As far as a UK energy company is concerned, Scottish Power has received the highest number of complaints EVER, according to new figures. They’ve seen complaints going up by a whopping 488%, according to Citizens Advice.
1,163 customers per 100,000 complained about Scottish Power in the last quarter of last year, which is the largest amount of people moaning in any one quarter. And what has caused all this? The reason is largely because of the supplier’s new billing system.
While complaints across the sector are going down, Scottish Power are reversing the trend and were banned from proactive sales in March after failing to meet customer service targets set by Ofgem, who had found that the company hadn’t made sufficient improvements regarding customer complaints.
Npower must be thrilled as they’re usually heading up the table for being the most complained about energy company. For the first two quarters of 2014, they were, but Scottish Power’s dreadfulness saw them taking the top spot in the second half of the year.
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: “New billing systems are routinely failing energy customers. In the last few years, four of the largest firms have introduced new billing systems, and their implementation has caused chaos for consumers. Thousands of customers have been hit by delayed and incorrect bills which have resulted in extreme frustration and significant debts.”
“It’s encouraging that Npower is now turning the corner, but Scottish Power still has a very long way to go.”
Neil Clitheroe, chief executive of Scottish Power retail and generation, said: “We apologise unreservedly to any customers who have experienced account issues. These statistics reflect service problems in the last six months of 2014, when we had our most challenging period following the introduction of a new £200 million customer IT system.”
“To make improvements we have added 700 new customer service advisers and we worked closely with Ofgem on call waiting times, outstanding bills and ombudsman complaints. We also agreed with Ofgem to stop outbound sales for a two week period. Recently our call answering times have been among the best in the industry and outstanding complaints have been reduced significantly. We remain fully committed to resolving outstanding issues and ensuring that no customers will be left out of pocket.”
Problems continue to mount for airbag supplier Takata with the announcement that Toyota and Nissan will be recalling 6.5m airbags.
These Takata airbags have been under scrutiny for quite some time and 17 million vehicles carrying these airbags have already been subject to a recall.
The previous problem appeared to be that the airbags inflate with too much force and shoot out metal shards. This problem has linked the product to 5 deaths and dozens of injuries. The latest recalled however is slightly different in that the front passenger and front driver-side air bag inflators can deploy abnormally, or rupture, and put a person in a crash at greater risk.
Its chairman and chief executive pledged Takata was working hard to test and replace airbags deemed to be a potential risk. In a letter they said “Our airbags have deployed safely in more than two million auto accidents around the world since we began producing them in 1987, saving many thousands of lives.
“In 2014 alone, thousands of serious injuries and deaths have been prevented worldwide by Takata airbags.”
Toyota cars affected in the latest UK recall:
Corolla. Yaris, Picnic and Avensis Verso models built between March 2003 and March 2007 for passenger airbag defects
RAV4, Yaris and Hilux cars manufactured between July 2003 and December 2005 for driver airbag defects.
Toyota have stated that owners of these vehicles would be contacted within six weeks and told what to do next.
Nissan recall vehicles in the UK:
Navara Pickup, Almera Tino, Patrol, Almera, Terrano II and X-Trail models manufactured between 2004 and 2007
Both makers will carry out the recall without charging customers for parts or labour.
What’s the best thing since sliced bread? Unfortunately for bread manufacturers, its not the traditional white sliced loaf anymore. A combination of changing consumer tastes and supermarket price wars have meant that traditional sliced loaves are no longer the best thing in a baker’s range.
Research shows a widespread switch away from sliced bread in recent times, with consumers instead turning to ‘healthier’ alternatives such as wholegrain and artisan loaves, or even shunning wheat or gluten-based products entirely. Add to that the fact that bread, as a staple product, has been heavily involved in supermarket price wars- Asda recently dropped a number of branded bread products, and Tesco has thrown them all out in favour of in-house ranges, and you can see why the top three UK bakers are all showing a massive decline in sales. And don’t even mention the introduction of free school meals for all infant school children- with the 14% decline in schoolchildren taking sandwiches also being blamed.
