B&Q – the dishwashers with no discretion

15 June 2009

We've all felt at one time or another that we've lost out on a bargain through no fault of our own. While most of us would love to stick it to the Man, preferably by nailing Him to a tree, the fact is most of us simply can't be bothered to do much more than grumble at the checkout. Taking on a national retailer over a questionable deal feels like such an effort most of us quietly concede the point.

Unless you're Bitterwallet reader Tom Beckett. After B&Q failed to deliver on the promise of a cut-price dishwasher, Tom decided to take his complaint as far as he could. We asked Tom to tell his story of how he took B&Q to court last week... and won:

Browsing through the MoneySavingExpert forums I found the deal I'd been waiting for: “Zanussi Integrated Dishwasher - £94 delivered”. Scrambling for the credit card, I made my payment and within seconds the confirmation email appeared. At last! I secured a bargain, not realising of course that this dishwasher would represent more than just the promise of clean dishes.

Delighted with my order, I announced to the MSE forum that I too was a lucky buyer. In fact, there were a lot of lucky buyers and some doubt was emerging on the forum as to whether this was too good to be true, and it was.

Recounting a conversation with B&Q the following day, I was told the dishwasher had a scheduled delivery date in 2050. I explained to the call centre person that 2050 was a bit far ahead, but could they fit me in for an afternoon delivery. After much banter, I was told, as was others that the dishwashers were out of stock but not to worry as more were on order with the supplier and within a month, my marigolds could be binned, or so I thought.

The next day my inbox brought bad news. An email from B&Q confirming the order had been cancelled as stock was exhausted. Disappointment turned to annoyance and I thought back to the poor woman on the forum who had binned her father’s old working dishwasher to make way for the new one. Oh dear.

The MSE forum was rife with annoyed customers. Posts recounting the same old emails received from B&Q were unveiled as more victims emerged. Then, thoughts turned the legal position, afterall, didn’t B&Q just dissolve (in the words from their terms and conditions) a legally binding contract? I sent emails to B&Q, many of which were ignored. The same replies came back with the kind gesture that I could order an alternative dishwasher if I wanted to pay hundreds more pounds. Then came the idea of the ‘loss of bargain’ rule.

Met with much criticism from others, including a nomination for most ‘the most stupid letter ever written to a company’, a number of forum members wrote to B&Q citing Section 51 of the Sale of Goods Act which states: (3) Where there is an available market for the goods in question the measure of damages is prima facie to be ascertained by the difference between the contract price and the market or current price of the goods at the time or times when they ought to have been delivered or (if no time was fixed) at the time of the refusal to deliver. Surely, presented with the legal line, B&Q would accept the facts? No.

The standard replies came back from B&Q to forum members stating that B&Q will rely on the terms and conditions on the website which states we reserve the right not to supply you at our discretion. Whilst many forum members gave up on the strength of B&Q’s reply, no doubt assuming that such a large corporation would know more about consumer law than the man on the street equipped with google, a few were not convinced and I submitted my claim at the small claims court, claiming the difference between the £89 I had paid (and had refunded) and the £350 it would cost to buy the machine elsewhere. The claim cost £25.

Like most defendants in the same position, B&Q filed a defence at the 11th hour and the claim was allocated to the small claims track. A date was set for the hearing, 11.30am on Wednesday 11th June. At the time, it seemed a long time away.

On reading the allocation questionnaire, I decided to email the solicitor acting for B&Q to see whether there was room for negotiation. B&Q quickly responded to say they were committed to negotiation which resulted in a one and only offer of £100 (not quite a negotiation!). I declined and suggested that £200 would be the middle ground and for that I would even sign a confidentiality disclosure. Request declined!

In the meantime, the dates for other hearings loomed near and private messages on the forums indicated that B&Q were settling cases behind the scenes. It felt like a hollow victory as the consumer had been made to sign confidentiality documents and paid off. OK, the ‘loss’ was compensated, but what about the right for the little person on the street to prove them wrong?

It was approaching the deadline for B&Q to supply documents intended to be relied upon at the hearing and I emailed a reminder to the solicitor to say I hadn’t received anything. The following day, a brown envelope appeared, inside contained a thick wad of papers, much more than I had prepared. Without seeing the contents, my heart sunk, but only for a second.

