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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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We have purchased from Debenhams a set of garden furniture

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We have purchased from Debenhams a set of garden furniture constructed of a 'rattan' style material. The set consists of a settee, a stool and a glass topped table.
We have used the furniture and we have noticed that when you place a drink on the table in sunny weather the sunlight forms a sunspot through the glass and the rattan material melts.
This situation was brought to the attention of Debenhams Customer Services who initially aske us what we wanted and offered a refund , replacement full or partial etc.
At this stage we asked for a full replacement.
In the absence of any further response from Debenhams, three weeks later we contacted them again to be told they were taking no action but would, if we wished, send replacement strands.
By this time, and having proved that the fault was in the material, we changed our requirement to wanting a refund.
Debenhams are now refusing to discuss the matter further other than telling us that the damage caused was due to 'misuse' and a letter to the CEO was passed to a Customer Relations lady who was totally dismissive in her response. We have persistently asked Debenhams to explain how we have misused the furniture and they have constantly ignored the question and refuse to discuss the matter further.
What options do we have under these circumstances.

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today.

Please can you tell me how long ago you purchased the furniture set and how long after receiving it did you report the issue? Thank you

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Bought initially in May this year, first reported in June when the problem discovered

OK thank you, ***** ***** it with me. I am in court today so will prepare my advice during the day and get back to you at the earliest opportunity. There is no need to wait here as you will receive an email when I have responded. Thank you.

Many thanks for your patience. As far as the law stands, when a consumer makes a purchase from a business seller, they will have certain 'statutory' rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. The law states that the goods must be:

· of satisfactory quality – they must not be faulty or damaged when you receive them;

· as described – they must match any description given to you at the time of purchase; and

· fit for purpose – they should be fit for the purpose they are supplied for,

If they do not match the above requirements, you will have certain legal remedies against the seller. Your rights will not be against the manufacturer as they will only be responsible if there was a manufacturer’s warranty or guarantee with the goods. Also note that there is no protection against fair wear and tear, misuse or accidental damage, faults that were pointed out at the time of sale or if you change your mind and no longer want the goods.

If the goods do not meet the criteria mentioned above, you will have the following rights:

1. Reject them and request a refund - this is only possible if the rejection occurs within 30 days of purchase.

2. Ask for a repair or replacement – if you are too late to reject the goods or do not wish to get a refund straight away, you can ask the seller for a repair or replacement. If a repair has been arranged but has failed, or if a repair or replacement are not possible, you are still entitled to ask for a refund, or a price reduction. Alternatively you could get a second repair or replacement at no extra cost to you. However, the retailer can refuse if they can show that your choice is disproportionately expensive compared to the alternative.

A useful rule is that if a fault appears within the first 6 months after purchase, the law assumes that they did not meet the statutory requirements at the time of sale. If the retailer disagrees, it is for them to prove that this was not the case. However, if the fault occurs more than 6 months after purchase, it would be down to the consumer to prove that they did not meet the statutory requirements set out above at the time of sale.

My main concern here would be the way the issues became apparent. This was not just a matter of leaving the furniture exposed to direct sunlight, it is an intense concentration of sunlight pointed at one spot, through what could be considered non-normal use. For example, a number of fires have been caused by leaving glassware on a window, which then directed intense sunlight beams created by them passing through the glass at furniture, curtains, etc. That does not mean that the furniture or curtains were faulty or not fit for purpose, they were exposed to non-normal conditions. So a similar issue may arise here. Had the furniture just started to melt if left outside and exposed to direct sunlight, then yes I would certainly say you had a case. However, here it is being exposed to intensified sunlight, not through what would be considered normal use so you may struggle a bit to prove that it was not fit for purpose.

Nevertheless, you can quote the applicable rights you have under the Consumer Rights Act as mentioned above. If they appear reluctant to assist, write to them one more time, warn them that they have 7 days to comply and inform them that if they fail to meet their legal obligations, you will have no choice but to report them to Trading Standards and start legal proceedings to seek compensation for your losses.

