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Austin Vs Greenidge

THE CONSUMER CLAIMS TRIBUNAL

Angelique Austin      Complainant
               AND
Ronny Greenidge      Respondent

Eli Edwards,  Public Counsel (ag)                 for Ms Austin 
Lancelot Applewhaite

Ronny Greenidge                                       for himself

The Tribunal                                              Mr Jeff Cumberbatch
                                                                Ms Fay Lucas
                                                                Mr Antoine Williams

January 11, 2008                                                   

JUDGMENT

On May 11th,2005, Ms Angelique Austin paid to Mr Ronnie Greenidge the sum of $1200Bds in cash for him to draft, and have approved, building plans for a dwelling house. He duly drew those plans and submitted them to the Town and Country Planning Development Office (TCPDO), telling her that it would take about three (3) months for the requisite approval to be obtained. However, it was not until September 2005 that she received a letter from the TCPDO informing her that the plans needed to be revised. An identical letter was also sent to Mr Greenidge, who was given twelve (12) days in which to submit the revisions. 

The next time the parties spoke face to face was in January 2006, when Ms Austin alleged that Mr Greenidge told her that he had submitted the revised plans and that she should contact the TCPDO. That same day, Ms Austin called the TCPDO and spoke to someone there who advised her that the revised plans, submitted in November 2005, were still unsatisfactory and needed to be revised further. She promptly called Mr Greenidge and reported to him that a second letter from the TCPDO would be forthcoming. When her letter came, dated January 16, 2006, she called him again. He said that he had not received his letter as yet, so she photocopied hers and took it to him.

Ms Austin testified that Mr Greenidge intimated that he was going to submit the revised plans, or have them submitted on his behalf. She further stated that he however failed to do so promptly, therefore she went to his home, retrieved the revised plans and took them and her letter in to the TCPDO. According to her, the TCPDO rejected them because they were unsigned and not in triplicate. She then had a friend, Mr Miller, contact Mr Greenidge who told Mr Miller that he was going to re-print the plans and take them in to the TCPDO together with the copy of the letter which she had given to him. One week later, having not heard from Mr Greenidge, she said that she called the TCPDO “to find out if a revised plan was sent in”’ but she was informed that none had been submitted. She next wrote to the TCPDO informing that Mr Greenidge was no longer related to the case. This was received by the TCPDO on March 3, 2006.

The gist of Ms Austin’s claim is that Mr Greenidge did not complete the service of submitting the draft plans within a reasonable time: see Consumer Guarantees Act 2002, section 31.This provides in part “…where a service is supplied to a consumer there is a guarantee that the service will be completed within a reasonable time…”

Mr Greenidge’s response to this is essentially that the plans were not in fact refused by the TCPDO because Ms Austin could not produce them with a stamp of refusal. He stated that possibly she did not give the TCPDO the opportunity to refuse the application, but withdrew the application too soon.
He claimed that he received the first letter explaining that the plans were unsatisfactory, but he received no further correspondence. He could not remember speaking on the phone to Ms Austin; he could not recall having knowledge of the second rejection nor of receiving a copy of the letter from her; and he found it strange that the revised draft plans had to be signed since the TCPDO usually put all draft plans of a proposed building in the same file with all the other relevant documents.

There is no doubt that Ms Austin terminated Mr Greenidge’s services and  informed the TCPDO to that effect, but the question for the Tribunal is whether she did so precipitately, before the TCPDO had time to grant approval, or whether she did so after he was unreasonably dilatory in pursuing the application. As to the facts, we accept the evidence of Ms Austin over that of Mr Greenidge, where these are in conflict. He was unable to recall, not necessarily to the contrary, most events after he submitted the first set of plans, while Ms Austin was clear and consistent in her evidence.

A n undated letter under the signature of Mr Mark Cummins, the Chief Town Planner (CTP) is most helpful to our assessment of the facts. This letter is addressed to the Office of Public Counsel  and is captioned Application No. 3712/12/2005E which differs from the application number 1666/05/05D which has been used in reference to the application in issue here. However we make no comment on this since it is clear that the CTP is referring on each occasion to the same application. Indeed, this latter number is the TCPDO’s reference number on  this letter. 

This letter states that revised plans were erroneously “accepted” by the TCPDO on June 1, 2006, after the application had been withdrawn by the applicant Ms Austin by an undated letter received in the office of the Chief Town Planner on March 29, 2006. We are of the view that “accepted” in the CTP’s letter means submitted to and taken by the TCPDO. In consequence, Mr Greenidge would have handed in, either by his own hand or through someone for whom he was responsible, the revised plans on that date; a quite lengthy period after January, the month in which he was supposed to have submitted them.

On that basis, we find that that there is no evidence that Mr Greenidge submitted the revised plans to the TCPDO before June 1, 2006, at least four clear months after he had been instructed by the client, Ms Austin, to do so. Ms Austin was therefore entitled to withdraw from the agreement and to cancel Mr Greenidge’s services.

According to section 38 (1) (a)of the Consumer Guarantees Act however, such a cancellation does not take effect “before the time at which the cancellation is made known to the supplier…” although sub-sub-section (b) allows the consumer to cancel the contract by any means which are reasonable, where it is not reasonably practicable to communicate with the supplier…”. The Tribunal finds however that it was reasonably practicable for Ms Austin to have communicated her intention to cancel the contract to Mr Greenidge, so that the purported cancellation did not take effect immediately on its information to the TCPDO, but at earliest when Mr Greenidge learnt of it at the trial.

Consequently, Ms Austin is entitled as redress for Mr Greenidge’s failure to comply with the guarantee only to “…obtain from the supplier damages in compensation for any reduction in value of the product of the service below the charge paid or payable by the consumer for the service, together with any consequential loss- see section 33(b)(ii) of the Act. In the circumstances, the Tribunal holds that Ms Austin is entitled to the sum of $800,representing two-thirds of the amount which she paid to Mr Greenidge for drawing of the plans in keeping with TCPDO stipulations, and including a notional sum for the inconvenience she suffered.




Jeff Cumberbatch
Chairman (ag)




We agree

…………………..
Fay Lucas - Member


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Antoine Williams - Member