Escuche arriba, hermosas personas! It is I, Len Dastard, full time litigation executive and part time pretend lucha libre! I get my kicks from assisting the fearless consumer. There is nothing that Len wouldn’t do for you. Believe that.
Plans are afoot to equip Britains 4,000 libraries with Instant Law video conferencing facilities which will provide legal advice by webcam for free from a legally qualified representative. The information currently available states that the conferencing will be in a “secure location” within the library. It will be interesting to see whether all 4,000 libraries ensure that the area is secure and all confidential information isn’t discussed publicly.
Instant Law had originally planned to set up these booths in shopping centres but decided, following a discussion with the manager of Europe’s biggest library in Birmingham, that this system was best placed in libraries. If you have recently visited a WH Smiths, you might have noticed that they now have a ‘Quality Solicitor’ kiosk where you can pick up the telephone and be routed to a local solicitor to obtain legal advice. I personally wouldn’t be surprised, based on the amount of these stored nationwide, if that had a bearing on their decision from moving from shopping centres to libraries.
The service will cover family law, employment, debts, wills, landlord and tenant, personal injury and even criminal matters.
Whilst the service is being billed as free, the first 20 minutes will be free of charge for the “initial consultation” and then any subsequent advice will be charged. At the end of this consultation the legal advisor will give an estimate of ongoing costs before you decide whether you wish to instruct them. Instant Law estimates that one in ten users will proceed with their quote.
There will also be designated computers where users can access free general advice and also put together their own legal documents.
At the moment the system is already in place at Birmingham central library, Marylebone and also Westminster.
Would you make a special trip to your library if you were in need of some legal advice or would you rather cut out the hassle and telephone a solicitor’s office to speak with them direct? Not all firms offer a free consultation but many do.
About three months ago, a very tasty deal appeared on the Pontins website – 7 nights self-catering for four people at their Brean Sands resort for only £33.07. Hard to knock back an offer like that if you’re in the mood for a low-budget break. Not surprisingly, lots of punters went for it.
Now it gets complicated. Fast forward to the present day and it seems that a sizeable bunch of excited holidaymakers have been contacted by Pontins and told that their 7-night stays have been cancelled. Sure there’s the usual apologies as well as some offers of 50% off a holiday at a later date, but in short, that’s some pretty unacceptable behaviour from Pontins.
We don’t know whether they’ve originally oversold the £33.07 holidays or whether it was a misprice that has just come to light, but for Pontins to cancel three months after taking the bookings, when customers are just a few weeks away from their holiday is scandalous.
Over at HotUKDeals, there’s around 20 people who have been affected by the actions of Pontins – we expect that there’ll be many more out there as well. If you’re one of them, contact HUKD here – they’re currently talking to some major media outlets who are keen to fight their corner.
In what can only be seen as an act of stupidity, the government are abolishing the taxpayer-funded watchdog Consumer Focus, and dumping its responsibilities on Citizens Advice, which, lest we forget, is a charity, and one which has had funding slashed under the aforementioned governement.
Citizens Advice will be handed the responsibility of dealing with consumer gripes in those areas which aren’t regulated, while a new National Trading Standards Board will target rogue traders. Apparently, it’ll all ‘help streamline the consumer landscape” and “ensure a powerful consumer voice” to business, government and regulators. So that’s okay then. In short, consumers will be even more screwed than they are now.
Our good friends across the road at Which! have come out against the proposals, with Lord Sir Peter Vicary-Smith being particularly vociferous, saying that, “Giving Office of Fair Trading responsibilities to local Trading Standards officers and the Citizens Advice is like asking GPs to carry out heart surgery. The government knows that failing to enforce consumer law already costs the British public over £6bn a year, but they seem determined to abandon consumers to increasingly sophisticated rip-offs despite the harm this does to the economy.”
But did Consumer Focus even DO anything? Do you lot reckon it’ll make things any better or do the government genuinely not give a toss about consumers?
If Apple had advertised their new iPad as having ‘Wi-fi and the ability to cure infertility’ even though it wasn’t capable of curing infertility, we’d all be slightly vexed wouldn’t we? So why has there been so little fuss about the new tablet being advertised as having ‘Wi-fi and 4G’ over here in the UK when it won’t actually work with our forthcoming 4G networks? Dunno – it’s baffling.
Over on the other side of the world, the Australians have been a little bit less forgiving. Their consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) have kicked right off with the Cupertino gadget-pimps, saying that Apple have misled punters with the 4G description.
In a statement, the ACCC said that Apple have “represented to Australian consumers that the product ‘iPad with WiFi + 4G’ can, with a SIM card, connect to a 4G mobile data network in Australia, when this is not the case”. They’re also taking Apple to court, alleging its advertising broke four sections of Australian consumer law.
