The advice sheets below have the lastest information on problems with services. If you need more advice, please call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06.
In the guide
This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales
Traders may offer 'package' or 'bundle' deals where more than one service, such as phone, broadband, entertainment and mobile services, are provided under one contract. The market is competitive and you are likely to be faced with a wide choice of services in differing combinations with different price structures. Comparing deals can be confusing; consider the set up costs (which may include the supply of equipment and installation), the total cost per month (which may include landline charges), the minimum contract term, value for money, quality of service, content availability and the quality of the signal / reception in your area. Bear in mind that digital content - such as games, ringtones, apps, music and video - may cost extra.
You have rights and remedies under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 when a trader supplies you with goods, services and digital content.
Traders must comply with the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 when they supply goods, services and digital content without face-to-face contact with you. These are called 'distance' contracts. You have the right to cancel most distance contracts and the cancellation period is 14 days.
Traders may provide single services or packaged / bundled services in different ways and at varying prices, but you will generally find that they will include:
These services and associated goods and digital content can be obtained directly from the service provider, but there are traders that will sell on a service provider's behalf and act as approved agents.
Terms and conditions. Check the terms and conditions that apply to packaged services. You will find these on the trader's website.
Can the trader supply the package? The package may be subject to availability. Check with the trader to see which services you can receive if you have a 'social' (basic) phone line or if you have a business use line. Check whether you have cable in your area if you are considering getting a cabled service package.
The total cost per month. Check the standard monthly cost of the package, especially if you are offered an introductory price. It may appear to be reasonable at first but costs can soon add up once you start adding extras such as superfast broadband, unlimited calls and texts, increased data allowance, entertainment, sports, online security software, and cloud storage. Find out what the penalties are (if any) for exceeding a usage allowance.
The length of the contract. Check the minimum term of the contract and find out what the penalties are if you cancel before the end of the contract.
Do you need to change your landline provider to obtain the service? You may need a working BT phone line to obtain some services.
Which goods will be provided to receive the service? For example, you may need a router to receive broadband, a set top box to receive some TV services, a dongle to receive mobile broadband.
Reception. Check you are able to receive all the services you require, bearing in mind the area you live / work in. Will you be able to get a phone signal, internet or TV reception where you need it? Most service providers have a facility to check this on their website or they may do this for you. Ensure that the reception quality is confirmed in writing before you sign the agreement.
Does it represent best value for money? As it is a competitive market, you should do your research and don't feel pressured into buying before you have shopped around.
Do you need the package?
When buying a TV, computer or a new mobile phone, avoid being pressured into signing an agreement for new services when you may actually be satisfied with your existing services.
Do I need all the elements of the package? You should ensure that you choose a package that is suitable for your needs and does not include elements that you are not going to use. This should reduce the package cost.
Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for UK communication industries, has details of price comparison sites that have gained Ofcom accreditation. The accreditation scheme means that the price comparison sites have undergone an independent audit to ensure they are easily accessible, clear, accurate, comprehensive and up-to-date.
If you buy a package from a trader by distance means, such as from a website, you have the same legal rights as you have when buying from a trader's premises. The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 give you extra protection because the contract you enter into is concluded at a distance and without face-to-face contact. You have the right to cancel most 'distance' contracts and the cancellation period is 14 days. You also have the right to withdraw your offer to buy before the contract is made.
There are times when you may want the trader to start a service straight away. Under these circumstances, the trader must inform you that you lose your right to cancel once the contract has been performed. If the service has not been completed and you cancel within the cancellation period, you will have to pay for the part of the service that the trader has carried out. If goods were supplied with a service, you have the right to return the goods if you cancel within the cancellation period but you may be liable to pay some or all of the service costs.
If you decide to cancel or withdraw from the contract then you must inform the trader. You can make a clear statement setting out your decision to cancel or you can use the cancellation form that the trader must provide you with. Make sure you obtain proof of delivery, keep copies of any emails you send and keep the acknowledgement of receipt you receive from the trader if you cancel online.
Be aware that the trader may try and persuade you into taking the package by offering you incentives. Always give yourself time to consider offers before going ahead. Any revisions to the terms of the deal may involve another agreement and you may have cancellation rights on the new agreement as well.
If you sign up in-store then you may only have the right to cancel if it is included within your terms and conditions. You should check with the trader to find out if this applies to you.
The 'Buying by internet, phone & mail order - distance contracts explained' guide gives more information.
It is an important element of a contract that the trader must give you specific pre-contact information, as set out in the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. The three guides 'Buying from business premises - on-premises contracts explained', 'Buying by internet, phone & mail order - distance contracts explained' and 'Buying at home - off-premises contracts explained' explain what these pre-contract requirements are. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 if a trader does not provide the required information, you can make a claim to have your costs (if you have any) reimbursed.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 sets out what you are entitled to expect from the package supplied by a trader. These are commonly referred to as your 'statutory rights'. The law also gives you remedies against the trader if the package fails to meet your expectations.
Goods - key rights:
Goods - key remedies:
Services - key rights:
Services - key remedies:
Digital content - key rights:
Digital content - key remedies:
The three guides 'Sale & supply of goods - your consumer rights', 'Supply of digital content - your consumer rights' and 'Supply of services - your consumer rights' give more information on your rights and which remedy you are entitled to.
If you enter a contract because a trader misled you or because the trader used an aggressive commercial practice, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 give you rights to redress: the right to unwind the contract, the right to a discount and the right to damages. The 'Misleading & aggressive practices - your right to redress' guide gives more information.
If a trader misleads you or engages in an aggressive selling practice, then they may also have committed an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. You can report your complaint to the Citizens Advice consumer service for referral to trading standards.
This guide gives you the information you need on the rights you have and the remedies you are entitled to. The three guides 'Sale & supply of goods - what to do if things go wrong', 'Supply of digital content - what to do if things go wrong' and 'Supply of services - what to do if thing go wrong' explain the practical steps you can take when complaining to a trader.
Phone, mobile and internet service providers that offer services to individuals and small businesses (up to 10 employees) must be a member of an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme. The ADR schemes approved by Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, are:
ADR schemes are free, impartial services available to consumers and small businesses that are in dispute with a service provider and can be an alternative to court action. You should check with the service provider to establish which ADR scheme it is a member of. Both of the above ADR schemes require you to try and resolve your complaint with the service provider in the first instance. If the service provider sends you a 'deadlock' letter (which means their final position on the matter), or eight weeks have passed and you remain dissatisfied, you can take your complaint up with the relevant ADR scheme.
Check with the ADR scheme to find out which complaints it can deal with and which are outside its remit.
If you do not agree with the decision reached through the above ADR services, you can still take action in the court. See 'Thinking of suing in court?' for more information.
Last reviewed / updated: July 2016
This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.
The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.
For further information please contact the Citizens Advice consumer service, which provides free, confidential and impartial advice on consumer issues. Visit the Citizens Advice website or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 040506.