A BBC investigation has learned that that almost 350,000 parking fines (totalling £23m) might have been issued unlawfully to London motorists. The investigation will be screen on Inside Out, on BBC1 London at 7.30pm on Monday, and will be viewable on iPlayer afterwards.

It all hinges on a ticket that was issued in a suspended parking bay in Camden, where the council didn’t have authorization for the signage. The sleuths at the Beeb have learned that 14 councils still have no authorisation for the signage. Which is a bit embarrassing.

In a stunning piece of loopholery, it seems that the Department for Transport (DfT) designs road signs for most situations, which authorities must use, but it has never produced a suspended parking bay sign. If no sign is set out by the DfT, the law says councils must ask the transport secretary to authorise their own creations.

The aforementioned 14 councils have no authorisation for their own versions of the signs while others didn’t get authorisation for years.

parking space £23m of London parking tickets may have been unlawful

The councils with no DfT authorisation for their signs are: Greenwich, Southwark, Westminster, Barnet, Bexley, Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Hillingdon, Kingston-upon-Thames, Merton, Redbridge, Sutton and Waltham Forest.

The following councils received authorisation in 2010 or after: Camden, Islington, Hackney, Lambeth, Harrow, Wandsworth, Havering, Barking and Dagenham, Brent, Newham, Hounslow, Lewisham and Haringey.

Essentially, if you’ve received a ticket relating to a suspended parking bay from one of those councils, you could have a strong case for challenging it. Find out more on Inside Out or by consulting the forums at PePiPoo.

item 212x300 Banquet Records will take your worthless HMV vouchers and give you 50% offIf you’ve got a (currently useless) HMV gift card and are in the vicinity of Kingston-upon-Thames, you can use it to get 50% off a purchase in local indie Banquet Records – no matter how small the amount is that is pre-loaded on to your card.

A statement on the Banquet site says:

We’re very aware and sad that people are looking at losing their jobs, and we’re concerned about the effect HMV’s possible closure may have on physcial releases in general. However, one gripe many have is the current situation where gift cards are now no longer valid at HMVs. Whatever happened, its certainly no fault of the person who got someone a Christmas gift, and its unfair on someone to not be able to use their credit.

We wanted to find a way to make these gift tokens valid at our store. So this is the idea we could come up with. We’ll offer anyone with a valid HMV gift card 50% off in our store up to and including Sunday 20th January.

We want people to come and experience our record shop. To see it’s not all doom and gloom for music retail nor for the high street in general. To come and re-embrace physical releases and the experience of buying them. Pop into our store at 52 Eden St, Kingston and we look forward to welcoming you.

A nice gesture and one that’s well worth taking up if you’re in the vicinity and have an HMV gift card burning a hole in your pocket. There’s a few T&Cs as well, so check out the Banquet website before you start spending.

euros 300x266 EU gets shirty with companies who try and obtain consent through the backdoor*Some people dislike the EU, and the bunch of interfering bureaucrats sometimes seem to exist for the sole purpose of creating unnecessary legislation, like the recent change to insurance premiums on the basis that they were sexist. Even though they were actuarially correct based on observed differences in life expectancy.

However, now the EU have actually come up with something really useful in the data protection region to stymie sneaky website sorts who pre-fill tick boxes to opt you into receiving crap stuff you probably don’t want.

This time last year, the EU produced a draft of a General Data Protection Regulation to tighten rules, while allowing information to pass freely within the EU. However, a new report from the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Justice and Home Affairs Committee has put forward amendments to the proposed law that would mean consumers would not have to ‘opt out’ when visiting websites that have automatically filled in tick boxes to obtain consent for the site to use their personal data. The report claims that such practices do not confer consent which should be obtained in a manner that is “explicit, freely given, specific and informed” and collected through a statement or “clear affirmative action”.

