How to end 3 problems with your mobile ‘phone (& get your money back)

 

I get so many requests for advice about mobile ‘phone contracts and communication companies generally. I do seriously believe that the communication companies are the worst for communication. So because of this, I thought it would be helpful to write a post about your rights when it comes to mobile ‘phones. You’re welcome.

 

 

Problem number 1 – ‘phone develops a fault
Your consumer rights are the same for when your mobile ‘phone develops a fault as any other product, but in my experience people are frequently getting fobbed off with lines such as “Send it back for repair” and “Contact manufacturer”.

If your ‘phone forms part of your mobile ‘phone contract, your claim would be against your mobile ‘phone service provider and you may be entitled to a free repair or replacement as part of your contract. Check the terms and conditions in your contract for what you are entitled. However, regardless of the contract you retain your rights under the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 to goods that are satisfactory, fit for purpose and as described. Most companies in my experience will fight this and certainly after a year will say “tough” one way or another. Personally I believe that a ‘phone should last more than a year and I would be prepared to test this in court and set a precedent but unfortunately my phone of over two years hasn’t broken! But I’m ready and waiting to help if anyone wants to try it!

If you bought your ‘phone without any contract then your complaint is always against the retailer and not the manufacturer. You may have a guarantee with the ‘phone and after 6 months you might want to claim on this with the manufacturer, but go to the retailer first who might also contact the manufacturer directly for you.

Problem number 2 – network coverage
There are currently no rules regarding poor network coverage. Even if you move house, you are unlikely to be successful in cancelling a contract for poor network coverage if in the provider’s terms and conditions it allows for breaks in coverage. However under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 a service provider must provide the contracted service with reasonable care and skill. I would argue that the service was not being carried out with reasonable skill and care if they can’t give you any service! It was reported in the media that in 2009 Tom Prescott took Orange to the Small Claims Court and gained £500 plus free cancellation of his contract when he couldn’t get coverage on his 18 month contract. So threaten it and quote this case.

Problem number 3 – mis-sold contracts
It is extremely difficult to successfully complain about mis-sold contracts. That doesn’t mean you should not do it however! It is just that in my experience dealing with mis-selling of a contract was one of the most annoying and tedious complaints to deal with. The fob offs come thick and fast and I’m sure put many people off. I undertook a case for someone regarding this and it was a lot of work and a lot of emails to CEOs and in the end I won and got Ben out of the contract but I’m sure most people would have given up which is of course what the companies want.

Keep records of everything. If the company rings you around the time of the end of your contract make sure anything that they offer for a new one they also put in writing. Although you can request transcript of conversations, (under the Data Protection Act 1998) they will charge for this and again it is time consuming.  If you agree a contract over the ‘phone remember that you have the 14 day cooling off period (Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013) in which you can cancel.

You also have other Acts of law at your disposal. The Misrepresentation Act 1967 and also the more recent Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. For a practice to be unfair under these rules, they must harm, or be likely to harm, the economic interests of the average consumer.

Complaining and taking matters further
1) Use these tips and especially using www.ceoemail.com to get to the top, you’ll probably need it
2) Use the links to the Acts above and quote your rights from them
3) Threaten legal action if necessary and be prepared to see it through
4) The ombudsmen only cover mobile ‘phone services and not issues with the actual ‘phones. CISAS and Ombudsman Services Communications depending on which service your company is registered with.

More information to come on broadband etc. in the following weeks. More tips, advice, details of law and template letters can also be found in the book How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress, and Results!

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How to complain about buses

 

untitledUnlike trains, there are no regulations covering bus services. However companies will have passenger charters and codes of practice which will detail how they deal with complaints.

When you complain, ensure you give as much details as you can, times, dates, registration number of the bus, route number etc. Send copies of receipts/tickets etc. If the company insist that you send the original retain a copy.

London Transport for London and bus companies do not have a standard compensation policy for compensation for bus delays and won’t compensate for delays out of its control such as weather and traffic jams.

If you have any complaint about buses/bus drivers in London contact Transport for London. If you are dissatisfied with the response contact TravelWatch detailing why you remain unhappy. If you remain dissatisfied contact the Local Government Ombudsman.

Non London Outside of London complain directly to the bus company. If not happy with the response you can contact the Bus Appeals Body. You can also contact the Traffic Commissioner for the area in which the company is based. (There are 7 Traffic Commissioners who are appointed by the Secretary of State for Transport and their responsibility includes responsibility for the licensing of the operators of heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and of buses and coaches (public service vehicles or PSVs) and the registration of local bus services.