Data from analysts IRI shows that Warburtons, Hovis and Kingsmill , have lost a total of £121 million in bread sales in the past year. Warburtons has lost sales worth £35 million, while Hovis has suffered a £11 million slump in sales. Kingsmill reported that bread sales down £75 million on the preceding 12 months, price drops exacerbating a 14.3% drop in volume. Total UK bread sales were down 8.4% as average prices fell 4.7%, and these figures mean that Hovis, perhaps assisted by its ‘wholemeal’ and traditional image, has overtaken Kingsmill to become Britain’s second biggest selling bread brand.
And therein lies the silver lining. As the bread market goes stale, this has spelled good news for consumers as prices in High Street stores have fallen by an average of 15p for a large (800g) loaf. Trade magazine The Grocer reported that shoppers are currently paying, on average, 13.3% less than they were a year ago for a large loaf with those selling at a typical promotional price of £1.14 in the last week of April now costing just 99p.
So are you still a tea and toast in the morning kind of consumer? Or are you almond bagel or fruit and yogurt material? Does your lunchbox include a ham sandwich, or are you quinoa and roasted vegetables these days…
Well, this is quite strange. The browse and discover site for parents Wauwaa seems to have just disappeared. Site not found, Twitter and Facebook account deleted and there is currently a proposal to strike off the WAU Holdings Limited company.
The most unfortunate part of all this is that there will no doubt be many of you currently waiting for orders to be fulfilled or refunds issued and and now you’ve got no way of contacting the company to find out exactly what is happening.
So, what can you do? Well, you could just sit and wait. If the company is going to go into liquidation there should be a formal announcement shortly with details of the administrators appointed. If there is a company sale then again, an announcement should follow too.
Made payment on card? Contact your card issuer – it will depend on how you made payment to Wauwaa but you could have some recourse through your card issuer. There are primarily two schemes in place and these are Chargeback or Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. In a little more detail…
If you’ve paid using a debit card for goods you can ask your card issuer to reverse the transaction if the goods have not arrived or if they are different from the description. You can also use Chargeback if the company has ceased trading. The procedure might vary between Visa, Maestro and American Express so check with your issuer for full details such as time limits and the nature of your purchase (e.g. flight purchases are different in that the breach is from the date the flight is due to depart).
Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act covers purchases on credit cards and over £100 (and not more than £30,000). What many do not realise is that you are covered for the full cost of the item even if you only used your credit card to pay the deposit. So if you bought a kitchen appliance for £50 deposit using your credit card and paid £300 by cheque, you’d be covered for £350. If you’ve made your payment to Wauwaa by credit card and you wish to make a claim, make sure you get in touch with your credit company and get your claim lodged.
Have you placed an order through Wauwaa and are concerned? Let us know!
The Grocer magazine decided to do a taste test of 1,103 own-label products, and they found that Aldi and Lidl beat off the majority of supermarkets in Britain. Each of the budget supermarkets bagged 13 gold medals each in the annual Own Label Food & Drink Awards.
Asda also got themselves 13 golds, while M&S nabbed eight gold medals.
With a combination of experts and people off the street, the taste test was undertaken and Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons came up short, which will be even more worrying for the retailers.
Editor of The Grocer, Adam Leyland, said: “The number of entries we receive is a clear reflection of the growing importance of own label to retailers. And with competition as fierce as it is, excellence is essential.”
For those who still haven’t stepped foot inside an Aldi or Lidl, they’ve got higher end own-brand items, just like the competition. The quality of Specially Selected and Deluxe items is, according to this test, better than Tesco’s Finest and the like. Some of the items that fared well were Aldi’s Specially Selected vine tomato and lentil soup, the Specially Selected continental plum crumble tart, Moser Roth Madagascan vanilla chocolate and Specially Selected dopiaza curry sauce.
