Avoid being fleeced for mail order

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Like many older people, my Mother can't get out as much as she used to and, not being internet savvy, likes to be independent and order clothes by phone from Cotton Traders. This is a good company, selling clothes, shoes etc, aimed at those over 50, which sends glossy catalogues by post on a regular basis and allows customers to place orders by phone, post or online. However, based on recent experiences I've had on my Mother's behalf, they are not quite as user friendly or transparent as they could be...

Each parcel (some orders are split into several parts, each sent in a separate package, wrapped in plastic) is accompanied by a returns docket, containing prepaid labels for both Royal Mail and Hermes. Many customers (myself and my Mum included) therefore assume that, as with many mail order companies, these returns are free, as you are buying the items unseen, but beware, they are not. Each package you return costs £2.95 (in addition to the delivery charges you've already paid) which is deducted from your refund. This is not mentioned anywhere on the front of the docket, where the reason for return and labels are given, just on the reverse of that sheet (where many wouldn't even think of looking) and in the order pages of the catalogue. A warning of this between the two labels would have been a kinder move, especially for a company with an older target market.

Secondly, the phone number, which appears at the bottom of most pages of the catalogue, is an 0844 number. These business rate numbers are not included in any inclusive calls package and cost 7p per minute (plus any connection charge) from a landline and possibly far more for a mobile, which generates extra profit for Cotton Traders whenever it is called. Again, they tell you the cost of calling in the order page of the catalogue (but not at the bottom of pages, which many will look at when reaching for the phone to order an item they've just seen). My Mother was unwittingly stung in this way, clocking up a whopping £14.25 in BT call charges over a 3 month period, so again beware.

There is, of course, a geographical number that you can call instead, which is 0161 286 4321, but they keep this quiet for obvious reasons.

While Cotton Traders are acting perfectly legally, please spread the word to family and friends who may be customers, to prevent them paying more for their order than necessary, perhaps without even realising!
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  • Takmon
    Takmon Posts: 1,738 Forumite
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    snaver wrote: »
    Like many older people, my Mother can't get out as much as she used to and, not being internet savvy, likes to be independent and order clothes by phone from Cotton Traders. This is a good company, selling clothes, shoes etc, aimed at those over 50, which sends glossy catalogues by post on a regular basis and allows customers to place orders by phone, post or online. However, based on recent experiences I've had on my Mother's behalf, they are not quite as user friendly or transparent as they could be...

    Each parcel (some orders are split into several parts, each sent in a separate package, wrapped in plastic) is accompanied by a returns docket, containing prepaid labels for both Royal Mail and Hermes. Many customers (myself and my Mum included) therefore assume that, as with many mail order companies, these returns are free, as you are buying the items unseen, but beware, they are not. Each package you return costs £2.95 (in addition to the delivery charges you've already paid) which is deducted from your refund. This is not mentioned anywhere on the front of the docket, where the reason for return and labels are given, just on the reverse of that sheet (where many wouldn't even think of looking) and in the order pages of the catalogue. A warning of this between the two labels would have been a kinder move, especially for a company with an older target market.

    Having to turn over a piece of paper to see the charges is not exactly hiding them. Personally i would have thought the majority of people realise posting something is not free so i'm not sure why they would assume that if it doesn't say it's free.
    snaver wrote: »
    Secondly, the phone number, which appears at the bottom of most pages of the catalogue, is an 0844 number. These business rate numbers are not included in any inclusive calls package and cost 7p per minute (plus any connection charge) from a landline and possibly far more for a mobile, which generates extra profit for Cotton Traders whenever it is called. Again, they tell you the cost of calling in the order page of the catalogue (but not at the bottom of pages, which many will look at when reaching for the phone to order an item they've just seen). My Mother was unwittingly stung in this way, clocking up a whopping £14.25 in BT call charges over a 3 month period, so again beware.

    There is, of course, a geographical number that you can call instead, which is 0161 286 4321, but they keep this quiet for obvious reasons.

    While Cotton Traders are acting perfectly legally, please spread the word to family and friends who may be customers, to prevent them paying more for their order than necessary, perhaps without even realising!

    I can guarantee that hiring staff and paying for all the other costs associated with a call center costs more than 7p per minute so they will not be making a profit from this.
  • DoaM
    DoaM Posts: 11,863 Forumite
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    snaver wrote: »
    Each package you return costs £2.95 (in addition to the delivery charges you've already paid) which is deducted from your refund.

