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 Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 4 The biggest first date turnoff has been revealed
- 5 German man found living with 300 rats in tiny apartment
BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
Isis propaganda video shows 25 Syrian soldiers executed by teenage militants in Palmyra
Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Van driver who comforted Clark Carlisle and called 999 after suicide attempt dies age 24
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
iJobs Money & Business
£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...
£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....
£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...