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Getting money back from doorstep traders 10/09/2014 The Supreme Court this week issued a ruling on the right of consumers to get money back from doorstep traders.

Getting money back from doorstep traders

The Supreme Court this week issued a ruling on the right of consumers to get money back from doorstep traders.

The case concerned a Mr Swift, who owns a removal business and had given a verbal quote to a Dr Robertson, while at his home, for the removal of his furniture.

Mr Swift then sent a removal acceptance document by email, which Dr Robertson signed and handed to Mr Swift on his second visit to the house that day to deliver packing materials. This document provided for charges in the event of cancellation of the contract less than 10 days before the removal was due to start. Dr Robertson paid a deposit of £1,000.

Over the following days Dr Robertson made enquiries of other removal firms and found one which could undertake the work more cheaply. He telephoned Mr Swift to tell him he wished to cancel the contract, and sent him a letter giving notice of cancellation. He refused to pay the cancellation charges on the ground that he had been entitled to cancel the contract by virtue of the Cancellation of Contracts made in a Consumer’s Home Regulations 2008, and when Mr Swift issued proceedings, he denied liability and counterclaimed for the return of his deposit.

Dr Robertson’s submissions failed at trial, and on appeal in the Exeter County Court, but the Court of Appeal found that the 2008 Regulations did apply in the circumstances of his case. It held that they prevented Mr Swift from enforcing the contract against Dr Robertson. However, Dr Robertson had not been entitled to cancel the contract because Mr Swift had failed to give him the required notice of his right to cancel. The contract had remained alive and Dr Robertson could not therefore recover his deposit. Dr Robertson appealed against the dismissal of his counterclaim to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court this week unanimously allowed Dr Robertson’s appeal.

It held that the 2008 Regulations give consumers the right to cancel contracts made in their homes before and for seven days after notice of the right to cancel is served, and Dr Robertson was therefore entitled to exercise this right and to recover the deposit he had paid.

It found that the Court of Appeal had erred in finding that Dr Robertson was not entitled to cancel the contract unless and until he had been served with notice of his right to cancel.

The 2008 Regulations should be interpreted in the light of the wording and purpose of the Directive, it said. The right to cancel contracts made at home was central to the protection afforded to consumers under the Directive and the requirement to give notice of the right to cancel was not a technical prerequisite to the exercise of the right.

To hold that it could be nullified by a failure or refusal of a trader to give written notice of the right to cancel to a consumer would run directly counter to the overall purpose of the Directive and create a considerable gap in the level of protection provided.

 

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