If you have ever thought of buying anything on line in France, you will almost certainly have come across Cdiscount, the self-proclaimed No. 1 of e-commerce. Chances are that they will come out cheapest in any price comparison. You might be slightly alarmed by their gaudy website, but they seem to be well rated by users. Anyway, this is Europe in the 21st Century. Things don't often go wrong and if they do, we have consumer protection laws. When an advertisement declares that their product carries a 2 year guarantee, that goes without saying because that is what consumer law demands as a minimum.

Knowing all this, we didn't think we had much to worry about when we ordered a cooker from Cdiscount in 2013. The appliance worked well for almost six months, then there was a loud bang, This seemed to suggest that something had gone badly wrong and on examination, it appeared that the bottom element of the oven (aptly called the "resistance inferieur" in France) had failed rather dramatically, fusing itself to the bottom of the oven cavity and destroying the interior finish in the process. My guess was that the extent of the damage was such that it was beyond economic repair.

The following day, we telephoned Cdiscount's "Service Clients" and explained the problem. They offered to send a technician and explained that there would be a call-out charge and half-hourly labor rate. We replied that since the appliance was only six months old, we were entitled to a free repair and if that was not possible, a free replacement. As we didn't appear to be getting anywhere, we abandoned the telephone call and sent a recorded-delivery letter to their head office. Cdiscount have a great system. When you write to them they answer by email from a "ne pas repondre" address, asking you to reply by telephone. That means that you will not have a record of the conversation, so you are forced to respond with another recorded-delivery letter. By the end they had sent us half a dozen emails and we had sent them the same number of written replies. At one stage, we thought we were almost there, because they agreed to a free repair if the damage was found not to be our fault. The following day they retracted the offer. In the end we consulted our local "Que Choisir" branch and they wrote a letter on our behalf, but this also received the same stonewall response.

Eventually, having exhausted all possibilities of an amicable settlement, we decided to invoke the law. This involved preparing a dossier and arranging to attend a hearing at the local "Tribunal d'Instance." A fairly intimidating process, especially for a foreigner with failing hearing, but it all seemed to go quite well and Cdiscount did not offer a defense. A judgment was to be delivered six weeks later. It didn't quite work out that way, because they called us back for more information and then the summer holidays intervened, and it was four months we before we got a judgment in our favor, covering the cost of the cooker and expenses. Then we needed a "huissier" (French equivalent of a bailiff) to go to Cdiscount's head office to claim our money. We finally got our cheque, more than a year after the cooker had gone wrong. Unbelievably, we also got an email from Cdiscount, asking us to complete a survey on our experience with their "Service Clients!"

We never could decide whether we were dealing with a policy of deliberate obstructiveness, ignorance, or plain incompetence. Possibility it was a mixture of all three. We had to put in a lot of time and effort to get out legal rights in this case. This was only really possible because we are retired. A working person would probably not be able to go to so much effort, or take time off to attend hearings. Unscrupulous online traders must be aware of this and will find it cheaper to pay the occasional customer who is prepared to take his case all the way, while getting away with the majority who don't understand their legal rights, or who will let the claim drop and write it off to experience, rather than pursue it as a matter of principle. This abuse will continue, because the courts are not able to impose fines, they are only able to award compensation.
It gave us great satisfaction to be able take the useless cooker to the "decharge" and buy a new one from our local Conforama.

As soon as they accept your money, you have a contract.
You are entitled to have the goods at the agreed price, or compensation for your loss.
A refund is not good enough.

I bought my cooker from CDiscount which I collected from un 'point retrait' without incident and (fingers crossed) everything is fine thus far. I recently ordered a washing machine and a dishwasher. Within 2 days it was shipped to the collection point, I watched their progress online eagerly and within a week my washing machine was ready for collection. I waited 2 more days for the dishwasher to become ready for collection and nada. I eventually had to go to Flers and collect the washing machine and whilst there I enquired about my dishwasher which had been dispatched at the same time and they just should their heads and said no paperwork was ready for it at the moment.

Anyhoo, after waiting another week I enquired online with CDiscount about my MIA dishwasher to which the system politely informed me that they had been informed by the carrier that it had been lost? How do you lose a dishwasher. The dishwasher in question was on special discount and once I purchased it, it became 'out of stock'. First of all, I strongly suspect that they never shipped one as they did not have one to ship. However, the refund promised to me was back in my bank account 4 working days later. As I had strongly suspected that I may have difficulties getting that, I was very pleased and so my experience with CDiscount has been, on the whole, good.

Yes, I realise that and that is just why I am so keen to use local shops while they do last. I am glad to say that our electrical shop has the next generation working there as well, so I hope it will continue. I have the same view on food shops and do my best to avoid all supermarkets for food. Again we are fortunate to have a small spa town with 6 boulangeries, 5 or 6 boucheries, 2 poissonneries not to mention several sources of foie gras. The motto has to be "use it or lose it".

Jonathan and Doreen,
Make the most of it while it lasts. Old-fashioned high-street retailers are an endangered species! I recently fixed a washing machine for a neighbor who had been prepared to pay a bit more to a local dealer so she would be able to go back to him if anything went wrong. In the meantime, he had gone out of business........!

