The managing director of TPG DisableAids has said he has no future plans to sell mobility equipment online, deeming the practice both “unsafe” and “inappropriate”.
Ecommerce has proven to be a huge growth area for retailers during the pandemic, with online sales hitting a 13-year high in 2020.
But Alastair Gibbs, who runs Hereford-based TPG, believes mobility products have no place online.
“It’s something I’ve campaigned long and hard against,” he told AMP. “I have absolutely no problem with small aids being sold online, as they are relatively low value and they’re not going to have a negative impact on somebody’s life if they get the wrong one. However, a wheelchair or scooter absolutely is going to have an impact on somebody’s life if it’s the wrong size, the wrong shape, has the wrong pressure relieving abilities and the wrong geometry.
“It’s a requirement for businesses in this sector to make sure somebody is going to be safe while they’re using our products, so how on earth can you do that at a distance? I just don’t get it. You can’t expect a delivery driver to drop a scooter off and say ‘83 year-old Doris came and collected it and she wasn’t too sure how it went together, but she’ll be fine’. She might be completely blind in one eye or deaf. You can’t sell product like that.”
Gibbs said his company “absolutely insists” on seeing the end-user in person and carrying out an assessment before selling a mobility product.
He continued: “A scooter weighs around 150 kilos and even if it’s only travelling at four miles an hour it can break somebody’s leg. I wouldn’t want to be contributing to that. So I will refuse a sale rather than allow somebody to have something that’s dangerous.”
The MD also voiced his concerns for selling mobility equipment on a city centre high street.
“It just isn’t appropriate to have a shop on the high street that sells mobility scooters and wheelchairs because how can you possibly assess somebody properly when what you are asking them to do is do a test ride up and down a busy pavement,” he explained.
“Also, the business rates on those types of premises are extremely expensive. We’re fortunate that we’re half a mile out of the centre, but we’re on a retail estate, which is off road and away from cars and pedestrians, so we can assess our mobility users properly and safely.”