What to do if you have a dispute with a trader
Falling foul of a rogue trader or company is the last thing you want from your home improvement project. But it's important to know how to rectify the situation if it does happen to you.
Plus, you can read from Which? members who've had trader disasters, including a roofer who left a roof in a worse state than it began and a bathroom installer who hiked the price up during the installation.
Criminal vs bad practice
It is illegal for a trader to harass or threaten someone, take money without doing the work, lie about qualifications and competency, or falsify documents, such as building regulations or electrical certificates.
But there are many scenarios in which the lines between what is criminal and what's just bad practice can be blurred, especially when it comes down to whether or not a trader has met the standards of work you were expecting.
In June and July 2018, we asked 1,645 Which? members what problems they had experienced when using traders. Of those who had had issues, the most commonly cited was ‘leaving a job unfinished’ (32%), followed by ‘not carrying out all work agreed’ (25%) and ‘skipping important steps’ (20%).
Each of these could be open to interpretation, depending on your agreement with the trader or company.
Your rights with a rogue trader
If you have entered into a contract for goods and services, you can expect these to be supplied with reasonable care and skill using materials that are of a satisfactory quality, fit for purpose and meet the description given.
This is true whether you have a verbal or written agreement. Where price and timescale are not agreed in advance, the service must be carried out at reasonable price and in reasonable time.
If your trader fails to do this, they have breached their contract and you have the right to claim against them.
It can be notoriously tricky to get a resolution, particularly when it comes to getting your money back.
Resolving a dispute with your trader
Follow these steps to move forward with a trader dispute and possibly recoup your costs:
1. Talk to your trader
For 32% of people we spoke to who had a trader dispute, the resolution was asking the trader to repeat the job to a satisfactory standard.
Explain the problem, how they can resolve it and agree a reasonable date by which you'd like them to rectify it. If they have an official complaints procedure, follow it. Make sure you get anything you speak about in writing by either letter or email. Don't use WhatsApp or text messages.
2. Get a third party involved
If you reach a stalemate, you may need to use an Alternate Dispute Resolution scheme (ADR), an ombudsman or liaise with a trade body.
Traders and businesses aren’t required to be part of an ADR scheme, but they are legally obliged to point you in the direction of an accredited one.
Which? Trusted Traders is partnered with the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman, so all of our traders automatically agree to use this service should they need to.
3. Try to get your money back
Section 75, a chargeback scheme or the Financial Ombudsman Service could enable you to get your money back if you paid by card.
4. Consider taking legal action
Which? Trusted Traders
All our Which? Trusted Traders have been through our rigorous background checks. We ensure they're an established business, financially sound, do not cold call and have no previous convictions.
They must also be adequately insured, have the relevant qualifications to do the work they undertake and have paperwork that adheres to all the legal requirements.
Trader problems resolved - member stories
We've heard lots of tales of trader-related disasters. It can be difficult to know what to do if you fall victim to a fraudulent trader, and it can be even trickier trying to get your money back.
We've asked our Which? Legal team to explain what you should do if you find yourself in a similar scenario to the case studies below.