Amazon are up to all manner of stuff at the minute and one thing they’re trialling through the Prime Now service, is putting booze on offer. If you’re in Seattle, and you don’t know what to do with that tossed salad and scrambled eggs, you can order hard liquor and beer, and get it delivered to you within a couple of hours.
Of course, you could just walk down the shops and stretch your legs, but y’know, you might be really lazy for all we know.
Prime Now, which hasn’t been rolled out everywhere yet, lets you get deliveries and fast. If trials are successful, then everyone will be able to get on it you suspect, while Amazon try to dominate the entire world.
Amazon are also trialling a new Android app called Amazon Underground, which is offering ‘Actually Free’ apps, games, and in-app purchases worth $10,000. This means they’re giving away apps that don’t have any hidden in-app purchases, which is nice.
The unusual thing here, is that Amazon is playing with the notion of paying certain developers on a per-minute basis, where money is generated for every minute the app is used. There’s surely going to be some irritating app developments through this, but certainly something to keep an eye out for.
Sadly, the Amazon Underground app isn’t available on Google Play, as Google are massive babies who don’t feature apps that offer access to other apps or games. You’ll have to get it through the Amazon Underground website.
This will replace the ‘App of The Day’ promotional giveaway that Amazon have been doing.
“The Amazon Underground app is a long-term program rather than a one-off promotion. Over time, we’ll continue to invent and add more benefits to Underground. For now, enjoy some actually free apps and games!,” said the firm on its website. This is available to people in the UK, America, France and Germany and will no doubt get rolled out everywhere soon enough.
According to the Financial Ombudsman, packaged bank accounts – those that offer additional things like cheaper overdrafts and insurance for a subscription or fee – are being complained about more and more, with official complaints shooting up lately.
Around 25,500 people complained about these in the first six months of the year, which is more than 2014 as a whole.
Many customers have complained that they were sold these accounts unwittingly, or that they didn’t need the insurance in the first place. Looks like we might have another PPI-esque scandal on our hands here.
These accounts are usually sold as ‘premium’ accounts or something to do with the word ‘gold’, with customers paying somewhere between £5 and £25 every month. Of course, these are nice little earners for banks, so they’ve been pushing them hard.
The complaints that the ombudsman has been receiving concern three categories – those who say they never wanted the accounts in the first place and were signed up to one without permission; those who asked their bank to cancel these accounts, but the banks didn’t; people who opened these accounts and found them to be absolutely useless and worthless.
The figures show that, regarding new cases received, NatWest, RBS, Santander, Lloyds, HSBC, Bank of Scotland, Barclays and MBNA are swimming in new complaints.
Seeing as people are paying, on average, £150 per year for these accounts, the compensation bill for banks could be massive. If you want to see all the data regarding these complaints, click here.
The CMA said that everything seems above board, as the deal won’t make customers “worse off”. Although, if Poundland change 99p Stores prices, then everyone stands to be at least 1p worse off on things like plant pots, German biscuits and dry shampoo.
The initial investigation, which took place in April, said that a merger between the two companies would result in a lessening of competition in some areas, as well as the likelihood of a reduction in promotions, a loss in quality and the closure of some shops.
However, after surveying 5,000 customers and looking through company documents and commercial data, the CMA came to a different conclusion. They said: “Customers would not face a reduction in choice, value or lower-quality service as a result of the merger”. A blunt answer, but an answer all the same.
The idea now, is that the company merger would still face a lot of competition from places like B&M Bargains, Wilko, as well as retailers like Asda and Tesco.
Philip Marsden, Chair of the CMA’s inquiry group, said: “There has been a significant rise in prominence of value retailers for UK shoppers. Our evidence indicates that customers are primarily attracted to Poundland and 99p Stores because of their affordability and see them as good alternatives to each other.”
“Nevertheless some customers can and do switch to other types of discount retail chains. We have also seen in recent years the Big Four supermarkets engaging in intense price competition, some of which involving the promotion of £1 products.”
“On the basis of the evidence to date, we do not think customers will be worse off from the merger.”
