Did you know that when you file a claim in court, you (as the plaintiff) are not only expected to prove the defendant’s liability, but to also prove the losses suffered due to the defendant’s actions or conduct?
The Malaysian High Court case of SUNRISE BHD & ANOR v. L & M AGENCIES SDN BHD  3 MLJ 544, is a prime example wherein liability was proven but the court was unable to make any award of damages (i.e. compensation), as the plaintiff had failed to prove quantum (i.e. the amount that the plaintiff deserves).
To avoid an unfortunate event like this from happening to you, it is worth reading on to see if you have been adopting practices which may well be determinative of whether you will be successful in proving your case.
The following is a non-exhaustive checklist which can act as a guide to help you identify and organize the documents you need to strengthen your claim of rejection of goods premised on, amongst other reasons, their defective quality.
1. Terms & Conditions (T&C)
It may be surprising for one to know that shopping transactions for non-commercial and/or recreational purposes are also perceived as an agreement and/or a contract in law.
Therefore, as with any kind of formal contracts entered into between businessmen for commercial purposes, it is important to read through the terms and conditions (if any), before making the purchases, if possible.
The evolution of internet has altered the dynamics of consumers’ shopping experience by converting instore shopping to online shopping. Each of them have their upsides and downsides. However, for the purpose of this article, the focus will be on the way in which the T&C can be retrieved.
In respect of e-commerce, the T&C is easily accessible in that most, if not all, of the e-commerce platforms will have set out the T&C clearly, either as part of the general T&C on their website or the T&C customized by the individual shop owner sharing and/or utilizing the platforms such as Lazada, Zalora, Shopee and etc.
As for purchases made in person, remember those “brochure and/or catalogue-like reading material” that comes with our new electronic appliances? Probably not, as it is likely that we have overlooked them whilst being mesmerized by the temptation to try out the game of Tetris Battle (or any other shooting game for that matter) on the new laptop that is still fresh from the oven.
Notwithstanding the same, whilst one is not compelled to read through the whole booklet, it is still encouraged to read through the T&C at least once, as it is important to have knowledge of the kind of “contract” you have agreed to enter into (without the need for signatures).
One should also be aware of the period of warranty which covers the goods that you have bought.
For items that cost a substantial sum (for instance, TV, smartphones or laptops ), the warranty period will usually be expressly conveyed to you via the representative of the supplier and/or the authorised seller.
Whilst verbal exchange can form part of the “contract”, one should always make sure that the same is reflected in writing. It is worth looking out for this particular term in the T&C booklet, if any is provided. If the warranty clause is not included in the T&C booklet, an email and/or WhatsApp message confirming the same, may suffice.
It is also worth observing the scope that is covered by the warranty as it is possible for the scope of which to be drafted so narrowly that it covers virtually nothing.
It is also a good practice to always keep the receipts for the purchases you have made. You may wish to have a file or a designated box for this purpose, regardless of the value of the transactions. This is because we never know if the grocery shopping receipts that you have 6 months ago could the crucial evidence to prove the value of the damages pleaded in your case.
Perhaps it is worth noting that, with the improvement of technology and swift payment via QR code on applications (Apps) like Touch ‘n Go, Boost or GrabPay, the receipts are usually digitally stored in your mobile phone, thereby removing the hassle of having to clear up and remove the pile receipts that we sometimes mistook as (or rather hope that they are) a thick stash of cash.
Whilst it cannot be denied that it can be challenging to store and/or organize paper receipts, especially when the task of organizing it can be laborious. Perhaps another more convenient option that one could consider is to replace the task of storing paper receipts with snapping a picture of the same and saving it in a designated folder thereafter?
4. The Secret Logbook
So, the use of “secret” here is not referring to secrecy in the conventional sense. It is meant to be an analogy which refers to all the things that you may not realised to be necessary to keep track of.
Having a logbook is often misconceived as an anticipation that the goods that you have purchased will inevitably breakdown and cause major disruptions. In reality, the purpose that it serve is more of a low or no cost insurance which may help you to prove your case in court.
Essentially, one should always keep a record of the incidents of the goods breaking down. For instance, the issue of a smart phone which automatically switches itself off several times a day, the recurring issue of overheating etc. You may be surprise to know that each episode of the malfunction, may go to prove that the device is inherently defective.
Put simply, your “secret” logbook should capture the following details:
- A brief description of what happened on each episode of malfunction.
- The identity of the member of staff/technician who attended to the issue.
- The number of times the same problem recur (preferably with the time, date, venue, if relevant).
- Any other relevant event (e.g. a particular undertaking or promise was made that the goods are of a pristine condition when you bought it second hand, or that the alleged issue will not recur after the same had been repaired).
Going to court is like a war which requires one to be fully armed. It goes without saying that having receipts and/or any other documents in writing are often determinative of the strength of your armour.
- A Checklist for Consumers: Preparing a Court Case with Receipts?! - February 17, 2021
- Not Happy with Your New Purchase? Here’s What You Can Do As A Consumer (Part 1) - November 24, 2020
- Defamation on Social Media Group Chats: Are They Really Worth Pursuing In Court? (Part 2) - October 26, 2020