Restaurant meals and your consumer rights are all covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. You have a right for meals to be prepared with due skill and care. You also have a right for the food to be satisfactory, fit for purpose and as described. Takeaways are also covered which includes deliveries.

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CONSUMER RIGHTS ACT 2015

Consumers have rights as well as expectations, and meals ought to be carried out with due skill and care. This is enshrined in the Consumer Rights Act 2015. It also covers takeaways and deliveries.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that goods ought to be:

  • Fit for purpose
  • As described
  • Satisfactory quality
  • Services ought to be carried out with due skill and care

WHAT ARE MY CONSUMER RIGHTS WHEN ORDERING A RESTAURANT MEAL?

You are entitled and can expect your food to be as described, satisfactory quality and prepared with due skill and care. If you are not happy with your meal, you ought to complain straight away. They should offer you a replacement or a deduct the cost of the meal from your final bill.

CAN YOU REFUSE TO PAY FOR A BAD MEAL?

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that your food ought to be as described on the menu and satisfactory quality. You can refuse to pay for a meal that is not as described on the menu. This does not apply if you have eaten it!

Take photos using your mobile phone as evidence in case you need to use it at a later date.

If the restaurant refuses to give you a refund or a discount, you can write on the bill ‘paid under protest’, take a photo and dispute it afterwards.

You must leave contact details if you choose to leave a venue without paying your bill. It will be considered as theft otherwise.

HOW DO I COMPLAIN ABOUT A BAD MEAL?

You ought to speak to a staff member in the first instance. Remember that the staff you are dealing with are human, mistakes happen and being polite and courteous will elicit the best outcome all round.

Be specific about what you would like to remedy the issue. You can expect a refund for a meal you have not eaten and returned.

What is reasonable is subjective though. The litmus test is, “What would a reasonable person expect in the eyes of the law?”. 

Do not expect a free meal or try it on. Traders have rights as well as consumers and you have to play fair.

IS EATING IN A RESTAURANT A CONTRACT?

Yes – you have entered into a contract once you order has been taken by a staff member.

CAN YOU DISPUTE A TIP?

You can dispute a tip if you have received poor service. Tips is an acronym for ‘Towards Improved Personal Service’. Simply dispute it when you get the bill and deduct the amount accordingly.

It is becoming increasingly common for bars to add a discretionary service charge of up to 12.5% simply to pour and serve drinks. I think this is a blatant rip-off. I would be inclined to deduct straight away because it is merely discretionary and should not be included as a sneaky add-on.

CAN I GET MY MONEY BACK IF I GET FOOD POISONING?

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that the food ought to be fit for purpose, satisfactory quality and prepared with due skill and care.

You ought to put your complaint in writing as soon as possible. You can reinforce your complaint if others in your group were also affected.

Do not accept the cost of the meal if you intend to pursue a compensation claim for the illness as well. If you do, the restaurant can say that your claim has been settled and closed.

You may need to speak to your GP to get medical evidence that the food directly made you ill. Receipts from a pharmacy to allay food poisoning symptoms can also be used as evidence.

You can also report the incident to your local Environmental Health Department, who will investigate the venue to ascertain if they have breached the Food Safety Act 1990.

This scenario is a perfect example which covers everything.

BACKGROUND

A 3 course Christmas Day dinner was priced at over £50 for a starter, main course and a dessert. You would expect something decent at that price, although this appears not to be the case.

The common theme was summed up as being outrageously priced. Starters comprised of a prawn cocktail consisting of a few prawns with tails left on in a bit of sauce on limp lettuce and the soup being very salty.

The main course was simply a carvery with hard sprouts and roast potatoes, roughly chopped uncooked vegetables and gravy like glue. It was also noted that the turkey was pink with customers suffering food poisoning as a result.

Desserts had to be asked for and was simply coffee and mince pies or frozen profiteroles that appeared to have come from Iceland by all accounts. There was not even a complimentary glass of sherry or anything on arrival.

Understaffed, over-priced, chaotic and underwhelming in a nutshell. Complaints on TripAdvisor were dismissed in a cavalier fashion by the PR Manager with a copy and paste response that did not address the issues raised or settle the legitimate complaints.

ACTION

I would have complained at the time to seek redress. This could be resolved by a discount to reflect the complaints raised, a complimentary voucher for a return visit or a full refund.

You could also claim for loss of enjoyment and disappointment, as it is a special occasion.

If the establishment was not prepared to accommodate any reasonable requests, I would have paid ‘under protest’ and made it clear that was the case.

I would have followed it up in writing afterwards to give them one final chance to remedy the situation and put them on 7 days notice that I would proceed with legal action without further recourse.

SMALL CLAIMS COURT

A complaint can be filed via the Small Claims Court online under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 as the meal and overall experience was not satisfactory, as described or fit for purpose for the price paid. The food was clearly not prepared with due skill or care by the staff.

This can be evidenced by other experiences listed on TripAdvisor or Facebook, photos taken, a Doctor’s medical note evidencing food poisoning or a receipt from a pharmacy for medicine to allay food poisoning symptoms.

It is worth noting at this point that taking an establishment to Court is the last resort. You ought to give the establishment the opportunity to settle any claim beforehand in writing with the proviso that (you) shall proceed with Court action within 7 days. This is known as ‘pre-action protocol and conduct’ and includes Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

Any decent establishment worth its salt would settle any claim out of Court to avoid any reputational damage. This isn’t always the case so be prepared to follow through and deliver on any promises.

What are your experiences with restaurant meals and your consumer rights?

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