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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 15588
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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I have had a renovation of my property involving the whole

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I have had a renovation of my property involving the whole interior and exterior.
The last part was the exterior work - new driveway blocks and paving stones around the property.
My wife chose the paving slabs ( and knew the retail price) and the builder recommended some driveway blocks ( which we later determined the retail price of).
The builder gave us a written estimate of £13,800 to "supply only paving and driving".
We had had no problems with him previously and we did not know what quantity of materials was needed. Once the work was completed, however we were able to calculate how many paving stones and slabs were needed.
We were astonished to find that the retail price would have been under £4000.
We have asked for invoices but the builder refuses.
We feel that we have been taken advantage of , possibly as the project was coming to an end.
Is such a mark up legal?
My understanding is that an estimate is not legally binding and we can challenge it . It was not a quote.
He is threatening us with court action as we have withheld £9800.
Are we legally obliged to pay him?

Hello, I’m Ben, a UK lawyer and will be dealing with your case today. Firstly, I need to ask some initial questions to determine the legal position.

How long ago was this?

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
the original estimate was 9 June 2019

Thank you. I will get back to you with my answer as soon as I can, which will be at some point today. The system will notify you when this happens. Please do not reply in the meantime as this may unnecessarily delay my response. Many thanks.

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
His invoice was dated 26 August

Many thanks for your patience. When a person enters into a contract for work and materials, where the main focus is labour and skill, the Consumer Rights Act 2015 says that the work must be provided at a reasonable cost (unless a specific price has been agreed). A contract would be ideal, but an estimate does not mean it is not binding in any way and as such you are not liable to pay it.

In the end, someone can charge pretty much what they want (unless it is absolutely exorbitant) and if you look around for various tradesmen you will find a huge range of prices for the same work – it is up to you to do your research and find out who charges what and if you are happy to pay their prices.

What I am trying to say is that you may find someone being able to do a specific job for £4k, and someone else to tell you it would be around £20k – it is not illegal to charge more, but no one can force you to use the more expensive tradesman and it is up to you to research what it may cost and what you are happy to pay.

There is nothing stopping him from taking it further and relying on the estimate, but he may not necessarily recover the full amount owed. Saying that, you are also unlikely to be able to withhold the vast proportion of what is owed just because you think it can be done cheaper elsewhere.

Does this answer your query?

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Hi , I am not talking about labour and materials, I am specifically talking about materials. At what level above the retail price do we enter in to the realms of trying to defraud ?
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Labour was agreed and paid separately
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
I understood a mark up of up to 10 % was reasonable , but not this sort of level????
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
would you say a 345 % mark up on the materials we agreed was exorbitant?

The principle is the same. In the end, only a court can decide whether that is to much or not – there is nothing specific in law which sets a threshold for what is accepted and what is not. The fact of the matter is that someone could quote whatever they want for a job, even if they charge you way more for materials than what they would buy them for, but it is up to you to shop around and satisfy yourself that this is a price you are happy to pay

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
but what is legal distinction between "derfrauding " and too much, Also please clarify if an estimate is legally binding for materials or whether has to be substantiated by invoice.
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
There has to be some protection for the consumer ?
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Ref: Jonathan Pawlowski
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Are there any cases that have set a precedent in law , regarding this
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Please clarify if an estimate is legally binding, and the distinction in law between overcharging and defrauding, thanks
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Ultimately, I want to know if I have a case and there must have been similar precedents in law , I can't believe I am the first ?
I was expecting a more definitive response?
To me it feels like fraud but let me know your opinion
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
you mention "quote" In your response. This was not a "quote" but an estimate. I always understood that a quote was legally binding but an estimate was not- please comment and advise
Customer: replied 6 months ago.
Please would you kindly respond to my queries, and if a quote is legally different to an estimate, please can we not intermix the two in our discussion and responses.Regards

I have answered as much as I can so will open this up to other experts to help if they can

I have been asked to look at this for you. Personally I wouldn’t get hung up on the semantics of quotation versus estimate. Estimates have a habit of being the price but with the liberty to charge more! Although they could have course be less.

And sorry but I agree with my colleague, although there is a phrase for it which he hasn’t mentioned, “buyer’s remorse”. You paid this extremely high price for these flag stones which you now find you could have got cheaper after the event.

Farrow and Ball paint is 2 or 3 times the cost of anything else and apart from the colours having fancy names, the paint is no better than anything else commercially available.

I had reported that one fancy restaurant discharging 7 pounds for a portion of chips and there were 14 chips. 50 p each is not a good deal when you could have gone to the local chip shop and got a hundred times that for probably half the cost.

You have probably been into the likes of Halford’s and found the small packets of car fuses. They are marked up about 90 percent.

What I would suggest you did is come to an arrangement with him and make him an offer.

My suggestion would be to tell him what you have discovered and show him the proof and tell him that you are prepared to give him, say, 6500 pounds (I have pulled the figure out of midair) in full and final settlement. BUT I would suggest that you didn’t just make an offer, you give him a cheque saying that if he doesn’t accept it, you should return it to you. He can then take you to court and you will defend his action under the consumer rights act that it was an estimate, not a quotation, and that under the Consumer Rights Act as no price was agreed (estimate!) The price must be reasonable.

I’m happy to word that letter for you. There is an extra cost for letters which I will submit is a premium services proposal.

It works nine times out of 10 providing the offer is reasonable and not derisory and it works on the basis that it’s better to have a cheque in the hand than an argument in court which you may not win.

The 6500 pounds is of course subject to any deposit that you have already paid which would be deducted from that.

Can I clarify anything else for you?

I am happy to answer any specific points arising from this.

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Thank you.

If you still need any points clarifying, I will still reply because the thread does not close.

Best wishes.


F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 15588
Experience: I have been practising for 30 years.
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