Problems with services

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.

Supply of services: what to do if things go wrong

In the guide

This guidance is for England, Scotland & Wales

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives you important rights when you make a contract with a trader for the supply of goods, services and digital content.

The most important step you can take on the road to becoming a confident consumer is to know your rights. The next stage is to use this knowledge in a practical way to help you decide what actions to take when you are in dispute with a trader.

This guide gives you an overview of the key rights you have when a trader supplies you with a service as well as tips to follow when you want to complain to the trader when the service you receive is below standard.

When the Consumer Rights Act 2015 first came into force, the rail, sea and air sectors were exempt from the rules on the supply of services. From 1 October 2016 this exemption no longer applies so the law applies in full. These sectors continue to operate schemes, which work alongside the law, that allow passengers to claim compensation for delay or cancellation. 

Supply of services - an overview of your rights

Before you approach a trader with a complaint about a service you have received, know your rights and make sure you have a clear understanding of what you are entitled to and when you are entitled to it. The chart below gives you an at-a-glance view of your key rights and remedies when the services is not carried out with reasonable care and skill, within a reasonable time, at a reasonable charge and in line with information given by the trader.

However, if you need it the 'Supply of services - your consumer rights' guide gives more in-depth information.

If goods were supplied to you as part of the service, the 'Sale & supply of goods - your consumer rights' and the 'Sale & supply of goods - what to do if things go wrong' guides give you information on your rights and remedies.

Services flowchart

What to do if things go wrong

In most cases you will be satisfied with the service that a trader provides and will have no need to complain, but in the event of a problem follow the steps below:

  • act quickly as soon as you become aware there is a problem with the service
  • find your proof of purchase, which will usually be your receipt or your copy of the contract but it can also include your bank / credit card statement. You will need proof of purchase in the event that the trader asks you for evidence that they actually supplied the service to you
  • for most contracts but not all, the trader must give you certain important information about the service, the total price, payment arrangements, how the service will be performed, their name and contact details, after-sales information and details of any complaints handling policy they may have. If you receive this information, keep it in a safe place
  • if the trader does not provide after-sales information or details of a complaints handling policy you need to find out who to complain to. Check the trader's website, the contract or any other documents
  • have all relevant documents to hand, including any guarantee or warranty you may have been given. You do not have to make a claim under a guarantee or warranty if you do not want to because you have statutory rights, but if the trader refers to these documents it is useful to know what they contain
  • make a note of why you believe the service has not been carried out properly in case you miss out some important details
  • if you complain in person, ask to speak to the manager or the person in charge. Make sure you ask for their name and contact details in case you need to speak to them again
  • if you complain by phone, ring the dedicated customer services helpline number if there is one. Alternatively ring the store or head office and ask to be transferred to someone who can help you. Make sure you ask for their name and contact details in case you need to speak to them again
  • when you complain in person or by phone, it is advisable to follow-up with an email or letter to confirm the details of your complaint, which remedy you are seeking and to give a deadline for the trader to respond
  • you can complain in writing - by letter or email - if you choose. Find out who to contact beforehand to avoid your complaint being sent to the wrong person or office. You can attach copies of your paperwork to assist the trader to deal with your complaint. Obtain a certificate of posting for letters that you send, or use recorded delivery so that you can track the date the letter was received. if you receive an automatic email acknowledgement of your complaint keep it. The 'Writing an effective letter of complaint' guide includes template letters you can use
  • keep a record of events: when you complained and to whom and what they said they could do and by when
  • keep copies of letters and emails sent and received
  • depending on the type of service you contracted the trader to provide, they may be prepared to visit you at home if this helps them establish what the problem is. Have someone with you as a witness when the visit goes ahead
  • collect evidence to support your complaint that the service is below standard, such as photographs, videos and even statements from anyone who has witnessed the outcome of the poor service.
  • if the trader does not accept any of the evidence you have presented in support of your complaint and you remain in dispute, you may need to obtain an expert's opinion. The 'Getting evidence to prove your claim' guide gives more information on this
  • ask the trader to perform the service again. If this is not possible or cannot be carried out within a reasonable time or without significant inconvenience to you then ask for a refund. Note that if some of the service has been carried out properly then you might only be entitled to a price reduction
  • if the contract does not specify a certain date / time that the service must be completed by, then it has to be completed within a reasonable time. If this does not happen, you can write to or email the trader to make 'time of the essence'. This means you can set a specific date for the service to be completed and if the trader fails to meet the deadline, you can claim a price reduction, which can be as much as a full refund
  • if you think you have been overcharged and the price of the service was not fixed by the contract, write to or email the trader setting out the reasons why. As a guide to what you believe is reasonable state the price other traders in the area would charge for carrying out the same service
  • if the trader carries out a service that was not part of the contract and you did not agree to, take the matter up with the trader. There are a number of options that you may wish to consider:
    - once you have discussed the facts with the trader, you may accept that the extra service was required and offer to pay a reasonable sum
    - you can inform the trader that you will not pay for the unauthorised service and ask them to undo it (if possible)
    - negotiate a reduction in the price, taking account of the fact that the service was unauthorised
  • if the trader makes a statement (either in writing or verbally) about their business or about the service that you rely on but the trader does not keep to, write to or email the trader setting out your concerns
  • if the trader causes damage whilst carrying out the service, you are entitled to make a claim for your losses. Write to the trader setting out your claim and the amount of your loss
  • if the trader does not perform the service again and does not refund any money you are owed, you can obtain quotations from other traders to complete the service and seek to recover the cost from the original trader
  • if you paid for the service using finance arranged by the trader or if you paid using your credit card and the service cost more than £100 but less than £30,000, the finance / credit card provider is as responsible as the trader if the service is not carried out properly. Write to or email the finance / credit card provider with details of your complaint. The 'Supply of services - your consumer rights' guide gives more information
  • if you use a debit card to buy the service or if you use a credit card and the price of the service is less than £100 (your rights under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 would not apply) you may be able to take advantage of the chargeback scheme. Chargeback is the term used by card providers for reclaiming a card payment from the trader's bank. If you can provide evidence of a breach of contract (the service was not carried out for example) you can ask your card provider to attempt to recover the payment. Check with your card provider as to how the scheme rules apply to your card, whether internet transactions are covered and what the time limit is for making a claim
  • check whether the trader is a member of a trade association. Some trade associations provide dispute resolution schemes as part of the service so if you have a complaint against one of their members, they can assist in resolving the problem. The 'Trade associations & regulatory bodies' guide gives more information
  • consider using alternative dispute resolution as a way to resolve your complaint without going to court. As a last resort, you can take legal action against the trader in the court. See 'Thinking of suing in court?' for more information on these options

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: October 2016

Please note

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.