When hiring someone to do a job or provide a service, before concluding the agreement, consumers discuss the costs involved. While for certain jobs, consumers are given a quotation with a final price, in other situations, consumers may only be given an estimate of the costs involved. But what is the difference between an estimate and a quote, and what consumers should look out for?

An estimate can either be verbal or written, and it is essentially a calculation of what the trader thinks the job is likely to cost. Hence, an estimate does not tell consumers exactly the amount of money they are going to spend if, for instance, they need a repair, but just provides an approximate idea of the costs involved, usually based on past experience.

Ideally, if consumers decide to proceed with the job, they request a definite final price. If this is not possible, because for instance the work involves a repair and the trader cannot precisely calculate the amount of work involved, it is important that consumers agree with the trader that if while doing the repair the trader realises that the final price is going to exceed the estimate, then the trader should seek the consumer’s approval. If there is such an agreement, consumers can choose to stop the work before it gets too expensive. This arrangement should be clearly written on the estimate to avoid unnecessary disputes.

While an estimate provides information on the approximate cost of a service, a quotation is an offer to provide a service at a fixed price.

A quote can be provided verbally or in writing. However, it is best that it is in writing and it should include information on what is exactly to be done, the total cost and when the work will be carried out.

As costs vary over time, some quotations may require to be confirmed by a specific date. If not, then usually the price quoted will not be guaranteed. Once a quotation is accepted and confirmed by the consumer, then it becomes a legally binding sales agreement. This means that while consumers are bound to proceed with the works agreed and pay the agreed price, the sellers are also bound to do the job at the agreed price. Consumers can only be required to pay more than the quote if they have agreed to additional work after the quote was provided, or if the quote allows for a variation by a specified percentage.

As costs vary over time, some quotations may require to be confirmed by a specific date

Ideally, consumers should shop around, and whenever possible, request quotations from at least three different traders. Upon comparing quotes, besides the price, consumers are advised to also compare quality of the work and reputations. Hearing the opinion of who had actually engaged a particular trader and asking whether or not they were satisfied, can help consumers make an informed decision. Consumers should, however, be aware that there are some traders who charge for preparing a quote. While such charge is not illegal, consumers should be informed of this charge beforehand.

Should consumers find themselves in a situation where the price quoted does not match the price billed, consumers can insist that they have a legally binding agreement and refuse to pay more than the quoted amount. In case of a dispute, consumers can then seek the assistance of the Office for Consumer Affairs at the MCCAA.



Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us