6 facts you should know about direct debits

1) Your bank or building society monitors and protects the efficiency and security of your direct debit. Those using the system go through a careful vetting process before they’re authorised, and are closely monitored by the banking industry. The efficiency and security of direct debit is monitored and protected by your own bank or building society.

2) If there are any changes to the amount, date or frequency of your Direct Debit the organisation will notify you (normally 10 working days) in advance of your account being debited or as otherwise agreed. If you request the organisation to collect a payment, confirmation of the amount and date will be given to you at the time of the request.

3) If a mistake is made with your direct debit you are covered by the Direct Debit Guarantee.

4) If an error is made in the payment of your Direct Debit, by the organisation or your bank or building society, you are entitled to a full and immediate refund of the amount paid from your bank or building society.

5) If you receive a refund to which you are not entitled, you must pay it back when the organisation asks.

6) According to the Financial Ombudsman, common fob offs made by banks and building societies when a direct debit is wrongly paid are; “The customer didn’t give enough notice”, “We don’t operate the direct debit guarantee”, “You’ll have to contact the originating company for a refund” and “The guarantee doesn’t apply – because you haven’t suffered a loss”. None of these are correct and should you not receive a refund take the matter to the Financial Ombudsman.

For more information on how to complain see the Tips. Also see the book for more information guidance and template letters for complaining about direct debits.

Consumer champion says “Know your EU rights”

Consumer champion says “Know your EU rights”

As a nation the British aren’t very good at complaining. Fewer than 45% of us know and use our legal rights.[1]

Although there is an increase in using social media to complain and whilst this may be considered complaining, it often doesn’t gain the legal redress that letters or emails can elicit. The main reasons cited by people for not complaining are that it takes too much time and effort and that they are unsure of their legal rights.

The Consumer Rights Act, introduced on the 1st October, consolidated a number of Acts and introduced cover for digital goods, but with so few people currently knowing and using their legal rights the numbers complaining might decrease still further.

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, consumer rights blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! touched upon this on Rip Off Britain Live on 22 October.[2]  Dewdney says that whenever she has used EU law when complaining it has made it easier to gain redress.

Recently a friend of hers booked a hotel in Germany through an online travel agent based in the Netherlands. He was told that the booking did not complete and to book with the hotel directly. When he did this he incurred a 7% admin fee on the credit card payment where there had been none before. Dewdney says “The Directive on Consumer Rights (2011/83/EC) states the need for a trader to ensure that the customer understands what is included in the contract and with no hidden costs. This is clearly not the case here. The email from the website stated that he needed to provide the credit card details and that the hotel would process the payment. The email clearly led him to believe that his contract was still with the website acting as a travel agent but the hotel would only be processing it. The “invoice” which he received after payment showed the credit card charge of 7%. Had the booking gone through normally there would have been no charge.[3] Dewdney succeeded in getting a refund of the full fee. (Full story here).

With more and more of us shopping online it is becoming increasing necessary to not only know our legal consumer rights for this country but in the EU too. If you need help with fighting a case across borders within the EU, the UK European Consumer Centre can advise.

How well do you know your rights? Here’s a list of some you may need to know : [5]

1) The Directive on Consumer Rights (2011/83/EC) [4] 
Understanding what goods and services are being provided and ensuring there are no hidden costs

Burden of proof of contract lies with trader

Right to change your mind when buying at a distance or off premises with a 14 days cooling off period

Deliveries without undue delay within 30 days unless other time frame agreed by both parties

Pre-ticked boxes for additional payments are not allowed

2) EU Directive 1999/44/EC
Minimum 2 year limitation period within which you can bring a legal claim against the retailer from whom you purchased the goods. (In UK it is maximum of 6 years under the Consumer Rights Act 2015)

3) Unfair Consumer Contracts Regulations EU Directive 93/13/EEC
Where you and the trader haven’t negotiated terms a contract term can be deemed as unfair if it creates “significant imbalance” in the trader and consumer’s positions.

4) Denied Boarding Regulations EU EC261
Compensation if your flight is delayed (amounts vary for length and distance departing from any EU airport regardless of airline. More details here.

5) The ADR Directive 2013/11/EU
Consumers can use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) entities for all kinds of contractual disputes that they have with traders. This applies no matter what they purchased (excluding disputes about health and higher education) and whether they purchased it online or offline, domestically or across borders. In the UK retailers need only “signpost” to an ADR scheme, as it is not mandatory for retailers to belong to a scheme.[6]  More here.

