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shopping-onlineThe types of service we use may use online vary from ordering a take-away, to arranging a new mobile phone contract – but whatever the service, it will be covered by the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982.

When you arrange the service at a distance (by phone or on the internet) then you will also be covered for some services under the Consumer Contracts Regulations.

All services must be carried out with reasonable care and skill within a reasonable time.  This means that the work carried should be the same as would be carried out by any other competent service provider within the same field.

The work should be completed within a reasonable period of time if no time-frame has been agreed and if no price has been agreed, then the supplier can only make a reasonable charge for the service provided.

If any goods are supplied with the service, then those goods must be of satisfactory quality and fit for their purpose.  If they are not, you can ask for the goods to be repaired or replaced, rescind the contract or ask for a reduction in price.  In reality, the choice of which remedy to offer is down to the trader however, the trader must put the fault right within a reasonable period of time and without causing significant inconvenience.  What this means will be dependent upon the facts but you would argue that to repair a boiler in mid winter supplied by your plumber within 2 weeks would cause significant inconvenience, and yet 3 weeks in the summer might be reasonable.  If they fail to do so you can claim the cost of having a third party complete any works or repairs, and may also be able to claim other financial losses.

Also, the Consumer Contracts Regulations apply which means that you will have up to 14 days in which to cancel the services, unless you have given your express consent for the services to commence.  You can still cancel after that time but may have to pay for any work done that you have agreed to during that time.

The Consumer Contracts Regulations do not apply to holidays, leisure activities or accommodation.

If you cancel the contract then the trader should offer a refund within 14 days of the cancellation in most cases.

Telephone and Internet Providers

Please see our phones and broadband section.

Paying by Credit Card or Finance Agreement

If you paid for the service using your credit card or with a connected credit agreement ( a financial agreement arranged by the trader specifically for those services) and the value of the contract was between £100 and £30000 then  the finance company are jointly and severally liable with the trader for any misrepresentation or breach of contract.

BUT if you paid by credit card via paypal or another third party payment portal you will not be able to refer any complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman if the credit card company refuse your claim.

If you cancel the contract within the cooling off period then any finance agreement entered into will automatically be cancelled and the trader is responsible for informing the finance company.

Contracts Signed at Home or Work

If you signed a contract for services at your home or your workplace then for most goods you will have 14 days in which to cancel the contract under the Consumer Contracts Regulations unless you needed the services to start immediately, or you gave your express consent to have the work start before the cancellation period.

If you agree for the work to start within the cancellation period, you still have up to 14 days in which to cancel the contract but the trader will be able to charge you for any work undertaken in that time (provided the trader told you about this).

Questions & Answers


I agreed to pay £800 to have my garden paved but the same builder did the same work for my neighbour for £400 - can I claim a refund?

Unfortunately you cannot claim a refund – this is commonly known as a bad bargain.  If the gardener gave you a quote and you accepted it, then you are bound by it.  If however, you obtained the quote on-line or signed the contract at your home, the gardener must have informed you of your rights to cancel the contract and provided other information to you before starting the work – see the Consumer Contracts Regulations – if he did not then he may not be able to charge you for the work.

What is the difference between a quote and an estimate?

There is no legal definition to differentiate the two however, the reasonable person can expect a quote to be fixed and an estimate, just that.  However, simply heading something an estimate will not be enough and should not allow a service provider to charge a great deal more.  It will depend on why an estimate was given rather than a quote i.e. where there some aspects of the work that could not be determined?  If there are unforeseen works you will need to ask yourself, “was the builder using reasonable care and skill in providing the estimate in the first place?”.  An estimate should not be an invite to an open cheque book.

My telephone has gone wrong and the phone company who supplied it say I have to return it to the manufacturer?

A common problem that arises under service contracts, but the answer is, where the phone is supplied by the telephone company under the contract, they are responsible for ensuring it is of satisfactory quality and fit for its purpose.  If it is not, then you can ask to have it repaired or replaced (providing this is done within a reasonable period of time and without causing you significant inconvenience) and can ask for a refund of any charges that would have been incurred during the period that the phone is out of use.

If however, you broke the phone in some way or another, then the telephone company are not responsible at all.

I ordered some software on-line and changed my mind - do I have to pay for it?

The Consumer Contracts Regulations apply to digital content downloads.  You will not have the right to cancel the contract once a download has started, provided you were told that you will lose the right to cancel once you started to download, and you expressly consented to this.

I phoned to cancel a contract and the retailer said I had to submit the cancellation form on the contract to them within 14 days before they would accept the cancellation?

You do not have to use the cancellation form.  As long as you make it clear that you are cancelling you do not have to follow any express procedure.  The burden  of proof for showing that you cancelled within the cancellation period rests with you so it is important that you keep a record of the cancellation.

What services are expempt from cancellation rights?

The following list is not exhaustive but included:

  • Bespoke and customised goods;
  • Contracts concluded at public auction;
  • Goods that deteriorate or expire rapidly;
  • Sealed audio, video and software packages once unsealed;
  • Contracts for accommodation, transport of goods, vehicle rental, catering or services related to leisure activities if the contract provides for a specific date or period of performance;
  • Services which have been fully completed.

Do the Consumer Contracts Regulations apply to e-bay?

Yes, if you are buying from a trader.

I paid for an online will writing service and agreed for the work to start but then changed my mind - can they charge me?

You can still cancel the contract however, if you gave express consent for the work to start and were told that you would have to pay for work done during the cancellation period then the company can charge you for the work done prior to your cancelling.

I ordered some chairs and when they arrived I did not like them - the company says I cannot cancel?

If the chairs were bespoke and made to order just for you, then the cooling off period will not apply to you.  However, if the chairs were covered in a fabric from a range on offer then they may not be bespoke and you should be able to cancel.

Do the Consumer Contracts Regulations apply to gas?

Yes, please see our Utilities page.