What to do when your flight is delayed

Denied Boarding Regulations

flying_plane_190518The Denied Boarding Regulation applies to passengers departing from an airport within the EU, whatever the airline is, and also applies to passengers departing from an airport outside the EU for an airport within the EU, if the operating air carrier is a Community carrier. (I.e. a carrier with a valid operating license granted by an EU state).

Under European regulations (EC261), passengers have significant rights if their flight is delayed, cancelled or they are denied boarding. These rights have been in place across Europe since February 2005 and the CAA is the national enforcement body for them here in the UK. The rights cover the following:

  • Flight cancelled or delayed for several hours – the airline must look after passengers. It must provide food, drinks, and some communications. If passengers are delayed overnight, this also means providing them with a hotel and travel to and from it. (All these must still be provided even if the delay was out of the airline’s  control).
  • Flight is cancelled – the airline must offer an alternative flight or a full refund. The passengers may also be entitled to compensation if the flight was cancelled less than 14 days before the scheduled departure.
  • Denied boarding or “bumped” from a flight – the airline must offer an alternative flight or a refund. Passengers are entitled to compensation.
  • If a passenger’s flight is delayed by more than 5 hours and they no longer want to travel they are entitled to a full refund.

Regulation (EC) 261/2004 applies to all flights wholly within the EU/EEA or Swiss region, or departing an EU/EEA or Swiss airport, or arriving in the region and with an EU/EEA or Swiss airline. Under EU rules, airlines must pay compensation for cancelled or heavily delayed flights, however, they can escape this under some ‘extraordinary circumstances’. This can include sudden severe weather events for example. Pilots turning up late, cancelled booking due to under booking etc. are examples of the airline at fault and so passengers can complain and get compensation.

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.

Consumers who have had compensation claims rejected for either of these reasons can now re-submit the claims to the airlines as long as the delay was less than six years ago.

The airlines do not have to respond to complaints within an official time limit, so set them a date by which you expect to receive a response. At the very least a “holding letter” of investigation should be sent.

You are not covered for strikes but if you are delayed a day or so after a strike you may be entitled.

Compensation for delays is only due on flights arriving over three hours or more late. How much you are entitled to depends on how long the delay and how long the flight. It changes again if the flight is cancelled before/after seven days before you are due to depart. It does not reflect the price of the flight and is straight out compensation. Personally I don’t like this, it buys into the “compensation culture”. Genuine redress and goodwill gestures reflect time and amount spent on matters but these regulations do not take this into account and therefore there is a risk that the low cost airlines will be hardest hit and consequently have to put up their fares. I feel compensation should be reflective, but while it isn’t, this is what we have, set amounts set in Euros so depends on where we are with exchange rates! When I wrote How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! the exchange rate meant you would be getting £200 for a flight up to 1,500km as of  29th June 2015 you’ll be getting £178!

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Why use the Financial Ombudsman?

I’ve used the Financial Ombudsman a couple of times and obviously both times he found in my favour! Both times were Halifax too! Here, Patrick Hurley, Director of General Casework describes why and at what point you should contact the Financial Ombudsman.

Patrick Hurley Director of general casework

Patrick Hurley Director of General Casework

People often ask, what does the ombudsman service stand for? There’s a potentially long answer to that. But I think the short answer and the right answer is fairness.

But what is fairness? It’s not always easy to define; it can differ according to culture, the situation you’re in or your personal values. However, it’s a near certainty that all of us, at some point, will be subject to that clear sense of outrage that something unfair has been done to us.

The science behind this is as complex as the feeling itself. The part of our brain that assesses fairness is linked to the same section that registers disgrace and disgust. We’re emotionally programmed to react with strong negative feelings at the thought of injustice whereas we experience a more positive, settled response to what we perceive as being fair treatment.

