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Supreme Court Rules on Doorstep Sales Contracts

In a crucial victory for consumers, the Supreme Court has ruled that a householder who entered into a removals contract with a tradesman who visited his home was entitled both to change his mind and to reclaim his £1,000 deposit.

The man had contacted the tradesman, who then attended his home. He agreed to pay more than £7,500 for the removal of his possessions to his new home and, during a second visit by the tradesman, signed a formal contract. He paid the deposit and agreed that cancellation charges would apply if he terminated the agreement less than ten days before the removal job was due to be carried out.

However, he later found another removals firm which would do the work for less than half that price. He asserted his right to terminate the contract under the Cancellation of Contracts Made in a Consumer's Home or Place of Work etc. Regulations 2008 and refused to pay the cancellation charges. The tradesman issued proceedings; however, the man denied liability and counterclaimed for the return of his deposit.

The householder's arguments initially failed; however, the Court of Appeal later ruled that the Regulations did apply and that he had been entitled to terminate the contract because the tradesman had failed to give him the required notice of his right to cancel. However, on the basis that the contract had remained live, the man's claim for the return of his deposit was dismissed.

In unanimously allowing his appeal, the Supreme Court noted that the Regulations give consumers the right to cancel contracts made in their homes for a period of seven days after notice of the right to cancel is served. The householder was entitled to exercise that right and to recover his deposit.

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