Everyone who flies with Ryanair will now have up to six years to claim money back from the airline if their flight is delayed, according to a court. Of course, Ryanair tried to limit the compo window to two years, but to no avail.
This ruling is likely to have a wider implication for the rest of the industry too.
The legal challenge was brought by two passengers, known as Goel and Trivedi, and they’d missed their two year Ryanair window, when they were trying to get money back after a delay of a flight. Thanks to a 2014 Supreme Court ruling (Dawson v Thomson Airways), there’s a limitation period for compensation at six years, but Ryanair tried to argue that only two years apply to their customers, thanks to a clause in their t&cs.
Winning claimants Bott & Co Solicitors said: “We’re delighted that the court has dismissed yet another argument put forward by the airlines to restrict passenger rights. The Supreme Court decision last year said passengers have six years to bring a claim.”
“That is a definitive, binding, clear judgement from the highest court in England and Wales. This should have concluded matters but unfortunately Ryanair have been able to tweak the argument; we found ourselves running a complicated court case arguing the fine points of contract law.”
So, if you thought you’d missed your chance to claim some money back from Ryanair, because you were outside the two year window, think again! The solicitors think that this could open up compensation for over 2 million passengers, with claims coming in around £610m. It is worth noting that this will only affect customers who flew with Ryanair before 2013.
Ryanair have released a statement about all this: “We note this ruling which reverses Lower Court orders that a 2 year time limit for claims is reasonable. Since we believe a 6 year time limit for submitting such claims is both unnecessary and unreasonable, we have instructed our lawyers to immediately appeal this ruling.”
There’s £270 each up for grabs for customers from RBS, Lloyds, AIB banks, Barclays, Capital One, HSBC, Santander, Clydesdale Bank, Danske Bank, Tesco Personal Finance and The Co-operative Bank.
So what’s the craic? Well, Affinion International Limited sold six different products, which were meant to offer protection if their card was nicked or subject to fraud. However, this was completely unnecessary because your bank would already reimburse you if your card gets reported lost or stolen, regarding unauthorised transactions above £50, once you’ve reported it.
Since customers may have been paying for this for five years, plus interest, that’s a compo payment of £270 for your troubles. It looks like the first compensation payments will be doled out some time next month.
If you’re eligible, you should receive a claim form within the next few weeks. You must return it no later than March 18th 2016.
When you get the form, fill it in, sign it and date it and return it in the envelope provided by AI Scheme Ltd. If you send a photocopy of it, it’ll be rejected, so no mucking about it. This is a claim you can do yourself, so if you get any claims management companies sniffing around you, they’re only after a cut, so bin all correspondence from them.
If you think that you’ve had one of the products, and haven’t received a form, then ring the AI Scheme helpline on 0800 678 1930 (or if you’re outside the UK, call +44 208 475 3103).
Claim as soon as you get the form and do not wait until the end of the seven month claim period, okay? Good.
This, of course, has put a dent in their profits (good) and that they’ve acknowledged that they’ve lost a load of customers in the process. Their parent company, RWE, said Npower’s half-year profits were down 60% to £38m.
Customers (or, presumably ex-customers by now) have seen bills not being sent at all, or multiple bills being sent to homes. The whole thing has been an absolute nonsense.
Only last year, Npower said that they were getting a hold of the problems and managing to get on top of them. Obviously, that isn’t the case, which most of us already suspected. Thanks to this, Npower were forced by the Energy Ombudsman, to give free energy to customers who had waited far, far too long to get their complaints dealt with.
Unsurprisingly, Npower were the most complained about energy company in 2014. It will be no surprise if they end up topping the tables again at the close of this year.
Here at Bitterwallet we’re a big fan of Ombudsmen- after all, it’s a source of further redress if your complaint to the service or product provider hits a dead end. Now, a new service called the consumer ombudsman has launched whose remit seems to be practically anything you can buy.
You may have noticed a glut of new ombudsmen springing up recently- this is all down to impending rules from Europe mean that every sector must have a so-called “alternative dispute resolution body” that is officially approved to investigate complaints. This means that we need an ombudsman in every sector by October 2015. At the start of this year The Retail Ombudsman was launched to a deluge of complaints, but it was set up by a concerned individual. The Civil Aviation Authority is funding an aviation ombudsman that will be launched soon, and we have a number of others covering random things like furniture (the furniture ombudsman, obvs).
