Personal Finance: The shock of the 'new'

The third in our series on consumer rights and how to spot a good deal

FACTORY reconditioned and ex-display items always grab the attention of bargain hunters, writes Stephen Pritchard. Buying end-of-line or shop- soiled hardware can save a substantial sum. The packaging might not be pristine, but it should work as well as an equivalent model straight from the factory. Literally, it is "as good as new".

Unfortunately, unwary shoppers can be caught out and can find they have bought an item that someone else has used.

It is illegal for a retailer to sell something as new that they know is used - and that applies to goods returned by customers as well as equipment they have traded in or part-exchanged.

But not all shops follow the rules. Paul Cooper is a divisional manager with West Yorkshire trading standards. His team deals with some 30,000 complaints a year concerning consumer goods. Mr Cooper's files include portable computers sold as new that contained previous owners' data; video recorders marked with other buyers' postcodes, and even an answering machine with the original purchaser's message (and eight messages from callers) still on the tape.

If trading standards suspect deliberate deception, they will prosecute. There is no reason why shops cannot sell used or returned goods - the point is that shoppers should know what they are buying. A visitor to a second-hand specialist knows what they are taking on; someone who visits a high-street store or out-of-town superstore will expect what they buy to be new. Some retailers use terms such as "graded" or "ex-display" to cover goods which have slight cosmetic damage, missing packaging or which have genuinely been on display on the shelves.

"If I saw something that said 'manufacturer's special', 're-manufactured', 'reworked', 'graded' or something along those lines, I would regard it as a warning," says Mr Cooper.

Retailers specialising in discounted electrical goods stress that shops should tell customers why they are being offered a keen price - before they hand over any money.

An independent hi-fi chain, Richer Sounds, stocks new equipment, ex-display and clearance items, second-hand goods brought in through the company's part exchange programme, and "factory repack" items.

"Factory repack products are products that are ex-display or repaired, or they may be mail-order returns," explains David Robinson, managing director. "They are either refurbished by the manufacturer, or by us. It allows us to discount them. But it is made very clear and we go to great pains to make it very clear."

Superficial damage might not affect the way a product works, and buyers are still protected if it breaks down.

"If you buy graded, it is perfectly clear that you are buying an imperfect item. It has nothing to do with the mechanical condition," says Paul Cooper. "If you buy something with a damaged case and the case deteriorates, there is nothing you can do. But if it does not work, you can expect the same treatment as with a new item."

The buyer's ultimate sanction is to reject the equipment, by returning it to the store. This is hardly the most convenient solution. The easiest approach is to ask searching questions before buying graded or ex-display items. Store staff are under no obligation to volunteer a product's history, but if you ask, they must tell the truth.

the knowledge: 'new' or second hand

New means new. If you buy something that is supposed to be new, and it has been used before, take it back and demand a refund.

Stores use a number of terms to describe less-than-perfect goods. Better retailers show the reason for a discount on the label. If they do not, ask why the product is cheaper. It may even be possible to negotiate more off the asking price.

Second-hand goods offer far less protection to consumers. To play safe, buy from a reputable shop offering a warranty. An authorised dealer for the brand usually has the best support and repair facilities.

Cosmetic damage means just that. The product should be in full working order, ideally with a full guarantee.

If you encounter problems or think you have been deceived, contact the local trading standards office and make a complaint.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Australia vs New Zealand live
cricket Follow over-by-over coverage as rivals New Zealand and Australia face off
Sport
Hamilton runs down the back straight in the rain
F1
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
Life and Style
Researchers found that just 10 one-minute swill-and-spit sessions are enough to soften tooth enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion
health
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Regent Street Cinema’s projection room in the 1920s
film
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing