Electricals chain Currys PC World has been handed a legal warning over its laptop charges scandal.
Consumer group Which? has issued a formal warning to the tech giant over its practice of telling customers they have to pay up to £40 for a laptop setup which should be optional.
The consumer champion believes the retailer is continuing to rip off customers with the fees – charged when laptops bought online are picked up in-store – four years after the issue was first brought to its attention by Which?.
It’s now written to Currys PC World outlining how the practice could breach UK and EU consumer law – and demanding prompt action is taken to stamp it out and reimburse customers who have wrongly paid the extra charge.
The company said a year after the issue was first brought to light, it’s still hearing of cases where customers have been pressured into paying for the company’s Knowhow laptop setup service, even though they had not requested it.
In March last year Currys apologised after customers complained they had been pressured into paying more than the advertised price for laptops on multiple occasions since 2015.
At the time, Which? said 108 customers had reported ordering laptops or seeing them advertised at a specific price only to be charged up to £40 more on collecting them.
Customers reported staff telling them that pre-setup computers were the only ones left in the shop, so they would have to pay a previously unmentioned additional set-up fee.
They were then told they would have to pay an extra charge of up to £40 for the setup service.
Which? has now informed the retailer that it will consider pursuing “all available options” to ensure this "unscrupulous" behaviour is brought to an end.
It believes the practice could amount to ‘bait advertising’ – when a retailer lures someone into their store with the promise of a good deal, in the knowledge that they can’t honour the offer or there is only a limited supply of stock.
This is deemed an unfair practice under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.
The retailer could also be in breach of Consumer Contracts Regulations, which require retailers to make the full price of a product clear to consumers for products bought online.
Since rebriefing stores has not been successful, Which? is now calling on the retailer to take more proactive steps, such as employee incentives, to ensure no more customers are asked to pay for a pre-setup laptop when that isn’t what they wanted, or what was advertised to them.
Meanwhile, all customers who have already been forced to pay the charge should also be refunded promptly.
A spokesperson for Currys PC World said: "On a small number of new laptops, we pre-install software to help customers who want to avoid waiting a few hours in store for the service or having to do it themselves at home.
"This is not something every customer needs and, where a colleague only has a pre set-up laptop in stock, our policy is absolutely clear that customers should be made aware and not be charged for the service."
Eleanor Snow, at Which? added: "It is very concerning that Currys PC World has allowed this unscrupulous practice to carry on for four years – despite repeated warnings and overwhelming evidence that it may be in breach of consumer law.
"Previous efforts from the company to resolve the issue have been woefully insufficient, so we now want to see it tackle the issue head on so no more customers are left out of pocket unnecessarily."
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