HL Deb 10 June 1998 vol 590 cc1010-1

2 Clause 4, page 3, line 4, after ("debt") insert ("or (where that amount is unascertained) the sum which the supplier claims is the amount of the debt")

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 2.

This is a single technical amendment which seeks to improve the transparency of the text. It makes clear from when interest would run where the contract did not stipulate a price and the Sale of Goods Act 1979 or the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 supply a duty to pay a "reasonable price". An example of such a contract would be where someone was called out to fix a boiler. No price would be agreed ahead of the service being rendered but there would be a duty on the customer to pay a "reasonable price". The amendment provides that the default credit period should start to run from the time that the debtor has notice of the amount the creditor claims. This is so even if the debtor turns out to have good cause for disputing the amount. Interest would only run on the reasonable amount. If the creditor's conduct caused delay, Clause 5, on remission of interests, could then be used by the debtor to remit any undeserved interest.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 2.—(Lord Clinton-Davis.)

The Earl of Home

My Lords, the Minister gave an example of someone being called out to fix a boiler when no price had been agreed before the service was rendered. That is a rather unfortunate example as anyone who ever comes to fix my boiler invariably says that it is unfixable. In those circumstances, no service is rendered and yet a call-out charge is levied. Perhaps the Minister would be kind enough to give me the name of his boiler fixer.

The Minister in another place, Mrs. Roche, said that the amendment was not a charter for suppliers to start claiming out of order. With that assurance, we accept the amendment.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, we too accept the amendment. Perhaps I can respond to the problem posed by the noble Earl. I am in the boiler business. If he has any difficulty—we deal with large installations and no doubt he has a large installation in his home—we shall be pleased to help.

I should like to ask the Minister one question in relation to the amendment. Where the price is not stipulated beforehand and the interest runs from the time when the account is rendered, the recipient of the services might well say that the amount is somewhat excessive. It appears that the only recourse the recipient then has is to resort to court proceedings. Is that the case?

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, I believe that is right. Apart from the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, so nobly volunteering his services to the noble Earl, Lord Home, the man I had in mind was Augustus Horatio Bloggs—with whom noble Lords will be familiar. I thank noble Lords for their response to the amendment.

On Question, Motion agreed to.