Caveat Emptor By Mike Hughes &#xA9; ve
&#x201C;I felt sick and couldn&#x2019;t sleep with the worry of it all&#x201D;, my wife, Lynne, admitted to me later.
Jut how had this come about? Prior to marrying and having our kids Lynne had been a trained graphic designer. She has always had an interest in art of all forms. She decided in the early part of 2009 (and probably long before but hadn&#x2019;t told me until then) that now our kids are both at university she&#x2019;d like to spend some time doring various art projects as a hobby. To get the best natural light she decided to invest in a suitably styled shed for our garden.
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To afford this she had been saving little amounts of money from the small salary she gets as a part time teaching assistant. She&#x2019;d also spend a lot of time selling various items on e-Bay. Have you seen how much time it can take up to deal with something that&#x2019;s been sold, sometimes for less than &#xA3;1? So when she announced that she had enough saved I was pleased for her as I knew just how much ef had gone into it. More time was spent on the computer, looking at various web sites, getting prices, specifi cations, sizes, etc. Eventually she found just what she wanted &#x2013; or at least what she could afford &#x2013; and duly ordered a &#x2018;summerhouse&#x2019; from an Essex based company with an impressive web site. Lynne thought she&#x2019;d bagged a bargain with a sizable reduction off the price &#x2013; nothing unusual about that as it was October and many companies have &#x2018;end of season&#x2019; sales to reduce their stock levels and keep cash moving in the business.
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We&#x2019;d been informed that there would be a 6 to 8 week delivery deadline which was not a problem. The order was placed and as a safeguard I&#x2019;d suggested that Lynne make her payment using a credit card. She assured me that she had a VISA card and I felt confi dent that we&#x2019;d done everything we could to protect ourselves. A local builder laid the concrete base in good time. Then we waited. And waited. And waited. Then the reasons for the non-delivery started to come. &#x201C;We&#x2019;ve had a death in the family&#x201D;; &#x201C;the bad weather is holding us up&#x201D;. All this took place before Christmas, the original delivery deadline. The New Year came and went. Nothing, not even a reply to any e-mails we&#x2019;d sent.
The alarm bells were starting to sound so we started to dig for information. The Internet is a wonderful tool. It can be very time consuming, but when you&#x2019;ve spent a 4 fi gure sum you really don&#x2019;t want to get messed about. Initially, things didn&#x2019;t look any better, in fact they looked worse. We discovered that the person selling the goods had been a director of a company which had been trading within a garden centre, but that they had ceased trading from there in the summer of 2009. The company she&#x2019;d been a director of had also been dissolved at around the same time. Yet she&#x2019;d offered the goods for sale on the Internet in October! Because the &#x2018;reasons&#x2019; for delay had been plausible (indeed they may even be true!) we&#x2019;d not pushed for our delivery. So we tried again. Nothing.
Then the Latin expression caveat emptor came to mind. An online search says this [Latin, Let the buyer beware.] A warning that notifi es a buyer that the goods he or she is buying are &#x201C;as is,&#x201D; or subject to all defects.
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When a sale is subject to this warning the purchaser assumes the risk that the product might be either defective or unsuitable to his or her needs.
This rule is not designed to shield sellers who engage in Fraud or bad faith dealing by making false or misleading representations about the quality or condition of a particular product. It merely summarizes the concept that a purchaser must examine, judge, and test a product considered for purchase himself or herself.
The modern trend in laws protecting consumers, however
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As we&#x2019;d bought the goods using PayPal and a card we decided that we&#x2019;d given the seller enough time, and after an e-mail giving a deadline for delivery we decided to get our money back from Paypal the card company. That&#x2019;s when we discovered the mistake we&#x2019;d made. Although it was a VISA card it was a debit card not a credit card. While you can get the money back from a credit card company you can&#x2019;t do that with a debit card, although there was a small glimmer of hope as were told that the bank may consider it. What was worse PayPal referred us to their &#x2018;terms and conditions&#x2019; which stated that any disputes must be resolved in 45 days &#x2013; which was clearly impossible as that meant just over 6 weeks, and we&#x2019;d been told our delivery deadline would be after that. More alarm bells. So we did some more research.
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It was back to searching for our seller again. A company director has to register their address at Companies House. A payment of just under &#xA3;7 allowed us to get these details, together with her date of birth, giving us someone we could identify. A phone call to the local (Southend) Trading Standards revealed nothing, other than this incident would be recorded and we were given a reference number, but a call to a local taxi company (I&#x2019;ve left his name off here just in case there&#x2019;s any problems, but I&#x2019;d like to thank him through these pages) was more forthcoming. It&#x2019;s wonderful to realise that taxi talk is read throughout the country and the person I spoke to recognised my name. He knew the area well and
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told me that it was a bit &#x2018;bed sitter land&#x2019;. That&#x2019;s when Lynne&#x2019;s spirits hit rock bottom.
But we were not defeated yet. Lynne spoke to her bank (Abbey / Santander), carefully explained the situation, and asked if there was anything we could do. To our surprise the operator couldn&#x2019;t have been more helpful. He took all the details we&#x2019;d obtained and explained that there was a good possibility of getting a &#x2018;payback&#x2019; as our money had gone to an individual, not a limited company. Lynne&#x2019;s mood lifted immediately, only to be slightly dashed as she would be told that her bank debit card would be frozen. She&#x2019;d done nothing wrong but was being punished for the failings of someone else!
What are the lessons we&#x2019;ve learned? Make sure you use a credit (not debit) card for your major purchases
Double check the sellers &#x2013; then check again. PayPal transactions do not show the sellers address, but it&#x2019;s always a good idea to get this from the seller by personal message before parting with large sums of money.
If the seller has a web site and it doesn&#x2019;t show an address, walk away from the deal no matter how good it looks. Don&#x2019;t be fobbed off with excuses You can fi nd out information about people but it can be very time consuming Be persistent and you will get results Some banks can be helpful
There is some good news at the end of all this. The bank has been extremely helpful and returned the money Lynne had paid out on her card. The only loss has been the &#xA3;200 deposit that had been taken from her PayPal account. We&#x2019;re still trying to get that back. I&#x2019;ll let you know if we get anywhere.
The main lesson is caveat emptor so next time, beware.
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