Suppose, for example, that a business screws up in a way that harms a customer, and the customer is told that they need to return after 11am on the following day when they will be able to have the problem rectified. The customer returns, but is then rather told that they must return again in two days and the business will be able to resolve the issue. Perhaps this happens again a further several times, with the result that the customer has made some number of wasted journeys to the business.

Or alternatively, suppose that a business promulgates advertisements offering something at a certain price, which a person sees, and then travels to the business only to be told that the advertisement was actually a mistake, and that offer is not active.

In each of these cases or similar ones, suppose that the customer would like to claim compensation for their lost time spent on the fruitless journeys to and from the business. The explanation of the purpose of small claims explicitly disallows claims of compensation for one’s own time. So, what is the appropriate venue for claiming back one’s own time and effort, and how can it be valued if not as legal costs under the standard rate of £19ph for litigants in person?

And what stages of a dispute’s work can be included in legal costs? For example, if a dispute goes to court after pre-action protocol correspondence, which itself perhaps employed the help of a solicitor or required hours of legal research, and itself followed hours of failed attempts trying to get the issue resolved with customer service on the phone or traveling to and from the place of business, are the energies expended at each of those stages all reclaimable as “costs”? Can they be reclaimed at all? Why, or why not, and if so, how?

2 Answers 2


There isn't one

In general, you cannot sue someone for wasting your time.

There are two general exceptions:

  • you have a contract that says you can. The most common example of this is demurrage.
  • The person wasted your time deliberately - not because things they expected to happen haven't happened. You suffered some financial loss, such as lost wages or transport costs. Finally, you must be able to prove that they knew you would suffer financial harm.

If you fall into one of these exceptions, you don't start by seeing them; you make a demand for payment and if that cannot be settled by negotiation, you sue them in a court of competent jurisdiction - given the sums likely involved in your situation, a small claims court.


“Wasted time” is not an ascertainable legal damage as an unmet scope of work requirements is in the same effect. The area of law is consumer fraud, and the judge determines if there was a bona fide attempt made. Sometimes time can be wasted needlessly but not carelessly, otherwise exclusionary conduct would be legal.

Goods must be fit for their purpose, including any particular purpose the consumer made known to the seller before the contract. (Competition and Markets Authority, Unfair Contract Term Guidance, Guidance on the unfair terms provisions in the Consumer Rights Act 2015, 4.13: Blacklisted Terms and Notices: Goods, 31 July 2015)

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