According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), there’s been a rise in spam calls and texts, with more than 180,000 complaints made about these nuisances in the last year alone. That’s a 12% rise, compared with the year before.
The watchdog also said that they’d issued five fines relating to all this, totalling £386,000, alongside eight enforcement notices, with another 31 firms being “monitored”.
The said: “Most concerns related to accident claims, green energy deals, payday loans and lifestyle surveys. Live calls generate significantly more concerns than automated calls and spam texts.”
One of the reasons there’s been a spike, is that this year, the law was changed, to make it easier for companies to be fined for breaching rules regarding nuisance calls and texts. The ICO have also been doing a load of investigations where allegations of personal data being obtained or disclosed illegally. In one case, a Transport for London employee was prosecuted for illegally accessing Oyster card records.
Launching the report, the information commissioner, Christopher Graham, said: “We’ve seen real developments in the laws we regulate during that time, particularly over the past year. Just look at the EU court of justice ruling on Google search results, a case that could never have been envisaged when the data protection law was established.”
The executive director of Which!!!, Richard Lloyd, said that this was jst “tip of the iceberg”, adding: “This is why regulators, government and industry must work harder to cut off unwanted calls and texts that annoy millions of us every day. The ICO must use its new powers to full effect and hit hard any company breaking cold-calling rules. We also want to see senior executives personally held to account if their company makes unlawful calls.”
Figures released by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) show that commuters feel that it is pretty futile complaining about train operators. The report shows that, despite having the most cancellations and late-running services, Southern received a fraction of the average complaints that Virgin got.
Virgin received around 24 times more complaints per passenger journey than Southern, with the pair being the most complained about. It seems that this is a particular problem in London, with the five operators getting the fewest complaints, despite the performance of the services suggesting otherwise.
David Sidebottom, passenger director of Transport Focus, said: “The weary commuter doesn’t complain any more, sadly, because the train is perpetually delayed or you can’t ever get a seat, and has given up on the system.”
Sidebottom added that longer-distance operators tend to pick up more complaints, thanks to the nature of the travel: “The impact and value of that particular journey is of a different magnitude; but the long-distance operators encourage people to complain when things go wrong – it’s what a good business does. It builds up trust. They don’t want disgruntled customers.”
“With commuter trains, these are harder things to work out and to get sorted, but you end up with the kind of things we’re seeing in the south-east at the moment. We do want commuter train operators to do more.”
The largest operator of mobiles in the UK has been slapped senseless with a £1m fine from Ofcom, for breaching rules on handling customer complaints. It has transpired that, from 2011 to 2014, EE didn’t provide customers with full information about their right to take complaints to an independent body.
It is worth noting that you can always take your complaints to an independent body, like the Ombudsman, with any business.
EE should have told their customers in writing about this, but didn’t. This was discovered during the regulator’s broad look at complaint handling in the telecom sector.
Customers of EE have the right to take complaints that can’t be resolved to an independent body, up to two months after they first made the complaint. However, between 22 July 2011 and 8 April 2014, Ofcom found that a host of people who had requested a “deadlock letter”, which would have been the precursor to getting their complaint looked at by someone independent, never received any correspondence.
It turned out that EE hadn’t been notifying customers on their paper bills about the fact that they could take any complaint to this body, free of charge.
“It’s vital that customers can access all the information they need when they’re pursuing a complaint,” said Ofcom’s Claudio Pollack. ”Ofcom imposes strict rules on how providers must handle complaints and treats any breach of these rules very seriously. The fine imposed against EE takes account of the serious failings that occurred in the company’s complaints handling, and the extended period over which these took place.”
In the case of EE, if you want to escalate a complaint to an independent body, then you get in touch with CISAS. You can get in touch with them, here.
Not only that, EE are charging almost twice as much as their rivals for calling non-geographic numbers. This comes from Ofcom’s efforts to force operators to be clear about what they’re earning from numbers that start with 084, 087, 09, or 118. They’re charging 44p per minute for these calls.
While we’ve all been looking at Aldi and Lidl’s growth, and how it has chipped away at Tesco, one of the retailers that has been faring most badly is Asda, with their market share on a drastic slide. The supermarket’s sales slid 3.5% in the 12 weeks to 21 June.
