Consumer ♦ Home Improvements

Consumer Rights 4. Cancellation.

In making a provision for cancellation rights for off-premises and distance sales, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 recognises that the consumer may not have had the full benefit of understanding the goods to be provided, or knowing enough about the company that it is dealing with.

Allowing 14 days for cancellation gives the consumer ample time to reconsider the purchase.

Disclaimer.

The guidance in these pages is not intended to replace legal advice. It is provided as a shorter, more understandable guide. The information is derived from www.legislation.gov.uk and www.businesscompanion.info. Updated December 2017.

A consumer who visits a store can see the company in action and view goods or samples of goods before deciding to enter into a contract. The consumer has visited voluntarily and can leave if he decides to do so. Presumably this one of the reasons that traders are not obliged to provide cancellation rights for on-premises contracts. The consumer can visit as often as required before purchasing.

This leaves two groups of home improvement consumers vulnerable:

  • Those who visit a store but are put under pressure to sign a contract based on fear of loss – a deal that is only available if it is signed there and then.
  • Those who invite a trader into their home for a consultation and although do not sign immediately, feel pressured to phone shortly after the visit.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 seems to be more relevant to consumers who visit a store for products that have already been manufactured and can be taken away or ordered for delivery.

Contracts with no right to cancel.

There are several contracts that have no rights to cancellation, but this is the only one that is relevant to the home improvement industry:

‘the supply of goods that are made to the customer’s specification or are clearly personalised’.

Clarification is required on this issue because there are companies who do not give cancellation rights on the basis that they claim to supply made to measure goods. In reality, they are using standard size stock parts to assemble the product and using filler to make it fit the customer’s specification. These are not made to measure goods.

Having said that, many home improvement companies voluntarily offer a 14-day cancellation policy. They usually do not start work until the 14 day period has passed as would be the case in a ‘service contract’. The consumer cannot waive cancellation rights but can accept that if the supplier is willing to start work before the end of the cancellation period, they will be liable for any costs incurred if they do cancel.

As stated before, it is important to clarify terms with the customer prior to the contract. Wren Kitchens has the customer sign a proposal when they pay a deposit. They don’t sign a contract until they are ready to confirm the order. If your customer has experienced this, they may make the same assumptions about your company.

It would be of benefit if the company would email terms and conditions ahead of the appointment so that the consumer can prepare questions and think about them clearly.

Contracts with the right to cancel.

There is further confusion in the Consumer Rights Act 2015, as it states that normal cancellation terms are 14 days after delivery (or latest delivery if multiple items are delivered separately). This is not feasible in the home improvement industry where the cancellation terms are offered from the date of signing the contract.

If there are rights to cancel, the terms of cancellation must be provided with the contract. This may be provided as a cancellation form for the customer to return. They do not have to use the means provided. Any means of written communication to inform you of their decision to cancel will be effective if it is done within the cancellation period. If sent by post or email, it will be effective, provided it is sent within that period.

Hopefully, you will have built a good enough rapport that they will accord you the respect of speaking to you before cancelling. As part of consolidating the sale, it is useful to discuss the cancellation process. Most salespeople avoid discussing cancellation but it actually has the effect of giving the customer confidence and they are less likely to cancel.

Unofficial Advice.

There is no right and wrong in court. There is only the law. Litigation is a mug’s game. Always try to reach an amicable solution with your customer.

Be Clear.

Whatever you decide, be clear to your customer about what your terms and conditions are. These should be made available in a format that is easy to read.

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Either ask your customer to sign an agreement to pay costs incurred, or wait until the cancellation period has expired before ordering goods or starting production.