Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.
Q This is not a question, but I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for some advice you gave me about how to deal with a bodged-up home extension. Although I was embarrassed I had failed to take sufficient precautions to detect a cowboy builder, you came to the rescue when it all went wrong and saved me more than £10,000 in retained payments. You provide a valuable service to News readers and I would like you to blow your own trumpet for a change.
A I regularly receive a number of mails just like yours and I’m pleased to have been of service.
It’s difficult to establish just how much regular Streetwise readers save each year in compensation, or for being wised up to assert their legal rights, but I have no hesitation in saying it runs into many thousands of pounds.
Thank you for taking the time and trouble to write to me with your appreciation.
Q I believe I am being victimised at work for complaining about machinery not being adequately guarded, putting me at risk of injury. The firm has recently cut down on staff and are trying to increase output by ignoring safety rules. Can you advise me about my rights please?
A You are making a serious allegation about your employer, and you need to tread carefully.
It would be illegal to take any form of detrimental action against you for reporting a risk to your health and safety. You also have an absolute right to down tools and refuse to use machinery which you reasonably believe puts your safety at risk.
If you believe your complaint is being ignored, you should consider complaining direct to the Health and Safety Executive. They will arrange to send in an inspector to investigate.
I strongly advise you to ensure all your communications with your managers are recorded, and as you have no trade union representation you obtain detailed advice from an employment solicitor or the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.
Q When I purchased my new Sealy bed from Dreams in December 2007 I also took out a 10-year guarantee. They told me I would not have to replace my bed in the next 10 years. After about two years it developed a fault and became very uncomfortable. When I tried to claim against the guarantee they said that as the mattress was slightly soiled the guarantee was invalidated. Is there anything I can do?
A A manufacturer’s guarantee should be in addition to your right to goods which are of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, and reasonably durable.
From what you have said, it appears that Dreams may be hiding behind the 10-year warranty and trying to short circuit your consumer rights.
As you’ve been using the bed for around two years it will be for you to prove an inherent defect. In practice this means you’ll have to engage a professional upholsterer to examine the bed and give you a written report. If that report finds the bed does not satisfy legal quality standards, you will have a right to a satisfactory repair, or a replacement bed or refund.
If you want to take it all the way and the bed is defective, Dreams will also have to cover the cost of the report.
Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. If you have a question, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and wherever possible he will try to provide practical assistance. Unfortunately he cannot guarantee to respond to every letter or e-mail. Richard Thomson welcomes letters from readers on consumer issues. Replies are intended to give general help or advice, not a complete statement of law.