This week The Consumer Show tackles complaints about quality and customer service at Cost Plus Sofas, Ireland's self proclaimed biggest sofa megastore.
We meet three people who are dissatisfied with the quality of the sofas they bought and how their complaints have been handled by Cost Plus Sofas.
Within months of buying her suite in December 2011, Margaret Forrester and her daughter Roisin started having problems including shrinking armrests, sinking cushions and squeaking springs. Although CPS carried out repairs, the Forresters have been left waiting months for replacement parts to arrive. Roisin told The Consumer Show that when the technician sent by Cost Plus Sofas' came to inspect their suite he said: "You got what you paid for."
Consumer expert Tina Leonard said the Forresters are entitled to better service: "If you spend a fiver, if you've spent five hundred euro, five thousand euro on a sofa, your rights are still the same.
"And bear in this in mind as well, Cost Plus Sofas themselves say they sell high quality sofas at low prices. They also say that you're going to have a long relationship with your sofa."
We contacted Cost Plus Sofas on behalf of the Forresters, they apologised for the 'extraordinary delay' in resolving the problem and have now offered a replacement suite of higher value. On the afternoon of Tuesday 28th May the Forresters accepted a full refund of ¤880 and a ¤200 Cost Plus Sofas voucher from Cost Plus Sofas.
In November 2011 Jennifer Ward in Meath paid ¤1368 for her L shaped sofa and after just a few months she noticed a problem with fraying cushions. Over the next year and a half Jennifer was in contact with Cost Plus Sofas' Customer Service as they investigated the problem and replaced the cushions twice - a third set are currently on the way.
We contacted Cost Plus Sofas and they gave Jennifer options - new cushions plus 200 cash, or new cushions plus a 300 Cost Plus Sofas voucher, or a replacement corner sofa and chair of her choice, or a new suite priced at ¤2000.00. Jennifer has opted for the replacement suite including sofa, pouffe and coffee table.
Orla O'Brien in Wexford bought her suite from Cost Plus Sofas in November 2012. Within a few days Orla noticed holes in the corner of the sofa, a loose front panel and dents in the seat cushions
A technician did call out to see Orla's suite but Cost Plus Sofas concluded that there's no fault with the sofa. Orla feels she didn't get what she paid for. a quality sofa. Orla felt she had no choice but to go to The Small Claims Court for a full refund, and won her case last week.
The Consumer Show got hold of a Hustle Parchment model bought from Cost Plus Sofa 3 years ago and asked experienced furniture repairer Larry Skellington (www.wefixfurniture.ie)to open it up for an inspection. Inside Larry found cardboard, plywood and mattress style springs used instead of the materials Larry would expect to find in a high quality sofa.
Larry said: "These springs are literally glued together. They can start popping, so then when you're sitting on it you're feeling these on your bum!"
Cost Plus Sofas said that complaints are transferred to a "dedicated and trained service team" and that this provided a "more focussed and consistent level of service" which was ultimately "far more efficient" for the customer.
And when we asked about delays in some customers getting resolution to their complaints, they said that their statistics showed that they "resolve the majority of our service issues within the first 7 days of contact" but that "where parts or replacement are required, this can take a little longer".
They also said that they provide refunds where that is "the only solution".
Tadhg Enright joined Keelin to explain how a consumer can make a claim in the Small Claims Court:
Statement from Cost Plus Sofas:
Cost Plus Sofas is the largest independant sofa specialist in Ireland (ROI) and prides itself in providing designer lead sofas at very competitive prices, along with attractive room packages including tables and Televisions. Our products and offers are well received by the public with Cost Plus Sofas being a destination point for customers purchasing new Furniture due to the excellent value and service we provide. We purchase goods from major suppliers around the world to provide our customers with value for money, with many of our manufactures supplying other major retailers in Europe and the US product quality is paramount to our buying decision.
In common with most consumer durables be it Furniture, Electrical or Motor vehicles etc, problems can occur due to various factors and we believe any manufacturing product issues we have are below industry averages,and must be considered in context with the large volume of successful deliveries we make. Nonetheless we are constantly working with our suppliers to ensure constant refinement in product reliability.
All stores are free and able to talk through issues with the customer directly and provide reassurance of our best intentions to resolve their issue as quickly and as satisfactorily as possible. To that end the matter is transferred to our dedicated and trained service team to handle until resolved, in this way we can provide a more focused and consistent level of service to all our customers, ultimately this is far more efficient for the customer. The decision to have a dedicated care line was born out of experience and research in continually looking for better ways to improve our service levels and is adopted worldwide by many major companies including many leading household names in all industries as the best method of delivering consistently high standards of customer service.
As part of our ongoing improvement process we monitor carefully the quality and time scales of the service we are providing and fully recognise that the problem is exasperated the longer it is left unresolved. Our statistics show that we resolve the majority of our service issues within the first 7 days of contact and the actual percentage is well above industry standards. Naturally where parts or replacements are required this can take a little longer and is reliant on stocks available and our suppliers, which can be out of our control at times. Customers are kept informed and if problems occur we always try to offer alternative resolution. It would be most unusual for a matter to be unresolved for 12 months unless there are exceptional circumstances, you will need to provide details for us to investigate and comment further.
Our Independent technicians are sent in the first instance to provide a qualified technical assessment of the problem along with their suggested best course of action to resolve (if not dealt with there and then). Following this our customers are contacted by our service teams to discuss our plans to resolve. In addition, we also have available numerous other ways of contact, be it a phone number, email address or personal visits to our stores, in fact, our accessibility is far easier than many blue chip companies only offering contact through web based services, where it is almost impossible to gain direct access.
This Inspection fee is levied for service issues beyond the warranty period or for issues that may not be directly attributed to manufacturing faults from the customers initial comments. This represents a very small proportion of our overall calls and would always be refunded if the technicians finds the matter is of a manufacturing nature. This is a common practice for the majority of companies particularly for out of warranty service.
We act within the guidelines of consumer law and our entitlement to offer repair or replacement in many cases. We deem it a failure on our part if we fail to satisfy our customer and provide them with the goods they wanted. If we are unable to resolve their issue to their satisfaction and we have to provide a refund, we naturally do if that is the only solution.
In response to the Forrestor's complaints:
We have never been informed by the customer that they were dissatisfied with our service, nor have they formally requested a refund. We will investigate this with the technicians and resolve with Mrs Forrester.
In response to the Ward's complaints:
We would never have supplied goods which were not fit for purpose, hence we investigated this issue. We will be calling MR & MRS Ward to resolve and again, they have never formally requested a refund according to our records.