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Topic Title: Possible legal battle - Electrician V Customer - Your unbiased Opinions please?
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Created On: 30 September 2012 05:10 PM
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 30 September 2012 05:10 PM
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Rum1

Posts: 127
Joined: 13 February 2009

Please have a read of this work scenario and give you honest opinion of what would be a fair outcome: Thanks in advance!

Domestic Job. Downlighters in a kitchen + TV cabling & sockets

Customer agreed to undertake my services to install above. I usually ask for a deposit to cover materials & to confirm booking of up to 50% or something they are comfortable with. I was paid £257 deposit.

Arrived at house. Lifted 8 floorboards upstairs in various rooms for spotlights below and TV cable runs. All measured out and planned to allow correct light positions and allowable Joist hole positions etc. Also visually checked at wall switches in kitchen that cable was PVC with earth present etc. (Metal lights fitted already).

Upon taking last floorboard up above kitchen light discovered rats nest of cables. Made exposed cables safe and discovered no earth present! Further investigation uncovered a mish mash of cabling new and old and no continuity to earths!
Called customer to inform them that we would have to install earthing or replace Halogen lights with Class 2 LED lights or equivilent - both options would add more cost to job.
Customer said needed time to ask husband. I waitied. They asked me to stop work so they could consider their options. They asked me to return house to original condition until they had decided what to do. They also decided TV work should also cease.
Time i had finished i had spent 5 hours on site. They then contacted me to say they were getting quotes from "cheaper" electricians for rewiring etc and no longer wanted my services. So i returned all lights TV equipment & Bosster to wholesalers etc.
I said i would just charge for my time and materials to date and take the loss on the rest of lost time etc. I have returned balance of deposit by bank transfer and charged for 5 hours & a box of screws!
I charged a reduced rate £20ph instead of £25ph as a work colleague of a family member so charged £103.

They are now demanding all their deposit back - not offering 1 penny - very abrupt and threatening small claims court to get £103 back.

Should i pay it back??

They argue i should have tested circuits first not just visually inspected and are now saying i never even lifted floorboards for TV cables & lights. So i've lost nearly two days pay & time returning equipment etc. And they want to pay nothing at all. Yet i high-lighted the dangers rather than proceed like many a cowboy would. (fitting the metal Class one lights). They wish to pay nothing for the TV work started either - boards lifted and relaid.

I high-lighted faults and paused work, offered solutions and they stopped the work - even the other non related TV cabling work.

They appear to be venting their fustration out on me for discovering a load of hidden bodged wiring under the floor. They sort other electricians who confirmed the problems and promised a cheaper quote for repairs - so they off'd me completely. No discussions just texts initially demanding money back.
I have wrote to them outlining all i have done for they but they have just responded with threats of legal action!

I thought i was been fair at just a £103!! Now the husband - flexing his bullying attitude wants to go court for just £103!! They have turned out to be unapproachable horrible people not open to discussion!

Should i pay or let it go to small claims - putting emotion etc aside - logically whose in right? I know nothing of law and wonder if he's just trying to bully me into paying back every penny!
 30 September 2012 05:14 PM
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Pacific

Posts: 588
Joined: 29 January 2005

Hardly worth pursuing £103 through small claims, it will probably blow over soon.

 30 September 2012 05:29 PM
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Rum1

Posts: 127
Joined: 13 February 2009

Thats what i thought - but this "customer" seems determined - threating to bring another electrician to court and claim for his fees etc. prepared to lie about work done - just change story to suit.

So sad really - what i'd call a "cowboy" customer! He's in the public sector in management and thinks he can intimidate anyone into getting his own way.

Why are some people so unreasonable - he should be glad i pointed out his unsafe electrics. Especially as new carpets & furntiture where going down the following week. Could have been a nightmare for them ripping them up again - but they don't see. They postponed carpet work etc on my advice but ungreatful for that too!
 30 September 2012 05:49 PM
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GB

Posts: 357
Joined: 04 September 2002

Why not hold your nerve tell him that the charges are fair and you will see him at the small claims court.
Probably wont go that far and if it does then either settle up before the date or see it through, you have hardly been unreasonable on what has been discuused.
It is worth pointing out that your terms and conditions etc should have this scenario covered but like most people you may not have any!!
 30 September 2012 06:05 PM
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mikejumper

Posts: 1702
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Originally posted by: Rum1
They are now demanding all their deposit back - not offering 1 penny - very abrupt and threatening small claims court to get £103 back.
Should i pay it back??

