Your rights when a tradesperson or other service provider charges too much.
If you‘ve agreed a price for some work to be done, then this is the price that you pay.
It’s a good idea to get a range of quotes from trustworthy businesses before you decide on a service provider. It’s also important to read the terms and conditions of a contract carefully before you sign it.
If you got an estimate
An estimate is not a set price. It's a best guess based on the service provider's skill and past experience.
An estimate can be verbal or in writing — there's no legal difference between a written or verbal estimate. The actual price you are charged can be more or less — but as a general guide, it should be within 10 to 15 percent.
If you got a quote
A quote is an offer to do a job for an exact price. Once you accept a quote, the service provider can’t charge you more than the agreed price unless you agree to extra work, or the scope of the job changes while it is underway.
Quotes and estimates
If you didn't agree a price/timeframe
So long as the services are for personal or household use:
- If no price is agreed, you only have to pay a reasonable price for that type of work.
- If no end date is agreed, the job needs to be done within a reasonable time.
Contracts and sales agreements
If things go wrong
When a service provider charges more than you expect, your next steps depend on whether a price was agreed before work began.
If you got a quote
Talk to the service provider. Politely point out that the final bill is higher than the quote. It's your right to refuse to pay the extra amount — unless you changed the scope of the job once the quote was confirmed.
If they insist on the higher price, you can take a case to the district court or Disputes Tribunal.
If you didn't get a quote
Ask the service provider to explain their final bill. If you got an estimate for a lower price, ask why the difference. Listen to any reasons they give, eg you chose more expensive paint.
If there's no good reason for the high price, check the going rate. One way to do this is to ask other service providers what they would charge for the same job.
If the going rate is much less than your final bill, try to negotiate a lower price. If the service provider won't negotiate, you can refuse to pay more than the going rate.
Either side can take a case to the district court or Disputes Tribunal.
Example — Check the going rate
Janet arranges to have her fence painted over a week. The painter estimates the total cost at $1,200 but bills her $1,600. She’s surprised, as the work was finished much more quickly than he originally estimated. Janet then gets quotes from other painters. She finds out the going rate is closer to his original estimate. She should discuss the bill with the painter first, and see if he will reduce it. If they can’t agree, she can go to the Disputes Tribunal.