Things are looking up! Even HMRC are getting better at dealing with customers, even if the proportion of complaints upheld by the Adjudicator’s office has only dropped by 5% it’s a start. Right?
The adjudicator’s office has just released its annual report for 2014/15 which shows similar numbers of complaints about HMRC, although a slight improvement on last year’s report with now only 85% of complaints being upheld. While the adjudicator acknowledges that many of the serious complaints about HMRC relate to one specific bad-apple department (benefits and credits), sha also noted that HMRC show “a somewhat limited appetite for reflection and learning from their interaction with customers.” Nice. 1108
Out of the 1,102 total complaints received by the adjudicator’s office, 95% related to HMRC- 1,044 new complaints, just slightly fewer than the 1,087 received in 2013/14. Of the cases cleared this year, the adjudicator upheld a whopping (although improved) 85% either partially or substantially.
The adjudicator also mediated 39% of cases directly between customers and the department and praised HMRC for getting much better at dealing with customers and complaints around PAYE but noted that the latter half of 2014/15 saw a rise in complaints from Benefits & Credits customers about tax credits. But these two areas are still very much determined in the customers’ favour- the number of PAYE complaints upheld decreased to 91%, but for Tax Credits the upheld rate increased to 93%.
In particular, the adjudicator “remains critical” of the number of complaints where HMRC staff failed to consider the circumstances of their ‘vulnerable customers’, and urged the departments to use their discretion. What has also been highlighted in this year’s report is the amount of compensation paid by HMRC in respect of their rubbishness- on occasion, the adjudicator may recommend that HMRC pay a monetary sum to customers in recognition of the poor level of service they received, and any relevant costs. And this compo adds up to quite a tidy sum:
However, the report does suggest that HMRC have implemented new customer care procedures, meaning that this time next year it’ll be a totally different story. Right?
Arabella Frankel, who is from North London, was eating her ready meal, and took out a bit of what she thought was a bone. After giving it a wash under the tap, she found it was a ‘fang’.
Frankel said: “I was eating and then there was a hard thing in my mouth. I bit down and thought “what is that?” I thought maybe it was a bit of bone or metal. But when I took it out of my mouth and washed it under the tap I realised it wasn’t.”
“It was a fang, about one and a half centimetres long. It even has a root on it. It was really really grim. Honestly, when I think about it it gives me the shudders.”
She added: “I even spoke to a dentist at the practice near my work and he said it looks like a rat’s tooth. I just don’t understand how a tooth could have got in there unless there are rats running around the factory. I didn’t see it in the food and it could’ve been a really bad choking hazard. I know things happen but I wonder how it could have got in there. It’s so grim that it was in my mouth.”
“I think this is the end of my lasagne days. I was probably eating ratty lasagne which is disgusting.”
Meanwhile, the phrase ‘ratty lasagne’ is the thing that will stay with us the longest. Anyway, she contacted Waitrose, who said sorry and said they’d look into the matter. Remarkably, they didn’t offer her a refund.
A spokesman for Waitrose said: “We take all customer complaints seriously and are very sorry about this customer’s experience. The quality and safety of our products is our top priority and our ready meal suppliers have very strict processes to prevent materials which shouldn’t be there getting into food – so we are mystified how this could have happened.”
“We would like to investigate by sending the item for analysis – which we will do as soon as we receive it.”
Morrisons are going to stop stocking sweets and the like next to their tills, because they really care, maaaan. By February 2016, they’ll no longer put sugary things next to checkouts, after they asked their customers about it. ALL SIX CUSTOMERS, LOL.
Unsurprisingly, they’re going to replace chocolate bars and bags of gummy things with a range of alternative snacks, like fruit, nuts and dried up things in a bag.
Morrisons want to improve the ‘customer experience’ at checkouts as a whole, and as well as ditching the sugar, they’re going to get rid of the queue management system and use human intuition instead, as well as re-introducing express checkouts for those buying 10 or less items, and getting rid of older self-service checkouts in favour of new ones, that are more advanced and easier-to-use.
