The law covering the supply of services is similar in principle to that covering physical goods. Services sold to you should be carried out with reasonable care and skill, completed by the date you have agreed or within a reasonable time and at the cost you agreed beforehand, or at a reasonable cost if you haven't agreed one. Proving that a service provided is unsatisfactory can be more complicated than for physical goods .
As with physical goods, your initial complaint should be taken up with the supplier of the service and then its trade association (if any) before taking court action.
Some of the more complex claims for services involve disputes over building work and other trades such as plumbing and window installation. There are quite a number of trade associations covering these trades and some, such as the Federation of Master Builders, have binding dispute resolution schemes.
If you do end up in dispute with your builder, and your claim is above the small claims court limit of £5000, then taking legal advice will be essential as litigation will probably involve getting expert opinions and you will be responsible for the builder's legal costs if the case reaches court and you lose. If it is not clear who is responsible for a problem, action would normally be taken against any sub-contractors used by the builder and if you have paid by credit card or arranged a credit agreement, you may also have a claim against the credit provider.
Be wise before the event
As ever, it pays to wise before the event too. In particular, get quotes, start/finish dates and completion dates in writing, ensure that the work is satisfactory before making the final payment and get a receipt. Finally, most tradespeople will provide a warranty for their work, but these will be worthless if the company stops trading. An increasing number of builders and other tradespeople offer warranties that are backed up by an insurance company in the event that the original company disappears before a warranty has run out.
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