In today’s world of products and services; buyer beware. We see it everyday on Court Television, people on both sides of the case are anxious to protect them. Not only is it buyer beware, but also business owner beware. In today’s society where the customer is always right and customer service relations stems on how a company conducts themselves at every step of the way, never more has it been extremely important to have contracts set in stone as every court in the land will look to contracts and paperwork as a means of proving one’s point and case. No longer are verbal contracts as viable as before. One’s word does not matter and any judge will ask: do you have it writing? Now in this day and age of electronics, new ways of proving one’s case emerge. E-mail is now a way of proving one’s case as it creates a paper trail. The following paragraphs will discuss the questions posed by a sales agreement for energy efficient windows. From the questions, I believe we will find that either side has grounds for a lawsuit but only the contract will decide the truth.
Part One: Questions
Suppose Alpen sends me a bill for the balance due under the April 8 agreement, plus the shipment cost on the extra shipment. If I don’t pay the total, can Alpen sue me? Where is their jurisdiction: Colorado, Massachusetts, federal or state court? What would the allegations be? What would I argue to defend myself? Could representatives from Inline be subpoenaed as witnesses? Who would win? Should I settle, or fight the suit?
First in foremost in cases like these where a consumer is not satisfied with the product and/or service, jurisdiction is really up to the party that files the lawsuit. In this case if it were the provider Alpen who files the case, that case would have jurisdiction in the state where they are headquartered. In most cases, where the consumer is dissatisfied, usually the company providing the product or service does not seek payment unless they have legal written recourse. Of course the company can sue for non-payment but they will also have to consider if they have met their end of the contract. In this case because of the emails the customer is able to provide, leaves one to believe that the consumer has every right to file a lawsuit. If the company should do so, then the consumer has many grounds for dismissal of the company’s claim starting with proof that the windows were delivered in time.
The consumer was more than patient and understanding but now that the widows are delivered and installed, there are still problems with performance. The consumer could say that they do not want to pay the final payment due to a faulty product. Still not only that but prove to the court that the windows caused damages to the inside of the home.
Still the consumer depending on the state in which they reside has protection, in this case Colorado. If the original contract is not fulfilled in anyway, it is possible for the consumer to object to the payment and this is where most likely the consumer would file a lawsuit against the company, in this case, Alpen. Verbal contracts are different in every state. If Colorado is a state where verbal contracts are binding, that means the consumer has every right to see defect with the product and service because they were not delivered in the time specified in the verbal contract. This is what can be very confusing for the consumer who in this case is trying to remain patient and see the delivery to fruition. Still in this case, a lot of what was promised may have started with a verbal contract but later continued via email. This changes all promises to a written contract. Any promises or changes to the verbal contract become a written contract with a paper trail in any court of law.
In case such as these that are so prominent in the United States, such disputes can be remedied with the minimal of involvement. Because the amount of loss is greater to the consumer than the company, it is not likely that the company will pursue a remedy. Most of proving this case as expressed above falls on the contract; who is right and who is wrong. There is not the need for character witnesses. Still it would be a good idea to have the people responsible involved and present for the court date. In this case, the architect, Barlett Harvey and Greg at Alpen should be present to recount their experience with the case. Really when it comes to a lawsuit of this nature, it is the principle of the matter that counts. One should search within them to find out if going to court matters most or if settling is the best conclusion.
Considering the email paper trail, I would consider going to court because you have adequate proof that nothing went right with the windows from day one. I would also consider providing proof of the damages that the leaks caused to the home. This only backs up the case against Alpen further and will result in a better reward. Plus according to Colorado law, one can ask for three times the amount of actual damages. Also because the original contract changed because of the emails, really any April 8 agreement is null and void since the company did not satisfy that promise. They can try to sue you for the payment but I believe they will look really silly in court especially with the proof you provide.
So what this case has taught both sides is that better contracts must be written to protect not only the company but also the consumer. The contract provided by Alpen leaves much to be desired as much of the small print is indecipherable. This is blatant misrepresentation. The fact that much of the contract is completely written in a way that is not understood by the consumer is terrible for the company. They need to go to any Staples or law web site to download a form that clearly states how they not only cover their actions as a company but also the rights of the consumer. For starters, they need to clearly state that delivery will take place within 30 days of the order.
If not, it needs to clearly state, how a delay will be settled. From the contract provided, it is difficult to tell if this is covered in the fine dark print at the bottom of the contract. A standard sales contract will cover delivery and recourse of defective products. It should be a contract that works on a generic level to cover each and every state’s consumer protection laws. Just as with any sales receipt from a national chain store, it is at their discretion how long the consumer has to return the item or complain about defect. Nowhere is it written that there is a 30-day limit. The Colorado states that after 30 days, the consumer has a right for a refund. With respect to this case, the consumer should have asked for a refund after 30 days when the company failed to deliver on time. The bottom line is that the consumer needs to be aware of his or her rights.
Article I of Colorado Consumer Protection Act. (2006). Retrieved February 26, 2007
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