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You should know
  • The law says that all service providers have a duty to perform their work for you with reasonable care and skill
  • Services do not have to perfect but must be of a reasonable competent standard
  • Always check you are happy with the work performed before you pay
  • If the trader has broken their contract with you then you can ask for either all or part of your money back or a sum of money for inconvenience
  • If possible you should always give the trader a chance to put things right
  • If the trader directly causes you to pay for something unavoidable then you can claim this cost back from them (eg and emergency plumber call-out fee)
  • You should always agree a reasonable time frame for any service you need and make sure it is in writing – either in a letter from you to the trader or written on the trader’s quote.
  • Some trade associations offer free mediation in disputes

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that traders must perform any service with reasonable care and skill. The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 and under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 outlines additional rights when a trader visits your home.

Not what I asked for

All services should be performed in the way they were described to you by the trader. If you ask for your house to be painted white and they paint it green then the trader is in breach of contract. In most cases this would be a genuine error or a miscommunication so it is important to agree the service in writing including firm timeframes and costs. If you had a clear agreement with a trader and they have not done what was agreed then they will be in breach of contract with you. You are entitled to have this work done again as agreed or the cost of putting it right by another trader. You may want to hold payment back to cover this cost.

Doesn’t match the description

All goods supplied with a service must be of satisfactory quality. If the trader has described goods to you verbally or with brochures or leaflets then the goods supplied must match the description. If there is a small shade variation or minor defect you may want to claim a discount against the purchase price and keep the goods supplied. If the misdescription is more serious then you are entitled to claim a refund or the cost of rectifying the issue.

Faulty workmanship

If the trader has made an error or performed any service poorly then they may have broken their contract with you and this means you may be entitled a full or partial refund, or the costs of rectifying the faults.

It is always better to check the work performed is satisfactory before you pay the trader. Check all works immediately and raise any issues or concerns with the trader. If the problems are extensive you should immediately inform the trader and try and negotiate putting the issues right.

Should a trader not accept your word, sometimes it could be worth getting an independent opinion, for example an ombudsman, to decide on whether or not your claim is reasonable.

Goods supplied don’t work

Goods supplied with any service should be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. You have the same rights against the service provider who supplies you with goods that you would have if you bought the goods directly. You may have bought goods yourself and asked the trader to install them for you. If you bought the goods yourself then you will have to return to the retailer but be sure it is the goods that are faulty and not the way they were installed. You will not be able to claim for faulty installation against a retailer of goods. Any products supplied with a service by the trader should perform satisfactorily and should also be of a reasonable standard generally available. Eg A plumber who supplies a boiler as part of a service is responsible for the correct functioning of the boiler and should negotiate with their supplier in the event of a problem – it should not be you!


Guarantees for workmanship are often supplied and these may give you additional rights if you are supplied with a guarantee. These will often accompany guarantees for the products supplied with the service (eg kitchen installation and units). The terms of the guarantee must always be given to you in writing. These rights may extend the time period you have in law (eg a lifetime guarantee). If the guarantee is issued by an association or is insurance-backed, you might be able to claim even if the trader ceases trading. Even if you have a guarantee, you still have rights that usually last in some form for six years from the date of purchase. These rights cannot be taken away from you. Never be fobbed off by a trader who tells you they will not rectify a matter because it is outside the guarantee period.

Price higher than quote

The cost for a service could be an estimate or a quote. An estimate can vary (usually by not more than 10%) however a quote is a fixed price and forms part of your contract. A trader cannot ask you for more than they quoted. In some cases demanding more than is quoted for could be illegal. Should a trader find an unexpected issue that could not reasonably been known about when quoted, then they may be able to ask you for extra costs (eg finding concealed asbestos on your property in the course of building works).

Withholding payment

You may feel that the work is so poor that you do not want to pay the trader. Depending on the amounts involved it could be worth getting a second opinion or even another quote for the same work, to back up your argument. This could be from another qualified tradesman or an ombudsman service. If the trader is a member of any trade association they may too mediate in any dispute.