According to Ombudsman Services research, across all industry types, people made 66 million complaints to businesses about products and services last year, which works out at one complaint every 1.2 seconds. Npower was recently told to give people free energy after dragging their heels over Ombudsman complaints- customers were left waiting for up to 20 months over complaints, which mostly revolved around billing issues.
But while, until this year and the advent of the TRO, supermarket and online shoppers had nowhere to go other than small claims court, there are now concerns that people may be confused by multiple ombudsmen cropping up in any one sector. Retail complaints, for example, could now be dealt with by either the retail or consumer ombudsman.
“There’s definitely a risk of confusion for consumers,” said chief ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith, who overseeds the new consumer service, ading that “Britain is unique in telling the market to provide an ombudsman, rather than setting one up that’s officially approved by the state.” The new consumer ombudsman is backed by an official consumer organisation, the Trading Standards Institute, although its power has yet to be tested.
Mr Shand-Smith, naturally reckons that Ombudsman Services, which was contacted by 216,000 people last year, has the best resources, such as a call centre and in-house legal experts, to investigate consumer complaints. However, the new consumer ombudsman’s decisions are not legally-binding on retailers and firms unless they agree to join. This is because it is not a public body, unlike the Financial Ombudsman, which was set up by parliament.
So far, no shops have publicly announced they are signed up.
Companies which sign up to the consumer ombudsman will have pay an annual subscription and a fee every time the ombudsman considers a complaint, which is at least £45 per customer. Or they could not join and not pay and disgruntled customers will not have so much scope to pursue complaints. It’s a tricky one.
Well, one chap called Paul Donovan was trying to cancel his BT broadband contract and found himself on hold for a whopping 14 hours! He says he called BT’s freephone number at 7.57pm on Saturday, August 1st, to cancel his £42.99-a-month broadband and sports package.
He was told that the lines were busy, via the usual pre-recorded voice, and that he should wait until an operator was free. Donovan waited for an hour and a bit, before going to bed. He put his phone on charge, but decided to leave the call open, while on hold.
The next time he looked at his phone was 14 hours and 31 minutes after he originally rang BT, and lo, he was still on hold. He took a screengrab of the call time, so he could show it to BT’s customer services (when he eventually got through to an actual human being).
He said: “When I have got through before, I was told the service was open 24/7 so I was expecting to get a response. I kept thinking surely someone will pick up but I went to bed and when I got up the next morning, I was still on hold. I hung up as I knew by then nobody would answer. When I called them again, they did not believe me either. It must be one of the longest hold-times ever.”
BT themselves reckon that Paul should’ve been told that the department was closed: “That main customer services number is open Monday to Friday 8am – 8pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am – 6pm. Customers calling outside of those hours receive a recorded message advising them that the office is closed.”
Everyone makes mistakes, and the joy of today’s social media-obsessed society is now everyone can learn about everyone else’s mistakes quick as a flash. And that’s just what has happened to a poor unfortunate at Thomas Cook who accidentally transferred a customer to a live sex line. Oops.
Wide-eyed and innocent, 19 year old Lauren Baker had called the holiday company to check her booking for her upcoming trip to Amsterdam. Unfortunately instead of transferring Lauren’s call to ‘flexible trips’, the call was instead connected with a sex chat line. Fortunately, Lauren had the social-media inspired presence of mind to put the call on loudspeaker, and Lauren’s boyfriend Matt, was quick to video the experience, which was later shared on Facebook.
On the recording, a woman can be heard saying: “Well you’re a lucky boy today then, aren’t you?” to which a man replies: “I think all my dreams have come true.”. The conversation continued in such a smutty vein for around 45 seconds. Which is roughly how long it takes.
However, unusually for today’s grumbly society, Lauren and Matt were not outraged at the shocking treatment they had received, and they didn’t demand compensation for the damage to their delicate sensitivities. In fact they found it amusing:
“We couldn’t believe our ears. I realised straight away what it was,” Baker said. “I was so shocked, I didn’t know what was going on – I thought it was maybe some kind of practical joke at first,” said Lauren. “I was really confused, both of us were. It’s a bit weird, but quite funny.”
