Plusnet gets a “minus” – and a big fine – for incorrect billing

Plusnet has become the latest telecom provider to be fined by the regulator Ofcom. The broadband and phone provider, owned by BT, has been fined £880,000 for billing former customers. It is the third provider in less than 6 months to be fined by Ofcom.

In October 2016 Vodafone was fined £4.6m for breaches of consumer protection laws and in January 2017 EE was fined approximately £2.7m for incorrect billing.

Plusnet faces a fine of £880,000 imposed by Ofcom for continuing to bill more than a thousand former customers for landline and broadband services. The case involves more than 1,000 ex-customers who were overcharged a total of more than £500,000.

Ofcom says in its press release:

“The penalty is the result of an investigation, which found that the telecoms company broke a fundamental billing rule by continuing to charge a group of customers for landline or broadband, after they had cancelled their service.

Once a customer cancels his or her home phone or broadband service, providers’ billing systems must recognise that the line is ‘ceased’. In this case, an error in Plusnet’s billing system meant that cancelled lines were still recognised as ‘live’.As a result, 1,025 customers who had cancelled either their landline or broadband service continued to be billed, meaning they were overcharged by more than £500,000 in total.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s Consumer Group Director, said: “There can be no margin for error, and no excuses, when it comes to billing customers correctly.”

“This fine should serve as a reminder to telecoms companies that they must adhere to Ofcom’s billing rules at all times, or face the consequences.””

Ofcom says that Plusnet has attempted to refund all affected ex-customers. It has so far refunded 356 customers a total of £212,140, which included interest at a rate of 4% for each customer. Any remaining money, from former customers who could not be reached, has been donated to a dozen local charities. Plusnet has also clarified to Ofcom the steps it has taken to prevent any future billing errors of this kind.

Ofcom says that the fine, which must be paid to Ofcom within 20 working days, will be passed on to HM Treasury.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, telecoms really are the worst sector for customer service. It really needs a company to pull out all the stops and do things differently, risk not making any money for a while and then watch everyone flock to them for the customer service.

Useful information
Ofcom does not investigate individual claims. If you have a complaint about a telecom provider whether broadband, landline or mobile, see All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers which provides information and how to complain effectively to telecom providers.

See How to Complain; The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! for tips, advice, consumer laws and templates for complaining effectively.

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Celebrate World Consumer Rights Day by shopping smarter online

Press release from The Complaining Cow

The 15th March 2017 is World Consumer Rights Day[1], organised and promoted by Consumers International[2]. This year’s theme is ‘Building a Digital World Consumers can Trust.

In a world where consumers are purchasing more and more online it becomes more important for people to know their rights and how to complain when things go wrong. So what are your rights when purchasing online? Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow consumer expert and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! shares much of what you need to know!

  • Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you can reject any goods that are faulty, do not match the description or have not lasted a reasonable length of time. The seller must refund you and pay return postage in any of these events.
  • Up to 30 days after purchase you are entitled to a full refund for items that are not of satisfactory quality or do not match the description. After this time you may have to accept a repair or replacement.
  • If you have paid for a dated or timed delivery and this has not happened, you are entitled to any out of pocket expenses you incurred.
  • The above rules also apply to digital goods, such as downloaded computer software, games and films.
  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 also states that goods must be delivered within the time frame agreed with the seller. If one hasn’t been agreed (you have agreed a time frame if the listing supplies a time frame) the trader must deliver ‘without undue delay’ and at the very latest not more than 30 days from the day after the contract is made. After this time you are entitled to a full refund.
  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 provides specific coverage for digital content. Digital content must not be supplied by the retailer within the 14 cooling-off period unless the customer has agreed to it. Once the download starts the cancellation right is lost. If the customer does not give agree to the terms then s/he will have to wait until after 14 days before downloading.
  • Your contract is ALWAYS with the company (or individual) to whom you paid the money. It is not with the courier. Do not be fobbed off when the retailer tells you to contact the courier company. Make the retailer take the time and effort to resolve the situation. It is the retailer who will also have to provide the redress, if necessary, not the courier.
  • You may think you are covered by Section 75A of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 for items over £100 bought on a credit card. However, should you complete a credit card transaction through a third party payment service, the credit card provider and the seller are no longer in a direct relationship, so are not equally liable. This exception applies to PayPal, Worldpay and Google checkout, for example.

Too often consumers get fobbed off because they don’t know their rights. Dewdney says “By ensuring that these laws are observed, and seeking enforcement where necessary, consumers can make smarter choices when shopping online and get justice if things go wrong.”

For more information, advice, help and templates for complaining effectively see GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS! 

Note to editors:

  • World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) is an opportunity to promote the basic rights of all consumers, demanding that those rights are respected and protected, and a chance to protest against the market abuses and social injustices which undermine those rights. http://www.consumersinternational.org/our-work/wcrd/
  • WCRD was inspired by President John F Kennedy, who gave an address to the US congress on 15 March 1962, in which he formally addressed the issue of consumer rights. He was the first world leader to do so, and the consumer movement now marks that date every year as a means of raising global awareness about consumer rights. The first WCRD was observed on 15 March 1983, and has since become an important occasion for mobilising citizen action.

