Purchase of services
Certain rules apply to the purchase of services involving work on or repairs to real property or chattels, such as furniture, computers or vehicles, and the storage of chattels.
Purchase of services
When negotiating for work that costs a substantial amount of money or which must be handed in before a particular deadline, it is a good idea to prepare a written agreement as it can be difficult to prove the substance of the negotiations if the agreement is oral. A standardised form that consumers and sellers can use when negotiating service purchases is available.
Price and payment
If the price has not been negotiated in advance, the buyer must pay the price stated, so long as it is not unfair. In such cases the buyer may demand that the seller deliver an itemised invoice and need not pay until such invoice has been delivered.
If the seller has prepared a price estimate, the price may not exceed the estimate, unless the price has increased due to circumstances the seller could not foresee. However, the seller must notify the buyer of such an increase immediately and request instructions about the work.
The stated price shall be the final price to the consumer. VAT and other public levies shall be included in the price, unless the consumer has verifiable knowledge that they have not been included.
If it becomes clear that additional work is required to ensure that the agreed work is finished in an acceptable manner, the service provider shall request instructions from the buyer, unless the additional cost is insignificant or if special circumstances indicate that the buyer wishes the work to be completed.
Cancellation or costly repair
On cancellation, the service company or contractor may be entitled to compensation for the part of the work that has been completed, as well as for any work that must be completed in spite of the cancellation. In addition, the seller may demand the payment of damages, but is also, however, under obligation to minimise his or her losses. The consumer's payment obligation, however, can never be greater than the total amount agreed for the project.
If the service seller is of the opinion that the service is uneconomical for the consumer, e.g. if a repair is too costly, the service provider is under obligation to inform the consumer, even if work on the project has begun.
If a job is not performed professionally and correctly it is considered defective. The service is also defective if the results of the work are not as agreed, even if the deviation from the agreement is the result of a mishap, accident or defective materials used by the seller in the job.
If a service proves defective, the buyer must notify the seller of the defect as soon as possible. If the buyer has not done so within a certain period (2 years)from the time that he or she became aware of the defect, or should have become aware of the defect, the buyer loses his or her rights.
Even if a defect appears after the purchase, or if the parties have examined the work on completion and the buyer has stated that the work is in order, the buyer does not lose the right to submit a claim relating to defects. The maximum period for complaining about a defect in the provision of a service is two years, unless the seller has undertaken to be liable for defects for a longer period, has violated general business practices, or in any other manner exhibited gross negligence in the performance of the work. Claims for damages may be made up to 10 years after the purchase.
If a service is defective, or if schedules are not met, the consumer may claim redress, termination, discount (e.g. if the defect cannot be remedied or only remedied in part) and damages. The consumer may hold back payments until the defect has been remedied.
Irrespective of whether the buyer demands a discount or damages, the contractor is entitled to rectify the defect within a reasonable period if such rectification is done without extra cost or significant inconvenience, unless the buyer has definite and valid reasons for rejecting such rectification, e.g. if the contractor has behaved in an unacceptable manner.
The general rules described above apply to the purchase of other services. This includes air travel, package tours, hairdressing and catering services, to mention a few.