Consumer ♦ Home Improvements

Consumer Rights 2. Dealing With Problems.

No doubt about it. Your customer has spent a lot of money on their new purchase and they are entitled to be happy with it.

The law is quite clear when there is a genuine problem but it’s a lot more difficult when the complaint is not genuine.

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Disclaimer.

The guidance in these pages is not intended to replace legal advice. It is provided as a shorter, more understandable guide. The information is derived from www.legislation.gov.uk and www.businesscompanion.info. Updated December 2017.

If the problem is genuine and you have made a mistake, there’s no choice – hold your hand up to it and get it sorted as soon as possible. Nobody wants an unhappy customer but sometimes they are not reasonable and resort to threats. It’s important to know what the legal rights are so that you can defend your corner with confidence and professionalism.

THE SHORT-TERM RIGHT TO REJECT.

If the goods do not meet the requirements above, there is a 30-day period during which the consumer is entitled to reject them. The right does not apply in cases where the only breach relates to an incorrect installation of goods. If the consumer asks for repair or replacement during this initial 30-day period, the period is paused so that the consumer has the remainder of the 30-day period, or seven days (whichever is longer) to check whether the repair or replacement has been successful and to decide whether to reject the goods.

When a consumer legitimately rejects goods, he can claim a refund. A refund must be given without undue delay and in any event within 14 days of the trader agreeing that the consumer is entitled to a refund. The trader is responsible for the reasonable cost of returning the goods.

REPAIR OR REPLACEMENT.

When there is a breach of contract, but the consumer has lost or chooses not to exercise his right to reject goods, he will be entitled in the first instance to claim a repair or replacement. Where a repair or replacement is claimed, the trader must do this at no cost to the consumer, within a reasonable time and without causing significant inconvenience. The consumer cannot choose one of these remedies if the chosen remedy is either impossible or disproportionate as compared to the other remedy. Also, once the consumer has chosen a remedy, he must give the trader a reasonable time to provide that remedy.

The remedies fail if, after just one attempt at repair or replacement, the goods still do not meet the necessary requirements. The consumer does not have to give the trader multiple opportunities to repair or replace, although he can do so if he wishes. The remedies also fail if they are not provided within a reasonable time and without causing significant inconvenience to the consumer. In either case where repair or replacement fail, the consumer is entitled to further repairs or replacements, or he can claim a price reduction or the right to reject. The same rule applies if both repair and replacement are impossible or disproportionate from the outset.

PRICE REDUCTION & THE FINAL RIGHT TO REJECT.

If repair or replacement is not available or is unsuccessful or is not provided within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to the consumer, then the consumer can claim a price reduction or reject the goods. If he keeps the goods, then his claim will be for a reduction in price; if he returns them, he is rejecting them. No deduction can be made for the following reasons:

  • Delay in collection.
  • If goods are rejected within 6 months.

A price reduction must be an appropriate amount, which will depend on all the circumstances of the claim. It can be any amount up to the whole price. If the consumer rejects the goods, then he is entitled to a refund which may be reduced to take account of any use the consumer has had from the goods.

Whatever remedy the consumer chooses or ends up with, he may also be able to claim compensation for losses that have been incurred. These losses might include the cost of any property damage caused by the goods, compensation for personal injury and compensation for the additional cost of buying equivalent goods if they are more expensive elsewhere.

THE BURDEN OF PROOF.

Some faults do not show up until after a period of use. Make notes of any conversations or correspondence that you have with the customer regarding faults, including date, time and name of person you communicated. The general rule is that defects that are discovered within six months of delivery are assumed to have been there at the time of delivery unless the trader can prove otherwise or there are obvious signs of misuse. If more than six months have passed, it is the responsibility of the consumer to prove that the defect was there at the time of delivery.

Exceptions.

A consumer cannot claim if the following applies:

  • Defects bought to the attention of the consumer before purchase.
  • Damage caused by the consumer.
  • The consumer changes his mind.
  • Use of the product for a purpose for which is not designed.
  • Faults that appear as a result of wear and tear.

The time limit for bringing a case to court is six years after the breach of contract. This is usually the date of delivery, not the date that the defect was discovered. Litigation should always be a last resort as it is costly, with no guarantee of a positive result. Exhaust all other avenues before paying for advice.

CANCELLATION.

To understand cancellation rights, you must first be clear about what type of contract you have signed. Although the categories seem obvious at first glance, the category of your contract may change depending on when your contract was agreed.

There are three categories:

  • Distance Sales.
  • Off-Premises sales.
  • On Premises sales.

After deciding which category your purchase falls in, read the rest of the section to see if circumstances change it.

Distance Sales.

A contract made between a trader and a consumer, which is negotiated and agreed by one or more organised means of distance communication – for example, by phone, post or over the internet when the consumer and trader do not meet is classed as a distance sale. In this context, it means when a company has an organised, regular policy of selling online.

NEXT. Consumer Rights 3. Understanding on-premises and off-premises.

Stay Calm.

Problems often get bigger simply because of the way they are dealt with. Regardless of who is wrong or right, going head to head in battle will solve nothing.

Manage Challenges Head On.

Problems don’t go away if you hide from them they get bigger and cause more stress. Tackle complaints as quickly as possible.

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Whatever the problem is, contact your customer immediately. If you leave it the problem gets bigger and the customer becomes angrier.