Explaining an emotional reaction when there is something obviously unfair is easy. For instance, if someone were to take £500 from you for no reason and then refuse to give it back. There’s one clear act of wrong doing, a loss that can be quantified and a straightforward way to make things fair again. This is a situation where those three words we’ve all used at some time “That’s not fair” clearly apply …and most people would agree.

But what if the thing that triggered the emotional reaction isn’t as clear cut as that? What if it’s something you can’t quite put your finger on? Or a culmination of things over the course of several months that has left you with that sense of outrage? Or there’s simply been poor service?  Trying to explain why something that to most people is a relatively small incident is in fact a “final straw” moment for you can be tough. It can be even more difficult if there isn’t really a clear resolution you can point to – you just want it putting right.

When this happens, many people don’t always know where to turn and the temptation can be to give up. That’s what people tell me when I ask them why they haven’t used the ombudsman all too often – particularly from people who didn’t want to complain as it was over something ‘small’. Yet that’s exactly what we’re here for.

We are here to look at problems about fairness in money matters as a whole – big and small. Everything from the loss of £150,000, to a person being inconvenienced by poor service such as bank statements being sent to the wrong address, that ‘final straw moment’ where you find yourself having the same conversation asking the bank to sort out the same problem, and lots in between.

People also often worry that it’ll be a really complicated process to come to us and the business they are complaining about might turn on them. Just to reassure you, this should never happen. All you need to do is give us a call us, go through what happened in your own words and we’ll take it from there. Yes there are some rules but we’ll talk you through them in plain English.  That’s essentially our process.

So, my final words would be these; the next time you get a gut feeling that something’s not right, don’t write it off. Even if it takes you a while to explain the circumstances that led you to your “it’s not fair” moment, call us.  It can be about a lot of money, a little, or even just a point of principle.  And often the people we help simply want an apology or an explanation. Of course, we won’t always find that something wrong has happened, but we will let you know what we think. Either way, the ombudsman can help you work through what the problem actually is and figure out what can be done to make things right again.

You can find further information on the Financial Ombudsman on their website here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Car buyers alert: how not to get fobbed off

A sector which often appears a law unto itself and from which can be very difficult to gain redress.

Garages often try to fob you off with “contact the manufacturer”. Don’t be fobbed off. Many garages are members of Trade Associations which you can contact and if you still don’t get any joy you can go to the Small Claims Court.

When you choose a garage you should look to see if it is a member of a trade association and if any doubt about the authenticity of the sign you can contact the trade association to check. You can also look online to find garages which are members of the association.

Motor Codes is an impartial self-regulatory body. Its members follow codes of practice and these have been approved by the Trading Standard Institute Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS). The scheme approves Codes of Practice that set out a minimum standard for their members.

The New Car Code of Practice covers 99 per cent of all vehicles sold within the UK. It sets the standards for new cars which their members must follow. The code commits their members to providing honest and fair sales and warranties written in plain English.

The Service and Repair Code has over 7,800 garages subscribed. This code commits members to providing open and transparent pricing policies and honest and fair services.

The Vehicle Warranty Products Code aims to drive up standards across a wide range of automotive warranty and insurance products, by committing subscribers to higher standards than required by law. The code ensures members warranty products are clear and not misleading and that clear information is given at the point of sale.

If you have a complaint about a member of Motor Codes and they haven’t resolved your complaint satisfactorily, you can contact Motor Codes for advice. They will help you resolve your dispute for free using their own conciliation and advisory service. If the matter still can’t be resolved, Motor Codes can offer you legal arbitration for a fee, or of course you can go through the Small Claims Court.

New Cars
If you want to reject a new car you should do so very quickly. Unlike buying a faulty kettle that you could take back after a few weeks and expect a full refund, a car depreciates in value and this will be reflected in any refund and no doubt be a matter of argument. In court too the judge may say that you have kept the car too long to expect a full refund. You are covered by the amended Sale and Supply of Goods Act  and so if it is not fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality or doesn’t fit the description then you are fully entitled to expect the retailer to come and pick up the vehicle and give you a full refund. You do not have to accept a repair. If you have had the car too long to return it you can reasonably expect a repair.

