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UK Retailer Mistakenly Sends PS Vitas, Threatens Legal Action To Get Them Back 617

Posted by Soulskill
from the ethics-vs-free-stuff dept.
New submitter Retron writes "The BBC brings news that British retailer Zavvi mistakenly sent out PlayStation Vitas to people who had preordered a game called Tearaway. The company is now threatening legal action against those who have kept theirs despite a request to return them. It's unclear whether the Distance Selling Act protects consumers who have mistakenly been sent an expensive item, and forums such as Eurogamer seem divided on the issue."
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UK Retailer Mistakenly Sends PS Vitas, Threatens Legal Action To Get Them Back

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  • by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @08:22PM (#45666105)

    It would be a perfectly reasonable response to tell them "it is too inconvenient for me to ship it back to you; you come pick it up." What is not reasonable is to try to profit from somebody else's honest mistake -- a mistake that doesn't harm you -- at their expense. That's what this is really about, and the arguments over legality, or inconvenience, are just an attempt at avoiding that.

  • Re:Jackpot (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Solozerk (1003785) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @08:31PM (#45666175)
    No idea either - however, something close happened to me a few years ago.
    I ordered an e-ink ebook reader (for 200+ euros) as well as a cover (~20 euros) for the same. A few days later, package arrives: there were two ebook readers in it, no cover at all. I said to myself "lucky ! they made a mistake", did not tell the online store they did (it was a large, national one - I have no guilt over this), and proceeded to order two covers on the same store for the two readers I now possessed.
    A few days later, package arrives, contains two other ebook readers. At that point I thought "what the hell", and ordered four covers, one for each of the readers, half expecting four new readers to arrive. This time however, they had fixed the mistake, and I received the product I ordered - the four covers. At that point, me and my flatmates (there were four of us) each had a reader and a cover to go with it anyway.

    Frankly, I expected them to at least contact us or use legal action, but the only thing that happened is that we received a phone call with a weird guy asking us "did you order something online recently ?". We simply asked who he was and he answered "I can't tell you that", at which point we simply hung up. Never heard from them again.
    This suggests to me that since they made the mistake, they weren't allowed to try and get the products back - I could be wrong though, and I was overseas from said online store at the time, so they may simply have considered that legal action in another country would simply cost them too much.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:15PM (#45666543)

    No UK solicitor would worry about returning the console- the claimable EXPENSE of dealing with Zavvi's negligence would allow the customer to claim far more in 'handling fees' than Zavvi could possibly hope to recover from the value of the hardware. Any interaction with Zavvi over the issue is legally billable (customer billing Zavvi for the use of their time, etc).

    While there is no doubt that very large errors in value (sending an item worth thousands to a customer when you meant to send an item worth tens of pounds) would be seen by courts as reasonable to resolve mostly in the retailer's favour, this will not apply to tiny amounts like the value of individual Vita bundles. Companies are EXPECTED to run their business in a competent fashion, and not expect the legal system to pick up the pieces of their uselessness.

    -customers are NOT required to do any work on behalf of Zavvi over the mistake. This includes responding to emails or phone calls.
    -customers are NOT required to be out-of-pocket to even the slightest degree.
    -customers are NOT required to be, to any degree, sympathetic to problems that occur because of Zavvi's gross incompetence
    -customers are NOT required to recognise a mistake has been made, if the goods delivered are a 'reasonable' fit to the items ordered (which in this case, interestingly, they are).

    Zavvi has a right, at its own expense, to make an attempt to rectify the mistake. This pretty much, in the worst case, means cold-calling the customer, and hoping to speak to the customer (rather than another householder who has ZERO connection to the sales contract) in order to ask for the parcel back.

    However, if the customer thought the delivery was legitimate (and that would be very hard for Zavvi to disprove) and disposed of the goods (say as a gift to someone) before receiving notice from Zavvi that a mistake had been made, Zavvi essentially is stuffed even in the case of cold calling the customer.

    For the customer, the safest legal play is to put the 'mistaken' product somewhere safe, ignore contact from Zavvi about the issue, and wait for Zavvi to give up (as their legal advisers will tell them they have no choice but to do). In this way, IF zavvi attempted any legal action, the customer merely has to state that Zavvi could, at any time, at THEIR expense, have turned up in person as many times as required, until they managed to speak directly with the customer, to reclaim their Vita. The customer can then add that under no circumstances were they prepared to use any aspect or amount of their own time to remedy Zavvi's mistake, without billing that time at far more than the Vita was worth.