As a result of the brouhaha, Apple are offering refunds to any customers who bought a new iPad, believing that it would work on the Aussie 4G network. No such problem here in the UK, as we barely have a 4G network for it not to work on yet.
As reported earlier, Game Group have today gone into administration. The following statement has been issued by the administrators and if you’re a regular Game or Gamestation customer, this could well affect you. Read on…
Dear GAME customers,
Here’s some important news about us. GAME Group plc (the parent company of GAME in the UK) is now in administration. We want you to know that the Administrators aim at this time is to continue trading while they seek to find a new owner for the business.
In the meantime, we’ve had to make some changes. We’ve summarised them below. Some of them are temporary, some are permanent.
1.Online Sales: We expect some disruption to our online services over the next few days while we make some changes. We apologise for the inconvenience this causes.
2.Refunds and Exchanges: Until further notice, we will not be able to offer refunds or exchanges for products purchased either before the administration or for products purchased from the date of the administration.
3.Pre-Orders: No new pre-orders can be taken until further notice. No refunds can be given for any pre-order deposits which have been paid. We are reviewing this over the next week.
4.GAME Reward card: We have had to suspended use of GAME Reward Cards. This means that points can be earned but NOT redeemed until further notice.
5.Gift cards: We have also had to suspend GAME gift cards. The value on these cards cannot be redeemed. If this changes, we will let you know. We apologise for the inconvenience this causes.
6.GAMEWallet: the value stored in GAMEwallet accounts will be suspended until further notice following the appointment of administrators.
7.Pre-owned Software: You can still buy pre owned products at great prices in your local store or online. If you trade in a pre-owned software item then you will still be able to accrue reward points and use your trade in to exchange for another item. You will not be able to trade in pre-owned software for cash. If this changes, we will let you know. We apologise for the inconvenience this causes.
8.Pre-owned Hardware: We have had to suspend trade in for pre-owned hardware at this time. If this changes, we will let you know. We apologise for the inconvenience this causes.
9.Click and Collect titles: We have had to suspend this service. We apologise for any inconvenience this causes.
MJA Jervis and SD Maddison have been appointed as Joint Administrators of The GAME Group plc, Game Stores Group Limited, Gameplay (GB) Limited, Game (Stores) Limited, Games Station Limited, Game (Retail) Limited and Gamestation Limited on 26 March 2012 to manage their affairs, business and property as their agents and without personal liability. MJA Jervis and SD Maddison are licensed in the United Kingdom to act as insolvency practitioners by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.
If you have any questions please feel free to email us at: email@example.com
Well, there’ll be some awkward moments in the office at Viagogo this morning after last night’s Dispatches documentary on Channel 4. We all know that the event tickets game is riddled with things that make us all want to vomit everywhere, like booking fees, bewildering fees for tickets that you print at home, touting and getting a seat behind a tall, hat-wearing person.
The ‘fan-to-fan’ reselling websites are pretty disgusting too. We’re talking about the likes of Viagogo, Seatwave and Getmein. That sector got a bit of a shoeing on last night’s documentary, with Viagogo taking the worst of it.
Undercover reporters showed how Viagogo staff snapped up tickets for gigs as they went on sale, using multiple credit cards, before listing them on the site at inflated prices. Additionally, allegations were made that blocks of tickets were sold to Viagogo directly from promoters, with the money being split between both parties. We’ve got a feeling that this won’t be the last we hear of all of this.
If you missed it, the Dispatches programme can now be seen over at the 4OD website. And if you do want to get involved in fan-to-fan ticket reselling, we’d recommend Scarlet Mist, where tickets can be purchased at face value.
WOWCHER! That’s what we’re all meant to shout all the time, or at least according to the advert for, erm, Wowcher, one of the latest in a rash of online daily deal companies. But when it comes to a recent deal that they plugged with jewellery company Shamballa, avid Bitterwallet reader Emily has been saying ‘WOAH THERE, WHERE’S MY STUFF? Instead.
Emily ordered a Shamballa bracelet through Wowcher (part of DMGT, along with the Daily Mail) before Christmas and has been chasing up its whereabouts ever since. Wowcher have finally offered her a refund along with the postage, saying:
“As you are aware, Shamballa-UK have failed to deliver your bracelet. Despite assurances from the merchant, they have been unable to stock the bracelet as advertised on the Wowcher website.
We are sincerely sorry for the inconvenience and frustration that this must have caused you. Once again, please accept our apologies for this merchant’s failure to meet his obligations.”
Which all seems fair enough, if a bit disappointing. A slap on the wrist for Shamballa then. Or is it? Emily has also been in direct contact with Shamballa and seems to be getting a different story from the horse’s mouth itself. They tell her…
“We are disappointed to inform you that Wowcher have not forwarded Shamballa-UK with your money for your bracelet. Subsequently, we are unable to dispatch your order and therefore your order has been cancelled.
