Bright ideas for complaining about Brighthouse (& avoiding them in the first place!)

Sara Williams Debt camel guest post on The Complaining CowThis is a guest post by Sara Williams, an adviser at Citizens Advice who has her own website Debt Camel where she blogs about everything to do with debt and credit ratings. She also guest posted Everything you need to know about Payday loans The only person so far who has written two guest posts on my blog ‘cos she’s sooo good at her stuff!

BrightHouse is a “pay weekly” chain of shops which is loathed by almost all debt advisers.

What’s so wrong with BrightHouse?
Their interest rates are high, but that isn’t the only reason. BrightHouse goods are often much more expensive than a similar TV or washing machine would be from another retailer. In addition they make most people add on expensive insurance.

The result is that you could spend more than £750 paid over three years on a Hoover washing machine, when you could get a very similar model from AO.com at £230.

So far so bad… but these rip off prices are made worse by the fact that BrightHouse has often failed to check properly that its customers can afford the items they are buying. The quoted weekly amounts may sound manageable but most BrightHouse customers are on low income or just benefits.

And BrightHouse goods are sold on Hire Purchase agreements. So customers in the last year of their contract who have financial problems will often be desperate to make the last few BrightHouse payments, rather than lose the item they have already paid so much for. They may get behind with rent, council tax and utility bills or take out expensive credit such as payday loans as a result.electrical items can you get a refund - more than likelyBrightHouse refunds
In October the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), BrightHouse’s regulator, told them to refund a bit under £15 million to two groups of customers:

  1. People who had cancelled a purchase within the 14 day cooling off period but still made 1 payment. These refunds will be small as it’s only 1 week’s payment to be refunded.
  2. 81,000 people who bought something between 1 April 2014 and 30 September 2016 where BrightHouse think they should have done more affordability checks – average refund £125.

If you want to know if you will be getting a refund, call their free helpline: 0800 30 40 80. £15 million sounds good, but in practice not many people are getting them considering the amount of stress and misery BrightHouse has caused.

The FCA took over as BrightHouse’s regulator in 2014, but before then the regulator was the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the OFT had the same rules about checking affordability as the FCA has. So I think people with older purchases should also get refunds. And if you had a purchase after 2014 which they aren’t refunding, you can make a complaint that it was unaffordable.

See How to make an affordability complaint to BrightHouse for a template letter and more information about complaining to Brighthouse.

If your purchase was “unaffordable” then you should get a refund of all the interest you paid, plus 8% simple interest and have any negative marks on your credit record deleted.

Other BrightHouse complaints
BrightHouse also have a poor reputation for customer service when something goes wrong – an item doesn’t match its description, or it is faulty.

If you have one of these “consumer complaints”, you have the same legal rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 as if you bought the goods from a normal shop. See the article on this website that looks at these rights and how to complain – it’s got some useful videos.

Alternatives to BrightHouse
Many people with little money go to BrightHouse because they are desperate. But here are some better alternatives, so check if one might work for you:

  1. Local Welfare Assistance Scheme (used to be called Crisis Loans). These are harder to get now than they used to be, but it’s worth asking your council if they help families to replace things like white goods and essential furniture.
  2. Budgeting loans If you have been on JSA, ESA, Income Support or Universal Credit for more than 6 months, you may be able to get an interest-free budgeting loan.
  3. Credit Union You may be able to join a local one or one linked with your job, eg NHS staff.
  4. Fair For You – this is an online alternative to BrightHouse, offering weekly payments but without the markup on the original prices and their interest rates are lower. Check them out!
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Keeping the festive cheer in Christmas shopping

Keeping the festive cheer in Christmas shopping

10 top tips for getting the best Xmas bargains! on Xmas paper background

 

Black Friday (week) and Cyber Monday are now over. How do we get the best prices for our Christmas gifts this year?

 

Here are my top ten tips to help you save money and make sure you are getting the cheapest deal when shopping either online or in stores this Christmas!

