What exactly is a consumer dispute?
When you buy a product or service from a company, it is their responsibility to ensure that what they are selling complies with Trading Standard Regulations. As a consumer, you are frequently expected to agree to the normal terms and conditions of the supplier. When a customer purchases goods, the retailer is responsible for ensuring that the product is of good quality and fit for purpose. A consumer dispute occurs when a business fails to comply; you may have got a damaged product or the service you received was unsatisfactory.
Have you ever seen the phrase 'This does not affect your statutory rights' on a receipt? This is the retailer doing the required minimum to make you aware that, in addition to the store policy, you have legal rights. You have some rights that protect you if something goes wrong after you buy the goods.
The following standards must be met when purchasing goods:
- Satisfactory quality – this is typically defined as what a reasonable person would be happy with, once all information that is readily available has been read over. Would you have the same expectations paying £80 for a pair of jeans when purchasing £20 jeans? The £20 jeans would have a much lower standard to meet than the £80 pair.
- As described – the goods should match the description that was provided and is available to you. An example for this could be you purchased a white kettle as that is what was advertised on the box you picked up, but once home you open it, and it is a blue kettle – the kettle was not as described.
- Fit for purpose – this means the consumer should be able to use the product for its intended use. You have purchased a new phone; you get home open it up to use and the screen flickers and stops working. The phone is not fit for purpose.
What steps can be taken if you have a consumer dispute?
Step 1: If you are unsatisfied with the goods or services you have received, it is critical that you file an official complaint. Check to see if they have a formal complaints procedure, which is often available on the seller's website. If you are unhappy with their response, ask the seller for a final response, this can be referred to as a ‘letter of deadlock’. This confirms that they have been unable to resolve your complaint. Always keep a copy of anything you send as you may need to look back at it in the future.
Step 2: Is the seller a member of any trade associations? If they are, the business may have rules to follow; if they have failed to comply with those rules you could get help from the trade association to take your complaint further. You may find out if they are a member by visiting their website or contacting them.
Step 3: Some sellers belong to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme. It means they can offer ways to resolve the issue without going to court. The person or organisation can help you and the seller come to an agreement with mediation services. If the seller does not have an ADR scheme, they may be willing to use them
Step 4: If all the above has failed, you can take the seller to a small claims court. At Latimer Lee, our dispute solicitors have many years of experience dealing with consumer disputes. We are more than happy to help offer you advice and act on your behalf if you decide to proceed to make a claim through the courts.
Feel free to contact our dispute solicitors on 0161 798 9000, we have offices around the Greater Manchester area and provide our services throughout England and Wales.