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Return charge for 'built' furniture

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Hi everyone, I'm in need of some urgent advice please. Apologies for the long post - I felt it was better to provide all the information clearly at the outset.


I purchased an office stool (that cost £104.39) online, which was delivered on 18th May. After assembling the stool, I found it wasn't suitable for me, so contacted the seller on 27th May to initiate a return. 


The seller told me that there would be a "£24.95 handling charge" for returning the item. He quoted the terms and conditions from their website to back this up (please see below), although this is confusing because 35% of £104.39 does not equal £24.95: "Please note that furniture items are subject to a 35% restocking fee. Furniture returns will only be accepted if the item is unused and still in the original packaging. All furniture returns must be made within 14 days of delivery."


I told the seller that, under the Consumer Contract Regulations, the trader cannot charge any fees in the event of cancellation. The response was: "If you not happy to pay for the collection charge for us to arrange this with a courier to uplift then you can send this back to our office directly arranging your own courier, please note we would not cover the cost if this is the case." 


I agreed to this, because from my reading of the CCR I thought that the customer was responsible for return delivery: 

(5) The consumer must bear the direct cost of returning goods under paragraph (2), unless—

(a)the trader has agreed to bear those costs, or

(b)the trader failed to provide the consumer with the information about the consumer bearing those costs, required by paragraph (m) of Schedule 2, in accordance with Part 2.

Also, from getting quotations online I thought I could arrange delivery, for what was at the time a smallish box, for a much cheaper price (£7-8).


However, when I tried to disassemble the stool for return, it would not come apart. I contacted the manufacturer for further guidance, but the only how-to video they had available was not applicable to the model, and the manufacturer representative was unable to provide further instructions.


I have now been sent a 'built box' to return the stool without the need to disassembly. The issue is that the size of the box means that shipping charges are now £30 minimum i.e. more than the 'handling charge' the seller quoted. 


Am I obliged to pay this return fee, or should this actually be something the seller should pay for?  I feel like I may have two potential arguments against it:

  • Return delivery would not be nearly so expensive if the stool had come apart as the manufacturer said it should. 
  • The Consumer Contract Regs state that a consumer is not responsible for return shipping if the trader has not provided information about the right to cancel and about return shipping on a durable medium. 


What even counts as a durable medium? The dispatch note that came with the stool had no such information, while the order confirmation email simply had a link to their terms and conditions (which includes the statement about the restocking fee quoted above).


Does this clause mean the seller is still obliged to pay return shipping? Any advice would be greatly appreciated! I'm starting to stress a little about this because the 28-day cancellation-and-return period will be in two working days (although I realise that may be extended if it can be considered that the seller did not provide the required cancellation information). 


Thank you in advance!


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I'm afraid that I think that as you've assembled the chair and you are unable to return it into its saleable condition, then you probably have a problem.

I don't think you could take advantage of the distance selling rules in those circumstances and that means that the seller would be entitled to apply conditions to the return of the item.

If that's the case then you only fall back is that the item was defective if you find that there is something wrong with it which is preventing its disassembly. On the other hand, this itself raises an interesting issue.

Does a chair become of unsatisfactory quality because you can't take it apart and put it in a box?

From the sounds of it, the sellers terms and conditions that there is a restocking fee for the return of an online sale even if it is within the 14 day period, seems to me to be quite unenforceable but on the basis of what you say, that issue doesn't arise here because you are unable to put the chair back into its saleable condition and it's not clear that the chair is defective - 

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Hi BankFodder, thank you for the quick response.


The chair itself is actually resaleable, in that it functions fine and still in new condition. And unfortunately I couldn't tell whether it was suitable for me without assembling it. The problem arises in trying to get it sent back, because I couldn't disassemble it to fit it back in the original box. The manufacturer indicated that it should come apart, so I am not sure if it is a defective chair in this sense, or if the stool is not designed to be disassembled at all and the person I spoke to just didn't have the information specific to this model. 


Does that change anything? 😕 If not, then I guess I'll have to accept a pricey furniture experience....

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I'm sure the chair is resalable – but I think the regulations mean that the item has to be returned in its original saleable condition – and clearly yours is not. It has been assembled.

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