As far as the sweets go, the supermarket will be doing a trial across some of their stores, in a bid to find out what exactly should replace the confectionery.
David Potts, CEO at Morrisons, said: “We have been listening to parents and guardians who have told us that sweets on checkouts can sometimes lead to pestering from their children. This change will make the trip through the checkout easier and less stressful.”
Of course, nutritionists are very happy about this, because they want to see you eating dried banana flakes, rather than a Lion bar. Bryonie Hollaert, Company Nutritionist, at Morrisons said: “We are doing what we can to help customers choose healthier foods. As well as taking chocolate away from checkouts, we are also removing sugar and salt from other food and drink products. Last year alone we removed nearly one billion calories and over 38million teaspoons of sugar from our soft drinks.”
Tesco removed sweets from all their checkouts on January 1st this year, apart from those we’ve been in that had a load of chewing gum by the tills, which totally doesn’t count.
There’s a lot of hate and a lot of explaining to do, so this isn’t much of a surprise really.
The regulator’s new deadline has been moved from 25th December to 25th June, which means investigators can have a Christmas dinners, but they will be releasing their provisional proposals in January.
The CMA also have to look into the problems with the private healthcare market, as well as reviewing BT’s takeover of EE. They’ve got a lot of work to do, clearly.
The regulator recently said that the British public had paid around £1.2bn a year too much for domestic energy from the big six providers. This is a claim that the Big Six deny, obviously. There’s talk of a temporary price-cap while this all gets sorted, but nothing concrete has been said about that yet.
Roger Witcomb, chairman of the investigation, said: “As the most comprehensive investigation into the energy market since privatisation, this is a once in a generation opportunity to shape the future of this market for the better. It’s important that we get it right.”
“This is a huge programme of work and we have concluded that we could not complete it by the original statutory deadline. We have therefore decided there are special reasons for extending the reference period which will allow us some extra time to finish the job.”
We told you what Apple have in store for the new iOS 9 update, but it isn’t all good. A lot of people have been noting that the update is making their devices crash. Apple have been having a lot of glitches lately, haven’t they? ‘Just works’ indeed.
On social media, some have said that they’ve been unable to use their phones at all, while others have just lost patience and done a factory reset, losing all their non-backed up data in the process. Ideally, Apple would fix it and issue an update, stat.
People with older iPhones have noticed that their phones are seizing up on a “swipe to upgrade” page, even though Apple deemed this upgrade as ‘friendly’ to older devices.
Another problem here is that iOS 8 was a glitchfest too, and some of the bugs in that weren’t ever properly fixed. Apple are risking annoying a lot of people who have paid a lot of money for a ‘premium’ product. If they keep this up, their customer base could drop.
So what should you do if you haven’t upgraded yet, but are thinking of doing so? Well, it’d be a good idea to wait a few days, and let Apple sort their mess out and iron out the bugs that are in their system at the moment. You’re in no rush.
Customer service can be frustrating on both sides of the fence. And so, to a lovely little tale about EE calling someone a “f***ing c***”. We’re sure you can work out which swear words they are. Clue: it doesn’t say ‘flaming chop’.
So what happened? well, one chap rang EE to discuss paying his bills.
This man, is called Charlie Doherty and he’s from Bexleyheath. He got into a disagreement when the person taking his call refused to accept a £35 payment. In the heat of the moment, Charlie hung up. Doherty said: “It is one thing being rude on the phone in the heat of the moment and regretting it and another thing all together sitting down and sending a sweary email to a customer.”
Here’s the email.
Notice how polite the ‘kind regards’ sign-off is. Lovely work, that.
Now, EE’s version of event. They say that Doherty had been talking about his outstanding bill, and when he hung up, he spat ‘f*** you, you c***’, at the member of staff.
EE said: “The email Mr Doherty received is inexcusable and appropriate action has been taken against the member of staff.”
