Consumer Disputes Guide
Are you a consumer? Have you bought a faulty product? Have you obtained a refund, replacement or repair or is the seller, retailer or manufacturer refusing to give you a refund, replacement or repair the product?
In this guide, we take you through the process of resolving a dispute after being sold a faulty product. Our Consumer rights solicitors can assist you with obtaining a refund, repair or replacement of the goods that you have bought from a supplier, manufacturer or retailer as long as you can prove they are at fault. This guide covers
Your rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015
Teaches you how to approach the seller, retailer or manufacturer for a refund
How to go through the company's complaints process
How to prepare a Letter Before Action on a product that is not of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose
How to issue a faulty goods claim in the Small Claims Court
How to enforce a judgment obtained from the court
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA 2015)
The Consumer Rights Act defines your rights and provides a standard that all products sold must adhere to. The Act provides that the goods sold must be:
Of Satisfactory quality – The goods should be free of fault or any defects and not be damaged when received or delivered.
Fit for purpose – The goods should be suitable for the purpose for which they were made or supplied and last a reasonable period of time.
As described – This means that he goods must match the description given to you and conform to any standards that you were given prior to purchase.
What are my rights as a consumer?
If you are a consumer who has recently purchased a product from a business that develops a fault, the CRA 2015 gives you the right to get a replacement, free repair or full refund depending on when the fault happened and your date of purchase of the product.
The Act gives you the right to return a faulty item for a full refund within the first 30 days of purchase. After the first 30 days (but within the first six months of purchase ) you can still return the item, but you must give the retailer the opportunity to replace or repair the fault.
Can I issue proceedings if the product that I bought is defective?
No – you cannot issue proceedings immediately if the product that you bought is defective.
The law provides that a party who has received a defective good must first inform the seller, retailer or manufacturer and try to settle the matter before issuing legal proceedings. The Civil Procedure Rules which govern the issue and conduct of legal proceedings provides that the parties to a dispute must act reasonably and comply with the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) prior to issuing legal proceedings. The CPR sets out how a dispute should be dealt with before a party issues legal proceedings.
There is a practice direction on pre-action conduct by parties with a dispute. The Practice Direction provides a framework of the steps that both parties should take before commencement of legal proceedings. The court will expect both parties to have complied with the Pre-action protocol before the issue of legal proceedings and may penalise a party who fails to comply with the Pre-action Protocol.
The Rules stipulate that the parties involved in the dispute must communicate and exchange documentary information to:
understand each other’s position.
decide on how to proceed.
try to settle the issues without court proceedings.
consider the various Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods eg mediation, conciliation, arbitration, adjudication before issuing legal proceedings.
It is therefore essential that you keep copies of all correspondence, telephone discussions, text messages, emails and other documentation between you and the seller, retailer and manufacturer as this will assist you in proving that there was a contract and proving breach of the contract.
Steps that you must take
You must ensure that you use all of the complaint processes available to you before issuing court proceedings. You should exhaust all of the available complaint avenues open to you before your issue legal proceedings. At the first sign of a problem with a product tell the seller or supplier as soon as possible. Inform them of your dissatisfaction with the goods, the reason for your dissatisfaction with the goods and whether you wish to return and reject the item for a full refund or you want a replacement or a repair.
Your first step should therefore be to:
Lodge a Complaint with the seller, retailer, manufacturer first: It is essential that the company or individual is fully aware of your dissatisfaction and the outcome that you seek eg a refund, replacement or repair of the goods.
Early reporting gives the seller and supplier the chance to resolve the matter informally and also ensures that you can prove that you raised your concerns with the seller or supplier at the earliest available opportunity.
If you are not happy with the retailer or supplier’s response you should ask for a copy of their complaints procedure and send a complaint letter to the retailer or whoever is named in the complaints policy.
What should I put in my complaint letter?
You should put in:
the date and place where you bought the product
a copy of your receipt, credit or debit card statement – anything that shows that you bought the product ie proof of purchase)
Photographs or other evidence of the defect
When you reported the defect, the telephone number of the office to which you reported the defence, the name of the person you spoke to and any reference you were given
A reasonable timeframe for them to investigate and respond to your complaint.
If you receive a response asking for further information eg additional details, evidence or even the return of the product for inspection (ensure tracked delivery or receipt).you should try to comply with the request as far as possible. If you are asked to return the product for inspection do send it by recorded post, courier or drop off at any drop off point operated or used by the retailer.
Handling settlement proposals
Be flexible and open to compromise. If you are offered a repair, replacement or refund consider the offer. A partial refund, repair or replacement may be more cost-effective for you in the long run. Court proceedings are costly and should be avoided if at all possible.
