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Cancelling a service you’ve arranged

This advice applies to England

See the separate advice if you want to cancel building or decorating work or to cancel a phone or broadband contract.

If you want to cancel a service you’ve arranged online, over the phone or by mail-order (eg a photographer for a wedding or a caterer for a party), you get a 14-day cooling-off period during which you can cancel for any reason and get your money back.

You also get this cooling-off period if you were approached by the business somewhere off the business’s premises and it costs £42 or more.

Your cooling-off period begins the day after you enter a contract with the business - verbal or otherwise.

14 days is the absolute minimum cooling-off period that a seller must give you. Make sure you check the terms and conditions in case they’ve given you more time to change your mind - many choose to do so.

When you don’t get 14 days to cancel

If you went into the business’s shop or premises to arrange the service you won’t get this cooling-off period.

You also won’t get a cooling-off period for:

  • accommodation (eg a hotel room or a short-term let)
  • transport of goods (including courier services)
  • vehicle rental services
  • catering or leisure activities for specific dates (eg hotel and restaurant bookings, theatre tickets, catering for a wedding or party)

For these services you’ll have the same cancellation rights as if you were making arrangements for them from the seller’s premises.

Getting your money back

If you paid up front or made a deposit and cancel in the cooling-off period you’ll be entitled to receive all of the money back. The only exception is if you asked for services to be provided during the cooling-off period, in which case the business will keep what’s necessary to cover the cost of services provided up until you cancelled.

If you didn’t give the business any money but they provided services during the cooling-off period at your request, you'll probably be expected to pay them for these unless your contract with them states otherwise.

If you think they’re withholding too much of your deposit or charging you too much you should try negotiating with the business.

You can use our template letter to let the seller know you’re cancelling. The letter you use depends on whether you bought the services:

Keep a copy so you’ve got proof you sent it.

You could also phone - but make sure you make a note of who you speak to and what was agreed. It’s a good idea to follow up with a letter or email.

Cancelling a service you arranged while on the business’s premises

If you haven’t formed a contract with the business for the services you won’t have to pay anything. If you’ve paid up front for the service or made a deposit you’re entitled to get all of it back.

You may have a contract even if there’s nothing in writing, for example if you’ve accepted a quote, paid the fee or a deposit or verbally told them to go ahead with the service.

If you’ve formed a contract with the business and you cancel, you’re unlikely to get all your money back unless there’s a generous cancellation clause written into your contract.

The business could:

  • charge a cancellation fee
  • hold some or all of your deposit to compensate for their financial loss (eg where they set aside time to provide the service and can’t book another job for the same period)
  • demand money if their loss due to your cancellation isn’t covered by any deposit

Check your contract for terms and conditions on cancellations.

You should try negotiating with the business if:

  • a cancellation charge seems unfair
  • the business is holding or demanding more money than needed to cover their financial loss
  • you paid everything up front (always inadvisable) and they’re keeping more than necessary to cover their loss

Negotiating with the business

You should always try to negotiate with the business if you feel you’re being unfairly charged for a cancellation or they’re keeping too much of your deposit.

Ask if the business is a member of a trade association, as the association may be able to help you in your negotiations.

If your negotiations are unsuccessful you could try an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme - a way of solving disagreements without going to court. Ask the business if they’re a member of one.

If they don’t respond, they’re not a member of an ADR scheme or won’t use ADR, keep a record of the fact that you asked them (and the date). You’ll need this if you end up in court.

Choose a Trading Standards-approved ADR scheme yourself to try and solve the problem more informally. It’ll help you later if you end up going to court.

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