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How to dispute the cost of a service

If you have a service done and it costs more than expected, you may be able to dispute the cost.

If you agreed a firm price beforehand and the work is satisfactory, you will probably have to pay it - even if you find out you could have paid less elsewhere. If you didn’t agree a price, or the trader did extra work, the law says the cost must be reasonable. If the cost isn't reasonable or the work isn't satisfactory, you may be able to dispute it.

Read this page for practical tips on how to dispute the cost of a service.

What you need to know

To find out more about when you can dispute the cost of a service, see Service cost more than expected.

Negotiating with the trader

If you want to dispute the cost of a service you should explain to the trader why you think the bill is too high and tell them what you are prepared to pay. You may want to pay them the amount that you think the service is worth. If you were given a lower estimate of the cost of the service, use this as the basis for negotiation.

When negotiating with a trader, you could think about doing the following:

  • look at the price charged by other local traders for the same service
  • get advice on pricing from a trade or professional association
  • ask an independent expert's opinion
  • look at a trade association code of practice for information about how the price should be worked out.

What happens when you dispute the bill

While you are disputing the bill, the trader has the right to keep any goods that have been left with them. For example, if you took a laptop to be repaired then refuse to pay the whole bill because you think it's too high, the trader can keep the laptop until the dispute is settled.

You should bear in mind that if you refuse to pay the full amount, the trader may take you to court to recover what they believe you owe them.

What you need to know

If the amount you are being asked to pay is unreasonably high, the trader may be committing a criminal offence. It's also a criminal offence if they persuaded you to have the service done by telling you things that were untrue or misleading or put pressure on you to agree. If you think any of this applies to you, you should get help.

Paying under protest

If you can't reach an agreement with the trader and you need your goods returned you may want to pay under protest. This means that you must make it clear in writing when you pay that you are paying under protest in order to get back your goods and that you will claim your money back at a later date. You could mention that if necessary, you would be prepared to go to court to claim back your money.

Writing to the trader

You may want to write to the trader telling them that you dispute their charges and tell them what you think would be a reasonable price to pay. You may also want to send a cheque in full and final payment which lets the trader know that you are not willing to pay more than this. The trader will need to decide whether to accept this payment as the final payment, or to take further action against you, such as taking you to court.

Next steps