Should you pay extra for a product because it might go wrong?
Currys PC World believes you should – and is happy to dip into customers’ bank accounts every month and take payments for ‘repair or replace’ plans for everything from TVs to laptops.
Unsurprisingly, many shoppers refuse to take out the plans which can cost more than £7 a month.
Many Currys customers insist they have been charged for ‘repair or replace’ plans they did not agree to purchase or specifically turned down
After all, the electrical retailer is legally bound by the Consumer Rights Act to replace a product that turns out to be faulty, give a refund or repair it free of charge.
But the biggest rip-off behind the expensive payments, taken by a controversial method known as a ‘continuous payment authority’, is that many customers insist they have been charged for plans they did not agree to purchase or specifically turned down.
Some have even discovered they have been paying without realising – for years.
Financial services consultant and father-of-one Philip Gillett, from Kent, is furious after finding £3.50 monthly charges had been taken from his bank account for a plan relating to a TV he bought back in June 2016.
Philip, 39, says he never agreed to buy the plan because he did not think it was worth the money.
Currys says its repair or replace plans include extras such as tech support and a seven-day repair promise. But Philip says: ‘I would never sign up because I have other insurance already.’
He has paid around £120 from when he bought the TV until he cancelled the plan just over a month ago – a process he says was harder than he anticipated.
He says: ‘It comes up as ‘product support Ag’ on your bank account so I didn’t even realise what it was. I thought it was for anti-virus software. I couldn’t cancel it via my bank either.’
This is because customers who are unwittingly paying for these plans have also inadvertently given the retailer permission to take money from their bank accounts at will for the monthly payments.
It is a practice The Mail on Sunday has avidly campaigned against over the past year. Even though banks are supposed to cancel these recurring payments when instructed, customers are often wrongly told it isn’t possible.
Although consumer experts recommend that cancellations are done via the company first, shoppers do also have the right to tell their bank to stop the sums being taken.
When Philip complained to Currys, he was told that details of the agreement would have been given on the receipt for his TV and he must have been supplied with the terms and conditions at the time.
Philip calls the response ‘total rubbish’, adding: ‘The sale of the plan is designed to extract cash from people like me and then make it awkward to cancel.’
Complaints about Currys’ ‘product support’ plans have flooded the consumer website called A Spokesman Said.
Recent gripes include one from a customer named Linda who said: ‘In August 2015 I cancelled the product support plans on my two daughters’ laptops as they no longer used them. I cancelled them over the phone as per instruction from Currys PC World.’
However, two lots of £4.27 were still taken every month.
She continued: ‘It is unacceptable. My accountant brought it to my attention but these payments have continued to be taken over four years.’
Another customer, Gerard, found a recurring payment was being taken for £6.50 a month. He said: ‘After searching the web I have realised it’s for breakdown and repair. Please stop taking my money.’
Experts warn that buying add-ons for gadgets and appliances at the point of sale rarely makes sense.
Martyn James of Resolver, an online consumer complaints service, says: ‘This is a salutary warning to never take out extra policies at the checkout.
‘Most warranties or services contracts are just plain rubbish anyway.’ He adds: ‘These current repair and support plans don’t cover you for fire, theft, flood, anything really but repairs – and even then, only under specific circumstances.’
Eleanor Snow, consumer rights editor at Which? says: ‘This wouldn’t be the first time Currys PC World customers have been charged for something they didn’t want. We found previously that stores were ripping people off with laptop set-up fees that are supposed to be optional.’
She adds: ‘Often you’re better protected by your consumer rights which don’t cost you a thing.’
Currys says anyone who discovers they have been paying without knowing can cancel by calling its customer services on 0344 561 1234 – but you should also contact your bank to make sure.
A spokeswoman for Currys says staff are trained to provide accurate and useful information about repair plans.
She adds: ‘Customers tell us they value the benefits of the plan. We are of course disappointed by customer complaints and take them seriously.’ Payments, she confirmed, are taken either by continuous payment authority or direct debit.