This page has been updated with new content, which replaces the 'Alternative dispute resolution' factsheet.

Taking action about discrimination in the provision of goods and services

This advice applies to Scotland. See advice for See advice for England, See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Wales

The law which says you mustn't be discriminated against is called the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination which is against the Act is unlawful.

If you’ve experienced unlawful discrimination by a trader or service provider, there are a number of things you can do to challenge the discrimination. For example, you can talk to the trader or service provider who discriminated against you or you can make a discrimination claim in court.

Read this page to find out more about what you can do if you’ve experienced discrimination when buying goods and services.

Top tips

As well as being protected against discrimination, you have other rights under consumer law. If you’ve been treated unfairly but it doesn’t count as discrimination, there may be other ways of sorting out the problem.

See our consumer pages for more information.

Before you take action

If the service is provided by a public authority

Some services are provided by public authorities - for example, libraries and leisure facilities provided by a local authority. If you've been discriminated against by a public authority you can also take action under the Equality Act 2010.

Check whether unlawful discrimination has taken place

If you want to take action about discrimination, you need to be reasonably sure that unlawful discrimination has taken place according to the Equality Act.

Remember that in some cases, you can do something about discrimination even if it didn’t happen directly to you. In some situations, you’ll need to explore the problem further before you can be reasonably sure that discrimination has happened.

Make sure you’ve checked whether:

  • you’re someone who mustn’t be discriminated against

  • the trader or service provider has a duty not to discriminate against you

  • their behaviour counts as discrimination.

If the treatment doesn’t count as discrimination under the law, you may still have been treated badly or unfairly and you may be able to do something about that. For example, you can still make a complaint about your treatment.

Work out what outcome you want

When deciding what action to take about discrimination, you’ll need to think about what you’re trying to achieve. You will also need to think about how quickly you need to get a result.

You may want:

  • the discrimination against you to stop - for example, you want to be charged the same for a service as someone else, not more

  • an apology

  • the trader or service provider to look again at a decision they’ve already taken

  • a change in the trader's or service provider’s policies

  • staff training in discrimination issues

  • money for financial losses or compensation - for example, for stress or injury to feelings.

It’s often best to try to resolve your problem informally first. It may stop the problem getting worse and avoid the expense of taking legal action. You should, however, be aware that there are strict time limits for taking legal action. It’s therefore best to act as early as possible.

What can you do to sort out a problem?

Make a complaint

You can try talking to the the trader or service provider about your problem first. If the problem isn’t resolved informally, you can make a formal complaint. Ask the trader or service provider for a copy of their complaints policy.

You should write to the advertiser directly if your complaint is about the way certain goods or services are advertised. You can forward your complaint to The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) if you don’t receive a reply. The EHRC has a guide for making complaints to publishers and advertisers.

Taking your complaint further

After this you can take your complaint to other organisations, like an ombudsman or trade association. You may also be able to report the trader to Trading Standards or the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) includes things like mediation, conciliation or arbitration. This is where people on different sides of a dispute use an independent professional, called a mediator, conciliator or arbitrator, to help them find a solution to a problem. If you want to take legal action, the courts now generally expect you to have considered the use of ADR, before you start court action.

You can contact the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) helpline for help with finding a mediator or conciliator.

You may be able to take legal action against the trader or service provider. If you want to make a discrimination claim you need to apply to the court within 6 months of the discrimination you’re complaining about.

Next steps

You can find more information about your consumer rights in the consumer section:

Other useful information

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at