Lidl, meanwhile, scored well with their hot smoked salmon fillet with black pepper, Deluxe Red Leicester with green chilli and red peppers and their steak and ale pie.
Ronny Gottschlich, Lidl’s UK managing director, said: “The awards help to reinforce our message that low cost does not mean having to compromise on quality.”
Down the wrong end of opinion, Morrisons only managed one gold, while Sainsbury’s had absolutely none. It is worth pointing out that Waitrose decided that they didn’t want to enter any products into this test.
Q: How many pedants does it take to change a lightbulb? A: None. They replace one. However, when a headlight bulb goes on your car, with all these shiny new headlight units you might be at a loss as to how to replace it yourself and you might need help doing so. But how much does it cost to change a lightbulb? Car magazine Autoexpress decided to investigate this very question, and found massive variations in charge, with some charging over £70 in some cases. They also found out which marque of car dealership was most helpful in answering telephone queries.
What is, perhaps, not surprising is that most dealerships charged to replace a lightbulb, and the average variance in price between dealers on the same car was around £20. However, what is a welcome surprise is that some offered free labour, and some offered a free bulb, while yet others charged exorbitant fees for a tiny bulb of over £70.
Auto Express picked 50 of the most popular cars in the UK and anonymously contacted three dealers across the country for each model, enquiring how much a new headlight bulb would cost, and how much they’d charge to fit it. The Nissan Qashqai returned the biggest disparity of £44.60, with prices starting at £5.40, rising to £15.39 and peaking at £50. In second place came the Renault Captur, where one garage offered to supply and fit a new light bulb for free, while another wanted £40.. The Mazda 3 returned the third biggest disparity of our trio, as well as providing the single highest quote for changing a bulb, a massive £71.99.
With some headlamp units harder to access and bulb costs varying, it’s unfair to directly compare models, but the average price of the bulbs plus labour was £22.77.
So if those were the most disparate quotes, which were the most consistent? Good old Volkswagen was the most consistent with all nine dealers contacted – for the Polo, Golf and Passat – quoting the exact same amount: £16.40. The next best was Skoda, which had a variation of £1 (£15 to £16) between its three dealers for the Yeti. Volvo came in third, with dealers quoting between £10.08 and £15 – all with free fitting – for the XC90. Skoda and Volkswagen, were the most helpful in dealing with the enquiries over the phone.
However Autoexpress say their research highlighted the varying levels of customer service provided by different dealers, with premium brands being, on the whole, the worst performers for phone manner. Audi and BMW dealers were so premium, they wouldn’t even offer an estimate without exact number plate, ownership, and inside leg measurement details.
Of course, this whole exercise simply highlights the need to shop around for anything, even something as small as a headlight bulb. And while pricey quotes from branded dealers might not be a surprise, those who will fit your bulbs for free is worth knowing- who’d have thought it would be cheaper to go to Volvo for lightbulb fitting than to Halfords, for example.
It’s always nice when a retailer makes a goodwill gesture when they’ve stuffed up in some way, although, in some cases, disgruntled customers might stretch that goodwill to the limit. Like the case of the Hertfordshire woman who, when offered a meal for two to compensate her for a delay in picking up her new (used) car, promptly went out and spent over £700 on a slap-up meal.
The delay in question was caused when a delivery truck bumped into Ms Siobhan Yap’s new (used) car she had purchased from Watford Audi. While Audi repaired the damage, there was obviously a delay in Ms Yap, 27, obtaining her new Audi A3, and in addition to providing her with a courtesy car, the car retailer offered to pay for her to have ‘a meal for two’.
So far so amicable. However, while Audi did not specify a restaurant, or indeed a price limit for the meal, it is unlikely they would have been expecting the inconvenienced customer to book in at the Michelin starred L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Covent Garden, the total bill for the meal for two coming to £714.
While at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Ms Yap and her mother did not cut any corners, enjoying four glasses of champagne, two bottles of wine costing £69 each, six cocktails totalling £86 and a sloe gin all at Audi’s presumed expense.
