Everything You Need to Know About Your Water Supply

Does your supply get interrupted?

Does your supply get interrupted?

Water companies are regulated by Ofwat. Each water company must follow the guaranteed standards scheme which is a statutory scheme that provides compensation in the event of service failure and have a complaint procedure in place.  In addition each company must have various codes of practice including its customer code of practice and other codes covering domestic leakage, debt recovery and pipe laying. They also have to have a published charges scheme – this outlines the charges the company has to apply for different groups of customer. All companies are required to have complaints procedures and all the above must be covered by Ofwat.

Ofwat regulates the water and sewerage sectors to drive improvements in service. It monitors each company’s performance, comparing service across the industry and supporting best practice. It will also take action against any company that fails to provide the level of service customers expect.

The guaranteed standards scheme includes standards about how a water company must:

  • make and keep appointments
  • maintain the right water pressure
  • deal with interruptions to the supply
  • answer account queries and complaints.

The standards don’t apply in certain situations – e.g., if the problem is caused by severe weather conditions, industrial action or someone else’s actions. If a company doesn’t agree to the request to pay for bills in a different way, it must tell the consumer this within five working days or pay compensation of £20. The water company must pay compensation if essential household water supplies are interrupted because of an emergency drought order. This is part of their licence conditions.

Water companies should usually supply water at a minimum of seven metres static head, unless low pressure is due to drought or essential maintenance work. If the pressure falls below this for an hour or more on at least two occasions in a 28 day period, you’re entitled to a payment or credit of £25. Only one payment of £25 can be made in any one financial year. If the fall in pressure is due to industrial action or someone other than the water company then no payment will be made.

Water companies should provide a minimum of 48 hours of any interruption to supply and provide details of when it will be restored. If it does not or does not restore supply by the specified time then you are usually entitled to £20 compensation and a further £20 compensation if you don’t receive the first £20 within 20 days. In cases where an emergency such as a burst pipe has caused interruption the company must restore the water within 12 hours although this rises to 48 hours if it is a strategic main pipe. The company must tell consumers as soon as possible regarding where an alternative water supply can be obtained, when it plans to restore the supply and a telephone number for more information.

Again, if the supply is not restored by the time the company says it will be compensation is due. £20 for the first 24 hours and £10 for each further 24 hour period the supply remains unrestored.

If the interruption lasts more than 12 hours, the company should provide an alternative supply, for example, bottled water or tankers in the street known as bowsers.

For Scotland write to the Scottish Water and Sewerage Customers’ Council, Northern Ireland, the Water Services Office of the Department of the Environment and for England and Wales, Ofwat where guidelines are similar.

 

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How to Deal with JD Sports Poor Customer Service

 

The nice Scotts/JD Sports T shirt

The nice Scotts/JD Sports T shirt

Andrea bought a Penguin Pocket Red T shirt from Scotts, part of the JD Sports chain paying £29.00. The shirt had been worn once and washed once and she returned it to the store two weeks later. She was told that the t shirt would need to be sent off for inspection despite the notice in their store saying that this would be done when items were over 90 days old.

 

Clearly a fault with JD Sports T shirt?!

Clearly a fault with JD Sports T shirt?!

She received a letter back saying that the fault was due to “contact damage”. Utterly ridiculous, what contact damage and by whom given as we believe that the hole was there at point of purchase and if it wasn’t it developed within one day’s wear and day’s wash and the hole was in the stitching which the photograph alone showed! 

 

Clearly a breach of the Sale of Goods Act! Andrea then wrote and didn’t receive a response. She emailed again and was told that they hadn’t received the letter (despite it being signed for!) but would do another inspection. She then contact me and I wrote this for her to send the CEO:

 

Dear Mr Cowgill

I received a letter from xxxx department to which my complaint was passed. However, I have already written to this department and part of my complaint was how they dealt with it. In fact the matter has now got worse. Scotts has rejected my claim regarding the faulty product. It has now since said that my letter can’t be found even though it was sent recorded delivery and was signed for, for which I obviously have proof. I am now being told to resend the t shirt. I am not going to do this. I have already sent this once and see no reason why I should be put to yet more inconvenience due to Scott’s appalling service. Under the amended Sales of Goods Act 1979 I am entitled to goods that are of satisfactory quality and fit for purpose. This t shirt clearly breaches that.