You should expect the dealer to pick the car up from you if you are getting the full refund but make sure the cheque has cleared first!

You might choose to accept a repair, or already have had to have a repair, for which you want redress. You can do this whilst retaining your rights under the Sale and Supply of Goods Act.

Story of how I fought to get repairs on a new car for my mother here. It can be hard work but it can be done.

Second hand cars
Undoubtedly you would not expect a second hand car to be in as good a condition as a new car! However, when buying from a dealer you still have the same rights as above.

If you find a defect that wasn’t pointed out to you at the time of purchase you should inform the dealer immediately (usually within less than a couple of weeks). After this time a refund will significantly reflect the difference between market value and the price you paid for the vehicle.

When buying a second hand car you might look more favourably at a warranty scheme to work like an insurance policy but check everything in it with a fine tooth comb.

When buying a second hand car from a private seller your rights under the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 still cover you. However, a private seller is only bound to give you truthful answers to questions you ask about the car, unlike car dealers they are not obliged to give details of the car if those details aren’t requested. You can ask for a full refund or you ask the seller to pay for what is needed for the car to match the description. If the seller refuses to do either of these things then the only option open to you is the Small Claims Court.

For template letters and further details about how to complain about cars and garages and more see How to complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

 

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Complaining effectively is child’s play (usually)

Well! Here’s a complaint story that’s a little different. Those of you who have bought the book know that it is dedicated in part to my son, “The Complaining Calf who appears to be a chip off the old block!” Here’s the proof!

First – My complaint
In April I took out a year’s subscription to the Beano for my seven year old son. Worked out to be about half the price of the cover price. There should have been a Gnasher and Dennis bumper car set as a free gift.

On the 1st June we had received two issues of The Beano but no free gift so I wrote to complain. I received an email on the 8th June (how bad is that? It gets worse) to say that they had run out of the free gift and were arranging for a new gift sending me a picture of the replacement. I replied immediately saying this:

“I don’t find this acceptable. 1) I took out the subscription nearly two months ago. 2) If the gift was not available it should not have been advertised as available. This is a breach of The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Misrepresentation Act 1967 3) We have actually received 3 issues and no correspondence until I emailed you 4) this would appear to be a standard email from you sent to anyone who complained that they did not receive their item because you have not even had the courtesy of addressing me by name and 5) the attached picture of the gift I assume you will be sending has no relevance to the Beano whatsoever and certainly not to Dennis the Menace and Gnasher.”

I didn’t receive a reply so on the 17th June I forwarded the correspondence to the CEO of DC Tompson contact details for whom you can find here. I didn’t receive a reply. How very very very rude.  At the end of the month we finally received the gift. This:

A new character in The Beano since your day? Nope. No relevance whatsoever. So not only was it sent late (Subscription taken out 24th April, payment taken 10th May) it was Beano character unrelated.

Meanwhile…The Complaining Calf’s complaint
While I was waiting for a response, The Complaining Calf had received three issues and he had found a problem with them all. He suggested we complained. After all we had paid for something and it wasn’t fit for purpose and nor was it fair. Why? Well I’ll let him tell you:

7 year old's complaint to The Beano

So, a child had had his picture in two issues and thereby getting two gifts and then a strip was repeated in another issue. Not good huh? Now, we posted that together to the editor on the 7th June. I allowed over 3 weeks for them to respond.

The Complaining Cow steps in…
Okay, so at this point I got cross. I got really cross. (It would appear that The Beano has a record of ignoring letters from children. See story here. It’s bad enough when people are stupid enough to ignore me, (ending up in court sometimes!) but a seven year old? And MY seven year old? Nope, that aint happening sunshines. Customer services and the CEO ignore me and the editor ignores a seven year old. So I decided to try something out. Call me a menace if you like. I forwarded the unanswered emails to the CEO from my Complaining Cow account on the 2nd July. I told the CEO this:

I find this ignorance and blatant rudeness wholly unacceptable. The free gift has finally arrived but a response to either of the emails below has not.

