Success for Dispute Resolution Team

The Construction team have enjoyed success at the County Court acting for a home improvements company.

The Claimant contracted with the Defendants to carry out works at their home, carried out the pre-installation survey and manufactured the products that were to be installed.  The Defendants then declined to allow the installation to proceed and purported to cancel the contract.  Under the terms of the contract, if a customer cancelled after the products had been manufactured, a charge of 80% of the contract price was payable.

The Claimant issued proceedings for the 80% of the contract price, relying on the terms of the contract.  The Defendants defended the claim on the grounds that:

  1. They did not read the contract before they signed it;
  2. They were misled into signing the contract in that they were told that the manufacture of the products would not proceed until they indicated to the Claimant that they were ready to continue with the project; and
  3. It was expressly agreed with the Claimant’s sale representative that a decision as to whether to proceed could be delayed until the following year and the Defendants had only signed the contract to secure promotional rates that were on offer at the time.

The claim was successful.  The Court held it was irrelevant whether or not a party to a contract has read its terms, provided that the terms were incorporated into the agreement.  In this case, they were printed on the back of the contract and the Defendants had signed a declaration stating that the contract was subject to those terms.

The Court also accepted the Claimant’s evidence that the contract was clear in stating that the Defendants “agree[d] to buy” the products and when the survey was carried out they signed a further document authorising the Claimant to proceed with manufacture.

The Claimant was awarded judgment for the full value of its claim, together with interest and costs.

This case illustrates the importance of companies having clear terms of business incorporated into their contracts and clearly drawn to the attention of customers.  It also demonstrates why contracts should be explicit in what the parties are agreeing to and what works the customer authorises the company to carry out.

If you are a customer, this is also serves as a lesson in the importance of reading a contract and understanding its terms before signing on the dotted line.

The Construction team at Rogers & Norton have wide experience in dealing with contract disputes, in relation to construction contracts as well as more general commercial contracts, and act for claimants and defendants.  If you are involved in a dispute or think that you may be, please contact Peter Hastings on (01603) 675639 or at ph@rogers-norton.co.uk or Elizabeth Gibson on (01603) 675641 or at eg@rogers-norton.co.uk.

Courtesy of Rogers & Norton

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