 

I expect a full refund and appropriate redress for the inconvenience caused. I look forward to hearing from you within seven days. Should I not be fully satisfied with your response I will start proceedings in the Small Claims Court against you with no further reference to you. I will be claiming for the cost of the t shirt, the cost of an independent report stating that the t shirt has only been washed once, cost of postage (recorded delivery etc.) redress for my time spent on the matter, the court fee and out of pocket expenses for attending court (e.g. work time, mileage, parking costs etc.)

Yours sincerely

 

Andrea received a call from the manager of Customer Services saying that they said they don’t think they were in breach of consumer rights (I beg to differ) but as a goodwill gesture they would refund the full amount in a voucher (I had told Andrea not to accept this, cash refund only to which he then agreed) plus £20 gift voucher on return of the t shirt. A good result in the end but the matter didn’t end there.

 

Unfortunately, Andrea wrote to customer services to say that she had thought about the conversation and couldn’t she just dispose of the garment? She received an email back to say that if she did not return the garment she would not get a refund. You must keep to your agreements you make with customer services otherwise why should they keep theirs? They were paying the postage for the return and providing a goodwill gesture so it is not unreasonable for the item to be returned, they might want it for quality return or tax purposes. It’s a fair enough statement to say no return no refund and Andrea was receiving a goodwill gesture for the inconvenience.

 

However, the matter did not end there. As often is the case in customer services, the internal communication was appalling and Andrea received an email to say that they needed the t shirt for inspection and couldn’t over turn the decision! Meanwhile, Andrea had tried to use the gift card in store and was told that there was no money on it and it would take some days for it to appear. This is obviously nonsense. She wasted more time in store trying to deal with the matter.

 

I wrote again outlining the embarrassment and poor service plus the ridiculous email she received. Andrea received a further £20 goodwill gesture receiving this time a card for £40 that worked.

 

This story outlines one of the classic fob offs trying to say that the fault was not there at point of purchase. It also highlights the need to persevere sometimes and pursue your legal rights.

 

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All You Need to Know About Unsolicited Goods

Most people are familiar with the Unsolicited Goods and Services Act 1971. Unsolicited goods are also covered in the newer regulations The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 which say you have a right to keep goods delivered to you that you didn’t request.

You are under no legal obligation to contact the trader and can keep the goods.  However, if you have been sent items by mistake, such as a duplicate order, additional items or things meant for someone else you should contact the company and request that they come and collect the goods. There should be no cost or inconvenience to you and you should give the company a deadline within which it should collect the item(s).

Substitute goods are not unsolicited goods. However, substitute goods should be agreed with the trader and you.

Should you receive a request for payment from a trader for unsolicited goods it has committed a criminal offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. You can report them to Trading Standards.

The days of receiving packages with a demand for payment seem to have gone but sometimes people do still receive unsolicited goods. Have you?

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10 Types of Complainer Which Are You?

What type of complainer are you?

What type of complainer are you?

I believe that there are many types of complainers. Whatever type you are, this book will help you become more effective in your complaining.

The Professional Complainer
This title annoys me. A lot. I often get asked if I am a professional complainer. It is an utterly ridiculous term. I haven’t trained to be a complainer. I haven’t got any qualifications in complaining and I don’t do it as a job although  I do now take up people’s complaints for them when all else has failed and they need some help. I see this as providing consultancy advice and  not  what people mean when they ask “Are you a Professional Complainer?” No-one is a professional complainer. It is insulting to those with a profession.

The Serial Complainer
I often get asked if I am this kind of a complainer too. I think this term is best suited to people who complain continually to the same company. Frequently they have been offered some redress but they keep on spending a disproportionate amount of time on complaints. They ‘phone the company, send emails, send letters and never give up – often over trivial matters.

The Extreme Complainer
Similar to the Serial Complainer, this person complains when the time spent is not comparable with the possible redress gained. S/he will complain about anything and everything sometimes with an end in mind but usually just for the sake of it and not because they feel genuinely aggrieved. There’s a difference between complaining about the principle of some rotten apples for £1 and complaining about the assistant who annoyingly asks “Can I help you?” and hangs around when you just want to browse. That’s subjective and annoys the heck out of me and I’ll moan about it but I won’t complain to anyone to gain redress!

