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

THIS WEEK IN 1975: Reunited after 30 years – but only thanks to a kind stranger

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

Q I ordered and paid for a new car after first haggling with the dealer to get the agreed price down to £16,500. When the dealer rang to tell me the car was available for collection they said I would need to pay an extra £500 because they had made a mistake in their original calculations. Should I pay this?

HW (Internet)

A No. I advised you to stick to your guns and refuse to pay more than the agreed price. As a fixed price was agreed with the dealer and you were unaware of the mistake, a contract was formed to pay only the agreed price and no more.

I contacted the dealer for you and advised them they could only argue for a change if it could be proved the mistake was so obvious that you must have known the offer wasn’t genuine.

Faced with this explanation, they then said they would not hand over the car.

I then had to tell them you would be writing requesting delivery within seven days. In default you would arrange to buy the same make and model car elsewhere and if the negotiated price came in at less than their agreed price you’d be straight into the small claims court for the difference. After sending them a copy of the letter which I carefully drafted for you, the car was delivered to your home within 24 hours.

Another good result for a Streetwise reader.

Q I’ve had a leaflet through my door about solar panels. Apparently the amount you can earn for generating electricity to feed back into the grid is being reduced and I’ll need to place an order immediately to benefit from the current rate. Is this just a sales pitch?

A No. The feed-in tariff, as it’s called, is to be slashed in half to 21p a unit from December 12. All installations after the changeover date will attract the lower rate, but I suggest it’s doubtful whether you could get a solar panel installation up and running before the new tariff kicks in.

You were also concerned about electricity savings claims, which seemed too good to be true.

The scanned leaflet you sent me appeared to have some rather creative figures which I have no hesitation in saying are at the fictitious end of the credibility scale. With a tariff cut of almost 50 per cent, the firm was still claiming the wonder technology could earn you ‘up to’ an eight per cent return and ‘free’ energy ‘guaranteed’ for 25 years.

The last time I threw doubts on similar claims in this column resulted in a level of vicious invective from the solar panel business sector which had to be experienced to be believed.

According to the respected Energy Saving Trust, your savings are only likely to be a few hundred pounds a year.

Q I’m already buying Christmas gifts for my grandchildren, but I’m worried about if they don’t like them whether I’ll be able to take them back for an exchange or refund. Can you advise, please?

JF (Internet)

A Strictly no. But most big retail shops and stores have a gift purchasing amnesty over the festive season. Provided you return unwanted goods in a satisfactory condition, they will either exchange or refund.


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