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Best and worst high street shopsBy Donna Werbner

A new report by consumer group Which? has revealed the most loved and most loathed high street retailers – and it contains a few surprises.
Joint bottom of the list of Britain’s 100 biggest retailers, which is based on the recommendations of 14,000 consumers, is a shop that used to have its own special place in the hearts of many British shoppers.
WHSmith and Currys Digital prop up the rankings, scoring just 49% in total when rated across 15 factors including price, service, store experience and product quality.
The worst retailers
Here’s the full list of the bottom 10 retailers in the Which? report:


Position Worst* Customer score(%)
89 Homebase (178) 54
= Poundstretcher (531) 54
= Morrisons¹ (356) 54
= Sports Direct (354) 54
= Barratts (176) 54
94 Sainsbury’s¹ (1,050) 53
95 Currys (177) 52
= JJB Sports (342) 52
97 PC World (355) 51
= Focus (180) 51
99 WH Smith (171) 49
= Currys Digital (177) 49

Source: * Numbers in brackets indicate sample size.
Sadly, however, these shoddy shops not alone in providing a poor service. According to the Office of Fair Trading, British consumers suffered a total loss of £6.6bn last year from firms which – accidentally or deliberately – treated them unfairly.
And as the Which? report demonstrates, it’s not just the double-glazing door-steppers and dodgy builders you need to watch out for. Badly-trained salespeople at trusted high street shops and well-known online retailers can be just as bad.
The best retailers

Position Best Customer score (%)
1 Lakeland (177) 78
= Richer Sounds (174) 78
3 Apple (177) 77
= Lush (176) 77
5 John Lewis (1,045) 75
6 The Body Shop (176) 73
7 IKEA (165) 72
8 Jones Bootmaker (155) 71
9 Wallis (137) 70
= Dunelm Mill (179) 70

Your consumer rights
If you don’t know your rights, you could easily find yourself – and your wallet – short-changed at the shops.
Here’s a quick look at your consumer rights, along with the Acts to quote if you ever need to complain.
Returning goods
What are you rights when it comes to returning goods?
Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979, the goods you buy must be:

  • As described. For example, if a jumper in a shop is labelled 100% wool, it must be 100% wool. If it is not, you can return it and expect a full refund.
  • Fit for any purpose made known to the seller. Say you go into a hardware shop and ask for some glue to fix a broken china ornament, and then you are sold glue which is not suitable for sticking china. In this situation, you will have been sold an item which is not fit for the purpose you made known to the seller, so you can return it and expect a full refund.
  • Of satisfactory quality. This means you can return items which turn out to be defective, for example if they: fall apart, explode, shrink, break down, stop working or spontaneously combust. (OK, I added that last one, but you get the picture.)

A common misconception among consumers is that, if an item is reduced in price because of a specific defect, you suppsedly cannot return it – even if you discover another, unrelated defect after you have bought it. Say, for example, you buy a TV that doesn’t have a remote control at a reduced price. If you then discover the TV doesn’t work at all, you have the right to a full refund.
The same goes for items ‘on sale’. The item may be reduced in price, but your legal rights remain intact – whatever the retailer may tell you. So if you find a defect with a sale item, you are legally entitled to a full refund, even if the retailer has stated that sale items cannot be returned.
Do you need a receipt?
Yes, you do need to show proof of purchase. The best way to show this is with a receipt. However, a bank or credit card statement is also a legally acceptable way to show proof of purchase.
When must you return a defective item?
If an item is defective as soon as you get it home, you should attempt to return it as soon as possible. Otherwise you will be deemed to have ‘accepted’ it, meaning you may lose your right to a full refund.
How long you have to officially ‘reject’ a product is not set in stone, but a general rule of thumb is 28 days .
However, if it went to court, a judge might extend this by taking into account the complexity and nature of the product and defect. For example, a complex defect with a computer may take months to discover. Or if you bought a lawnmower in winter, you may reasonably not be able to test it works until summer.
Repair or replacement
What if you don’t need or can’t get a refund, and so would instead be happy with a repair or replacement? Here your rights are greater, and last longer. This is due to the Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002, an addition to the Sale of Goods Act 1979.
According to these new regulations, if the product develops a fault within the first six months of your ownership, you are legally entitled to a repair or replacement – and most importantly, you do not even have to prove that there was a fault.
This is because the burden of proof now falls on the retailer, not you, the consumer. So the retailer must prove that the item was not faulty in order to refuse your request.
What’s more, when it comes to providing the repair or replacement, the retailer must:
– Act within a reasonable amount of time
– Not cause significant inconvenience to the consumer
– Bear any costs eg. labour, materials, postage, delivery etc.
Of course, with some types of goods, such as perishable food items, it is reasonable for the seller to claim that the defect was not present at the time of the sale. Similarly, sellers can refuse to repair and replace goods which have been damaged by the consumer or those which have suffered defects due to normal wear and tear.
Six months after purchase, the burden of proof switches – so you will then need to prove to the retailer there is an inherent defect in the product which you were not aware of at the time of purchase.
The product is not faulty
If the product is not faulty, but after purchasing it, you decide you don’t want it, what are your rights?
If there’s nothing wrong with the product, then you must rely entirely on the goodwill of the retailer. You’ve simply changed your mind about the purchase – and while that may be your prerogative, it’s not a right protected by law.
Having said that, some shops – most famously, Marks & Spencer – now have a generous return policy and allow you to return items that are not faulty within 90 days, as long as you have a receipt.
Others, such as Argos, are less generous, requiring you to return both the item and its packaging in perfect condition within 30 days. And some refuse to let you to return anything at all, unless it is faulty.
There is an important exception, however, and that is when you buy an item at a distance – over the phone, the internet or by post. In this situation, you have the legal right to return an item, purely because you don’t want it, up to a week after it’s delivered.
In other words, you have the legal right to change your mind if you haven’t seen the item up close. But if you’ve eyeballed it, picked it up and walked away smiling, then the law has no sympathy for you.
If you’re have a question about your consumer rights, why not ask other readers for help and advice using our free Q&A tool?
 How to complain and fight for your rights

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