Problems with a service

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Not done with due care and skill

A supplier must provide services with 'due care and skill'.

This means suppliers must:

  • use an acceptable level of skill or technical knowledge when providing the services, and
  • take all necessary care to avoid loss or damage when providing the services.

Example only (outcome may differ in individual cases):

Terri hires a painter to paint her house. Before starting the job, the painter does not remove all of the old, flaking paint. Six months later, the new paint starts to flake. The painter has not met the 'due care and skill' guarantee, as he did not use a level of skill that would be expected of a reasonable painter.

Not fit for a particular purpose

Suppliers guarantee that:

  • their services will reasonably achieve the results you expressly state you want, or imply you want
  • any products resulting from the services are also fit for that purpose.

Examples only (outcomes may differ in individual cases):

Harry asks a carpenter to build a carport to cover his 4WD vehicle, which is two metres wide. If the carpenter builds a 1.8m-wide carport that does not cover the car, the carpenter will not have met the 'fit for purpose' guarantee.

Amber asks a handyman to fix double gates at the entrance to her driveway. The gates are poorly aligned and make a loud metal scraping noise when opened. Amber tells the handyman that she wants to stop the noise. The handyman realigns the gates but in less than two days the problem returns. The handyman will have to fix the problem free of charge, as the service did not achieve the desired result.

The 'fit for purpose' guarantee will not protect you if you did not rely, or it was unreasonable for you to rely, on the supplier's skill or judgment when agreeing to particular services.

For example, it may not be reasonable for you to rely on a receptionist in a large service company for advice about which specific service out of a range of options is suitable.

The 'fit for purpose' guarantee does not apply to professional services provided by a qualified architect or engineer (continuing an exemption granted in previous laws).

However, architects or engineers must still provide services with due care and skill.

Took too long

A contract or agreement for the supply of services usually states a date or an estimated date when the services will be complete.

If no date is stated, suppliers guarantee to supply the service within a reasonable time.

What is 'reasonable' will depend on the nature of the services.

For example, the time needed to build a house will be longer than the time required to cut down a tree.

Major problems with services

A problem must be major or unable to be fixed before you can ask the business for a refund.

A major problem is one where:

  • if you had known about the problem, you would never have bought the service, or
  • the service has not achieved what you told the salesperson you needed it to do or what it is normally supposed to do, and this problem cannot be fixed quickly or easily, or
  • the supply of the service has created an unsafe situation.

When there is a major problem with a service, you can choose to:

  • cancel the contract and pay a reasonable amount for the work done, or seek a partial refund of money already paid, or
  • keep the contract and negotiate a reduced price for the drop in value of the service —this may mean asking for some of your money back if you have already paid.

If a problem is not major and can be fixed, you cannot demand a refund; however, you can require the business to fix the problem.

If the business refuses to fix the problem or takes too long, you may be able to get it fixed by someone else and recover the costs.

Example only (outcome may differ in individual cases):

Max booked a flight to Perth, which was cancelled three hours before departure. Max had to book another flight straight away. He asked the airline for a refund of this first flight ticket, on the basis that the cancellation was a major problem under the Australian Consumer Law. Six months later, he still had not received a refund. As the airline was a participating member of the Airline Customer Advocate (ACA), Max contacted the ACA which helped him get his refund from the airline.

Damage to property

You can seek compensation from the provider of a service when that service causes damage to property belonging to you.

The loss or damage must have been reasonably foreseeable and not caused by something outside human control, such as a natural disaster.

Example only (outcome may differ in individual cases):

Lucy has her hair coloured by a hairdresser. During the process, the hairdresser spills dye on Lucy's shirt, permanently staining it. Lucy is entitled to ask the hairdresser for compensation for the cost of replacing the shirt.

Linked services and products

When you are entitled to cancel a contract for services that include products, you are also rejecting the products. This means you are entitled to a refund of any money or other type of payment you made for the products.

To get a refund, you must return the products to the supplier. If this involves significant cost to you, the supplier may have to collect them at their own expense.

Next steps

If there is a problem with a service, or if you are having a dispute with the provider, view our Resolve your problem or complaint page.

Last updated: 17/05/2017

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