Is that gift voucher useless? 7 things you need to know

Vouchers

I was on Radio Gloucestershire the other week regarding a local restaurant suddenly closing and your rights if you have vouchers. I often get asked this so thought a post would be useful.

 

 

Your rights and what you should do

  1. If the voucher is for any amount over £100 and was paid for by credit card then you have protection from the credit company under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
  2. It is possible that if you paid through your bank you could get your money back through Cashback. This is a voluntary scheme and you will need to check with your bank.
  3. If the company is taken over by another one it does not have to honour the voucher but always worth checking. They may well be of the opinion that if they honour the voucher that you will return and if they don’t you will not go there ever and tell your friends so!
  4. If you have bought your vouchers through a third party website it is worth contacting them. They do not legally have to refund you the money but they may as a goodwill gesture.
  5. Contact the administration company as soon as possible. You will be added to the creditors list, along with staff wages, the taxman etc., so it is highly unlikely that you will get your money but you have no chance at all if you don’t register your interest!
  6. Keep hold of your vouchers. Even if the company goes into an administration a buyer may be found which may honour the vouchers.
  7. See Retailer in administration for more information.

For all gift vouchers

  1. If you have a voucher and the company hasn’t gone bust, check the date anyway! Many vouchers in the terms and conditions state that the voucher lasts only a year or two years from purchase. Don’t get caught out as this is not illegal to put a date on it.
  2. The same applies for credit notes too.

Dodgy tumble dryers – your legal rights & what to do

Many people have what some of us might consider as dodgy tumble dryers and have asked what they should do if they think they are affected and how long is reasonable to wait. Please read this post before asking what you should do, the answers are here!

 

In April 2018 I published a report. This report outlines the whole story. It includes contradictions, results of Freedom of Information Requests to Government departments and Peterborough Trading Standards, London Fire Brigade statistics and recommendations, research and investigations. All in one place.

The tumble dryer story without the spin.

Download Whirlpool – the tumble dryer story without the spin

 

This post below was written in February 2016 and updated in March 2017. Please see the link above for much more and updated information on the story.

So what is going on?

Current situation
1) 113 different Hotpoint, Indesit or Creda tumble dryers have been recalled. However, it is not a full recall in that all machines are being replaced. The machines affected were manufactured between April 2004 and September 2015. Dryers affected could pose a fire risk if fluff should come into contact with the heating element. 750 fires involving Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda tumble dryers have been reported since 2004, including three injuries. Update 12th March 2017 On the 23rd February Whirlpool has now amended advice and says to unplug and not use machine. It has still stopped short of a full recall. New advice.

2) Despite the potential risk, Whirpool has said the dryers are safe to use following precautions, such as not leaving the tumble dryer on when asleep, not leaving the house when it is on, cleaning the lint filter after every use, and  ensure proper venting

3) Whirpool will send an engineer to check your tumble dryer and have said it will be a 6 – 8 week wait, alternatively they are telling some people that they have to wait until June because they are still recruiting engineers! Update in March now saying 3 weeks to get a call back and wait could be up to 10 months! Given how long everyone involved in this fiasco has known about the issues this is not good enough and in my humble opinion not a good enough reason for delay should you take the matter to court.

4) Trading Standards calls for a full product recall before someone dies.

5) As of end February 2017 Whirlpool has finally changed its advice and said unplug and do not use.

What you should do if you think you are affected
1) If your tumble dryer is not affected there will be a green dot sticker insider the dryer either on the door, rim or back panel. Look for a green dot sticker inside the dryer either on the door itself or on the rim.

2) You may want to not use your tumble dryer despite Whirpool’s advice. After all, do you think it’s ok if it catches fire just because you are in the house?! I don’t!

3) Check to see if your appliances are affected. Hotpoint and Creda tumble dryers can be checked on the safety.hotpoint.eu website and Indesit ones here safety.indesit.eu Which? also uncovered the models affected and you can find the list here.

4) Contact the company and arrange for your service. Log all your calls, length or time on the phone and costs involved as you are due redress for this.

5) People are really struggling when ‘phoning to get the service sorted. I would advise putting your request in writing see here for why.

6) Check with your insurance company as to whether you are covered if your tumble dryer were to catch fire even if you were following the guidelines about sill being able to use it. If not, then use this information in your complaint/claim. Although, please also see point 6 below!

Your rights and what you can do if not happy with your situation
1) The affected tumble dryers were manufactured before October 1st 2015 and therefore, if bought prior to October 1st 2015 are covered by the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994. You are entitled to purchases that are fit for purpose and are of satisfactory quality. Whilst I agree that for you to be covered by this law, you should follow maintenance guidelines in the handbook, you should be able to put the machine on like you would a washing machine and dishwasher when you are asleep or out of the house! The affected tumble dryers are therefore not fit for purpose and not of satisfactory quality. Any products bought after 1st October 2015 are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015.

