You and your rights: How not to lose a deposit
In the first of a series on consumer rights, Liz Hodgkinson looks at a buyer's obligations
Tuesday 05 September 1995
It was an unpleasant little episode, and but for my persistence and the feeling that pounds 300 was worth fighting for, I would have lost that money. But, legally speaking, who was in the right?
The answer, in the strictest sense, is the car showroom. The existing law on deposits, as confirmed by the Consumers' Association and the National Consumer Council, is that once you pay a deposit you have entered into a contract binding on both sides. As a customer your only get-out is if you have made "time of the essence" - a legal term meaning you can cancel the order and have your deposit refunded if the time factor is essential, and the company has agreed to this in writing.
"If you place an order and pay a deposit, you have made a legally binding contract to purchase the goods," said Alison Lindley, legal expert at the Consumers' Association. "If you then change your mind you have broken the contract and must forfeit your deposit. There is no legal requirement on the company's part to deliver within a fixed period unless you as buyer have stated a specific deadline."
In my case, as the car firm had offered to pay for my MOT, it could be argued that they had provided me with a driveable vehicle in the meantime. But - and this is a big but - there is also the question of goodwill. If the company wishes to keep your custom, and can easily sell the goods it has ordered on your behalf to somebody else, then most will refund the deposit. You are unlikely to get a refund if the item has been specially designed for you, such as a custom-made sofa or curtains.
Diana Whitworth, of the National Consumer Council, said: "I've been in this business since the Seventies and the issue of deposits has always been thorny, with no real protection for the consumer, especially if companies go out of business. All we can advise is: think very carefully about putting down a deposit, and before entering into a binding agreement. Always negotiate - and ask about refunds before signing."
- 1 Replica Back to the Future Hoverboard released
- 2 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 3 Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
- 4 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
Costa Concordia: Shipment of Mob drugs was hidden aboard cruise liner when it hit rocks off Italian coast, investigators say
Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
Iran nuclear talks: Prospect of deal with Iran pushes Saudi Arabia and Israel into an unlikely alliance
A new (old) cure for MRSA? Revolting recipe from the Dark Ages may be key to defeat infection
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
iJobs Money & Business
Circa £45,000-£50,000 + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ac...
£150 - £190 Daily Rate: Sheridan Maine: One of London's leading water supplier...
£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...
£15 - £17 Hourly Rate: George Parlour: Do you have experience in media billing...