Consumer rights: 'I changed my mind about a bike, but the shop won't return my deposit'

A shopkeeper is not obliged to refund a down-payment...gap-year finances...sorting out benefits for a dying father

Q. I paid a local retailer a 10 per cent deposit in part-payment for a bicycle.

When I paid it I explained that I was going abroad but would pay the balance as soon as I returned. I don't have the exact dates to hand, but it may have been up to eight weeks later, I had changed my mind and decided not to proceed with the purchase.

When I contacted the store and advised them that this was the case the manager explained that my deposit was neither refundable nor, because of the time that had lapsed, transferable.

I would appreciate it if you could advise me on whether there is any law or convention that governs how a deposit should be dealt with.

JT, Oxfordshire

A. When you agree to pay a deposit in part-payment for something like your bicycle it becomes part of the legal contract between you and the retailer.

That contract gives both of you rights and responsibilities. If you pay the deposit on something that the retailer is ordering especially for you, has made for you (windows for example) or is holding or reserving for you, then the shop can legally keep the deposit if you change your mind.

The retailer could argue in this case that he or she could have sold the bicycle had they not kept it for you, or because it was taking up space he or she couldn't display another one, or that they'd ordered it in specially and you should buy it as agreed or pay compensation for his or her loss of profit.

There may not be any loss of profit if the retailer can simply put the bike back on sale, but if prices have dropped or the bike is no longer as attractive to cyclists as it was at the time you ordered it, it may have to be sold at a reduced price. This is a discussion you'd have to have with the retailer.

If the boot was on the other foot and the retailer let you down and didn't keep the bike for you as agreed, the contract would work in your favour. You would be entitled to your deposit back and claim compensation if it cost you more to buy the same bike elsewhere.

Whether you can negotiate a refund now is down to how persuasive you can be!

Q. My son is going on a gap year when he finishes school in June. He and a couple of friends want to go further afield than Europe. They're all fairly sensible and streetwise so we're not so much worried about his safety as about his finances.

Money isn't his strongest suit and we can't afford for him to throw it around as we have two other children still at school. We'd prefer that he wasn't reliant on debit or credit cards as we're not 100 per cent sure if they're the safest option and we want to keep him on a budget.

We thought about giving him cash for different countries but that feels like a disaster waiting to happen. Do you have any advice?

DM, South London

A. Helping your son get organised now will give you time to work on the message that he needs to make a budget and stick to it. I hope though that his friends' parents are saying similar things to their offspring or the others might have more to spend, lead him astray, and undo all your hard work.

A prepaid currency card might be the answer you're looking for. The currency rate on these is usually better than the one offered if you use your debit card while you're away. Prepaid cards are typically Visa or MasterCard, so they can be used like a normal debit/ credit card wherever you see the Visa or MasterCard signs.

The card isn't tied to your bank account, so if it is lost or stolen then only the money on the card is at risk rather than your account, and the card can be quickly stopped and reissued, wherever you are in the world. Prepaid cards are simple to top up online and some offer SMS top-up – so you can pay in emergency funds if needed.

As your son is going to countries with different currencies you want a card that allows you to top it up with money in sterling which is then taken from your account, in whatever currency zone he is in, at the time he spends it. Shop around, though, as some cards charge for withdrawals from ATMs abroad.

James Hickman, the managing director of Caxton FX Global (which produces the Traveller Card), says: "Make sure your son always pays in the local currency. Sometimes merchants, when you pay with your debit or credit card, will ask if you want to pay in pounds rather than the local currency. Choosing to pay in pounds means that the exchange rate is selected by the merchant, but is usually less favourable to the cardholder than the rate offered by the card issuer, so the merchant gets more money from the transaction."

Q. My dad has just been granted Employment and Support Allowance as he's too ill to work. However the letter came with another form to fill in about how the illness affects his ability to work, and seems to suggest he'll have to go for a face-to-face assessment. Since he applied for the allowance, doctors have told him he has just a short time to live and there's no way he could go anywhere for an assessment. All this form-filling is really difficult as he can't concentrate and I don't have all the information. Can you help?

MB, Rochdale

A. I'm really sorry to hear about your dad. The form is the Limited Capability for Work questionnaire. Your dad will have been granted his Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for 13 weeks while an assessment of capability for work is carried out.

The ESA work capability assessment is carried out by a health care professional working on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions. It's intended to find out whether your dad has a "limited capability for work" or for "work-related activity".

He should be automatically treated as having a limited capability for work or a limited capacity for work-related activities as he is terminally ill. This is defined as a progressive disease and death in consequence of that disease can reasonably be expected within six months. A patient may also be automatically entitled to the benefit if he or she is receiving chemotherapy or recovering from that treatment.

In your father's case the questionnaire asks a lot of questions that are not relevant now. You need to provide proof of your father's situation and the easiest way to do that is to get a DS1500 form from your doctor. If you still feel you need help ask your nearest advice agency such as Citizens Advice Bureau (see the phone book for details or www.citizensadvice.org.uk). There's more information at www.direct.gov.uk/benefits.

Also ask about applying for Disability Living Allowance and Carers Allowance.

www.moneyagonyaunt.com

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

PROMOTED VIDEO
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Account Manager - (Product & Account Management, Marketing)

    £26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Account Manager - (Produc...

    Training/Learning and Development Coordinator -London

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...

    Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

    .NET Software Developer (.NET, C#, ASP.NET, front-end)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A Global Financial Service Organi...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried