Dry cleaning services – your rights and responsibilities as a consumer
Dry cleaning services should be provided with reasonable care and professional skill. This means that clothes that consumers donate to dry cleaners must be cleaned as agreed in the sales contract and must not be damaged.
If there is a problem with the dry cleaning service, consumers can seek redress or compensation for losses incurred.
Sometimes clothes are damaged during the dry cleaning process, and some dry cleaners claim they are not legally liable for this damage. They even include a waiver in their terms and conditions and require their customers to sign it.
Some dry cleaners also hang signs in their outlets stating this. However, these policies or contract terms are considered unfair and are not legally binding. In fact, consumers have the right to seek redress from dry cleaners if their items are damaged or improperly cleaned.
In the case of damaged items, the amount of compensation usually depends on the value of the item and whether it can still be used by the consumer. Consumers should also keep in mind the age of the item and then estimate its current value.
For example, if the damaged garment is a five-year-old jacket, consumers cannot request a full refund of the original amount paid. Such compensation would only be justified if the damaged object was still relatively new. In this case, it would be very helpful for consumers to provide proof of the price of the item and the date it was purchased.
There may be situations where the damaged garment can be repaired and returned to the same condition it was before the dry cleaning process. In this case, the remedy to which consumers are entitled to claim is free repair and not financial compensation.
If the damaged garment is a five-year-old jacket, consumers cannot request a full refund of the original amount paid.-Odette Velle
Sometimes damage is not directly caused by dry cleaning, but is the result of a manufacturing defect in the item or improper cleaning instructions on the item’s care label. In this case, if the product is still covered by a valid guarantee, the consumer must file a complaint with the merchant from whom he purchased the product.
If consumers are unhappy with the dry cleaning service, they should immediately notify the company and request that the item be cleaned again at no additional cost. If the dry cleaner again fails to clean the product in accordance with the sales contract, then consumers can request reimbursement of the price paid for the dry cleaning.
Compensation can also be claimed in the event of loss of an object. Even then, the amount claimed should be based on the current value of the lost item, not its original cost. Usually the amount of compensation has to be negotiated with the dry cleaner.
Dry cleaners, however, are not liable for damage to clothing that consumers have been clearly warned about and have voluntarily taken the risk. Nevertheless, it is important that whenever such risks exist, consumers are informed verbally and in writing.
In addition to rights, consumers also have responsibilities. Dry-cleaned garments should be carefully inspected on collection and any issues should be reported to the company immediately. Failure to do so may result in diminished consumer rights.
If there is a problem, consumers should first contact the dry cleaning company and ask for a reasonable solution.
If the company denies any liability or if the level of compensation offered is insufficient, consumers can lodge a formal complaint with the Consumer Affairs Office to try to reach an amicable agreement through the procedure conciliation of the office.
Odette Vella is Director, Information and Research Branch, MCCAA.
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