You receive an invoice for work that you never explicitly commissioned. Or you are charged a much higher price than you had counted on. What are your rights in that case?
Everyone has their own profession and subjects you do not understand, let someone else do it. Simple isn’t it? The average sailor considers himself technically well versed, but to completely dismantle and repair a defective engine is asking a lot. So you hire a repairman. And if you want to refit your boat, you go to a yard you trust. However, it happens more often than you think that a discussion arises between the client and the yard/repairer about the amount of the invoice. Perhaps an amount was agreed upon at one time, but then additional work arose that was not properly documented and the client ends up paying significantly more.
Another thing that happens is that you think you have had a noncommittal chat with a repairman about a complaint – for example, the engine not working properly – and ask him “to take a look at it” and then you receive a hefty invoice for a repair that you are convinced you never ordered.
No order was given.
Mr Verschueren noticed complaints in the engine of his punt and had it examined by a repairer. He then offered the engine to the importer without consultation. The fuel injectors turned out to be defective. The importer repaired the engine, again without consultation and therefore without stating the costs, and sent it back to the repairer. The repairer then invoiced the client for the work charged to him, plus some additional work. In total, approximately €5,000. Mr Verschueren refused to pay because, he said, he had not ordered any repairs at all, only research.
There was indeed no order nor order confirmation. There was also no quotation regarding the expected costs of the repair. The repairer was not much to blame either, because he in turn had been presented with a fait accompli by the importer. Verschueren had, however, taken his punt with him and had also benefited from the repair. After all, the engine was functioning again. He also knew that repairs had been made. In the discussion that followed, Verschueren stated that if he had known that the repair would be so expensive, he would never have ordered it. Moreover, he argued that the repair was not necessarily necessary and could have been done in another way.
The repairer, however, stated that the repairs were necessary and also disputed that it could have been done cheaper elsewhere. He had also moderated some hours in the meantime. Eventually Verschueren realized that he had benefited from the repairs after all. He calculated this benefit at about half of the total invoice, whatever amount he paid. A compromise in which at least the repairer still got paid something, although he had to pay significantly more to the importer and therefore actually suffered a loss. However, litigation was of little use to him, as there was no proof of an order for repairs and no quotation either. The repairer took his loss, under the motto ‘better half an egg than an empty shell’.
In this case the amount involved was relatively small and Verschueren’s case was a drawback. If the repairer had gone to court anyway, Verschueren would not have got off so easily with his own calculation. He had in fact been ‘enriched’ by the repair and had therefore ‘impoverished’ the repairer. In proceedings the court had appointed an expert to calculate a reasonable price, which Verschueren would have had to pay regardless of his own opinion. Then he should not have taken the ship!
An order has been given.
What if an order has been given, but the work turns out to be much more expensive? This is a possible situation in case of contract work. It is important to note that the law has established that if the price has not been determined when the contract was concluded or only a guide price has been set, the client owes a reasonable price. The prices usually charged by the contractor and expectations aroused are taken into account. When a guide price does have been stipulated, it may not be exceeded by more than ten percent unless the contractor has given timely warning. In this way the principal still has the choice of whether and how to have adjustments made to the work.
It is therefore important that, as a principal, you establish as clearly as possible what you are giving the order for and have insight into the recommended price. In any case, you do not have to accept without question that something turns out twice as expensive as agreed!
More information or download old articles: https://www.anwb.nl/kampioen/algemeen/digitaal-archief