Report author Jan-Phillip Albrecht said:

“In order to ensure free consent, it should be clarified that consent does not provide a valid legal ground where the individual has no genuine and free choice and is subsequently not able to refuse or withdraw consent without detriment. The use of default options which the data subject is required to modify to object to the processing, such as pre-ticked boxes, does not express free consent.”

Many websites currently use this sneaky trick in order to automatically sign people up to receive undisclosed piles of junk unless boxes are unticked, with many automatically reticking boxes if the web form has to be resubmitted for any reason. Should the Regulation be amended, websites will have to be more upfront about their underhand tactics, enabling them to prove that they obtained consent legally and fairly and with the full knowledge of the user. Of course, the easiest way to do this would be to untick all the boxes. Large corporations who are in a “dominant position” in their market would face the tightest rules, should the amendments be adopted.

The report also sets out recommendations for (unquantified) “financial indemnification” in the event of any data breaches which lead to transfers of data to “non-approved ‘third’ countries” as well as new rules to allow consumers the right to access details of information shared with public authorities.

* you have a dirty mind

Is your Christmas crap, well, crap?

January 3rd, 2013 1 Comment By Thewlis

broken doll 300x200 Is your Christmas crap, well, crap?Now that all that yuletide kerfuffle is over, you might be thinking about getting rid of some of the crap you received in the spirit of goodwill. We gave you a quick rundown of your consumer rights of return last month, but what happens if your gift is faulty.

New figures released by the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) show that, between April and November the consumer service in England and Wales dealt with over 400,000 complaints year about products and services worth a total of £3 billion. Over half of these cases concerned faulty goods and sub-standard services with an average cost of over £2,800.

This suggests that there are a lot of retailers out there selling a lot of crap. However, bearing in mind your consumer rights that a product must be of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose, surely these people in possession of rubbish goods or services can just go back to the retailer for a refund, right?

In theory, yes, under consumer law retailers must give you either a refund, part refund, repair or replacement for faulty products. However in a CAB survey, 9 out of 10 people were not fully successful when they had complained, attempted to get a refund or get the problem put right.

The top ten most complained about faulty goods were:

Second hand cars bought from an independent dealer (you don’t say)

Upholstered furniture


Mobile phone handsets

Lap-tops, notebooks and tablet PCs

Used cars bought from a franchise dealer

Beds and mattresses

Fridges and freezers

Washing machines

Women’s clothing

Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:

“Many people will be disappointed by broken gifts this Christmas. But it’s even more frustrating and expensive when you can’t get your money back. By law retailers must offer refunds, repairs or replacements for faulty products but all too often this is not happening.  Household budgets are tight meaning many people don’t have the money to buy a new item if its broken and the seller has refused to sort it out.”

She continued: “Stronger, clearer consumer rights will help protect squeezed spenders from expensive purchases that go wrong, and will give businesses a boost as shoppers feel more confident parting with their hard-earned cash.”

CAB are now campaigning for better and more transparent consumer laws to:

A clear 30 day time-limit for retailers to give refunds so consumers know where they stand.

An option for class action, which would allow groups of consumers to take businesses to court. This would give customers greater confidence, and would make it more worthwhile to take up smaller claims.

Clear information to be displayed when goods are bought. Some businesses try to apply their own returns policy to faulty goods when consumers should be protected under the law.

Greater powers for the Trading Standards services to get customers compensation without having to take businesses through the courts.

All good stuff. And if it all ties in with the Government consultation on the same subject, which closed on 31 December, 2013 could be a shining new horizon for consumer rights. Maybe.

As ever, don’t forget your ’Section 75’ rights, which mean that if you buy goods costing more than £100 on a credit card, the credit card company has the same responsibilities as the trader, so you can get your compensation from them directly should anything go wrong. Your quibble is always with the seller, not the manufacturer (unless you bought direct from the manufacturer).

OFT in a bit of a tizz over CPAs…

December 14th, 2012 2 Comments By Andy Dawson
allpaulcover 2 230x300 OFT in a bit of a tizz over CPAs...

A magazine, yesterday.

