People’s champion - March 6, 2014

Investigation launched as RFA ship begins listing in Portsmouth Harbour

Have your say

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

Q I took a pair of boots into a cobbler and asked if they could alter them, which they agreed to do. When I collected them I couldn’t do them up. The gentleman who served me said that his colleague should not have agreed to do the alteration. All he was prepared to do was give me back the money I had paid to have them altered, which I didn’t accept. I’d appreciate any advice you can give me please.

JF (email)

A Your enquiry was one of a number along similar lines that I’ve received recently.

What it boils down to is just what can be claimed for by way of compensation in the event of a breach of contract. One reader thought it right to insist on a complete refund for a cooker when Currys made a bit of a pig’s ear out of the installation process.

Another demanded all her money back because she’d taken time off work for a three-piece suite to be delivered and the delivery arrangement fell through.

The common theme running through all these situations is a desire to slap the supplier with a punishing claim for compensation. However understandable in most cases it is simply out of the question.

There are strict legal rules about just what can be claimed for defective goods and cowboy services.

The main rule is you must have experienced actual loss. It can’t be just annoyance that causes you to throw all your toys out of the pram.

The other key rule is that all you can expect is to be put back into the same situation as if the breach of contract had never occurred.

Applying the rules, Currys apologised and rightly refunded their customer the installation fee which covered the cost of phone calls and letters of complaint.

In the case of the furniture delivery no show, the store refunded a day’s pay.

Turning to your case, you were spot on refusing just to accept a refund for the bodged alteration.

I advised you to put in an additional claim towards the purchase of another pair of boots, and you were more than happy to go along with this suggestion.