As you can see from this post, a little while ago Lush announced that they will no longer accept their 10% off vouchers after the end of October this year, even though the vouchers do not have an expiry date on them. Numerous customers have complained about this on the Lush forum, pointing out that the vouchers were offered as an inducement to buy Lush gift boxes and, as already stated, the vouchers don’t have expiry dates on them. Some of the customers have taken advice from CAB who have confirmed that as the vouchers have no expiry date and no conditions printed on them (other than that they are not accepted during December), it would be unlawful for Lush to refuse to accept them.
Let’s have a look at what The Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1992 says (and thanks to selfheal on the Lush forum for doing the work on finding this!) In the indicative and non-exhaustive list of terms which may be regarded as unfair, Schedule 2 says
(g)enabling the seller or supplier to terminate a contract of indeterminate duration without reasonable notice except where there are serious grounds for doing so;
Paragraph (g) is without hindrance to terms by which a supplier of financial services reserves the right to terminate unilaterally a contract of indeterminate duration without notice where there is a valid reason, provided that the supplier is required to inform the other contracting party or parties thereof immediately.
(j)enabling the seller or supplier to alter the terms of the contract unilaterally without a valid reason which is specified in the contract;
(k)enabling the seller or supplier to alter unilaterally without a valid reason any characteristics of the product or service to be provided;
and this is what applies in these circumstances. Lush made no statement reserving their rights to change the terms and conditions relating to the vouchers, either in the shops, on the website, in the Lush Times or on the vouchers themselves. And even if they had made such a statement, they do not have reasonable grounds to stop accepting the vouchers – “we don’t want to accept them any more” isn’t reasonable grounds, and they haven’t given reasonable notice.
Unlike many companies, Lush charge more for a gift box of products than it would cost to buy the products separately and they excused this by saying “yes, but you get a 10% voucher in every gift box.” They tried to say that this made the gift boxes worth buying because the money customers save when they redeem the vouchers more than makes up for the cost of the gift box. If the price of the gift box is more than the cost of the individual products, then customers are paying for the packaging and the voucher, and the voucher becomes part of the contract of the sale.
Lush are unlawfully unilaterally changing the terms of the contract (and the new terms are unlawful and unfair), and Lush have not notiified – would not be able to notify – every customer with whom they have such a contract.
Lush are refusing to accept this. Their latest statement appeared on the forum today, from dplusw, and it is
We’ve been discussing this matter internally at length and we’re really keen to clarify the situation. We do not believe that we are above the law – we need to be legally compliant at all times and we have made a just commercial decision to revoke the 10% discount vouchers as of 1st Nov 2013. If there are any issues after that date, please give us a call directly to discuss further, as we’re here to help. 01202 641006
Nowhere in that statement does it say “we have taken legal advice.” The statement says “we talked about it ourselves.” (I would remind you hear that Mark Constantine has said openly on the forum several times that he doesn’t see why Lush should have to abide by employment law – perhaps he feels the same about consumer law). The statement says it’s a commercial decision – it doesn’t say it’s a lawful decision. Lush have ignored tweets about it and they have ignored the posts from people who have taken legal advice about it.
I don’t have any vouchers because I stopped buying Lush gift vouchers years ago because the quality was at best inconsistent and more often than not appalling. But if you do, and you want to use them after 31/10, do not be put off by what Lush are telling you. Get advice from CAB and/or Trading Standards and if Lush refuse to accept the voucher, consider a small claims court action for the cost of the gift you purchased, the 10% discount you are owed, and your court costs. If every single person around the country with a voucher did a small claims court action, Lush would have to respond to every one, would lose every one, and would have to stop behaving unlawfully with regards to the vouchers. Plus, they’d have to respond to each and every court where an action was lodged – whether that was in Truro or Carlisle or Orkney. Small claims court actions are relatively easy to start – I’ve done one myself in the past – and I think you can do most of the paperwork online now. Think about it. Lush are happy to rip their customers off by unlawfully refusing to accept the vouchers – why should they get away with it? Go to court, stand up for your legal rights.