They’re not alone of course – Tesco and Sainsbury’s saw their sales falling by 1.3%.
Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, had this to say: ”The two discounters increased their sales by 15.4% and 9.1% respectively. Aldi reached a new high with a 5.5% share of the market while Lidl, also showing continued growth, rose to 3.9%.”
“Waitrose also grew ahead of the market, with sales increasing by 1.2%, moving to a 5.1% share.”
As previously reported numerous times, the cheaper end of the market is faring well, as is the more middle-class end of the sector. Asda reported their first full-year decline in underlying sales in February, and things don’t appear to be correcting themselves.
And it looks like the supermarkets that are treating their suppliers the best, are the ones who are performing the strongest on the high street. Consumers are still shopping, but can the big guns turn everyone back into their aisles?
Ofcom are going to launch a new investigation into whether mobile, broadband and TV service operators have broken fair trading laws by making it increasingly difficult for consumers to cancel their contracts.
They’ll be looking at EE, Sky, Virgin, BT and TalkTalk, among others, because complaints against these companies has been the highest and most frequent.
The watchdog will also be investigating long waiting times for customers in call centres, as well as the difficulties in getting porting authorisation codes that people need when switching networks. Of course, they’ll also be looking at billing issues too, with a nod to people being charged after their contracts have finished.
A statement from Ofcom said: “Ofcom receives a large number of complaints about the difficulties experienced by consumers trying to exit their communications service contract. These suggest that communications providers are systematically making it difficult for customers to exit their contract. We consider this allegation extremely serious, and, if sustained, may result in significant consumer harm.”
“It is vital that consumers are not let down by poor customer service and difficult procedures, or even deliberate obstruction, when they try to cancel their communications service. Exiting a contract should be swift, easy and transparent, to allow consumers to exercise their choice and switch to another provider without undue hassle if they wish.”
Mango – the high street clothes flogger - is being a bit ropey when it comes to refunding customers. In fact, Which!!! have claimed that they’re falling short of consumer law by “delaying refunds”. It transpires that the retailer is giving incorrect information to customers about their rights when it comes to refunds when returning goods that have been purchased online.
Says Which!!!: “The Consumer Contracts Regulations state that a retailer must refund you within 14 days of an item bought online being returned, or from the proof of postage date. But this isn’t what the retailer is telling consumers.”
“On the Mango UK website, the refunds policy says: ‘The refund period may vary between three and 12 working days from reception of your return at our warehouses.’ Not only does 12 working days equate to 16 days, rather than the 14 stipulated in the Consumer Contracts Regulations, but Mango’s system will only process a refund once the retailer has sent the returned goods from its Manchester depot to its Spanish depot.”
“The retailer provides a pre-paid returns sticker for returned goods to its Manchester depot, but it doesn’t consider goods returned until they’re received in Spain.”
In some instances, customers are waiting 5 weeks for refunds, and the staff at Mango aren’t sure themselves about what’s going on, and people have been venting about it online.
Clearly, Mango need to get themselves in order, and make sure that their refunds process is in tandem with the Consumer Contracts Regulations, which means processing refunds within 14 days of items being returned.
Of course, people have cooled a little on convoluted deals and the like, instead, preferring to shop at Lidl and Aldi, where they dispense with all that nonsense in favour of selling things cheaply. There’s definitely consumer malaise when it comes to deals that aren’t straightforward.
However, M&S don’t seem to be deterred by that, and seem to be going for the card-scheme, which will be called ‘Sparks’. There’ll be the usual trial with a small amount of customers, but if that goes well, it’ll be rolled out across all stores.
Some of you will know that M&S already have a points-based loyalty scheme for those who have a M&S Bank credit or debt card, where you get a point for every pound spent.
That said, for all the loyalty malaise, one success story in the field is the MyWaitrose card, and seeing as Marks & Spencer sees itself as an upmarket grocer, they could well be vying with Waitrose.
If M&S go for a similar angle to their swank rivals, we could see gratis coffee and newspapers when money is spent in their stores.
PlusNet say: ”At PlusNet we believe in being honest, straight talking and doing right by our customers. So we’d like to hold up our hands and say we made a mistake.”