    Initial delivery charge must also be refunded - as long as you are returning the whole order. They may be deliberately sending separate parcels to work around this requirement by making it more cumbersome to return everything.
    snaver wrote: »
    Secondly, the phone number, which appears at the bottom of most pages of the catalogue, is an 0844 number. These business rate numbers are not included in any inclusive calls package and cost 7p per minute (plus any connection charge) from a landline and possibly far more for a mobile, which generates extra profit for Cotton Traders whenever it is called.

    0844 numbers for customer services are illegal and have been since 2013 (I think). Search for posts by Ian011 as he regularly responds about this point.
  • SnowTiger
    SnowTiger Posts: 4,461 Forumite
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    DoaM wrote: »
    Initial delivery charge must also be refunded - as long as you are returning the whole order. They may be deliberately sending separate parcels to work around this requirement by making it more cumbersome to return everything.

    0844 numbers for customer services are illegal and have been since 2013 (I think). Search for posts by Ian011 as he regularly responds about this point.

    The law changed some time ago. Retailers don't have to refund initial delivery charges for change of mind returns.

    The 0844 number Cotton Traders uses appears to be for orders, which legally is okay.

    It's customer services numbers (calls to numbers the customer may have to make after their purchase) that shouldn't premium rate.

    Cotton traders 'customer care' number is 0161 286 4321.

    Ideal World, the TV shopping channel, has used a premium rate number for orders for many years.
  • hollydays
    hollydays Posts: 19,812 Forumite
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    edited 15 July 2019 at 6:31PM
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    SnowTiger wrote: »
    The law changed some time ago. Retailers don't have to refund initial delivery charges for change of mind returns.

    The 0844 number Cotton Traders uses appears to be for orders, which legally is okay.

    It's customer services numbers (calls to numbers the customer may have to make after their purchase) that shouldn't premium rate.

    Cotton traders 'customer care' number is 0161 286 4321.

    Ideal World, the TV shopping channel, has used a premium rate number for orders for many years.

    When you go into contact us it's listed initially like this

    CALL US
    UK Orderline 0844 844 1111

    Overseas Customer Care 00 44 161 3747220

    I think that’s deceptive
  • Ian011
    Ian011 Posts: 2,432 Forumite
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    While using an 0844 number for orders might be legal, it is a very bad decision. It exposes callers to call charges of up to 65p per minute (up to 72p per minute from 19 August 2019) while generating less than 7p per minute (before VAT is removed) revenue for the called party and their telecoms provider.

    Once businesses become aware of what exactly it is that they are doing, most cease doing it very quickly. In many cases, these businesses have been talked into using an unsuitable telephone number by unscrupulous telecoms providers spreading false information about what callers are paying.
  • Ian011
    Ian011 Posts: 2,432 Forumite
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    Labelling the customer care number as "overseas" is absolutely deceptive.
  • spadoosh
    spadoosh Posts: 8,732 Forumite
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    Takmon wrote: »
    I can guarantee that hiring staff and paying for all the other costs associated with a call center costs more than 7p per minute so they will not be making a profit from this.

    Just do the maths.... 7p x 60 minutes = £4.20 per hour.

    The minimum you can pay the operator is £3.90 providing they only employ apprentices. Cant imagine a call centre operative apprenticeship is that enticing, or even available. So next cheapest is £4.35 if you only employ children and at that point you make a loss just on the staffing.
  • parkrunner
    parkrunner Posts: 2,610 Forumite
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    From their website,

    Orderline

    0844 844 1111*
    Available: Mon - Fri (8am - 8pm) · Saturday (8am - 6pm) · Sunday (9am - 6pm)

    Customer care

    0161 286 4321
    Available: Mon - Fri (8am - 8pm) · Saturday (8am - 6pm) · Sunday (9am - 6pm)

    Nothing about overseas.

    https://www.cottontraders.com/contact-us.html
    It's nothing , not nothink.
  • tehone
    tehone Posts: 640 Forumite
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    parkrunner wrote: »
    From their website,

    Orderline

    0844 844 1111*
    Available: Mon - Fri (8am - 8pm) · Saturday (8am - 6pm) · Sunday (9am - 6pm)

    Customer care

    0161 286 4321
    Available: Mon - Fri (8am - 8pm) · Saturday (8am - 6pm) · Sunday (9am - 6pm)

    Nothing about overseas.

    https://www.cottontraders.com/contact-us.html

    Their web site does also show the alternate presentation above with overseas reference which is a little bit sneaky, on the bottom left of the home page (scroll down)
  • parkrunner
    parkrunner Posts: 2,610 Forumite
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    tehone wrote: »
    Their web site does also show the alternate presentation above with overseas reference which is a little bit sneaky, on the bottom left of the home page (scroll down)

    All I did was click on "contact us" surely that's the right thing to do? Certainly what I always do if I need to contact a company.
    It's nothing , not nothink.
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