No refund given for faulty ride-on mower bought online?

There is a legal 14-day cooling-off period with online purchases, however returns might be at the buyer's cost

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Reader question: I bought a sit-on mower online. I expected it to come ready but had to assemble it. I drove it on to the grass and it stopped working. I emailed the firm, asking it to remove the machine and refund me but I was given a “dossier number” and told it was busy due to Covid. This was in May and I get no response to emails. What can I do?

There are several issues here. First, it is worth noting that in any online or other distance purchase, there is a legal 14-day cooling-off period during which you can change your mind, giving no reason.

However, it can be at your own cost to return the item, depending on the terms and conditions of sale. These should be shown on the seller’s website, a legal expert for e-commerce professional body Fevad said.

Some firms may collect or ask that the item be taken to a nearby collection point.

The expert said it is always best to cancel in writing, for example email or on a specific form if the firm supplies one, so there is proof. The preferred method may be listed in the terms. If an item does not work, there is a two-year legal guarantee of conformity. The firm should, in this case, repair it, replace it or refund.

If failing to do so, the firm would have to supply proof that it provided a good service and, for example, the problem was due to you putting the machine together wrongly.

Normally in such cases, the firm should act within 30 days of being notified, but this was suspended from March to July 23 this year due to the health crisis. Even so, you have waited too long.

The expert said the best route now is to apply free of charge to a mediator for the sector, which can usually be done on its website. The mediator will study the case and, if appropriate, contact both parties for information before proposing solutions, which firms usually respect.

The terms and conditions should say which mediator is appropriate.

Should the firm try to claim you were at fault, she said the mediator would consider all the evidence and whether, for example, the firm was at fault in not sending an assembled item.

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