Another John Lewis tale of woe

28 December 2018

Moneywise helps a reader with a damaged kitchen

The UK’s department stores are struggling. House of Fraser went bust last summer before being bought by Sports Direct, while Debenhams has announced plans to close around 100 shops. Even dear old John Lewis has been forced to issue a profit warning and announce the closure of five of its Waitrose supermarkets.

There are lots of reasons but chiefly because many more of us are buying online rather than on the high street.

How can traditional stores fight back? Having superior customer service is one way to retain shoppers. That’s what John Lewis used to pride itself on, but for the second time on these pages I’m sad to report a case where it has let customers down.

This time, the story revolves around kitchen woes. In 2016, GL of Berkshire spent around £20,000 on the design and installation of a new kitchen from John Lewis in High Wycombe.

He reports: “After less than three years the kitchen has been significantly damaged because a plumbing joint, installed by John Lewis and not modified by anyone else, has failed. It is the third time a plumbing joint, installed by John Lewis as part of our new kitchen, has failed.”

He took his complaint to the company last summer, only to be told that the kitchen was outside its two-year warranty.

GL was angered by the response.

He said: “In relying on a recently expired warranty, the company is missing the point: I believe John Lewis is in breach of contract, for failing to carry out services with reasonable care and skill, contrary to section 49 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, when it designed and installed our kitchen.”

He said the firm should replace the damaged kitchen panels and pay compensation for the damage to the kitchen floor and for an emergency plumber to be called out. By the time he contacted Moneywise, he was at his wit’s end. “This case has been going on for so long now, John Lewis is treating us like nuisance customers, and trying to fob us off with claiming on our insurance,” he told me. “So much for their reputation for customer care, people should be warned!”

I contacted John Lewis on GL’s behalf and got a swift and positive response. Having looked into the case it conceded the company was at fault and promised to remedy the situation. A spokesperson told me: “We are very sorry about GL’s experience, which was well below the level of customer service we aim to provide. We have apologised to GL and will compensate him for the damage caused to his kitchen. We are working hard to get this resolved as quickly as possible.”

“I believe John Lewis failed to carry out services with care and skill”

That was great news. I told GL, who responded enthusiastically: “That’s amazing – the power of the press!”

As far as I was concerned that was the end of the problem. I was wrong.

A month later, I got back in touch with GL to check that everything had been sorted out. It hadn’t.

He reported: “We have not yet had any resolution. All that has happened so far is that John Lewis High Wycombe has been in touch to ask that we prove there has been water damage with a report from the emergency plumber. We cannot do that because in the heat of the moment, we just wanted him to resolve the problem of the flooding, so didn’t think to get a report.

“Because we can’t get a report from the plumber, John Lewis asked us to claim on our insurance before it will repair the floor. They said they need something to say it’s consequential damage. But I’m not sure how we persuade our insurers to do that.

“There has certainly been no apology, compensation or move to resolve the issue ‘as quickly as possible’ as they stated. It’s been pretty rubbish.”

Back I went to John Lewis. Once again, the company was apologetic and promised to speed things up.

A spokesperson said: “We are very sorry about GL’s experience and the time it is taking to resolve. We are in touch with GL to arrange for a fitter to visit his house to assess the damage and reach a solution.”

As we went to press that was the situation. But I remain confident that John Lewis will keep its promise and play fair by GL. Eventually!

OUTCOME: John Lewis promises kitchen repair and recompense


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