Fight for your rights: Can you force firms to honour a goodwill gesture?

11 January 2018
Image

When a company gets things wrong, it should make sure that its customers are put back into a position they would have been in if no mistake had been made.

But on top of that, it should think about going that little bit further, if only to apologise to someone it has treated badly.

Don’t let’s confuse this: a goodwill gesture is not compensation.

The latter is something that can be worked out or decided by court. People can be compensated for the money they’ve lost, the time they’ve wasted, and the distress a cock-up may have caused.

A goodwill gesture is not defined so easily: it is offered as a way of apologising. So the value of a goodwill gesture is equal to the value of how sorry a company feels.

A bouquet of flowers, expensive chocolates or a hamper can be appropriate when there has been an error that has been dealt with relatively easily.

For more serious complaints, a goodwill gesture comes in the form of cold, hard cash. That is recognition by a company that it has done something badly wrong and wants to apologise more fulsomely.

Which brings us to Moneywise reader AS of Isleworth.

In February 2017, he had some double glazing installed at his home by Everest. But the fitters damaged the front door, a carpet, a rug, the wood flooring and a toilet seat.

Everest agreed to pay for the damage, but also promised a goodwill payment of £300 and an extra £50 to cover the cost of protective sheets that AS had bought.

The cost of repairs came to around £2,250 and Everest paid this by early July.

In the same month Everest completed all the works, which should have been the end of the affair.

But it wasn’t. The £300 goodwill payment along with the £50 for the protective sheets remained outstanding and left AS with months of frustration as he tried to persuade the company to keep to its promise.

So is the firm legally bound to honour it? Chats with lawyers suggest it is. By making the offer and AS accepting it, a contract has been entered into.

However, as with all contracts there needs to be a paper trail.

When I urged Everest to honour its promise, it demanded to see proof that an offer had been made.

Luckily, AS had an email from Everest’s installation manager raising an initial goodwill offer of £250, stating: “I will raise this by £50 to £300 plus the cost of the dust sheets.”

It couldn’t be clearer.

Everest said: “We apologise to AS and will ensure that he receives payment within the next seven to 10 working days.”

So why hadn’t the company played fair with AS in the first place, and why did it take Moneywise’s intervention to get the firm to act?

AS had been told the matter had been passed to the legal department. There he met with no joy. “I received an email from the legal department saying it considered the matter closed,” he reports. That prompted him to start legal proceedings against the firm.

The company told me: “We have never disputed that a gesture of goodwill in the sum of £350 was agreed with AS back in February 2017. Having investigated this matter further, we now realise that our legal services team, in resisting AS’s subsequent requests for £350, mistakenly believed that the £350 was already subsumed within two payments that had earlier been sent to him.”

Once I had pointed out the mistake to the company, it responded positively and quickly, which is to its credit.

But I hope that it has lambasted those in its legal department who left AS fed up and frustrated.

AS says: “My wife and I really appreciate what you’ve done for us. It is just sad that these days you have to shout to be heard rather than be treated justly in the first place.”

OUTCOME: Everest finally hands over £350 payment to reader

 

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The following is completely incorrect:"However, as with all contracts there needs to be a paper trail."It is perfectly possible to have an oral contract, although if there is nothing in writing then there is the risk of a dispute about what was said (in which case something in writing can be better as it's easier to prove)

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Companies also confuse goodwill payments and compensation. In 2016 we had signed up Safestyle to replace all our windows, a job they said would take two days. 25 visits, 5 missed appointments and 8 months later, they finally finished. All the upstairs had to be done twice as they made such a bad job the first time. Despite a fight for compensation all I got was an £850 'goodwill' payment, I.e. basically refusing to admit any liability for the distress, time wasted and the mess they'd made of all my bedrooms. Unless I wanted to challenge their compensation policy, which would only cover loss of earnings and didn't cover wasted paid holiday leave, for example, in court, I had no choice but to accept their paltry 'goodwill' payment.

Add new comment