How to take charge of your home removal

Moving house is considered to be a very stressful experience. Following on from the story of the last week of the couple who hired a man with a van and lost all their possessions here’s how you can prevent that happening to you.

Once you have got past the stresses of dealing with estate agents, solicitors changes in dates and all the rest of it moving day finally comes. What can you do to ensure that moving goes as smoothly as possible and what to do if even after following sensible advice it still goes wrong?

Choosing a removal firm
The National Guild of Removers and Storers ensures its members are regulated and quality checked through the Removal Industrial Services Ombudsman Scheme.

The British Association of Removers is the relevant trade organisation. It has a Trading Standards Institute Code of Practice and an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. So, should you encounter problems and your removal firm is a member then you are able to use an arbitration scheme. You may like to check their website before deciding on a removal firm to give you peace of mind.

Remember a page on Facebook means nothing. All the reviews could be written by the firm. If recommended by a friend of a friend, this still may not be good enough especially if a friend of a friend on Facebook given how so many people have “friends” on Facebook that aren’t friends and are often people with whom they have never met or spoken.

Get more than one quote especially if you insist on using a non specialist removal service. If a quote sounds cheap remember if something sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Consumer rights
When you have instructed a removal firm to move your possessions from one place to another you are covered (for services up to the 1st October) by the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. From 1st October 2015 you are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. You can expect to receive services undertaken with reasonable skill and care. That means no damage and arrival at an agreed time. Should this not be the case then you have grounds to complain.

If any items get damaged you have the right to repair/replacement or sum of money covering the cost of replacement. You are also entitled to any out of pocket expenses you might incur due to damages of items or delay in timings of the removal.

Check your insurance. When moving from one place to another check that you are covered and by which company – the insurance at your old place or the new one. This may give you additional cover particularly for anything you might move yourself. The company should have its own insurance to cover any breakages.

What to do if things go wrong
Keep a list of everything. If you notice damage at the time of moving mention it to the staff and keep a record. Put your complaint in writing following the tips here. Outline all the damage and out of pocket expenses and what you want to put the matter right. Give a timescale for response. If not satisfied with the response you can go to the ombudsman as detailed above. You can also go to the Small Claims Court (even after using the ombudsman.)

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What you need to know about the Consumer Rights Act 2015 digital content

CRAThe Consumer Rights Act 2015 comes into force on the 1st October 2015. (See the link for your rights) Part of the reasoning behind this Act was to consolidate Acts and cover digital content which is not covered by other laws written before their introduction! However, it is going to get very complicated, there is very little clarity about digital content on the net and what there is can be misleading. I have been in contact with the department for Business, Innovation and Skills, responsible for the CRA to try and get some clarity and this feeds into much of the below:

Key points:
1) Digital content covers items such as computer games, virtual items purchased with computer games, television programmes, films, books, computer software, mobile phone apps and system software for operating goods.

2) These digital goods are covered by the Act and therefore must be of satisfactory quality, as described, be fit for a particular purpose, match the description and be installed correctly when this has been agreed as part of the contract.

3) You can reject the goods within 30 days and insist on a full refund up to this time and a repair or replacement anytime up to 6 months. After 6 months you will need to prove that the fault was there at point of purchase and you have up to 6 years to claim.

Digital content non physical form
Ok, now this is where it gets complicated and the potential for challenges in court is high.
1) Non physical form such as downloads are not covered by the 30 day rule. You can see why, you could download something and use it and then try and get your money back.

2) The right to reject applies only to goods and digital content sold as part of the goods (often referred to as being on a tangible medium, such as a disc, but this also includes digital content that is within the goods, e.g. the program on a washing machine). Digital content that is downloaded is not subject to the right to reject as the consumer is not in a position to return the digital content

3) If the download has corrupted other apps on a device this may not be apparent for some time. A consumer may not discover this for some days, perhaps even after 30 days. If a washing machine damaged goods three months after purchase you should expect the retailer to reimburse costs of goods damaged by the washing machine so this would be the same with software.

4) If software or computer games are unopened they are considered tangible form and once opened and put on a machine/in a toy etc. the 30 day rule still applies.

5) Replacement or repair is, generally, a first stage that must be gone through before any refund is payable if someone downloads an ebook for example and then insists on refund for any reason. The repair or replacement must be within a reasonable time and without significant inconvenience to the consumer, unless it is impossible or disproportionately expensive. Failing successful repair or replacement, the consumer could be entitled to a price reduction which can be up to the full price.

