Your bill has just arrived, but you didn’t enjoy your meal. What are your rights?
“You can refuse to pay, as long as your complaint is truthful and fair,” says Phil Glaves, of Sheffield Trading Standards.
“There isn’t a Restaurant Act that gives you certain rights to the perfect candle-lit dinner, but you are covered under two laws that protect consumers. The Sales of Goods Act states goods should be as described and fit for purpose, and the Supply of Goods and Services Act says people providing a service must do so with reasonable care and skill.”
A meal should be as described on the menu and the venue should give you the right service, although this is pretty subjective – what is acceptable to one person might not be acceptable to another, says Phil.
“And if someone goes into a dining room with his mind set on not enjoying the experience, a restaurant can find it very difficult.
“It has to balance goodwill and its reputation with the knowledge that it can’t run a business on the basis of giving in to every unfair demand.”
Obvious complaints that no restaurant should quibble about are things like late food, cold food or poor service. They would all fall under lack of duty of care.
“On other areas, customers should exercise commonsense; it wouldn’t be fair to refuse to pay for an entire meal just because you didn’t like the main course. And it seems harsh to refuse to pay for any meal if you’ve eaten it all.
“But the British don’t complain as much as they should,” says Phil.
“You’re in a public place and you don’t want to cause an embarrassing scene. But when you’re asked if everything is OK, that’s your queue to explain why it isn’t. Too many people don’t take it.”