No.
They will have a lot of work to do to get this to court and if they have any sense will not pursue such a small amount.
In the meantime:
Whilst everything is fresh in your memory, note down briefly what you did for them, time and dates etc..
Keep any correspondence, letter, e-mail and make a note of anything else including dates.
If you have already made it clear to them that you don't intend returning this money then stick with that. In my view you have a stronger case for keeping the money than they have for getting it back.
 30 September 2012 06:08 PM
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perspicacious

Posts: 7165
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Mindful that I'd have to compile an EIC for the work, I'd have asked for sight of their latest PIR (or EICR) and from "mish mash of cabling new and old" it appears that you could have Part P aspects to back you up that the client may not wish to have aired in front of BC...........

Regards

BOD
 30 September 2012 06:29 PM
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Rum1

Posts: 127
Joined: 13 February 2009

Very helpful replies thank you!

I do have a bit of small print on the bottom of my estimates (Estimates not Quotes!). In that i do say prices are based of all existing electrics been free from faults...

Oh he's also going to complain to the NIC (of whom i'm a member)...i imagine they'll think it just a civil case..?

Normally i wouldn't give it a second thought and see it through as i believe i've been more than fair but as previously stated - the "lady" customer works in the same office as a lady relative of mine. My relative (who recommended me) has been getting upset by the "lady customer"...some friend this lady customer turns out to be....nearly buckled for my relatives sake..... (shes a gentle soul)...makes me want to fight the bullys all the more..
 30 September 2012 06:52 PM
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dg66

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Write to them again and explain that you were doing them a favour,with the reduced rate,explain what work you did and if they insist on going to court ,tell them you will counter claim for your full expenses.

-------------------------
Regards

Dave(not Cockburn)
 30 September 2012 07:19 PM
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Rum1

Posts: 127
Joined: 13 February 2009

Hi

I've produced a full detailed receipt for the work i did up until the work was stopped.
I also wrote a cover letter explaining that i thought my charges fair and high lighted i had charged a discounted cost and saved them a lot of future heart ache (I.e. ripping up of new carpets etc)

Not sure if they have received this yet as only posted 1st Class late Friday night although post collection on Sat morning! I received a letter through my door today (Sunday) threatening legal action etc - didn't indicate if they had received my letter but i think they are looking to dispute all i say anyway....

will give it a few days to arrive.... see if i hear anything else, then respond again...politely of course!
 30 September 2012 07:40 PM
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weirdbeard

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Hi rum1, I'm sorry to say that in business some you win, some you lose. Unless you are really hard up and short of work my advice would be to take the hit, give them the money back, forget about it and move on to the next job. No matter how hard you try sometimes d*ckhead customers are unavoidable, if you think about the number of hours it might take letter writing, phone calls etc and the stress to yourself - it's really not worth it.



That said, class one down lights are pretty few and far between, what kind were you installing? and sorry if this seems a kick whilst you are down, but wouldn't the lack of earth have been apparent when isolating the existing lights - which I guess would have been what I'do first thing to establish how the existing lights are fed and allow planning of the starting point of the new cabling prior to planning the subsequent down light routes by lifting floorboards. (Again sorry, not being snotty, it's easy to type a good job on a forum - I know reality isn't always the same, and I have been there with difficult customers, though thankfully not very many! )

edit to add: Look at it as their loss, you never know if they get messed around with a shoddy job now, they might come crawling back to you for help and you can charge them extra for the priviledge!
 30 September 2012 08:10 PM
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ebee

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Well I`d have said that on the face of it you`ve been more than fair and I`d be inclined to see if they do as threatened.