They did also eat some food, and the “small tasting dishes” they tried included one La Truffe Noire at £35, two St Jacques scallop dishes costing £29 each and two La Volatille risottos totalling £42.
Unsurprisingly, Audi were a little dismayed to receive the hefty bill, which was rather more than it would have been in Nandos, with a Watford Audi spokesman saying they felt it was “excessive expenditure for two diners”, but as Audi were “keen to make amends for the incident” they offered to cover half the bill, equating to £357.
“We believe this is a fair and reasonable amount given the circumstances, and we stand by the decision taken,” said the spokesman.
However, an unapologetic Ms Yap told the JVS show on BBC Three Counties Radio that Audi should really pay the whole bill because she’d had to send the car back for further repairs, and the cost was “relative to what they put me through and their customer service levels”. If only we all got sloshed at a posh restaurant every time we had sloppy customer service eh?
“They put me through a lot of stress and it was a really nice restaurant,” Ms Yap said, before adding triumphantly that “they should have specified a limit.”
Etiquette expert William Hanson agreed that the garage should have set an upper limit and should “learn a lesson” and “absorb the cost”. However, he also remarked that “you don’t need to perhaps drink that much if someone else is paying”.
But what do you think? Do Audi deserve being taken to the cleaners for their naivety, or is Ms Yap just taking the mickey? Isn’t she entitled to a little bit of what she fancied in exchange for what was an admitted cock-up by the car retailer? Or are greedy people like this the reason more firms don’t make added gestures when things go wrong?
We spoken about train compensation before on Bitterwallet, but the whole thing is still far too tricky. As the UK has a variety of different companies, that means a dizzying variation on the rules they have in place. If you’re wanting reimbursement or compo from them, any help is worthwhile.
One useful thing is that National Rail has underlying guidelines for those travelling by train. Basically, the National Rail Conditions of Carriage are the underlying conditions for all train travel and they set what compensation you’re entitled to.
If your train is delayed or late, then you’re entitled to a minimum of 20% of your single ticket or, 10% of your return. Regarding the latter, you’re entitled to 20% if both legs of your journey was late. Crucially, your train has be more than an hour late.
A lot of the train companies have different compensatory rules on this, so it is worth checking them first, as they’re likely to be more generous with payouts. Generally, train companies will pay out 50% of your ticket if your train is more than 30 minutes late. Don’t be surprised if you get vouchers, rather than money. If you’d rather have the cash, be sure to state this clearly when making your complaint.
If you’re getting a refunds for season ticket, then your compensation will be based on a calculation of the cost of your daily travel.
Your Rights in a Smartphone App
One thing you should know about is that the European Commission have an app for passengers’rights, should you need to make a complaint. If you want that, click here.
Of course, there’s exceptions. If you have a delay, a cancellation or poor service that is deemed to be outside the train’s control, then they could well tell you to sling it. What are these things? They include gas leaks, acts of terrorism, fires, things done by vandals, suicides, riots, industrial action, lines that have been closed at the request of the emergency services and… here we go… exceptionally severe weather conditions.
Now, if there’s bad weather and you want compensation, Network Rail and the train companies have to be in agreement that the weather is, indeed, exceptionally severe. Basically, that means that, if other types of transport have been affected by the weather – if they have, you don’t get any compensation. However, if other types of transport are fine, then it is worth a punt.
One trick is, if severe weather has made your train over 1 hour late, then don’t get on your train at all and claim a refund, rather than go for compensation.
Duty of Care if you’re Stranded
If you end up stranded because of your train company, you’re in business. Basically, your train company should either get you to your destination or, if that’s not possible, they should give you overnight accommodation. If they don’t, you should raise hell.
Looking for an investment in a fast-growing business? You could do worse than investing in the expanding waistlines of your fellow man. Just Eat, the online takeaway service has just announced a massive portion of extra orders in the first three months of the year. So is this the shape of things to come?
