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Accessible legal tips, know-how and news for anyone with a complaint or legal issue from Stephen Gold, author of The Return of Breaking Law, the book

Friday 7 October 2016


It's been a reasonable day for asserting my consumer rights.

My bank First Direct undertook by phone to transfer some money from my current account to a savings account with Atom Bank. Because of the sum involved (don't get excited, not millions - it's Breaking Law I have written and not Harry Potter) it transpires that their procedures required them to phone me back immediately to confirm the details. Good fun and a security thing. They didn't phone me back. But they did a couple of days later by which time I was about to forfeit the right to make the investment. After extraction of hair from my scalp, indigestion caused by irritation and toing and froing with me having difficulty in being able to locate the details Fist Direct already had and so unable to recite them,  my bank was satisfied and made the transfer one day late.

I asked First Direct to record a complaint following which the Head of Customer Relations wrote and hoped I was happy with how things were resolved. Eh? Not quite and I asked him what he thought the disruption, time wastage and consequent anxiety (I did not mention the hair or indigestion) were worth. £50, evidently as they have just paid that sum into my current account with a very reasonable letter of apology. 

Internal complaints procedures with banks and other finance institutions can be fruitful and, if you are
still dissatisfied, it's off the free Financial Ombudsman Service (which I have visited in the past). I am content.

And then there was the matter of the fly on my new pair of trousers from Marks & Spencer. They came unstitched on a second wear as I was entering a restaurant yesterday. I was allowed in as I was wearing a tie. Into M&S today. Very courteous. I overcame the 'no receipt' hurdle (see Breaking Law) with no trouble. I was too late for a short-term rejection under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (usually, 30 days) but did not wish to accept the refund still offered as I had spent out £12 on having the trousers shortened (though I could have claimed this back if a refund was ever made). No, instead I wanted to try out the 2015 Act and so asked for a repair. "We don't have facilities to repair trousers." "But you do have facilities to alter." "Yes, but an alteration is different from a repair." [I doubt that the sewing machine can tell the difference.]  "You have it repaired and we will pay the cost." "Thank you but I don't want the hassle. You organise the repair, please, and pay - under the Consumer Rights Act." "OK."

Where goods are not up to legal standard and you are a consumer, there is that right to repair or replace within a reasonable time. The trader can generally only refuse if that would be impossible or disproportionate compared with other remedies available to you. 

If you ask for a repair or replacement within the 30 days you have for a short-term rejection then that 30 days gets extended to allow repair or replacement to hopefully take place in a satisfactory way.

I'll let you know once I've got my trousers back on!