Distance selling question

Regarding the Distance Selling Regulations and the non-return of goods due to health reasons, can you explain where hair dryers fit in to this situation? I have purchased a hair dryer (in a sealed bag) from a major UK retailer but I am unable to open the bag, since, in doing so, I would be unable to return the item if needed. I need to ensure that my arthritic fingers can use the ‘on/off etc button’  but I cannot do this through the sealed bag!  The retailer would not refund if the bag became unsealed … it seems a silly situation as ‘hygiene’ does not come into this at all!

Your comments would be welcome.

789 viewsconsumer law

Alasdair Taylor's Answer

The current UK rules, and the exceptions, are set out in the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.

The “hygiene” exception, in Regulation 28(3), reads as follows: “The rights conferred by this Part cease to be available in the following circumstances … in the case of a contract for the supply of sealed goods which are not suitable for return due to health protection or hygiene reasons, if they become unsealed after delivery”.

I think this exception was intended to cover underwear and the like. I don’t think it was intended to cover hairdryers or similar goods. If the retailer is asserting that the hygiene exception applies, the retailer is in my view wrong.

Also relevant is Regulation 24(9), which covers the question of when a retailer can make a deduction from a refund. It provides that “If (in the case of a sales contract) the value of the goods is diminished by any amount as a result of handling of the goods by the consumer beyond what is necessary to establish the nature, characteristics and functioning of the goods, the trader may recover that amount from the consumer, up to the contract price.”

The scope of this is elaborated in 24(12): “For the purposes of paragraph (9) handling is beyond what is necessary to establish the nature, characteristics and functioning of the goods if, in particular, it goes beyond the sort of handling that might reasonably be allowed in a shop.”

If I was buyer a hairdryer in a shop, I would expect to be able to handle the thing itself. Moreover, you have stated that you cannot establish the functioning of the hairdryer without opening the sealed packaging. Accordingly, I think it is more likely than not the retailer is not entitled to make a deduction under Regulation 24(9) on the basis of unsealing the hairdryer.

I hope this is helpful.

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