6) If a trader advertised that an ebook would work on a particular device but it was actually incompatible with that device, the consumer would be entitled to a repair or more likely a replacement in the form of a version that is compatible with the device. If that is not possible, then the consumer would be entitled to a reduction in the purchase price, up to a full refund.

7) There are no statutory provisions putting an obligation on the consumer to prove that the trader has breached the relevant consumer right. Replacement or repair is, generally, a first stage that must be gone through before any refund is payable, and this goes some way towards protecting traders against opportunistic claims. Traders will no doubt establish customs and practices to guard against abuses of the right in relation to digital goods.

8) If the consumer made a mistake and downloaded the wrong item, then this is not covered by the Consumer Rights Act. Depending on the specifics of the case, the consumer may have rights under the Consumer Contract Regulations (which provide the 14 day cooling off period for distance purchases) but many websites stipulate that by downloading the content the consumer loses that 14 day right as they have consumed the digital content.

To keep up to date with the latest in consumer news sign up to the newsletter. I only send a few a year!

And of course, if you need to know how to use this Act and many others, plus tips, advice and templates then you need the book!

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In the press today was an article to which I contributed about consumers pet hate regarding supermarkets. (Regular followers of this blog will know my history with Tesco!) It was actually about the tactics that supermarkets use to make us spend more so I have added a few more gripes too!

1) Moving products around so you spend longer in the store trying to find what you want
2) Lowest priced option often at the highest point so shorter people can’t reach
3) Online or in store exclusives. Creates a sense of immediacy when selecting products, so consumers will usually spend more than intended as feeling of missing out
4) Bumping the price up for an individual item e.g. £2.50, and offering them two for £4. When item is less than £2 elsewhere
5) Putting differing offers on variations of a product to confuse as to which is best buy
6) Mixing weight to price ratios on different products
7) Making it difficult to work out the best offer frequently with ready packaged fruit/veg portrayed as having discounts versus loose.
8) Offers such as 3 for £10 when you only wanted 1
9) Pumping out the smell of bread baking (Our Sainsbury’s does that!)
10) Slow music to make you move slower round the aisles
11) Loyalty cards using your shopping habits to provide targeted vouchers
12) High sugar higher priced brands items at eye level lowering this for aisles aimed at children
13) Putting deals at the entrance of the store such as biscuits – not very expensive items but ones that appeal and that you think that’s a good offer and throw them in the trolley
14) Putting fruit, vegetables and flowers at the front of the store. We know this is to create an atmosphere of health and also provide smells and pleasant imagery providing positive vibes to make us buy more. Annoying because these are the items that we want to put on top of the shopping not at the bottom where it is going to get crushed.
15) If you only want the essentials, such as bread, milk, fruit and vegetables they are placed as far away from each other as possible to make you travel round the store.
16) My big bug bear. Wine. So many bottles costed “normally” priced at £10 but frequently in the half price offers and often half price with 25% off 6 bottles or more. We wait until these regular offers come about. If we shop in more than one supermarket then the supermarket with the deal is going to get the most sales.
17) Packaging. Is that “Tesco finest” Sainsbury’s “Taste the difference” really better? In many tests and reviews this isn’t the case but are we conned into spending more because we are sucked into thinking they are better quality.
18) Self service checkouts (see a post about THEM here!) because they always go wrong and it isn’t self service it’s one sales assistant serving many customers
19) Queues!
20) Discontinuing products

We want consistency and fair pricing, everyone loves a bargain but not when the “bargains” are all the time so we actually feel that the rest of the time we are being conned!

We know that most of this goes on but unfortunately we can not do much about a lot of it. And the trouble is if we try and avoid it all, we spend even longer in there! Don’t go hungry and try and keep to your list are a good starting point though.

I was on Radio 5live Breakfast (and Radio Nottingham!)


What other things are your gripes about supermarkets and which is your top one?!


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ECJ ruling on flight delays: Consumer champion warns against third-party claim firms

17th September 2015 Press release:

European Court of Justice rules on airline delay compensation

Decision in favour of passengers follows last year’s similar ruling by the Supreme Court

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) this morning ruled that airline passengers can claim compensation for delays caused by technical faults. You could be forgiven for thinking that this rule has already been passed last year. It was in fact the Supreme Court in the UK.