My seven year old son wrote to the editor of the Beano regarding two matters across 3 issues of the Beano. He wrote this on the 7th June and has not received a response. It would appear that rudeness is a key quality throughout the organisation. However, it is utterly appalling that a seven year old who has taken the time to write to the Beano should be treated in such a way. I think most people would be disgusted. He of course is naturally very disappointed that no-one has bothered to reply to even thank him for his letter. In a day and age when we are trying to bring up children with manners in a growing culture of bad manners, it is sad to say that the editor, customer services and indeed the CEO can be so rude to people, particularly their target audience. You show a complete disregard for customers that is contemptible.

As author of Amazon bestseller How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results and writer of the popular blog www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk I will be writing up this dreadful lack of customer service. My son’s unanswered letter will of course be shared on social media where I am sure it will be shared many times and as I regularly comment in the media on customer services I shall be sure to share this story.”

So who thinks this got a reply when previous emails were ignored? Yup it did.  24 hours and 13 minutes later I got this:

“I’m sincerely grateful that you’ve taken the time to get hold of me.  Since I got your mail yesterday, I’ve got to the bottom of what happened.  As I think you now know, your subscription to the Beano was taken out on 24th April but your first payment was not taken until 10th May so the free gift request to the warehouse was delayed until 2 weeks after the first payment, contributing towards the delay.  We ran out of the gift we featured and sent a replacement which we did say may happen, but the choice, quality of service & the timing of our response was way, way below what was reasonable and weve fallen very short of what you and any customer should expect.  We’ve changed handling houses which has in part caused our errors and we messed-up ourselves in our own efficiency, but that’s for me to sort out and I assure you I am.   To be tardy in responding to the complaint just further compounds our error, and I utterly own-up to us letting you, and more importantly, Oliver down.  We’ve not received the letter you say he sent and have searched high and low for it, but we’ve enough from what you’ve said to enable the Editor to give him a suitable response.  

I’ll of course ensure that the postman gets you a much more fitting wee Beano bundle to say sorry for the way we handled the issue, but much more importantly we hope that the letter from the editor – and possibly a scrawl from Dennis himself – will be a nice surprise for Oliver.

You can always reach me via this email address if there’s any further chat you want on the matter, and thank you for helping me find a gap in our standards that I will ensure is now properly filled.”

Ok – so who thinks the letter to the editor arrived and got thrown away and who thinks that it arrived? The odds are stacked against them here given that the Beano staff have previous for being ignorant…

Continues complaining…
You will have remembered of course that Oliver actually wrote on a different matter and the more observant of you will have noticed that I did say this in my email to the CEO. So I was forced to write again – I could just see them writing to Oliver about the free gift which I hadn’t told him about! So I emailed a copy of the letter and whilst I was there also added that his email hadn’t actually explained the ignorance shown by him and it did beg the question why I got an answer when writing as Helen Dewdney. I got this in reply:

“We clearly fell short on standards and are working to ensure we’ve learned from our mistakes to make sure things are a lot tighter”

So you make up your own mind as to whether you think it was the mention of bad publicity and inclusion in a blog and a book got the response or whether I would eventually have got one?

To recap on correspondence:
1st June wrote
8th June got unsatisfactory reply
8th June wrote
No response
7th June letter different matter
No response
17th June wrote to CEO
No response
2nd July The Complaining Cow writes
3rd July almost satisfactory reply

The letter and parcel
Well to be fair, although dire rude service and the need to complain as a different person was apparently needed, one little boy was pretty pleased and impressed with the letter and bundle:

Letter from The Beano

Beano goodiesBeano bag
Beano Summer Special
Beano long sleeved top
Beano joke book
Beano aeroplane kit
Beano trick pencil
Beano trick ink
Beano trick ice cube

“All that just for writing a letter!” said Oliver. So I have of course explained complaining isn’t about getting freebies, it is about making people know about mistakes and faults in things which you have paid for. An alternative route for an adult would have been to quote the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 but I think he did just fine, an excellent start! The letter was also used as his homework that week so win win. “Writing for a purpose.”

