Getting a refund when retailers go into administration

Teena Lyons

In these straitened times, dozens of retailers have gone into receivership and experts are predicting that many more will go under. So what are your rights if you've paid for goods in advance and how can you protect yourself?

Step one: Act fast. Some items, such as made-to-order furniture can take weeks to arrive and in the current climate it is the canny shopper who keeps one eye on their retailer.

The moment there is a possibility they might go into administration, contact them to find out the status of your order and stay in touch. Many companies will keep their customer services help lines open until every last shop has shut down.

If your purchase is in the retailer's warehouse and ready to be dispatched, they should be able to fulfill the order. It might even be worth offering to go and collect the item yourself if they are unable to get it to you. Don't forget to take any paperwork or confirmation emails to show the goods really do belong to you.

Step two: Know your rights. If the company cannot fulfill your order, and the value of that order is between £100 and £30,000 and you paid at least some of it by credit card, your card provider is obliged to issue a refund. This is all down to Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1984 which says the credit card company is 'jointly and severally liable' for your purchase. If you pay by credit card, you are covered by section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

There is also a possibility that you might be able to claim money back if you paid via a Visa or Mastercard debit card. This would be under the ChargeBack service, whereby the debit card provider reclaims the value of the purchase directly from the retailers bank and charges it back to you. To claim, you must contact the bank within 120 days of becoming aware of the issue, but it is by no means a guaranteed process.

Step three: Contact the administrator. If the unfilled order was paid for by cash, or cost less than £100, then you will have to take your chances with the administrator and there is, unfortunately, a strong chance that you will not see your money back. Contact details should be clearly available, so check the retailer's website to find out which firm is acting as an administrator.

Write to the administrator with details of the order to explain the situation and how much you are owed.

Step four: Don't miss out on a bargain. Once a store has gone into administration, it will usually remain open for a number of weeks to clear remaining stock and raise as much cash as possible. There may well be some bargains on offer, so take a look. This is particularly important if you have store credit or gift vouchers, but use them as quickly as possible because otherwise there will simply be nothing left to buy. If you don't cash them in at this stage, you may not be able to claim back their value from administrators.

Written by Teena Lyons, this article was first published on May 6, 2009. Teena's views are personal and for general information only. Always seek independent financial advice.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.