THE PROVISION OF SERVICES REGULATIONS COME INTO FORCE ON 28 DECEMBER
The new Provision of Services Regulations 2009 come into force on 28 December 2009 but surprisingly most small businesses haven’t got a clue they are coming in and what they are about.
The government has published a guide which describes the rules in more detail. The guide can be downloaded here.
What are the rules about
The new rules relate to the information that businesses are required to make available to their customers and procedures for dealing with customer complaints. They also prohibit businesses from discriminating on grounds of nationality or residence.
Who is affected by the rules
The rules apply to all businesses operating in the services sector except those that are specifically exempt. They operate on the basis that “if you are not specifically excluded, you are in”.
Businesses that are specifically excluded include financial services such as banking, credit, insurance and re-insurance, occupational and personal pensions, securities, investment funds, payment and advice; electronic communications services and networks; services in the field of transport; services of temporary work agencies; healthcare services; audiovisual; services including cinemas and broadcasting services; gambling services; social services relating to social housing, childcare and the support of families in need; private security services; services provided by notaries and bailiffs.
What information should you make available to your customers
Under the new regulations you must provide customers with:
(a) the name of your business
(b) your legal status (for example whether you are a sole trader, partnership or limited company)
(c) the geographic address at which you are established and details by which you may be contacted rapidly and communicated with directly and, if you can be contacted by electronic means, the relevant details (for example an e-mail address or a number for text messages)
(d) if you are registered in a trade or other similar public register, the name of that register and your registration number, or equivalent means of identification in that register. For example if your business is registered with the “Gas Safe Register”, you should state that this is the case and provide your ID number or registration number.
(e) if you are subject to an authorisation scheme in the
(f) if you are subject to an authorisation scheme in another EEA state, the particulars of the relevant authority, or the point of single contact in that state.
(g) if you exercise an activity which is subject to VAT, the identification number
(h) if you are carrying on a regulated profession, any professional body or similar institution with which you are registered, the professional title and the EEA state in which that title has been granted
(i) the general terms and conditions, if any, that you use
(j) the existence of contractual terms, if any, that you use concerning the competent courts (for example, that the English courts have jurisdiction) or the law applicable to the contract (for example, that it is governed by English law)
(k) the existence of an after-sales guarantee, if any, not imposed by law. For example, a window fitter may provide a guarantee that they will make any repairs to the windows if anything is to go wrong within a year of fitting them
(l) the price of the service, where a price is pre-determined by your business for a given type of service. For example, the price per copy a photocopying service charges would be a pre-determined price
(m) the main features of the service, if not already apparent from the context
(n) if you are subject to a requirement to hold professional liability insurance or a guarantee, information about your cover and, in particular, the contact details of the insurer or guarantor and the territorial coverage. We would not expect to see full details of the insurance held (but you should bear in mind that the Consumer Protection Regulations may require such policies to be made available to recipients). Where it is the case that only you, as the provider, can lodge a claim with the insurer, or that the insurer will only deal with you as the provider, this provision does not change that. In other words, this provision does not change the recipient’s legal rights with regards to the insurer.
How should you make the information available to your customers
You can make this information available in any of the following ways:
(a) Supply it to the customer on your own initiative
(b) Make it easily accessible to the customer at the place where the service is provided or the contract concluded, for example, at your premises
(c) Make it easily accessible by the customer electronically by means of an address you supply, for example, by providing the exact address of where the information can be found on a publicly available website
(d) Include it in any information documents that you supply to the customer, which set out a detailed description of the service you provide
What are the new rules for resolving disputes with customers
When you receive a complaint from a customer, you need to:
(a) provide contact details of where they can make a complaint
(b) respond to complaints as quickly as possible
(c) make your best efforts to find a satisfactory solution to complaints. However, you are not expected to do so in the case of vexatious complaints which may include a complaint which is clearly unsubstantiated or malicious. You should not use this provision to avoid replying to complaints which are merely annoying or inconvenient
If you have already responded to and done your best to resolve a complaint that is made repeatedly, you do not need to take further action. However, you do need to have made your best efforts to resolve the complaint in a way in which a customer could reasonably be expected to be satisfied.
Is discrimination allowed
The regulations prohibit businesses from discriminating on grounds of nationality or residence. So, for example, businesses cannot give a client in one area different terms of business from a customer in another area unless there are ‘objective criteria’ for doing so that justify the difference.
What happens if you don't comply with the new regulations
In the case of business to business transactions, not much – it’s up to the business customer to complain and possibly take court action, but it should normally be simple for the complaint to be resolved by the service provider supplying the missing information.
The Office of Fair Trading and various other consumer bodies are able to take action against businesses in breach of the Regulations where the breach harms the collective interests of consumers.
How we can help
If you would like more information about any of the topics covered in this article, please feel free to contact us.