Lauren called Thomas Cook again the following day where a manager told her the operator had mistakenly dialled 0844 instead of 0800 and said it was a ‘genuine error’.
Thomas Cook did amend the couple’s booking for them free of charge, but failed to see the funny side of their accidental cock up. In fact, they seemed quite put out at suggestions that this was part of a ‘virtual reality’ experience to give callers destined for Amsterdam a taste of what might be to come. Figuratively speaking.
A Thomas Cook spokesperson said: “Thomas Cook always seeks to innovate with a view to providing a quality experience across the holiday journey, and offers its customers the opportunity to ‘try before they buy’ in many instances. From expert retail agents offering personal recommendations to our use of varied technologies including online videos and Virtual Reality headsets in our travel shops, we are dedicated to ensuring our customers know what to expect from their preferred destination when choosing to travel with us.
“In this instance, the link-through to the sex chat line was caused by human error, and is in no way indicative of any desire on Thomas Cook’s part to reflect certain aspects of what customers might expect when travelling to Amsterdam.
“Thomas Cook would like to apologise to Ms Baker and Mr Geddes for any offence caused.”
We talked about airport shops doing you out of money, and now, the government have actually noticed. No, honestly.
Government people are now joining in the complaints that are saying airport shops need to cut their prices after it turned out they weren’t passing on VAT discounts to passengers.
Treasury minister, David Gauke, said: ”The VAT relief at airports is intended to reduce prices for travellers, not as a windfall gain for shops. While many retailers do pass this saving on to customers, it is disappointing that some are choosing not to.”
“We urge all airside retailers to use this relief for the benefit of their customers.”
Of course, you can urge businesses all you want and they still might not listen. Obviously, to make something happen, you need to threaten them with something. As yet, no-one at the government is promising to do anything official, other than moan about it and hope that businesses have a sense of fairness.
Steve Baker, a Conservative member of the Treasury select committee, echoed the sentiment of being diddled out of pennies, saying that passengers were being “ripped off”, adding: “Consumers are entitled to expect that tax savings will be passed to them rather than become another addition to the bottom line for companies.”
“I always thought that showing a boarding pass was an official requirement.”
The boarding pass issue focuses on the fact that airport shops ask to see your boarding card, even though it isn’t an actual requirement. Basically, the only reason airport shops ask to look at them, is so them can use them to claim VAT relief on all sales relating to people who are travelling outside the EU.
Seeing as it isn’t a legal requirement for passengers to show their boarding cards when buying stuff at airports, next time you’re in one, try telling them that you’re not prepared to show them and see what happens.
We’ve spoken about Amazon Fresh before, where the internet giant delivers your groceries to you – and it looks like Amazon are about to go hard on rolling out in the UK. With Tesco and Sainsbury’s having a rough time of it lately, Amazon look like they want to muscle in.
Amazon have signed a 10-year lease on a former 300,000 feet Tesco warehouse, which is thought to be related to their interest in groceries, rather than simply delivering books and DVDs.
As we’ve previously said, Amazon Fresh has been a thing in the US for a while, and with the company securing a bunch of warehouses that are suitable for handling fresh food, it really does look like they’re going after the nation’s weekly shop.
The UK’s £149 billion grocery market is in flux at the moment, which means it is a good time for Amazon to get involved. It is thought that Amazon Fresh is going to target getting 2% of the market in the UK, which is three times the share the Ocado has, who happen to be the country’s biggest online-only retailer.
Amazon aren’t up for offering a comment about all this, so we can only speculate. All signs point to a new place where you can buy your spuds and Coco Pops from though.
It’s holiday season, which means many of you will be catching a flight to somewhere sunnier than here. But what happens if you get delayed? Latest Which!!! figures suggest that thousands of delayed people are missing out on claiming expenses and cold hard cash…
Which!!! analysed data for 1.7m flights from Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data, and found that 9,000 flights were delayed by more than three hours in the last year, potentially entitling passengers on those flights to claim compensation. However, Which!!! reckon that only four in 10 people who were delayed claimed compensation, which adds up to millions of pounds.
