Don’t be taken to the cleaners with your dry cleaning

Published: 27/04/2016

I don’t know about you but I don’t tend to buy clothing that needs dry cleaning – it just seems like too much hassle taking it to the dry cleaners! However there is the odd must-have item of clothing for which the dry cleaning ban is lifted. So what if this essential purchase is then damaged or lost whilst at the cleaners? You are within your rights to ask for compensation and here’s how to do it:

Legal responsibility

Some dry cleaners claim that they aren’t responsible for any items with them; they even hang a sign in the window stating the ‘fact’. This however is not the case. Dry cleaners are legally required to take ‘reasonable care’ of anything left with them. Claiming they aren’t responsible can be considered an ‘unfair term’ and therefore they remain liable.

If you meet any initial resistance, you should say something along the lines of:

traders have a responsibility of care under the Consumer Rights Act 2015

Making a claim

As soon as you are aware of a problem you need to inform the dry cleaners. Ideally you should inspect your items before leaving the dry cleaners. That way the dry cleaners cannot argue that the damage could have been caused once you left the shop.

Some dry cleaners may offer to compensate you there and then. If they don’t you should ask them to either:

  • Pay to have the item repaired
  • Replace the item (if it cannot be repaired to a satisfactory standard).

Bear in mind the age of the item; they will not replace old for new and you will probably need to provide evidence of how much it cost such as a receipt. If you don’t have a receipt but the item is relatively new you could check on the retailer’s website to see if it is still available.

If the dry cleaner is part of a chain then they may have a complaints procedure you could follow. Check out their website or contact their customer services department for details.

Dry cleaner says ‘no’

If the dry cleaner refuses to compensate you or you feel the level of compensation offered is not adequate then you do have a couple of options available.

  • Pass your complaint to a Trade Association
    If the dry cleaner’s is a member of a trade association such as the Textile Services Association (TSA) then you can escalate your complaint to them. Trade associations often have a customer advice service and TSA also has a conciliation scheme and Code of Practice so complaints are fairly investigated and compensated.
    To find out if your dry cleaner’s is a member, simply ask them or check their website.
  • Alternative dispute resolution
    If the dry cleaner is not a member of a trade association, ask them if they are a member of an alternative dispute resolution (ADR). If they aren’t, or they refuse to respond, document that you have asked the question then try choosing an approved Trading Standards ADR scheme and take up your complaint with them.
  • Dry cleaning complaints arbitration service
    You can get a report from the dry cleaning complaints arbitration service. The report provides independent analysis of the problem and could help persuade the dry cleaner’s to change their mind. If not, it could be used if you decide to go to court. There is a charge for this service and it isn’t cheap – often about £100 – so you need to weigh up the cost of the item and damage against this charge.
  • Go to court
    If you still wish to pursue a claim, your final option is to go to the small claims court. Check out our article: Small claims court – How to bring a claim.

Content correct at time of publication

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