We are lucky that in our town, Bagnères-de-Bigorre there is an excellent family owned electrical shop. They will order anything they don't have in stock and deliver at a time to suit you. If anything goes wrong they come round at once. I never bother to compare exact prices with online or other stores partly as the service is so good, partly because we are keen to do all we reasonably can to preserve local independent shops and partly because it saves the (to me) soul destroying exercise of trying to compare endless makes of broadly the same product. We just tell Mme Payen what we want the machine to do and she tells us what to get. They never ask for any money until the item is installed and working and even then just suggest you drop in when it suits you to settle up.

Remember the lenses James H, was that not Cdiscount :D

Beko has pulled up its socks and us now much more reliable.

I've used them in the past once or twice but it's really rubbish quality and non existent service, my new antivirus actually shows a warning triangle against this site when i google it. As for kitchen appliances one brand to avoid is Beko , i remember reading in the tabloids a couple of years back something about the London fire service wanting to run an investigation into this brand because of the number of house fires where this brand of appliance was prominent.

Steve,We took advice from "Que Choisir" (French "Which" for those who haven't heard from them) and claimed for all expenses relevant to our claim. This included court fees, postage, telephone, travel. etc. There was also a slightly unusual item. We could not dispose of the old cooker until the case was settled and as we have limited space there isn't room for two full-sized cookers in our kitchen. So we continued to use the gas burners on the top of the cooker (I had disconnected it from the mains, because I was concerned about electrical safety) and bought a small table-top electric oven as a temporary measure. The court accepted that it was reasonable to include the cost of this in our claim.

I should have said, when I've bought something costly (over £100) and I don't fully trust the vendor I use my British CREDIT card (not debit card). Then the card company carries the can, if it's faulty you can make a "section 75" reclaim.

In turn the card company will warn the vendor and shortly thereafter deduct it from their payments.

I'm sure moneysavingexpert has chapter and verse; it works even though the entire transaction takes place outside UK. It even works if you only pay a deposit (over £100) and pay the rest by some other means, so you can even get this guarantee when you buy a car!

It almost makes one sorry for the card company (hah, as if)

Never had a problem with CD - I'm with you there Carl. There are pros and cons of ordering over the internet, of course, esp in the arena of electrical goods. We placed an order for an oven with another online outfit a few years ago in July of that year; didn't receive it til September because of holidays! We've also bought locally, from Conforama and Darty, but haven't needed to use their SAVs yet. OTOH, don't get me started on Leclerc and Auchan after-sales service... ;-)

I only recovered the cost + shipping, the amount debited with indecent haste on receipt of my order. I really wouldn't fancy my chances of claiming my RAR and other costs!!

I had a terrible experience with them when they did not deliver all the parts for a children's bed. They did not have any replacements in stock and it took 3 months for them to reimburse our account. It also took over 40 euros of phone calls which we eventually got reimbursed. Probably the worst customer services I have experienced in France to date .... and that's saying something. It took about 20 calls and letters to resolve! Hopefully you will get there in the end. I no longer use for them.

Was the compensation just the purchase cost, or did it cover the RAR etc as well?

We too have had problems with C Discount. We ordered a microwave which was disponible, only to be told that it wasn’t and we could have a similar one for eighteen euros extra. We ordered thus and it never arrived. Trying to get in touch with C discount was a nightmare. The microwave was being sent from one of their subsidiary suppliers and we eventually cancelled the order, but it proved impossible to recover the extra eighteen euros!!

Going through a similar procedure but right at the bedinning of it. Bought a dish washer and it was delivered. We plumbed it in well all you have to do is attach it to a tap and put the drainage tube in the drain so we did that. First time you use it you have to fill the salt hole with one litre of water and the salt. Did all that then turned it on the pipe that was attached to the dishwasher for infilling leaked all over the floor and I got electrocuted 4 times!!! We rang the servicec client folk and they promised a call from a technician. No call tried again no call! On our third attempt now and getting more worried about the process all the time. we took out insurance as well so surely they will sort it out, wont they? Really annoying as I worked for CAB in UK and can quote sale of goods act backwards but not much help in France and my French is not up to fighting my corner in legalese. Oh poop! We will keep trying!

My recent experience of this company is also bad, if slightly different. I ordered a 300€ battery in the first week in August - the product was allegedly "disponible". I would not, however, have a problem with a genuine delivery delay because of August holidays or other reasons, were it not that they cashed my payment on Day 1, told me my order was "validée" but otherwise refused all communication. The product was soon marked "no longer available" in their catalogue, but they still kept my money. It took 6 weeks and RAR letters - the only realistic way they allow communication - before a refund was obtained. Compared with the many good on-line retailers with whom I deal regularly, this company's service is unacceptable. Incidentally, my Bank said they could not help, even though CB had been used to pay for a product not then supplied.

Never had any problems with them at all. We have had numerous products from them. Might be the luck of the draw I guess.

I've bought from them and not had any problems but them I have not had to test their customer service.