Keeping evidence is vital

Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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Have your say

Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.

Q My partner ordered a Ploughman’s lunch at a Gunwharf Quays restaurant and to his surprise he found three shards of glass in his salad each about 10mm long. The restaurant apologised profusely and replaced the meal, but I can’t help thinking if he had swallowed the glass what harm could have come to him.

What are his rights please?

KC (e-mail)

A You don’t expect glass to be an ingredient in a restaurant meal so I can understand your concern.

In law, meals are treated in the same way as any other goods. Crucially, they have to be fit for purpose and free from defect.

A meal containing foreign bodies will not pass the legal test, and as such will amount to a breach of contract.

Your partner was entitled to compensation. Just what compensation depends on the seriousness of the situation and whether any personal injury was involved.

As I understand it, the restaurant promptly replaced the meal and you accepted vouchers for a free meal of your choice on another occasion.

The aim of the compensation was to put your partner back into the situation he would have been in had his meal been free of glass.

Setting aside the fact that the restaurant took all the evidence away when they replaced the meal, you and your partner would appear to have been adequately compensated.

There is a moral to your story however. If you find foreign bodies in food and have a potential personal injury claim, it’s essential to keep the evidence and report it to environmental health or trading standards promptly.

Q Can you help me with an on-going problem with the Santander bank? For three months they’ve debited my account with another customer’s mortgage repayments. As soon as it was discovered I complained. They apologised, offered me £50 in compensation and said it would never happen again. That turned out to be an empty promise and I’m at my wit’s end with frustration and worry as overdraft charges are piling up on my account.

DE (e-mail)

A Once we’d got through all the formalities with Santander of allowing me to deal with this distressing catalogue of incompetence things started to move fast.

It appears that another customer had become linked with your account because they had the same name and initials. Although you were initially told by the bank the mistake had been discovered and rectified this turned out not to be the case.

The result was that two more rogue mortgage payments were debited from your account, leaving you with insufficient funds, a growing unauthorised overdraft, and tearing your hair out. Some standing order payments were also rejected, causing you acute embarrassment.

Once I pointed out to Santander this appears to be a case of gross negligence, they got back to me within an hour to tell me they had traced the source of the problem.

To their credit, they didn’t try to excuse their error, but made amends after putting it right. A compensation cheque for £500 is on its way.

SMALL PRINT

Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. If you have a question, e-mail him at richardjthomson1@sky.com 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.