31/08/2004

Leading sofa firm criticised by OFT

A leading UK leather sofa retailer has been criticised by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for giving consumers an "unfair deal".

The company, Land of Leather, which has stores in Northern Ireland, had complaints issued against it concerning contracts, delay in delivery of goods, goods being supplied that were not of satisfactory quality and misleading advertising of 'interest-free' credit.

Kent Trading Standards Service contacted the OFT about terms and conditions being used by the company including terms that:
  • gave unequal cancellation rights - cancellation had to be agreed by the company and incurred a minimum 25% charge even when the supplier was in breach;
  • explicitly disclaimed liability for employees' oral statements;
  • sought to restrict liability for faulty goods by imposing a refundable £25 charge for making a claim for goods between one month and a year old.
Credit deals were also advertised as 'free until 2004', 'free for a whole year' and 'everything's free until 2005' when in fact interest accrued from the beginning of the agreement if the whole balance was not paid off within a specified period.

The OFT considered this to be misleading under of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and in breach of the Consumer Credit (Advertisement) Regulations 1989.

Welcoming the undertakings Christine Wade, OFT Consumer Regulation Enforcement Director, said: ”Consumers have a right to expect goods to be of satisfactory quality and delivered on time, for advertising to be accurate and not to have their legal rights undermined by unfair terms. Where companies breach consumer legislation we will take action to protect consumers.”

A spokesman for the Trading Standards Service said: “Consumers should be on the look out for the type of clause in a contract that seeks to deny or reduce their rights when buying goods. Consumers in Northern Ireland who discover such unfair clauses should seek advice from Consumerline on 0845 600 62 62.”

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