The Traffic Commissioner for Scotland deals with both appeals against decisions by Scottish local authorities on taxi fares, with appeals against charging and removing improperly parked vehicles in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Other useful information
Bus companies must adhere to regulations laid by the Traffic Commissioner and the 3 rules of the CPC  (Certificate of Professional Competence) holder’s licence, these are:
1. Professional Conduct
2. Good Repute
3. Financial Standing (for alternative transport arrangements)

If companies fail in any of the above you can write to the Commissioner or if you feel that a bus/coach/limo is unsafe they can write to VOSA or any of the bodies named above.

Under The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (for public transport) you can ask for a certified copy of the vehicle MOT, COiF, (Certificate of Initial Fitness), Insurance documentation, the Driver Daily Check sheet with name redacted and public liability certificate. You may not get this but adds strength to your case.

Example of complaint
A colleague had problems with Stagecoach which operates the buses in Cambridge. One late evening Ed’s bus was prevented from following his route because a car had been abandoned on the busway. The driver did not contact the office and nothing was done to help the passengers. So I wrote an email to the CEO outlining the issue and saying that he had had to pay £20 for the taxi fare. The CEO said that they had staff on site at all times while vehicles are out, in case of emergencies and breakdowns. He said they have a 24hour contact number for drivers who for some reason cannot contact the depot which would then in turn contact the next level of management. He reimbursed the £20 taxi fare. (The financial standing mentioned above). I wanted Ed to email again and point out that as the driver did try to ring the office and got no answer it would appear that their “Tried and tested” processes have not been tested well enough but he didn’t!

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Everything everyone needs to know about call centres

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Common complaints about call centres
A few months ago I asked on my Facebook page what people hated about call centres and without doubt the top hates were:

  • speaking to people in different countries where communication was difficult
  • call centre staff go from a script
  • call centre staff hanging up on calls
  • music playing
  • refusal to give names
  • passing from one department to another
  • not knowing the answer to questions
  • refusal to pass you to someone senior
  • all the options before you get to speak to someone….

it would appear most of us don’t have a good word to say about call centres.

The inside information from call centre staff
Interestingly people who had worked in call centres gave some insight into why we get some of the problems. Here are some reasons for the problems above:

This isn’t all call centres but some of this information came from a member of staff from a very big well known company!

  • The call queues waiting times are specifically designed to be long enough to encourage you to ‘give up’. You will wait a designated ‘minimum time’ even if agents are available
  • Queue messages are designed to discourage you “you are 457th in the queue” or plainly tell you to go away “many common issues can be resolved by visiting our web site at xxx.com” – and they will become increasingly discouraging as time passes
  • Response scripts are specifically designed to restrict what call handlers can do and, ideally, convert a call into a new sale. ‘Escalation’ paths for calls are specifically designed to delay or avoid resolution
  • Staff are given average call times
  • Passing the call on to another employee counts as a conclusion to the call (even when the caller is placed in another long queue elsewhere in the organisation)
  • The computer systems used are terrible since not all data is available since the call centre is not really the company you are calling.
  • The call centre staff are not trained to give you satisfaction but to simply get close to the required precentage success rates

What can you do?
I tend not to use call centres because they are generally so diabolical. I write. Where the matter is not urgent and this is a possibility I always advise writing. Be clear, concise and polite. Make sure you have all the details and list the issues. Ensure you include all your account details. If you do not get a satisfactory response write to the CEO. You can find email contact details at www.ceoemail.com. For most companies you can consider taking the matter to the relevant ombudsman, e.g. Energy Ombudsman, CISAS, Financial Ombudsman etc. You need to wait until 8 weeks after you start the complaint or request a “deadlock letter”. This is a letter from the company stating that they will not communicate further on the matter.

If you have to ring, be polite, get the name of the person you are speaking to as soon into the conversation as you can. Make a note of the start and finish times of calls, including the length of time you were on the phone. If the person keeps repeating what they are saying and it is of no help ask to speak to a supervisor, you may or may not get this but note everything down. Ask for them to send you confirmation on anything they have agreed, if possible whilst you are still on the ‘phone. Be clear and assertive (not aggressive) in what you want and provide deadlines for this. Under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 you are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care. Leaving you on the ‘phone and not answering queries or providing you with the service you are paying for is a breach and tell them so. Asserting your legal rights often gets you taken more seriously and you are more likely to get the call escalated. Follow up all bad experiences with a call centre with a letter/email of complaint detailing the problems and the issues with the call (as well as your original complaint!) and assert your legal rights and you should find you get some redress!

