Sex discrimination as a consumer

This section contains information about your right not to suffer from sex discrimination as a consumer, for example when you use or buy goods or services. We explain what action you can take if you are discriminated against because of your sex.

What is sex discrimination in services?

Goods or services that are available to the public must be provided in a way that does not discriminate unfairly on the grounds of gender.

There are three ways that a service provider might discriminate on the grounds of gender:

  • refusing to provide you with a service
  • providing you with a lower standard of service
  • providing you with a service on worse terms

Depending on the circumstances, this might constitute direct or indirect discrimination.

Direct sex discrimination

Example:

A private landlord renting out a shared house requires a higher deposit from groups of men than from groups of women. This is likely to be unlawful direct sex discrimination.

Indirect sex discrimination

Example:

A mortgage provider refuses to provide someone with a mortgage because they work part-time. Because a large majority of part-time workers are women, this is likely to be unlawful indirect sex discrimination.

What is a service provider?

A service provider is an organisation that provides goods, facilities or services to the public, whether paid for or for free, no matter how large or small the organisation is.

The definition of “service provider” is quite broad: it includes most organisations that deal directly with members of the public. For example, a manufacturer that sells goods only through retailers would not be considered a service provider, but the retailers would.

Similarly, an investment bank that deals only with other companies and not with the public would be excluded from the definition; a high street bank, though, would be included.

Services also include public amenities like parks, public buildings, leisure facilities and railway stations, whether they are run by the government or by private companies. 

More information

Last Updated: 30 Jun 2009