Trader obligations under
consumer law: implied and
express contract terms
As a trader, you will be liable for the breach of a term in a contract that you enter into with a
consumer, even if that term wasn’t specifically stated in it, writes Judith Turner, Deputy Chief
Ombudsman, the Furniture & Home Improvement Ombudsman. Below, we outline your
obligations under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and explain what legal entitlements your
customers may have if things go wrong.
“Any information, whether it is discussed or written, will
be binding on a trader if the consumer relies on it… It is
therefore crucial that the information provided in your
quotation is accurate, as it is binding when accepted by the
consumer and it is a reflection of the work you are agreeing
September 2020 Removals & Storage 21
Certain requirements are ‘implied’ in every contract
that is entered into between a business and consumer
after 1 October 2015 (and other provisions remain in
place for contacts before this date). BAR Members need
to be aware of them and ensure that you comply with
them when entering into contracts with your customers.
What is an implied term?
Certain terms are implied in contracts regardless of whether
they are expressly set out or not. For example, services must
be carried out with reasonable care and skill.
What is an express term?
Express terms would typically include price,
geographical details of the relocation, timeframes, etc.
In other words, they are the information that you agree
specifically with your customer to meet their particular
Any information, whether it is discussed or written,
will be binding on a trader if the consumer relies on
it. This means that any information you give to a
customer should be clear, accurate and given on the
understanding that the consumer can rely on it.
This could include, for example, any information
you give to your customers about the size of a vehicle
that may be required to move their belongings and the
price differentials that apply, additional charges such
as customs tariffs, and any other guidance you provide
about the service.
It is therefore crucial that the information provided
in your quotation is accurate, as it is binding when
accepted by the consumer and it is a reflection of the
work you are agreeing to undertake.
Are you the contracting party?
A consumer’s contract will be with the trader and not
with any subcontractor. Generally, the person paid is the
person who forms the contract with the consumer. The
trader will be responsible under the contract to perform
any remedies arising out of breach of contract even if
this is because of fault by a subcontractor.
For example: you form a contract for a customer’s
relocation from the UK to the USA that is reliant
on a local removal firm in the USA with whom you
have a subcontract. Your customer does not have any
documentation from the subcontracted removal firm
and does not pay any monies to them directly. In this
case, you would retain responsibility for any issue that
arises with the performance of that part of the contract.
What is the consumer entitled to?
A consumer is entitled to a remedy where there has been
a breach of an express or implied term of a contract,
whether this is written or verbally agreed. Where services
are being supplied, the most appropriate remedy will
usually be repeat performance or, where this cannot be
carried out in timely manner and without significant
inconvenience to a consumer, a price reduction (which
could be up to 100%).
In the context of a removal contract, it will often
not be possible or appropriate to carry out a repeat
performance. A reduction in price may therefore be the
best practical resolution in the event of an issue with the
performance of one part of the service.
Making sure that both parties know their rights and
responsibilities is crucial to ensuring the smooth
running of any project. Take particular care to explain
these clearly to vulnerable consumers. Whether you
are the contracting trader or sub-contractor, knowing
your obligations is vital. Ensuring this is documented
and any variations agreed in writing will assist you in
managing any claims which may arise in future. By
making sure you are aware of your obligations and the
consumer’s entitlement if anything goes wrong, you will
be better able to manage any disputes and demonstrate
your commitment to fair dealing with your customers.
The Furniture & Home Improvement Ombudsman is the exclusive
provider of ADR services for BAR Members’ customers’ complaints.
For more information, visit www.fhio.org.