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Aching joints, sore hips, bad back. I am only 25! What is wrong with me? My Bed.  What should be a cosy, luxurious cloud has turned in to a crippling torture rack. My 1 year old mattress has turned bumpy and now looks more like the Pentland Hills than a smooth mattress.   No problem though eh? I bought the bed from Dreams, a fairly large chain so they will replace it?

Me: I bought my bed a year ago and the mattress has become lumpy.

Dreams: There is nothing we can do.

I was appalled at this poor customer service.  I was even more appalled that they expected that response to be sufficient and for me to just slink back to my torture rack. I would expect a call to discuss and a request for photos, perhaps a specialist to come and see it and prepare a report or attempt to repair it. Nothing.

Me: This is unacceptable!  

Dreams: We have already part refunded you because of damage during delivery so there is nothing more we can do. Sorry.

They ripped the bottom of the bed during delivery so couldn’t help me further. This is shocking! They think they can get away with selling me a dodgy mattress because they were negligent in delivering it and had to refund some money because of that.  Shouldn’t the fact they have caused me inconvenience before make them more likely to help me here?

Customer service is dead. Time for the law. Once the company was referred to the relevant sections of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and Consumer Rights Act 2015… and threatened with a small claims action suddenly things changed and they agreed to give me the money towards a new bed.

it struck me that in this type of David v Goliath situation it is very difficult for a consumer to fight against a large organisation who has bottomless funds and can simply say “no!” Fortunately, no organisation is above the law and the law protects consumers fairly well.

I spend my week dealing with insurers refusing to pay individuals money they are owed. I am used to dealing with bullies and sadly many companies employ this same “computer says no”  “I am bigger than you” mentality. They think they can bully individuals and know that most people have not spent 5 years studying the law to have the knowledge to stand up to them.  Well, knowledge is power, so here is the ammunition you need to use against anyone who refuses to deal with your consumer complaint whether it be a lumpy bed, defective TV or, even more relevant to many people this past few months, a Hotpoint tumble dryer which may burst into flames.

How does the Sale of Goods Act 1979 protect me?

This act regulates all sales of goods and imposes implied terms into the sale. The silver bullet is s.14 which states that goods must be of “satisfactory quality”.  This is a subjective test but clearly a bed which is defective after a year, or a tumble dryer which goes on fire do not satisfy this test. There are 5 factors:

  1. fitness for all the purposes for which goods of the kind in question are commonly supplied,
  2. appearance and finish,
  3. freedom from minor defects,
  4. safety, and
  5. durability

With thousands of battles fought every day by consumers across the country this should be your weapon of choice.  Maybe I have too high standards but I expect things I spend my hard earned money on to work.  It is comforting that the law agrees. 

Consumer Claims – What are the remedies?

Consumer ClaimsDon’t take no for an answer. Do not give in. In most cases like this there is something that you can do. Consumers have additional remedies compared to business to business sales. These are found in the Consumer Rights Act 2015.  You can reject the goods, within time limits. Otherwise you have a right to have the goods repaired or replaced. The decision as to repair or replace is the sellers and depends on proportionality but if the repair is not satisfactory you are entitled to a replacement. Importantly the seller must:

  1. do so within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to the consumer, and
  2. bear any necessary costs incurred in doing so

There are thousands of people waiting patiently for months for Hotpoint to come and repair their dangerous dryers. They believe the company when they are told this is all that can be done. This is lies! You have rights under the above acts. You have a right for it to be repaired or replaced within a reasonable time period, failing which a full refund. Furthermore your right is enforceable against the seller. You don’t need to wait for the manufacturer to sort it out. You can exercise your rights against the shop where you bought it. 

Alan CalderwoodIt also struck me, in the current EU referendum buzz,  that many of our consumer rights come from the EU. This is particularly important when ordering online. Few of us would order a bed online, but the Amazon app holds a special place in my phone and I am conscious that many of my orders come from the EU. There is a strong framework of EU regulations and directives which protect us as an EU consumer. We can sue the seller in Scotland even if they are based in Germany. Sellers must meet the safety requirements of the UK,  and we are protected from mis-selling and mis-advertising. If we leave the EU we also leave most of these rights behind and would need to be a lot more careful about which country our goods are coming from and which rights we therefore have.

If you are not getting anywhere with large companies like these I wholeheartedly encourage you to seek advice form a solicitor, or your local Citizens Advice Bureau etc. We see, daily, insurers refuse to pay clients claims. It makes a difference when a letter on our headed paper is sent, backed by our legal knowledge. Businesses are no different. Once they realise they are going to have to fight, bullies run away.

For further information on Consumer Claims click here

Blog written by Alan Calderwood, Solicitor.

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