Zavvi's customers are relying on Distance Selling Regulations, but that may be a mistake.
UK retailer Zavvi mistakenly sent some of its customers free PlayStation Vitas last month, when it sent out the devices as part of a Tearaway offer, when it only meant to send the game. As soon as the error was discovered, Zavvi asked for the Vitas, but most of those who received them didn't send them back. They believed that they weren't obliged to, but now Zavvi's threatening legal action if they don't comply.
"We have tried to contact you on numerous occasions to give you the opportunity to return this item to us (at our cost and at no inconvenience to yourself) but to date you have refused to do so," reads the Zavvi correspondence. "This is our final notice to politely remind you that you did not order, or pay for, a PS Vita and if you fail to contact us by 5pm (UK time) on December 10th 2013 to arrange a convenient time for the PS Vita to be collected we reserve the right to enforce any and/or all legal remedies available to us."
Zavvi's customers have been relying on Distance Selling Regulations, which state that, if you have been sent unsolicited goods, you can treat them as an unconditional gift and dispose of them as you see fit. Under those regulations, the recipient isn't obliged to pay for the goods, and any attempt to demand payment is unlawful.
But it may not be that simple. The Citizen's Advice Bureau says that the situation's a little different if goods are received by mistake.
"If goods are sent to you by mistake, you need to contact whoever sent them to let them know and ask them to collect the goods," says the CAB. "You might get goods sent by mistake if they are meant for someone else or you've been sent duplicate or extra items on top of what you ordered."
Goods sent by mistake are not defined as unsolicited, and remain the property of the seller. If Zavvi hadn't noticed and left the Vitas in the customer's possession for some time, that might make a difference, but it seems clear that Zavvi didn't do that. Those 'free' Vitas may have to go back; it could be unwise to hold on to them.