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SALLY SORTS IT: Can Argos refuse to refund phone because I opened box?

No return: Argos refused to take back a mobile phone, although it was not used, on the grounds that the box had been opened

I bought a £400 Samsung Galaxy A53 mobile phone online through Argos. But when I opened the box I discovered that the phone was too heavy for me to hold as I have arthritic hands. I thought it wouldn’t be a problem to return it.

However, Argos refused to take the phone back because I had opened the box. How can I assess if something fits without opening the box?

I emailed the company, who replied that their denial of a refund was due to EU law relating to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the fact that personal information may be stored on the phone. This law apparently replaces our own distance selling laws.

No return: Argos refused to take back a mobile phone, although it was not used, on the grounds that the box had been opened

No return: Argos refused to take back a mobile phone, although it was not used, on the grounds that the box had been opened

I would have thought it would be easy to check the phone to make sure it didn’t contain such information.

Even if you can’t help me, I believe that if something isn’t done about this, anyone who buys a tech item from Argos and needs to return it will be stranded.

CN, Loughborough.

Sally Hamilton responds: I’ve ordered cell phones online before, but since I’ve never had to return one, I haven’t encountered a nasty little loophole like this.

When I contacted Sainsbury’s, owner of Argos, they confirmed their position but agreed to refund you as a ‘goodwill gesture’. He added: “Customers have 30 days to return an item under our return policy. Certain items including DVDs, music and software must be unused and in original sealed packaging to be returned/refunded.

“Smartphones are also exempt from the 30-day money-back guarantee as they may store personal data and therefore cannot be resold.”

I was aware of the rule on DVDs, software and music, which makes perfect sense as someone could theoretically purchase these items, copy them and return the originals for a refund. But I felt that something was wrong with the conditions applied to smartphones.

I briefly searched online, but saw no mention of this cell phone return waiver on other retailers’ websites.

I spoke to consumer champion Martyn James who was in disbelief. He told me he had never heard of this “totally incorrect” interpretation of GDPR rules – legislation designed to protect an individual’s personal data.

He says: ‘I’m going to add this to my ever-growing list of crazy claims companies are making because of this very misunderstood legislation.

“Sometimes I find that when you dig a little deeper, some staff at companies develop what I call ‘urban GDPR myths’. They do a training course, someone randomly draws a conclusion, that spreads like wildfire and then becomes unofficial policy.

“In this case, as with most of them, it’s totally wrong.

Scam watch

Beware of unscrupulous claims management companies that promise to cancel loans and mortgages.

The city’s watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), warns that fraudulent firms prey on people facing financial hardship by offering to seek compensation from lenders – usually for past debt repayments.

However, borrowers will often have to pay a fee to participate and can be charged even more when programs fail.

Anyone approached by a claims company should be very careful and check the FCA register to make sure they are an authorized company (register.fca.org.uk).

“If the customer just took the phone out of the packaging, there is no contact information on it.” Phones don’t magically absorb data from your previous phone, as anyone who’s worked through a setup process will attest.

“And even if it had, that’s why we have the ‘restore factory settings’ button.”

He thinks this sounds more like a restrictive return policy on the part of the company than anything to do with GDPR, and so should be made clear at the point of sale.

I scoured the Argos website, as well as the return policy they sent me, for explicit terms and conditions regarding the return of cell phones. They were nowhere to be found.

Taking Mr. James’ comments into account, I asked Argos to verify their position.

Shortly after, a red-faced employee came back to me and apologized, confirming that the customer service representative who originally dealt with you had indeed misquoted the GDPR rules regarding mobile phones.

You were relieved – and so am I. Having arthritic hands is painful enough without hitting a brick wall when trying to return a purchase.

I can’t close my late wife’s Halifax Isa

I lost my wife of 54 years in April. I have since been trying to close her Halifax Isa with the help of my daughter, but to no avail.

Scottish Widows, the part of the bank that administers the Isa, confirmed that they had received the relevant form, a copy of his death certificate and will.

The Claim Form has also been countersigned by our attorney, as required.

But the Scottish widows still refused to release the £16,773.

I called several times but did nothing.

It’s very stressful, and I have expenses that I will have to pay after the funeral.

Sally Hamilton responds: Sorting out the financial affairs of a loved one after their death is an extremely painful and often daunting task.

And it’s all the more difficult work when companies drag their feet or force bereaved people to jump through hoops to get money that’s rightfully theirs.

Money Mail sees too many cases like this and has campaigned for years to encourage companies to improve their ways of dealing with grieving loved ones.

I have contacted Scottish Widows and asked the company to investigate the delays in your case. A few days later he came back to me to apologize and confirmed that you had in fact provided the correct documents and the claim was being processed.

A spokesperson said: “We have spoken with GL and apologized for the lack of clarity regarding our requirements and the delay this has caused. We have confirmed that no further documentation is required.

Scottish Widows have now transferred the funds and added 8% interest on the Isa balance, plus a further £300 for inconvenience.

You were satisfied with this result and made a donation to the Marie Curie charity as a sign of thanks for my involvement.

To the point

I accidentally paid twice for probate after my mother died – once over the phone and once by filling out an online form. I was told it might take a while to get a refund, but it’s been almost a year now!

MH, Bury St Edmunds.

A spokesperson for HM Courts & Tribunals Service said your claim for reimbursement was one of many that were not handled properly. Your £216.50 has now been refunded.

***

It’s been 15 months since I switched to ScottishPower through the TopCashback website and I’m still waiting for the £180 incentive.

AS, Hampshire.

It looks like there was a problem tracking the claim. But the cashback website admits it wouldn’t have taken that long to fix the problem and has now sent the money.

***

I paid £320 to take my three daughters to Alton Towers. We spent most of the day queuing for rides which then stopped working. In the end, they managed to pass only two. This is very poor value for money.

CG, Sapcote, Leics.

A spokesperson for Alton Towers apologizes for your poor experience, but insists its terms and conditions state that all rides are subject to availability. He would only give you a £10 discount per person on another visit.

***

Last year I took £12,000 out of my pension after being made redundant. I was taxed on this money but got a refund in June 2021.

Since April I have withdrawn an additional £7,000 from my pot, but have been taxed £1,910. I still haven’t received a refund and I desperately need the money.

KE, via email.

HMRC apologizes for the delay and says they have now mailed you a check.

  • Write to Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email sally@dailymail.co.uk – include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organization giving him permission to speak to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for the answers given.

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