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Removal Companies Liability for Goods

Where you entrust the entire contents of your home to a removal company, you hope that they will care for them just as much as you do.  Unfortunately this isn’t always the case and valuable items and artefacts, or even favourite old chairs and furniture have been found to be badly damaged whilst in the possession of the removal company. 

So what can you do?

The answer is bring a claim against the removal company for compensation.  This claim will normally be a contractual claim based on a removal company’s contract. As a result the claim is largely governed by consumer legislation which is designed to protect people in this situation.

In addition the Company may be found to have been negligent and to have breached its duty of care to the consumer.  Any negligence on the part of the removal company is likely to give rise to a claim in common law for breach of the duty of care owed by the company to you.

There is also a further complicating factor and that is the archaic law of bailment.  ‘Bailment’ is an additional common law remedy. It arises when one party (called the ‘bailor’) entrusts their property into the care of the other party (known as the ‘bailee’). The common law doctrine of bailment imposes a duty on the bailee (the removal company) to take proper care of those goods. If the bailee does not return the goods to the bailor (that is you) in a condition at least as good as they were in when you entrusted them to them, there is a legal presumption that the bailee has been negligent. A contract for removals, transport and storage of the claimant’s property creates a relationship of bailment between the parties 

The advantages of utilising this area of law is that it is very different to a claim in contract or negligence.  You only need to prove that the goods were lost or damaged whilst they were with the removal company.  In other words the removal company is presumed to have been negligent unless they can prove otherwise. 

The problem with all of this is that where your possessions are damaged and potentially unusable and the removal company then begins to argue about the contractual terms and their responsibility, this can mean there are many weeks, if not months where the matter remains unresolved. In addition, any claim against a removal company, whether it is based in contract, negligence or bailment, may still be restricted or affected by the terms of the contract between you. Removal companies will typically include clauses which either exclude loss caused by negligence or limit the damages recoverable. Typically a removal contract will limit liability to a maximum of £40 per article damaged.  This is woefully low when you consider the average cost of an item.

As a consumer the English law will imply certain terms into the contract between you and the Company.  These are to be found in the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 and the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 (UCTA).  In addition, and since 1st October 2015 a new piece of legislation, namely, The Consumers Rights Act 2015 (CRA) also applies to every consumer contract formed after that date.  This is an important development in the law.  As a result removal companies who try to limit liability by including in the contract a cap on the amount they will pay will find that this is no longer effective.

This new legislation, which is very significant, imposes a duty by the removal company to perform a service with reasonable care and skill. According to the CRA, any commercial organisation may not rely upon the following contractual terms in order to limit their liability to a consumer caused by their breach of that implied duty:

  • A term limiting the trader’s liability for injury or death;
  • A term capping the amount of compensation for other losses to an amount that is less than the purchase price for that service;

The future does now look brighter for consumers who have suffered at the hands of a trader if the contract was entered into after 1 October 2015 but these disputes are never straight forward.

Although the CRA will make it much more difficult for removal companies to get out of paying proper compensation when they damage your goods, it is still important to seek legal advice as this is a whole new area of law and is so far untested in the courts.

 

Please Note: This document is for general information only. It is not legal advice and should not be acted or relied on as being so. It does not create a solicitor-client relationship between Temple Legal Solutions Ltd and any other person. Legal advice should be taken before applying any information in this document to any facts and circumstance.

If you contact Temple Legal Solutions or call 01483 514814 to make an initial enquiry, you will then referred to an appropriate, experienced law firm.