[1] Fewer than 45% of People in the UK use their Consumer Rights according to research published in October 2014 here.

[2] Rip Off Britain Live 22 October 2015.

[3] More on the story here

[4] This directive replaces, as of 13 June 2014, Directive 97/7/EC on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts and Directive 85/577/EEC to protect consumer in respect of contracts negotiated away from business premises. Directive 1999/44/EC, on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees as well as Directive 93/13/EEC on unfair terms in consumer contracts, remains in force.

[5] More details available from Helen Dewdney.

[6] More details about ADR in the UK here

Rip Off Britain appearance and information

Hi! If you have found me from my appearance on Rip Off Britain and/or their website. I’ll list some links that you may find helpful.

More details on me and see why I think it so important to complain here

Top 20 Tips on complaining

The bestselling book here.

Your rights when it comes to faulty goods and services here for purchases and services prior to October 1st 2015.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 for purchases made on or after October 1st 2015

More about the Consumer Rights Act and how it relates to digital content here.

I’m on Facebook here,Twitter here and Pinterest here. For daily tips and the odd rant. Do join in!

Ceoemail.com for contact details for all CEOs

Previous appearance on Rip Off Britain here.

Post about complaining on social media pros and cons etc. here.

Keep up to date with consumer issues, free updates to the book etc.

The story covered in the show was regarding a website acting as a travel agent which is not based in the UK but is in the EU. A story regarding a company and gaining redress using EU law is here. All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights provides links to numerous other posts/information about holidays and flights.

The story above took a lot of time to deal with. In addition to writing in a different style, more objective, provided clarity etc. I also undertook a few other things such as:

1) Putting everything in order of events
2) Writing to the CEO as customer service people had been so useless
3) Making it clear where evidence has been attached
4) Adding in a Claim for calls whilst included -although her calls were free they may have taken her over the contacted amount
5) Claiming for all travel for complainant and other members of the party incurred due to the change in accommodation location
6) Researched distances of travel and provided evidence
7) Researched Marshall Street accommodation and found evidence that the agent don’t offer it anymore
8) Researched costs of bus travel and provided details
9) Provided evidence that the Novotel was 3.6 not 1km away from the original booking
10) Added in UK and EU laws
11) Listed what I expected to resolve the matter
12) Stated what the next steps would be if complaint not satisfactorily resolved
13) Gave a time limit for response before taking matter further
14) Added a summary

If you have a complaint, then everything you need is on the website here and the book which includes over 40 template letters.

Now go, go get that redress!


How to complain when booking a service based in the EU

imagesA friend booked a hotel through Booking.com but hit a problem when the site didn’t accept the credit card. Told to go direct to the hotel (based in Germany) to pay he was horrified to find that he had been charged a 7% credit card fee! In steps The Complaining Cow.

What do you do when booking through a site such as Booking.com that looks like they are the travel agent? (Slightly easier to complain when it is the travel agent at fault see an example here.) Well this actually isn’t the case, it isn’t a travel agent and so your cover isn’t quite what you might think it would be. In addition, Booking.com is actually based in the Netherlands and the terms and conditions state that “To the extent permitted by law, these terms and conditions and the provision of our services shall be governed by and construed in accordance with Dutch law and any dispute arising out of these general terms and conditions and our services shall exclusively be submitted to the competent courts in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.” I would have argued that you pay through booking.com and therefore contract is with them, however according to their set up this isn’t the case. They work only as advertiser in reality. They take no responsibility for accuracy of costs etc. and they aren’t based in the UK so we couldn’t use UK law. However… there is EU law. So this is what I wrote for him.

(Remember if this happens to you, you can cancel the booking as you do have the 14 days to cancel but here they wanted to keep the booking.) You could also claim back through the section 75 of Consumer Credit Act 1974 and of course go to court but that would be in Germany!

So, using www.ceoemail.com to get the CEO’s email address for booking.com off went this email from Paul…

On the 28th August 2015 I booked the Langwasser Messe Nichtraucherhotel. However I received an email from Booking.com to say that the credit card could not be submitted. I also received an email directly from the hotel to say that I should pay directly with them as they could not directly verify the card owner. I find this ludicrous given that there is no problem with the account and the card is used on a regular basis.

Once I went through the necessary hoops for the hotel (see attached correspondence) I was then sent an “invoice”. This was not an invoice but a receipt. I found that I had been charged an extortionate fee of roughly £140 to use the credit card.