So there you go. On one hand, if you’re paid to take a bit of nonsense from customers, you shouldn’t be email them calling them two of the fruitiest words in the English language, but then, on the other hand, if you call someone a ‘c***’, don’t be sulking if someone returns the favour by calling you one straight back.
Anyway, we’d like to see all insults exchanged between staff and customers signed-off with ‘kind regards’. Can we make that a thing now?
Being a seller on eBay is a trying affair. Unfathomably, it seems that eBay want to make everything difficult for those generating money through selling things, as well as making life hard for those wanting to buy too.
eBay are, quite clearly, sadomasochists.
However, it looks like they’re trying to sort it out, with some new rules for those who trade in the marketplace. They’re going to bring in some new rules regarding customers who open cases against sellers.
So, at the moment, a trader is punished if someone opens at case against them, even if the trader is indulging in perfectly good customer service.
For example, if you send out an item, but the customer doesn’t receive it, that is neither the seller or the buyer’s fault. If the buyer opens a case, eBay punishes the vendor. Or, let us imagine you’ve sold someone a console, and when the buyer receives it, it doesn’t work and you give a full and immediate refund or replacement – if the customer complains, the seller still gets hammered.
Well, this will change next February, where vendors won’t get marked down for cases where item has not arrived, provided you’ve managed to resolve it with the customer before eBay has to step in.
These new rules mean that your ratings will stay intact, if you’re giving decent customer service. Of course, there’ll be swine on both sides who will try and find the weaknesses in this new rule, but at least for now, eBay are taking a step in the right direction.
We all know that energy companies have been taking the Michael for years, a view confirmed by the CMA in a report earlier this year. However, there are now calls to take thing a little further, and to force the energy companies to have a more reasonable default tariff to protect the vunerable and the ‘sticky’ (non-switchers).
Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint is now calling on the government to introduce a protected energy tariff for vulnerable customers as a more robust response to investigations of overcharging in the energy industry.The tariff would be set by the regulator and target those least likely to switch tariff.
Earlier this year that the independent Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) concluded that households were being overcharged by £1bn a year, but the only action the government had taken was to write a letter the big six energy companies, a letter mostly shrouded in freedom of information exemption secrecy.
The CMA claimed the big six had been making more than £1bn a year by overcharging 70% of customers who are on the standard variable tariff, suggesting in July that a transitional regulated safeguard tariff could protect consumers while the energy market is fixed.
The groups least likely to switch are also the most vulnerable and include those on low incomes, who have low qualifications, who are living in rented accommodation, and those who are above 65. CMA research showed 35% of those whose household incomes were above £36,000 had switched supplier in the last three years, compared with 20% of those whose household incomes were below £18,000.
Flint’s proposals suggest a protected tariff model where each supplier must offer one tariff where the price is set by the regulator and any prices changes must be approved by them. This becomes the default tariff for vulnerable consumers, or consumers who do not switch. Suppliers are, however, free to offer other tariffs at a price of their determining.
Instead of being a price cap, as in pre-privatisation days, Flint argues that this model would act as a price to beat for competitors, delivering choice for those that want it while ensuring fair prices for those who do not engage.
So what do you think? Is this a good idea, or is more regulation and price competitiveness at the not-bothered-about-switching end going to automatically result in price rises for those of us who do switch and save?
So, if you have some, don’t eat it and return the 200g pack (with a use by date of September 11th) for a full refund. Unless you really want to be on the toilet for hours at a time that is. We don’t know what you’re into.
The Food Standards Agency confirmed it was because of a presence of Listeria monocytogenes.
A Morrisons statement says: “As a precautionary measure, Morrisons are recalling the product due to a detection of Listeria monocytogenes. There is a possibility that this product may pose a microbiological risk if consumed.”
“We advise anyone who has purchased this product not to consume it and return it to their nearest store for a full refund. No other products or date codes are affected.”
