What is a reasonable amount of time to wait for a service?
A common consumer complaint has statutory constraints that it would seem timely to remind you of.
If a contract between a consumer and a supplier was entered into before the 1st October 2015 the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 applies. In particular section 14 provides:-
Section 14 Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982
14 Implied term about time for performance.
(1) Where, under a relevant contract for the supply of a service by a supplier acting in the course of a business, the time for the service to be carried out is not fixed by the contract, left to be fixed in a manner agreed by the contract or determined by the course of dealing between the parties, there is an implied term that the supplier will carry out the service within a reasonable time.
(2) What is a reasonable time is a question of fact.
If your contract was entered into on or after the 1st October 2015 then the Consumer Rights Act 2015 applies. In particular section 52 provides:-
Section 52 Consumer Rights Act 2015
52 Service to be performed within a reasonable time
(1) This section applies to a contract to supply a service, if—
(a) the contract does not expressly fix the time for the service to be performed, and does not say how it is to be fixed, and
(b) information that is to be treated under section 50 as included in the contract does not fix the time either.
(2) In that case the contract is to be treated as including a term that the trader must perform the service within a reasonable time.
(3) What is a reasonable time is a question of fact.
Therefore the consumer has a right to redress in the form of damages in respect of the delay in the performance of a service by a contractor.
The seminal case or authority from which these statutes are derived is Charnock -v- Liverpool Corporation and Kirbys (Commercial) Ltd: 1968 CA. In this case a damaged car went into the garage for repair and it took 8 weeks to complete. The plaintiff sued for the delay and the Court found that it would have taken a competent contractor no longer than 5 weeks. The plaintiff was awarded damages in respect of hiring a replacement car for 3 weeks.
This case also clarifies that:-
i) It is the consumer, here the car owner, to whom the garage owes a duty of care in respect of the service offered rather than the paying insurance company.
ii) That it is incumbent on the contractor, in this case the garage, to inform the consumer immediately about any reasons why their order may be delayed so that they are free to take their business elsewhere. For example, an agreement that exists with a preferred supplier to carry out an order within a specified time period. It is common for contractors seeking to retain the client’s business not to inform the client of any such factors early on. However in such cases the untimely contractor is now caught by the Acts.