2) Under the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 or Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to a refund, repair or replacement. the company can legitimately charge you something towards a new machine as it can deduct an amount for use (after 6 months in the case of the CRA). You can argue how much this should be because if they are charging £99 for a replacement to a family of 4 who have used it for 3 years they should not be able to charge the same for a single person who has had the machine for a year! Some months have now gone by and you will only be entitled to a repair or replacement. The company says it will “modify” the appliance, so one assumes that this is the repair. Some people are getting a free replacement when they assert their legal rights and what they expect!

3) If you stop using the machine because you deem it unsafe (and if the engineer carries out modifications then there is your proof that it was!) you are entitled to your out of pocket expenses. So if you go to the launderette for example, you are entitled to these costs plus cost of going there e.g. public transport/petrol. Update 12th March 2017 Whirlpool have now said unplug and do not use the machine.

4) Do not waste much time ranting on social media. The social media teams will be dealing social media simples! So many people are affected that you will be one of many and your case will not rise above another unless you get lucky. A few people have been lucky this way, most haven’t.

5) If you think the time to wait is too long, or you have been kept waiting longer than they advised or you want to claim, then go straight to the top. Go to ceoemail.com and contact the CEO outlining the issues and use the Tips for effective complaining here and the bestselling book which has more advice and templates here. State that you want a replacement or engineer appointment brought forward.

6) The Consumer Protection Act 1987 states that if you are harmed by an unsafe product you can sue the manufacturer. You can begin your court case up to three years from the date of the injury. In some cases, you can even sue up to ten years after the product was sold. If for instance you sustain a personal injury or damage to your property. The value of the damage must be more than £275.

7) Your contract normally is with the company to whom you paid the money; however, as the manufacturer has admitted fault your correspondence should be with them as in this case the manufacturer is responsible not the trader. But you could also contact the retailer and request a replacement or repair, you may find that a good retailer will also act on your behalf and get your engineer out to you quicker, or offer a refund. If you find the retailer unhelpful you can also go to the Furniture Ombudsman if the retailer is a member.

8) The “General Product Safety Regulations 2005” dictates that manufacturers must make arrangements for the collection and/or return of the product for destruction from consumers who have purchased the product.

9) If you bought the dryer on your credit card you can also use the Consumer Credit Act 1974 Section 75 as it is equally liable and it should give you a refund.

10) If you are given a replacement machine or parts that develop a fault your rights remain and see 2 and 3 above. Remember consumer rights always override a warranty.

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

11) See Tips for how to write that complaint and many others: How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! for more help advice, templates for complaining effectively. 

 

 

 

 

Things still wrong after replacement or modification
Some people are getting in contact to say that they have had the repair or paid the £99 and had a new machine but still have problems. This is what you should do:

1)  Contact them in writing. Most important that you have it in writing as evidence. Give details of date of repair (and all the issues getting to that point if it wasn’t straightforward) and that it is not working properly. Give details of the issue. State that as you have given them a chance under the appropriate law (see above) you are entitled to a replacement. They may still argue for for repairing again. Your choice may well then be between taking one more try or to carry on fighting through the Small Claims Court. See Tips for how you should write your email and what to include.

2) If you have paid the £99 for the replacement you have in effect entered into a new contract under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. As such, if you have had it less than 30 days you are entitled to a refund, repair or replacement. After this time it is a repair or a replacement. Again, follow the tips for how to write the email and what to include.

3) If you have tried 1 and 2 above or are in the process please email me!

BBC article 11/03/16 Danger dryers in 11-month repair wait

share the message and help others assert their legal rights over this issue too.

GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

Links if you came here from hearing me on The Jeremy Vine show!

Hi! If you have found me from my appearance on the Jeremy Vine with Vanessa, I’ll list some links that you may find helpful.

Remember you do not need to be fobbed off, it is just a matter of knowing your legal rights and knowing how to write a good letter/email! Top 20 Tips on complaining 

That address for finding CEOS contact details? Here ceoemail.com more about when to go to the CEO here.

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

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.

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

I’m on Facebook here, for daily tips and the odd rant do join in! Twitter here and Pinterest here. YouTube channel here.

Most recent press release on complaining figures here and one on Asda’s figures and what supermarkets need to do here.

Keep up to date with consumer issues, free updates to the book etc. and sign up to the newsletter which I bother to send out only a few times a year!

 

Latest Asda figures show weaknesses in sales and customer services

Poor results demonstrate yet again that supermarkets must provide better service or risk losing more business

 Asda’s latest quarterly figures are out, showing a 5.8% fall in sales at established stores in the 13 weeks to the 1st January. Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco supermarkets, by comparison, all showed better than expected financial figures for Christmas trading, and discounters Lidl and Aldi taking on a substantial share of the sales (nearly one million more customers than last year). What is next for the supermarkets?

