Requirements for your services
The Consumer Guarantees Act (CGA) says services must meet these requirements — also known as guarantees:
- Done with reasonable care and skill.
- Fit for a particular purpose.
- Cost a reasonable price if the price wasn’t set beforehand.
- Completed in a reasonable time if the timeframe wasn’t set beforehand.
If your services fail to meet any of these four guarantees, your customers can seek a remedy from you.
The remedy depends on how bad the problem is. You may also be responsible for paying for any damage or loss caused by the problem.
You and your customer might have different opinions on how serious it is and whether it can be fixed. Do what you can to reach an agreement — if you can’t resolve it, it might go the Disputes Tribunal or District Court.
Read more about Obligations under the Consumer Guarantees Act
Remedies for minor problems
If the problem or fault with the service is minor and can be fixed, you must:
- fix the problem or do extra work at no extra cost
- act within a reasonable time.
How fast you must act depends on the nature of the problem and what’s involved in fixing it. Sometimes a reasonable time will mean within a few hours, eg a window won’t open after a house is painted. In other cases, it might be a few days, eg a new roof is leaking.
The customer must give you the chance to fix minor problems first. If they complain after getting a minor fault fixed elsewhere, you do not have to pay the repair bill. Nor do you have to give a refund or replacement. By not coming to you first, the customer has lost their right to a remedy.
If you refuse or delay
Your customer has two choices:
- Employ someone else to put it right and claim the cost from you.
- Cancel the contract and refuse to pay, or pay less than the agreed price. If they have already paid, they can claim all or some of their money back.
If your customer gets someone else to fix it because you refused or delayed:
- You must pay for the repairs.
- Repair costs must be reasonable — within the normal range of quotes for this work.&
- The customer doesn’t have to show you quotes before getting it fixed.
If you think the repair bill is too high, you must show why you think it’s unreasonable.
A customer can only ask you to pay for repairs done by someone else if you have refused or delayed doing it yourself. If you are too busy to put it right, arrange for someone else to do it.
Remedies for serious problems
A problem or fault with a service is considered serious if:
- The customer who knew what would go wrong would not have had the job done.
- For example, getting a jacket drycleaned, but the dye runs and the jacket is streaked.
- The work done is unfit for its normal purpose and can't easily be put right, or it can't be put right within a reasonable time.
- For example, bald patches left on a carpet after it’s been professionally cleaned.
- A customer tells you of a specific purpose or result they want. The work does not achieve this, and can't easily or within a reasonable time be made to do so.
- For example, a large family hire a station wagon for a weekend trip to visit relatives. It breaks down and repairs will take two days. But the hire company doesn't have a replacement vehicle that’s large enough.
- The work done produces an unsafe result.
- For example, an electrician wires a wall socket incorrectly and the customer gets an electric shock.
Customer chooses remedy
If it’s a serious problem, or it can't be put right, your customer has two choices:
- Claim compensation because the work done is not worth the price paid for it.
For example, a builder lines a room with plasterboard but makes a bad job of the joins. The plasterer tells the customer they will have to charge more as the job will take longer because of the bad joins. The customer claims compensation from the builder to cover the extra plastering cost.
- Cancel the contract and refuse to pay for the work, or pay less than the agreed price. If they have already paid, they can claim all or some of their money back.
Cancelling a contract
This means the agreement to do the work no longer applies. The contract doesn’t need be in writing.
A customer has the right to cancel a contract in three situations:
- There is a serious problem with the service provided.
- The problem can’t be repaired.
- They asked you to fix a problem, but you have not done so within reasonable time.
They do not have to give you the chance to put it right. And they can either:
- ask for some or all of their money back
- refuse to pay all or part of the bill.
The customer must tell you they are cancelling the contract, either in writing or by telling you. If you can’t be easily contacted, they can use any reasonable means to notify you. For contracts that require written notice of cancellation, this can be a letter or email.
Sometimes a customer will cancel a contract if some of the work is substandard. You will need to agree together how much they will pay for the work done properly.