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Besides being an account of entirely unreasonable customer behaviour, this is an example of what can go wrong with oral agreements.

Author: Polly Davies
Published:
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This article is 4 months old.

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The customer took the car to our member, a service and repair centre, for a repair which they expected would be paid for by their warranty. The warranty claim looked likely to be turned down as matters progressed, but during a phone conversation, verbal confirmation was provided to our member by the customer to proceed with the repair regardless. 

Our member proceeded with the repair, and in the meantime, the warranty claim was decisively turned down.

When the repair was complete, the customer informed our member they would not pay the outstanding invoice as there was no agreement in place between them. The customer claimed it was understood from the outset the warranty company would pay, and they demanded the return of the repaired vehicle!

As the dispute progressed, the customer also claimed that it was not the owner of the vehicle who had given consent to proceed with the repair, but their partner, and therefore, the consent was not valid. 

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Besides being an account of entirely unreasonable customer behaviour, this is an example of what can go wrong with oral agreements.

Terms are implied by statute into consumer contracts, requiring for example, that goods supplied are of satisfactory quality and services are provided with reasonable care and skill. 

Terms in consumer contracts can also set out the agreement you have with consumers and must be “fair”. Not all contracts will have written terms, but in the event of a dispute, it can be difficult to prove what you and the consumer had agreed if the contract was oral as described above. 

Where there is room for any future misunderstanding over costs, such as where circumstances dictate that the original quote must change or where a customer confirms they will pay in the event of an unsuccessful warranty claim, it is advisable to agree in writing. A follow up email after a conversation could make a lot of difference.

There is some useful government guidance on business to consumer contracts to be found at the link below:  

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-write-fair-contracts

Polly Davies

Legal Advisor

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