This suite of templates covers sales of goods between two businesses. They're not appropriate for use by a consumer who wishes to complain about goods that it has bought from a business.
If you want to complain about goods that you have finally received but too late for your intended purposes, or goods that you've received turning out to be damaged, defective or not what you requested, you’ll need our separate suite of templates for these scenarios.
And if you're the business being complained about, you should refer to our guide to handling complaints that goods you've supplied never arrived.
These templates all assume that initially, you still want to receive those goods, as a priority.
As the correspondence and time moves on, in line with your likely commercial needs, the messaging within the letters changes to requesting compensation for the non-delivery of the goods, rather than continuing to insist on their delivery, although the optional wording leaves you with several choices to tailor to suit your intentions.
Check the terms of your contract first
The very first starting point for checking your rights and being able to enforce them, is what's written in the contract that you have with the supplier.
These terms might be set out in the supplier's terms and conditions (which you may or may not have been able to negotiate ahead of buying the goods), or they may be contained in a more substantial sale of goods contract that you've negotiated for your business.
Terms and conditions can be displayed on the walls in a business operating out of a premises, on their website, in a brochure, on packaging, even on the back of an order form, invoice or receipt.
The supplier should not obscure them from you.
However the terms are presented, read them through thoroughly before you start to draft or communicate anything.
Striking the right tone
It can be intensely annoying to spend time and effort choosing what you need, only to find that you don’t get the outcome that you wanted.
But venting your frustrations, on social media or in written correspondence, rarely gets the optimum outcome.
Be concise, factual and unemotional in any communications that you choose to send or to publish.
It can help to reach out via customer service channels that some suppliers run via social media, customer call-lines and website live chat features can also help resolve well-presented complaints rapidly. You may find you don't need to send anything as formal as the template letters in this suite.
But if the non-delivery of the goods has caused you to incur unexpected costs, to lose business or to otherwise suffer harm that is directly connected to the delay, and if you're ready to get going with a more formal approach, let's take a look at how you can use the templates that Farillio and Wilkes have created for you.
For a quick and friendly expert view on your position and your prospects of success at any stage, as well as how best to draft any of the letters in this series, simply select our speak to a lawyer feature and we’ll rapidly match you with the right expert to get you the help you need.
Template Letter 1 - those ordered goods haven't turned up. Let's complain
This is the first letter in our suite of communications covering the situation where you’re the business customer and goods which you have contracted to receive have not in fact turned up.
Delivery date for the goods
If no delivery date was set for the goods to arrive, then there is still an implied legal requirement that the supplier will deliver within ‘a reasonable time’.
What constitutes ‘a reasonable time’ will be very fact dependent.
For example, customised or bespoke-created goods will naturally imply a longer delivery lead time than goods that are mass-manufactured, generally in advance and warehoused somewhere.
Fragile or ‘chemically volatile’ goods might necessitate greater care in delivery and shipment logistics and therefore take longer to reach a customer too.
Goods being imported can also be expected to take longer to reach their intended destination.
How long should you wait for a reply?
If there is no reply within 7 days (or sooner), our experts recommend that you follow-up by phone, letter or email, to check that your letter was received and seek confirmation about how the recipient is handling it.
The second letter in our suite of letters to cover this scenario will also be helpful here.
What does ‘reserving your rights’ mean?
You'll see that the template finishes with the statement:
'In the meantime, I need to point out that [my] OR [our] rights are reserved as we’re relying on these goods to fulfil our own business commitments.'
Where you believe you have a claim against someone, it’s helpful to say to them in correspondence like this that you ‘reserve your rights’. This means that you are reserving your legal position (for example, to terminate the contract) while considering your options.
It will help avoid arguments that you may have lost those rights by not acting immediately.
Template Letter 2 - the supplier's rejected your complaint. It's time to reassert your rights
This is the second letter in our suite of communications covering the situation where you’re the customer and goods which you’ve contracted to receive have not in fact turned up.
In this letter, you’re taking a more assertive tone about your rights to receive these outstanding goods and the impact that their non-delivery is having on your business.
Introducing the powerful 'time is of the essence' wording
You’ll see that the subject title of this template has added the extension ‘and time is of the essence’.
This has an important legal meaning that you can invoke here (see further below).
Some breaches of contract are so serious that the innocent party, potentially you in this case, has an immediate right to terminate the contract and to claim compensation (often called ‘damages’).
Other breaches are less serious and only entitle the innocent party to damages, not an immediate right of termination.
If the delivery date is ‘of the essence’ according to the contract terms that you’ve agreed with the supplier, your right to terminate the contract exists as soon as delivery is late.
It means that delivery on time is a fundamental condition of the deal you've struck and not delivering on time instantly blows that deal up.
What if your contract terms didn't say 'time is of the essence'?
If your contract terms do not make delivery time 'of the essence', then the good news is that you can actually make time of the essence by serving a notice on the supplier, which is what this letter does. This is pretty powerful.
There is no measure of ‘reasonableness’ in relation to the introduction of this notice. This means that the supplier has no right to argue that:
the goods are trivial and do not merit this kind of obligation, or
that it’s not appropriate to attach a ‘time of the essence’ label to them in this way.
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