I was pestered by my family to buy a hot tub as we weren’t going on holiday this year, but I couldn’t find one anywhere, except on eBay.
I bought a Lay-Z-Spa Maldives tub in mid-June for £1,425, with an advertised 24-month warranty, which turned up five days later.
It arrived clearly new and unopened, but the two LED lights which came with it didn’t work, and I would like them fixed. Having registered the warranty, I tried to make a claim with Lay-Z-Spa to replace the lights, who said I wasn’t covered as it was sold by a private seller on eBay.
Is this right, and, if so, where do I turn to next? – H.V., via email
Light show: A This is Money reader purchased a £1,400 hot tub from eBay, which was supposed to come with LED lights and a 24-month warranty
George Nixon, This is Money, replies: With 2020 described as the staycation summer, a phrase which refers as much to the fact people have been staying at home as it does to people holidaying in the UK, hot tubs have been hot property.
This is Money previously reported that you were not alone in turning to eBay, with the auction site reporting sales of hot tubs rose 276 per cent year-on-year between the start of the lockdown in March and the start of June.
And the website of Lay-Z-Spa has frequently required visitors to wait in a virtual queue, while it has only a ‘very limited hot tub availability’ ‘due to high demand’.
But we have also reported problems, with two of Britain’s biggest banks, Lloyds and NatWest, finding purchase scams involving hot tubs, usually where people send money to scammers in return for pools which don’t exist, have rocketed.
And Martyn James, from complaints website Resolver, said he had received complaints about purchases of the pools from multiple retailers, ‘with the bulk of them about them leaking and the firm not accepting returns’.
As summer turns to early autumn, some shoppers who bought their tubs in the heat of the moment may find themselves starting to have problems, and wonder how they can get them sorted.
The first thing is to establish who actually counts as the seller of the hot tub. Martyn James said: ‘Under the Consumer Rights Act the retailer is responsible for returns, repairs and replacements.’
Lay-Z-Spa, which says its standard warranty applies to covers, liners and inflatable lids for six months, and heater pump units for 12 months. Its free extended warranty covers the former for 12 months and the latter for 24 months.
Although you bought your hot tub from eBay, Lay-Z-Spa does say its warranty ‘relates to Lay-Z-Spa’s bought in the UK not just directly’, provided they are purchased from ‘an authorised retailer’.
However, it doesn’t specify which retailers are covered by this, nor does it specifically say on its website that eBay is not covered.
Sales of hot tubs have exploded over the coronavirus lockdown, with retailers like Lay-Z-Spa selling out of their ranges and shoppers having to turn to private sellers on eBay
When This is Money asked it which retailers were covered, it told us it had accepted ‘warranties from all UK retailers this year’ and planned to update its website with a list of authorised sellers in the future.
But this doesn’t help your predicament.
Lay-Z-Spa told This is Money the reason your claim was rejected was because its warranty doesn’t cover purchases from private sellers, like a hot tub resold on eBay.
It said it initially accepted the registration of your warranty when the hot tub was purchased as its validity wouldn’t usually be checked until a claim is assessed.
When our reader went to register the warranty, it was initially accepted. However, when they tried to make a claim, they were rejected and told they weren’t covered
A spokesman from the company said: ‘The reason we have this policy in place is because the sales or warranty claims can’t be checked as being legitimate via private sellers. If we accepted warranty claims from personal eBay sellers then anyone could create their own unlimited warranty.
‘For example, I could create an eBay listing sold as new, buy it from myself or a friend and get a new warranty period using the new receipt.
‘We always recommend that consumers purchase directly from a well-known retailer.’
Purchases from eBay invalidating manufacturer warranty is something that appears to have been an issue for a long time, with This is Money finding a 2014 post on eBay’s forums about the exact same issue.
EBay offers a buyer protection policy which covers those whose purchases are not as described, provided they claim within 30 days
Where to next?
If Lay-Z-Spa can’t help you, then the next step appears to be the eBay seller and the auction site itself, now it has confirmed that the ‘retailer’ is the eBay seller.
Martyn James added: ‘Under the Consumer Rights Act, if the goods don’t work or are misrepresented the seller has to give a full refund if notified within 30 days and for six months after purchase the shop is responsible for repair replace first or failing that, refund again.
‘Finally, eBay has a buyer seller agreement that should deal with this dispute.’
EBay’s ‘Money Back Guarantee’ says shoppers are protected ‘if the item you ordered didn’t arrive, is faulty or damage or doesn’t match the listing in the description’, and that ‘you’ll get your money back’.
The eBay seller has eight days to resolve the issue before you can take it up with eBay themselves.
Given the listing stresses both the 24-month warranty and that the ‘water powered light jets provide a spectacular display of colour’, you may well think you have an open and shut case, especially given you have been unable to get a satisfactory response from your seller.
However, eBay’s buyer protection works only if you make a claim within 30 days of delivery, which eBay said happened on 23 June, giving you until 23 July.
Your claim was made to eBay on 14 August, after you had first tried Lay-Z-Spa.
Ebay told This is Money: ‘Ebay has policies in place to protect both the buyer and seller when a transaction is made.
‘Our eBay Money Back Guarantee ensures that if a buyer is not satisfied with what they’ve ordered they are able to return and receive compensation for the money they’ve spent within a timely manner.
‘The eBay Money Back Guarantee is not a warranty, and we’d urge all buyers to investigate sellers’ terms and conditions before they make a purchase.
‘As this return fell outside the 30-day eBay Money Back Guarantee return window, we are unfortunately unable to enforce this return.’
Instead eBay recommended organising a return with the seller, however from screenshots you provided to This is Money they are digging their heels in, even though you say you simply want the lights replaced.
If you paid by credit card, then a claim under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act may mean you are able to get your money back, while PayPal, which used to be part of eBay, offers its own refund policy.
If you pay using PayPal, its own buyer protection ‘entitles you to reimbursement for the full purchase price of the item plus the original shipping costs you paid, if any, when you don’t receive your item from a seller, or when you receive an item, but the item isn’t what you ordered.’
Disputes must be filed within 180 days of purchase, and you told This is Money you have now registered one with them, as you paid through PayPal by debit card.
And although the scramble for pools means many retailers like Lay-Z-Spa sold out of many of their ranges, Martyn warned that next time ‘if you’re buying new items of value, then you might want to buy from an established brand or direct, rather than from someone on eBay.’