What an entrepreneur should do, how to deal with consumer extremism and how this struggle takes place in practice – says Irina Tarasova, who heads the legal department of the Meridian Group of Companies. The developer faced extremism, and the expert handled these cases, and also participated in court hearings. Now she shares her experience.
Consumer extremism. How can an entrepreneur protect himself?
Rospotrebnadzor records an increase in the number of complaints against entrepreneurs by 10% annually. On the one hand, this is good, because knowing your rights is one of the hallmarks of a civilized society. But on the other hand, 5-7% of them turn out to be extremists.
What is consumer extremism?
Consumer extremism is the abuse of clients’ rights. This category includes all consumers who argue over the smallest issues and still demand incredible amounts to pay damages.
It is important to bear in mind here that not all active actions of clients can be attributed to extremism. The key difference between bona fide and unscrupulous consumers is at issue. The former defend the quality of goods or services. The latter want to get money, and as much as possible.
And at this moment you can draw a line between them. There is nothing wrong when a person wants to get for his money what he hoped for – this is right and natural. But if a client asks for a six-figure compensation for a scratch on a purchased frying pan, this is already a cause for alarm.
Conscientious consumers know their rights and try to protect them. Unscrupulous – manipulate and look for loopholes in the law. And if you can solve the problem amicably with the former, then the latter will go to any litigation for the sake of money.
The problem is not only that entrepreneurs pay unreasonably large sums. The society still has an unshakable rule “The client is always right”. And even if a particular customer in a particular case is still wrong, in the eyes of other consumers the seller will be bad. As a result, the company’s image in the eyes of potential buyers may deteriorate.
Does the law protect entrepreneurs?
Consumer rights are spelled out in the Consumer Protection Law. There is no concept of “consumer extremism” in legislative acts – it is used informally and is not used in judicial practice. But there is article 10 of the Civil Code of the Russian Federation, which does not give citizens the opportunity to use their rights bypassing the law.
You will not be able to file a claim with the wording of “consumer extremism”. But you have the opportunity, at a minimum, to challenge any actions of clients that go beyond the law and fall under the category of “abuse of law”.
How to avoid consumer extremism?
Entrepreneurs will not change the mindset of people who abuse their rights. But protecting yourself from consumer extremism is quite real. Here are a few tips to help you fight unscrupulous clients:
Record literally everything in contracts: terms, amounts, guarantees. Loopholes are found in those aspects of the case that are not spelled out on paper. It is impossible to dispute what is specified in the contract if the client has already signed the document. In order to avoid such unpleasant situations, you need to pay special attention to the correctness of drawing up the contract: register every nuance, bypass ambiguous statements. Any fact related to the provision of services must be documented.
Respond to customer complaints in a timely manner. Even if it’s just a phone call or a social media post. If you begin to ignore the buyer, evading, considering the facts indicated by him to be insignificant, demanding official requests, you tightly close the possibility of a friendly and pre-trial settlement of the problem. This means that you are pushing him to seek professional help with the use of heavy artillery.
Spot all the facts that speak of the client’s dishonesty. If the consumer does not provide evidence of his innocence, appeal to manipulation on his part. If the client has previously been seen in the same type of litigation to protect his rights as a consumer, indicate this as a sign of fraud.
Do not forget that the law also protects your rights. You do not have to make any concessions, as long as the client is satisfied, if he clearly wants only money. The case can literally turn upside down if an independent review comes into play. To win, you need to argue reasonably, and the main argument is the conclusion of an independent examination, which is the basis for a court decision.
If you repeatedly encounter consumer extremism, consider whether there are any shortcomings on your part. Perhaps you are postponing customer complaints or not taking into account important details when drawing up a contract. If so, it is worth improving your work – this will help you avoid major financial losses and maintain your reputation.
A real case of consumer extremism from the developer’s practice
Having accepted the object of shared construction in the new building, the new owners filed a lawsuit in court, in which they indicated that the apartment had significant shortcomings. This claim was upheld in their favor: the consumer was compensated.
Having received money to eliminate these shortcomings, the homeowners did not eliminate them. Some time later, the same apartment was flooded as a result of a downpour (water poured into the apartment through the open balcony door). This time, the owners again filed a new claim to eliminate the consequences of the flooding, adding to it the previous deficiencies that had not been eliminated.
In fact, people tried to compensate for the same damage twice. The amount of compensation also included the cost of renting the housing where they lived all this time.
After conducting our expertise and assessment, we went to the plaintiff with negotiations and at the moment offered to settle the issue in an amount that exceeded the client’s expectations. But the client refused to settle the issue amicably and turned to the authorities. The amount of the claim was more than 2 million rubles, which is disproportionate to the actual damage.
The protagonists of this story are prominent representatives of extremist consumers. The first claim is justified. The owners were outraged by the gaps in the repair, and they have the right to demand compensation. But the second lawsuit is already a way to cash in.
We, realizing that consumers are abusing their rights, went to court, where an independent examination was appointed. By a court decision, the developer had to pay money, but only 37 thousand rubles. instead of 2 million rubles, which clients demanded.
Consumer extremism can and should be fought. To do this, it is important to understand the legal framework and not follow the lead of the client, who, in your case, turned out to be wrong.
Checklist: How to Fight Consumer Extremism
To minimize financial and reputational losses of the enterprise:
When drawing up a contract, record all stages of cooperation and obligations of both parties.
If you receive a customer complaint, respond as quickly as possible.
Check the history of the consumer’s legal history – if he has repeatedly participated in such proceedings before, point this fact to lawyers.
Conduct an independent review if the client is clearly abusing his rights.
With the right approach to dealing with an extremist consumer, you can at least reduce the amount of compensation, even if you still have to pay.
Cover photo: pixabay.com