Your consumer rights when buying services

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 is the law when buying services since October 2015.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015

Under The Consumer Rights Act 2015, (and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, for transactions made before 1 October 2015), the law says that any services you buy must be:

  • carried out with reasonable care and skill;
  • finished within a reasonable period, if no time limit was agreed in advance; and
  • charged at a reasonable price, if a price was not agreed in advance.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 provides additional protection, which means a service must conform to any information the trader provides about it, either in writing or verbally.  

Furthermore, where a service includes the supply of materials, for example building work, the goods must be:

  • of satisfactory quality;
  • fit for any particular purpose; and
  • as described.

If a service fails to meet any of these conditions, the law says the trader must:

  • put things right at no extra cost to you;
  • within a reasonable time; and
  • without causing you significant inconvenience.

In circumstances where the service cannot be carried out again (for example wedding catering), or it cannot be done within a reasonable time, or without significant inconvenience, you can claim a price reduction. This could be up to 100% of the cost and must be provided within 14 days of the trader agreeing to it.

Many service providers are members of trade associations. It will usually say in their advertisements, on their website or in their paperwork. Trade Associations often have standards of performance or Codes of Practice that their members have to follow. In some cases, they can act as a referee between you and the trader.

If traders have suggested that they are members of trade associations when in fact they’re not, you should report them to the Trading Standards Service via Consumerline on 0300 123 6262 as it is a criminal offence to make false claims like this.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (Travel Amendments)

The information below relates to The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (Travel Amendments).

a) Overview

From 1 October 2016, travel services came under The Consumer Rights Act 2015. This means you may be able to claim compensation for poor service on transport services.

b) Travel service

When you pay to travel by train, coach or ferry you have purchased a service. The provider must perform this service with “reasonable care and skill”.

If this has not occurred, you may be able to claim back up to 100% of the price you paid for your travel.

 If you feel the travel service you have received falls below the standard you would normally expect, you may be entitled to claim a partial or full refund in the following circumstances:

  • A severely overcrowded train because the train has run with fewer carriages than are normally available;
  • A service is delayed for less than the time limit that applies under the company’s compensation schemes;
  • Unavailability of a seat that you have paid for (e.g. a reserved seat, or first-class service);
  • A consistently late running service if you have bought a season ticket;
  • Failure to provide access to a toilet on longer journeys;
  • Failure to provide food on a train journey if it was described as part of the service; or
  • The Wi-Fi service that you have paid for does not work.

In all these cases, you will need to provide evidence with your claim.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 recognises there are some things that are likely to be outside of a travel company’s control such as:

  • Acts or threats of vandalism or terrorism;
  • Suicides or accidents involving trespassers;
  • Gas leaks or fires beside a railway/road;
  • Road or rail closures due to the request of the police or emergency services;
  • Exceptionally severe weather conditions;
  • Industrial action;
  • Riots or civil commotion;
  • Fire, mechanical or electrical failure or a defect (except where caused by a train/coach company); or
  • The striking of a bridge by a vehicle.

c) Claiming for consequential loss

Under The Consumer Rights Act 2015  travel amendments, you can claim for any financial losses you have suffered as a result of the failure by the transport service.

To make a successful claim you will need to demonstrate in writing to the transport company how your losses are linked to a breach of contract by the service provider.

d) Getting your refund

If you are successful in claiming a refund or damages for consequential loss, this must be paid within 14 days and in the same form you paid for the service. So, if you paid in cash, you should be refunded in cash.

Who to contact

In Northern Ireland, The Consumer Council is the statutory complaints body for:

  • Rail Travel (NI Railways and Enterprise);
  • Bus and Coach Travel (e.g. Ulsterbus, Metro, Glider, Goldline etc);
  • Air Travel (Flights to and from Northern Ireland);
  • Airports (George Best Belfast City Airport, Belfast International Airport, and City of Derry Airport); and
  • Ferry Travel (Stena Line, P&O Ferries, Strangford Lough, Rathlin etc)

Contact The Consumer Council on 0800 121 6022 or [email protected].

Air Travel

Air Travel is not covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Instead, Air Travel is protected by European Law (Regulation (EC) 261/2004).

Further details on your rights in regards to air travel can be found in The Consumer Council’s Plane Facts guide.

Ferry Travel

The Consumer Council’s guide – Plain Sailing provides further details of your rights in instances of ferry service delays and cancellations.