Please note that we have tried our best to fulfil your order.”
So it looks as if someone is telling porky pies, but who? Have any of you had troublesome dealings with either Wowcher or Shamballa? Let us know so that we can decide which of them we trust the least. Perhaps this is one that the lawyers will have to sort out 0ut – we’ll let you know as soon as a winner has been declared.
Oh, and if any of you can make nice bracelets, do you fancy knocking one together and sending it to us so that we can forward it to Emily? THE POOR GIRL’S GOT NOTHING ON HER WRIST FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!
Some of the UK’s most, ahem, popular retailers have made a solemn promise to smarten up their acts when it comes to offering extended warranties on electrical goods after the Office of Fair Trading wagged its sizeable finger at the them.
The OFT is concerned about unfair competition, amid beliefs that punters aren’t being given full information before being sold warranties, in particular regarding the fact that they can shop around for such a service. At the moment, only a quarter of consumers are shopping around for extended warranties, with the majority being sold at the point of purchase.
Dixons, Comet and Argos have promised to set up a warranty comparison website and offer up more information to warranty-buying fans in their stores and on The Internet. The OFT will now be keeping a close eye on the situation and will decide if they’re satisfied or ready to throw the warranty hot potato to the Competition Commission for more probing.
Google loves you. Google wants to be your friend and make your life so much simpler. As part of all that guff, it’s made some widespread changes to its big, fat, complicated privacy policies. Now you’ll be able to have ‘a better, more intuitive Google experience’ as most of its separate privacy policies have been merged into one big, fat, less complicated one. Isn’t that great?
Of course it means that, if you’ve got a Google account, all of your personal info will be spread across almost all of Google’s services, whether you use them or not
Speaking to TechRadar, Sophos security expert Graham Cluely said:
“(It) means Google will be able to get a fuller picture of you. For instance, it will be able to share what it knows about you from your use of Gmail, with what it knows about what videos you have watched on YouTube, what locations you’ve looked up on Google Maps, and what you’ve searched for on the net.”
“As a result of this change, the potential value of the data Google stores about you has grown enormously. And, of course, the more Google knows about you the easier it will be to target you with advertising. Google has been dragged over the coals by privacy regulators in the past, and chances are that these changes will also be scrutinized by the powers that be.”
Ah yes, regulators. It seems that the Information Commissioner’s Office is already taking a close look at this latest development, and a spokesdude told ZDNet:
“While it can prove useful to some service users, it is important that technology companies, such as Google, are aware of the privacy concerns that exist when behavioural advertising is used to target particular content at individuals,” said the ICO. “Failure to inform users about changes may not only lead to a loss of trust in the company, but could also mean that they are failing to comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Act.”
This morning’s offer at Gumtree Daily Deals looks like a bit of a cracker – an A3-sized canvas print for only £9.99, reduced from £47. Why, one of those would look fantastic when hung, let’s say, on the wall above a double bed. Helpfully, Gumtree, and offer-provider Grangeprint have included a preview of what it might look like.
Oh yes, that’s a mighty print indeed – and at only a penny less than a tenner, it looks like a spectacular enhancement to any bedroom. But wait – what’s that? There seems to be a disclaimer in the picture. It says ‘this picture is not representative of the deal size’. Hmmm, that’s a shame.
Fortunately for yourselves, using the average double bed width of 54 inches and the A3 width of 16.5 inches, along with some cack-handed Photoshopped redecoration, we’re able to give you more of an indicator of what you’ll actually get.
Slightly less impressive? Um, just a bit. Of course, it isn’t the first time we’ve commented on something like this – hello Groupon!
EDIT: As pointed out in the comments by Mr Crocus, maybe it’s a really tiny bed. So we’ve put a tiny Morecambe and Wise in it. We’re not sure if this helps or proves anything.
It doesn’t, does it?
Hola amigos! It is I, Len Dastard, full time litigation executive and part time pretend lucha libre! I get my kicks from assisting the fearless consumer. There is nothing that Len wouldn’t do for you. Believe that.
There is always some confusion as to the rights of the consumer when a retailer offers an item at a price which is clearly incorrect. Now seems like the perfect opportunity for me to give you all a quick recap following this deal found over at HUKD. Member paul124 posted a deal for a Panasonic Viera 50″ 3D plasma TV for just £199. The actual price, we now know, should have actually been £599 (reduced from £1099). Many people got wind of the £199 price and placed a speculative order. Surely they didn’t believe that they would get the item at that price? Orders were placed and then swiftly cancelled with M&S claiming that there had been an error. Members were obviously disgruntled and some went on the attack against M&S claiming that they were the owners of this television and M&S should be sending these out.
