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Why You Should Buy Your HDTV Online

The Internet has radically changed the way we shop - wheareas in the past we would stroll into Waterstones to buy a book, nowadays we log online from the comfort of our own home to order from Amazon, or, even better, compare the prices from the major retailers.

However, when it comes to big-ticket items like televisions, most people prefer to walk into brick-and-mortar stores to make their purchase. Perhaps you prefer to speak directly with a sales rep to get some advice (although we all know how clueless they can be sometimes); perhaps you want to hold the remote in your hand and demo the set; perhaps you feel safer shopping in an established high street store, knowing that the expensive overhead means that you're less likely to get ripped off by a fly-by-night merchant.

Having said these, there is a significant advantage that shifts the balance of power in your favour when you shop online, so much so that we recommend that you should, if possible, ALWAYS try to buy your HDTV online.

Distance Selling Regulations 2000

This legislation came into effect on 31 October 2000 to give protection to consumers who shop by phone, mail order, via the Internet or digital TV. The most important bit in this rule is that you, as a consumer, have a cooling off period of 7 working days in which you can unconditionally "cancel the contract" (i.e. return your television).

Why Is This Important?

Not all televisions are built equal: even within the same range or model, there are various build quality issues (e.g. Friday Afternoon Syndrome) or manufacturing errors which may impact on your ultimate enjoyment of your television.

The problem is: some retailers and manufacturers will not acknowledge such issues, claiming instead that these problems are within the manufacturers' specifications. LCD TVs dead pixel policy (5 dead pixels, depending on location, can be within spec) and plasma manufacturers' stance on screen burn are 2 examples that come to mind.

So what do you do if you switch on your newly delivered LCD TV only to discover in dismay that there are 2 brightly-lit dead pixels in the centre of the screen? What recourse do you have if your brand spanking new plasma develops a screen burn of the ubiquitous Sky logo even when you've taken extra care?

If you've bought your HDTV through the internet, you're in luck, because this is where the DSR comes in handy - you can return the television within 7 working days without needing to give any reason... and get a full refund. Heck, for all you care you can say that your cat didn't like the HDTV and the online retailer will still have to refund your money (less shipping costs) to comply with the DSR.

Things You Need To Know

The Cooling Off Period

The timeframe within which you can return your HDTV is referred to as the cooling off period: it lasts for seven working days from the day after that on which you received the television. For example, if your HDTV was delivered on 1 February 2007 (Thursday), the retailer must receive written notice of your intention to invoke the DSR on or before 12 February 2007 (Monday) as weekends do not count as working days.

Written Notice

Most business require written notice before they'll comply with DSR, although to the credit of the Dixons Store Group (comprising PC World, Dixons & Currys) they'll accept phone and email cancellations.

To avoid potential disputes, send your written notice via Recorded Delivery (so that you have proof of receipt) well before the deadline.

No Face-To-Face Contact

DSR applies only when there's NO face-to-face contact. If you popped into your local John Lewis and made yourself known to the salesperson/manager, you won't be covered by DSR if you later ordered the HDTV through the phone from them.

Supplier To Consumer Only

Business to business contracts are not covered. If you make an order from the PC World Business website, you won't be covered by DSR because by definition that site caters for business customers only.

Internet Auction

DSR do not apply to eBay auctions unless it is Buy-It-Now only (auctions with BIN are excluded) from a business seller.

Stick To The Major Retailers

dixons
comet
currys

Dixons, Currys, Comet, Amazon and John Lewis are usually excellent in honouring their respective return policies. Although some smaller independent online merchants do provide impeccable customer service, others try their best to wriggle their way out of complying with DSR, and so you may have to go through more hassle to get your money back.

Conclusion

Besides offering prices that are usually lower than high street retailers, buying a HDTV from the internet provides an extra layer of protection in the form of Distance Selling Regulation. Have a whirl and demo in a brick-and-mortar store by all means, but for the ultimate peace of mind we recommend that you make your final purchase from a reputable online dealer.


Questions/Comments

Ze says: 02/27/2007 - 14:44

But, delivery charges are very expensive, and you may have to pay return delivery charges, or restocking charges, if the tv is faulty.
Vincent says: 02/28/2007 - 18:24

Any restocking charges are illegal under the Distance Selling Regulations 2000. Retailers can charge the return delivery costs, but only if they stipulated it in their terms and conditions beforehand. Most of the time you'll get back the initial price + delivery charge less return delivery charge from reputable retailers.

If a HDTV is faulty, you have even more rights to return the HDTV without incurring any cost on your part as per the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002. Generally any reputable retailer will arrange a free pickup of the faulty product, then refund you in full.

Even if I had to pay return delivery charge, personally I find the peace of mind more important than 20-50 when spending 1000 on a HDTV. After all, I don't want to be stuck with a HDTV with "banding" or "clouding" that's within "manufacturer's specs".
sm4455 says: 03/03/2007 - 17:19

Excellent topic and advice Vincent.

I want to add that people pay using credit card so that they get protection under the consumer credit act. If you do not get your product or its not as described you can claim your money back from your card provider.
Steve says: 03/21/2007 - 19:13

The Distance Selling Regulations do provide more protection and rights for consumers than traditional face to face transactions. Buying from a shop has an advantage in that you can physically inspect the goods before you buy.

Unfortunately for people thinking of a 'try before you buy' using the DSR, restocking charges are in fact permitted under the DSR. There is no limit to the restocking charge, only that it must be a reasonable amount (reflective of actual costs).

Additionally, the DSR allows the retailer to make a reasonable deduction, at their discretion, if the item returned is not in 'as new' - ie. unopened - condition, to reflect the resulting loss in value.

Also bear in mind that if you cancel the contract, you yourself are responsible for returning the goods to the retailer. They are not required to collect the goods. Most cheap couriers will not insure glass and the weight of HDTVs means the return delivery costs will be very expensive.

The original delivery charge (if any) will not be refunded by all retailers. If they say in their terms that delivery is supplied under a separate contract, then it will not be refunded.

The Distance Selling Regulations are not and should not be used to encourage people to trial and return goods, as often they will find there are financial penalties in doing so.

The advice given is correct - make your final purchase over the Internet, but try to be sure you make the right decision.