 

 

  • Make sure you have a list, even if it is just a list of names, budget and possible ideas. This will stop you panicking, over spending and buying unnecessary items!
  • If you know you will definitely be buying from certain stores or before you shop online check out Zeek* where you can buy and sell gift cards. You could literally get free money! Discounts usually range from 2 – 10% off, depending on popularity of the store.
  • Look out for discount vouchers and codes. There are numerous websites out there, just search for the store you are shopping from with the words “discount” or “voucher code” and look through a few. For the bigger stores there’s usually something, even if it’s just a free delivery code!
  • Use cashback sites such as Topcashback*, Quidco*, and Kidstart (Kidstart cashback goes to your nominated child’s bank account).  Sign up for free and use which ever one gives the biggest cashback! (Be aware that some may not work with additional discounts so don’t rely on this).
  • Install Pouch which is a browser extension which was shown on Dragon’s Den. It claims to notify you any time you are on an online store for which there is a discount code.
  • Use price comparison sites which aren’t just for financial products, such as Pricerunner and Idealo. These will cover the well-known and less known online stores for the price on the same item.
  • Sign up for emails to get the best offers first, many will email you early with discount codes, so you can use before they go out of stock!
  • Don’t be tempted to buy the accessories with the item from the same place! When the pop up flashes “buy the batteries” don’t do it just for ease. Any saving you make will get spent on the batteries, so buy them from somewhere else. Unless they are cheap!
  • Remember you are always covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, where goods must be of satisfactory quality, be fit for purpose and match the description, whatever price you paid for the item!

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

 

Don’t forget How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS! makes a great present!

 

 

 

*referral links which means when you sign up (for free) you’ll get a few quid and so will I. then generate your own referral code and share on social media and you’ll make a bit more!

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Whirlpool/Hotpoint/Indesit shows contempt for tumble dryer customers

Press release

Dryer replacement scheme ends for Whirlpool/Hotpoint/Indesit users – Company updates list of affected machines without telling customers

Whirlpool has announced that it is ending its replacement scheme for dangerous tumble dryers that have caused fires.

With growing waiting lists for repairs, Whirlpool had previously offered customers the option of purchasing a new dryer at the reduced rate of £50. Customers had been given the option of a vented dryer priced at £59 (RRP £219) or a condenser dryer priced at £99 (RRP £299).

This latest move has angered consumer groups and the chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee, Rachel Reeves, who has demanded to know why Whirlpool is ending its replacement scheme for dangerous tumble dryers.

A growing list of affected machines

Whilst Whirlpool continues to make customers wait for repairs, Helen Dewdney – The Complaining Cow consumer expert and author of How to Complain – has discovered that customers have found that they own machines they were initially told were not affected.

Whirlpool customer, Juliet Govey, saw the announcements in the media regarding the defective tumble dryers and checked the list. Her model was not listed. In 2017, when she needed a repair on her machine and called out a Hotpoint engineer, he realised the machine was on recall and made the necessary modifications on the spot. She says “His view was that we may well have been safe as we kept the filter, condenser and casing clean and as fluff free as possible. There was very little fluff behind the drum when it was dismantled. I think we were just lucky.”

On my post regarding what to do if you have an affected dryer, Jess commented that she had bought a Hotpoint dryer in early 2015. Late in the year the announcements were made about the hazards and she was advised to go online and check if affected and was told it was too new for the problems and was not one of the models. On renewing her house insurance this year she told them it was a safe one. A few weeks ago she smelt burning from the dryer and immediately unplugged it and pulled it out and called out a repair man. He said it needed a new belt which would be about £10. She asked him to fit it but when he checked the model he refused, saying he wouldn’t work on a ‘fire hazard’. Jess checked online again, and found that the machine had been added to the list. On contacting Hotpoint she was told that the list had been updated.

Check online to be sure

I’m urging anyone who bought their machine and was told that their machine was safe to check again online on the Indesit and Hotpoint safety sites (Creda owners can check via the Hotpoint site) to see if their machine has now been added. “It is shocking and reprehensible that Whirlpool seems to have such a poor regard for safety. Why haven’t they kept records of people who have contacted them and done more (or anything!) to raise awareness that models have been added to the list? This in conjunction with all the other evidence against them regarding their slapdash attitude beggars belief.”

Coroner’s report

This latest revelation follows on from the coroner’s report, published on 31 October 2017 into the deaths of Bernard Hender, 19, and Doug McTavish, 39, who died in a flat in Llanrwst, Conwy county, in October 2014. The coroner, David Lewis, said that the fire was caused “on the balance of probabilities” by an electrical fault with the door switch on the dryer. Describing the evidence presented at the inquest by Whirlpool as “defensive and dismissive” he stated the company’s approach was an “obstacle” to finding steps to prevent future fires. He called on the company to take action to prevent future fires. Whirlpool has until 26 December 2017 to respond.

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Tesco doing more than their “Fare Share”?

Well far be it for me to praise Tesco! The Complaining Cow’s history with Tesco. But give them their due here and it’s about time other supermarkets followed suit, Tesco has been doing this for years but this year I think it is back bigger and better than before.

