Taking legal action 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. Discrimination which is against the Equality Act is unlawful.
If you’ve experienced unlawful discrimination by a trader or service provider, you may be able to take legal action under the Equality Act.
Read this page to find out more about taking legal action against a trader or service provider about discrimination.
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.
If the service is provided by a public authority
Some services are provided by public authorities like a local authority - for example, libraries and leisure facilities. If you've been discriminated against by a public authority you can also take legal action under the Equality Act.
Before you take action
Taking court action can be a long and stressful process. It can also be expensive. It’s important to keep in mind that if you lose the case in court, you may have to pay the legal costs of the trader or service provider which could be high.
If you’re thinking about taking court action, you should get advice from an experienced adviser - for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.
Check whether discrimination has happened
If you want to take legal action about unlawful discrimination, you need to be reasonably sure that discrimination has taken place, according to the Equality Act.
Can you get legal aid?
You may be able to get legal aid to help you pay for your court action. To get legal aid you need to meet the eligibility criteria. You can contact the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) who can help you find out if you can get legal aid.
You can also check if you’re eligible on the GOV.UK website, at www.gov.uk
Making your claim
Where do you make a discrimination claim?
You can make a discrimination claim in the Sheriff Court.
What are the time limits for making your claim?
There are strict time limits for going to court. You need to make your discrimination claim within 6 months of the act you’re complaining about. It’s important to keep this in mind if you want to try and resolve your problem informally first. The court can allow a claim outside the time limits, but only if it considers it just and equitable to do so.
What do you need to show the court?
To show unlawful discrimination, the Equality Act says you need to prove enough facts from which the judge can decide, without any other explanation, that discrimination has taken place.
What can the court do?
The court can make a declaration that the discrimination happened. They can order the trader or service provider to give you compensation. They can also make an order telling the trader or service provider to do or not to do something.
This is called an interdict.
How do you obtain information to help support your claim?
It’s a good idea to keep all emails, letters or other documentary evidence if you have this to support your claim. In addition there are ways of getting more information for when you go to court. One of the things you can do is ask for information about your treatment from the person you think has discriminated against you.
You can find 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