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Disputes About Goods
Many disputes can arise in relation to goods that you may have purchased from a business outright or are either leased or bought from a business under a finance agreement.
When you have spent a significant amount of money on an item and it is faulty and/or not fit for the purpose that you bought it for you will understandably feel disappointed and frustrated. Whether you have purchased the item outright or are buying or leasing it under a finance agreement the law implies terms into the contract under which you obtained the goods that they must be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose.
The goods must meet the standard that a reasonable person would consider to be satisfactory (the law sets out several factors which must be taken into account when considering what this is) such as any description and the price paid. Goods must also be fit for their purpose.
If the goods do not meet the relevant standard, you could be entitled to require their repair, replacement, reduction of price or rejection and reimbursement all the money you paid for them. You might also be entitled to seek money for any further financial losses which you have encountered.
You may have spent a significant amount of money on a purchase and, when it arrived, or you got it home from the shop, it didn’t match the description you were given or the sample you saw. Whether you have purchased the item outright or are buying or leasing it under a finance agreement the law implies a term into the contract under which you obtained the goods that they must match their description.
If the goods do not match their description or are not the same as the sample which you saw, you could be entitled to their replacement, reduction of price or rejection and reimbursement all the money you have paid for them. You might also be entitled to seek money for any further financial losses which you have encountered.
Whether you have bought an item outright or are leasing or buying it under a finance agreement, you expect that the person who supplied the item to you owned it themselves and so has the right to either sell it or lease it to you. The law implies this presumption into the contract under which the item might pass or has passed to you.
If the person from whom you acquire the item did not actually own it then you may be required to return it to the person who did own it, but you would be entitled to compensation from the party who purported to sell it or lease it to you.
In the case of a motor vehicle subject to a hire purchase agreement, if the finance company’s customer sold the car to you or a trader from whom you purchased it, you may be able to establish that you are an innocent purchaser under the Hire Purchase Act 1964 and so could be entitled to keep the car.
Whilst there should be safeguards in place to prevent fraud from happening, it is not uncommon for goods to be purchased or finance agreements to be entered into in someone’s name, without their knowledge.
The first you may know about this is when a creditor or seller tries to pursue you for return of an item or money owed to them. Whilst this may seem like a criminal matter, which the police should deal with, this crosses into civil law if a seller or creditor issues a County Court claim against you for monies which they believe you owe them. In such cases you would be required to defend the claim in the civil courts on the basis that a fraud has taken place.
There are a number of pieces of legislation which aim to ensure that the terms of contracts between businesses and consumers are fair and do not prejudice consumers. For example, a business cannot try to exclude liability if the goods are not of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose.
Whilst there are some very prescribed provisions for which a business cannot exclude liability there are also grey areas. In order to assess whether these are unfair terms a “fairness test” is applied. This test considers the subject matter of the contract, the circumstances when the contract was entered into, the other terms of the contract or any other relevant contracts. A possible unfair contract term could be where a you have failed to adhere to your obligations under an agreement and are required to pay compensation to the seller or creditor which is disproportionately high, sometimes known as a penalty clause.
The effect of an unfair contract term is that the seller or creditor is unable to enforce that term of the contract. The remainder of the contract remains in force, save for that term.
In relation to finance agreements which are regulated by the Consumer Credit Act 1974, the court has wide ranging powers where a relationship between a consumer and creditor is established to be unfair. The relationship may be considered unfair for the following reasons:
- Any of the terms of the agreement or related agreements;
- The way in which the creditor has exercised or enforced his rights under the agreement or any related agreement; or
- Any other thing done (or not done) by, or on behalf of, the creditor either before or after the making of the agreement or any related agreement.
In addition, the court can take into account “all matters it thinks relevant”. As you will appreciate, the scope of what could be considered unfair is wide, it could be something done or not done before the agreement was entered into, for example if you were not provided with the Standard European Consumer Credit Information sheet or it wasn’t properly explained to you, to post agreement matters, for example, if the creditor sought to repossess the goods when it wasn’t entitled to do so.
If the court finds that there is an unfair relationship then there are a number of remedies available, including requiring the creditor to reimburse you some or even all of the money you paid under the agreement.
If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are struggling to pay instalments to a creditor under a finance agreement which is regulated by the Consumer Credit Act 1974, you may be able to secure more time to pay.
You can apply for a Time Order in two circumstances:
- If you have been served with a Default Notice under a finance agreement and a creditor has refused to freeze the interest rates and/or agree a reasonable repayment plan which you have proposed.
- When a creditor has issued a County Court claim against you seeking Judgment for the outstanding sums which you owe.
The court will consider your financial position and order payments at such a time and rate that it considers reasonable. Whilst a Time Order will be made for a set period of time, the court can vary it. This means that if you have been maintaining the terms of the Time Order you may be able to ask the court for it to continue for a further period of time (the creditor may also oppose any further Time Order).
If the court makes a Time Order and you are adhering to the payments, then your creditor cannot obtain a County Court Judgment against you. Clearly, this is a more favourable option than a creditor obtaining Judgment against you which would affect your credit rating and worsen your financial problems.
How can Truth Legal help?
The right legal support is crucial in consumer disputes and should be arranged as early as possible. Taking action, without specialist advice, can carry many risks. For example, there are strict timeframes in which to exercise your right of rejection and it may be necessary to obtain evidence from an appropriate expert to support your position. Where the goods are leased under a finance agreement, there are a number of common mistakes which can be made can be made that could cause you significant problems, for example not identifying the correct party to report your issue to.
By instructing Truth Legal, you will have expert guidance – from solicitor, Katherine Clark – on hand. We pride ourselves on providing an ethical and effective legal service.
We are based in Harrogate with presences in York, Manchester, and London. We service clients nationally.
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Truth Legal offers affordable fixed fees or hourly rates – allowing you a flexible and cost-effective service. You may also have Legal Expenses Insurance on your home insurance policy allowing some or all of your legal costs to the paid by your home insurance.
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