Why you should write not ‘phone to complain effectively

phoneWriting v ‘phoning complaints
As many of you who follow this blog know, I always advocate putting your complaints in writing as one my Top Tips for effective complaining. You have evidence that you contacted the company, you can take your time to think about what you want to say, you can bullet point your issues, you can take out emotion, you can go back to it and rewrite until you are happy to send it and you have evidence of what they have or have not said to you (and that makes it hard for a retailer/service provider to deny and certainly going to an ADR scheme or Small Claims Court is made a lot easier with proof!) I had many appendices when I took Tesco to court! Writing means you aren’t left on the ‘phone waiting to get through to people at call centres where a lot of other issues come into play too! Many people who ask me for help with complaints have struggled because they have been phoning and not writing and don’t have a trail.

Recording calls & the Law
I often hear people saying that  they can record calls and that they will take this to an ADR scheme or Small Claims Court. Be careful here of what you can do! The interception, recording and monitoring of telephone calls is governed by a number of different pieces of UK legislation. It all points to it may be it may not! The guidance you get may be after you have made the call when it is too late.

  • The ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) has no guidance on its website but when I emailed them to ask for guidance I was told:
    “Admittance of any type of evidence in a court case is decided based on the rules of the court. So whether any call recordings (either recorded for personal use or by a company when they have informed you they are recording calls) can be used in court is entirely up to the judge on a case by case basis. If you are going to court then it would be advisable to speak to your solicitor about it or if you are representing yourself then the court clerk may be able to advise you.”
  • The Justice department, (Your rights and the law)  said it could not provide legal advice.
  • Ofcom give this guidance on recording calls. This says that you can record calls for your own use and if you want to use to share with a third party (such as ADR or SCC) you must ask the person you are calling for their consent. This could be refused in which case you will not be able to use. However, when emailed to give more guidance on whether ‘phone calls can be used in court Ofcom said “I’m afraid we’re not able to give guidance on his matter.”

Therefore, think carefully before ringing as you may not have the evidence you need should you need to take the matter further. I also think that the difficulties of proving what was said in phone calls is a reason that many companies make it so difficult to email! Don’t be beaten because you can always email the CEO – find the address of any CEO here.

Tips for if you have to ‘phone
However, sometimes you need to ‘phone as it is urgent. What do you need to bear in mind?

  • Write down exactly what you want to say before you pick up the ‘phone, which will mean that you are prepared.
  • Take a note of the date and time you started and finished the call
  • Be polite, if you aren’t you risk the customer services representative refusing to speak to you
  • Ensure you get the name of the person to whom you are talking, first and second name
  • Quote relevant Acts where necessary. If you are not receiving services undertaken with reasonable skill and care and that includes over the ‘phone, then say that they are in breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015.
  • Ask the person to whom you are talking to put what has been agreed in writing preferably by email and whilst you are on the ‘phone.
  • Read this post about call centres!

Then there is social media, more on that here.

For more tips on how to complain effectively see this post and for loads more advice, tips, information, guidance, examples of complaining effectively and templates see How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

Make sure your holiday in the sun doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket

Blue Monday is over and people are thinking about holidays, but with the multitude of ways in ways in which people can book we need to be much more careful of how we book with whom and be aware of consumer rights.

Make sure your holiday in the sun doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket

With the weather so cold and adverts for holidays upon us, our thoughts turn to booking holidays in warmer places in the busiest time for travel agents. But as they all compete and more choice is available on how to book, including through sites not based in the EU, what do we need to look out for?

 

Booking through companies not based in UK
Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! has come across many people who have fallen foul of travel agents or companies making themselves looking like one which are not based in the UK. For example,  Susan booked accommodation with Booking.com at the cost of £357.50. The company cancelled less than 24 hours before the trip because the hotel was ‘overbooked’. Susan only discovered that the alternative accommodation didn’t exist when she arrived in London. She had to pay a further £900 to stay in inconvenient accommodation, resulting in numerous taxi and bus fares.  The company told Susan to email them and attach invoices and receipts, but she did not get a response, refund or even an apology. She was also £982.50 out of pocket. She eventually got her money back including out of pocket costs and a goodwill gesture of £250 by quoting relevant laws.

Robert’s mother had been charged a £30 fee after the booking process on a website that searches for flights then charges an administration fee on top, which she was not told about. The company’s hidden terms and conditions said that a charge could be made but did not provide the amount! Writing to the CEO and quoting relevant EU laws meant he got his money back.

So what are your rights?

Man standing on rock looking out to water your rights when booking a holidays or flights

Your rights booking through a UK or EU-based website

  • ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licence) is a government-run financial protection scheme operated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). All monies you pay for package holidays involving flights and holidays including a flight plus accommodation and/or car hire, must be protected under an ATOL licence
  • ABTA(Association of British Travel Agents) follow a code of conduct, so if they break that you can report them to ABTA.
  • EU Directive 2005/29/EC (for the UK Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008) when a shopper makes a purchasing decision s/he would have made had s/he been given accurate information or not put under unfair pressure to do so.
  • Section 75A of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, you have a right to be refunded if you make a claim within 6 years (5 in Scotland) for purchases over £100 and less than £30,000. You are covered if you pay as little as 1p but the item costs more than £100. But remember you may be charged a percentage of the cost for a transaction fee, but you can try to pay a small amount on the card and the whole cost will be covered.
  • Purchases bought on debit cards may be covered by this voluntary scheme, the rules set by card issuers such as Mastercard and Visa, check if your bank is covered.

