Judge Rinder: Are your T’s and C’s in order?

Judge RinderI’m not a regular watcher of Judge Rinder, the UK’s answer to Judge Judy, but oh what fun he is, especially when he gets his hands on a juicy eBay case as he did on Friday.

The back story is that a buyer made a purchase and paid £2.50 to upgrade to next day delivery. The seller marked the item as despatched and updated tracking which triggered an email from eBay around 5pm with an “Estimated” delivery for the next day (a Wednesday). You can guess what’s coming next… the courier had already left so the item remained with the seller, was collected Wednesday and delivered Thursday.

Now back to the buyer, he’s waited in all day for his “estimated for Wednesday” delivery and it doesn’t arrive. It’s only at 5pm he bothers to check the very useful tracking information to discover that he will get his next day delivery, but next day means Thursday. What does he do? Tries to ring the seller (uh oh, somehow the seller has his home phone number listed on eBay and he’s still at the warehouse), so the buyer takes the Thursday off work to wait for his £35 (plus £2.50 expedited shipping) printer to be delivered and then promptly sues the seller for £74.50 lost earnings.

Unbelievable, but that’s (thankfully rare) some buyers for you, and of course it makes for a sparklingly good case on the telly box. The Judge ruled, by his own admission on the narrowest of margins, in favour of the buyer, but only because he attempted a phone call, left a message, didn’t get a rely and asserted that he thought if he missed the delivery he’d have to pay the carriage charge for a second delivery attempt.

We won’t bother going into whether the buyer behaved reasonably or not, but there are a couple of lessons to be learnt:

1) Set your cut off times on eBay

Don’t promise next day delivery if you can’t deliver. Be wary of marking items as shipped if they aren’t going to be picked up today.

2) Communicate with your buyers

If you have a phone number make sure it gets answered. Make sure dispatch emails and emails with tracking information specify the day of despatch, not the day of printing.

3) Terms and conditions are everything if it goes to court (even Judge Rinder’s court!)

If the seller had specified in his terms and conditions that “next day delivery” was a best efforts but not guaranteed (over and above eBay’s “estimated” email) then he’d have won. I also spoke to the guys over at Business Law Online and it would appear that a “no consequential loss or damage” clause in your Terms and Conditions would also be your saviour if you ever run into this particular buyer.

A clause of this nature limits you to the cost of the goods and service you supply and excludes buyers from claiming for any out of pocket expenses or other losses that they may incur. For instance if it was a wedding dress that arrived late, you couldn’t be sued for the costs of a cancelled wedding etc.

Whilst Judge Rinder is an entertaining bit of telly, it’s a timely reminder that Terms and Conditions are worth having. Small print might be a pain in the ass, but it could save you paying for your buyers to have a day’s holiday while they wait in for their redelivery.

(For what it’s worth I think the Judge was wrong but hey, I’m not a Judge and he is! You can watch the program for the next 28 days on ITV Player if you’re based in the UK)