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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 69268
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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I bought a chesterfield style sofa for £1,800. 7 months later

Resolved Question:

I bought a chesterfield style sofa for £1,800. 7 months later I found large rips in the velvet fabric (beyond where the back and seat join). The seller (also maker, quite a large online retailer) want to repair but I want a refund because:

a) They were very reluctant to send an independent inspector out to see it and only relented in a 'without prejudice' email, suggesting that I may well have caused the damage myself
b) They suggested I make a claim on my staingard insurance policy (even though I made it very clear it was a defect, not accidental damage)
c) They have not taken responsibility or apologized and, despite an independent report identifying a manufacturing defect still act like this is my fault
d) When I have asked for an assurance that I can have a refund if this problem happens again, they have said they can't give a guarantee it won't happen again because they 'don't know how the sofa is being used'.

I am concerned the problem may happen again and they won't refund or even repair in that event. The FIRA technician who visited on their behalf certainly didn't seem confident a repair would be long lasting, though in his report he has not said this, only that the cause was a manufacturing defect.

I know in this situation a repair would be the usual approach, but, given their poor attitude and lack of reassurance would I have any chance of being awarded a full refund in court? And if I lost, would I be liable for their costs?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.

Thank you for your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I will try to help with this.

how quickly did you complain about this please? Was it at the 7 month point?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Yes, at 7 months. The problem actually started a little earlier - sofa delivered end of July 2013, noticed a bagginess in the seat of the sofa December 2013 but I had been warned velvet could develop a seated look so wasn't too surprised even though it didn't look as smart and taut as it had been, then in Feb found and reported rip a few days later. Then they prevaricated for three weeks saying first they would get someone to visit, then telling me to claim on the insurance policy I'd taken out with them at the same time. I refused as I thought that would be fraudulent as it was clearly not accidental damage. Finally had a visit from expert about 3 weeks ago.

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.

Obviously their attitude is appalling but that doesn't change the position under the SGA.

Unfortunately you are outside of the first six months of purchase so its for you to prove that the fault existed at the time of sale. At least, of course the fault in its current form did not or you would not have bought it but the propensity to develop this type of fault. I don't think you will have too much difficulty with that though here because they seem to recognise some responsibility already and anyway this is an expensive item thats only 7 months old.

You are entitled to either a refund, replacement or repair unless they can prove that one or the other of those remedies is disproportionately expensive for them. That will be what they are relying upon here and that is not altered by their attitude.

You are only under an obligation to wait a reasonable time for a repair and it should not give rise to unreasonable inconvenience. If either happens then you are entitled to demand another remedy.

In truth, if you went to court probaby the court would be reluctant to order a refund either in full or in part unless the company were refusing a repair or there were really substantial grounds for you to argue that it was impossible for them to prove one.

That said, that only arises if they contest the matter. Often companies do not. People make the most ridiculous deals sometimes to avoid going to court so it might be a risk worth taking but you should understand that you are taking a risk.

Can i clarify anything for you?

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Thanks Jo. If I did go to court and lost, would I then no longer be entitled to a repair? And would I have to pay their costs?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 2 years ago.
No, you would still get a repair.

The risk is that they could seek costs against you on the basis that your claim was a vexatious or an unreasonable one. There is probably about a one in ten chance of that.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 69268
Experience: Over 5 years in practice
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