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Around 10 months ago I purchased some ear buds from a very large and well known high street retailer.

I have had gadget insurance for about 5 years and I am now trying to make a claim for loss for the first time. The insurance is arranged and marketed by my Bank (to whom I make monthly payments), and it is administered by a third party.

I had registered the device with the third party and uploaded the proof of purchase. However, when I tried to make the claim the 3rd party refused it, saying that the receipt/proof of purchase that I uploaded did not contain the serial number of the gadget.

Of course, buried deep in the fine print (but nowhere else) it does say that the serial number is needed in order to make a claim (although they registered the device online without querying it).

So I contacted the retailer who told me that that since the order is now more than 3 months old they no longer have any details of it and cannot provide the serial number. Since the gadget and packaging are lost, I cannot find the serial number myself. I have had the same conversation with them 3 times now and it is incredibly frustrating - especially since it takes between 1 and 2 hours for the insurance company to answer their calls ! It took more than a month for me to get through to them at all because I kept hanging up the phone after 30 mins. It was last week that I had the time and patience to wait for an hour or more each time.

I find it hard to believe that they don't keep any order records for more than 3 months. Sure, maybe their front-end customer service system doesn't hold them, but they must hold them somewhere right ? I mean, how can they be legally audited properly every year otherwise ? There must be some legislation that says they have to keep such records for a minimum period, and surely that period is more than 3 months ?

Is there any way to compel (sorry if this is the wrong legal word) or persuade them to provide me with the serial number ?

Or any other advice ? I realise I can log an official complaint, but that may take weeks/months to resolve, and I just feel like there should be a better way. According to my mobile phone carrier I have spent more than 1000 minutes trying to deal with this !

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Dale M
    Aug 26 at 22:02
17

The retailer

You can try making a subject access request under Articles 15(1) and 15(3) of the UK GDPR. Provide as much information as you can (your name, date of purchase, store you purchased it from, copy of the receipt, etc.) and ask for the serial number. If they still have it, and it is stored in a way which is linked to you in an identifiable way, then they are obliged to provide it without undue delay (and in any event within 30 days). You may want to provide a copy of your passport in the request to pre-empt them coming back with an ID check request under Article 12(6), which then allows them to delay processing the request until you have replied.

As stated above, if they no longer have the data or you are not identifiable from the data then they do not have to provide it. If they do have to provide it but refuse then you can complain to the Information Commissioner's Office or ask the County Court for a compliance order under section 167 of the Data Protection Act 2018.

The insurer

Regulation 3(1) of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 prohibits "unfair commercial practices". Regulation 3(4) provides that a commerical practice is unfair if, inter alia, it is listed in Schedule 1.

Paragraph 27 of Schedule 1 contains the following item:

Requiring a consumer who wishes to claim on an insurance policy to produce documents which could not reasonably be considered relevant as to whether the claim was valid, or failing systematically to respond to pertinent correspondence, in order to dissuade a consumer from exercising his contractual rights.

As you've provided proof that you purchased the item, you can try to argue that having the serial number of the lost item can not "reasonably be considered relevant". Yes, the contract says that you must provide it, but consumer rights legislation overrides contractual provisions.

You may also want to consider dealing with the insurer by email/post instead of by phone, (a) to avoid continuing to waste time on hold, and (b) because if they systematically fail to respond then this may also cause them to be in breach of the above provision, (c) to acquire evidence which you can use later.

Escalating

If you get no results from the insurer, make a formal complaint to them through their complaints process. Under the FCA Handbook rule DISP 1.3.1R, the insurer is required to provide a complaints procedure. Under rule DISP 1.6.2R they are required to provide a final response to a complaint within 8 weeks.

If you are not happy with the response, you can escalate the complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service which has the power to make financial awards pursuant to section 229 of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 ("FSMA"). Doing so is free of charge and is therefore a good alternative to going to court. The ombudsman can also make awards that are not strictly based on law (i.e. they can go further than the courts can) because of section 228 of FSMA which provides that:

"A complaint is to be determined by reference to what is, in the opinion of the ombudsman, fair and reasonable in all the circumstances of the case."

You must generally escalate a complaint to the Ombudsman within 6 months of receiving your final response from the insurer (rule DISP 2.8.2R).

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  • I have asked a follow-up, related question here Aug 30 at 13:58
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The retailer will have to keep certain financial records for longer that that 3 month period certainly, but can you compel them to reveal them? Well assuming the purchase was done in such a way as to include some of your PII (name, email address etc) you might be able to try a GDPR Subject Access Request to get all the information they have on you and that might include what you're looking for but it's by no means a certainty. There's no requirement I can think off to keep the serial numbers for individual items recorded against a purchase.

Since you mention they're Apple Airpods you might be able to recover the serialnumber via your iDevice's bluetooth settings or from your AppleID device list.

Apple themselves do put the serial number on the receipt so I'm guessing you bought them from a third-party retailer.

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    Thank you - that's very useful (+1) and I had not thought about bluetooth and apple id data. Yes, it was bought from a big high street store that is famous for having a massive print catalogue that customers use to place their order. Aug 25 at 10:10
  • @RobertLong Are you talking about Argos? There's no need to be coy about it.
    – Sneftel
    Aug 25 at 10:11
  • Yes ! I assumed it wasn't OK to state the retailer's name publically. Aug 25 at 10:25
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    @RobertLong Sadly I highly doubt somewhere like Argos would even record serial numbers against a sale. Aug 25 at 17:29
  • I have asked a follow-up, related question here Aug 30 at 13:58

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