 

 

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Casual sexism is alive and kicking in UK boardrooms

Only a day after International Women’s Day, at a Retail Week seminar entitled “How to become a non-exec director”, one was left wondering what role women had as non-executive directors. The session was provided by three male chairmen of boards, one male commercial director and one male chair of panel. Perhaps someone should have a word with the organiser about ensuring some diversity?

During the seminar John Allan, chair of the Tesco board, made remarks about white men becoming an endangered species. The full comment was “If you are female and from an ethnic minority background, preferably both you are in an extremely prepicious period so go for it frankly. For a thousand years, men have got most of these jobs, the pendulum has swung very significantly the other way now and will do for the foreseeable future, I think, so you are at an advantage. If you are a white male, tough. You are an endangered species and you are going to have to work twice as hard.” Harry Wallop, a journalist who chaired the panel, told him to look around the room to see that white men were not an endangered species. Allan later claimed the comments were meant to be humorous and that the audience had enjoyed his “colourful turn of speech” and that he intended to be “humorous, a bit hyperbolic”

I was at that seminar. I did not enjoy the speech, I cringed for him. It was the kind of painful out-of-touch comment only too commonly trotted out by men in the guise of “humour”, with no understanding of the issues or how their comments contribute to the problem of bias towards men in senior positions.

Tesco has 11 board members and 8 of them are men, meaning that at Tesco they’re hardly an endangered species. His comments made it sound like all women would be welcome, regardless of their skills. Why wasn’t he saying something along the lines of “Tesco would welcome applications from more women who are currently under-represented on the board?” We know that there are women out there who can equal or better the skillset of existing board members and Tesco, alongside the majority of other boards, should be saying the same. Allan’s full comments were not reported anywhere, shame really as I (and I’m sure many of us who believe in equality and know that we haven’t reached it) also took issue with the comment “..you are at an advantage.”

He wasn’t the only one casually giving out the sexism though. When asked for advice on taking the first steps into non-exec directorship Jim Pringle from Notum Associates said “…your chairman may be able to help you..”. When asked about how much he gets involved with the CEO, Peter Williams chairman of  Boohoo.com, Mister Spex and U and I Group said “…the CEO is employed to run the business and the executive is employed to support him run the business…”

Maybe they have a point, According to the subsequent Guardian article Call to boycott Tesco over ‘endangered’ white men claim “In the private sector, women accounted for just 29% of directors appointed in the UK last year, according to the recruitment firm Egon Zehnder, the lowest proportion since 2012.”

There are only 6 women CEOs in the FTSE 100. SIX! And the proportion of female directors among FTSE 100 companies is just 26%. The lack of ethnic diversity is a further serious issue on UK boards. According to reports last year, only 8% of those directors were not white, whereas people from minority ethnic backgrounds made up 14% of the UK’s overall workforce.

“Every little helps” is a slogan inextricably linked to Tesco. It’s about time Tesco helped itself to some female talent and helped women by taking their contribution to the workplace seriously, stopped paying lip service to equality and undertook some good diversity training to boot. I may have to put my foot in that boot…

For various stories relating to Tesco and me see History with Tesco which covers taking them to court and winning, various complaints, meetings and interviewing Dave Lewis and Matt Davies.

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Useful Complaining Information!

Hi

If you have come here from seeing me on the telly box or heard me on the radio recently here are some links you might like to help you complain effectively.

Top 20 Tips on complaining effectively

All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers (this is a post with links to various posts helping you with any issues you may have with telecoms so a lot of links!

All you need to know about complaining to energy providers (post with links to various posts about different issues)

Consumer Rights Act 2015 (your legal rights for goods and services) please note that change of mind is not covered. I don’t mention it when talking about complaints because it isn’t a complaint. Some companies will take something back when you change your mind but legally they do not have to do so.

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! Best selling book with advice, guidance, information, legal rights and templates for always getting that redress!

CEOemail.com for contact details for CEOs.

Loads more around the blog, just put in a search 😀

Sign up to the newsletter to keep up to date with information, I only send a few a year!

 

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Everything you need to know about complaining about car hire

bmw car hireBefore hiring a car, shop around and check what is included in the contract. Some quotes may appear cheap but there may be hidden add ons, such as different insurance levels. Theft protection may be extra (it is mandatory in Italy). This is one of the times it is probably better to deal with one of the larger companies based in the UK. They are more likely to have roadside coverage, better models and quality of cars. It will be easier to complain if things go wrong too! Pre-book in the UK for ease of comparing prices and for what is likely to be a cheaper deal.

When you take the vehicle check tyres, fuel tank and bodywork. Take photographs with the date on them if possible. This is your evidence should there be any dispute. Take photos again when returning the vehicle if necessary.

If you have a complaint, write to the company. If not satisfied with their response then you can take further. For UK rentals, the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), can help you with complaints about its members. It has a code of conduct which members must abide by and it will investigate if a member has breached this. It aims to resolve disputes within 30 days.

The European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS) is the dispute resolution scheme for a number of car rental companies throughout the EU. So check this list before hiring so you know that you can take a complaint to an independent body if you have a complaint. This works in the same way as any other ADR scheme but for across the whole of Europe. In order to use ECRCS you must have booked with the company direct and not through a travel agent/broker.

There is also the European Consumer Centres Network, which has a free service to help resolve disputes and help you get your money back.

For all things complaining holidays see All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights

For more advice, tips and templates for complaining  see GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

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