Browsing through the witness statement, B&Q were denying a contract was formed but they also wanted to rely on a term of the contract (confusing, I know) which stated they could supply at their discretion. I recalled an argument I read on the MSE forum about Unfair Terms in Contracts Act 1977 which basically states the seller cannot dissolve the contract willy nilly. I then turned to the documents B&Q wanted to rely on to find they had printed large sections of the MSE thread in an attempt to discredit me (never mind the copyright infringement!). B&Q cited that because I alluded to the fact the deal may not be successful; it somehow relieved B&Q of their contractual obligation.

As the court date loomed, I contacted B&Q to try and ascertain whether settlement would be forthcoming. However, it seemed that B&Q had focused their attention on my case and they wanted to see me in court. And they did.

I arrived at Newbury County Court at 11am on the hearing date and the Trading Law Manager of B&Q arrived moments later. I would have thought she would have introduced herself but we sat in stony silence for half an hour until ‘Beckett V B&Q to court’ was announced over the tannoy.

Sat on opposite sides of the room, I witnessed the defence team of the largest DIY retailer in the UK reach into her duffle bag to pull out the bulk of my comments made on the MSE forum and some other papers. The Judge then invited me to recall why I was claiming and during my monologue, I covered the Sale of Goods Act and how I believed a contract had been formed between the defendant and I.

I then talked about the term discretion, the one point which I will claim to have made up myself and the one point that I feel was pivotal to the whole case. Did B&Q not supply me at their discretion? I argued that the term 'discretion' meant that there was a choice between more than one outcomes and I stated if B&Q did not have any stock, surely they couldn’t then decide whether or not to supply the dishwasher as there weren’t any. If B&Q had no choice in the matter, how could discretion be used? B&Q then had to admit only seven dishwashers were available at the offer price and no more stock could be obtained.

B&Q were then given the chance to respond and they could only agree with my chain of events. The forum posts were mentioned in passing, but I felt that the defence had given up on that argument as none of the comments I had posted were read out, despite them all being neatly highlighted and marked with colourful post it notes. B&Q admitted errors were made and more stock sold than was available but also stated they could supply at their discretion. The judge backed up my argument and when we were sent out for the judge to consider her decision, I felt positive.

After 15 minutes the tannoy announced to the waiting room that Beckett V B&Q were due back. As we sat in our seats listening to the judge summing up, her final words brought joy – I find in favour of Mr Beckett. At last, a victory for the consumer but a PR gamble gone wrong for B&Q.

As we walked out of court, I approached the Trading Law Manager and I asked her whether I should wait to hear from B&Q before making the decision public, afterall a judgment this bad would have warranted a damage limitation plan B? No. Instead B&Q replied “you can do what you like Mr Beckett”.

In view of this case, I have now taken to helping other disappointed B&Q customers claim for their loss of bargain and I am confident that B&Q will not wish to repeat the Beckett V B&Q case.

