Can I get a refund on wonky curtains?

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David Curwen, centre, hugs his mother with whom he wa sreunited. Completing the group is his brother Keith

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

Q I bought a pair of curtains from a fabric shop for £79.98. They needed some alterations and the shop assistant told me it would cost an extra £15. To my dismay when they were hung they were of uneven length. The shop has refused all my requests to come and look at them and declared the matter closed. Where do I stand please?

Mrs D (Internet)

A After paying the best part of £95 for your curtains, the shop appears to have realised that your specified alterations were a bodged up job and from there on hung you out to dry.

They’ve cheekily declared the matter closed, having taken your money and metaphorically turned their back on you.

Now it seems to me there are two ways of looking at this.

The formal way is to write to the shop manager by recorded delivery asking for your money back and reminding him that under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, he has an obligation in law to ensure the alterations were carried out to a satisfactory standard.

A pair of lopsided drapes are both an embarrassment and eyesore.

Since it was their cutter that got it all wrong you cannot be expected to stand the financial loss.

Unfortunately there is no guarantee that the shop will just not ignore you again, and in view of what you’ve already told me this appears to be the most likely outcome.

The other way is to take them back to the shop and politely stand your ground.

Hopefully your personal complaint will be in full earshot of other customers and they’ll be sufficiently uncomfortable enough to do the decent thing.

Technically you could threaten to sue for the cost in the small claims court, but as you may have read in last week’s Streetwise, it could turn out to be a whole lot of hassle for a relatively small sum, and you might not get your money back anyway.

Realistically, you might have to swallow hard and write the matter off to experience.

It’ll be a hard lesson, but if you’re up against a determined adversary who is effectively holding all the cards, then the only sensible solution will be to tell all your friends of your experience and resolve to never darken their doorstep again.

Q Can you help me with a holiday insurance claim? The insurer is refusing my claim for a holiday I had to cancel because my GP diagnosed a previously unknown heart condition before the date of travel. I believe they are using the small print to avoid paying out.

MAO (Internet)

A After going through the details, it does look as if the insurer is being a little obtuse to say the least. I suggest you register a complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service. The ombudsman’s services are free, and he has the power to compel the insurer to pay out or award compensation if your complaint is justified.

Contact their consumer advice line for initial help on 0800 023 4567.


Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. 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.