What price free expert advice? An MP finds out

The Scotsman for 9 August 2008 reported that Kilmarnock Sheriff Court had ordered Brian Donahoe, MP for Ayrshire Central, to pay an electrician’s call-out fee of £64 following an action brought against him by DSM Electrical.

The underlying story was that Mr Donahoe’s freezer malfunctioned in January and he phoned DSM after seeing that the company’s phone book listing offered “free expert advice”.  After a telephone conversation about the freezer problem, Mr Donahoe requested an on-site inspection by DSM, which duly took place.  DSM then billed him for the call-out charge, while Mr Donahoe argued that he had understood the inspection to be part of the free expert advice.

Sheriff Brian Adair found against Mr Donahoe in a judgement which Scots Law News has yet to trace on the Scottish Courts website, despite the Scotsman quoting the sheriff as saying the case involved “interesting points”.  The essence of his judgement is also quoted: “I consider that if a member of the public asked a tradesman to attend they could expect to pay a call-out charge.”  As well as the £64 fee he ordered Mr Donahoe to pay expenses of £61.

Mr Donahoe issued a statement saying, “You should be very careful about what tradesmen say in adverts.”  Dale McNair, owner of DSM, said:  “It’s a victory for small businesses and the working man.”