Consumer Rights

Image of Wills Memorial Building

Nobody wants to get ripped off: and we don't want you to be, either. But sometimes it's difficult to complain or ask for a refund if you're not sure what you're entitled to. And what you're entitled to can be really confusing!

The information on these pages aims to give you a clear idea of what your rights are in various situations, and the options you have when taking things forwards. If you want help with a specific problem (such as returning faulty goods, private sales and utility bills) , get in touch with Bristol Citizens' Advice Bureau.


The Financial Services Authority (sometimes known as the “FSA” - the government body responsible for regulating banks) publishes a really useful guide to your rights in relation to banks and building societies.

If you want to make a complaint about the way you’ve been treated by your bank, you should follow your bank’s complaints procedure. If you’re unclear about where to start, call in to your local branch and ask them for a copy.

Generally, you will be asked to make a complaint in writing; your bank will then investigate this and let you know what (if anything) they intend to do about your complaint. The bank has 8 weeks to do this. If you haven’t heard after 8 weeks, or are unhappy with the final response you get from your bank, you can complain to the Financial Services Ombudsman. If you need any help during the process, speak to Bristol Citizens Advice Bureau.

Bars & Clubs

Loads of students have loads of great nights out in Bristol. But accidents and problems do happen from time to time. The problem with complaining about unfair treatment or bad service in these environments is that alcohol is usually involved. If you’re drunk, you may not be able to communicate your complaint as effectively as you would normally. Rightly or wrongly, this can have a knock-on effect on how credible your complaint is.

Here are some tips on how to make sure you’re taken seriously:

  • Act sensibly. Stay calm, don’t yell and do not act in a threatening or aggressive manner. If a venue considers you pose a risk to staff or other customers you are very likely to be removed from the premises.
  • Get details. The more information you have about the situation, the better. If your problem involves a member of the security staff, take their badge number; if you want to complain about one of the bar staff, get their name or at least a physical description of them.
  • Speak to the appropriate person. There’s no point complaining to someone who doesn't have the power to do anything about it. Ask to speak to a manager or supervisor.
  • If in doubt, leave it (for now). If you’re unable to get an answer, or you’re not happy with the way your complaint’s dealt with, it really is better to leave the issue until tomorrow. Continuing to argue with bar or door staff is likely to get you kicked out. You can always complain more formally in the morning.

If you do decide to complain after the event (or to follow up your complaint after the event), try to include as much information as possible about what happened. Be specific about what you would like the venue to do about your complaint, such as giving you an apology, reimbursing your entry fee, or paying for any damage to your belongings.

If the venue you’re complaining about is part of a chain, you can also complain to the head office.  If you think that the venue has acted in a way which breaches its licence or other legal responsibilities, you can also contact Bristol City Council.

When making a formal complaint, bear in mind the following points:

  • bar staff can refuse to serve you, and a venue can remove you from the premises, if they think you’re too drunk (though they do have a duty to make sure you’re in a fit state to get home if so)
  • venues are perfectly within their rights to refuse you entry or refuse to serve you, if you don’t have valid proof of your age
  • door staff are entitled to use necessary force to remove you from the premises (what constitutes necessary force will vary depending on the situation, but it should never be excessive or provocative)
  • most licensed premises reserve the right to refuse admission – and, as long as they’re not discriminating against you because of your religion, race, sexuality or disability – they’re free to do so
  • venues can ask you to submit to a search before admitting you – if you refuse, you’re likely to be refused entry. If they find any prohibited items such as drugs or weapons, you’re likely to be speaking to the police for the rest of the night.

Remember: if you are the victim of any crime whilst drunk, that is not an excuse for the perpetrator to get away with it. We strongly encourage anyone who is on the receiving end of criminal behaviour to report it to the police.