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    Ombudsman Process on a Removals Complaint

    By The reallymoving Team Updated 21st Mar, 2024

    A recent example of an Ombudsman response to a customer complaint about a removals company.

    Ombudsman Process on a Removals Complaint

    The Issue

    The consumer engaged the services of the removals firm to assist with a relocation from London to Dublin. The consumer also contracted for a partial packing service (of large items only) which included an additional fee for “export packaging” specifically recommended to protect an antique bureau.

    When the packing service took place, there were no export packaging materials on the van, but the trader’s employee promised to take “extra care” of the bureau, noting it on his paperwork.

    Upon arrival at the new residence the consumer stated that it was “immediately noticeable” that the bureau had suffered transit damage and when it was taken off the van, it was only wrapped in a dust sheet.

    He complained to the trader 7 days following the completion of the contract which was within the timescales stated in the trader’s terms and conditions. When he failed to get a satisfactory response, he arranged for a local expert to remedy the damage at a cost of €500.

    He supplied photographs of the bureau post-delivery showing the damage, the invoice setting out the additional charge for export packaging and a copy of the furniture restorer’s invoice.

    The Claim

    The consumer brought his claim to the Ombudsman, seeking reimbursement of this remedial work, along with a return of the £100 he paid for the “export packaging” which was not used.

    The Response

    The trader responded, acknowledging that export packaging had not been supplied and agreed to refund the £100 which the consumer had been charged. They stated that the “export packaging” was not strictly needed as the lorry travelled over on the ferry and the items were not removed from it to a separate transit container. Their account is that the consumer specifically requested this as they were concerned about the bureau. They were, however, happy to refund this as it was a service which the consumer did not, in fact receive.

    The trader supplied photographs of the bureau prior to packing which they state evidenced that the bureau was in a “battered” state before the removal took place. They contended that it did not look that different to the consumer’s photographs. They cited the delay in reporting the issue to them and disputed that the photographs evidenced specific damage. The trader believes that the €500 invoice was for restoration rather than remedial works. The trader stated that they would be willing to contribute to the repair, acknowledging that the lack of export packaging could have resulted in a “knock” to the furniture, and asked the Ombudsman to evaluate what it believes a fair outcome would be.

    Our Evaluation

    The Ombudsman confirmed that it was reasonable for the consumer to receive recompense for the “export packaging” service which was not undertaken, notwithstanding the differing accounts. We acknowledged that this had been offered prior to the consumer bringing their claim to the Ombudsman.

    With regards to the bureau, the Ombudsman evaluated the photographs supplied by both parties. We noted that both sets of photographs showed that the bureau had a worn appearance, but the photographs supplied by the trader did not show the “knock” from the same angle that the consumer’s photographs evidenced. There could not, therefore, be a direct comparison between the two sets of photographs.

    The Ombudsman considered the possibility that, on the balance of probabilities, additional damage could have occurred in transit, noting that the bureau was only wrapped in a dust sheet. The Ombudsman was satisfied that the trader had sufficient information so as to be informed of the consumer’s specific concern for this item and questioned whether packaging it in a dust sheet exhibited reasonable care and skill.

    The Ombudsman reviewed the furniture restorer’s report and photograph showing the bureau after the remedial works had been undertaken. The images showed a considerably improved appearance to the bureau when compared with the photographs which the trader took prior to loading the bureau on to the lorry. The Ombudsman asked the consumer to provide further details from the furniture restorer as to the work which was undertaken and a supplementary report was provided. In this, it was confirmed that the remedial works took 14-man hours, at least half of which was engaged in “French Polishing the entire bureau”.

    The Ombudsman considered that the works undertaken were, therefore, more than remedial in nature and taking into account the fact that the works were commissioned without prior agreement with the trader as to their extent, considered that a 50% contribution was appropriate.

    The award of the Ombudsman was:

    £100 reimbursement for “export packaging” service which was not undertaken;
    €250 contribution to remedial works to bureau.
    The trader was bound by the award; the consumer agreed to the award.

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