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Could you take on the consumer heavyweights?

View profile for Heather Roberts
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Could you take on a consumer heavyweight?

Everyone loves a good underdog story. Someone who battles through trials and tribulations to win out against all expectation. But while we revel in the exploits of fictional underdogs on television or in films and books, few of us get the opportunity, or have the means, to write our own 'against all odds' tale.

Yesterday, 32-year-old Gareth Cross from Aberystwyth found himself thrust into the media spotlight after his own underdog story became national news. He had taken on one of the world's largest multi-national companies - Apple - and won.

In July 2014, Gareth bought himself Apple's latest must-have gadget - the Apple Watch Sport - but just days later, he noticed a small crack in the screen which quickly grew. He contacted Apple support who were initially apologetic and offered to repair the watch if he sent them photos of the damage.

But after seeing the images, Apple engineers said that the problem was not covered by the company's one-year warranty because Gareth had caused the crack by 'normal wear and tear' or 'accident or abuse'.

This started a six month battle with the American tech-giants, involving an endless letters and sending the watch back and forth to Apple's repair centres. Despite his best efforts, Apple ignored Gareth's correspondence and refused to share countless engineer reports.

Yesterday, the company was ordered to refund the cost of the watch and pay £429 in court costs.

So how did Gareth beat the consumer heavyweight? The answer lies in section 14 of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (or in cases where the item was purchased after the 1st October 2015, section 9 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015), which governs the terms under which a product can be considered of satisfactory quality.

Under the act, the quality that Gareth was entitled to expect of his watch had not been met by Apple. This was largely down to Apple's own sales literature, which described the Apple Watch Sport's screen as 'impact-resistant'. 

Regardless of whether the defect was present before Gareth bought the watch, or if it developed as a result of an impact while he was wearing it, because Apple had marketed the product based upon its ability to resist impact, this amounted to a 'breach of the contract of sale'.

Gareth's case is being billed as a 'landmark case' - not because it sets any new legal prescedent, but because it proves that any company that is in breach of consumer law, regardless of how big or powerful they might be, can be held to account and made to resolve such issues with their customers.

If the case is strong enough, you too could take on the consumer heavyweights and win.

If you are involved in a consumer dispute and need advice on your rights, or the best course of action to take, contact Stephensons specialist consumer solicitors on 0175 321 6399.

Top five tips for your consumer case:

1. Contact a solicitor for specialist legal advice.
A qualified consumer solicitor can provide invaluable insight into your case and help make sense of the more complex laws and regulations.

2. Keep complete records...
In disputes such as these, having thorough records, documentation and correspondence is key to presenting a strong case which will allow the court to find in your favour.

3. ...including photos
A picture says a thousand words. Clear, relevant images - such as damage to a product or evidence of poor service - will significantly strengthen your case. Take comprehensive photos and date them for future reference.

4. Save your receipts
Keep a record of receipts, contracts and agreements, including the original terms of sale. This could become valuable evidence.

5. Be prepared to settle
You should always make a sensible offer of settlement to the other party before you start proceedings. This will help keep costs down and will show the court that you acted reasonably, maximising your chances of recovering your legal costs if you win.

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