Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.
Q I put some barbed wire along the top of my garden fence to deter burglars. Unfortunately, one of my neighbour’s children tried to climb over the fence where there was a small gap in the wire to retrieve a ball and cut himself. His mother is threatening to sue me for a minor injury claiming the wire is illegal. Where do I stand please?
A It’s not actually illegal to protect your property by barbed wire, but if someone is injured by it, you could be liable as an occupier to be sued for compensation.
This will apply even if a person gains entry to your property as a trespasser, or is uninvited. Matters are made worse if you attempt to conceal the wire or otherwise disguise it.
It may seem bizarre, but you have a duty of care to everyone and anyone in circumstances where they could be injured by your foreseeable negligence.
If the child’s mother decides to sue, you would have to resort to defending yourself by convincing a court that you took adequate precautions to prevent injury.
It may seem like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, but I suggest you put up a warning sign to point out the specific danger.
What might be regarded as an adequate warning for an adult may not be for a child..
Q I recently wrote to you about a problem getting a £500 deposit for solar panels back from a company called the Energy Saving Group. You advised writing to their registered office formally requesting a refund. They have not replied. What is my next move please?
A I know you are a pensioner and can’t afford to lose £500, but the latest I have on this company is that it has gone into liquidation, and there is little hope of you ever getting your money back.
There have literally been hundreds of complaints about this firm and I wouldn’t be surprised if trading standards aren’t already involved.
Unfortunately, whatever stones the regulators manage to turn over to explore what lies underneath will not help you in the long run.
Q I have a problem with Comet giving me the run around with a complaint I have made to them about a fault with a new notebook. They are demanding nearly £80 to examine it when it is barely four months old. Can you help please?
A You told me that the fault developed when you picked up the notebook with your thumb pressing on the screen and you heard it go crack. Comet is not the easiest retailer to deal with when it comes to complaints, and you’ve been given conflicting information by their customer care people.
First you were told by the store manager he would get an engineer to look at it for free. Then you were told by head office you’d have to pay an examination fee of £79.95. I agree this is inexcusable.
Comet suspects that you damaged the notebook, but no one can be sure until it’s been examined by an engineer. I suggest you take it back to the store and insist the manager honours his offer.
I should warn you, if the damage is down to you, so will be the cost of repair.
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.