If you’ve got a magazine subscription or gym membership, there’s a chance that your payments come out of your account every month without there being a easily-cancellable direct debit in place. Yup, that’ll be a Continuous Payment Authority and the OFT are a bit worried about them.

Essentially, the CPA is like a direct debit, but with the regular, ongoing payment coming from your debit card or credit card – and therefore a little bit trickier to cancel. Those clever, sneaky companies.

The OFT has decided that too many of us are experiencing problems when it comes to cancelling a CPA and have ordered companies to polish up their act and give clearer information to punters about how to cancel CPAs if they no longer wish to make payments.

Jason Freeman, legal director at the OFT, said: ‘Continuous payment authorities, used properly, provide convenience for consumers and clarity about their commitments. However, businesses must make clear to customers what they’re signing up for, when payments will be taken, and how they can cancel. Where they do not, businesses face the risk of enforcement action.’

You should be able to cancel a CPA either with your bank or with the company that is taking your money, but we’d recommend informing both parties when you want to cancel. That’s because banks and business are riddled with incompetence.

E.On to pay out £1.4m to overcharged customers

November 27th, 2012 No Comments By Andy Dawson

EON UK RGB 300x99 E.On to pay out £1.4m to overcharged customersWHOOPS! Looks like E.On have either been using a malfunctioning calculator or have been putting the decimal point in the wrong place. That’s because it turns out that they’ve overcharged 94,000 customers and now have to pay them back £1.4m, with another £300,000 going in the coffers of charity Age UK.

E.On cocked up by overcharging on exit fees, making an error during a 30-day window that allows customers to switch supplier before a price rise. The rules state that customers who are on fixed-rate deals shouldn’t have to pay an exit fee if they switch, but E.On seemingly got a bit muddled about that.

Also, losing 94,000 customers to a rival must sting a bit, eh? Although, to be fair, it does cover a three year period from 2008 to 2011. If you were overcharged, you should receive a rebate from E.On by the end of January and you do not need to contact the company yourself. So watch out for that post-Christmas windfall (£14.83) flopping on to your doormat.

David Bird of E.On chirped: ‘We are very sorry to have let down some of our former customers and have made clear that we will refund the money plus interest. Our systems are being updated. We have been open in our failure with the energy regulator, Ofgem, and are pleased to have agreed with them how we can put this right and have identified all customers who are due to receive payment from us in January.’

Nice one Bird. Now go and ‘update’ those ‘systems’.



Bitterwallet win an Amazon Kindle 3G 214x300 Amazon, and the strange case of the disappearing Kindle library...Imagine if someone came round to your house, stormed in, took all of your books off your shelves and set fire to them in front of your very eyes. You’d think you were living in some kind of dictatorship, right?

According to a blog (yes, sigh, we know) that’s kind of what has happened to avid reader Linn (no surname), except in a digital sense as opposed to a physical one.

The other day, as if by crap magic, Amazon closed her account and wiped her Kindle. All the e-books that she’d bought from them in the past – gone. Linn was concerned by this and emailed Amazon, asking them what the flipping heck was going in. Starting with their initial reply, here is the frustrating game of email tennis that ensued…

Dear Linn [last name],

My name is Michael Murphy and I represent Executive Customer Relations within Amazon.co.uk. One of our mandates is to address the most acute account and order problems, and in this capacity your account and orders have been brought to my attention.

We have found your account is directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies. As such, your Amazon.co.uk account has been closed and any open orders have been cancelled.

Per our Conditions of Use which state in part: Amazon.co.uk and its affiliates reserve the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content, or cancel orders at their sole discretion.

Please know that any attempt to open a new account will meet with the same action.

You may direct any questions to me at resolution-uk@amazon.co.uk.

Thank you for your attention to this email.

Michael Murphy
Executive Customer Relations


Dear Michael Murphy,

I am very surprised to read your email. What do you mean by “directly related to another which has been previously closed for abuse of our policies”. I can only remember ever having this one account, and I use it quite regularly to buy books for my Kindle, as you probably can see by my purchase history. How can there suddenly be a problem now? I use amazon.com and not co.uk for my Kindle, does that make any difference?

