and, sounding rather flippant and somewhat vague, she said both the director and Sue Bashford were not there but she would pass on the message. However, regardless of what they say and what is stated in their own terms and conditions, it has become very clear that this company is not honourable and has no absolutely intention of giving back money unless threatened by court action, and that was the next step. Of course many people just give up and never do get their money back. Some people report not even receiving their products.

Nowhere Fast: In the meantime, to find out where victims of such fraud and deceit stand, the first son spoke to the local police, who were not able to act, or not interested in doing so, and they suggested phoning the action fraud line. Action fraud were also not able to act, or not interested in doing so. He also spoke to Suffolk trading standards, who are familiar with this company through previous court cases, and they suggested speaking to citizen's advice line that deals with this kind of matter on their behalf and reports back to them. Basically, victims of this kind of crime in this kind of situation get nowhere fast and have nowhere to turn, as there is no mechanism in law to adequately and efficiently deal with it. In fact, despite the stress and worry caused to elderly to victims and despite the fact that this is a blatant form of theft, nobody in authority is really interested. This flippant and dismissive attitude by the law, as it currently stands, is what allows such companies to exist and behave in this manner and this needs to change!

Final Letter: The second son, in the meantime, had written a letter giving the company a further fourteen days to pay back the deposit and threatening legal action if the company failed to do so, but how many elderly people even get this far before giving up?

Text From Letter Dated January 6th: With reference to the refund £1557 that is outstanding to yourselves we would like to apologise for the delay and are writing to confirm that this will be processed within the next 7 - 10 days.