It seems consumers are using their increasing disposable income to order takeaways, with the Just Eat apps and websites accounting for the surge in orders. The company, which was launched in the UK in 2006, reported an increase in like-for-like orders of 47% in the first quarter, with total orders were up 51% on the same period last year.
Scarily, Just Eat reckons it has more than 8 million users, with 45,700 takeaway restaurants signed up to the service.That’s an awful lot of chicken kormas. Its full-year results in March, saw more than 61 million takeaway orders for restaurants in 2014, worth more than £1billion. With the most popular orders being Margherita pizzas and Doner kebabs. Classy, people, classy.
David Buttress, its chief executive, said : ‘I am delighted with the company’s performance. The team has worked very hard in all our markets to achieve these results.”
“I am also pleased to see the continued shift of consumers to the ease and convenience of ordering food through Just Eat apps and websites.”
Of course, this news, coming in election frenzy, is likely to spark more calls for some kind of fat tax on unhealthy foods, as has been previously mooted, with some of the cash earmarked to help NHS services deal with the fall out from 61 million Doner kebabs. Which doesn’t bear thinking about.
Nevertheless, shares in the company rose 3% to 470p, which is a nice little earner for those who got in at 260p when it floated last year. Looks like the online takeaway is a winner, whether you’re drunk and hungry or a savvy investor who knows that the value of shares can go down as well as up. Bit like a kebab really.
The company is now planning to take over the world by expanding on its French, Mexican and Swiss operations.
As you know, sometimes you have to barter with companies to get a deal. One fella called Richard Moore chanced his arm when contacting a Chinese restaurant.
He asked, because he was bringing a group to Twin Dynasty in Kent, if it would be possible to get a discount.
Unfortunately for the restaurant, they don’t know how to work technology and, presumably hitting ‘reply all’, Moore soon found himself being called a “cheeky f***er”.
Restaurant director Nick Byram said sorry, saying: “As I explained to Mr Moore the email he received was a genuine mistake sent to the wrong recipient on a completely different matter and topic.”
Moore isn’t having any of it, saying: “I was completely shocked, I’ve told friends who have said they are disgusted by it all. I certainly won’t be eating there.”
Of course, Moore should be angling for LOADS of free stuff now by way of compensation. Of course, there’s no real emotional distress or anything like that over something as trivial as this… but this is the dance of customer service. When you cock-up, you’ve got to either try and out-troll someone or hold your hands up and give the aggrieved a load of fodder and laugh it off.
Even though it’s gradually and sporadically getting warmer, energy companies are still the villains of the hour, with the biggest bugbear being the big six energy firms’ reluctance to drop energy prices to reflect the fall in wholesale oil prices, in a manner not matched by swift price increases when wholesale prices went up. SSE will be the last of the big six to make a ‘token’ reduction in prices, with a 4.1% reduction for gas-only customers and 2.2% on dual fuel tariffs taking effect today. Still, according to uSwitch, the big six come in at an average of £338 higher than the cheapest tariffs on the market. But is this because the big six spend more in looking after us- after all, good customer service is worth its weight in gold, so might reasonably be expected to be an element of higher prices?
Telegraph Money decided to find out by asking seven energy firms how much the spent of customer service. Although it’s not looking good already- last month Ofgem banned Scottish Power from making sales calls for 12 days after the firm failed to clear a backlog of complaints. And earlier this week, British Gas promised to spend £50m over the next three years on improving its customer service, in an effort to stem the tide of customers fleeing the brand- with almost 400,000 customer lost last year alone. This brings the spend per head on customer service up to around £16.
The Telegraph defined customer service to include “complaints handling as well as simple requests such as a change of address, alongside any technology that customers can use to communicate with their supplier.” Not every company provided full information, but the information collated looks like this:
While Npower would not disclose total spending, adding that it had recently increased its customer service budget by £20 million, which equates to around £6.67 per head, so we know it’s at least that much, but given the record number of complaints they received last year, possibly not much more. Npower said complaints were already 42% lower than at the same time last year as a result of their investment in customer service.
