I am not a great fan of bombarding consumers with law. There is too much of it and most of it is very boring. If you are having trouble sleeping try reading the Consumer Credit Act 1974 for example – a page-turner it is not. There is however, one piece of law that is so beautifully simple and absolute in its defence of ordinary people that I thought I might draw it to your attention.
The Consumer Protection Act 1987 is a statute that really is worth keeping in your back pocket. It protects consumers from any product that goes wrong and causes damage and it confers on the consumer an absolute right to compensation when this happens. If you buy a toaster that decides to explode or a bottle of bleach in a defective plastic bottle that leaks all over your lovely new carpet, the Consumer Protection Act 1987 is the answer to your problem. If something of this nature happens, write to company concerned, draw their attention to Section 2 of the Act and demand immediate compensation making it clear that nothing less will do.
The key features of the Act are as follows:-
- It the damage is caused wholly or even partly by the defective product, that is sufficient.
- There is no need to demonstrate negligence or anything of the kind which makes bringing a claim very straightforward indeed. This is what lawyers call “strict liability” which roughly translates as “no room for argument”.
- Damage means pretty much any kind of damage ranging from death downwards although if it is damage to property it has to exceed the minimum threshold of £275 in value.
- The average consumer will rightly ask what constitutes a defect for the purpose of this Act. Fortunately for us all, this is very widely defined as existing where the safety of the product is not such as people “generally are entitled to expect”. The breadth of this wording means in reality that just about any problem not normally associated with a product of this kind will tick the box.
- If you are faced with damage caused by a defective product it is conceivable that the company concerned will deploy clever lawyers to try and wriggle out of its responsibilities. Do not be deterred. For starters, if you were to bring a claim of this kind, a small claims court judge would almost certainly start on your side given the overriding effect of the Act. Second, in this day and age, all producers are hyper-sensitive to these issues attracting bad publicity and will usually go way beyond their legal duties where safety issues are concerned. The recent events involving Maclaren pushchairs demonstrates the point very clearly.