Weekend before Bonfire Night I got a panic email from Lynn Thurston (Gemco News, Braintree, Essex). She wrote: “We purchased some helicopter toys from a reputable wholesaler in London. You have to plug them in to charge. We have had one brought back to us with fire damage. The guy states that it was on charge and it caught fire. I am not disputing that he should have his money back and I am obviously concerned about this toy: we have sold four. But he is asking for £200 compensation as he states he could have lost his home. My question is: who is responsible? I know the Sale of Goods Act does not apply to wholesalers. This has only just happened and the guy wants an answer on Monday. Any advice?”

Yes, plenty. Scam, I wondered? The guy’s home can’t be worth just £200, or is that what he thought Lynn would pay up without question? He could have set fire to the toy himself. I told Lynn to go to trading standards straightaway and tell the customer she had put it in their hands.

I assumed that her TSO would say that anything she sells must be fit for purpose but I thought they would appreciate the difference between a toy that turns out to be faulty and an obviously mouldy bit of ham.

It turned out to be so. Trading standards told Lynn to refund the money, and to take the toy back to her wholesaler. They had no other reports of this happening and said the guy could claim from his household insurance if it had done that much damage.