I sincerely hope you can help me solve this matter, because I would very much like to have my account reopened. And please let me know if there is any action I can take to help.

Best regards,
Linn [last name]
[Linn's phone number]


Dear Linn [last name],

As previously advised, your Amazon.co.uk account has been closed, as it has come to our attention that this account is related to a previously blocked account. While we are unable to provide detailed information on how we link related accounts, please know that we have reviewed your account on the basis of the information provided and regret to inform you that it will not be reopened.

Please understand that the closure of an account is a permanent action. Any subsequent accounts that are opened will be closed as well. Thank you for your understanding with our decision.

I appreciate this is not the outcome you hoped for and apologise for any disappointment this may cause.

Michael Murphy
Executive Customer Relations


Dear Michael Murphy,

Is it correct that you cannot give me any information about

1. How my account is linked to the blocked account
2. The name/id of the related blocked account
3. What policy that was violated

I have no knowledge about any other account that could be related to mine, and cannot understand how I could have violated your policies in any way.

Linn [last name]


Dear Linn [last name],

We regret that we have not been able to address your concerns to your satisfaction. Unfortunately, we will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters.

We wish you luck in locating a retailer better able to meet your needs and will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on these matters.

Thank you for your attention to this email.

Michael Murphy
Executive Customer Relations

Linn is now massively confused and is unaware of violating any of Amazon’s terms. Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t. Either way, she’s been stonewalled by them and is completely baffled as to what has happened.

Oh, and all of her e-books have vanished. NOW WHAT?

Toyota Logo 4 300x258 Toyota recall millions of cars over greasy window glitchIf you’re a Toyota driver, you need to sit up and pay attention RIGHT NOW. If you’re having this read to you as you drive your Toyota, you need to pull over RIGHT NOW – you could be behind the wheel of a DEATH TRAP.

Toyota are recalling a whopping 7.4 million of their cars, and it’s all because of a faulty electric window switch. 138,000 of the cars are in the UK – could YOU be sitting behind the wheel of one of them?

The Japanese car giants have revealed that more than a dozen models produced between 2005 and 2010 were affected by a faulty power-window switch. Grease had not been applied evenly during production, causing a fire risk.

In the UK, certain RAV4, Auris, Yaris and Corolla models built between September 2006 and December 2008 are said to be affected and owners will be contacted by Toyota in the next six weeks. Don’t panic though, as no crashes or injuries have been reported in connection with the problem.


Screen Shot 2012 10 04 at 10.20.50 ProCook are the good guys as they honour pan price errorWe deal-hunters are all way too familiar with the misprice that is never honoured – usually perpetrated by one of the retail big guns. Someone makes a ‘mistake’ on the website, a 50” TV is offered for £99, everyone on HotUKDeals piles on before the offer is withdrawn and all the orders are cancelled. So many times, so much heartache.

But hey, what’s this? Why it’s a misprice that has been HONOURED, and what’s more, it’s cost the merchant a cool £10,000. To be honest, they must be mad – we hope it doesn’t contribute to their demise.

The company are ProCook and towards the end of last week, a frying pan with an RRP of £18 was listed on their site as costing ZERO pence, with £4.95 delivery. Naturally, it made its way on to HUKD and a bunch of people ordered it, fully expecting to never see the thing.

Sure enough, the price rose again a few hours later and it looked just like another offer that was too good to be true and wouldn’t be honoured. But then it was. ProCook decided that they were going to do the decent thing and dispatch one pan to every person that had ordered one. However, the people who had cheekily ordered 40 of the pans would only get one, which is fair enough really.

ProCook sent this email to everyone who had ordered the magical pan…

Dear Customer,

You may be aware that over the weekend we had a system error on our website, the result being that our 28cm Fusion frying pan was showing at a cost of £0!

