Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.
Q I believe my gas meter may be giving incorrect readings and I’m being overcharged for gas. Can you tell me how I go about getting it checked for accuracy?
A It’s a legal requirement for gas companies to check their customers’ meters every two years.
This should involve not just checking the meter reading, but ensuring that the fittings are secure and have not been tampered with.
I suggest you give the company a call and ask for your meter to be checked out. Your meter may be removed for investigation and the gas supply tested.
The gas company can make a charge if they find nothing wrong with the meter or the supply. Make sure you know what the charge is before you ask for the test.
If the meter is found to have been over reading, you won’t have to pay for the test. You can also claim compensation for excess charges.
Q I took a day off work for a TV engineer to sort out my TV which wasn’t working properly. He said he would come on the Wednesday but finally turned up the following Saturday. Do I have a claim for my lost wages?
A That’ll depend very much whether you told the engineer you’d be waiting in for him to call.
It’s all about whether your loss was foreseeable or not.
If, for example he assumed somebody would be at home, because you didn’t tell him otherwise, then your lost wages may not have been foreseeable and you will not have the basis of a claim.
It’s important when booking visits by traders that you make it clear at the outset that you have to be off work to let them in.
It will then be much easier to press a claim for breach of contract and lost wages.
Q The firm I’ve worked for over the past 10 years has always paid us for our break time. Now we’ve been told that it is withdrawing payment for our statutory breaks. Surely this is against the law.
A Although people over 18 have a legal right to a break after six hours of continuous working, there is nothing to say that an employer has to pay them.
Although most good employers do pay for these breaks, there is no legal obligation to do so.
However, if they make a change to your contract of employment, you have a right to be consulted. You should be given a 30-day consultation period, after which your employment terms and conditions can be unilaterally changed even if you disagree with the change.
Your only remedy would be to hand in your notice.
Q When I bought my new washing machine from Comet it came with a ‘free’ toaster. The toaster packed up within six weeks, but when I complained to the store an assistant said it was just hard luck because it was a free gift. Is this right?
A No. Comet is responsible for the quality of the ‘gift’ as part of the contract. You have a right to a free repair, replacement, or compensation for the value of the toaster. Go back to the store and insist on your rights.
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.