    Worse, for Zavvi, is that the customer can actually charge storage fees for safely looking after the mistaken parcel. This is why I said at the top that no solicitor- well versed in law and billing people for every action, would return a negligently sent item worth so little.

    To my American readers, I should point out that no British computer/electronics retailer ever reaches anything approaching the size of the most successful in the USA, because of the horrendous "the customer is always wrong" attitudes held by people who run such businesses in the UK. British companies love to screw any customer naive enough not to understand their legal rights, especially over returns of non-functioning goods.

    PS I have actually seen the usual vile shills telling people that even if the law is on their side, they have a MORAL duty to return the goods. This in a world where companies like Zavvi, Apple, Amazon etc state that they will happily pay as little tax as possible, because of loopholes in the law, regardless of how much money they make in profits. NOBODY has any moral duty to a corporation. The ONLY reason to treat a company nicely, or forgive their idiocy, is if you are grateful they exist, and fear that if they go down the alternatives will be worse for you. Enlightened self interest, in these circumstances, and nothing else.

  • Re:Jackpot (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tompaulco (629533) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:53PM (#45666845) Homepage Journal
    The right thing to do is to return it, after they have sent you the correct item, discounted for the lateness of the correct item, fully paid the return postage and compensated you for the time and effort of return mailing it.
  • Re:Jackpot (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:56PM (#45666863)

    "How do I know what their true intention was? I'm sure someone has tried to defraud people in this way."

    The way you know it's true, is to tell the company about the mistake, and see if they try to charge you for it anyway.

    That would put them square under this law.

  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @10:30PM (#45667079)

    You're still wrong, because this is UK law, not US law. In the UK, they DO have a right to demand them back, unless three specific conditions are all met at the same time. Look up in the comments for the law.

    Just a reminder: In a similar but not identical situation, someone found to his surprise that £100,000 had appeared in his bank account. He withdrew the money and started spending it. The guy now has a conviction for theft. The reminder would be: If you are in a situation like theft, you better make damn sure where you stand legally. And you better ask yourself whether they gain is worth the risk if you are not 100% sure. Some guys posted about there being no witnesses and lying that they never received the item... That would quite possibly make it fraud. Very high risk strategy.

    On the positive side, on MacRumors some guy posted that he had ordered a Mac and received a better model than he paid for, and he asked what to do. He took the advice to contact Apple and was told by them to keep it, so now he has good karma, a nice bargain, _and_ everything totally legal.

  • Re:Jackpot (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dead_user (1989356) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @11:54PM (#45667545)
    Several years ago the company I worked for ordered 2 Dell workstations. A few days later they both came in, but the service tags didn't match the ones we ordered. In fact, they were just numbers. Weird. Whatever. The next day two identical workstations showed up with the original correct service tags. I called our service rep and explained that they had over-shipped the machines, plus the weirdness with the Service Tags that didn't actually look like legit numbers. It took me nearly two weeks to return 2 PC's that Dell insisted couldn't exist because the service tags weren't valid. Since the tags weren't valid their system couldn't issue an RGA.

    My best guess is that someone was stealing systems somehow.

    Besides, I see no need to tempt karma.
  • Re:Jackpot (Score:4, Interesting)

    by PopeRatzo (965947) on Thursday December 12, 2013 @12:06AM (#45667613) Homepage Journal

    There has to be the requisite state of mind before you could be convicted.

    Note that a corporation cannot have a "state of mind".

    If you gave a bank teller a rare coin accidentally when you were making a deposit from your change jar, do you think they'd give it back?

    There are tens of thousands of people whose home loans have been foreclosed in error. Banks regularly ignore the law and lending regulations regarding the assignment of those loans, which ends up in a bank which doesn't even hold the mortgage foreclosing on a house, and most judges will uphold the foreclosure (there have been some notable exceptions).

    If a company sent me a PS Vita by mistake, I'd send it back, not because of "right and wrong" but because there's some poor schmuck who will probably lose his job if he doesn't put the mistake right, or be required to make up the damages out of his own pocket.

    How can you have a "free market transaction" when one party has a "mens rea element" regarding right and wrong but the other does not?

    The corporate liability protection needs to be weakened. Until people who are in charge of these corporations bear some personal responsibility, they will continue to act with greater hostility toward customers.

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