They might have had good intentions, but Sainsbury’s eco-friendly vacuum-packed beef mince has not gone down well.
The supermarket recently became the first UK retailer to vacuum pack its beef in an effort to save “450 tonnes of plastic each year”. The new packaging is said to use 55 per cent less plastic as the supermarket works towards its ambitions of “halving its use of plastic packaging in own-brand products by 2025”.
Sainsbury’s said the method is also packed for freshness as the packaging removes all oxygen, which they say causes food to spoil.
Customers, however, have been critical of the offering, saying the packaging causes the meat to get ‘squashed and mushy’, changing the taste.
Some called it “vile” and “disgusting”, while one mum wrote: “The new packaging for your beef mince destroys the mince and squashes it to a mushy texture. It tastes horrible – even my children noticed the difference.”
Another wrote on Twitter: “Not a fan of the new Sainsbury’s beef mince packaging. Feels very medical – like I’ve just bought someone’s kidney to cook at home”.
So if you’ve ever bought an item, vacuum-packed meat or otherwise, you might wonder what rights you have as a consumer to return the item or merely ask for a refund.
What are your rights?
Legally, your rights when returning goods come from two pieces of legislation including the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and the Consumer Contracts Regulations.
These cover the return of unwanted goods bought online and your right to return faulty goods bought online or from a store.
However, in the case of food, it may be a bit more tricky unless there is a genuine ‘fault’ with the product. When this isn’t the case, it can be up to the provider of the goods to decide.
In this case, that would be Sainsbury’s.
Even though they don’t have to do it by law, lots of shops will say you can return items within 14 or sometimes even 30 days. Usually, this is if an item is not used but it may be worth asking for a refund if you found the item was not as described.
i spoke to consumer rights expert Martyn James, who said: “Frankly, this is one of those occasions where people on Twitter need to have a nice calm down. Vacuum sealing things is not a new concept (try bringing back food from abroad) and anything that reduces plastic use is a good thing. We will all adapt!”
In terms of complaints, he said people can always complain to a business about changes in practice, customer service, packaging or indeed anything.
If the complaint is about a corporate decision, he advises writing to the head office if you want to make your views known.
“Complaints like this are a lot more effective if you offer an alternative solution or option you’d like to see.”
Whether or not you can get a refund will depend.
He said: “Complaints about products you have purchased only really work if the underlying goods that you have bought are not as advertised. So if the vacuum seal results in spoiled meat, it’s a valid complaint. Bear in mind that supermarket compensation tends to be symbolic, so don’t get excited. I’ve seen people who have found lizards in salad bags who only got a £20 voucher.”
Citizens Advice say consumers will face a better chance of a refund if they take their receipt with them and return the item in its original packaging, but ultimately is is up to the retailer what they offer you and you’ll need to decide whether to accept it or not.