Marie Doyle, 24-year-old from Sittingbourne in Kent, was unwrapping the pre-cooked bird for her Sunday dinner when she discovered something that made her stomach turn: there was a blue plaster stuck to the chicken.
She took the bird back to the shop and demanded a full investigation. But what are her rights, and how unusual is this sort of thing?
Supermarket Sweep - Tips & Advice
According to the Daily Mail
, when Doyle unwrapped the pre-cooked chicken she found a blue plaster had been stuck to the bottom of the bird.
She took it back to the shop and was offered a refund and a £50 gift voucher. She took the refund but refused the voucher and demanded an investigation.
An Asda spokesperson told the Kent Messenger
: "We do take this very seriously and have taken the necessary measures to make sure this doesn't happen again. This includes re-briefing colleagues on health and safety processes."
Perhaps surprisingly, this sort of thing isn't uncommon. Foreign bodies are found in food all the time. We reported
a couple of weeks ago on the human tooth found in a Tesco sausage.
Then back in September we wrote the tale
of the dead mouse in the BLT sandwich. And around the same time Christina Carrington, from Chandler's Ford, Hampshire, found a live frog in a mixed leaf salad from Waitrose. She decided to keep it in the fridge overnight while she waited for someone from Waitrose to come round and collect it.
There has also been the dead mouse in the jar of Asda Extra Special curry sauce and a one inch nail buried in a macaroni cheese.
And plasters have gone astray before too. There was one found in a cheese and ham Tesco sandwich in Kidderminster in 2010... the same year that another was fund in a Tesco steak pie in Cardiff. And a year later another was found baked into a Tesco baguette in St Neots.
So what are your rights when this sort of thing happens?
Asda has done everything it is required to under the law - and more. All supermarkets have to do is offer you a refund, although most will also offer a goodwill gesture.
- 1. Retailer refunds
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.</span></p>
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">This applies even if you buy items in a sale or with a discount voucher. You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though.</span></p>
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">Useful phrases to use when you want to show you mean business include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982".</span></p>
- 2. Receipts
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they can refuse to should they wish.</span></p>
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">If the goods are faulty, however, another proof of purchase such as a bank statement should work just as well.</span></p>
- 3. Refund timeframes
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them.</span></p>
After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.</p>
- 5. Contact for correction
<p>Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.</p>
<p>Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.</p>
<p>You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.</p>
- 4. Credit card refunds
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">The updated Consumer Credit Act states that card companies are jointly and severally liable for credit card purchases of between £100 and £60,260 (whether or not you paid just a deposit or the whole amount on your card).</span></p>
Anyone spending between these amounts on their credit card is therefore protected if the retailer or service provider goes bust, their online shopping never arrives or the items in question are faulty or not as described.</p>
- 5. Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) compensation
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">The FOS settles disputes between financial companies such as banks and consumers.</span></p>
If a financial organisation rejects a complaint you make about its services, you can therefore escalate that complaint to the FOS - as long as you have given the company in question at least eight weeks to respond.</p>
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">The FOS will then investigate the case, and could force the company to offer you compensation should it see fit.</span></p>
- 6. Bailiffs
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">Bailiffs are allowed to take some of your belongings to sell on to cover certain debts, including unpaid Council Tax and parking fines.</span></p>
They can, for example, take so-called luxury items such as TVs or games consoles. However, they cannot take essentials such as fridges or clothes.</p>
What's more, they can only generally enter your home to take your stuff if you leave a door or window open or invite them in.</p>
You are therefore within your rights to refuse them access and to ask for related documents such as proof of their identity. If they try to force their way in, you can also call the police to stop them.</p>
- 7. Debt collectors
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">Private sector debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs, whatever they tell you.</span></p>
They cannot, for example, enter your home and take your possessions in lieu of payment.</p>
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">In fact, they can only write, phone, or visit your home to talk to you about paying back the debt. As with bailiffs, you can also call the police if you feel physically threatened.</span></p>
- 9. Online/phone purchases
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">Thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations, you actually have more rights buying online or by phone than on the High Street.</span></p>
You can, for example, send most goods back within a week, for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault.</p>
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">You will usually need to pay for the return delivery, though. The seller must then refund you within 30 days.</span></p>
- 10. Cooling off periods
<span style="font-size: 10pt; line-height: 12pt;">We enter into contracts all the time, whether it be to join a gym, switch energy supplier or take out a loan.</span></p>
In most cases, once you've signed a contract, you are legally bound by it. In some situations, however, you have the right to cancel it within a certain timeframe.</p>
Credit agreements, for example, can be cancelled within 14 days. And online retailers must tell you about your cancellation rights for any contract made up to stand up legally.</p>