Just one rider to that though I`m afraid - Have you covered yourself ref that relatively new 7 day cooling off contract thingy (if applicable) because it can be used as a stick to beat even an honest trader with .
The law itself, I think, had a good intent to stop folk being ripped off but it is all to easy for the honest trader to fall foul of it too I`m afraid and potentially gives ammo to cowboy customers.

-------------------------
Regards,
Ebee (M I S P N)

Knotted cables cause Lumpy Lektrik
 30 September 2012 08:30 PM
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Zs

Posts: 2840
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Rum, this is horrible for you and I know from my own experience of such things that unless you reach a conclusion it is going to wake you in the wee small hours for years to come. Mine is only £114 outstanding for an undercharged emergency call out and a subsequent remedial which I took OMS to on one of his rare days out last winter. I find it embarrasing to admit that she never paid and it continues to irk.

You issued paperwork prior to turning up. You are sensible enough to issue Estimates and not quotes. You have left them no less safe than they were and they now know what they are dealing with in terms of their electrical safety.

I'm not a lawyer but I think it sounds as though you have acted in a fair and reasonable manner. I also think that your clients are lucky to have Someone Like You to alert them to the safety issue they have. I think maybe just wait and see if you get a summons because your explanation to the court would be a good one.

You'll get something good out of this, I believe in things like that.

If you need me to delete this post so that you may print the thread, just tip me a wink and I shall do so. I'm not going to be around much for a while but post it on here and someone will let me know you if need an edit.

Good Luck. I feel for you.

Zs
 30 September 2012 08:35 PM
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Rum1

Posts: 127
Joined: 13 February 2009

Thanks for continued comments.

Work is slow at the minute and so every penny counts alot at present!

Hadn't got to the point of isolating the supply for lighting.
Unfortunately, I Had started lifting boards for TV cable runs first and it was most productive to lift downlighter boards at same time! Typical!

Was going to install some Saxby cast steel fire rated downlighters (230V). (Class 1). Many it seems are class 1 and require earths.
According to NIC etc any metal fittings must be earthed - which we know - even 12V metal fittings just in case a tranny fails or something- (well, earth wires upto tranny etc)....

Checked at Kitchen switch before hand and earth wire was present etc but didn't check at existing metal light fittings.

Hows this 7 day cooling off period work....??
 30 September 2012 08:43 PM
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Rum1

Posts: 127
Joined: 13 February 2009

I didn't think the 7 day cooling off period would necessarily apply to jobs already started!? I would hope not!?

I look at it as like if a builder starts a job and then uncovers some structural problems a little way in. He advises that some extra "steels" are required but the customer says NO and asks builder to stop tidy up and leave! Should the builder not be paid for work already started?

Think i'll leave it a while and see what happens....I may even write back asking what they would consider fair payment considering the over all losses?

Thanks for replies
 30 September 2012 09:44 PM
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ebee

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"I didn't think the 7 day cooling off period would necessarily apply to jobs already started!? I would hope not!? "


Sorry,
try googling this



CANCELLATION OF CONTRACTS MADE IN A CONSUMER'S HOME OR PLACE OF WORK ETC. REGULATIONS 2008

Again Sorry but I thought you deserved to be aware of it

-------------------------
Regards,
Ebee (M I S P N)

Knotted cables cause Lumpy Lektrik
 30 September 2012 09:46 PM
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alanblaby

Posts: 352
Joined: 09 March 2012

The 7 day cooling off period is a really easy con to let you do work, and not get paid, legally.
Elecsa went through this in detail on my last assessment. They now have a standard contract form that they say you can fill in, to make sure the person cannot claim they didnt want the work doing.
What happens is you go to price up a job, they accept your price, you say I can do that tomorrow. You do the job, then they can say we didnt really want it doing, so we are not paying you as we wanted a 7 day cooling off period.
And, there is nothing you can do about it afterwards Yes, really.
You need to get them to sign a declaration, relinquishing their rights under the 7 day rule.