Tom Beckett

TOPICS:   Economy

46 comments

  • Francis R.
    Good lad!
  • Paul
    Long read, but worth it. Good work, Tom :)
  • ctuk
    What did he win? I hope it was a car.
  • Mark
    Top man
  • Mr L.
    Does that mean the dishwasher i managed to get was only 1 of 7 in the country. Blimey. No court date for me.
  • WBRacing
    And so the something for nothing brigade marches on...
  • Lutin
    @ctuk He wins respeck! @WBRacing And so the boring troll whines on.
  • Fordy
    Excellent. Mr Beckett you are a superstar for two reasons : 1) You stuck with it (despite the law-speak, hassle of small claims court and the improbability of a victory) . 2) You told your story for all to read. Thanks for sharing.
  • thepearce
    Ah..... reminds me of the kodak camera for £100 :) I relied on exactly the same (loss of bargain) in a claim against "skybuy" for a TV. They had no stock but had confirmed the order. Frankly I disagree with all this "there i no contract formed until we ship the goods" shite that a lot of websites state. Totally unfair on the customer.
  • Alex
    It's not so much the no contract until goods are shipped as no contract until payment is taken isn't it? The first line of the quote says "made payment". Until they've taken your money no contract has been entered into? That's my understanding anyway. If a retailer doesn't collect payment until despatch I can see why the two are usually synonymous.
  • bob
    Fantastic. Good effort. i ask this question all the time. What did we do before Google made every persons intelligence equal?
  • Mr E.
    Wow, what a result! Big kahunas
  • Tom B.
    @all - thanks I read up on the Kodak issue and learnt they settled just before the hearing. I am thankful for B&Q allowing me to take them to the judge to determine once and for all the 'loss of bargain' rule rather than quiet settlements meaning everyone is non the wiser.
  • The B.
    Well done sir, I salute you.
  • paolo
    I to tried to get that deal. I guess a little letter to B&Q is in order :o) Nice one!
  • Lumoruk
    Balls of steel, when will we see you on TV?
  • Rancor K.
    well done matey
  • HK
    I bought the dishwasher, they charged card and then sent an email, after which they refunded card. I was really hoping for the dishwasher, could I still chase for it?
  • Martin
    Surely your case can now be used as a reference for other people who lost out on the same or even similar offers? A precedent has now been set. This could be the start of a bright new dawn of retailers not being able to take the piss with crappy spam emails offering the world and singularly failing to deliver.... Or maybe not.
  • TC
    Well done Tom!!!
  • Francis R.
    Actually, having thought about this, this bloke's a bit of a wanker and probably drives an Audi/BMW. He didn't get his bargain so he threw his rattle out of the pram. Now there won't be any bargains because B&Q will be reluctant to produce bargains because they'll be taken to court by people who don't get what they want. You don't take TESCO to court because the half price bottles of wine have gone but the signs are still visible do you? B&Q will also now increase their prices to cover the court costs, next time someone cancels an order because they sold too quickly, don't have a paddy like a little boy, take it like a man and wait for the next bargain to come along, don't ruin it for the rest of us, daft fucking pillock!
  • Dave T.
    Agree with Francis he is complete nob. Get a life
  • BeerRunner
    "You don’t take TESCO to court because the half price bottles of wine have gone but the signs are still visible do you?" No, because they haven't entered into a contract with you dickhead. I know it's a long article, but next time try and read and UNDERSTAND it all before subjecting us to any more of your mewling shite.
  • Tom B.
    I drive a Nissan.
  • Michael
    Many thans to Mr Beckett and I too will be following this up. I also missed out on the deal - the key to me is that the first thing they did was 'take the money' and send out an order confirmation email. In my case I did not even get the courtesy of a 'we will not be able to supply on this occasion' email just the money returned a couple of weeks later. How hard is it either to have an on-line shop that tracks stock levels or a policy of only taking money on dispatch? Lots of other retailers seem to manage this.
  • Sid V.
    did you win the nissan from B&Q?
  • Tom B.
    No, the Nissan was a freebe under a loss of bargain. I won;t go into the details, but the salesman rang it up on the till as a pound and refused to supply it. Just kidding.
  • Richard K.
    Tom you are a legend, ignore the few complete imbeciles who have had consumerism driven so far into their thick loadsamoney skulls they think paying full price for everything is somehow clever. It takes big spheres to do what you did and take on a 'big boy', And to the Quo fan (you couldn't make it up could you?), in what possible way has he spoilt anything? Companies might think twice before issuing deals they have no intention or even ability to see through just to drum up more business from people who may go for the more expensive alternative. If all we lose are the deals that are not available, then we have lost nothing. Mr Beckett called their bluff and they lost because what they were doing was illegal. Unfortunately this kind of tenacity and courage is lost on you, like a card trick to a spaniel. You are quite entitled to keep eating what they they shovel you if thats what you want, but don't act like there's something wrong with people who shovel it right back.
