A reasonable price to be paid for a service

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The defendant paid only a portion of the invoice, promising to pay the remainder in good time, and took the vehicle.

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Section 51 of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 provides that where a contract does not expressly fix a price or other consideration and does not say how it is to be fixed, the contract is to be treated as including a term that the consumer must pay a reasonable price for the service.

The court recently intervened in such circumstances. 

The claimant, our member, and a qualified mechanic of over 30 years was seeking recovery under an invoice for repair work carried out to the defendant’s vehicle by way of a replacement reconditioned engine and associated work. 

The customer’s engine was in a non-repairable state due to overheating. The customer had failed to have his car serviced for over 18 months and 28,000 miles.

It was agreed our member would install a reconditioned engine. The defendant paid only a portion of the invoice, promising to pay the remainder in good time, and took the vehicle.  He subsequently failed to pay, and our member instigated proceedings in the county court. 

Upon issue of the claim, the defendant said that the work was defective and sought to counterclaim.

The district judge considered the issue of the agreement first. There was no written record of what was agreed about the price or quotation. The parties’ recollections of the discussions varied. However, the judge concluded that a complete quote of between £1500-£2000 was given for the engine and considered it unrealistic that the job could have been undertaken for a lower sum.

The parties had exchanged text messages and there was no message expressing surprise or disagreement on receipt of the invoice, just a discussion about payment terms, upon which the claimant was unusually generous. The absence of a message saying: “hold on, we agreed X price” was inexplicable if there was an agreement of a lower price as the defendant alleged. 

The judge found that in the circumstances, he could not find there was any explicit binding quote and as there was a dispute over the amount, it was for the court to assess what a reasonable figure was for the work undertaken.

The judge had some concerns about the invoice which the claimant could not account for and stated that the practice of adding an uplift to purchased parts is morally questionable.  This involves actively representing on the invoice that an item has been charged at cost when it is not. If this is done the judge found, a trader crosses the line into actively misleading the customer. The judge deducted £200 from the bill accordingly.

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The judge, however, found that the total of the invoice of £3500 was not unreasonable nor excessive and made a judgement for our member in the sum claimed and ordered the defendant to pay our member’s costs. 

Polly DaviesLegal AdvisorRead More by this author

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