Web-based catering equipment dealer Adexa Direct has lost a court case heard at Chester Civil and Family Justice Centre yesterday.
The court was told that Rachel Davies of The Pickmere Jam Company in Knutsford placed an order with Adexa on 16 May this year, for a commercial gas oven, commercial sink, commercial work table, a stew pan and monobloc taps, totalling £1,431.00.
However, after requesting additional technical information from Adexa and attempting to contact the company numerous times without success, Davies cancelled the order via email on 21 May.
Adexa eventually refunded £953.25, but kept the remainder as ‘restocking fees’.
Davies detailed to Catering Insight: “I immediately issued a claim through Money Claim Online. Adexa appointed a solicitor, however they did not respond to the mediator’s phone call, therefore my case was sent directly to Chester Civil Court.”
Adexa did not attend yesterday’s hearing, and Davies said: “When I spoke to the judge he awarded in my favour, as Adexa had initially sent in a defence using its terms and conditions regarding delivery. However, the firm did not afford the court a copy of said T&Cs.”
The judge ordered Adexa to pay Davies “forthwith” the total amount of £574.21 which comprises the original ‘restocking’ fees, court fees and a small amount of interest.
Davies was advised to enforce the judgement if the payment isn’t made.
‘Restocking fees’ have historically been used by resellers to defray the costs they incur to receive and process a returned item back into inventory.
But they have attracted controversy over the years, with buyers branding them unfair and a deterrent to purchasing.
However, a number of major online catering equipment resellers make it clear on their websites that some products, particularly large or bulky items, may be subject to a restocking fee, and in some cases this could be up to 25% of the invoice amount of returned goods.
Restocking fees may also be applied in situations where delivery fails due to the address being inaccessible or the seller is not notified of any transit damage within 24 hours, for example.
The Consumer Contracts Regulations, which replaced the Distance Selling Regulations that resellers had to abide by up until 2014, state that details of who pays for the cost of returning an item if a buyer changes their mind should be stated in the seller’s terms and conditions or returns policy.
This applies to all purchases that are made at a distance, for example online or over the phone.
According to consumer rights champion Which!, buyers are entitled to a refund within 14 days of either the trader getting the goods back, or evidence has been provided that the goods have been returned, such as a postage receipt, whichever is the sooner.
Catering Insight was contacted separately by another Adexa customer recently who was surprised to learn that they would be charged a restocking fee after deciding not to proceed with a purchase.
Longley’s Fisheries in Wilsden, run by husband and wife team, Andrew and Tammy Longley, ordered two refrigeration units and a ‘B grade’ freezer to match from Adexa in April, but following confirmation and payment taken, they were informed by email that the freezer was no longer available.
“We decided the best option would be to cancel the order as we wanted all products matching,” said Mrs Longley. But Adexa responded saying that they would still be charged a 20% ‘restocking fee’, and subsequently told the Longleys that the fridges had been dispatched, so this would incur a fee too.
The Longleys received a partial refund in June, but Mrs Longley claims this still left a £400 shortfall, which the company told her it had retained to cover the ‘fees’.
Adexa states on its website that its customer service and warehouse is based in Rugby, while its trading headquarters is registered with Companies House as Croydon.
The firm was established in 2017 and is listed as having one active officer with significant control.
Catering Insight has made repeated attempts to contact senior management for comment, but the company has not responded.