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)
Mobile phone handsets
Lap-tops, notebooks and tablet PCs
Used cars bought from a franchise dealer
Beds and mattresses
Fridges and freezers
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).
WHOOPS! 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’.
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 email@example.com.
Thank you for your attention to this email.
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.
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.
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.
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?
If 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.
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.