As I always say when it comes to complaints, every company makes mistakes, it is how they deal with them that matters and here eventually they did come good. So you see, all you need is a little know how (see tips) and you won’t be disappointed with your purchases and if you are you will gain redress. Simples.

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Ombudsmen Omnishambles

Ombudsmen Omnishambles Press release

New privatised system of Alternative Dispute Resolution threatens consumer complaints chaos – but even its own implementation has now been delayed…

A new EU-mandated system of private ombudsmen which was due to come into force today, 9 July 2015, will not now be implemented until 1 October 2015. Private companies will then be handling consumer complaints in sectors including retail, aviation, furniture and property.

Under the new system companies would be obliged to point customers to private complaints-handling companies but would not be bound by their decisions.

Apart from the delay in implementation, there are many problems with the system as it is proposed.

For example:

  • There are two ombudsmen for the retail sector: One run by the company The Retail Ombudsman, the other by Ombudsman Services. There are also three ombudsmen for the property sector. This will lead to considerable confusion for the public. [1]
  • There are no criminal records checks for ombudsmen employees or directors: The company calling itself The Retail Ombudsman employs a convicted criminal as its communications director. [2]
  • One private company already running another ombudsman service pre-launched an Aviation Ombudsman without obtaining CAA permission. [3]
  • The CAA had previously confirmed that it would be winding down its own complaints scheme in favour of a privatised operation from 1 September 2015 (depending on certain conditions). [4]
  • There is no “ombudsman of ombudsmen” – The body responsible setting up Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) schemes, the Trading Standards Institute (TSI), has no consumer complaints system.
  • The chairman of the trade body The Ombudsman Association, Lewis Shand Smith, is also the CEO of one of the ombudsman companies. [5]
  • When the law eventually comes into force from 1 October 2015, traders will be obliged to tell consumers where to go for ADR but are not obliged to use ADR services.

Asked about the retail ombudsman via Twitter in May this year, Sainsbury’s social media staff replied candidly “…there is no government sanctioned retail ombudsman, only a commercial organisation calling itself one.”

Further details of these issues are available on request.

Marcus Williamson, Editor of the consumer information website CEOemail.com, says “These new companies are in this for the money and will be charging the companies whose customers are complaining. Those costs will inevitably be passed onto consumers through higher prices of products and services.”

More about CEOemail.com:  http://www.ceoemail.com/ceoemail-faq.php
Email: ceoemail@connectotel.com

Helen Dewdney, Consumer Champion and author of the book “How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!”, says:  “This ongoing Ombudsman omnishambles is helping no-one and will only result in confusion for consumers. If an ADR regime is to work well for consumers it needs a single ombudsman per sector, a clear code of practice and independent oversight.”

More about Helen Dewdney: http://www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk/
Email: helen@thecomplainingcow.co.uk

Notes
[1] For example: http://www.theretailombudsman.org.uk/ and
http://www.ombudsman-services.org/retail-and-other-sectors.html
[2] http://www.theretailombudsman.org.uk/page/contact-us.html
Neville Thurlbeck, former News of the World chief reporter, was jailed for 6 months in July 2014 for phone hacking. The Trading Standards Institute has confirmed that criminal record checks are not necessary for ombudsman directors or staff.
[3] Screenshot available on request
[4] https://www.caa.co.uk/application.aspx?catid=14&pagetype=65&appid=7&mode=detail&nid=2446
[5] http://www.ombudsmanassociation.org/association-executive.php

 

 

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