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I ordered a huge amount of timber to clad my house. I was assured delivery on a particular day and had booked builders and hired towers and scaffolding.

The timber arrived two days late meaning I've had to pay two builders wages for two days, plus the cost of the towers and scaffolding - totaling about £800.

Am I entitled to claim this back off the company? I spoke to them and they're only willing to refund the cost of delivery (£120). They said that I could, if I wanted, file a claim in a small-claims court, or seek the money from the credit card company.

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    "Am I entitled to claim this back off the company?" What does the purchase order/contract state? What jurisdiction? – mikeazo Aug 11 '16 at 14:08
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It would depend on your contract. Clearly, if I was selling timber and you ordered some with the agreement that I'll try to deliver at date X with no extra penalties, it would cost some amount. If we had a contract where I deliver at date X and pay for all your cost if the timber doesn't arrive at that date, then I'll either refuse to take the contract or charge you more. Maybe substantially more.

  • Agreed, you have to check the contract. We had a home inspection a few years back before purchasing a home. I read the agreement. It said if they missed anything I would be entitled to reimbursement up to the cost of the inspection. Likely the purchase order had some language on missed delivery times, etc. – mikeazo Aug 11 '16 at 14:21
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I have NO idea how things work in the UK, but here in the US, there are special (usually less formal) rules governing small claims that make them more friendly to consumers claiming an action against a business.

If you had a contract that guaranteed delivery, then that's it. Game over. The company owes you money. But I'm guessing you have so such contract, which is why you're posting here :-)

This might be useless information in the UK, but a small claims case brought against the company in the US would likely center around whether or not your agreement constitutes an implied warranty of service. To win, you might have to show negligence or fraud on their part (this is where the different rules would apply -- the bar is lower for small claims). The judge would have to consider the following in the absence of any writing, among other things:

  • How much did you stress the time sensitivity of the delivery?
  • Was the failure to deliver on the agreed-upon date within the company's control?
  • Was the company aware of the cost of late delivery to you?
  • How much did their promise influence your decision to do business with them? In other words, did they fear that they might lose the sale if you thought they couldn't deliver on time, and how hard did they try to overcome that worry? Or was it not really discussed that much?
  • Were you being reasonable in your expectations (i.e. are delivery dates commonly missed in that area/industry, or do things usually go as planned?)

I successfully argued a similar case in small claims court and won on these grounds. I had purchased a king-size mattress for an upstairs master bedroom. The store's policy was that I could return the mattress within 90 days for any reason, but I would be charged a 25% restocking fee if I did. I paid extra for delivery and setup of the new mattress along with haul-away of the old one. I made it clear multiple times that there was a 90-degree turn involved with getting a king-sized mattress up the stairs. I informed the salesman that I wouldn't buy the mattress if they weren't able to get it up there, and he assured me that his would be no problem at all for them.

Two weeks later my mattress arrived (they had to order it), and sure enough, the delivery people were not able to get the mattress up the stairs. They offered me a choice; if they bent the mattress to the degree needed to get around the turn, it might get damaged and they would not honor the warranty if that happened. Or, they could take the mattress back and I would be charged the 25% restocking fee. I chose neither, and it even resulted in an argument with the store owner at my house. They took the mattress back but would not refund the restocking fee. I didn't like suing, but I was on the hook for an almost $400 fee for a mattress that never even came out of the plastic wrap.

I won the case. The judge ruled that the store had every resource to know the logistical challenges with getting that mattress up the stairs because they also owned the moving company and have delivered to similar houses in my neighborhood before. He also ruled that I demonstrated due diligence in making them aware of those challenges and that I made it sufficiently clear that I would not have made the purchase if I believed I'd face a $400 fee if the mattress didn't fit (they argued that I took the risk anyway in spite of the fee).

Basically the judge ruled that the actions the store took to address my concerns in order to make a sale is evidence that an implicit guarantee was made, and that constitutes a warrantable claim on my part.

If you can show that you made your concerns about the delivery date clear to the company -- that it would cost you dearly if they didn't deliver on time -- AND that they overcame those objections by making you a promise that they then failed to uphold, that might be sufficient to win a judgement against them. But again... U.S. law vs. U.K.

  • "The company owes you money" - but how much? – gnasher729 Aug 12 '16 at 8:09
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In general, time is not of the essence. If the contract states that it is, then a failure to deliver on time may entitle you to terminate and sue for breach. While you can always sue, courts generally permit parties to perform their obligations within a reasonable time where it is not.

Otherwise, you may be entitled to equitable compensation and indemnification in respect of the costs you have incurred if a claim of promissory estoppel is upheld, though the requirement for that is that the prospective defendant must have at least been able to reasonably foresee that you were to rely on their clear and unambiguous promise and that they unconscionably departed from their promise.

As far as I know the small claims court has only limited equitable jurisdiction and so such claims would need to be brought in a superior court.

  • That is not what time is of the essence means. You can always sue for damages if someone fails to meet a contractural deadline; you can only terminate if time is of the essence. legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Time+is+of+the+Essence – Dale M Aug 11 '16 at 21:20
  • @Dale did I say that they couldn't sue? But... I suppose I should make that clear. – jimsug Aug 11 '16 at 21:30

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