They also calculated the worst offenders- with the worst UK airport for delays of three hours or more being Gatwick, with 2,134 flights affected over the 12 months to May 2015.
Passengers are most likely to experience delays of more than three hours on short-haul flights with Vueling, Monarch and Thomas Cook, which together accounted for more than 700 delays in the last year – which works out at 68,000 passenger journeys. For long-haul passengers, those flying with Pakistan International Airlines, Air India or American Airlines were most likely to be delayed, accounting for more than 400 flights – 40,500 passenger journeys.
According to Which!!!, the three largest airlines operating in the UK – Easyjet, BA and Ryanair, which operated nearly half of all flights for the period analysed – accounted for four in 10 delays of more than three hours.
But how can I claim?
If you are delayed and think you might have a claim, what can you claim for and under which circumstance? Well, under the EU Denied Boarding Regulation, what you’re entitled to depends on the length of your delay and the length of your flight. Find out how far your flight is using this useful checking tool (as an example, Gatwick to Rome is 918 miles). This is an EU ruling and governs all EU airlines and flights with non-EU airlines that leave from the EU. There’s even an app relating to the regulations that you can download to the smartphone of your choice.
The Regulation applies where you have a confirmed booking, and you checked in on time (or if no check-in time was given, then at least 45 minutes before your flight was scheduled to depart).
If your flight is delayed, you’re firstly entitled to some incidentals- two free phone calls, faxes or emails; free meals and refreshments appropriate to the delay and free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers if an overnight stay is required. You can also choose not to travel, and get a refund of the cost of your ticket if the delay lasts for five hours or more (but the flight is not cancelled)
However, the provisions only kick in after the following periods of delay:
a flight under 932 miles (for example, London to Venice) is delayed for at least two hours
a flight within the EU that is more than 932 miles (for example, London to Athens) is delayed by at least three hours
a flight that isn’t within the EU but is between 932 and 2,174 miles is delayed for at least three hours
any other flight delayed for at least three hours
However, if you are delayed by more than three hours, you may also be able to claim monetary compensation from the airline, although this is dependent on the reason for the delay, with certain circumstances (that are deemed ‘extraordinary’) exempting the airline from compensation payments. Airlines are very keen for circumstances to be considered exceptional, but binding EU court rulings in 2009 and 2012 have made it very clear that mechanical and technical faults are not, in fact, extraordinary and that courts should decide accordingly- in January 2013, Stoke-on-Trent county court ruled that Thomas Cook must pay compensation to passengers who, in 2009, had experienced a 22-hour delay caused by a mechanical fault, and in 2014, faulty wiring on a Jet2 plane was similarly unremarkable. Strikes, however, are normally included in ‘exceptional circumstances’, along with severe weather. Note that you can still claim for incidentals under exceptional delays, its just the cool hard cash you miss out on.
But assuming there are no such circumstances, you can claim a nice wedge to salve your ruffled feathers:
|Up to 1,500km (932 miles)||More than 3 hours||€250|
|Any flight within the EU over 1,500km (932 miles) or any other flight between 1,500km-3,500 km (2,175 miles)||More than 3 hours||€400|
|More than 3,500km (2,175 miles)||Between 3-4 hours||€300|
|More than 3,500km (2,175 miles)||More than 4 hours||€600|
Which!!! have even produced this handy tool to generate a claim letter using the relevant sections of the regulation. Which is nice of them.
Retailers who ply their trade in Britain’s airports are being asked to come clean about the millions of pounds in VAT discounts they’re making on duty free items, which of course, saves them loads of money which they’re not passing on in savings to customers.
So what’s this about? Well, have you ever wondered why airport shops ask to see your boarding cards at the checkout? Well, this is not a legal requirement, but rather, the information the retailers are getting off them is so they can avoid paying 20% VAT on everything they flog to those travelling outside the EU.
