When you enter a contract – be that buying something, ordering something or paying for a service – you and the other party must follow the terms set out in that contract.
In general, companies are free to use whatever contractual terms and conditions they consider to be reasonable. But these terms and conditions cannot be unfair.
Both of these regulations state that you’re not bound by a standard term in a contract with a seller or supplier if that term is judged to be unfair.
So, you have a right to challenge a contract term if you think it's unfair - but it's usually up to a court to rule if a term is unfair.
If you follow our advice, hopefully you can avoid things going that far.
The CMA can then investigate and ultimately force a company to change its terms.
A term may be deemed unfair if:
Some of the more common unfair terms are:
If you decide you don’t want to pursue a claim in court, you can still take steps to help make sure other people don't fall foul of the same unfair contract term.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) works to enforce consumer protection legislation and tackle practices and market conditions that make it difficult for consumers to make choices including unfair terms in consumer contracts and any issues related to poor competition.
You should also report the matter to your local trading standards department.
All contract terms, including core terms, must be in plain and intelligible language otherwise you can challenged them as being unfair.
But you can't do the following under either regulation:
If you think a particular term in your contract is unfair, write to the company explaining why, stating the amount of money you think you should get back.
If the company is demanding money from you, state that you consider the term they are relying on to be unfair, and that it can't be enforced against you.
If the trader won't accept what you say, the next step is court action or a dispute resolution scheme, such as an ombudsman or arbitration scheme - if there's one for your type of complaint.
If you want to claim back money you believe you’re owed, you’ll have to take the company to court or use a dispute resolution scheme.
Alternatively, if the company says you owe it money, it may try to sue you for the amount it thinks it’s due.
Either way, your case will be that the term of the contract is unfair and shouldn't be enforced against you.
If the amount of money involved is higher than the small claims limit, you’ll need some expert legal advice. And you'll probably need to appoint a solicitor to prepare your case.
You may be able to get free legal assistance through legal expenses insurance, which comes as part of your home or car insurance. Check your policies for details.
Before you start any court action, warn the trader in writing that this is what you’re going to do. If the trader sues you, there's a set time that you have for acknowledging the claim and getting your defence to court.
The letter you receive from the court should state these deadlines.