More Food Poisoning Scares
There’s a lot of food poisoning knocking around at the minute. Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Iceland issued their own food poisoning warnings recently, there’s been reports on which supermarket is most likely to make you ill with their chicken, as well as food poisoning scares over chocolate wafers.
Millions of furious NatWest customers are wondering why they bother banking with a company that makes so many boobs, and again, they found themselves locked out of their accounts after another IT balls-up.
Credit and debit card holders were not able to pay for things down the shops, or even withdraw money from cash machines after NatWest’s systems threw a wobbler.
NatWest have again found themselves apologising. This is the second time in a fortnight that their services have gone down.
In a statement, parent company RBS said: “Some customers may have experienced difficulties using our ATM network, and Chip and PIN facilities within our branches for a short period of time this morning. These issues have now been resolved. We apologise for the inconvenience caused to those customers affected.”
Only three months ago, half a million NatWest account holders were left without money following a systems failure. Back in June, both RBS and NatWest customers saw their payments vanishing from their accounts, leaving them without money. And there were more cock-ups in July. And of course, you’ll recall the fiasco in 2012 which saw millions of people locked out of their accounts and misplaced transactions, thanks to a software nightmare.
The latter saw RBS being slapped across the face with a record £56 million fine. And then what happened? Months later, the GetCash banking app feature was hacked.
Just remember – it is easier than ever to switch bank accounts and there’s a lot of decent offers knocking around to make it worth your while. Have look here for some info.
You already know how to get a refund from a train company if they’ve mucked you around, thanks to our guide. We suspect there might be a few people in the suburbs of London who might be getting on it this week, after an investigation showed that they were being royally ripped off.
It looks like some rail passengers are being charged four times the amount of a correct fare for journeys across the capital. Please add a ‘train company rip off shocker – NEXT!’ comment below this article.
So what’s happening? When people are being sold ‘anytime’ tickets for travel within London, often, Oyster fares would have been hugely cheaper, say Campaign for Better Transport. They noted that Ewell West in Surrey, run by South West Trains, a passenger was asked to pay £19.50 to travel to Theobalds Grove in Hertfordshire, when an off-peak Oyster fare would have been £5.20.
There’s a number of other fares that would have been significantly cheaper if they’d been offered an Oyster fare.
Rail campaigner Martin Abrams said that, during his investigation, station staff told him passengers were receiving the inflated fares because their computers aren’t showing Oyster fares. Very convenient.
Abrams said: “The fares system in this country is hopelessly complicated, so much so that even a computer system can’t work out the cheapest fare. This problem can’t be blamed on new stations being brought into the Oyster zone as some of these stations have been in the Oyster zone since 2010.”
“This is a failure of the train operating companies, and their fares and ticketing technology needs to catch up quickly if passengers are to have any confidence that they are capable or indeed willing to sell the cheapest appropriate ticket for their journey.”
The Association of Train Operating Companies, who represents the assembled companies that run the railways, say that you should try and get a refund if you think you’ve been stung.
A spokesperson said: “The rail industry has worked with Transport for London (TfL) for many years to bring cheaper travel to train passengers using Oyster cards. This is an issue affecting a handful of stations recently added to TfL fares zones and the industry will fix this problem as quickly as possible to ensure that the correct fares are in the system.”
“People using Oyster cards to travel to these stations will have paid the correct fare. For other passengers, maps at stations and in ticket offices display information telling them they can use their Oyster card, but unfortunately it is still possible that some people could have been sold the wrong fare.
“We’d urge anyone who thinks they may have been sold the wrong fare to contact the place from which they bought it to seek a refund.”
A tenant was concerned and frustrated with her letting agent. Her alarm hadn’t worked for 2 years, and given that a burglar had fallen from her block of flats in Manchester, after being Tasered by police, she was keen to get it sorted.
After chasing up this maintenance problem, with S&S Estates, Sarah Darlington got an unexpected response. They called her a “bitch”.
