A Customer has issued a Claim because we refused to undertake the repair to the car...

A customer was being very difficult insisting that we invoice another company for a repair they wanted to be undertaken to their car. The other company were not happy to accept the invoice and so we refused to undertake the repair to the car because it looked like we would not get paid.

The customer is upset that we have refused to repair the vehicle and has issued a claim against us for breach of contract. The customer is seeking to claim the cost of repairing her car and the loss incurred from the insurance company for transferring her insurance to our courtesy car.

Has she got a claim?
Without access to all the documents it is impossible to provide a definitive answer, however in order to bring a claim, the customer must be able to demonstrate that you have broken some law. If the claim is in contract she will be required to identify the contract, what the terms of the contract are and how the contract has been breached/broken.

If you wanted to draft a claim in contract you would;

  1. Identify the parties to the contract
  2. Set out when the contract was entered into,
  3. Whether the contract was written, oral or implied, if written a copy of the contract would be attached to the claim form.
  4. State what the terms of the contract are, for example you agree to repair the vehicle to a satisfactory standard
  5. Explain which terms of the contract have been broken and how,
  6. What loss has arisen from the breach of contract.

In order to have a valid contract you must have an offer, acceptance, consideration (usually money but something of value) and an intention to enter into legal relations. If there is no contract then you cannot bring a claim for breach of contract.

From the situation you have explained it appears that your ‘customer’ does not have a valid contract. You have made an offer to repair the vehicle for approximately the amount set out in the estimate. However the owner of the vehicle has not accepted the offer, instead they asked you to submit your offer to the company that caused the damage to the vehicle. You have submitted the offer to the company who also refused to authorise the repair.

It appears therefore that there is no ‘acceptance’ of your offer and therefore no valid contract. However you will be required to explain the situation to the court and defend your position.

In any event I am unsure how the customer expects you to meet the cost of repairing damage to their car when you did not damage it but were asked to repair the damage originally. If you set out your defence clearly and concisely then it is likely that the Court will either ask the customer to clarify their claim or strike it out, saving you and the Court the time and expense of attending a Hearing.

Unfortunately in the current climate more consumers are being encouraged to issue claims, the result being businesses are left having to defend spurious claims.  Dealing with consumers such as this should encourage and make Repairer’s a little more thankful that they generally deal with professionals within the insurance industry. Whilst hourly rates may be lower than ideal and payment terms longer than they should be, at least time is not expended having to defend spurious claims made by uninformed customers such as the one described.

Now that a claim has been issued you will have 14 days in which to acknowledge receipt of the claim form, use the Acknowledgment of Service form in the response pack to do so. When you have acknowledged service you will have a further 14 days in which to file a defence, in total 28 days from the date of service. Do not ignore the claim because the court will automatically issue a judgment in default if you fail to follow the process.

Clearly there may be other aspects of this matter which require detailed consideration and therefore it is recommended that you contact the RML legal Helpline for further assistance