What's a consumer complaint letter about services not performed as requested, and when do you need one?
Use this letter when you’re a consumer (not acting in a business capacity) and you want to complain that a trader (e.g. a builder, plumber, electrician or other similar service provider has not performed the service(s) that you are paying them to do for you in England or Wales. (The work need not have been fully completed already for you to rely on this template, but you will need to adapt it a bit.)
For example, if you’ve engaged someone to install an alarm system and they’ve fixed the alarm in the wrong place according to what you agreed, or they’ve installed the wrong alarm, this template letter is a good starting point for raising a complaint.
If the work has been done but it’s of a poor quality, rather than not what was requested, you can use our consumer complaint letter about poor quality services/workmanship (England and Wales).
If your complaint is about faulty goods associated with a service, for example, a faulty boiler fitted as part of a new heating system service, then our template letter complaining about faulty goods sold together with a service is probably a better starting point.
And if you were told something by a service provider that was not true, (i.e. you believe you were mis-sold the services), you have additional consumer rights. Take a look at our template consumer complaint that goods/services were misrepresented by a trader, as this may be a more appropriate fit for those particular circumstances.
Your consumer rights when you buy and receive a service from a business seller
Legal rules apply to the supply of services to consumers and traders can’t avoid them. These rights are set out in the Consumer Rights Act 2015. It requires that services must be:
- 'as described': you have the right to expect that services described to you during the sale process will in fact be performed as they were described – and this includes installing, building, fixing or otherwise carrying out the contracted services in the place you agreed and using the equipment and/or goods that you agreed.
‘As described’ includes if the supplier or their sales representative tells you that the services are suitable for your requirements and will involve specified elements that are not in fact provided; you have the right to rely on that reassurance and to seek a remedy where you don’t end up with what was agreed
‘carried out with reasonable care and skill': by law, services must be provided to consumers with 'reasonable skill and care'
'completed within a reasonable time-frame and at a reasonable price' and ‘at a reasonable price’: services must also be performed on a timely basis. Some contracts will additionally make the timely performance of the services a fundamental term of the contract, by specifying deadlines and expressing them to be 'of the essence'. This means that not meeting deadlines will be a breach of contract by the supplier, for which the remedy is usually the right for you to terminate the contract and demand compensation.
What can you do?
If the supplier doesn’t carry out the contracted service according to been what's contractually agreed, you’re entitled to:
a refund: you’re entitled to claim a refund, which might be full or partial (depending on how bad the problem is) and, potentially, you could claim damages for any costs that you’ve incurred as a result of the supplier’s poor performance, e.g. if damage was caused to your possessions or you had to pay for something/lost money because of the poor service. The law says you should receive a refund within 14 days. You have up to 6 years to bring a complaint (5 years in Scotland), but the more time that passes, the less likely you are to get to a satisfactory conclusion.
repeat performance: require the supplier to carry out the service again, so that it is completed as the contract states it should be. (This must be done within a reasonable time, without significant inconvenience, and at no cost to you, provided that it is possible for the service to be repeated. If it’s not possible to do this (within a reasonable time / without significant inconvenience to you), then you’re entitled to
a price reduction: if repeat performance of a service is not possible, the price reduction to be applied is an ‘appropriate amount’. Often, that will be the difference between the agreed price and the value of the service actually performed. On other occasions, it might be the cost to you to put things right.
If the trader you’re dealing with has a website on which they display their contact details and often, the terms and conditions under which they sell (even if they’re not selling online). Take a look at these as they may (and ideally should) contain information about how you can complain to them and the time frames and rights they give you.
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 specifies that you are entitled to an answer from your service provider/seller within 14 days for straightforward complaints, which applies to most complaints (3 months for more complex ones).
Keep copies of all your correspondence and any attached documents, such as receipts, copies of guarantees/warranties that you have activated (if relevant), etc. Some businesses will have self-imposed, or legally imposed deadlines for responding to you and for resolving your complaint. If they refer to these deadlines in their documentation, make sure you reference them in this letter too.
Most traders trade off reputation and word-of-mouth referrals/ratings and most traders will be upset that you’re not happy and will normally be very reasonable in remedying your concerns. Calm conversations to point out what you’re not happy about are always a better starting point than letters and even emails – though the content of this template is a great format for a phone conversation and it is always worth knowing your rights and how to express them, in any discussion and, if needed, correspondence that further asserts your rights.
Taking your complaint further
If you’re not satisfied with the response you get from the trader, then you can:
- find out if they have an ombudsman or other professional standards body to whom you can complain (sadly there isn’t really one for standard retailers); or
- you could consider complaining to Trading Standards; (Bear in mind, though, that your local trading standards department's role is to address the issue with the retailer, not to get your money back), or
- you could, depending on the trader’s terms, suggest alternative dispute resolution/mediation.
- You might be able to rely on your card or payment provider for help, if you paid by a credit or debit card, you used a provider like Paypal, or your purchase was financed by a hire purchase company.
- Finally, you can consider a claim brought in the courts, though this can be costly and take some time to be heard.
Before taking any of those steps, it is highly advisable to see if you can get the seller to provide you with what’s often called a ‘letter of deadlock’, essentially, a letter confirming that the seller has not been able to resolve your complaint and you remain dissatisfied.
This is a key piece of evidence, in your favour, that supports you seeking assistance from the above solution providers, proving that you have reasonably tried to reach a resolution on your own and been unable to do so.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you have 6 years to bring a faulty goods claim in the courts. Scotland has a 5-year time limit. That doesn’t mean that the goods you bought need to last 6 (or 5 years), simply that you won’t be able to bring claim about these faulty goods once these time periods have expired.
Help now and later
If you’d like help with your complaint and/or considering your options, you can use our speak to an adviser service, where a qualified expert can talk you through your options, and help you to decide the right next steps for you. Our guide: how to bring a consumer complaint against a business, contains more background and instructions on the wider context of consumer complaints and what to expect.
Or sign up to talk to one of our advisers to help you through it.
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