Your rights for holidays booked through UK tour operators

  • Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tour Regulations 1992 The organiser (tour operator) is liable for the failures of hoteliers, suppliers and services within the contract. If the holiday is cancelled, the consumer is entitled to a substitute package of equivalent or superior quality (if the other party to the contract is able to offer such a substitute) or to take a substitute package of lower quality and recover the difference in the price or to have a full refund.
  • From 01 July 2018 the new Package Travel Directive comes into force. This widens the meaning of the word “package” so that more companies will have to abide by the regulations. So anyone that puts together a package for a customer will be responsible for all the elements. Think Expedia etc.
  • The organiser must not provide mis-leading information and provide details about changes as soon as possible. The consumer is entitled to redress for a variety of things dependent on what regulation has been broken and when.

Your rights for holidays taken in the UK
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 entitles you to services that are carried out with reasonable skill and care and with information given verbally or in writing to the consumer, which is binding where the consumer relies on it.

Dewdney says you should be careful when you book but that you can nearly always get redress, so long as you know your legal rights. “Armed with your rights you can feel more confident that you won’t lose money either in the booking process or if anything goes wrong once on holiday.”

Should you have a problem with your holidays see: All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights

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

 

 

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

 

 

Does Sports Direct treat customers as badly as staff?

sdWhat do you think of Sport’s Direct reputation? Sports Direct shares continue to tumble largely due to The Guardian’s investigation into the treatment of staff by the retailer. It uncovered that the company effectively paid thousands of temporary workers below the national minimum wage of £6.70 an hour and subjects warehouse staff to a regime of searches and surveillance.

It doesn’t treat its customers any better. Its returns policy on their website is very poor and misleading. It says that you have to “pay for postage but this does not affect your statutory rights”, and of course we know most people don’t know what their statutory rights are and even fewer use them! If you click on the “Faulty goods” link they also suggest that you pay for postage and registered post at that. They say they will refund or exchange. However under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 if the item does not match the description, is not of satisfactory quality or does not last a reasonable length of time then it is in breach of these regulations. Therefore one does not have to pay return postage or this should be refunded. Sports Direct does not make the customer rights clear, it sounds like they might give you an exchange even if you want a refund. Many people would not know that they could insist on a refund.

When buying online you have 14 days from the date that you received the item in which you can change your mind. This is under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. If there is no CRA breach then you would have to pay return postage.

Returns policies should be transparent. I do not believe that Sports Direct policy is do you? It is misleading for anyone that that does not know their legal consumer rights. When customers find out that actually they shouldn’t have paid the postage or that they could have insisted on a refund then they feel cheated and are unlikely to shop in the store again. It reflects badly on the business. So this kind of policy is counterproductive. Perhaps the CEO believes that so few people know about their legal rights that the company can make more money. However, times are a changing and people are seeking out information to be better informed about the legal rights. Clear policies which fully explain the customers’ legal rights ensure that consumers can shop with confidence and are more likely to be return visitors. Any company which treats staff that badly is going to have management problems elsewhere. And now it’s beginning to show. Good.

When I asked about Sports Direct and what people thought about their returns policy on Facebook some people (who clearly didn’t know their legal rights) actually thought that they only did exchanges. An example of a breach of the law came from Naomi who said that she had bought a rucksack. Within 1 week and no major weight in it, the strap ripped away from the bag. She was offered an exchange for a like for like bag or a credit note on a gift card to the value of the bag. She was of course entitled to a refund, even under the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 as the purchase was made before 1st October.

People who have taken things back to stores as faulty still have problems getting any redress at all. Frequently told that the store will send the item back for testing giving ridiculous reasons for not providing a refund or replacement, such as you shouldn’t put trainers in a washing machine. Unless the care instructions specifically say that you cannot put the footwear in a washing machine then there is enough evidence out there to say that you can! Independent reports you can take to court! Do not be fobbed off by companies that behave in this way! See the book for help with not being fobbed off, advice, tips and guidance on how to complain effectively.

If you have had trouble with Sports Direct specifically why not email the CEO? (The UK’s 22nd richest man you know), I think we can all guess now as to how he made his money and it appears it wasn’t by treating his staff and customers with respect!

Sports Direct CEO email address.