  • Alistair
    Well done Tom Beckett - victory for the man in the street. I saw this deal and had a look on the BnQ website but alas they didn't get the chance to take my money for a few days. Ignore the pricks on this site who no matter what the story act like, well, pricks. If this stops just a couple of retailers sending round imaginary deals then it'll do us all a favour. Might even make one or two of them invest in a decent website that can handle stock there are many available on t'internet.
  • HOWiE11
    Fuckin loved reading this m8. Tom you are a star for standing up for us little men, who would mostly have shit ourselves and never gone to court. It shows how big corps are full of shit and just try and intimidate us away from claiming. And the tards in the above posts saying you are wrong for doin what you did are prolly BnQ management crying cos they didnt like your win!! Mucho respect to you Tom Regards HOWIE
  • Tech F.
    "B&Q will also now increase their prices to cover the court costs, next time someone cancels an order because they sold too quickly, don’t have a paddy like a little boy" Maybe it is because of the spineless attitude of people like you that these companies think they can shaft everyone. Bend over and take it while picking up their crumbs!!!
  • Hitesh S.
    Mr Beckett, Martin Lewis, MSE and all who subscribe to it have to love you. This is great so many seemingly great deals on the net only to be let down in this manner. I do hope you keep up the mentoring, England needs you sir. Regards Hitesh
  • Tom B.
    I think there is a part 2 coming shortly.
  • VeruccaSalt
    Good on you, Tom. Part 2 is for over a Grand each. See if you can force B&Q into Administration. Don't worry about the people who work for them and rely on them for their livelihood. Or the poor young lad who made the mistake on their website in the first place. See what YOU can get and stuff everyone else. Good day to you, fine man.
  • WBRacing
    @Lutin - Fair comment, what I said was indeed Troll like and wasn't meant in that way, the principle however is true. So, so many time miss-price deals have appeared on HDUK and the wingers come out of the woodwork when their 99p plasma order gets cancelled. Seriously, try your luck, if you fail, move on. @Richard Kaminski - Nice . Name calling and ignorance, in fact a complete inability to see beyond your own world about what effect this sort of action may have for others. Whether it by Uncle Toms hardware store or a bigger place like B&Q, the principle is the same. If a shop doesn't make money, businesses close people go out of work. Fact. How is that to anyones advantage to help make to make a loss? Seriously, go to a library and read an Econmics book, you'll learn some top facts about life.
  • Cloe
    Well done Tom. Love the chavs posting rude messeges on this. Just jealous little willywaggers, they wouldnt have the balls to do so but hey ho if they want a garden deck chair made out of the cheapest material for 25% off, lucky them.
  • Liza C.
    Hi there, I just come across your blog browsing on online as I am looking for some material on dishwashers. Looks like a good site so I bookmarked you and will come back tomorrow to give it a more indepth read when i have more time. Keep up the good work.
  • Jawaid
    Maximum respect Tom, your ARE a superstar. I find it amazing that anyone would disagree with your stance, and as others have already said, the trolls are probably just B&Q managers who don't like you criticising their methods. It takes a lot of courage, effort and sleepless nights reviewing and building a case to share with a small claims court, and doing it all on an issue of principle has to be applauded. I'm so glad you won the case, and although you've obviously not made a fortune from this fiasco, you can sleep well at night knowing that you've made a difference. Too many people let large organisations get away with murder, simply because they don't have the knowledge, aptitude, will or ability to do anything about it. I'm glad you stood up against B&Q and hope you do it again to future scamming retailers for the benefit of everyone. All the best. Jawaid
  • Halarn
    Hi guys, I'm called Halarn, having read this I am so happy for you Tom. This story has truly amazed me so much, that I have made the decision to go to Israel and embrace my Jewish roots. Thanks Tom G-D be with you. xx
  • Halarn
    HI GUYS, I'M HALARN AND I JUST LOVE MY NAME SO MUCH :D G-D BE WITH YOU! XXXX
  • Halarn
    Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name... Halarn - hallow be thy name...
  • HALARN
    Halarn x
  • Espi Z.
    [...] B&Q – the dishwashers with no discretion | BitterWalletJun 15, 2009 … Posted by Mr Espi • June 15, 2009 at 2:01 pm. Wow, what a result! Big kahunas. Posted by Tom Beckett • June 15, 2009 at 2:05 pm. @all – … « Boba porn [...]
  • Halarn
    Hi guys, Halarn here, just an update. I still love my name HALARN. It's magical.
  • lola
    i too took B&Q to court and won , they think they can get away with anything and until we all grow some goolies and fight them they will carry on treating customers like idiots. Well done Tom i hope your compo was as high as mine
  • Barry
    I am here looking today as i have just googled 'how to take b and q to court', it's possible you could help me out big time though, as my complaint/argument is with the chippenham store do I proceed to take that store to court or will i need to go to their head office?, many thanks for the above read it has fueled my fire even more :-)

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