The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: There is no fault by the Council in this complaint. Although the company Mrs X purchased two chairs from is a Council supported business, the Council is not responsible for the dispute between Mrs X and the business about the suitability of one of the chairs purchased. The business operates independently of the Council and Mrs X purchased the chairs privately. She was provided with a copy of the terms and conditions of sale. This makes clear the contractual agreement is between Mrs X and the business.
- The complainants, who I shall call Mr & Mrs X complain Tremorvah Industries, a council supported business, will not refund the cost of one of the specialist chairs they purchased. Mr & Mrs X are dissatisfied with the quality of one of the chairs and say it is unfit for purpose.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We have the power to start or discontinue an investigation into a complaint within our jurisdiction. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we think the issues could reasonably be, or have been, raised within a court of law. (Local Government Act 1974, sections 24A(6) and 34B(8), as amended)
- If we are satisfied with a council’s actions or proposed actions, we can complete our investigation and issue a decision statement. (Local Government Act 1974, section 30(1B) and 34H(i), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I have:
- considered the written complaint and discussed it with Mrs X;
- considered the correspondence between Mrs X and Tremorvah Industries;
- made enquiries of the Council, and considered the responses;
- offered Mrs X and the Council an opportunity to comment on a draft of this statement.
What I found
- Tremorvah is a ‘supported business’. It is a service within the Council’s Adults Transformation and Commissioning. It gives employment opportunities to disabled people; at least 50% of its staff have a disability. It supports this work by selling privately to businesses, local authorities, NHS and private customers. It is registered with BHTA (British Health Care Trades Association).
- Mrs X visited her GP to ask advice about purchasing two’ rise and recline’ chairs for her and her husband. The GP referred Mrs X to an Occupational Therapist (OT). The OT did not complete an assessment she signposted them to Tremorvah Industries. The company provides a range of specialist tailor made equipment for disabled people.
- On 3 July 2017 two representatives from the company visited Mr & Mrs X at home. They took measurements of both Mr & Mrs X, advised on suitable chairs, and left a brochure.
- On 27 July 2017, a representative from the company took a chair to Mr & Mrs X’s home for them to try. Mrs X says she expected to try two chairs. Mrs X says she and Mr X had about twenty minutes to try the chair. Mrs X placed an order the same day for two chairs. I have seen a copy of the order form dated 27 July 2018. It details the specific measurements and requirements of both Mr & Mrs X. A copy of the company’s terms and conditions was given to Mr & Mrs X. This shows the contractual agreement was between Mr & Mrs X and the company.
- The chairs arrived on 1 September 2018. Mrs X immediately complained about her chair, saying when the chair was reclined she was looking at the ceiling and not the TV. She also discovered the heater had been wrongly fitted. Mrs X was also dissatisfied with the workmanship and finish of Mr X’s chair. She said staples were exposed under the ‘piping’ and there was little or no padding in the wings.
- The company sent two representatives to inspect the chairs on 13 September 2017. The representatives accepted the design fault in Mrs X’s chair and she was offered a full refund for her chair. Mrs X refused to accept a refund until the matter of Mr X’s chair had been resolved.
- Following an inspection of Mr X’s chair, the representatives told Mrs X that staples were a part of the manufacturing process and not a fault. They acknowledged that a correction to a piece of material on the chair was needed, and said the chair would need to go back to the factory for repair.
- The chair was later collected and returned to the factory. A demonstration chair was left for Mr X to use.
- The chair was returned to Mr & Mrs X on 17 October 2017. Mrs X asked for it to be placed in the conservatory rather the lounge. She had also moved her chair from the lounge into the conservatory.
- Mrs X complained to the company in November 2017 saying Mr X’s chair was uncomfortable and not fit for purpose. She asked for a full refund of his chair.
- The company responded to Mrs X on 12 December 2017. The author refused to give a refund of Mr X’s chair and referred Mrs X to section 7.4 of the conditions of purchase agreement. She reiterated the steps taken to rectify the faults on Mr X’s chair and said a perceived lack of comfort did not mean the chair was not fit for purpose. The author said she would “be happy to review my decision if you could supply me with copies of any evidence you hold of poor workmanship of Mr [X’s] chair”. The offer to refund Mrs X’s chair was reiterated.
- Mrs X sent a further complaint to the Council on 2 January 2018. The Council says the company is “a service within Adults Transformation and Commissioning and therefore any response from Tremorvah is a response from the Council”. It says the complaint Mrs X submitted in January 2018 was escalated to the Council’s head office. Mrs X says she did not receive a reply. Mrs X sent a further letter on 2 August 2018 asking for a reply.
- Mrs X received a letter from the company dated 1 August 2018 saying the company would accept the chair back but because there was no identified fault it would deduct £500 from the refund. Mrs X declined this offer. To date both chairs remain with Mr & Mrs X.
- I have considered if the Council had any involvement or responsibility in the assessment of suitability or purchase of the chairs.
- The Council’s OT signposted Mrs & Mrs X to Tremorvah Industries because the company provides bespoke chairs. This is where the Council’s involvement ended. The OT did not complete an assessment. A specialist chair assessor from the company undertook the assessment of Mr & Mrs X. The assessor advised them about suitable options. The Council was not involved.
- Mrs X purchased the chairs privately. She was provided with a copy of the company’s terms and conditions of business. This makes clear the contractual agreement is between Mrs X and the company.
- If Mrs X is dissatisfied with the quality of the chairs she has the option to pursue the matter legally.
- There is no fault by the Council in this complaint.
- It is on this basis; the complaint will be closed.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman