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Joshua
Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 26070
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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I am a heating engineer and encountered an unforeseen problem.

Resolved Question:

I am a heating engineer and encountered an unforeseen problem. In short when the electrician arrived to do his necessary work he discovered that the system was in such a way that he could not complete the work to the manufacturers instructions. I would like advise on how to move forward with the situation as the customer is being uncooperative with my efforts to resolve the situation.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Joshua replied 2 years ago.
Joshua :

Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practicing lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.

Joshua :

May I clarify that you have a contract with a customer and appointed the electrician as a sub contractor under this contract to carry out some work please?

Joshua :

Is this a business or consumer customer?

Customer:

Hi there. Thank you for your assistance. I am a sole trader heating engineer therefore I am not sure of any contract status. I did indeed appoint the electrician as a sub contractor to carry out the work. This is an end user consumer customer. Regards

Joshua :

Thanks. Have you given a fixed quote to the customer or an estimate?

Customer:

My paperwork has the word 'quotation' at the top.

Joshua :

Thanks. Is the electrician not able to carry out the work because of something you have done or because of a preexisting problem?

Joshua :

What work have you agreed to carry out?

Customer:

This is a pre existing 'problem' i.e. the system has not been altered electrically by ourselves. I agreed to carry out the work installing the boiler to the manufacturers instructions (in good faith) not knowing that there would be an issue when the electrician arrived. Because of the wiring being unsuitable, the boiler has not been installed to manufacturers instructions. However this was unforeseen and not intentional.

Joshua :

Thanks. Have you carried out any work to date? Was your quote made subject to any conditions - e.g. "subject to survey/inspection"?

Customer:

Yes, I proceeded with the installation not knowing that there would be an electrical issue. As I am a sole trader, I have no small print or conditions, however these will now be implimented in light of this.

Joshua :

OK. In your professional opinion what is the cost implication to you in remedying the issue (ballpark). Cna you tell me exactly what your quote says the work would include?

Customer:

In my opinion the necessary remedial work would cost me in the region of £500.00. The customer has also requested cash compensation to the sum of £500. The quote was as follows:

Customer:

Supply and install Worcester 18RIGas regular condensing boiler, Supply Worcester Telescopic flue kit, supply Magnaclean 2 magnetic system filter, supply and fit honeywell 7 day 2 channel programmer, Supply inhibitors, cleaners, copper pipe & other fittings, Install new boiler, gas supply, condensate & connect to services & commission & register with Gas Safe Register. These were all broken down in to separate lines.

Joshua :

Thanks. Finally if you started the work before 13 June 14 did you comply with the doorstep selling regulations or if after June 2014 did you comply with the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013?

Customer:

I am unaware of these regulations therefore I cannot confirm whether I complied. I will search these now.

Joshua :

Thanks. OK with your permission I will deal with each of these in turn.

Customer:

You have my permission.

Joshua :

Thank you! First the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. It is very important that you familiarise yourself with these boring as they may be because in your line of work failure to do so leave you open to being stung badly on potentially every job you do, even those that are straighforward. The regulations essentially give a customer a right of cancellation where you negoiate work to be carried out at their home (as opposed to in your office). as I assume most if not all of your work is negotiated on the customer's premises, this potentially leaves most if not all of your work subject to these regulations. the regulations require you to provide certain prescribed information to the customer and to obtain their consent following providing them with that information to carry out the work. If you don't follow the rules precisely, the risk is that the customer can refuse to pay or claim a refund even where your work is entirely satisfactory. There is even provision for fines for each failure to provide such documentation. So it is really worth you spending an evening or two getting together a set of terms that are compliant as it only takes one customer to potetially cause you a great deal of grief or cost even if youhave done nothing wrong.

Joshua :

If you are a member of a trade body they will often assist you with making sure your terms are compliant.

Joshua :

If you arent a member or they won't the federation of small business will assist you if you wish: http://www.fsb.org.uk/

Joshua :

Obviously the above applies generally but if I may I will now turn to the particular problem at hand.

Customer:

Thank you. This is very helpful looking in to the future and I will certainly get in touch with the fsb to assist me.

Customer:

Yes, the problem in hand......... thank you.

Joshua :

the first problem flows from the above in that if you have not provided the customer with the prescribed documentation under the consumer contracts regulations, this unfortunately as above puts you on the back foot with the customer irrespective actually whether any fault lies with you or not. The problem in point is that the customer has a right if he is aware of his rights to refuse to pay for the work you have carried out and he could go further an make trouble by contacting trading standards who can impose fines. My understanding is that they are not actively punishing small firms who appear to be not to be deliberately seeking to avoid the regulations but there are no absolute guarantees.