“In June 2014, our regulator made changes to the broadband market. This meant that the price we were charged for providing broadband in your area reduced. Our pricing policy means that we should have lowered the price we were charging you. So, to set this right, we’re refunding you the difference, plus interest…”
That’s decent of them, isn’t it?
It’d be worth you checking out whether or not you’re eligible or not. You can call their customer service team at 0800 432 0200, or use their live online support instead, which you can find here.
The law firm, Leigh Day, is making an example of Foxtons estate agents on behalf of landlords, after they (allegedly) charged a landlord £616 to change a light fitting. If that is true, then chances are, they’ve been overcharging others, which means there’s a lot of compensation to be awarded, which could end up totalling £42million.
The law firm claim that Foxtons have been “charging landlords hidden commissions of as much as 33% of a contractor’s fee for work done on their properties such as repairs, maintenance, electrical safety checks, inventory checks, etc, without obtaining the fully informed consent of landlords.”
They also claim that the “estate agent has engaged contractors who charge as much as 2-3 times the market rate in breach of their duty to try to get a good deal for landlords,” and that they have charged tenants “various fees that Foxtons does not tell landlords about.”
Dr Chris Townley, who is a law lecturer at King’s College London, signed up with Foxtons so he could let his property in 2011, and after being charged £616 for a single light fitting, decided to investigate. Foxtons confessed that they’d added an extra £137.50 onto the billing and, with other sly additions, added a 50% mark-up to the original work charges.
In a statement Foxtons said: “We are incredibly disappointed to hear when any customer is dissatisfied with the service they have received, however, as a legal dispute we are not in a position to comment on the specifics of this case. We are satisfied though that our fees are clearly laid out within our terms and conditions and that approvals are obtained from our landlords before works commence on their property.”
What’s so funny here, is that Foxtons have tried it on with Dr Chris Townley, who just so happened to have previously worked as a Principal Case Officer at the Office of Fair Trading.
What a massive, massive clanger.
Chris Haan, a solicitor at law firm Leigh Day, said: “We consider that Foxtons has a potential conflict of interest in that the more expensive the contractor is, the more Foxtons makes in hidden commissions. We believe these charges to landlords are unlawful as they are not sufficiently disclosed, so the landlords cannot give fully informed consent to them. This is against industry codes of practice.”
“These kinds of practices may be widespread in the lettings industry and it needs to stop. We are taking this case on no win no fee with the aim of securing a refund from Foxtons for all affected landlords.”
If you’re a landlord who thinks they’ve been had by Foxtons, fill in Leigh Day’s form, here. Or, if you prefer, you can ring them at 0800 689 3289.
Lloyds are all set to be hit with a massive, record fine for their role in the PPI scandal. This particular penalty is for mis-handling complaints, and it is thought that this will be somewhere in advance of £100m.
They’ve already coughed-up billions to settle the mis-selling nonsense they got involved in and, worse still, this could all see a load of old cases being reopened.
The Financial Conduct Authority is preparing their fine, and they’re responsible for the previous record fine handed to Clydesdale Bank in April. Lloyds have set aside over £21 billion for PPI-related costs.
How Do I Claim Back PPI?
If you’ve been mis-sold PPI, don’t use a dodgy company to find out about it – you can do it all yourself. First thing you should do, is contact your lender. If you have the original contract or terms, that’ll make it so much easier. However, if you don’t, you can still get in touch as all they should need is your name and address.
Once you start speaking to your lender, you can ask them to send you paperwork, which will make all future correspondence much simpler. Be sure to ask them to ensure that the terms and conditions date back to the time of your agreement, so they don’t try and pull a fast one.
Check your lender’s website – some have a dedicated section for dealing with these claims.
Do you have some Beats’ Pill XL speakers? Have you been thinking that the mixtapes you’ve been playing through them are absolute fire? Have you been listening to Heat Wave and thinking it is actually getting Hot in Herre?
Well, that might have something to do with the fact that your speakers are a massive fire hazard and you should stop using them immediately. No. This is not a drill.
Apple are recalling Beats’ largest Pill speaker because the batteries are overheating and it might cause the device to set on fire.
“Apple has determined that, in rare cases, the battery in the Beats Pill XL Speaker may overheat and pose a fire safety risk,” says Apple’s recall website. “If you have a Beats Pill XL Speaker, please stop using it.”
