Am I entitled to compensation because someone hasn’t done their job, or if I have been injured as a result of someone elses negligence or incompetence? Sometimes you’re sold something that doesn’t match the description, or doesn’t perform how it was supposed and by the time you eventually get what you were promised, it has taken you the better half of the year worth of phone calls, letters, visits to the ombudsmand, or your lawyer before you ever get what you paid for and were entitled to!
So, it hardly seems fair that after all the hours and trouble that you have gone through to actually obtain the original (correct) product, you find yourself asking, am I eligible for compensation? Is it really enough that I am finally now given the product I bought? Does this seem fair? Well, in some cases, unfortunately, you may not be eligible for compensation. A good company will often provide you with a “gesture of good will” – which will be a small financial benefit, such as providing the product cheaper, or for free, or in the case with phone bills, electric bills and numerous other bills which are regularly miscalculated and charged at a much higher rate, they may provide you three, six and even twelve months free phone connection as a measure of good will – which is basically them acknowleging that you are eligible for compensation or entitled to compensation, without having to formally admit it or acknowlege fault.
Depending on the company or the person who you are dealing with, this may be all that you can or will end up getting.
However, sometimes, its not even about the financial compensation. Sometimes its about making sure that a company provides the correct product or delivers the service that it is required to deliver. You have to remember, for small things, such as phone bills, one personal law suit may be insignificant, but if you feel that you have been badly treated or that your compensation is unjust, it is reasonable to believe that there are many others out there like you. What companies are most afraid of is a group of people (the consumers, such as yourself) who know that they have been wronged, and the more people who stand up to the company and file legal claims to compensations, the more likely that it will eventually become profitable for a large compensation law firm to band together and fund a class action law suit.
This really scares companies, because, apart from the massive legal costs (lawyers cost money) that this will impose on them (even if you aren’t successful) it will also be publically scrutinized and this will lead to negative company images and result in a decrease in their profits (something CEOs don’t like). Companies, especially big companies, spend a fortune on teams of lawyers to ensure that they are doing what they should be doing legally, so that they avoid massive court costs and legal fees.
So, how do you determine the answer to the question: am I eligible for compensation?
These are the steps that I would take:
1. Write down on a piece of paper exactly what I would like to be compensated with (be reasonable, but be fair).
2. Contact the company’s complaints department and discuss your grievance – if it is a small matter, many company’s employ complaints officers who have the authority to remove bills and offer small financial compensation for their mistakes.
3. State exactly what you would like to be done. Sometimes this is all that you need to do to resolve the problem (sometimes it isn’t).
4. Contact your local Department of Fair Trading or Ombudsman to determine what you are legally entitled to (these people work for the government to ensure that you, the consumer are treated fairly; however, they aren’t usually lawyers, and they aren’t there to ensure you get massive pay outs- even if you may be entitled to them).
5. Contact a lawyer – if you can’t afford a lawyer, try to find a no-win-no-fee lawyer who will work on a no win no fee basis (there are some contact advertisements for no-win-no-fee lawyers on this webpage). Discuss with the lawyer what your options are. A good lawyer will tell you what you’re entitled to or what type of compensation you may be eligible for and why. If they can’t tell you why you are eligible for a certain form of compensation, then they wont be able to tell the judge or jury why either (you may have to get a better lawyer then, or accept that you’re not entitled to compensation).
6. Have your lawyer send the company a letter of demand, clearly stating what has happened, what you have done about it, and clearly what you demand in terms of compensation. Often, if a company is in the wrong, and they will know it if they are, this is about as far as this whole process will go. The company will provide a settlement pay out figure (which will avoid going to court and save you and them large amounts of money – also, it provides them with the benefit of avoiding public scrutiny and bad publicity).
7. If the company still will not meet your demands, the final option is to go to court. Your lawyer will advise you of how to do this and how much it will cost you, regardless of whether or not you win your law case.
Remember, legal and financial compensation may take years to achieve, but if you are certain that you have been wronged, and a good lawyer can advise you whether or not you are eligible for compensation, then a good lawyer should be able to get it for you.