Thursday 8th September
As part of the Citizens Advice Exeter and The Express and Echo weekly advice column we focus on how to claim compensation if an item or product causes damage
I bought a new washing machine and when it broke it leaked water all over my kitchen floor. How do I go about claiming compensation for the damage?
If an item causes damage to your property through no fault of your own, you may have a legal right to claim compensation (also known as claiming ‘damages’).
If you have insurance that covers the problem, you could make a claim on your insurance policy if you have one. This could be quicker and easier, but it could mean the amount you pay for your insurance will go up.
If you don’t want to claim off your insurance, as you bought the item that caused the damage, you should first try to claim compensation from the company you bought the item from. You’ll need to work out a fair amount of compensation to ask for. You should consider:
- how much money you’ve spent fixing the problems, or how much it will cost to fix
- how much time you’ve spent and what your time is worth
You can include the cost of the faulty item in your claim for damages, but not if you’ve already had a refund or been given a replacement.
Call or write to the company you bought the item from and explain your situation. If you write, include copies of photos or any other proof you have of the damage. It’s a good idea to keep the originals in case you need them later. You should also make a note of dates and times when things went wrong. If you can, send any letter by registered post so you have proof that it was received.
If you’re not offered compensation or you’re unhappy with the offer, you should:
- Check if the trader is a member of a trade association. Look on the trader’s website or ask them if you can’t find this information. Contact the trade association and explain the situation.
- Ask the trader if they are a member of an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme – it’s a way of solving disagreements without going to court. If they don’t respond or won’t use an ADR scheme, keep a record of the fact that you asked them (and the date). More details about using an ADR scheme are available on our website (see below)
If you bought the item yourself with a credit card, you can contact the bank (or credit card company) and say you want to make a ‘section 75 claim’. If you used a debit card, say you want to make a ‘chargeback’ claim. If you don’t get anywhere, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
If you’re still not happy, you’ll have to go to court to get compensation. This can be expensive and take a long time. Before going down this route, it is best to get specialist advice.
For more information and advice go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.