Help you didn't ask for
11 October 2010
You asked for a service and the mechanic replaced the cam belt. You asked for a quote for fixing your sewing machine and they finished the job. You asked for a new powerpoint and the electrician started rewiring the house. Now you’ve got a bill three times what you were expecting. What can you do?
The general rule is that you don’t have to pay for work that you did not authorise.
What to do about unauthorised work
If you are billed for work that has been done which you did not authorise, you can refuse to pay that part of the bill.
If you don’t want to pay for the unauthorised work you might have trouble getting the item back from the service provider. You can try negotiating a lower price or you can agree to pay part or the full amount to get the item back and then go to the Disputes Tribunal to decide on the complaint.
If you do this then tell the repairer in writing that you are paying “without prejudice” which means that you do not accept the amount charged. Then you can make a claim to the Disputes Tribunal for a decision and reimbursement of any amount in dispute.
Undoing the work
The service provider can reverse the extra work if it is practical and won’t do any damage. If you are worse off because of the extra work you can claim for consequential loss, or costs you have suffered as a result of this extra work.
Before you get work done
Get a quote or estimate or put in writing your specific requirements and the amount you are willing to spend. This may reduce any misunderstanding that may arise after the work has been done.
Be specific and state exactly what work or service that you want done. If you are too general about your requirements – eg, 'please fix my car' - you risk getting a huge bill because you have given the garage the go ahead to do anything to fix the car.
Place a limit on the amount you are prepared to pay. Tell the service provider how much you are prepared to spend on the repair. They cannot go over this amount. If it is not possible for the repair to be done within your limit the repairer should not do the work, or, after assessing the extent of repairs needed, should contact you first to discuss the likely cost.