If you are not happy with the response or offer from the retailer, supplier or manufacturer you may wish to make a complaint to the Ombudsman at www.ombudsmanassociation.org.
If the supplier has an independent ombudsman overseeing their particular industry, they will probably inform you of this and suggest you complain to their ombudsman. If they don’t you may wish to search for an ombudsman at www.ombudsmanassociation.org.
An alternative approach may be to ask for a refund of the money that you sent under a Section 75 Claim procedure. This is a remedy under the Consumer Credit Acts. However, this only applies if you made the purchase with a credit card. In this case you will have to raise a complaint with your credit card issuer who may be able to refund you the money that you paid under the Section 75 claim procedure. The credit card company will generally ask for a return of the product which you should send by recorded delivery, courier or other “safe” method.
If you are unable to resolve the defective product dispute you may wish to prepare a Letter Before Action (aka Letter of Claim) and serve it on the seller, supplier or manufacturer. The Letter Before Action will give the seller, supplier or manufacturer a final chance to settle your case and avoid the expense of court proceedings.
What is a Letter Before Action?
A Letter before Action is a letter to a person or business informing that they owe you a debt, outlining the circumstances in which the debt was incurred, asking them to pay the debt within a certain number of days and informing them that if the debt is not paid by a certain date, the debtor will take legal proceedings.
Our consumer disputes lawyers can provide you with letters before action tailored to your particular circumstances. As a general rule your Letter Before Action should include:
A summary of the facts of the case and your reasons for intending to bring the claim
The remedy that you are seeking, the amount that you are claiming and how this has been calculated.
Any evidence that substantiates your case.
A reasonable timeframe for the supplier, retailer or manufacturer to acknowledge the Letter of Claim and respond.
Your Letter of claim should also indicate your willingness to use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) as a means of dealing with this matter outside of legal proceedings and should inform the supplier, retailer or manufacturer that they may be held liable for further court costs if they don’t respond.
When dealing with a supplier, retailer of manufacturer always ensure that you send your Letter Before Action to their registered company address, postal address or to the address listed on their brochure, website as their address for receipt of communications by recorded delivery, registered post or by courier.
Ensure that your letter is concise and contains enough detail to enable the seller, supplier or manufacturer to understand the issue.
Should I get a Solicitor to send my Letter Before Action?
It is true that a Letter Before Action can have more weight if sent by a Solicitor, or other qualified legal professional such as a Chartered Member of the Institute of Legal Executives as it can help demonstrate that the dispute is serious and that the prospective claimant has taken legal advice and may have reasonable prospects of success.
Our consumer disputes solicitors can assist you with drafting a Letter Before Action for a fixed fee tailored to your particular circumstances. Our fees are reasonable and compete favourably with the fees charged by other law firms and non qualified “legal” professionals. The differentiating factor is that your Letter of Action will be drafted by our expert and experience specialist Consumer dispute solicitors who are backed by Professional Indemnity Insurance.
If you do not receive a response to your Letter before Action or if you have received a response and the parties have not been able to settle the dispute you will have to decide whether to issue court proceedings.
Before you issue legal proceedings, you must think carefully about the costs as when legal proceedings are issued, costs start to be incurred.
Issuing of Legal Proceedings
You can issue court proceedings online or by post. Both methods of issue require the same information to be included however issuing online is cheaper than issuing proceedings by post and is quicker as it takes just a few seconds for the documents to be submitted online. The fees for issuing proceedings online can be found at www.moneyclaim.gov.uk.
To issue an online claim you need to register on the website www.moneyclaim.gov.uk to complete the claim form and submit it online. You can pay the court fees by debit or credit card. The completed claim form is then posted to the other party by court staff the next working day.
To issue legal proceedings by post you need to download and print out a N1 Claim Form from the HM Courts and Tribunals Service website. This form is in PDF format and so you can complete it on your device or by hand, sign the document, print it out and post it.
If sending the form by post you should send two copies (one for the court and one for the defendant) to: County Court Money Claims Centre PO Box 527 Salford, M5 0BY
You must Include a cheque or postal order made payable to ‘HM Courts and Tribunals Service’ with the correct court fee. Always keep a copy of any document that you send to the Court or to the defendant for your records.
Specialist Consumer Dispute Solicitors
How can Pure Business Law help?
If you require advice on a dispute that you possibly may have or would like advice on your Consumer Rights, please contact us on 01234 938089 or e-mail us at email@example.com. We are specialist Consumer Dispute Solicitors based in Bedford and operate nationally.
Pure Business Law is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and is a licensed member of the Law Society of England & Wales.