The Dishonest Complainer
Serial and extreme complainers probably give people who complain effectively and regularly with good reason a bad name. In addition to wasting their own time they often waste customer service’s staff time which could be better spent with reasonable complainers. But the Dishonest Complainers are in a league of their own. They make up stories and complaints, putting hairs in meals for example, just to gain freebies.

The Opportunist Complainer
Similarities with The Dishonest Complainer, The Opportunist Complainers look for opportunities to complain and gain something to which they are usually not entitled, often keeping on at customer services until they are paid to “go away”.

The Rude Complainer
This type of complainer can often be ineffective, serial and/or extreme. Swearing and shouting at staff and/or writing abusive letters/emails rightly rarely gains redress.

The Amusing Complainer
These complainers are a little bit different. Really good amusing complainers have gained media coverage for their complaints, such as the Sons of Maxwell’s “United Breaks Guitars” song that went viral. (See it on Youtube) and the hilarious letter written to Richard Branson regarding the food on a Virgin flight. Amusing Complainers don’t always need to know their legal rights if their correspondence is entertaining enough and the receiver has a sense of humour. This complaining style is usually effective but sometimes humour doesn’t gain redress and to ensure that they will need to become an effective complainer.

The Innovative Complainer
These are to be admired I have to say. Being innovative will usually work. Often the Amusing Complainer falls into this category but to be truly innovative the quality needs to be more than just enough to make friends and family smile. My cousin ‘phoned up a toy manufacturer’s CEO’s secretary and pretended to be from the BBC in order to gain access to the CEO. She was put through to him directly and went through her complaint. It can’t be done with every complaint but when a complainer is innovative the response is usually good.

The Ineffective Complainer
This person tries. Not assertive, not knowing their legal rights, ineffective complainers try to get refunds but rarely get them. They get fobbed off when they try and complain. The Ineffective Complainer may vent a tweet or a post on a Facebook page but not follow it up to gain redress.

The Effective Complainer.
In order to always gain redress one needs to be an effective complainer. The Effective Complainers know their legal rights, assert them politely and will not be fobbed off – when the company they paid tries to blame the manufacturer or delivery company for example.

Do you want to become more effective? Tips on my Youtube channel and Top 20 Tips here. So, what kind of complainer are you?

 

I believe that there are many types of complainers. Whatever type you are, this book will help you become more effective in your complaining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Your Rights, Mail Order, Online and Deliveries

Mail order and online purchases
Your rights when purchasing items through an advert or catalogue are exactly the same as buying from any other retailer, so your correspondence about faulty items would be covered under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 (as amended  The Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994). In addition, under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 consumers have 14 days cooling off period for changing their minds. There are some exceptions to this such as bespoke items. Whether or not return postage has to be paid depends on the trader’s terms and conditions.

This Act provided 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 and that once the download starts the cancellation right is lost. If the customer does not give consent then s/he will have to wait until after the 14 days before downloading. Having bought the wrong download and realising it before I actually downloaded but before this new law came out I welcome this Act! All I could do was tell them that the Law was changing!

Delivery
The aforementioned Act 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.

Of course, deliveries must also be carried out with reasonable skill and care. See my experience with the Body Shop here. I was on the ITV news regarding that story, I gave advice which they cut and Martin Lewis said if we complained more then service would improve. Something that followers of me on  Twitter and read this blog know that I bang on about a lot!

It was on the Meridian ITV website with an article. (Peter’s story is here). Told my Mum who just pointed out that they had spelt my name incorrectly. So I said did she watch the clip?! “Yes ok” was the response. I had told her that I might be on Ripped Off Britain again, I think she has visions of me being a presenter and getting above myself! However, a couple of pops at ranting do not a presenter make! And even if it did can you see me getting above myself? I think not, more likely to have a go at anyone I come across who is rude! Mind you, Laura (the presenter) said the carpet was cream. She must have thought the carpet was filthy because it was never cream! It is a dark pinky purple beigey type thing!

Further protection
Should consumers order an item from an advertisement in a newspaper which is signed up to the Safe Home Ordering Scheme (previously known as the Mail Ordering Protection Scheme) they can get their money back if the trader goes into liquidation or stops trading. Keep a copy of the advert when ordering until the item has been received.

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