I've been ripped off!
Ok, in my previous article I went through a number of points to check when agreeing to have a driveway company come out and "sort it out for ya". However, it wasn't until I was scammed / betrayed (call it what you like, its taken over a year of my life to sort of get over it) that I decided to put together an article about the cowboys out there.
For obvious reasons I am unable to mention the name of the company that we were ripped off by, but still today they are still trading and probably still ripping people off. The only difference is that they are doing it in another town, and still doing a bad job I presume.
The company we had ticked all the following boxes:
- Sign written Van
- Polite and Smartly dressed
- Business Card
- UK Ltd Company
- Landline Number
- Mobile Number
So, I thought... hey they must be ok! Boy was I wrong! If I knew then what I know now I would have been more than happy to politely tell them to go away, them and the rest of the companies at that address.
I will write a full article about what happened to me in the future, but for now lets talk about what you can do when you get that sinking feeling in your heart and realise you have been ripped off.
Where can I report bad workmanship?
- After you have given the firm plenty of opportunities to come and sort the problem, the next step is to report them. Although I personally do not believe that trading standards did anything about my situation, it took 10 minutes of my time and 'you never know'. Trading standards website is: http://www.tradingstandards.gov.uk/
- If you were approached by the company to have the work done, then it might be worth contacting your local newspaper / evening news. They might be running articles on the company in question for similar bad workmanship. Lets be honest, if you have been ripped off, then its more than likely somebody else has too.
- Internet.... this is a tricky one. I was advised not to - remember your more likely to get sued from the firm for slander than you ever getting your driveway sorted!
- Friends & Family - Ok, I did this quite bit and to be honest although I bored everybody to death, I know of 3 people that have specificially not used this company for their driveway - result? - well you decide!
The main bit of advice about calling anybody like trading standard / consumer direct, is that do not send a letter titled "Supply of Goods & Services Act 1982", its worth jumping straight into talking to a solicitor, who will do this for you anyway - even if you have sent this letter out (I wasted a further 2 weeks - I sent this letter.. 2 weeks later I contacted a solicitor, and they sent the exact same letter?)
Time to go Legal!
Ok, this is where it gets real, and for most is where it stops. Believe me when I say this... its not has daunting as you think!
Free Legal Aid
Well I didn't get this, and I would be surprised if anybody reading this would. Free legal aid is given to those on very low incomes (so if you have a low income, you probably wouldn't be able to justify spending money on a driveway). However, some of you may have this and its definitely a route to go down.
FREE Legal Cover
Ok, I thought about stopping perusing the company in question because it would have meant more money being chucked at the problem. How I was soooo wrong!
My legal cover didn't cost a bean...(well it did but id already paid!)
With my home insurance I checked the small print and hey presto I had "Free Legal Cover" up to £500,000. They like to sneak it into the premium, and did so with mine. However, after speaking with my insurer I was assigned a solicitor and they sent out some forms for me to fill in to get the ball rolling. I basically had to write a concise list of dates, work carried out, problems with the work, and what I had personally tried to resolve the matter.
It was also advised that once they had agreed to act on my behalf, to get 2 quotations from different companies to repair / replace the damaged driveway. Its also worth asking the companies who are quoting to write a report about the problems they have noticed - this adds legitimacy to your case (although cannot be used in a courtroom). Take some photos of the work and send all to the solicitors. (its like passing the burden - it really is!)
What did / can the Solicitors do?
They sorted out the following:
- Sales of Goods & Services Act 1982 Letter
- Checked if the company were still trading
- Follow up letter to the Sales of Goods & Services Act 1982
- Letter advising that if the matter was not sorted they would go down the court route
- Raise Court Papers (inc the Fee)
- Arrange and Pay the fee for the debt collection
Well it's not all singing and dancing i'm afraid, not only has the whole process taken over a year, but a CCJ against the company in question is like water off a duck's back. They don't care about it. Everything is paid for in cash - so no credit is required. With no assets showing to the Ltd company the bailiffs were unsuccessful and there is only 1 more route to go down, but it could open a huge can of worms (its legal before i start receiving some emails lol)... wait for the next article :-)