A customer of mine ordered a tumble dryer and matching washing machine, to go with the previously ordered fridge freezer. A total CASH SALE of over £1050. About 11 months after the dryer developed a minor fault and I asked for a repair under the manufacturer warranty (Hotpoint). I was told after a follow up call for not answering my original call that the appliance would have to be returned and a replacement sent. I thought this was odd for such a minor fault but did it anyway. The damaged item was collected and a few days later the replacement arrived but it was a different model (number, appearance and color). Obviously this was no use to my customer as it didn't match the original items, so I contacted Great Universal again to be told that the replacement was an updated version of the original model - which was no longer in manufacture. Obviously i pointed out that the replacement was unsuitable, Great Universal didn't care at all saying there was nothing else they could do. The customer could either accept the replacement or return it. Disgruntled, the customer returned the item for a full refund - which eventually arrived in the form of a cheque some 4 weeks later.
However in the meantime I did some investigating myself, and found that Great Universal were STILL offering the original appliance for sale on their site, and during this time Shop Direct (who own Great Universal) were taking over Empire Stores catalog (which I also am an agent for), and they too were now offering this same exact appliance that was apparently no longer available. At no point on these two sites did it state that an alternative model would be sent either, which intrigued me, so I dug deeper.
I sent a query email to Great Universal and Empire Stores about this original dryer model (ctd85a), just tio check if they admitted or not it was no longer available. I made believe I wanted to buy one cash and I used an unregistered email address to email them from. A day or so later I was told that the appliance (ctd85a) was available and would be with me within 10 days should I decide to place the order, and would be sent direct from the manufacturer (Hotpoint). Emails from both Great Universal and Empire Stores stated the same thing more or less.
Again, even moreso intrigued, I emailed Hotpoint UK, and again queried if this model (ctd85a) was available, and whether product number (tcd750 - the replacement) was indeed an updated version of ctd85a. Hotpoint replied stating that ctd85a was still in manufacture and is readily available from countrywide reputable outlets (which I already knew as I had previously googled it and found everyone sold it). The reply also stated that tcd750 (the replacement) was not an updated version of ctd85a and shouldn't me marketed as such because there were major differentials in design and color.
So armed with all this information I contacted Great Universal again, and also submitted my findings to Trading Standards. Weeks passed and no answers were forthcoming. Trading Standards did say that they would be contacting Great Universal about this matter but I didn't get anything back from them since.
Then the beginning of August great Universal rang. I got an insincere apology for the mixup, but no admission to the blatant lies I was told. They asked me for the customer's phone number as they would not discuss the matter with me. I later found out that they offered the customer £30 'goodwill' payment for the mess they made.
End of story. What a rip off.
But to be fair - my customer did find a replacement ctd85a, and paid much less than his original price through Great Universal anyway. And since all this, Great Universal and Empire Stores have removed ctd85a from their websites entirely.
Seriously folks - have nmo dealings with Great Universal or Empire Stores, they're Doomed with a capital 'D' now that Shop Direct have them. Who, incidentally also own such companies as Marshall Ward, Littlewoods, Kays, Choice and Additions Direct.