Questions of Cash: Refund on a chair after we get to the seat of the trouble

 

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The Independent Online

Q. I paid £932 for a small G-Plan power recliner chair, which I chose in an ScS store in Reading. The size is very important as I am 5ft tall. But the chair – which was delivered at the end of January last year – was large, and my feet don't touch the ground. Since the order was placed, five chairs have been delivered, two with completely the wrong fabric and style and three in the large size.

I have repeatedly visited the branch and phoned the company's head office. On one occasion, the store manager told me to take the cushion off and jump on it to flatten it. This is not just ridiculous, it is impossible – the cushion doesn't remove. I then wrote to G-Plan, which told me to direct my complaint to ScS. Another manager at the store now accepts that my original order was correct, and as a concession they will replace it with the model I ordered. However, I am now fed up with ScS and want my money back so that I can deal with another company. CM, Berkshire.

A. Between your efforts and ours, this has taken more than a year to resolve. You contacted us on 1 January this year. Our emails and phone calls to ScS got nowhere, and we were on the verge of taking this up through your payment card issuer. However, we then noticed that ScS is a keen user of Twitter. Our attempt at contacting the company through its Twitter account turned out to be much more effective, and the matter is now resolved. Vicki Burns, operations assistant at ScS, says: "We have looked into your enquiry and, from our investigations, we understand the chair originally viewed by [the reader] in store to have been a standard non-reclining chair.

However, the product selected for order was a power recliner. All power recliners are slightly bigger in size when compared to the standard chair to accommodate the recliner mechanism. This should have been made clear to the customer at the point of placing the order – however, it seems this has not been the case. We have been in touch with [the reader] to offer our sincere apologies for any confusion , and have agreed to collect and fully refund the chair."

Q. I am writing for advice on a parking fine received on 29 May. I am not getting anywhere with either the company that issued the parking ticket, UK Parking Control, or with the debt recovery agencies, first Debt Recovery Plus and then Zenith Collections. My husband parked in the Crescent Link Retail Park in Londonderry, and the reason for the ticket was that he had "not parked correctly within the markings of the bay or space".

I have written to appeal the fine, pointing out that there was nothing visible in the car park to explain the rules. (This has since been corrected.) The demand for money has now increased to £150, and we have been threatened with being taken to court. On the phone, Zenith just insists that we pay the money. HC, Northern Ireland.

A. You contacted us at the end of last year, and we have been frustrated at every turn in trying to obtain a satisfactory answer. We submitted detailed questions to UK Parking Control, asking the company to justify the "parking ticket" and to state on what legal grounds it believed it could issue this charge on private property when there was, apparently, no clear sign indicating the circumstances in which a parking ticket would be issued. There was no reply.

We then made repeated efforts to speak to Lisney, the managing agent for the site, emailing senior executives in the company and speaking repeatedly to its public relations agency. Lisney, too, failed to respond to our enquiries. We investigated further, and established that the company that owns the site is called Genova, a subsidiary of Murdock, the property group.

We phoned the company to request to speak to it and although the receptionist promised to pass on the message, the call was not returned. We spoke and wrote repeatedly to Murdock's public relations agency, but again there was no response. We now understand that UK Parking Control has not been involved in issuing parking tickets on the site since late last year. But the legal validity of its old tickets still seems unclear.

We spoke to Citizens Advice, which pointed out that in similar cases that have gone to court an issuer of a ticket has been unsuccessful where it has not been able to prove that there was a clear notice in place advising that a ticket would be issued in specified circumstances. It may also be required to prove who was the driver of the vehicle on the day the ticket was issued.

Since October, the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 has clarified the law on the issuing of parking tickets on private land and established a regulator, Popla, where there is a dispute about issued tickets. However, Popla was not operational at the time your ticket was issued. Despite this, we contacted it in the hope that it would be able and willing to investigate or arbitrate on the problem.

However, it sent us a statement saying: "Before the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 came into force on 1st October 2012, appeals were dealt with by the operators. If you have received a parking charge prior to this date, and wish to appeal, please contact the operator that issued the ticket to enquire about the options available to you."

As the operator has been completely unresponsive, this response is unhelpful. It would be understandable if you decided to sit this out and hope the matter will never be taken to court. If it is, we are willing to give evidence to explain that UK Parking Control, the site managers and the site owners have done nothing to get the matter resolved without the use of courts.

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