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Poor Service

What to do if you receive poor service from a company

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BBC Watchdog's Professor Margaret Griffiths explains what steps you can take if you feel you have received poor service from a company.


Professor Margaret Griffiths: Is there anything more annoying than when you've been promised a service only to end up disappointed with the end result?

Now, fortunately there are several sets of regulations that can help us out.

But, unfortunately, given the wide range of services available, the legislation is far more fragmented than if you're merely buying goods.

The major piece of legislation that encapsulates the variety of services that the average consumer will use is The Supply of Goods & Services Act 1982.

This regulation requires that the trader use reasonable care and skill and that any goods provided as part of that service must be of a satisfactory quality, fit for the purpose and comply with any description. It also states that where no specific date has been agreed for completion of the service, it must be done within reasonable time.

One common example that I hear when you might want to use these rights is that of poorly fitted double glazing, because you're paying both for the service of having glazing installed, but also for the windows themselves.

Another common example is taking your car in to have it repaired. If you take your car in with the reasonable belief that it’s going to take two days to do the job, and the garage actually takes three weeks, then the trader has breached the requirement for reasonable time.  And, if when you get the car back, the job hasn't been done properly, then he will have also breached the requirement for reasonable care and skill.

So, what about your rights when it comes to mobile phones? If your handset is faulty you should take it back to the shop where you bought it for a repair or replacement under The Supply of Goods & Services Act 1982. And, it's always worth asking if you can borrow a phone temporarily while yours is being repaired.

If your network coverage is poor, then you should contact your network provider to see if there is anything that can be done to improve it. And also check the terms and conditions of your contract to see if it makes any promises about the quality of coverage. If your contract has been broken, then you have the right to cancel it without penalty.

But, if your problem with coverage is restricted to a specific building, such as your house, then it's going to be far more difficult to argue.  Even if there is nothing specific in your written contract, if a salesman has led you to believe that you'll definitely get a good quality signal where you live and you get no signal at all, then you may have a claim of misrepresentation. But, while as in every other part of contract law, something that has been said is every bit as legally enforceable as something that has been written down. In practice it's a great deal more difficult to prove.

Quick tips for tutors

A short video that looks at the provisions of the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 and how it can protect the rights of consumers who feel that they have received poor service from a company.May be used in class to stimulate discussion around the featured story. Alternatively could be used to give a purpose and context to writing a letter.