Questions of Cash: I paid by PayPal, but my MacBook never arrived


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The Independent Online

Q. In April this year I was unsuccessful on an eBay bid for an Apple MacBook Pro laptop computer.

Soon after I was contacted by the seller who provided his mobile number and suggested I call him as he had similar products I might be interested in. I contacted him. He told me that his cousin worked for Apple and was able to supply any products made by Apple at a competitive price.

He said he was able to be competitive by organising the deal personally over the phone, thus avoiding eBay fees. He came across as plausible, he was informed about the most up-to-date products and was able to quote model numbers and the price. He was certainly less than source pushy and appeared interested when I said I was a teacher and a potential of lucrative business. I placed an order on 28 April via PayPal with my MasterCard. I was naive because I assumed paying by credit card and PayPal provided me with a considerable degree of security as a distance purchaser.

I received an invoice from the seller for the Apple MacBook of £880 plus £25 postage and packing. I received confirmation from PayPal of the original transaction with the seller and confirmation of the charge from my MasterCard credit card. The seller said I could expect delivery by mid-May. He then texted me to say the laptop had been shipped and would soon arrive in the UK. I said I would be away on holiday until June. As I had been notified of shipment I assumed delivery would be imminent. But by mid-June the laptop had not arrived.

The seller then told me his son had been injured and taken to hospital, causing a delay. The next day he told me PayPal would not release my funds, so he could not send the laptop. I suggested this was a matter between him and PayPal. I demanded immediate delivery as I had paid for the laptop back in April. He asked me to raise a dispute via PayPal as this might speed up the release of his money. I didn't understand this as it seemed irrelevant to our contract. The seller repeated that the laptop was in his possession.

Consequently I didn't raise a dispute with PayPal at this stage. The seller agreed to post the laptop for free as he had a contact who could do this without charge. I reminded him that I had already paid £25 to cover postage. I asked him to provide a tracking number. This didn't materialise and nor did the laptop. I then filed a claim with PayPal, but on 23 June I received a reply from PayPal which said that I was now out-of-time for raising a dispute. At no time during my transaction through PayPal was I made aware of there being a deadline for lodging a dispute.

My local Citizens' Advice Bureau told me that my credit card purchase of £905 is not protected because I purchased the item through PayPal. I have been told by PayPal to continue a dialogue with the seller, but while he was apologetic over the delay he has just provided excuses about why the laptop has not yet been delivered. On advice from Citizens' Advice I have written to the seller stating that he is in breach of contact. To date I have heard nothing! GH, Devon.

A. As a result of our intervention, the seller will have to prove delivery of the laptop or lose the payment, which will be refunded to you.

A spokeswoman for PayPal says: "At PayPal, our number one priority is to make buying and selling as easy and secure as possible. This June, we extended the time allowed for buyers to open a dispute from 45 to 180 days. In [the reader's] case, his complaint was raised before this extension came into effect, but as a gesture of goodwill PayPal is reopening his case. If the seller cannot prove that the item was delivered, [the reader] will receive a full refund."

Q. I paid a deposit of £300 to secure a rental property to Gough Quarters letting agency in Bristol. At that point I wasn't entirely sure I would want to go on rent this property, but I was reassured twice by the letting agent that I could change my mind later and would receive a refund. This never happened, the agreement failed and this company is still holding on to my deposit. AG, Bristol.

A. Gough Quarters strongly disputes your version of events. It says the deposit was taken explicitly on the understanding that you would sign the lease for the apartment and would move into it. On that basis it says it paid your 'holding deposit' to the apartment owner. It denies that it knew that you were going to look at more apartments.

Indeed, it is difficult to understand why you would pay a deposit on an apartment if you had not decided to move into it. Gough Quartets' proprietor nevertheless agreed to repay the deposit, but then failed to do this on the grounds that you wrote a review on the AllAgents website that was very critical of the agency and in the view of Gough Quarters amounted to a libellous misrepresentation of the situation. We have managed to negotiate a resolution – you have withdrawn the review and Gough Quarters has now repaid the deposit in full.

Q. I booked a cruise for this summer back last year with Celebrity Cruises. One of the inducements was to receive a 'Classic Drinks Package' as part of the deal. Since then some of the prices have increased, including what we believed were prices agreed as part of the package. KB, by email.

A. We have repeatedly contacted Celebrity Cruises, but it has failed to respond to us. We understand from you that it has now adjusted its drink prices and you will be charged in line with your original expectations. "So no harm done," you comment.

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