Customers of online toy firm SavviBuy have been left stunned after the retailer failed to deliver their goods on time, then told them to ask their banks for a refund.
Some customers spent hundreds of pounds with the online retailer in the run-up to Christmas. But delivery delays meant shoppers didn't receive goods despite the company's claims that orders would "100%" arrive by 23 December.
In an unusual move, the firm has now requested that those let down by the service use their banks' 'chargeback' procedures for debit and credit cards to get refunds rather than going through the company, as because of a "lack of resources" they're currently unable to deal with the number of those requesting refunds.
An email sent to customers on 27 December requested that those let down by the service "contact your bank and request a chargeback".
The email adds: "These are currently the fastest methods due to our lack of resources during this period of time".
MoneySavingExpert.com has contacted SavviBuy for comment and is awaiting a response.
What is chargeback and what are my rights?
Chargeback is a process offered to credit and debit card users, offering them additional protection when shopping. It means that if you don't receive the goods that you bought, you may be able to get your money back from your bank.
The service has no legal standing, but is a customer service guarantee which forms part of the internal rules for Visa, Mastercard and American Express. Essentially you can make a claim with your bank, building society or credit card company.
However, payments made on credit cards may qualify for even stronger, legally binding protection in the form of Section 75 – a law which means credit card firms must protect purchases over £100 for free.
It's worth remembering though that in cases involving non-delivery of items, banks may request that their customers wait a certain amount of time before the item is considered as not being delivered – as highlighted by one of our case studies below.
For full information on how to claim under either scheme, see our Chargeback and Section 75 guides.
Lengthy investigations process
SavviBuy customers have raised serious concerns about the delays caused by the company's reliance on the chargeback process.
Susie contacted Barclays bank on 23 December after her items, due on 12 December, didn't arrive. Barclays told her that she had to give the company 15 days from the expected delivery date before using chargeback to receive her refund.
When she launched her request, she was then told the bank had 21 days to investigate – meaning it could take up to 36 days to get her money back.
Kirsty, another SavviBuy customer, also contacted MoneySavingExpert. She banks with Santander and has been sent forms by her bank to fill in to get her refund. She says: "I have called the bank's dispute team who emailed me a form to fill in and send back. They have said they will investigate and refund my account temporarily but that could take 12 days."
Victoria also contact MSE after her daughter's Christmas present didn't arrive in time.
She too is concerned that the chargeback process means her refund may take longer, saying: "I know £69.98 isn't a lot of money but I need this money to survive till payday as I had to buy the item again elsewhere which blew my budget. I am so depressed about this as there's nothing I can do – I feel like fool."