This is not acceptable. I was not informed by Booking.com or the hotel that I would incur this charge. I note that you are based in the Netherlands and therefore EU law applies. The Consumer Rights Directive 2013 states the need for a trader to ensure that the customer understands what is included in the contract and with no hidden costs. This is clearly not the case. The email from Booking.com stated that I need to provide the credit card details and that the hotel would process the payment. The email from Booking.com clearly led me to believe that my contract was still with Booking.com but the hotel would be processing it only. The “invoice” which I received after payment shows the credit card charge of 7%. Had the booking gone through normally there would have been no charge. Requesting that I go a different route breached the Consumer Rights Directive.

In addition to this breach, this directive also states that the trader cannot charge consumers fees that exceed the costs borne by the trader. 7% is clearly in excess of this cost.

I understand from your terms and conditions that my contract is with the hotel. However, the site appears, in the way it works to be the company with whom the consumer has a contract. The emails sent by Booking.com contributed to my taking this transaction without the full correct information given that the first email stated the price with no transaction fee and the second said to proceed a different route, I would have no reason to imagine that there would be any further costs. I believe that this is a breach of the EU Directive 2005/29/EC.

I am really quite appalled by the service I have received by Booking.com and trust that you will look into this matter at your earliest possible convenience. As a business we frequently book hotels through Booking.com, however, given this latest experience I am unsure that we will book again and will be sharing my experiences with colleagues and clients. I trust that you will go some way to assuring me that I will not receive such poor treatment again should I use you in the future.

I look forward to hearing from you regarding this fee and a sum for the inconvenience. Should I not be fully satisfied with your response I will not hesitate in taking the matter further which may include but not be limited to claiming through my credit card, taking the matter through the Dutch courts, and sharing through various media and social media outlets.

For good measure we also emailed the CEO of the hotel with a similar email.

With hours Paul received emails! The hotel paid up the fee.

So, be careful when you book but nearly always, so long as you know your legal rights, you can get redress. If you want to know more about how you can use EU law and always gain redress take a look at the bestseller How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

I also used these EU laws when dealing with a complaint for a Rip Off Britain viewer:


Your energy and your rights – what you should know

energyThere have been many reports over the last few years regarding poor practice in the energy market, such as mis-sellling, putting people on the wrong tariffs and over charging. Companies are bound by the same laws as suppliers of other services and so consumers are covered in particular by The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and The Consumer Rights Directive 2013, protecting the consumer from misleading information and providing a 14 days cooling off period.

Following Ofgem investigations, if you have switched suppliers in the last couple of years with a company representative rather than online, you may have been mis-sold. It may be worth checking to see if the company has a compensation package

Ofgem is the Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets, which supports the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority (GEMA), the regulator of the gas and electricity industries in Great Britain. The Authority’s powers and duties are largely provided for in statute (such as the Gas Act 1986, the Electricity Act 1989, the Utilities Act 2000, the Competition Act 1998, the Enterprise Act 2002 and the Energy Acts of 2004, 2008, 2010 and 2011) as well as under rulings of European Community legislation in respect of energy regulation. GEMA oversees Ofgem’s work and provides strategic direction.

Energy suppliers must have a procedure for dealing with complaints. This should be available on their website or by telephoning them. The procedure should include names and contact details of all available sources of independent help, advice and information.

If you have a complaint about your electricity, contact the supplier in the first instance. If you think you are entitled to compensation, contact your regional electricity distributor within three months of getting your power back on (if they haven’t contacted you). Your regional electricity distributor may not be the same as the company that supplies you with electricity. There are fixed payments for various issues.

The big six companies must resolve a complaint within 8 weeks (12 weeks for smaller companies). The customer needs to be part of this process, providing any information requested. If it is not resolved within this time the supplier must produce a letter of deadlock. Once this is received the customer can take the complaint to the Energy Ombudsman. (In Northern Ireland, you should contact the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland).

The Priority Services Register is for vulnerable people (people who are of pensionable age, are registered disabled, have a hearing or visual impairment, or have long term ill- health) and includes lots of benefits including entitlement to a free annual gas check, priority reconnection and free advice. Register with your supplier.

More about the importance of switching suppliers here.

Here’s a story about getting compensation when the gas was cut off.

If you don’t get satisfaction from customer services contact the CEO, you can get the contact details for CEOs at ceoemail.com.

All you need to know to make a complaint about energy for just about everything you could need to complain about regarding energy.

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



Loads more about energy with templates on how to complain in the book How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!