You don’t want to be listening to ‘Burning Down The House’ through it and then end up a desperately ironic and amusing footnote in a local newspaper, do you?
To sort this out, click here and submit a request to return it to Apple. You have to do it through the website, so don’t think about taking it to an Apple shop, because they won’t take the speakers off your hands. Via the website, you’ll get sent a box to return it in and then you’ll get £215 in Apple Store credit or they’ll wire you the cash.
Way back when, before phones were readily available to buy from the shops, people used to rent their landline handsets from BT. How quaint, right? Well, the thing is, some people are still being charged for them!
Now, obviously, this is only likely to be an issue for older people, so this is a case of checking if an older relative is getting rinsed or, indeed, if you’re an older person yourself, there’s ways of reducing this needless charge.
At MSE, they’ve heard about someone who has been paying BT for phone rental for 25 years! That’s £4 per quarter for over two decades. That all adds up, especially when you can buy a landline phone for peanuts these days.
BT offer 18 month contracts on these phones, however, if customers don’t call to cancel, they roll over. If this is something that is a problem for older customers, BT really should be getting in touch with them when the 18 months are nearly up.
How can you find out if nana is paying for phone rental? Well, on the bill, it will say ”equipment rental”, followed by the model number for the handset. It might say ‘BT relate 80 rental’, ‘Entry level corded phone’ and ‘Basic Dial Phone Hard Wire Reduced’.
If you want to complain to BT and try and get a refund, get yourself over to their contact page for the numbers to call. If you think BT are being unfair, then phone the ombudsman at 0845 050 1614 where you’ll get an independent review.
After the awful accident at Alton Towers yesterday, you may have had tickets booked today, only to find out that the theme park is closed. Bosses at Alton Towers aren’t saying when it’ll be open again.
The park will stay closed while investigators look into the cause of the incident.
If you have tickets for today, then you’d be wise to avoid the confusing maze that is the Alton Towers website. If you’re in no rush, you can contact them through a form on the website, here.
However, if you’d like to ring them and speak to a human, then you can ring them at 0871 222 3330. If you’d like a cheaper alternative number, then call the direct number 01538 703344, which bypasses the expensive 0871 numbers.
Another alternative to try is 0843 903 3269. You must provide reasonable proof of purchase.
If you have a ticket and want to write, contact: Refunds Department, Kingshouse Travel, Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Perthshire, FK19 8NY enclosing your ticket and an explanation as to why you could not use it.
Good news for Steam fans- they just published a no nonsense refund policy on their content providing gamers claim within 14 days of purchase. So if your computer is an old nail and won’t play the game you’ve bought, or if you’ve just started playing and decided the game isn’t for you, you can get in touch with Valve who will refund you whatever the reason.
If you’ve played your game for over two hours, bad news. Steam are not going to fall for that one.
The Steam refund offer, within two weeks of purchase and with less than two hours of playtime, applies to games and software applications on the Steam store.
So, how can you get a Steam refund and what are you going to be stuck with?
Spotify have been shaking things up, now that Tidal is coming after them, with the announcement that they’ll be providing original video content and more.
As previously mentioned, the music-streamers are also teaming up with Strabucks, turning everyone in the stores into DJs – but how will it all work? Well, Starbucks are going to use Spotify as a way to turn its loyalty program into a source of revenue.
The baristas will soon be able to create custom playlists through Spotify in their outlets, which hopefully means more interesting tunes while you drink your joe – coffee chains have the most awful corporate playlists imaginable, so anything is a bonus really.
If you’re drinking your coffee and hate the selections made by staff, then no fear – you can use your Starbucks points to get your songs played on the Spotify playlist. We await people asking for profanity laden hip hop and 20 minute prog tracks, for the japes.
We wouldn’t be surprised if Mansun’s ‘Taxloss’ and Johnny Cash’s ‘After Taxes’ get a sudden spike in interest.
Of course, this is all good corporate sense, as Spotify gets access to Starbucks reward program and the chance to try and woo the huge amount of customers that Starbucks have, while Starbucks can now open up their loyalty points to all manner of things outside of their own coffee shops. It’ll also encourage people to sign-up for the loyalty schemes too. Looks like a win-win from here, if people are keen.
This Spotify/Starbucks tagteam will kick off in the USA, before launching in Canada and then the UK.