Law guide: Complaints and disputes

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Introduction to your legal rights

Introduction to your legal rights

Contents

Note that any references to 'digital content' in this article is for contracts made on or after 1 October 2015.

As a consumer, all services delivered to you must be provided:

  • With reasonable care and skill;
  • Within a reasonable time; and
  • For a reasonable price, if a price hasn't already been agreed.

If you accept a quotation, that is the price you should pay. If you accept an estimate, the final price could be more, but it should still be reasonable. Make sure to check whether VAT is included.

What laws apply?

This will depend on whether the contract was made before or after 1 October 2015.

Contracts made before October 2015

In England and Wales, consumers are protected by the following:

  • Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977
  • Sale of Goods Act 1979
  • Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982
  • Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999
  • Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (for trade descriptions)
  • Consumer Protection (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (for misleading or aggressive trade practices)

Similar legal protection is provided under Scottish law.

Contracts made on or after October 2015

  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 which applies to the whole of the UK
  • Consumer Protection (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (for misleading or aggressive trade practices) The Consumer Rights Act incorporates the consumer rights contained in the Sale of Goods Act, Supply of Goods and Services Act and Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations.

Your rights

You have the following rights when dealing with certain service providers:

  • You don't have to pay more than an accepted quotation.
  • Digital content and materials or goods must be of satisfactory quality and fit for their intended purpose.
  • Digital content and materials or goods must be as described (e.g. 'new' must mean new and not reconditioned).
  • Services must be carried out with reasonable care and skill, and done within a reasonable time.
  • Contractual terms that restrict or exclude liability for breach of contract must be reasonable.
  • A business will be liable to you if you've bought goods, digital content or services from it because of its misleading or aggressive sales practices.
  • A business is legally responsible for any damage done while your property is in their possession as they must take reasonable care of it under the law of 'bailment' (in England and Wales) or 'custody' (in Scotland).

What is digital content?

Digital content can include:

  • Mobile phone apps
  • Films
  • Music
  • Books
  • Computer software
  • Software used to operate goods, such as a washing machine

Your rights

The legislation governing your rights as a consumer changed on 1 October 2015. What you are entitled to will depend on whether you purchased the service before 1 October 2015 or on or after that date.

When contracts can be cancelled

If you're not happy with a service, you may be entitled to cancel the contract if:

  • There is a term in the contract that gives you a right to cancel;
  • The seller breaks one of the important terms of the contract (a 'fundamental' part); or
  • You make a contract to buy services over the telephone, by email or over the internet, i.e. a distance selling contract. You can cancel the contract 14 calendar days from the day after the contract is made. See Right to cancel a consumer agreement for more information.

Contracts before October 2015

You will usually be able to claim damages (financial loss) against the service provider for not fulfilling their commitments in the contract (breach of contract) if they have failed to meet with any one of the above mentioned legal rights.

There may be occasions when the service has been performed so badly that you have lost confidence in the service provider and decide to get another service provider to do the work instead. In this instance you may be able to claim the cost you paid to correct the problem.

Contracts after October 2015

Where a service provider has failed to take reasonable care and skill or the description or information about the service was wrong, you can request they make another attempt at doing it properly. The work must be done without charge, within a reasonable time and without causing you major inconvenience.

However, you can't request the supplier to try again if it will be impossible for them to provide the service to the required standard. In this case, you will be able to claim a reduction (up to 100%) of the price charged by the service provider or money back if you have already partly or fully paid for the service.

There may be occasions where you can't request the service provider to correct the problem. For example, when the service has been performed so badly that you have lost confidence in the service provider or it's not possible to get them to do it. Here, you can get another service provider to do the work and claim the cost you paid to correct the problem against the original service provided.

You can automatically claim a price reduction, without asking the supplier to try again, if the service:

  • was not been done in a reasonable time; or
  • if the description or information about the service provider was incorrect.

Services that include providing goods

A service provider may provide goods or digital content together with a service, for example, where you have subscribed to a music streaming service or a service to rent DVDs. In these circumstances, the same rights you have if you bought goods or digital content will apply to any goods or digital content supplied with the service. The same applies if you've had goods manufactured or produced and then supplied to you. See the section 'If things go wrong' for more information.

How a service provider should deal with your complaint

If you have valid complaint, a service provider must (by law):

  • Respond to your complaint (whether made by email, telephone call or letter) as quickly as possible
  • Use their best efforts to resolve it or give a clear explanation of why they dispute it

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