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The Wrong Persian Rug: A Case Study

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 28 Nov 2012 |
Purchase International Seller Money

Tom found a beautiful Persian rug for sale on Ebay. When he was outbid at the last minute, he contacted the seller to ask him whether he had any more rugs.

The seller responded quickly and offered Tom another rug, which was similar to the one he had sold on Ebay. He sent Tom three photographs, a written description and the measurements of the rug, and told him that he would accept $640 as long as Tom paid by Western Union.

The Transaction

Tom agreed straight away and sent the seller his address and other details. The seller responded and told him which Western Union to send the money to. Tom contacted Western Union to make the payment. During the conversation he was asked whether the payment was for a purchase on Ebay, and he explained that it was.

He was advised strongly not to send money through Western Union, but decided he really wanted the rug and was prepared to take the chance. As he had an address for the seller’s shop in Tunisia, he felt better about sending money without a guarantee, even though his wife and friends had advised him that the entire transaction was risky.

The Wrong Rug

Three weeks later, the Persian rug had still not arrived. Tom emailed the seller but received no response. He used the telephone number that the seller had supplied at the start of the transaction, but realised that it was a mobile number that was never answered.

He had almost given up hope when a package arrived via Parcelforce. It was a Persian rug, but on closer inspection and comparison with the photographs Tom realised it was not the one he had bought. Not only was the rug smaller, but it was less well made, the stitches were not as fine, the colours not as bright, and it was quite dusty and didn’t seem new.

Because it was very dirty, Tom’s wife sent it to be professionally cleaned. Unfortunately the Persian rug did not withstand the cleaning process well and although it was clean, it looked old and accentuated the fact that it had been made with poor quality materials.

Tom’s Response

Tom was very angry but sent a polite email to the international seller, stating that there had to have been a mistake. He received no response. He tried the same telephone number again and, when he had no luck getting through to anyone, he tried to track down the name of the seller and the seller’s shop on the internet. Tom did however contact the British Embassy in Tunisia and reported the trader, but was told that the trader didn’t trade from the address he had given Tom at the beginning of the transaction.

Making a Complaint

Tom resigned himself to the fact that he was not going to get his money back, and that he was stuck with a rug that he neither liked nor wanted. It wasn’t until some months later that one of Tom’s friends told him he should have contacted Consumer Direct as they might have been able to advise him as to his options, for example by contacting the Office of Fair Trading which has links with international consumer complaint agencies.

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