SALLY SORTS IT: Our M&S couches squeaked and now the seats have started wobbling

In January 2021 we ordered two large sofas from Marks & Spencer for £1,598. When they arrived three months later, we immediately noticed a squeaking noise when we sat on one of them and reported it to M&S.

Technicians inspected, stripped and told us that the frame was broken in a few places as if it had been dropped from a great height.

We were told it wasn’t safe to use but they suggested it could be repaired.

Bank So Bad: A reader has had endless problems with their Marks & Spencer sofas, but the company has done little to help

Bank So Bad: A reader has had endless problems with their Marks & Spencer sofas, but the company has done little to help

M&S said if we wanted a replacement couch instead there would be a ten week wait. Since we had thrown away our old sofas, we agreed to the repair.

How we now regret that decision because after it was fixed both banks started giving us problems. The seat cushions developed severe bulges, making them very unsightly.

M&S said it could do no more and referred me to the Furniture and Home Furnishings Ombudsman. It ruled there was no manufacturing defect, but requested that M&S ​​replace the seat covers.

But soon after, the same problem occurred. I asked for replacement sofas in a different fabric that didn’t bulge, but was refused – and the ombudsman agreed with M&S when we asked him to rule again. Can you please help.

VC, Hitchin, Herts.

Sally Hamilton replies: Buying a sofa, whether it’s from M&S or not, isn’t just an expense, it’s a major expense. It’s not something people do on a regular basis, so I understand your dissatisfaction with the fabric that goes up and down pretty quickly after you buy your furniture.

You said you understood that this may not be considered a manufacturing issue as such, but felt M&S ​​should have stated in the description at the point of sale that the material used would be prone to bubbling and stacking.

As you said to me, “no one wants their couch to look like an old sweater.” If it had phrased the description more usefully, you could have made an informed choice not to buy sofas in this fabric. You felt that M&S ​​mis-sold you the sofas and that they were not fit for purpose.

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, buyers have a right of recourse if their purchase does not meet a certain standard of quality and durability.

Consumer expert Martyn James says: ‘After the first 30 days, you have a further six months after purchase in which you must give the company a chance for a repair or replacement, after which you can get your money back.

“Even after six months, if the item isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do, you can ask for a repair, replacement, or refund if the goods don’t last.”

Fair is hard to quantify, and with an aesthetic problem like bulging, the complaint falls into a gray area, he says.

“The couch isn’t broken, but it’s not quite as it should be. While it’s up to the consumer from this point on to prove that the item hasn’t worked as promised, the company should still try to reach some sort of compromise.’

M&S has replaced your sofa seat covers, but only after you have submitted your case to the Ombudsman.

However, the bumps soon returned. I felt the persistent bulge problem was enough to merit my intervention. I suggested to M&S that while the sofas weren’t technically broken, maybe it would be time to show some goodwill and ease your disappointment by offering replacement items in a different fabric or at least giving you some of the original refund price.

Within a few days, a member of M&S’s management office contacted you directly and offered to take back the benches and refund you the full £1,598.

You were delighted with this result and have used the money to order new couches from another retailer with (fingers crossed) non-wobbly upholstery.

Straight to the point

I have not been able to access my Virgin Media account from the start of my three month contract.

I can’t check costs or change settings. Virgin Media is not responding to emails and the customer phone line is sending me rounds.

MR, Essex.

A spokesperson for Virgin Media said: ‘We apologize for the issues the customer had accessing the account. They can now log in and are happy that the matter has been resolved.’

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I have tried to cancel a deed of transfer with tax refund agent Brooksdale so that they can no longer claim tax refunds on my behalf.

I sent it a signed letter last year asking it to cancel the contract, but in February it sent another request to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for overpayment of tax.

EB, by email.

Brooksdale confirms that HMRC has sent a letter requesting to be removed as your tax agent along with your letter.

***

In 2020 I got two John Lewis gift cards worth £350. I was unwell last year so spending them was the last thing on my mind.

When I checked I saw they had expired and John Lewis refuses to renew them.

MV, via email.

A spokesperson says: ‘Our gift cards clearly state that they expire after two years – but this can easily be extended by using the gift card or by checking the balance online.

“Since the two-year period has passed, unfortunately we cannot issue a refund.”

Six weeks to clear a check at Barclays

I paid a check for €10,000 (£8,766) that I received as an inheritance from an aunt in Ireland into my Barclays bank account.

Two weeks later it still hadn’t been credited. I went to my ‘local’ branch, thirteen miles away, to track it down, only to be told it could take up to six weeks to clean it up. In this age of technology, this is ridiculous.

My brother deposited a check he had received for the same amount at his bank Lloyds around the same time, and it cleared within four days.

Six weeks after I deposited mine, I returned to the branch and was given a number to call. A message told me to leave my number and someone would call back, but this did not happen. Can you please apply some pressure?

Ann.

Sally Hamilton replies: Checks are becoming less and less popular with the rise of internet banking and now account for less than 0.5 percent of payments made each year.

But with fewer checks to process, you’d think banks could clear them faster. Don’t count on it.

When I asked Barclays to justify the delay you experienced compared to your brother, he explained that banks have two methods of crediting foreign currency checks to accounts, each with different clearing times.

The options are ‘negotiate’ or ‘collect’. A negotiation is basically when a bank lends money to the customer until the money is finally ‘cleaned up’.

With a direct debit, the customer only receives the money after the money has been released by his own bank.

Since it is essentially a loan from the value of the check until it clears, the choice of method used depends on factors such as the check amount and the activity level of money moving in and out of an account.

Since your check was for a fairly large amount, it was decided to use the direct debit option. It seems likely that your brother’s bank opted for negotiation, which explains the speed with which he received his money. Perhaps he is also a more active user of his account.

The collection process can take up to eight weeks. However, Barclays admits that in your case there were delays in requesting the money from the Allied Irish Bank, the issuer of your €10,000 check, with the request not being made until nearly seven weeks after you paid it.

After I intervened, the bank finally sprang into action and credited your account – nine weeks after you delivered the check to your branch.

Barclays paid you £200 as an apology for such poor service. Annoying as the delays were, a movement in exchange rates between when you deposited the check and when the money was finally credited to your account worked in your favour, meaning you were a further £230 better off.

A Barclays spokesman said: “Unfortunately, on this occasion we were unable to provide the high level of service that our customers have rightly come to expect, for which we sincerely apologise.”

  • Write to Sally Hamilton of Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email sally@dailymail.co.uk — include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organization giving them permission to talk to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send any original documents, we cannot take any responsibility for that. The Daily Mail assumes no legal liability for answers provided.

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