So would you accept paying more if you could guarantee better customer service? £338 per year more? Or is energy a trade off between price and quality, same as much else in a consumer’s life…?
We’ve spoken about Morrisons and their want to bring back self-service tills on a number of occasions, and now, the struggling supermarket has confirmed it. Self checking out will wane, while 10 items-or-less lanes are coming back.
1,000 tills with human staff will be appearing and there’ll be less of the robots.
Why is this? Well, Morrisons new boss David Potts has revealed that 96% of the supermarket’s customers have told him that they prefer staffed checkouts. They like to chat to someone while they shop and two-thirds of those asked said that they didn’t like self-service tills because they are worried that they’ll hold everyone up and create queues while they wait for staff to override machines that blart on with warnings and can’t scan products.
Some people prefer the machines, so they won’t be getting rid of all of them. Potts said: “We’re listening hard to our customers and responding quickly wherever possible. If customers from time to time do smaller shops they want to get in and out of our stores quickly.”
“Not everyone wants to be herded towards the self-scanning checkouts and not everyone has a full trolley.”
Only last month, Morrisons decided to lose their computerised queue management system. Now, instead of relying on a computer to tell staff when another till needs opening, they’ll rely on humans with eyes who can recognise that there’s a big queue and the shop is quite busy.
Even the stores mentioned in this piece about Tesco’s heavy reliance on self-service checkouts have decided to go back to having manned tills in the stores.
The British Retail Consortium think that customers are becoming increasingly cheesed-off with self checkout tills. A spokesperson for that lot, said: “If the evidence shows that customers prefer manned checkouts then supermarkets will want to show that any face to face contact they give will be the best available.”
That clearly isn’t making Amazon enough money, so now they’re raising the limit again, doubling it to £20.
It looks like they’re doing this as an incentive to move customers toward coughing-up the £79 for Amazon Prime, so you can get next-day deliveries and a host of streaming and media services. If you’re not interested in the latter, tough cheese.
Seems like Amazon need to start paying for all their various forms of delivery options. Those flying drones won’t pay for themselves now, will they?
So when does this new £20 minimum come into play? Well, they’re not messing about and the new threshold will kick-in at 6pm tonight (that’s UK time). So if you’ve got some cheapo items sat in your basket, you should hurry up and get them right now.
The drink vendors said that they’d identified “some unusual activity” on some customers accounts while they were doing security checks.
A Costa spokesperson said that the number of people affected was in the “low to mid-hundreds”, but were confined to the UK. It will take a couple of days to reset everyone’s passwords and, until they’ve completed this, all online accounts will be suspended.
Mercifully, Costa don’t hold any customers financial data.
“We have already contacted those customers affected and emailed all registered Coffee Club members to make them aware of the situation. Customers can still continue to collect and redeem points as usual,” Costa Coffee said in a statement.
Now, feel free to complain about people spending too much money on coffee in the comments.
If you have Tesco Broadband, you may have been having a frustrating time with your connection. Don’t worry – you’re not going mad. The company confirmed that its UK broadband service has been down for thousands of people across the country.
The problem started yesterday and Tesco said that around 10,000 of their customers had to go without services. They’re in the middle of an investigation to find out what the problem is, saying that the “search for the issue is narrowing”.
“Some customers are experiencing network problems. This is not related to the migration of customers to TalkTalk,” it said in a statement.
“We are liaising with our network partner [Vodafone] to get the issue resolved as quickly as possible and apologise to any customers affected for the inconvenience.”
Looking at the company’s Twitter page, this is the tenth network failure they’ve had THIS MONTH. That’s preposterous. We advise getting a different provider.
A Tesco spokesperson told the BBC: “Tesco broadband uses its Twitter feed to update customers on all network outages as our customers have told us they find this very helpful. This means that we report on any network problem even if just a handful of customers are experiencing issues.
Our fault rate is in line with the industry and we have high customer satisfaction ratings.”
It should be back online now.