Clearly this was an error for which we apologise, and it is now showing at its proper price of £18 (High St price £36) which, we are sure you will agree, is still great value.

However, we recognise that you really wanted to enjoy the opportunity of receiving a free frying pan and so, as a gesture of goodwill, we are going to send you one free of charge in any case. If you ordered more than one frying pan then you are welcome to reorder any quantity over and above your free one but at the correct price. P&P charges, where applicable, will still be charged to your account.

As we have to amend our system and sort out the huge number of orders we received for this item you will hopefully understand that your order will take a little while to process and we respectfully ask for your patience until the end of the week to receive your parcel.

With best wishes,


Paul Nikkel, some bloke from HotUKDeals, parped: “ProCook’s response to the price glitch has been first class. They don’t have a legal obligation to honour it, but they are savvy enough to realise that a swift, fair response will enhance their reputation with shoppers. We and our members welcome their stance and only wish other retailers were as fair in their treatment of price glitches.”

Here’s the happy ending – over the past day or so, HUKD users have started taking delivery of their free pans! Here’s one as photographed by ‘bossyboots’ for the site.

pan 373x500 ProCook are the good guys as they honour pan price error

We’re almost in tears here. So beautiful. So much pan love.

clamped1 Wheel clamping outlawed   but will the motorist be any better off?Good news: as of today, it is illegal for wheel-clampers to ply their murky trade on private land in England and Wales.

Bad news: the rules have changed regarding the issuing of parking tickets on private land, meaning that unpaid charges can be claimed from the keeper of the vehicle in addition to the driver at the time of the ‘offence’.

Additionally, there will be a new independent appeals service, which will be funded by the British Parking Association (BPA) – but where THEY get their money from is anyone’s guess.

The idea of the new appeal scheme is to allow motorists to be protected against rogue wheel-clampers and car-towers. It will allow them to appeal against fines issued by companies belonging to the BPA. Having said that, it occurs to us that the aforementioned rogue wheel-clampers and car-towers won’t sign up for BPA membership and will carry on as before, operating on the wrong side of the law. We could be completely wrong of course – it’s happened before.

Local Transport Minister Norman Baker said: “These new parking arrangements deliver a fairer legal framework for motorists and landowners, while getting rid of the indiscriminate clamping and towing by private companies for good.”

A PDF on the guidance of the new law can be downloaded from the government here – meanwhile, your best port of call for advice on implementation of the new law is the PiPeePoo Fightback forums.

It was only late last year that Comet had some advertisements banned by the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) for misleading customers over alleged discounts and in particular listing retail prices which were not genuine.

So, less than a year on, what have Comet learnt? Well, nothing, it would seem. Just under a week ago they listed the Asus Nexus 7 on their site at the price of £199.99 which appears to be the current price for this new release. However, this item on the Comet website was listed as being part of their “Price Crash” promotion and it also informed potential customers that this product was previously on sale for £449.99 between 24/02/2012 and 16/05/2012. Paying particular attention here to the fact that the item was released in mid-July and £449.99 is almost double what many retailers are charging for this product.

Contact was made with Comet to ask why was there such a misleading price reduction and errors in their information. Their reply was simply:

Dear Sir/Madam
Thank you for your e-mail, having checked the link you have provided I can confirm that we are selling this item at present for £199.99. I’m sorry if you have found the price and our site not to your satisfaction.
Kind Regards
Customer Care Advisor

So it seems that they didn’t feel the need to respond to the points raised in the email but they did find the time to remove the misleading information from the product page.

By not responding with an apology and blaming it on an “admin error” (as many retailers do with price glitches and data entry mistakes) makes me wonder whether it is time for the ASA to take another look at their advertising activity.

Comet 500x392 Comet are at it again with misleading price reductions...

167472 191062284244057 120212224662397 826226 5915030 n 266x300 Are KGB the new Groupon when it comes to unfair dealing?Groupon became notorious last year for the vast number of run-ins that it had with the Advertising Standards Authority, but it looks like KGB Deals have taken over the mantle in 2012, with no less than 18 adjudications upheld against them so far in 2012.

