All You Need To Know About Comparison Websites

What
These are a must for finding the cheapest deal. Try to use more than one comparison site as they do not all list every company. It may seem like tedious work but it can save you hundreds of pounds. You can use these for insurance, broadband, TV, energy and banking.

Check the terms and conditions of the site and tick the box that says you don’t want to be contacted by anyone! It could be considered an Unfair Contract if the site states that it is not responsible for the information it provides. Check how the results are presented from one site to another and that the actual service provided is the same.

Ofgem Accreditation
Ofgem is currently changing its voluntary code of practice for price comparison websites to prevent them from displaying products on which it earns commission more prominently than those on which it doesn’t. The new Code requirements came into effect from the 1st April 2015 with the exception of those relating to supplier ratings and the Warm Home Discount (1st May 2015) and Personal Projection requirements for energy companies (1st June 2015).

Comparison websites ‘accredited’ by Ofgem must prominently list the energy companies from which they receive commission on sales, as well as clearly stating that they earn commission on certain tariffs. The websites will no longer be allowed to limit by default the tariffs that a consumer sees when making a search. Websites need to display all tariffs available to a consumer regardless of supplier. Sites that comply with the code are listed as ‘accredited’ by Ofgem and can display related logos on their sites.

Ofcom Accreditation 
Ofcom also has an accreditation scheme and members of this are listed on their website. The key requirements of the Ofcom Price Accreditation Scheme are that information presented to consumers must be comprehensive, accurate and transparent. Accredited price comparison websites must show a good selection of providers (covering at least 90% of the market) and enable consumers to rank according to price. There isn’t a requirement to show absolutely all deals in the market. Given the large number of small providers in some markets, it may not be practical for a price comparison website to list all providers and options.

The guidance states that commercial arrangements must be transparent. Ofcom accredited price comparison websites must not discriminate against particular providers and, where a selection of packages is included, this should not result in an unfair or unbiased representation of an operator. Accredited price comparison websites are prevented from filtering results by commission payments.

Financial Conduct Authority
The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) authorises and regulates some price comparison websites but it does not make recommendations. It undertook a review of comparison websites earlier this year and followed them up to ensure that they had addressed the specific issues identified. It will use the full range of regulatory tools available as appropriate if any of them have not done so. The FCA uses a wide range of enforcement powers – criminal, civil and regulatory – to protect consumers and to take action against firms or individuals that do not meet its standards. You can search for companies regulated by the FCA on the register on its website.

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How to complain about broadband speeds/service interruptions

I do believe that there are more people that have complaints about their broadband services than don’t!

Speed
This can be quite a problem of which people are not really aware. Check your broadband speed by using site that will do this such as Broadbandchecker (it’s free). Look at the speed that you are paying for and complain if necessary! Usually this is via the company’s complaint form. Annoyingly though, most ISPs get round poor speeds by advertising speeds “up to” a certain level. I’d like to think that this was a breach of consumer law, not least The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, but advertising regulators have been involved and ISPs can advertise in this way if just 10% or more of customers can reach this speed.

The service must meet what was promised to you before you signed up though, otherwise the supplier could be in breach of contract – so you can complain if the service is frequently not meeting the speed. Check the terms and conditions of your contract. Maximum speeds may not be guaranteed and other factors such as where you live, how many people are on a website at one time etc. come into play.

Log your speeds over a few weeks and provide this information when informing your supplier that it is in breach of contract.

Ofcom’s voluntary code of practice which signed up telecoms providers should follow, states that they must give detailed quote for speeds on your line so ask for this. Also under these rules you can break the contract or take an alternative package without penalties if the speed is not per the original estimate.

Interruptions
You should log all interruptions to the service, with dates and of interruption along with the duration. How long you should do this for depends on how often you are getting interruptions. For example if it is happening several times a day for a week that is enough for you to complain. However, if it is only once or twice a week you might want to log for a couple of months to show that it is an ongoing problem.

For more information on how to complain to ‘phone providers and others see Tips and the book and keep up to date with consumer news with the newsletter.

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Audi reneges on free dinner offer

Siobhan Yap was offered a free meal by an Audi garage which damaged her car ran up a £700 bill at a Michelin-starred London restaurant.

She bought a £20,000 car from Audi in Watford and the car was damaged before she took possession. She says she asked for a refund and they wouldn’t give it to her but they did offer a repair. They also gave her a courtesy car I believe which covered the inconvenience. They also said as a goodwill gesture, have a meal for two on us. So she did. She treated her mother to dinner at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Covent Garden. Here’s the bill:

Audi offered to pay £200 and have now offered half. The item was discussed on a phone in on Three Counties Radio and at the end of the show presenter Jonathan Vernon-Smith was undecided about what he thought and was going to contact Audi with the opinions shared on the show and Siobhan’s responses and see what happened.

So the obvious came to most people’s mind who rung up the show:

1) Serves Audi right for not giving an upper limit and they make enough profit
2) Good on her, amusing
3) Morally wrong, Audi would not have expected anyone to spend as she did, nor so much on alcohol

I was asked to speak! For me, it is difficult because I would not have let it get to this stage. I would have had the full refund thank you very much. One is entitled to that in this case. The layw covers cars! Here are your rights when buying goods and services. However, according to Siobhan she tried this and Audi refused. Don’t take that rubbish – see Tips here. Lots more advice in the book of course :) Right back to the story.

