The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (amended 2014) (CPRs) regulate estate agents and other businesses involved in property sales and lettings. The CPRs prohibit all traders from using unfair commercial practices in their dealings with individual consumers. Estate agents are prohibited from engaging in commercial practices that are unfair to sellers, buyers, potential sellers or potential buyers of residential property.
Those agents found to have breached either the CPRs could be at risk of
prosecution by their local authority trading standards services who are responsible for enforcement by bringing criminal prosecutions. On conviction, agents can face substantial fines or in more serious cases imprisonment. Those classic descriptions of “Stunning” and “Highly sought after” now have to have evidence to back them up!
As a seller you have rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to services carried out with reasonable care and skill, but there are no legal regulations about what estate agents have to do to find you a buyer. So do your research to find the best estate agent for you depending on the services that they provide and their costs.
The Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act, 2007 requires all estate agents in the UK to register with an Estate Agents Redress Scheme which can investigate complaints from members of the public. From the 1st October 2014 all letting agents in England have also been obliged to join a scheme under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.
If you believe that an estate agent has not been acting in your best interests, has not been contacting buyers, provides inaccurate information or is discriminating against you etc., complain first to the manager or owner of the agency. If a chain you can then write to the head office. You can of course take your business elsewhere or withhold some of the agent’s fee. If you do the latter take legal advice first – you may be sued by the estate agent so you need to be very clear on your position.
If you cannot agree the fee with an estate agent for any reason, such as finding your own buyer, seek legal advice.
The Property Ombudsman Code of Practice for Residential Estate Agents is voluntarily followed by many estate agents. Estate agents who follow the Code of Practice are required to provide additional consumer protection that goes beyond that required by law. They can be recognised by the blue TPO logo which they will display on their literature, websites and office windows.
Companies always make mistakes. After all, they’re made up of humans and to err is human. What is important to me, as a consumer champion, is how companies deal with the mistakes and get them resolved.
A couple of years ago I took out a course of pro-active facial treatments with Clarins. The deal was 6 sessions for the price of 4, at the Debenhams store at Lakeside, Thurrock. I don’t go to Lakeside very often so was taking a very long time to use up the sessions! But you should know that this does not matter as if you have any issues up to 6 years after purchase consumer law is still on your side.
So what happened?
Well, when I went for the second one there was no head massage whilst the mask was applied. I was told that this was no longer part of the treatment.
When I paid for the 6 facials I was told that this was included. You may find this very trivial but those facials aren’t cheap and I know what I paid for!
So, I wrote to customer services. I told them that to remove it mid-program is against consumer law. The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 to be specific. I told them I felt that I had been misled into making a transaction I wouldn’t otherwise have made if I had had all the information, i.e. that part of the service would be removed without refund. In addition it is against the Consumer Rights Act 2015 as an unfair contract, as they had changed the terms and conditions without my consent.
Therefore, I expected a partial refund for the last facial and partial refunds for the remaining sessions. However, my preference was to be given what I paid for, which was the head massage whilst the mask is applied for my remaining facials. As regards the last facial, which did not include the head massage for which I had paid, I expected a partial refund.
I made the point that I had no issue with any of the therapists. It was quite clear it was a change in policy not in quality.
The complaint was passed to the Area Manager. She told me that they had not had any similar complaints. Hmmmm.
She could see from their records that I purchased My course in May 2015 and had a Tri- Active Facial on 14th December 2016 – whereby the therapists had assured her that she explained the new procedure to me. I then had another Tri-Active Facial on 11th December 2017. (As I said, I didn’t go to Lakeside very often). They fed my comments back to the Spa regarding my disappointment with the new treatment, and also to the London Training team who apparently welcome all customer feedback as they were apparently “disappointed” that I felt I had been misled.
So that was that. Of course it flipping wasn’t!
In fact, the Consumer Rights Act didn’t apply because I had actually bought and paid for the course of treatment before the act came into force on 1st October 2015. But other consumer laws including the CPUTRs did apply. So, off I went again.
It was also unfortunate that someone at Clarins appeared not to have read my email properly either.
I agreed that the therapist explained the new procedure after I asked why the head massage was not applied. I said so in my email. But as I had clearly stated, the head massage had been removed from the program AFTER I had paid for it. Therefore a breach of contract had taken place. Had I known that the massage was not going to be included (where it once was) I may have made a different decision. This was a breach of The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. I pointed out that I provided this information, to which she had not referred in her reply.
I reiterated what I expected as redress. Then, of course, added my standard ending: “Should I not be fully satisfied with your response I will not hesitate in taking the matter further. This will include, but not be limited to, informing my credit card company, Trading Standards and going through the Small Claims Court. I will also share my experience on social media and relevant review forums.”
The Area Manager for Lakeside confirmed that I had spent £268 on my course in 2015. Since then, I had had 2 x Tri-Active Facials which would equate to £140, leaving £128 on the course value – without the two free treatments as it was purchased on the 6 for 4 promotional offer.
She wanted me to note that the store policy on refunds is for customers to provide a proof of purchase and valid receipts. However, the Skin Spa Manager said that he/she would be happy to offer me the following:
2 x Scalp and Foot Massages for the previous two treatments which you I had in 2017 and 2016.
4 x Scalp and Foot Massages to be included in the remaining treatments that you I had booked.
Yay, so that was good, and that was the end of the matter… or so they thought…
Of course it wasn’t. Because, dear reader, as much as I like to spread the word about consumer rights to consumers I like to inform those working in customer services too.
I informed her that one does NOT need a receipt. One only needs proof of purchase. They clearly had this from their treatment records.
So, in the end I got a little more than I was legally entitled to (2 scalp and foot massages!) but that is how it should be, particularly when it took a few emails to resolve.
So, in summary, never just accept changes in services! But it did all come out well in the wash as it were!