When Joan Miller decided to have double-glazed windows and a door installed in her home, she quickly found a firm that offered to do the work for a price she was happy with.
SEHBAC Limited gave Joan an estimate for the job, which she accepted. The subsequent contract stated that SEHBAC would provide her with 'A'-rated windows and a door for £6,563.
Following a visit by its surveyor, the company attempted to increase the price, saying that security grilles attached to the existing windows needed to be removed. Joan argued that this work had been included in the contract price already agreed. SEHBAC then accepted this.
SEHBAC's sales rep then called Joan to say it could not fit 'A'-rated windows because the gap between the glass panels was too great and SEHBAC would supply 'B'-rated windows instead. Joan replied that this was unacceptable. She confirmed in writing that she wanted to cancel the contract.
Five days later, SEHBAC left a message on Joan’s answer phone saying it had now found that 'A'-rated windows could be fitted after all.
Joan responded in writing, advising SEHBAC that she had already indicated that she did not wish to proceed further with SEHBAC for the installation of doubling glazing, whether 'B' rated or otherwise.
SEHBAC wrote back to Joan stating it intended to press ahead with the contract and if she wished to cancel it would be unable to refund her deposit of £657 as costs had already been incurred.
Joan contacted our lawyers for advice. She said she had lost confidence in SEHBAC and wanted her deposit refunded.
We advised Joan that she was within her rights to treat SEHBAC's attempt to vary the contract from 'A' to 'B'-rated windows as an 'anticipatory breach of contract' on the part of SEHBAC, which would allow her to bring the contract to an end.
As she had not received any benefit from the contract at the time she told SEHBAC she didn't wish to proceed with the double glazing, she could seek a full refund of her deposit and she was under no obligation to accept SEHBAC's subsequent offer to install 'A'-rated windows as it had originally agreed.
Joan quoted this advice to SEHBAC and it refunded her deposit.
The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 states that goods supplied as part of a contract for services, such as double-glazing installations, should match any description given to you by the trader. If the trader indicates it doesn't intend to provide you with a significant part of what it said it would, you may be able treat this as a breach of the contract and therefore bring the contract to an end.
If you have not received any benefit from the contract at this time, you’re likely to be able to claim a refund of money or deposit you have already paid to the other party.
If you’re able to end the contract on the basis of an 'anticipatory breach of contract', you’ll be discharged of obligations you had under the contract – and the party in breach could not insist at a later date that it is allowed to remedy the breach by performing the contract in the manner originally agreed.