Volunteer with donations for foodbanksFrom today (30th November) until the 2nd December, Tesco is inviting people to shop for Trussell Trust and Fare Share. If you are in store, doing your shopping, add a few things in for the foodbanks and Tesco will distribute everything. But better than that they are actually topping up the donations by 20%. That will be in money to help support the organisations with more food purchases and running costs for the year.

More from Tesco about it here.

Lindsay Boswell, Chief Executive of FareShare said:
“Tesco has demonstrated real leadership in tackling food waste. Over and above the large volumes of surplus food they provide us, Tesco should be applauded for how they have embedded FareShare into all aspects their business – from distribution centres to stores and fresh food to ambient. Tesco’s level of commitment to using their surplus food for social good, has helped provide millions of meals for vulnerable people across the UK.”

Reverse Advent calendar
You may have been involved in the Reverse Advent calendar campaign? It’s not too late you can join in this too. That link will give you more background on the need for foodbanks and ideas for how you can help and information on the variety of things you can buy.

Increasing donations at no cost to you
To make your donation go even further, sign up to the shopping apps Shopmium* and Checkoutsmart. Install these apps on your phone and next time you go shopping have a look to see what is available for free or discount. (You buy the items then send picture of barcode and receipt and get refund). It’s to encourage you to buy more obviously! But items change regularly and you’ll always be able to find something you can get for free. Get these in addition to anything else you do and pop them in the Tesco trolley and it will be worth that 20% more! I have been getting lots of babyfood for free and donating that! Imagine if we all did that and Tesco gave a further 20%!

Check out Zeek* before you shop. You can sell and buy gift cards with a discount on Zeek for any retailer in store and online. Sometimes you can get supermarkets so worth a look and indeed for any of your other Christmas shopping.

*These are affiliate links which means that if you go through and sign up you and I will get £3- 5 and when you shop at Tesco in this short period, foodbanks gain some extra items and Tesco will lose a few pounds with everything you buy.

Wins all round!

 

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Think before you sign – top 10 tips for saving on subscriptions

Think before you sign

Don’t fritter away your hard-earned money on unwanted subscriptions

top 10 tips for savings on subscriptions with picture of contract

It’s National Consumer Week and this year’s theme is “Before You Sign.”

Citizens Advice research revealed this week that in just three months consumers spent an average of £160 on unwanted subscriptions, including gym memberships, television and online streaming services. The consumer organisation also found that between June and August 2017, 9 out of 10 people were initially refused by companies when cancellation of an unwanted subscription was requested.

So what are your rights and the best ways to deal with these subscriptions? Here are my top 10 tips.

1) Be aware of the “free” and very cheap trials of subscriptions. Most, if not all, will ask for payment information when you sign up. Set yourself a reminder to cancel a day before the first payment is due.

2) Check the cancellation rights before signing up to anything but be aware that you may still be able to challenge these in certain circumstances.

3) Under the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013, you are entitled to a 14 day “cooling off” period, so if you have signed up to something off premises (e.g. online) you can cancel with no penalty.

4) Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, consumers are protected from unfair contracts. So, for example, if a company says that you must give 6 months’ notice to cancel a subscription, that would be unfair.

5) The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2014 state that companies must provide accurate and sufficient information for consumers to make a purchasing decision. 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.

6) If you are going to sign up to a subscription, try and use Direct Debit where possible. With Direct Debit, a company cannot change the regular payment amount. Using a Direct Debit or credit card is known as a Continuous Payment Authority which can be of varying amounts which can be changed without your consent.

7) When you cancel with the company, also inform your bank to ensure that the subscription payment is cancelled. You will then also be covered by the Direct Debit Guarantee, which ensures a full and immediate refund of the amount paid from your bank or building society if a mistake is made.

8) Check that the site is genuine. The website address should begin with “https”, have a padlock symbol, a full correspondence address (not a PO box number) and any trade logos should be genuine. Also, search the Internet for reviews and check for warning signs like lots of grammatical errors or a domain name that uses a well-known brand/product but isn’t the official website or ends in .net or .org as these are rarely used for online shopping sites. You can also check who registered the domain via the com website.

9) If you want to cancel, do so quickly and in writing so you have evidence. If you are prepared to discuss the matter because you want to haggle for example, telephone helpline numbers cannot cost the consumer more than the basic rate, so no 084 and 087 numbers. If companies do use these then they are in breach of the The Consumer Contract (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 and Ofcom regulations.

10) When writing to cancel, provide all details of the policy/memberships etc., dates of subscriptions and request that the cancellation is made with immediate effect. Name the laws above and describe how the company is in breach, if relevant.

More at How to challenge terms & conditions (even those you’ve agreed)

Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

For masses more information, advice, tips, consumer laws and template letters get the GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

 

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