As Siobhan said, so many people don’t know their legal rights so companies like Audi can get away with fob offs. So once in this situation are there any rules? Well Audi were stupid, frankly. An upper limit should have been set and so I am tempted to say that they got what they deserved. However, one could assume that they didn’t say “Enjoy yourself at an experience/have a slap up meal”. So where does she stand legally? Well under the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 a consumer has an obligation to be reasonable. So this would be a good test case! Would a judge see a meal for £714 reasonable? If so she wins the outstanding balance if not she doesn’t.

So what do you think? What would you have done?

 

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Are you supermarket loyal?

 

Supermarkets falling profits

There has been much discussion by retail analysts as to the reasons for profits of the supermarkets falling. Is it because the supermarkets have diversified too much and have forgotten what made them successful? Which companies have the best sited stores? It is probably a combination of many things. The public using more convenience stores and dropping the weekly shop and the irony of the likes of Tesco and Sainsburys developing these smaller stores in the first place?  The price wars between the big four and Lidl/Aldi. Are people doing a weekly shop for non-perishables and buying what they want to eat that evening on the way home from work?  Who understands the price matching thing anyway? Is it a Tesco finest pie versus a Sainsbury’s taste the difference pie? Is it Sainsbury’s taste the difference tomato versus Asda’s tomato? Then you have the all the confusing prices that annoy everyone. Which? has a petition you can sign regarding that one!

Loyalty cards
From 11th April Sainsbury’s reduce their loyalty points on their Nectar card. Sainsbury’s nectar turns sour. This move from Sainsburys may save them money in the short term but in the long term customers are less loyal than they ever were and we often know that companies frequently reward new customers and not existing customers and this is a very good example of that. All the loyalty cards have their confusions don’t they? X for purchases in stores, y on the credit card, z in other stores and they should be simplified!

At Christmas Sainsbury’s provided a “double up points” scheme that was limited to £20 per department and many staff didn’t even know what was in and what was out of the offer. (I know this because I experienced it and I vaguely remember sending them my opinions on their Christmas offer. £20 limit on toys for a family of 4 isn’t very helpful either. This sort of thing annoys customers greatly and for Sainsbury’s to increase their profits they need to be mindful of making thing more complicated for customers if they want to develop loyalty. In contrast, Tesco has the most developed reward scheme with the most frequent doubling up of value and range of items to spend points on. It also seems to have improved its voucher scheme having simplified the doubling up process so that you can spend across departments with no limit. They had to do something after I took Tesco to court over their clubcard fiasco perhaps?!

Morrisons has only just started a loyalty card. Late to the table with that one. I discussed their woes with Adam Parsons on wake Up To Money on Radio 5

Simple answer for all supermarkets?
Ask the customer what they want and give it to them. Develop a decent loyalty scheme that rewards customers, don’t  take away from exiting loyalty schemes, improve them. Surely that is obvious? Perhaps not to some CEOs. Customers have been saying for years just reduce the prices, stop all the annoying vouchers that customers have to fill their purses/wallets with, stop all the bogoffs and offers just reduce the prices, permanently. Despite the fact that this is a well-known hate of customers the supermarkets still continue the practice. Supermarkets need to set up a thorough programme of consultation running various meaningful projects not just ask for feedback from just existing customers. Perhaps it about time that supermarkets took on an “Every listen helps” slogan.

Are you loyal to a supermarket? Why? What should they do to improve your loyalty or get it in the first place? Is it just price or do they need to do more? What do you think of the price matching, deals, etc etc?!

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How to complain about your neighbour’s trees and hedges!

neigh

Well, this can be thorny subject in more ways than one! Before things get out of hand here’s a bit of advice.

 

 

Overhanging branches
You are legally entitled to cut off any branches overhanging your property at the point where they cross the boundary. Technically they belong to your neighbour and you should offer them back. Or if you are feeling lazy and don’t like them very much just throw them over the fence! :)  Check that there isn’t any tree preservation order associated with anything before you start cutting as in that case you need permission from the appropriate authority before doing it. Our neighbours hang a washing line from a branch of a tree that we have in the garden. We are often tempted to cut the branch…

If anything overhanging causes damage or injury to you, your neighbour could be sued for compensation if you make a claim for damages.

Dangerous trees
Local authorities in England and Wales can intervene where a tree on private land is at risk of causing damage. It can make it safe on behalf of the owner of the land where the tree sits and reclaim the costs from the owner. It can also do this at your request where you don’t know who owns the land. You can also ask the local authority to inspect the condition of the tree. Departments responsible for this vary. They will only take action if they believe that the tree is on the point of causing damage.

In Northern Ireland, local councils only have powers to make a dangerous tree on private property safe if it is overhanging a public footpath or road. If a dangerous tree is overhanging a neighbour’s property, you will have to try to resolve the matter with the owner of the tree or consider legal action.

Roots
If the roots of your neighbour’s tree have spread into your property they can be removed using the least damaging method available, unless there is a tree preservation order on it – see below. If you have to enter the tree owner’s property to do this, you must give reasonable notice.

Your neighbour could also consult their insurers, if there is a possibility that their property may be damaged by the roots. If the roots have already caused damage, the tree owner is liable to pay compensation but it must be shown that the tree owner knew, or ought to have known, of the danger. Our neighbour’s tree was shown to have caused damage to their neighbour’s property and the insurance paid up. It’s easier to get an insurer to pay up than sue your neighbour.

Hedges
If your neighbour’s evergreen or semi-evergreen hedge is more than two metres high and is blocking out light you can complain to the local authority. You can prune but you can’t cut down. The local authority will expect you to have discussed the matter with your neighbour and may charge you a large fee to consider the matter and both you and your neighbour can appeal. You will need to take advice from a solicitor if you cannot find a resolution with your neighbour and don’t want to pay the authority.

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