I recently purchased a Memory Foam Sciatica & Back Pain Relief Cushion for $74.95 from Pain Relief Australia online. I was looking forward to some relief for my tail bone when sitting in front of the TV.
The item arrived in a flimsy cellophane wrapper and cheap thin plastic bag for posting so I immediately cut them open to try out the cushion.
I was disappointed to find after sitting on the cushion for just a few minutes that it did not offer any support and sunk down considerably. It was no improvement on a standard foam cushion. In fact, it was worse.
When I attempted to return the cushion (the company only allows refund enquiries via an email to “customer service” , a refund was declined because the product was no longer “new” as I had used it and not left it in pristine packaging.
I replied with reference to The Australian Consumer Law stating that the product was not fit for purpose. They replied again that the product was now not new but used (despite my only having sat on it for a few minutes, once) and therefore I was not entitled to a refund.
They quoted these paragraphs from the ACL: “You can ask a business for your preference of a free repair, replacement or refund, but you are not always entitled to one . For example, the consumer guarantees do not apply if you got what you asked for but simply changed your mind, found it cheaper somewhere else, decided you did not like the purchaseor had no use for it.”
The company also offered me a 20% discount which I did not accept.
I had already explained to them in my first email that the item was not fit for purpose and quoted ACL back to them that the cushion has a “Major Problem”, in particular
" * it is substantially unfit for its common purpose and can’t easily be fixed within a reasonable time
it doesn’t do what you asked for and can’t easily be fixed within a reasonable time;".
The same day Pain Relief Australia deposited the 20% refund back to me without my permission . They also did not reply to my last email.
It seems they expect you to buy and test an online purchase without opening the packaging! This is most unreasonable as clothes, shoes etc can be returned after trying them and generally have a smooth returns mechanism which doesn’t involve lengthy discussions with a “Customer Happiness Representative”. I was prepared to pay for return postage but didn’t even get that far as the “Representative” insisted the product is now worn and that I just changed my mind.
I was sold a poor quality item rhat does not do what I hoped ir would and wish to return it. What can I do?
This is a unfortunately the reality of buying online merchandise. One has to check the T&C and change of mind refund policies prior to purchase, and always check the web sites for their real national origins (not the perceived one) including physical contact information not just web forms or emails.
Since they did refund you 20% they may have written off their profit. I note Pain Relief Australia is a SA company and has phone and address information posted.
Consider this topic about clothing
Other than pressing the issue of acceptable quality it may best be written off as an ‘educational expense’.
If you press the quality issue you will need to collect evidence it was sold as a high quality product and considering it marketing claims and price it was not a quality product as represented, probably a long shot but nothing ventured nothing gained.
A final comment
What one ‘hopes for’ (assumes) and what one ‘explicitly asks for and then is sold a product that does it’ are quite different under the ACL regarding rights.
I know it is too late for this product, but next time you wish to buy something always research before buying.
For example, if searching for this sort of pillow do a google search and you will find these sort of cushions for under half the price you paid. Even better, you can try before you buy. They are available from some chemists who carry them along with other elder and disabled equipment, and from some of the disability equipment stores. If you can’t get to these, it is possible to buy online for under $30, and risk far less.
Medical products are one of those categories that work as claimed for some people, but do not for others. If you cannot try before you buy, then it really is a case of take pot luck. The company does have a 30 day change of mind return policy, but it is very clear that the goods must be as originally sent.
Thanks for your in depth commentary Phil. I did check their return policy before buying but didn’t expect their “unused and in the original packaging” to be so narrowly defined. A two minute sit on the cushion hardly puts it in the “used” category. And as for the original packaging: Ppfft!
Oh well. At least it wasn’t an expensive item like a washing machine.
Considering I have better uses for my time I won’t take it further and put it down to “education”. Thanks for reading reading my complaint.
Dear Meltam. Thank you for your helpful suggestions. I did actually Google “Sciatica cushions” before buying and saw several which were cheaper or similar. The cheaper ones were on EBay- which I sometimes find a disappointing experience. As "Australian Pain Management " sounded local and had a variety of pretty colours ( other than grey) I decided to go for their flashy one. I overlooked their pushy marketing on their website suggesting more items to buy. My mistake.
(I had just missed the much cheaper Aldi sciatica cushion by a few hours)
Good to know that you can try them in a chemist shop. At the time they were out of stock at Priceline on line so I didnt think to go to a store. Cheers
Hi Gregr. Of course the product must be as original. I sat on it once for 2 minutes as soon as it arrived! Hardly worn out. The packaging was negligible- a thin cellophane bag. But I have learned my lesson with this sort of product. In future I will “try before I buy”.
It is difficult to determine if the product wasn’t fit for purpose or a change in mind.
Was the product they sent you exactly the same as shown on the website - acknowledging that it might be hard to determine. Did it generally look the same?
If it did, and the claims that it gives pain relief can be substantiated, then it would be a change of mind.
If it is change of mind, a retailer sets conditions and things like unopened or as delivered can be seen as reasonable. If you received a product like that you have bought and found it had been opened and used by someone else, how would you feel. This might give you an indication of why some businesses specify such.
Great bit of follow up research. The product arrived in a thin cellophane bag, no brand labels or use leaflets, no invoice and no “Sender” on the cheap black plastic postage bag. Fancy name for company but they do seem to be rather dodgy with another business name matching the phone number. I will look later if they have made any medical claims -possibly not. Their target audience appears to be retirees/elderly people with aches and pains. Regarding product reviews I couldn’t find any independent ones for the sciatica cushion. The marketing ones were glowing of course.
My guess is such businesses might account for a large segment of our internet merchants. There are so many web sites and so many e-businesses with so many products (ie stock) it beggars belief they could all be ‘stores’ with inventory, so not necessarily ‘fishy’, just internet business sense using names and websites to attract certain customers.
Caveat: I find that business model appalling, but then how many ecommerce looking sites have no value added excepting as click bait and pass-throughs with no inherent value added? They probably make good money just because they get click-throughs.
Granted. However, clothing and shoe stores allow people to try and return if not the right size or uncomfortable. Sometimes they will assess what I have returned at my own expense, and examine it before granting a refund. This I find perfectly reasonable. What I find unreasonable is a seller assuming I have made the item look used even if I only tried it briefly and contacted them on the same day that it arrived.
I have successfully used a foam cushion with a cut out. Mine is quite a firm foam, others may prefer a softer version. On the linked site that follows are a number of options that might help a sufferer:
Each store will have its own change of mind policy. Stores can refuse to refund or exchange when there is a change of mind…through to others which offer returns and full refunds. Each store will set it’s own polices and conditions which will need to be met as change of minds sits outside the Australian Consumer Law. If it doesn’t have a policy, assume that it doesn’t accept change of minds.
It is always important when shopping online or shopping traditionally in a bricks and mortar store (where there is a potential that the product may need to be returned for some reason such as buying for someone else), it is important to find and understand their change of mind policy. If they are inflexible/policy which doesn’t suit, it may be worth looking elsewhere otherwise you may end up with a product you don’t need or no longer want.