Helplines
A key point to note is that there is now a prohibition on not providing basic rate numbers for post-contract customer helplines. Where traders offer telephone helplines for consumers to contact them about something they have bought, there should be a number available on which the consumer can call for this purpose at no more than the basic rate. Financial services companies are not affected by this change. But, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is considering whether it could introduce similar measures for customers calling banks, insurance companies and investment brokers.

More tips here with more advice, laws, information and template letters in the book. I was quoted in an article in Glamour magazine (the irony!) with more advice here.

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A Guide to The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 implemented the European Union-wide Directive 2005/29/EC concerning unfair commercial practices in the internal market. The Regulations replace much consumer protection legislation, including Part III of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (which dealt with misleading prices), the majority of the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 (which it mainly repeals), and the Control of Misleading Advertising Regulations 1988. The Misrepresentation Act 1967 covers similar issues too.

Unfair!

Unfair! 
For a practice to be unfair under these rules, they must harm, or be likely to harm, the economic interests of the average consumer. For example, when a shopper makes a purchasing decision he or she would not have made had he or she been given accurate information or not put under unfair pressure to do so.

The regulations prohibit trading practices that are unfair to consumers. There are four different types of practices covered:

A general ban – on conduct below a level which may be expected towards consumers (honest market practice/good faith).

Misleading practices a practice misleads through the information it contains, or its deceptive presentation, and causes, or is likely to cause, the average consumer to take a different transactional decision specifically; general misleading information, creating confusion with competitors’ products or failing to honour commitments made in a code of conduct.

Aggressive sales techniques using harassment, coercion or undue influence – significantly impairs, or is likely to significantly impair, the average consumer’s freedom of choice or conduct in relation to the product through the use of harassment, coercion or undue influence – and  thereby causes him to take a different transactional decision.

31 specific practices (that would be two long boring pages of  post! It is pretty thorough though (all of them are listed in the book).

If you think a financial advert or promotion is misleading, unfair or unclear, you can report it to the Financial Conduct Authority and/or the Advertising Standards Authority.

Did you know about this Act? Were you still using old Acts? Find out more details of this other Acts and how to use them in the book. Watch out for new laws later this year! Sign up to the newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out on announcements!

 

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Email the CEO!

A guest post from Marcus Williamson, Editor of www.ceoemail.com

Why and when should I email the CEO?
So, you’ve got a problem with a company’s product or service. You have tried emailing and calling customer services and got nowhere so far. Is it time to email the CEO and why would you want to do so?

The time to involve the CEO will vary on a case-by-case basis. In my experience, if you have not received a reply from an initial customer service enquiry within 7 days, then it is time to escalate. If you have called customer service and they have promised a call-back but not honoured the promise, then again it is time to escalate. Likewise, if customer service have responded but have not resolved the issue to your satisfaction, then it’s time to go to the top.

The CEO is the Chief Executive Officer of the organisation. The CEO is ultimately responsible for the day-to-day running of the organisation and the people who comprise it. The CEO can make a difference to your consumer issue by making decisions that others, in customer services, often cannot make because they are not empowered to do so. The CEO also knows the best person to whom issues should be delegated, if necessary.

The key is to establish who is the most senior person within the organisation who has executive power to resolve your consumer issue: The power to execute actions and to ensure that they are correctly performed. These are the people who can make a difference to your consumer issue. A direct approach to the CEO, when necessary, can bypass “customer service” and the unwieldy procedures and processes that prevent your issue from being dealt with effectively. It is worth remembering that the top person in an organisation may have a title other than Chief Executive Officer, depending on the type of organisation and its geographical location. You might also find other titles being used:

Organisation Title
Company Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Company Managing Director or General Manager
Company Executive Chairman
Newspaper Editor
TV/Radio station Controller
University Vice Chancellor or Principal
School Headteacher or Principal
Hospital Trust Chief Executive
Union General Secretary
Prison Governor
Hotel General Manager
Museum or Gallery Director or Curator

About the Author
Marcus Williamson is the editor of www.ceoemail.com, a consumer information website which can help you resolve issues by taking them to the top of the organisation.

Comment from the Complaining Cow
How does it work? The site lists the email contact details for the CEOs of many major companies. Marvellous. Blooming marvellous. If the company isn’t listed, email him ceoemail@connectotel.com I am honoured to call Marcus a friend. I have never met him but you’ll see he’s thanked in my book because of all his support when I came to the final stages and continues to assist me! Rather too many of those CEOs email addresses are there thanks to me requesting them over the last 5 years! The site is, quite simply, brilliant. Use it and contact a CEO who hasn’t ensured a good enough customer service team.

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