That Paul Lewis fella says: “I think the problem here is that the retailers are not being straight with the public. They are asking to see passengers’ boarding cards but not telling them that this is so they can make more money by not paying the VAT on what they’re selling. What of course they should be doing is passing on the savings that they make to the passengers who are travelling outside Europe.”
“The problem is, though, that they have got a captive audience,” he continued.
Of course, airport shops are a swizz and ‘duty-free’ hardly ever means ‘noticeably much cheaper’. All it really means is that the retailers themselves are not paying duty. In the case of Boots, their airport stores charge customers all over the country the same amount as they charge in London stores, even though they avoid paying 20% tax on everything they sell to those travelling outside the European Union.
HMRC have said that there’s no need for stores to pay VAT on goods sold to passengers leaving the UK: “Duty free shops may treat the sale of goods to passengers intending to take them to non-EU destinations as zero rated exports, provided they retain suitable evidence such as by scanning the boarding card.”
“There is nothing in VAT law to require the production of a boarding pass to purchase goods in airport shops, but without such evidence the supply cannot be zero-rated as an export.”
“HMRC cannot comment on the pricing policies of individual retailers.”
Everyone has had a PPI automated call, possibly even people who don’t have a phone. They really can get quite seriously annoying, and they’ve been going on for years. What you might not know is that, at the end of last year, even the Government got sick and tired of these oushy sorts, and set up a new regulator, the Claims Management Regulator, to deal only with these persistent businesses trying to flog you their services to make a claim. Now, they have handed out their first fine, a whopping £220,000 to a firm “responsible for bombarding people with millions of nuisance calls.” Good work.
This is the first fine under the new powers granted to the new regulator in December 2014. Firms found breaching the regulator’s rules of conduct now face fines of up to 20% of their annual turnover, as well as having their trading licence suspended or removed.
New figures released also show that 296 claims firms have received warnings from the regulator between 2014 and 2015, and that 105 had their licences removed completely.
This is good news for normal people everywhere, as reducing the number of operational companies will presumably reduce the number of unwanted calls. In fact, the total number of companies in the industry has fallen by 300 this year, to 1,752, sliding down from a depressing peak of 3,367 in 2011.
For this first fine, claims management company The Hearing Clinic was slapped with a £220,000 bill following hundreds of complaints from people who received really annoying spammy cold sales speculative calls about claims for hearing loss owing to excessive noise levels, many of whom had subscribed to the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
Based in Derby and operating under a string of different trading names, the company also been made subject to restrictions and could face further sanctions including suspension or closure if it breaks the rules again.
Claims Management Regulator Kevin Rousell said: “The new fines mean we have greater powers to crack down on claims management companies that make nuisance calls. Companies should be in no doubt that if they break the rules then we won’t hesitate to fine them in addition to the tough action we already take.”
Which!!! executive director, Richard Lloyd added: “Hopefully this is the start of a concerted crackdown by regulators, using their new powers to send a clear message that nuisance calling won’t be tolerated.”
“The size of this fine should make other firms think twice before bombarding people with cold calls. We also need to see senior executives held personally accountable if their company makes unlawful sales calls.”
Sky are being investigated over their TV, broadband and phone services, following Ofcom monitoring the way all providers have been giving people a way out of their contracts. Businesses should not make it difficult for customers to leave a contract, and Ofcom are going to see if that’s true or not, regarding Sky.
For years, people have complained about Sky ignoring written requests to cancel contracts, with the Telegraph being a particular source of stories regarding Sky not accepting cancellations unless customers verify requests on the phone, even though contracts say that customers are allowed to cancel by letter and email. And fax, if you live in the 1990s.
It is claimed that, when customers did these things, they faced barriers from Sky, with some saying that they’ve been forced into sitting through calls that last for hours. And even then, some contracts were apparently not cancelled.
A spokesperson for Ofcom said: “Most people will just complain to Sky, but if they are facing a brick wall we are encouraging people to complain to Ofcom as well. What that does do is let us analyse the issues that are being complained about most.”
A Sky spokesperson said: “We’re committed to delivering the best service in the country and we believe this is one of the reasons why more customers than ever are choosing Sky. We will work closely with Ofcom to help them with their investigation.”