The season of goodwill has undoubtedly now become the season of good retail with a yearly increase in sales across all markets. Legal expert solicitor Mark Lampkin has a timely reminder of how consumers can protect themselves when their gifts turn out to be not all they seem.
Consumers have had a rough ride through the developing legal system of these fair isles harshly encapsulated in the phrase 'caveat emptor' Latin for 'let the buyer beware'. Amazingly this still remains the overarching position of all sales unless changed by case law or statute and thankfully successive governments have recognised that the power of the retailers needs to be kept in check and have done so with strong laws.
The Sale of Goods Act 1979, still good law today, for the first time made it a condition of every sale in the course of business that the goods sold would be of ‘merchantable’ or recently updated to ‘satisfactory’ quality. The Act goes on to set out how to judge what is satisfactory so if your new-fangled gadget breaks down on the 366th day you can still use this to claim a repair, replacement or money back even if the jobs-worth shop manager tries to play the warranty expired card.
Remember though this only applies to commercial sales so when the £300 rust bucket you won on eBay breaks down when you are driving it home you will still be caught by caveat emptor unless the seller described it as mechanically sound or in another over exuberant and false way. Indeed when anything is sold to you and you are drawn in like a moth to a flame by words like mint, perfect and as new only to be burnt to cinders when it turns out to be anything but, the seller will be caught and you can claim breach of contract.
Given the inexorable rise in internet sales further consumer protection has been brought in by the Distance Selling Regulations. When a purchase is made on line you have the right to cancel which starts right away and ends seven days after receipt of most goods save for CD’s or software where the seal is broken, perishable or tailor made goods and in the interests of hygiene, underwear and earrings.
The rights to reject goods and claim money back can be lost if you do an act or omission inconsistent with rejection. So if you do wear that little black dress even though it’s a tighter squeeze probably caused by too many mince pies you can’t then go on to get your money back. But don’t be scared to send or take things back. You’ve worked hard for your money and most savvy retailers will realise it’s better to keep your custom and take a return no questions asked.
And here’s a way to double your protection when buying anything over the value of £100 and you may not like it. Use your credit card. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act effectively means that your credit card provider insures these purchases even if the seller company goes bust between purchase and delivery.
Don’t be scared of taking action even if the seller is a huge company. You can issue proceedings in the small claims track of the county court and go all the way to a full hearing at little cost and a District Judge will give you a fair hearing however small your gripe is.
At a time when lawyers have an all-time low public image, Mark Lampkin, a leading North Wales lawyer, examines how the dedication and bravery of a few has exposed how society failed to protect the most vulnerable on an almost inconceivable and industrial scale.
The Jennings report into the abuse in care scandal in the area covered almost exactly by the circulation of Yattar Yattar concluded that there was ‘extensive and widespread abuse within Clwyd residential care’ and included a suggestion that even ‘public figures’ were involved. The report compiled by John Jennings is thorough and brilliantly written, if one of the most shocking ever produced. The effect of the regime suffered by those vulnerable boys is still being suffered by this region today. Just ask any Wrexham police officer how many times they have seen the names of care homes in antecedent details of those who have fallen into a life of crime and drugs. These lives have been destroyed by the abuse they suffered at the hands of those that should have cared for them and we are all suffering the consequences.
Lawyers acting for the young victims who are now adults, pressed and pressed for action to be taken. They and some equally brave and ethical journalists were the voice of those abused and as a result, 13 prosecutions followed from 1974 to date and compensation has rightly been fought for and won to try and give some recompense for the evil these people suffered.
But abuse or at least failure in care seems to be happening everywhere. We should remember of course that it was only an historical accident that so many residential care and approved homes previously administered by the Home Office were sited in this area.
Look for example at the scandalous failures at the Mid Staffordshire hospital that in a similarly brilliant enquiry report showed that many deaths could have been avoided simply by the provision of basic care. Again, lawyer’s efforts lead directly to the exposure of this cruel regime. Legal Action is also being taken on behalf of those that have died as a result of the national, or some would say industrial, misuse of the Liverpool Care Pathway that was designed to provide the dying with compassionate palliative care but has led to horror stories of dehydrated patients sucking the fluid out of cleaning swabs in desperation. Threat and pressure from legal action has achieved the political will to look again at this controversial system and changes will now be made.
As a civilised society we tend to trust the authorities. The soldiers going over the top in the First World War to their inevitable and obvious death did so generally without question. It is the British way. Does this not seem similar to us placing our children in the care of paedophiles, taking our families to obviously failing hospitals and trusting those in power? Why are we not revolting as we have example after example of how we as a people are being failed, mistreated and lied to by those in authority?
Hillsborough is a particularly stark example. We now all know this was a deliberate cover up, there is no question about that and following the lifelong dedication of Anne Williams and yet another brilliant enquiry team, the lawyers will now be able to make sure that those to blame will be made to pay.