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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 70197
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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Dear Sir/Madam, I would very much appreciate your advice

Customer Question

Dear Sir/Madam,
I would very much appreciate your advice about an issue involving a well-known furniture removals company who operate in London. Having read testimonials about them now I can see that they run a scam-like operation based on a misleading first quotes over the telephone followed by slow work on the day; undersized-sized vans; poor skills and time-wasting. It looks like they are being sued by a number of customers already. I am due to talk the company's MD tomorrow afternoon and would like to feel more armed than I do as he has been named as a very unpleasant and unhelpful man in the testimonials.
The story:
I called to get a quote for a recent flat move and the sales operator asked basic questions about what I was moving, where I was moving to, the size of the flat etc. He didn't ask about 'distances from the flat to the lift' or anything detailed at all. He then suggested, without hesitation, that an ambulance-sized van and two men would be all I needed for the job. I wasn't offered or told about any other options - fixed half-day rates/ larger van/ more men - but I was told that the job was likely to take around 2-3 hours and that, just to be on the safe side, they would book me a four-hour time slot just in case the men needed to make a second trip. We agreed that the men would arrive at 1pm. I told them that my flat-mate would be the point of contact on the day as I was out of the country and I gave his contact details.
I then signed the paperwork electronically, agreeing that they could take the first payment of 215 pounds from my bank account before the job commenced, with the understanding that they would take the rest of the payment after the work was completed, based on an hourly rate. The form I signed listed the men and van size I'd been offered as well the furniture I had listed over the telephone. They said the van would arrive around 1pm on Saturday but there was no 'four hour' time slot detailed.
I returned to London the day after the move and my flatmate explained that, on the day of the move, the men had called at 10.40am and asked to come early. He agreed that they could and he could see that they were taking a very long time load the van that was much too small for the furniture. He drove with them to the new flat - only a*****maximum - and left them there to move the furniture in on the understanding that they would be back soon to load up a second time. They arrived back at the first flat three and a half hours later. My flat mate then oversaw them putting the rest of the furniture in and went with them to the new flat. He got there to find everything arranged and that the men were just 'hanging around' trying to find things to do. They were then smoking in their van instead of bringing the contract up to sign and admitted that for one of them, it was his first removals job because he is actually a photographer. My flat mate had to shoo them away at 7pm. They were still trying to be helpful.
On the following Monday I received an invoice for almost 900 pounds for 9 hours work. I immediately telephoned and spoke to the manager to explain that I was extremely unhappy about the work they had supplied/ the misleading quotation etc. But, after a long discussion, I was offered an hour off the day only and told that one of the men was their best employee and that that other one had gone through their basic training. The manager also told me that there were no larger vans available that day and they never would have given me a four-hour time slot...implying that I was making it up. He also said that because the distance to the lift was more than a few meters, I couldn't expect the move to be fast.
My latest bank statement shows that they have already taken the second payment out of my account even though the exact fee is still under dispute.
Based on the above, would you say that I have a chance to argue that, as I was given a misleading quote, no options and poor service, I should only pay the fee for the time that the work should have taken with the right sized van and speedy work: four hours/ half a day? Or, by signing their forms early on agreeing to pay an hourly rate...am I doomed to pay for nine hours of dreadful service?
I am extremely grateful for your thoughts.
Yours Faithfully,
Charlotte
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Hi.
Thank you for your question. My name is ***** ***** I will try to help with this.
So, in short, they have charged you extra for the additional hours?
Just for clarity, do you deny that it did take longer than the four hours booked?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hello Jo,

Many thanks for your help. Yes, they have charged me for the additional hours.

Forgive me if I am misunderstanding your question. The job did take them nine hours, however, my flat-mate who witnessed them working assures me that they could easily have done the work in half a day if they had hurried up. I believe that it was a four hour job with the right sized van and two efficient and trained workers.

Very best,

Charlotte

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Thanks.
There are no real definitive answers to this type of question. The practical reality is that if you refuse to pay the chances are not all that high that they would sue. Its not worth the manpower. Companies regularly write off non payers because it is more cost effective than litigating. However, obviously you cannot rely on that. As with all of these things its a case of planning for the worst and hoping for the best.
In terms of the legal position, again it depends how the evidence comes out. Generally speaking a quote should be accurate within 15% unless the workload changes or was incorrectly estimated or the quote is a guarded one - for instance they said something that amounts to a disclaimer like 'full quote at scene' etc.
Its probably simple enough here. They are probably just plain saying that the job took longer than at first estimated. If that is accepted by a Court then they are indeed entitled to charge the market price for the work.
That said, they are not entitled to elongate tasks deliberately to charge you extra. That is a rather subjective test though. You cannot give evidence on the point but your house mate could. They are entitled to reasonable breaks etc. If they went off for literally hours and spent that time in the pub then clearly that would offend. That is a decision that could go either way in court depending on the views of the Judge.
You could always offer a lesser sum in full and final settlement. That might well be accepted.
Can I clarify anything for you?
Jo
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you so much Jo. This is such a help.

Just one clarification.

Because they have already taken the money for the full nine hours out of my account, if they refuse to repay any of it - although they have agreed over email to reduce the cost by one hour - do you think I'd have a chance of getting it back if I threaten to sue?

Very best,

Charlotte

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
Yes, you do.
It just basically turns the tables and puts the onus upon you to sue.
But otherwise you are in the same position - if you isssue they may well just settle for the reasons above.
If they do contest it then you do have to show they were dilatory and you do have the burden of proof although, in truth, at the civil courts I'm not sure that makes all that much difference. You only have to show that its more likely than not that they were unacceptably slow.
Jo C. and 2 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you so much Jo!

Expert:  Jo C. replied 3 years ago.
No problem and all the best.

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