Sales rep misled me

When a trader discusses any service with you they must be clear and honest. Sometimes we misunderstand things we are told and we must always clarify anything that is not clear to us before entering into a contract. Most sales reps do not intend to mislead the customer however if you feel you have been misled as to the products supplied with your service or the service itself you may be able to cancel your contract or claim damages from the business.

Service cancelled by trader

Usually when a contract is made between you and a trader money is exchanged, often as deposit. Should a trader cancel such a contract then they would be in breach of the agreement between you. If you suffer a loss as a result of the trader breaking such an agreement you would be entitled to a refund of any money paid but also you may be entitled to damages. For instance, if your wedding photographer cancels the day before the wedding, you may have to pay a high charge for a last minute service from another photographer. Your damages would be the difference in price.

I want to cancel the service

Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, you have a 14-day cooling off period in which you can cancel any service you've agreed to either online, over the phone, by mail order, or outside of the trader's premises. If you've paid a deposit, you should expect your deposit to be returned to you.

However, you won't have the same cooling off period if you've ordered: 

  • accommodation
  • transport of goods
  • vehicle rental services
  • catering or leisure activities for specific dates
  • bespoke goods such as made-to-measure curtains, windows or a conservatory

OR if you've visited the trader's shop or premises to take out the contract (although some traders, such as mobile phone providers, may write a cooling-off period into their contracts).

Information about the cancellation period and how to cancel should be made clear by the business. If it isn't, your cooling-off period is extended by 14 days from the date you finally receive the information (up to a maximum of a year).

If you've asked for works or services to start being provided during the cooling-off period and the business has given you all the necessary cancellation information, you'll most likely have to pay a percentage of the agreed price of the works or services – depending on how far the works or services got.

If the works or services were started during the cooling-off period without your approval, you're due a full refund of all costs if you decide to cancel.

Usually when a contract is made between you and the trader money is exchanged, often as deposit. Should you cancel such a contract outside of the contracted cancellation period, then you would be in breach of the agreement. The trader may have given you a written contract setting out the cost of cancellation, but usually the deposit is forfeited and you will lose this money. However if you wish to cancel a service due to poor workmanship or poor service in any way then the trader may be in breach of contract and you should not lose any money as a result.

If you've agreed to building works or similar services (such as decorating) while on the business' premises, your right to cancel depends on whether or not they've started the work. If you want to cancel after the business has started work, you'll need to negotiate with the business to arrange cancellation.

Unreasonable delays in doing the work

You should agree timescales in the initial stages before you pay or agree to any work. You may state these yourself or the trader may tell you a start date for works. If you do not agree specific timescales then it will be difficult for you to argue there is a delay in the future. Usually a trader will give you alternative dates for works but if the work drags on you can retrospectively make time a condition of contract by writing to the trader stating a reasonable finish date for works – this is called making ‘time the essence’ of the contract.

Unsafe and dangerous

It is your right to have a safe service supplied. If you or your property is harmed through an unsafe service you should inform Trading Standards or the relevant enforcer for that service (eg Gas Safe). You will be entitled to any loss you suffer as a result of an unsafe service and the trader could have broken the law in performing that service.

Damage to my property

If a service provider has damaged your property you will be entitled to the cost of getting this damage repaired. The trader should have insurance to cover such events but if not you may have to claim from them direct. You will only be entitled to the cost of getting the damage put right.

Second opinions/expert advice

You may be in dispute with a trader over the work they carried out for you. It may be useful in some circumstances to get an expert to give you a second opinion. This can be costly but there some trade associations and retailers offer a service for little or no charge to you (eg Furniture Ombudsman scheme).

Call-out fees

A trader should make any fees they intend to charge very clear to you BEFORE they perform the service. This would include call out fees and labour charges. This is set out in the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 and under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

If you have agreed a price with the trader and the service has been carried out satisfactorily then you will not be justified in withholding payment. However if you did not agree a price and the price charged seems high you will need to establish whether the trader has charged you a reasonable price. The law says costs can only be reasonable. You will need to find out what other similar traders would have charged in similar circumstances in order to prove this. You will also be able to dispute works that are not carried out to a satisfactory standard.

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