Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.
Q You replied to a reader in last week’s column that she did not have any employment rights until she’d been employed for a year. I read recently that the government has taken all workers’ rights away. Which is correct please?
A I suspect you are referring to recent newspaper reports about a leaked recommendation to the Prime Minister to strip all employees of job security.
This was a silly idea by a financial adviser to the PM , and not intended to see the light of day. However, I understand it might gain a place in popular mythology.
The government has already announced it intends to weaken job protection next year by extending the length of service from one to two years before an employee can trigger an unfair dismissal claim.
I struggle to find any independent evidence for the ideological assumption by ministers that a further weakening of employment rights will somehow make the economy more competitive.
Fortunately, employees will still be able to complain to an employment tribunal no matter what their length of service if they are dismissed for exercising a statutory employment right.
A statutory right is one set out in law. There are quite a number of them so it’ll be important to get advice from a solicitor or trade union representative.
Q I’ve just paid a deposit on a new suite but I’ve now been told the store has gone bust. Can I still get my suite, or failing that, a refund?
A Possibly, but your first move should be to contact the liquidator – usually a firm of accountants – appointed to deal with the store’s financial affairs. If you don’t receive a letter from the liquidator shortly, write to the store’s head office requesting information.
When a business goes bust, customers are at the bottom of the pile when it comes to getting their money back. If the store doesn’t have sufficient money in the kitty to repay everyone who is owed, the banks, taxman, employees and even the liquidator are entitled to have first call on what cash finally remains in the business.
Your only hope is that somewhere in the store or supply chain there is a suite with your name tag on it. If the goods have been allocated to you, then they are yours and you can arrange with the liquidator to take them away.
The only other option is whether you paid the deposit by credit card. If you did, you can make a claim against the card provider for a refund.
Q I arranged and paid for a last-minute holiday over the internet, but because of an unexpected family problem it would be inconvenient for me to be away at a crucial time. The tour operator is refusing to refund me, claiming I’ve no right of cancellation. I thought the Distance Selling Regulations entitle a buyer to cancel within 7 days of placing an order and obtain a refund?
A They do, but the regulations do not apply to holiday and travel arrangements. You may not be completely stuffed though. Check your travel insurance policy and look at the cancellation provisions to see if you can claim.
If you didn’t take out insurance, then you are well and truly up the creek without a paddle.
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.