Sports Direct Customer Service email cs@sportsdirect.com

Your return rights

  • If you change your mind then a retailer does not have to refund or replace the item, although many bigger stores do
  • Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to a refund (up to 30 days from purchase) for any item that is not as described, not of satisfactory quality , not fit for purpose or hasn’t lasted a reasonable length of time.
  • After this 30 days you will be entitled to a refund, replacement or repair but the retailer can insist on not giving a refund.
  • If the item you have bought online is in breach of the CRA though you are still covered by the 30 day rule and indeed up to 6 years for online and in store purchases.
  • If breach of CRA you do not pay postage
  • If no breach of CRA it will be down to the retailer’s terms and conditions
  • Sale items are bound by the same laws as mentioned above. The only thing that would be different is if a fault was pointed out at point of purchase and therefore reason for reduction.
  • For the first 6 months the onus is on the retailer to prove that the fault was not there at point of purchase and after 6 months the onus is on the customer.

See Your rights, mail order, online and deliveries for more information and Tips for How to Complain to get that complaint right!

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

 

Also, for more guidance, information, advice, consumer rights and template letters GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

 

 

How to provide great customer service (when things go wrong)

Macdonal Bath HotelTime I feel for a story of how customer service should be done? Occasionally I write up a story of good customer service. Not often but I do like to give credit where credit is due, such as the Dunelm story.  I always say that every company makes mistakes sometimes but it is how they deal with them that matters. That’s when the company is really given a chance to show how good their customer service is. My friend (remember The Clamer Cat?) and I attended a spa day last October at a Macdonald Hotel in Bath. I had booked the day with the leisure manager. I added another massage for my friend and I with no problems. On the day of the spa we were told that we could not have the treatment because it would be too much massage.

Peeved we were, peeved. But the manager was incredible. So professional (particularly given that it was her line manager who had booked the treatment and so one has to assume was 100% at fault for not taking advice from the spa team) and helpful. Before we went into one treatment we said that we would write to the manager of the hotel to complain about the issue but that we would also mention that the spa team were extremely good and helpful.

When we came out of the treatment we were offered a full spa day including treatments as we had booked plus a tea. (Can’t beat tea and cake!) Most importantly, the team could not have been more apologetic. Genuine apologies go a long way.

I was impressed. This was after all far above and beyond the legal duty of the hotel for not providing services with skill and care. So I wrote to the general manager of the hotel. never let it be said that I only complain and don’t give credit where credit is due! I wrote the following:

“I am writing to you because whilst it was quite clear that this was basic knowledge that the manager should have known, the therapists that spoke to us were extremely professional. They could not have done more to help and try and rearrange things. When the spa manager Wendy was informed she could not have been better. She was very apologetic whilst remaining very professional. My friend and I were really very impressed by her and her team, she clearly runs a very tight excellent ship.

I write the blog www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk and am author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! and you will see that I rarely compliment service and specialise in complaining effectively. So this praise comes very high indeed. I always say that companies make mistakes (although it has to be said that I’m not sure that the leisure manager knowing so little about the basics of the spa and not requesting staff to check the booking a rather sad state of affairs) it is how they deal with them that counts and Wendy and her team were superb. Most importantly we hadn’t started to really complain, (as I always do this in writing) just said how appalling it was that the leisure manager should make such a mistake and their attitude/manner did not change when it was made clear that I would be complaining.

When we came out of the last treatment Wendy gave us the free spa day and tea. Pre-empting the complaint that she knew we were  going to make meant that I am not writing to you about breach of contract (not providing services with reasonable skill and care) but to compliment your team at the spa.

Your hotel is not active on Twitter but I tweeted the chain about Wendy and I’m surprised they didn’t rt it! I will be writing a blog post soon about the service to show what should be done when a mistake is made. I rarely do posts like that so it will be a nice change! I will let you know when the post is published.

I trust that you will pass on our comments to the team.”

So there you go, a time when even I did not need to complain! 🙂

6 Top Tips for problems with builders/ painters & decorators

paintProblem with a builder or painter decorator? Need to know what to do to resolve things? Follow these specific tips first when employing a builder or painter and decorators. But if it’s too late here’s what you can do:

1) Try to resolve the matter in person or over the ‘phone before formally writing if you have a complaint.

2) Give the trader an opportunity to remedy the work. If they refuse to do this or they fail to do it satisfactorily then you can take the matter further.

3) Ensure that you state that you retain your legal rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 so that you are still able to claim if necessary afterwards when you write to complain.

4) Should the trader not respond or not remedy the work, proceed with getting an independent report and 3 quotes.   Get the work done and write to the trader requesting this amount attaching the paperwork. You could attach a quote before the work is done to give the trader one last chance if you wish.

5) If the trader is a member of a trade association you can contact it and see if you are able to use a resolution scheme.

6) If all else fails and you have the evidence you can go the Small Claims Court. I took a builder to court (details in the book) and won.

New houses
The Consumer Code for Homebuilders is an industry-led code of conduct for builders, which was developed to make the home buying process fairer and more transparent for purchasers and is adopted by the main warranty providers. The Code consists of requirements and principles that home builders must meet in their marketing and selling of homes and their after-sales customer service. As part of this code warranty providers must provide a complaint procedure. There is a dispute resolution scheme to deal with complaints within two years of buying a home, if builders don’t comply with the code. The scheme can award up to £15,000.

You can find numerous template letters for complaining to traders in the book.