They include a kitesurfing course offer which only sold at the bargain price of £99 for weekdays, and had hidden extra charges for weekend courses. Then there was a two-night hotel break for two, priced at £129 with the RRP quoted by KGB as £348, a figure which was disputed by Vale Of Glamorgan Trading Standards, who found the maximum price on the hotel’s website for two nights was £212.50.

So far in 2012, the ASA has received 80 complaints in total about 79 KGB Deals ads. By contrast there have been 28 complaints about 28 LivingSocial ads and 24 complaints about 23 Wowcher ads.

But perhaps Groupon are still the kings of sub-standard daily deals – the ASA has received 211 complaints about 211 ads since January, but most of these have been bumped straight up to the OFT, who are keeping a close but separate eye on the company.

Do YOU use daily deal sites? Or do you feel as though you can’t trust what you’re being told, given their reputation for sometimes massaging the facts. Maybe you just don’t want to be vajazzled any more. TELL US.

Farepak warehouse 008 300x180 Farepak savers about to get 50% of the money they lostThe Farepak saga has been around even longer than Bitterwallet, and it looks like it might finally be drawing to a fairly satisfactory conclusion.

The liquidators of the company, which collapsed in 2006 with 114,000 creditors, most of whom were savers, have said that those unlucky savers will be getting 32p for every pound that they had pumped into Farepak.

There will also be an £8m ex-gratia payment to customers and agents courtesy of Lloyds Banking Group, which will be sent out in August. That will take the final payout to 50p in the pound.

Suzy Hall, the national campaign co-ordinator of victim group Unfairpak, is happy with the final payout, saying: “This is a much better outcome than we expected – to get 50p overall when we started with nothing in the pot, and then [were offered] just 4p for every £1. I’m extremely happy.”

If you think you might be a Farepak creditor but haven’t yet registered, you’ve still got 21 days to come forward, and you can find out more at Unfairpak’s site…

Poor Yodel. They made it through to the semi-finals of our Worst Company In Britain awards last year, and it seems that the public haven’t warmed to them any more since then.

In fact, lots of their customers have been tweeting about their less-than-perfect experiences and Yodel have brought in the lawyers, demanding that Twitter withdraw dozens of tweets that they claim are defamatory and “constitute a serious libel”.

Yodel have also demanded that a parody account @NotYodel and one in their former name, @HDNL be taken down, and Twitter seems to have complied with this. Courtesy of The Wall, here’s some of the tweets that have survived the attempted airbrushing by Yodel…

yodeltweet1 499x209 Yodel take action against libellous tweets...

yodeltweet2 499x173 Yodel take action against libellous tweets...

yodeltweet3 499x220 Yodel take action against libellous tweets...

telephone operator Shady companies swerving TPS cold calling rules...The fact that 17.5 million people in the UK have signed up to the Telephone Preference Service suggests that cold-calling isn’t a particularly popular or effective marketing method. But it seems that for some companies, it’s as popular as ever.

In fact, for the occupants of some call centres, the rules and regs of the TPS don’t really exist and are something that is best ignored while they continue trying to make a quick buck with their dubious services.

One such company is Central Claims Group, who tell potential customers that they’ve received their contact details from the ‘Industrial Workers’ Register’, an organisation which, believe it or not, doesn’t exist.

Tune into BBC1’s Panorama this evening and you’ll be able to learn all about poor Tony Clark, who has been inundated with calls from Central Claims Group – they keep telling him that he should be suing his employer for compensation relating to his deafness. He’s self-employed though, so that would probably be a fruitless exercise.

You’ll see some nice undercover footage in the programme tonight, followed up by the obligatory apologising and blame-denial from CCC. But none of that is reason not to try and put a stop to nuisance cold calls from companies like them – you can easily register with the Telephone Preference Service here.