Taking on Dulux and their yellow "Pure Brilliant White" paint.


In life, there are always people who will argue black is white or in the case of Dulux that yellow is white, which given their business should leave you concerned.

In 2017 I moved house and began the task of renovating, removing all the skirting and door surrounds as well as having custom furniture built and fitted.

Thinking that Dulux was a reputable brand I chose to use their "Once" range in "Pure Brilliant White" range to finish off the woodwork.

Some months later I noticed the woodwork was yellowing compared to other areas. At first, I thought I had perhaps not covered them properly and so re-painted them. However, on closer inspection in other rooms, I quickly started to realise that my house was turning yellow in particularly shaded areas or where items had been left on window ledges.

Skirting painted 18 months prior.
Wardrobe painted about 18 months prior.

Door / frame painted < 12 months prior

New tin of paint vs 18 month old tin.

Shortly after a quick Google, I had the sinking sensation that I had bought a defective product and further investigation revealed I was not the first. Dulux (parent company AkzoNobel, ICI) had been highlighted by BBC Watchdog, been in the news and taken to court due to this issue.

And so began the complaint process. A fair description of their attitude was blase moving to belligerent. They accepted no responsibility for the issue throughout and continued to deny any fault despite me highlighting previous cases against them.

Initially, they offered me a free tin of paint as a "goodwill gesture" which frankly just made me angry. For a start, it was their paint which caused the issue in the first place and a can of paint does not make up for the time and effort of painting 4 rooms and a considerable amount of woodwork.

After 2 months, over 20 emails and several escalations I was getting nowhere and it was clear they simply did not care. They just wanted me to go away and I wasn't about to.

I obtained quotes from local decorators to rectify the issue and sent details to Dulux.

"Our offer of replacement products remains but this is being offered as a gesture of goodwill. In addition [sic] I am prepared to offer £150 towards redecoration, again as a gesture and in full and final settlement." 

No deal. This fell way short.

Bored of their complaints process I decided I didn't have time for the ombudsman as I needed my house putting right and so I filed with the small claims court online. This is a really easy process where you self register, briefly describe your claim and submit it. The detail of the process is beyond the scope of this article.

I decided to file the claim for costs only as this would be an open and shut case and easy to evidence. That said given the upheaval there were certainly many days of compensation I could have made a case for.

Shortly after submitting the claim I received an email from Dulux:

We are now in receipt of your County Court Claim reference [redacted]. You [sic] case has been reviewed and your claim comments taken into account and as such we will pay you the full claim amount of £700. This payment is being made as a gesture of goodwill with no admission of liability.

Throughout the whole process, Dulux refused to admit any liability despite me letting them know I was aware that it was a known issue and that they had previously lost in court a number of times.

My advice to anyone who has had a problem with Dulux "pure brilliant white" paint turning yellow would be to pursue them relentlessly and do not give up.

In order to make a case, you should show that you have tried to take reasonable measures to try and settle the matter prior to court. In my case, there had been 2 months of the complaints process, escalations and no admission of fault on their part.

While during the complaints process they tried to fight the issue, offering little more than platitudes and offensive gestures, once they had the court papers they rolled over immediately.

Despite all their caterwauling about "goodwill gestures" and "no admission of liability" they rolled over and paid out £700. That's conclusion enough in my book. They are at fault, they know it and have an indefensible case.

Some tips on how to tackle Dulux

When making a claim through the small claims court it is important to have tried to reach a resolution directly first.

Before starting your complaint:
  • Do your homework and research the process, what you want out of it and any cases that have gone before.
  • Gather up as much evidence as possible including before/after pictures/videos.
  • Obtain the batch numbers from the paint used and if possible details/receipts of where you purchased it.
  • It is a good idea to know exactly what it is you want as a resolution. In my case, it was to cover the cost of redecorating
  • Keep any receipts, quotes etc, to ensure you can evidence your claim costs.
  • I also asked the decorators to provide a written statement of their professional view given rapid deterioration of the paint, something they commented on when viewing the job prior to estimating.
This evidence and expert opinions will prove useful if your case does end up in front of a judge but don't fire all your ammo at once. Keep it simple an set out your stall.

  • Having gathered the evidence write to Dulux (AkzoNobel ) being clear about what the issue is and what resolution you require. Include with it some basic details but do not disclose everything at this stage.
  • It is a good idea to start communications "without prejudice" meaning the information contained in the correspondence cannot be used against you with respect to any further proceedings you might want to take.
  • It is unlikely you will get what you request at the outset and it seems their standard response is to offer a free tin of paint. When you receive this response simply say this is not acceptable and ask that they escalate your complaint to the next level.
  • Keep repeating this and pressing to speak to someone more senior who has the authority to resolve your claim as you described in the first communication.
  • When you find yourself in a loop as I did and they are refusing to budge you may want to advise them that if they do not resolve your case you will have no alternative to pursuing them through court.
  • Assuming this does not work you can then file a claim using "Money Claim Online" for the amount you require. Note that this route is best for recovering costs rather than compensation.
In my case at this point, they simply agreed to pay. I believe in some cases they have tried to defend cases and lost, but don't be intimidated. This is a known issue and if you have been diligent, reasonable and honest it will go in your favour.

It's important to know that I have no legal background or knowledge. I simply used readily available online information to pursue this. If your case is more complex or larger you may want to seek some expert advice, but from reading online, individuals have pursued Dulux for £1,000s and won.

Useful links and references