As you can see, someone at the agents copied her in on a message which said: “I’m not dealing with this bitch.”
Sarah told the MEN: “It is unbelievable. I would be fired on the spot if I acted that way in my job. Not only is it completely unprofessional but it also shows how they work in the office.”
“The only thing I did was to send them a polite email asking them to fix the alarm. I did not deserve that treatment.”
“After getting the message on Thursday night I found the company’s directors and emailed them as well as the manager – but all I got was a reply on Friday afternoon saying the complaint had been passed on.”
“There was no apology, it’s disgusting.”
She added: “They have always been rude but I never expected this. The block’s gate was broken for a while and I had my bike stolen, and every time I email them I get a stand-offish response. Also our boiler was on the blink for six months and wouldn’t turn off but it took constant emails and about 11 visits from engineers to fix it. And when we moved in they said they had done a deep clean but the flat was filthy.”
“But we love the place so we always just put up with it. In fact we have signed a two year contract in June so I don’t know what to do now.”
S&S Estates have been approached for a comment, but they’re saying nothing.
Eric Pickles – a man who must generate incredible amounts of waste at an disgusting rate – was the man who said that he would see an end to fortnightly collections and was going to throw £250m at the initiative. However, after a spending review, this isn’t happening now.
“It is a very expensive scheme and it has proved to be a pretty ineffective one,” a source says. “It would be very surprising if it survives the spending review. There are other priorities. It’s time to move on.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said that they are still supporting more regular bin collections.
“The government encourages councils to support the wishes of local people, many of whom believe every household in England has a basic right to have their rubbish taken away every week,” said the spokesperson. “The government continues to champion frequent and convenient bin collections, which protect the environment and public health. We will also be working with local authorities to make recycling easier for people.”
“This department also published guidance on weekly rubbish collections, which showed that local authorities can make savings while not harming the quality of the service that local taxpayers receive.”
There’s been a lot of anger about the way some big businesses are nicking the tips of their staff, and Pizza Express were one of them.
Well, the food vendors have reversed their dodgy policy and won’t be taking a cut from waiting staff’s tips, after a backlash from their own customers and some stern words from the unions. See, Pizza Express were taking 8p from every £1 of tips paid for by card, which raked in around £1m a year for the company. Those figures are according to Unite, who were representing the staff.
Of course, other businesses were doing it too, including Cote, as well as Turtle Bay and Las Iguanas. The government are even looking into the practice, and all this pressure has seen Pizza Express ditching the policy.
From 6th October, tips made on card at any Pizza Express branch will now be fully dished out to restaurant staff, with the money being divvied up between waiting staff and the cleaners and kitchen staff. 70% goes to the waiter who was given the tip, and 30% goes to the rest.
Pizza Express themselves, have said that this change is nothing to do with all the bad press they’ve just been getting, but rather, this is all possible by a new automated system they’ve got, which they been working on for ages, honest.
The Unite union was happy. “We will turn tonight’s demo at the Baker Street Pizza Express into a short victory celebration – a truly champagne moment – and call on other chains to follow the lead of Giraffe and Pizza Express,” said Dave Turnbull, Unite regional officer. If you want to make a ‘champagne socialist’ joke, now’s the time to do it.
So now, Unite are going after Ask Italian, Prezzo, Belgo, Strada, Café Rouge, Bella Italia and Zizzi, who have also been accused of not playing fairly when it comes to their staff’s tips.
The Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, has launched an investigation into all this, and the inquiry is going to run until 10th November, to see whether or not the government needs to start throwing their weight around. If they do get involved, then you can imagine that they’ll name and shame all those deemed unfair.
Pizza Express’ Richard Hodgson, the company’s chief executive, said: “We recognise that our team members are critical to delivering the fantastic customer experience that Pizza Express has built over many years. As a leader in the casual-dining industry, we’re committed to best practice and to ensuring that our people are properly rewarded for the valuable contribution they make to our business.”