Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.
Q I ordered a bathroom mirror costing £130 from Splash Direct, an online supplier. When the builders went to put it in place, it needed to be hung landscape position but this particular mirror cannot be hung that way as the fixings are not in place to do so. The supplier refuses to take it back for a suitable alternative mirror because it had been removed from the original shrink wrap packaging. Where do I stand please?
A You told me there was a bit of a delay before you could try to hang the mirror because it arrived from Splash Direct while tiling work was in progress.
Delaying examining merchandise on delivery for suitability or transit damage carries a number of legal risks.
Primarily, it is a legal requirement to establish ‘conformity’ with the order and description. Secondly, you must act quickly and not (if you pardon the pun) hang about. Thirdly, under the Distance Selling Regulations, you were entitled to return the mirror within seven days of receipt, no questions asked, for a full refund.
I looked at the Splash Direct website for you. They claim the customer is ‘their main priority’ and they are ‘dedicated to providing unbeatable customer support’. You could have fooled me. Further down the page their returns policy appears to make nonsense of this promise.
It claims that you can return a product up to 30 days from delivery for an exchange of equal value, but the item must be unused and unopened.
I’ve got two concerns with this policy. I can’t quite work out how you can discharge your legal right to examine anything you buy from them for conformity if you can’t open the packaging.
I’m also a bit perplexed why their returns policy doesn’t conform to their legal obligations under the Distance Selling Regulations 2000.
I suggest you either write to them, or enclose a cutting of my reply to your enquiry, pointing out the error of their ways.
Not are they only in breach of contract, their returns policy is likely to attract the interest of their local trading standards department.
Finally just to emphasise the point, the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 makes any ‘small print’ stipulation by a trader that conflicts with their legal obligations to customers, unenforceable.
I’d be really interested to know how you get on.
Q I’ve been asked to put my name forward as a trade union representative at a company where I work. My partner says it’s not a good idea because managers can find ways to make my life uncomfortable if workplace conflicts arise. Is he right to warn me about this?
A Possibly. Only you will know the attitude of the company where you work towards trade union activity.
In theory it’s illegal to discriminate against employees on the grounds of trade union membership.
In practice, hostile managers have many subtle ways short of outright illegal behaviour of making your working life uncomfortable if they resent your trade union role.
And don’t rely on your trade union to protect you.
Most union officials would stand up for you against bad employers. Others prefer the easy life and can turn out to be indistinguishable from the management.
Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. If you have a question, e-mail him at email@example.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.