Any work that is classed as 'emergency' work, does not come under the 7 day period. There is not a legal definition of 'emergency' yet.
If you are with Elecsa/ECA, they have a form on their site that you can print off and use if you come across a 'suspect' customer.
HTH
Alan.
 01 October 2012 12:27 AM
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baldelectrician

Posts: 311
Joined: 11 June 2005

Hi Rum]

Sorry to hear of your problems with this rogue customer.

I have about 1 a year as most of my work is word of mouth, so that helps keep the nutters at bay

I have taken steps to solve issues like this- all my calls are recorded and there is a message saying so before the call gets connected, this really stops almost all of the telesales calls

I would have called the client and told him of the issues, issued a potentially dangerous situation notice, and sent both recorded delivery.

The 7 day does not apply as you have been paid.

I would have charged them the full hourly rate, and shown a discount as a good will gesture off the total.

I also reccomend a camera to take photos for evidence gathering (with permission), you could say "I'll text a photo of the situation with my phone if you want"

I told a lady last year that I would refuse all calls from her, and not reply to any letters from her or her representatives. No communication would be entered into on the matter and I considered the issue closed.

-------------------------
baldelectrician.com
 01 October 2012 07:19 AM
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Jaymack

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I always produce an estimate where modifications are concerned. There are the same 3 pages of general conditions attached to each; one paragraph states that no tests or inspections have been carried out, to confirm conformance to BS 7671, with the rider that any subsequent departures will be subject to additional costs of £xx/h. Alternatively, inspections and tests can be carried out prior to submitting an estimate; if the customer agrees to the upfront cost of this.

I doubt that any party will have a lawyer for an hourly fee of £80, for such a small amount, but I have raised a claim in the small claim court in Scotland against one person, this cost £65. The other party backed down and paid the costs. I was prepared to lose time in attending court with all the attendant nuisances, just to gain satisfaction.

Not knowing the hierarchy of the other business and your friends position, I think that where there are working colleagues involved, consideration should be given for action to be taken, even if it is just a debt collector's letter costing a few £'s.

Some customers think that tradesmen are low down the intelligence class, and won't have any bite - "The customer's always right" syndrome! Not in my case!!!!!!

Regards
 01 October 2012 11:01 AM
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OMS

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Mine is only £114 outstanding for an undercharged emergency call out and a subsequent remedial which I took OMS to on one of his rare days out last winter. I find it embarrasing to admit that she never paid and it continues to irk.


I'm guessing it's not the polish affair - and I'm appalled.

@Rum1

I'd stand my ground - see them in court if needs be - and go out of your way to point out to any and all of the local crews you see down the wholesalers that they are a problem client - word soon gets around - talk to carpet fitters, kitchen fitters - in fact anyone in your vicinity that you know - and get your relatives to do the same.

I suspect it won't go anywhere further

Regards

OMS

-------------------------
Failure is always an option
 01 October 2012 11:25 AM
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Rum1

Posts: 127
Joined: 13 February 2009

Thanks everyone for your continued comments & opinions - they are all most welcome.

At the end of the day i have retained £103.50 of their deposit/part payment and returned the rest. This is also a discounted rate. I was happy to do this. Take the loss of earnings etc for the rest of the job on the chin...as they say...i'm still prepared to leave it at that.

So refering back to the 7 day cooling off period...very interesting to know in more detail. They wanted the work doing before their carpets were fitted so 7 days cooling off period wasn't ever going to be possible for me to avoid without a disclaimer (don't think NICEIC do one). I squeezed the job in especially for them and turned down other work etc
Part payment had been made (50%) before work started...are you saying this over rules them changing their mind under 7 day period?

If not, at what stage can a customer say they've changed their minds...even when a job is installed & complete?

I take deposits to make sure customers are sincere and to keep cash flow healthy. In this case it turned out to be a good practice!! Or i'd have nothing to show at all.

The Customer also now has the cheek to say i have "damaged floorboards" & decor - and will sue for that too....+ expert electrician witness costs etc etc

After they upset my relative in the work place ...i certainly feel like sticking to my guns...i do feel however the Customer intends to take it all the way to court...the bullying type who won't back down...very sad.
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