This is your basic legal position. I have more detailed advice for you in terms of the steps you need to follow should you decide to take this further, which I wish to discuss so please take a second to leave a positive rating for the service so far (by selecting 3, 4 or 5 stars) and I can continue with that and answer any further questions you may have. Don’t worry, there is no extra cost and leaving a rating will not close the question and we can continue this discussion. Thank you

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for response although it was not exactly what we wanted to hear. We are concerned that putting a glass of wine on a table which is designed for outdoor use can be described as ‘not normal use’ or even more bizarrely ‘misuse’ as implied by Debenhams. The furniture is of course only used in good weather (sunny weather) and if the use to which we put the furniture was misuse, then surely there should have been warning notices supplied with the delivery.
We are keen to progress this matter and would welcome detailed advice on the next steps providing of course we are not wasting our time.
Your further comments would be appreciated.

I would not say that this is misuse as such because you are not using the furniture in an inappropriate manner or a way that was not designed for its use. This is not about how you use the furniture but how you use items around it. Whilst I understand why you would have wanted to see warnings to cover for this, it would generally be seen as a ‘given’, or something which down to common sense may be implied as a known. Just in the same manner if you were to put an extremely hot baking tray on it, whilst you were enjoying the good weather and having a BBQ – it is a given that this may not be intended for this so no specific warnings would be given…after all they cannot cover for every eventuality of what may cause damage to the furniture.

Whilst I cannot promise you that legal action will resolve this for you, there is certainly nothing stopping you from exerting extra pressure and following the steps leading up to issuing a claim to try and change their approach. As mentioned I can discuss these with you once you leave your rating for the initial response, many thanks

Ben Jones and 2 other Law Specialists are ready to help you

Thank you. Whenever a dispute arises over compensation owed by one party to another, the party at fault can be pursued through the civil courts. As legal action should always be seen as a last resort, there are certain actions that should be taken initially to try and resolve this matter informally and without having to involve the courts. It is recommended that the process follows these steps:

1. Reminder letter – if no reminders have been sent yet, one should be sent first to allow the party at fault to voluntarily settle this matter.

2. Letter before action – if informal reminders have been sent but these have been ignored, the party at fault must be sent a formal letter asking them to resolve this amicably within a specified period of time. A reasonable period to demand a response by would be 10 days. They should be advised that if they fail to do contact you in order to resolve this matter, formal legal proceedings will be commenced to pursue the compensation due. This letter serves as a ‘final warning’ and gives the other side the opportunity to resolve this matter without the need for legal action.

3. If they fail to pay or at least make contact to try and resolve this, formal legal proceedings can be initiated. A claim can be commenced online by going to Once the claim form is completed it will be sent to the other side and they will have a limited time to defend it. If they are aware legal proceedings have commenced it could also prompt them to reconsider their position and perhaps force them to contact you to try and resolve this.

Whatever correspondence is sent, it is always advisable to keep copies and use recorded delivery so that there is proof of delivery and a paper trail. The court may need to refer to these if it gets that far.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your two previous, messages which I read with some concern, Whilst you appreciate that we are not misusing the furniture your analogy of comparing putting hot substances on to a surface with putting a glass at ambient temperature is totally inappropriate and to suggest that placing a glass on a table lacks common sense is bordering on insulting.A more appropriate analogy would be with our neighbours who bought a similar set cheaply from Argos, compared with our expensive set from Debenhams, both of which we used at the same time and under the same conditions, ours melted and theirs did not.However it would appear we have no alternative to accept that the legal interpretation of this fact does not follow our common sense route. We do thank you for your indication of how to take legal action but have one query regarding use of, and that Is, should we take such action, in the event of the case going against us, could it end up with us faced with a major bill for costs ?Look forward to your early comments.

If you are going to keep the costs of a claim below £10k, which I presume you would in this case then this matter will go to the small claims court. You do not need to use solicitors to make your claim as the venue is designed for smaller unrepresented parties. Further, if you happen to lose a claim you would not be responsible for the other side's legal costs. So no, you would not really be faced with a big bill, unless you decide to use a lawyer to assist you and even then you decide how much you want to use them and pay them

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I note that in your message of 05 September 16 I was told there would be no extra charges.
Could you please therefore explain why my account has been charged a further £47.00 without my authority.
Your comments would be appreciated.

If you have taken out a subscription then you can be charged again for the membership, however as I do not deal with accounts issues, nor can I see what you have opted for, you would need to contact customer services to query this. Details of how to cancel your membership and contact options can be found here: