Complaining about discrimination in the provision of goods and services
The law which says you mustn't be discriminated against is called the Equality Act 2010.
If a trader or service provider, like a bank or energy provider has discriminated against you, there are different things you can do. For example, you can try to resolve your problem by talking to the trader or service provider or you can make a formal complaint.
Read this page to find out more about how to complain about discrimination when you buy goods and services.
As well as being protected against discrimination, you have other rights under consumer law. If you’ve been treated unfairly but it doesn’t count as discrimination, there may be other ways of sorting out the problem.
See our consumer pages for more information.
Before you take action about discrimination
If the service is provided by a public authority
Some services are provided by public authorities - for example, libraries and leisure facilities provided by a local authority. If you've been discriminated against by a public authority you can also take action under the Equality Act 2010.
Check whether unlawful discrimination has taken place
If you want to make a complaint you need to be reasonably sure that unlawful discrimination has taken place, according to the Equality Act 2010.
Making an informal complaint
It’s often best to try to resolve your problem informally first by talking to the trader or service provider. It may stop the problem getting worse and avoid the expense of taking legal action.
You should contact the trader or service provider as soon as possible to make sure you’re not running out of time if you want to take further action. If you think you may want to go to court, you need to make your claim within the six months of the discrimination taking place.
If you make an informal complaint, it’s a good idea to include the following things in your conversation:
- a description of the service you tried to use
- the names and job titles of the people involved
- a short description of what happened
- the date and time of the incident
- a description of how the incident affected you
- what you want the trader or service provider to do now - for example, apologise or review a decision already taken or offer compensation
- when you expect a reply.
It’s best to keep a record of the conversation and make a note of the date. It’s also a good idea to follow up the conversation with a letter recording what was discussed.
Making a formal complaint
If the problem isn't resolved informally, you can make a formal complaint. Ask the trader or service provider for a copy of their customer complaints policy. You should make your complaint as soon as possible as there may be time limits.
What should you include in your written complaint?
If you make a written complaint about discrimination you should include the following things:
- explain what happened - include any relevant dates and times, the names of anyone involved
- say how the discrimination has affected you - for example, that it's made you feel very upset or that you've lost money as a result
- say what you want to happen as a result of the complaint - for example, an apology, a review of the decision that's been taken or compensation
- say when you want a reply
- include your name and contact details.
If an adviser is helping you with the complaint and you want them to advocate on your behalf, you should include their name and contact details in your written complaint. You'll also need to attach a letter of authorisation signed by you to show you want the adviser to act for you.
Keep a copy of the letter and write down when you sent it. It's best to send the letter by recorded delivery, or you can ask for a free certificate of posting.
The Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) has template letters you can use if you want to complain about discrimination in the provision of services at
Taking your complaint further
Getting help from a trade association or professional body
Many traders or service providers belong to a professional body or trade association. These organisations may be able to help you with your complaint.
When you’re deciding whether to ask a professional body or trade association for help, you may want to ask them some of the following questions:
- do they have any information about similar discrimination by the same trader, or by other traders of the same type? Are they willing to share that information with you?
- are there any particular laws or other rules or guidelines, such as a code of practice, which cover how this type of trader or industry is supposed to treat people?
- does the organisation or body have its own process or code of conduct for taking action against a trader?
Complaining to an ombudsman
If you’ve complained to the trader or service provider but your problem hasn’t been resolved, you may be able to contact an ombudsman who can look at your complaint. There are different ombudsmen depending on the organisation you want to complain about.
Reporting the trader or service provider
Reporting the trader or service provider to the Equality and Human Rights Commission
In some situations, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) may be able to help with your discrimination complaint. The EHRC won’t normally take on individual cases. However they can take on an individual case if it would be of wider public interest and it is referred to them by an advice agency. They could also launch an official inquiry and formal investigation if the problem seems to be widespread.
Reporting the trader to Trading standards
In some cases, it may be possible to report a trader or service provider who’s discriminated against you to Trading Standards.
- Taking legal action about discrimination in goods and services
- Taking action about discrimination by a public authority
You can find contact details for trade associations as well as more information about your consumer rights in the consumer section:
Other useful information
Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)
If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at