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Business Forum

News - 6 January 2007
Good customer service doesn't mean you have to give your money away!

Brighton retailers targeted in scam

A man is demanding refunds from Brighton stores claiming that a product bought from the shop has caused injury. The same man has targeted at least eight stores in the city and is likely to strike again. Retailers need to be on their guard.

Sussex Police are investigating the deceptions and are urging businesses to be aware of a male described as white, in his late 30's to early 40's with fair hair and of medium build.

The man will typically enter a store claiming he has been injured whilst opening one of their products and wants a refund. This is a false allegation and is an attempt to defraud the retailer. He has conned DIY stores, chocolate shops, wine merchants and paint suppliers into refunding money that he was not entitled to.

The man calls himself Simon Williams and gives a false address in Hove.

The man has been described as very unassuming and is reported to be very believable. Businesses should exercise care when giving refunds and if in doubt please contact your local trading standards office.

If you have been a victim of this deception or have any information, please contact PC James Marter at Brighton Central Neighbourhood Specialist Team on 0845 60 70 999 extension 16088 (voicemail) or

Business Forum Comment

In a least one case, the man presented himself in the shop without a receipt or any other proof of purchase or even the goods he claimed to have purchased. Under these circumstances it is a testament to his plausibility that he actually persuades shopkeepers to give him money.

Every store should have a refund/exchange policy that sets out clearly the steps that should be taken when someone returns to the store with a demand for either their money back or to exchange a product.

The first step is always proof of purchase. Obviously a till receipt is the best proof of purchase but it could be a cheque book stub or a credit card statement. Both of these can be matched against the store’s own records to corroborate their authenticity.

Without any proof of purchase a shopkeeper is under no obligation whatsoever to issue either a refund, exchange or a credit note. Of course in the interests of goodwill they might choose to do so any way especially for good customers that are known to the shop but that is a matter of discretion for the owner/manager.

Certainly if someone has no proof of purchase and cannot produce the product they claim was defective their claim for anything should not be entertained.

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