Figures from the Department of Health show that over 3,500 women have been in touch with the NHS about their PIP breast implants because their private clinics have refused to help. While some cosmetic surgery clinics have said they’ll remove and replace the faulty implants free of charge, others say they won’t and some have tried to sell additional services or procedures to people who’ve got in touch. One firm of personal injury lawyers is hoping to get permission at the High Court next month to bring a class action.
What to do
The clinic that fitted the breast implants should be your first port of call, and, if you’re worried about your health and the clinic won’t help, you should contact your GP. But, as an increasing number of women are finding out, there may be routes open to claim compensation using consumer protection laws.
Pam Gregory, a consumer rights expert at Trading Standards, says the following could help:
– Supply of Goods and Services Act, 1982. This says that goods should be of a satisfactory quality (which includes being ‘safe’) and fit for the purpose they were used for, so if the silicon used is different from medical grade silicon, that could make them unfit for purpose. Under this Act you could claim the costs of the faulty implants being removed and replaced.
SAVVY TIP: Pam Gregory says that if the industrial grade silicon wasn’t tested but was the same quality as medical grade silicon, it could be more of a grey area for claims.
– The contract is with the clinic that carried out the operation. It’s the clinic that has the contract with the client and it’s their responsibility to put the problem right.
SAVVY TIP: If the clinic isn’t prepared to help you, it may be worth contacting their trade association (such as the British Association of Aesthetic and Plastic Surgeons or the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons).
Credit card and finance deals
If you paid for your implants with your credit card, contact the credit card provider because under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, they have equal liability if goods you’ve bought turn out to be defective.
SAVVY TIP: The Consumer Credit Act is a complex piece of legislation and it hinges on the finance provider being separate to the supplier, but there being a direct link between you, the clinic and the credit supplier (so, for example, if someone else had paid for your implants, the direct link would have been broken).
This is what the UK Cards Association (representing credit card providers) have to say:
– If you’ve paid with your credit card: if something goes wrong, providing it costs more than £100 and less than £30,000, you certainly would have grounds for making a Section 75 claim, and you should speak to your credit card company who will tell you exactly what information they need.
– You might even have a valid claim if you only paid a deposit on your credit card
– Every Section 75 claim is different and each one has to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, but credit card companies may even pay out even in situations where they are not legally obliged to.
– If your claim isn’t successful your credit card company should be able to tell you why. If you don’t agree with their reasons you can go back to them and make a formal complaint.
– You can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service. If you’re still not happy you can refer your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Using a personal injury lawyer
Mark Harvey, a personal injury lawyer with law firm Hugh James was preparing claims against PIP last year when the news broke that the manufacturer went into liquidation.
– Claims can still be brought whether or not an implant has ruptured What’s important is that non-medical grade silicon was used. In his opinion, that means the implants are not fit for purpose under the Supply of Goods and Services Act.
SAVVY TIP: Mark says that when choosing a solicitor to handle your case, you should ask them if they’re already dealing with claims on behalf women with PIP implants and find out what experience they have of suing in this type of case.
Where there’s been a rupture and you’re making a personal injury claim, you have three years from the date you knew there was a problem in which to bring a claim (i.e. from when the implant ruptured or you suspected it was leaking). Where you’re claiming under consumer laws, you have up to six years from the date of supply (or five in Scotland).
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