Enforcement against rogue traders
by David Carter Managing Director of the Sheriffs Office
At The Sheriffs Office, we are frequently instructed on cases where the buyer has successfully sued a rogue trader, but still needs enforcement action to actually obtain payment.
Sale of Goods Act
The Sale of Goods Act requires that the quality of any goods sold must be “satisfactory”. This is the standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory, taking into account the price, description and any other relevant factors. This also applies to goods bought in bulk; if the buyer has tested a sample, then the seller must ensure that every item supplied matches the quality of the sample.
The goods must also be fit for purpose, so if the buyer expressly or impliedly makes his purpose for the goods known to the seller, then the seller must make sure the goods he provides are fit for that purpose.
What remedies are there?
Within six months from the time of delivery, should the goods fail, be unsatisfactory or unfit for purpose, then the buyer can insist that the seller repair the goods or reduce the price.
If the buyer successfully claims that the goods were not in accordance with the contract at the time of delivery, the buyer can rescind the goods, i.e. return them and get a refund from the seller, unless the seller can establish that the goods did conform to the contract at the time of delivery or a refund is "incompatible with the nature of the goods or the nature of the lack of conformity”. Any reimbursement must take into account any use that the buyer has had out of the goods.
A reduction or rescission is only available where repair or replacement is impossible or the seller is taking an unreasonable amount of time to perform these requirements.
By their nature, rogue traders are likely to be providing goods or services that fall below what would be considered to be satisfactory quality or fit for purpose.
If all attempts to secure a replacement or refund fail, the buyer’s next step is to get a judgment instructing the seller to refund the amount paid (if relevant, taking into account any use the buyer has already had).
Once the buyer has a judgment, he can transfer it to the High Court for enforcement by a High Court Enforcement Officer (HCEO).
Examples of successful enforcement by The Sheriffs Office against rogue traders
After attending a £5,000 course, our client was very dissatisfied with its quality. After requesting his money back, he eventually had to take the person who ran the workshop to court, where he won his case. The defendant proved to be very elusive and was using a stage name he had been hiding behind. When his wife showed our enforcement officer her husband’s passport, in a different name, he could identify that it was the same person as the photo he had been given of the defendant. Payment was then received in full plus, costs and interest.
Another client was contacted by a property company, claiming they had a client who a property portfolio which had to be sold as soon as possible before they were repossessed and would she be interested. She believed them to be genuine, signed a contract and paid over a deposit to secure a property. After things had gone quiet, the property company told her that they believed it had been a scam and that she would need to contact their client directly to get her money back. This took her to several dead ends and, after seeking legal advice, she was told that she would need to sue the property company, as her contract was with them and not their client. She got her judgment, instructed The Sheriffs Office and, after two visits, received payment in full, plus costs and interest.
And, just a few weeks ago, we enforced a judgment for a client who had bought a pick-up truck for £6,000 from a garage but returned it as it was faulty. The garage refused to refund the money, so the buyer obtained a judgment and our officers went to enforce it. With a garage, there are usually plenty of assets on the forecourt that can be seized, and in this case the threat of seizure was enough to ensure payment. The enforcement of this case was filmed by the BBC if you would like to watch it!