How to Negotiate for Fair Service

How do I negotiate with a supplier or contractor when they are unwilling to correct the service, but still demanding payment?

This answer is for the Australian legal system, but there are similar arrangements in most legal systems, so this will help to point you in the right direction

If the supply was made to you as an individual consumer (rather than a business consumer) either do, or threaten to, make a complaint to Consumer Affairs. In most Australian states you can make a complaint to consumer affairs that costs you nothing by simply filling in an online form and waiting. And waiting. They are pretty busy so it can take a couple of months to get to your complaint.

You can also lodge a Fair Trading complaint in the appropriate administrative tribunal complaining that they haven’t done the work properly. Under Fair Trading laws contractors and suppliers and other businesses are required to provide services in a proper workmanlike manner.

There are also a number of other avenues for complaint, for example if what is supplied does not fit the purpose that you wanted to put it to. So if you order, say, a custom built trailer from someone for the purpose of carting a market stall around. You tell the supplier the particular shape and size that you want the trailer to be, and why you need it. If your market stall then doesn’t fit on the trailer, or the trailer can’t take the weight, then its not fit for the purpose. Because the supplier knew what you wanted and what you wanted it for, you aren’t obliged to either accept delivery of a trailer that is no good to you, nor to pay for it.

If it is a business to business transaction and they won’t negotiate, then pay what you think is a fair price for the work done, keep an amount relevant to the cost of repairing the work done and then put it all in writing.

For example:

Invoice amount: $4960
Alternate materials used so value reduced by $789
Anticipated cost of repair: $1200 (get a quote if you can)

Prepared to pay $4960 – $789 – $1200 = $2,971

Explain in writing why you are prepared to pay what you are paying and why you are not prepared to pay any more. Give them a reasonable amount of time to arrange (7 days) or complete (14 days) repairs and tell them if you don’t hear otherwise you’ll get the repairs done by someone else. Do get a short statement of the work done from anyone you get to do repairs! Better if they are properly qualified to do that work too. Not good if its your handyman mate, neighbour or uncle!

Once you have paid what you believe to be fair, and provided an opportunity for the supplier to correct their work, it puts them in a very difficult position in regard to demanding payment of the balance of their invoice. The important thing for you is to keep copies of all your communications with them (notes of telephone calls), take photos of the problem before it is fixed and after it is fixed, be clear about what the expected result was etc.

If you can collate that information into a timeline of events with supporting documentation, then you are prepared to argue the point in a tribunal or a court. You will also be confident in your position and know what you are doing. If you can’t be that organized (or bothered), pay them and move on! It really isn’t worth being stuck in a dispute, it simply sucks your time and energy and holds you up from moving forward.

If you can’t be that organized (or bothered), pay them and move on!

Have you every been stuck in a dispute that cost more of your time and energy than it was worth?

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One Response to “How to Negotiate for Fair Service”

  1. Rosendo Maleonado September 9, 2010 at 6:23 am #

    If only more writers were like you. This is extremely appealing stuff.

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