Do you provide quotes, estimates and contracts of work on a householder’s property?
If you do, you will be affected by the Consumer Contract Regulations 2013 (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges), which came into force on 13 June 2014 and covers contracts made between a trader and a consumer.
OFTEC is urging installers to make sure they fully understand the regulations so they can make effective contracts with customers which will protect their business from potential financial loss.
By raising awareness of the regulations, OFTEC hopes to prevent installers from falling foul of the rules, which are designed to protect consumers.
Matthew Northcott, OFTEC technical manager, explains some of the problems that can occur:
“OFTEC regularly hears cases of technicians purchasing equipment or even starting work on the basis of a verbal agreement, only for the customer to back out, leaving them significantly out of pocket.
Unfortunately it is often only after getting their fingers burnt as a result of not agreeing an effective contract of work, that technicians realise the importance of this area.”
The Consumer Contract Regulations 2013 – what installers need to know:
Installers must provide consumers with certain information in straightforward language:
- the main characteristics of the goods/ services provided;
- total price;
- payment arrangements;
- the time frame of the job;
- the complaints procedure.
‘Notice of the right to cancellation’
Whether the contract is agreed verbally or in writing, installers must let their customers know that they have the right to cancel the contract within 14 days by written notice.
However, this does not apply if the customer has ordered something to be made up to their own specification or if they have requested urgent repair or maintenance work.
If a consumer clearly states (verbally or in writing) that they wish to cancel the contract, they are entitled to a full refund of any deposit or balance paid.
If a technician fails to notify the consumer about their cancellation rights, they run the risk of the cancellation period being extended from 14 days to 12 months.
Getting written authorisation to begin works
For contracts where work or services start within 14 days, technicians must get written authorisation from the customer to start. The notice should also state that the customer must pay a reasonable amount for goods and services provided before any cancellation.
Matthew Northcott continues:
“Providing written quotes with clear terms and conditions should be a basic requirement for a professional heating business. However, due to a mixture of ignorance of the law and complacency, some heating businesses still operate in a casual and unprofessional way.
“OFTEC has recently produced a guide for registered technicians covering contracts of work which outlines their key legal responsibilities.
However, this shouldn’t be used as an authoritative statement on consumer and business law or used as a substitute for businesses properly familiarising themselves with the details of all legislation applicable to products and services provided.
“If technicians are in any doubt over their responsibilities, we urge them to contact their local trading standards service for further information.”
For more information about the Regulations and some useful guidance, visit Trading Standards’ website.
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