In December 2009 a new European directive came into force which applies to the majority of business to business or consumer service businesses. The main bulk of the regulations concern what information you must provide your customers with, the way you handle complaints and who you can and can’t refuse to offer services to.
Do the regulations apply to your business?
The Provision of Services Regulations 2009 apply to most businesses that provide some form of service to another company or individual in exchange for payment. Consultants, accountants, lawyers, estate agents, restaurants, travel agents, child minders, plumbers, mechanics, driving instructors and cleaners are all examples of professions that fall within the remit of the directive.
However, there are some exceptions such as businesses in the financial services sector (banks, credit card providers, insurance providers), transport providers, temporary work agencies, healthcare services, audio visual services, gambling businesses, private security, some social services providers. The Provision of Services Regulations does not apply to these types of businesses.
The regulations also don’t apply to the manufacture or sale of goods which means most retail businesses are exempt. However, if you are retailer that also provides a service (such as a computer shop that also does repairs) they may then apply to your business.
What do you need to do to comply?
If your business falls under the directive you must make certain information available including:
This information must be accessible and must either be given out when asked for, available where your service is provided, included in any documents you hand out (contracts or details of your service), or displayed on your website.
You must also provide customers details of where they can make a complaint including a telephone number and either a postal address, email address or fax number. You are required to respond to complaints in a reasonable amount of time (although there is no clear definition or time frame for this outlined in the directive) and do your best to provide a satisfactory solution to the complaint.
You are also prohibited from refusing to provide your services on the grounds of a customer’s location unless you can justify this with ‘objective criteria’ such as the extra costs involved in providing a service that is too far from your business base.
For more detail on the directive see the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ guidance document