One of the main differences between services provided by a public body or a private company is how we pay for them. For example, libraries are funded through local and national taxes, which we pay when we work or through taxes like VAT. By contrast, when we go into a bookshop we have to pay there and then for any books we want.
Companies that sell services, be this a shop, cinema, leisure centre, restaurant, hotel or theme park, must all follow equality laws. Read our short guide for more information. Unfortunately, private companies are allowed to discriminate against under 18 year-olds because of your age, though you still have protection on other grounds. There may also be times when unfair treatment can be challenged under human rights laws (if the service being provided by the private company is a public service – for example a privately run children’s home or prison).
If you believe you or other people are not being treaty fairly by a private company, these are some of the things you can do: If your situation is very serious, you may need to skip 1-6 and go straight to seeking legal advice and assistance.
1. Talk about it. Tell a trusted friend or adult what’s bothering you. Ask them if they can help you try and sort out the problem. Just talking through the problem can help you see clearly what needs to change.
2. If you believe the problem you have affects other people too, you could find out if they want to work with you to try and solve the problem. For example, if your local leisure centre has a rule that appears to discriminate against certain people, a group of you could decide to take action together. If your shopping centre has introduced a rule that seems to be discriminating against one group of shoppers, then a group of you could talk to a member of staff about this. XX include example.
3. Ask to speak to the person you believe is not treating you or others fairly. Bring along a friend or trusted adult to help you express yourself. Explain what’s bothering you. Say what needs to change. Try to stay calm and give evidence to back up your feelings. If you make suggestions for how things could be improved this will show you are being thoughtful and reasonable.
4. If you don’t feel able to speak with the person or people directly, then ask to see their manager. You should be treated with respect, no matter how old you are.
5. If talking things through with a manager has not helped, you can make a complaint. Most private companies have complaints procedures. It is always best to put things in writing. Ask for written acknowledgement of your complaint and the name and contact details of the person who will investigate it. Ask how long it will take for the complaint to be looked into. Ask if there is a leaflet or other document you can have which says what the rules are for investigating complaints.
6. If you are not happy with the results of your complaint, you might need to seek legal advice. Find out more about getting legal advice from our get help section.
7. If your problem is serious, you may need a lawyer to try and help you sort it out. This may involve a court looking at your problem. Sometimes just telling a company that you are thinking about getting legal advice can show how bad things have become. Good companies will want to do everything possible to sort things out without having to go to court. Find out more about getting a lawyer from our get help section.