In October 2014 the Supreme Court ruled that consumers had 6 years to claim compensation for delays and upheld the ruling regarding that technical difficulties are not “extraordinary circumstances” for the purposes of a compensation claim [1]. The Dutch airline KLM had tried to argue that spontaneous technical issues are “extraordinary circumstances” and many cases have been on hold whilst the case was appealed at the ECJ.

The ruling demonstrates how poor the regulation is: so many claim cases around the EU have had to go to court, to the Supreme Court in the UK and now the European Court of Justice. Well-written regulation should shape the minimum standards and compensation rules but they have not been clear enough which has led to confusion and legal cases. Reform of the regulation is underway in Brussels, but progress has stalled due to disagreements between member states.

An increase in the already large number of compensation claims is now inevitable.

Helen Dewdney consumer campaigner and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! whilst welcoming another win for consumers says that, in her opinion, compensation should not be a set amount for each claim, it should be a percentage of the ticket price. She says:

“In some cases the compensation will be higher than the price of the ticket which is ridiculous and will result in only one thing, an increase in prices.” She also warns of the increase in number of no-win no-fee organisations claiming on behalf of people who have been delayed. “There is nothing that an organisation or lawyer can do regarding delayed or denied boarding that a consumer cannot do themselves and get 100% of the compensation figure (which varies on length of flight and delay).” (For details on what you need to know to claim compensation see here.)

Notes to editors:
[1] The decisions made in the Huzar v Jet2 and Dawson v Thomson cases confirmed that routine technical difficulties are not extraordinary circumstances. Ron Huzar was delayed for 27 hours on a Malaga to Manchester flight. The delay had been caused by faulty wiring and Jet2 had claimed that this was unforeseen and categorised as an ‘extraordinary circumstance’. In the Dawson v Thomson case, James Dawson was claiming for an eight-hour delay on a flight to the Dominican Republic in 2006; his claim was made in 2012. The airline refused to pay, citing the Montreal Convention, which limits claims to two years after an incident. On October 31st 2014 the Supreme Court upheld the rulings at appeal. Delays caused by technical problems cannot be categorised as ‘extraordinary’ circumstances and not liable for compensation and consumers have up to six years after the flight to make qualifying compensation claims. A judge in Liverpool county court threw out applications on the 25th February 2015 by Jet2, Ryanair, Flybe and Wizz Air to keep claims on hold until a case in Holland about technical delays (Van dear Kans v KLM) was decided. He stated that cases should be settled in line with existing passenger-rights rules.

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How to complain about your noisy neighbours!

If you are having problems with your neighbours you should try your best to sort it out amicably and in person. Once you start a more formal route things can get messy and what could have been sorted with a chat over a coffee or glass of wine gets expensive and/or the problem gets worse. For example, if you are complaining about noise, your neighbours may increase this just to annoy you!

imagesVIR0RPUTNoisy neighbours
This is probably the most common complaint people have about their neighbours. A few years ago, when our neighbours were teenagers and their parents were out, they had their music really loud if they had a few friends with them. I went round and complained and they turned it down. The father the following day came round to apologise, I think the kids got into trouble but I think they must have thought it was better to warn him that I had complained. I wasn’t even The Complaining Cow then! We never had trouble with noise again. Obviously I appreciate that other neighbour disputes are not as easily dealt with and I would have preferred to write but sometimes it does just take a little bit of effort.

If, after asking your neighbours to reduce the noise, it continues and they are tenants, contact the landlord if you know their details. Otherwise contact the Environmental Health Department which is able to measure the noise levels. Keep a diary of the noise and use it as evidence to show Environmental Health the extent of the problem. You will need to convince them that the noise is disturbing your sleep and/or preventing you from enjoying your property. Witness statements from neighbours and/or letters from your doctor saying how it is affecting your health all help. Environmental Health officers are able to give an expert opinion on how it rates noise nuisance. Local authorities have powers to seize noise-making equipment.

If the Environmental Health Officer (EHO) considers there is a noise nuisance and has been unable to resolve the matter by discussion, the authority can then serve a notice on the person causing the noise, or on the owner or occupier of the property. If the person causing the noise does not comply with the notice, the local authority can prosecute them. The local authority can also apply for an injunction.

Alternatively you can go to court yourself and get an injunction but get legal advice as this can become costly.

For other complaints about neighbours trees and hedges see this post.

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