Items on the internet or in a shop are known as “invitations to treat” as opposed to “offers to sell”. There needs to be a clear distinction between the two otherwise there will possibly be many claims for potential breaches of contract. One of the easiest examples of an “offer to sell” would be a ticket machine within a car park. It is offering you the chance to park your car in exchange for a fee. By you placing your money in the machine you are showing a clear acceptance of their offer. There is therefore no chance to negotiate. An “invitation to treat” is a way of letting people know that they are willing to receive offers. The key difference is that the other party has the opportunity to accept or reject your offer. They therefore do not have to sell you the item regardless of how much money you are willing to pay. This is the general position for items in a shop. I won’t bombard you with boring case law but one of the well known cases regarding an invitation to treat is Pharmaceutical Society v Boots where Boots were being sued for selling medicines in the absence of having a doctor within the store. They successfully pleaded that they were not selling the items and they had the opportunity of rejecting the sale at the till and the placing of the item in the basket by the consumer doesn’t mean that a contract is formed.
The next consideration is at which point is a contract formed when someones shops at a distance. It is always important to get to grips with a retailers Terms and Conditions as this usually explains at which point the retailer would consider themselves to be legally obliged to sending you the item. It is very common that retailers will state that the contract is formed at the point of despatch so that they can ratify the transaction and correct any errors. Going back to the above deal, these are the Terms and Conditions that M&S initially intended to rely on:
Acceptance of your order
Please note that completion of the online checkout process does not constitute our acceptance of your order. Our acceptance of your order will take place only when we dispatch the product(s) or commencement of the services that you ordered from us.
As you can see from the above, M&S were, by their own Terms, not legally obliged to honour the misprice. However, after much effort on the part of the disgruntled customers, they gave in and honoured many of the orders and members have started to receive their televisions. Hooray! However, retailers do not always “give in” as can be seen in this example. Another misprice but this time from Next. Two small sofas for just £98 from £1300. Many members placed an order and Next are point blank refusing to honour. Slightly different wording from their Terms but they also confirm that the contract is formed when the item is shipped.
Many disgruntled consumers say that this particular Term is grossly unfair and wonder whether or not it is legally enforceable. I have made the point in previous articles but I think it bears repeating. Retailers deserve a certain level of protection for these eventualities. Is it fair that a mistake should be punished to the extent it would be if the term was made unfair and the retailer could therefore not rely on it? Consumers do get plenty of protection from the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Distance Selling Regulations 2000 (amongst others). The consequences could be dire for retailers if it was ever made unlawful.
What are your thoughts? Are consumers getting too greedy or should retailers be hung out to dry for their mistakes?
Got anything that you would like us to consider? Get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org
The lawyer that brought shame on the legal profession by sending speculative letters to “illegal file sharers” has finally been sentenced by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
If you haven’t been following our coverage, the cases brought against Andrew Crossley were decided in July 2011. An out of court settlement was reached between ACS:Law and the claimants (accused file sharers). The only issue remaining was how best to deal with Andrew Crossley. The charges being faced by Crossley:
1) Allowed his independence to be compromised
2) Acted contrary to the best interests of his clients
3) Acted in a way that was likely to diminish the trust the public places in him or in the legal profession
4) Entered into arrangements to receive contingency fees for work done in prosecuting or defending contentious proceedings before the Courts of England and Wales except as permitted by statute or the common law
5) Acted where there was a conflict of interest in circumstances not permitted, in particular because there was a conflict with those of his clients
6) Used his position as a Solicitor to take or attempt to take unfair advantage of other persons being recipients of letters of claim either for his own benefit or for the benefit of his clients.
7) Acted without integrity in that he provided false information in statements made to the Court.
The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal handed down their judgment yesterday and decided that Crossleys conduct was deserving of a two year suspension from practising as a lawyer and ordered to pay costs of £76,326.55. Ouch.
As part of his mitigation (sob story), Crossley claimed that his world had fallen apart as a result of this whole unsavoury incident and he was facing bankruptcy and could not even afford legal representation for the hearing.
So it seems that justice has been done. Is the judgment too harsh? Not harsh enough? Let us know your thoughts.
If you’re an spurious information junkie, you’d better stock up on all your facts today – that’s because Wikipedia will be ‘going dark’ for 24 hours tomorrow, as it protests about the nasty new SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) law that is being touted in America at the moment.
Admittedly, the law has got nothing to do with any of us here in the UK, or anywhere else in the world, but Wikipedia aren’t bothered about that. Tune into their English-language website tomorrow and all you’ll see is information about the SOPA. As well as Wikipedia, the likes of Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and eBay have spoken out about the proposed law, which they believe goes too far and will be too damaging to the online world.
So, if you didn’t buy the print version of Wikipedia (pictured) and you’ll be needing to see the full list of So Solid Crew members tomorrow, you’ll need to go here instead…