Know your rights: Dermott Jewell, consumer expert
A treadmill advertised at the wrong price; lower charges not applied; and a carpet with a stripe. What are your rights? Our expert has the answers
Q: Dear Dermott, I bought a newspaper on January 1st and there was a brochure inside advertising a treadmill, reduced from €1,352.99 down to €389.99.
I went this morning (the 6th) to purchase the treadmill but was told it was an error, that they had put the wrong price on the brochure and that a sign was put up in the shop yesterday to correct this error. A friend of mine purchased it online on January 1st at the reduced price of €589.99, she brought her brochure into the shop, informing them that it was quoted as €389.99 and they reimbursed her for the difference of €200. Am I entitled to purchase it at the price advertised of €389.99?
A: When we go into a shop or premises to buy something we make the offer at the till to pay for it. The legal term for this action is an 'Invitation to Treat' - an offer to enter into a consumer contract.
It is at this point that there is the opportunity for a seller to refuse the offer - in this case, down to the fact that there had been a mistake made in the advertised price. Now, once discovered, it is a requirement that the shop correct the mistake. In this case, as the brochure price was wrong, they did correct their mistake by placing a sign up in the shop (and online also Deirdre, because I checked).
What confused the issue is how your friend actually purchased it at the mistaken price of €389.99 and this is because the shop were honest enough to admit that they had not noticed the mistake at the January 1st date, were accepting therefore that, on that date, €589.99 was an overcharge and so the €200 reimbursement was made.
It still seems to be a bargain!
Q: Dear Dermott. We are both pensioners and have been customers of the same energy supplier since we got married in 1971. It must be five years now since we changed our payment method to paperless billing online and direct debit. Today I discovered by accident that paperless billing with direct debit carries a lower charge. I asked the company today why we weren't getting the lower charge and they said we didn't ask for it. I have now asked for the lower charge. They will send me the details later by email. Can you advise?
A: Dear A&M, I would have to agree, as this is not a change that you simply requested but were offered, that from the moment of your acceptance there should have been application of the associated reduction in your billing rates.
The fact that this reduced rate was not applied would be decidedly the error or omission of the Company (I am being nice here) and is certainly their responsibility to remedy. It would appear also that, if we are to follow their logic, that you will not receive any backdated refund unless you actually ask for it!
I suggest therefore that you advise them of my advice that a refund, of the full discounts from the date of changeover to this date, is required. In the event that they refuse there are avenues you can follow to enlist the assistance of experts in resolving any difficulties.
However, let's trust that this will not be necessary. That said, if it is, then please come back to us.
Q: Dear Dermott, I bought a carpet few weeks ago. There is a stripe of different shade on a section. I've complained about it to the company I bought it from, however they do not seem to be willing to do anything about it. I want to take them to a small claims court. I may need an independent expert report on the carpet and I would be grateful if you could provide me with a contact details of such a person. I would appreciate your opinion on this matter.
A: I would not immediately rush to get an independent expert involved just yet, Daniel.
What you should do first is make contact with the distributor for the company that manufactured the carpet and ask them to call out to inspect their product.
This information would be provided by the company that sold you the carpet or it will be on your order form. If they refuse to do so, then get a friend to call in and check out the detail in the store.
If that fails then you could get in touch with the National Guild of Master Craftsmen for some advice on experts in Ireland at nationalguild.ie. who might assist further.
Finally, the Small Claims Court Registrar might sway the company toward resolving the issue once you lodge the complaint.