Joshua :

You will need to factor this unfortunate position into any decisions you take and unfortunately this does put you firmly on the back foot I fear.

Joshua :

Notwithstanding the above a to the position you are in contractually.

Joshua :

From what you say, you have agreed to carry out specific work which you detail above and given a fixed quotation for it. Once again, I fear (I am sorry to keep providing somewhat negative information) this puts ou at a disadvantage. quotations as opposed to estimates are quite binding in nature in that quote contracts you to carry out the works specified for a fixed fee irrespective of what issues may crop up. For this reason, aside from everything we have discussed above, it is wise to consider including conditions to your quotes where you feel appropriate to provide that the quote is subject to a full inspection for example or whatever particular matters could be complications in a particular job according to your professional opinion. Some companies will just include a generalised condition such as the above, whilst others will include specific conditions tailored to each job on a case-by-case basis or combination of the two.

Customer:

Ok thank you, ***** ***** this, could you advise me on the appropriate action to take looking forward?

Joshua :

Unfortunately in my view if you have provided an unqualified quote (leaving aside the issues with regards ***** ***** consumer contracts regulations above) I cannot see there is anything but the option to carry out the work detailed on the quote (worts and all) and absorb the additional costs you have identified and put it down to experience. You could of course approach the customer with a view to renegotiating the quotation that the customer would I fear be within their rights to refuse and contractually could if you refuse to continue the work seek another contractor to carry out the work and look to you for any difference in cost

Joshua :

the better news is that the customer is not entitled to compensation as they claim contractually though it is true that they could attempt an average the lack of compliance with the consumer contracts regulations two effectively blackmail you for compensation though hopefully the are unaware of their rights in this respect

Joshua :

if this were me, given the somewhat vulnerability of your position, my view would be that the best approach would be to attempt to re-foster a working relationship with the customer and agreed to complete the work bearing any additional costs you have identified making sure that you fully make the customer aware what these additional costs are in order that they know the costs you are incurring. In respect of the compensation, email attempt to politely decline explaining that you cannot pay out any compensation but you will carry out the work as soon as possible in order that the position is rectified without delay and hope that they swallow that offer without further fuss

Joshua :

You could of course proceed differently but there are some considerable risks as above to consider so it is a high stakes gamble to do otherwise I think

Customer:

Ok brilliant thank you. Would I be right to send a letter to the customer saying that I have sought advise and that I propose to carry out remedial works at no cost to themselves? I also have to reply to his request for compensation, is there anything I can say to this? What happens if he refuses my offer of remedial work?

Joshua :

I am sorry I have not had more positive views to relate. However I think you could choose to look at this as a positive learning experience which hopefully will not be too costly to improve your terms and conditions to include conditions to any quotes you provide in the future and perhaps more importantly to ensure you are compliant with the above regulations. If you do this, you would be in a much stronger position to protect yourself should this situation, as it probably will in some form or another, occur again.

Customer:

Thank you for your comment reference the positive learning experience. I will certainly be implementing these conditions and have just signed up with the FSB.

Joshua :

Regarding your letter, if you decide to carry out the work as above, then yes I think a letter or some form of communication indicating that you will complete the work detailed in the quote without further costs are likely explaining that whilst you cannot pay compensation, you will endeavour to carry out the work as quickly as possible something of that sort.

Joshua :

One final comment, the consumer regulations are tedious but they are essential and in fairness once you have spent a few hours preparing your paperwork, it is really just a few tick boxes to go through on each job so it is not overly timeconsuming once set up.

Customer:

I am more than willing to carry out the work. I will put this to the customer. Do you log this conversation? i.e. is there a way of contacting you should I require further support?

Joshua :

If I can assist any further as the situation develops please do not hesitate to revert to me - you can return to this thread through your account or through a link an email that has or will be sent to you.

Joshua :

If you have no further questions for now I should be very grateful if you would kindly take a moment to rate my service to you today. Your feedback is important to me. This also saves the thread to your account should you want to return to it. If there is anything else I can help with please reply back to me though

Customer:

That is brilliant. Thank you for all your help.

Joshua :

A pleasure. I hope you reach an amicable agreement with the customer and that you don't incur any substantial costs in completing the work.

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