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow – consumer blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! – says that as customers shopping habits are changing. As we become more savvy about discounts, service, consumer rights and comparison websites, supermarkets will have to up their game. “Customers don’t have trust in supermarkets and this needs to be worked on”, she advises.

Pricing – Consumers want consistent pricing. It even led to the Which? super complaint. The consumer’s voice is getting stronger and supermarkets will have to start listening. If one supermarket shows a lead, then they will win over many a customer so widespread is the complaint.

2)   Something more? – Supermarkets need to offer something over and above price. Price wars will have to end eventually. Rewards etc., will become more important as will service. Tesco leads the way in the clubcard points offering the most per pound and variety of how to spend them. In comparison Sainsbury’s reduced their points value in April last year with fewer choices to spend them on.

3)  Price matching – most customers don’t know how it all works, who matches what and what the rules are. Did you know that you had to have 10 branded items in the Tesco brand match scheme before it comes it comes into play?  Fair play to Tesco for taking it off at the till but its rules are not completely transparent. Consumers want to know that they are getting value for money and price matching is only one way of showing this.

4)    Listening – Supermarket CEOs will have to listen to customers more. For example, Mike Coupe at Sainsbury’s shows signs of following Clarke’s leadership and downfall at Tesco. Last year when Sainsbury’s announced the decrease in nectar points per pound it said it would be making better and bigger offers, with more included in their double-up voucher scheme at Christmas. In reality the double up points scheme was limited to £20 per department with confusion around Christmas gifts and food. £20 limit on toys for a family of 4 isn’t very helpful either! It happened again in 2015. In contrast in 2014 Tesco simplified the doubling-up process so customers could spend across departments with no limit.

5)    Discounters – Consumers are flocking to the discounters, which do not offer the same range as other supermarkets, so people will not completely stop using larger ones and discounters may need to look at more expansion of stock.

6)    Savings – People are looking to save time as well as money and supermarkets will need to look at ways to make it easier and quicker for shoppers to use their stores. Tesco recently changed their minimum spend for click and collect from £20 – £40 but Sainsbury’s has, so far, kept at £20 and Asda’s is free. It remains to be seen if the discounters will provide click and collect and deliveries which would bring more competition to the table and whether Asda will bring its collections in line with others.

7)  Waste – Consumers are becoming more aware of waste and how supermarkets treat suppliers. The BBC documentary War on Waste showed a farmer destroying crops it said Morrisons would not accept plus cancelled orders etc. Dewdney’s research of the issue[1] found that actually some supermarkets are doing really well in reducing waste. She also uncovered the other side of the story from Morrisons regarding a number of issues which was not shown. Supermarkets need to do more in informing consumers of what they are doing or customers will come to their own conclusions.

8)    Advertising – Supermarkets should review their advertising campaigns. Sainsbury’s did well this year but Tesco’s campaign has brought much criticism, from sexism, to unrealistic and disbelief in characters. [2] Advertising on this scale doesn’t bring in the extra revenue to pay for it, so supermarkets need to win customers round in more engaging and innovative ways.

9)    Customer Service – Supermarkets will have to improve customer service. Marcus Williamson – editor of the website ceoemail.com – says that searches for the email addresses of supermarket CEOs are very high. Figures for the last quarter were:

Store         Percentage              Market share            Expected ranking              

Asda                    50.48%                           16.7%                  Tesco

Sainsbury           21.75%                            16.2%                  Asda

Tesco                  16.75%                             28.2%                 Sainsbury’s

Morrisons           5.75%                              10.7%                 Morrisons

ALDI                    2.74%                              5.6%                  Aldi

LIDL                     2.53%                             4.3%                  Lidl

Williamson cautions that Asda clearly needs to work on customer service and complaints policies and procedures.

Contact for media enquiries
Email:             helen@thecomplainingcow.co.uk
Website:         //www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk
Book:              How to Complain: the Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! (ISBN: 978-0993070402)

CEO email website:  CEOemail.com

References
[1] Research available on request
[2] Tesco takes flak in the battle of the Christmas adverts http://ow.ly/YuqRk

 

 

 

Britain – a nation of complainers

Britain – a nation of complainers

But are they effective in their complaints?

This week’s figures, compiled by Ombudsman Services [1], show that Britons made 66 million complaints last year, which works out at more than one grumble for every adult in the UK. This figure has risen from the previous year. [2]

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, consumer blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! warns of treating the figures with caution.

The figures are taken from a survey of only 2,355 of people and scaled up. It doesn’t show how effective these complaints are. Dewdney comments “It is quite possible that more Britons are moaning more about more things but there is little information on whether these are complaints that are effective and gaining redress or whether it is just people having a rant and a moan.”

So are Britons complaining more? Dewdney doesn’t think so, as she sees the same issues cropping up as they did five years ago. “People are still unsure of their legal rights and so easily get fobbed off”, she explains. “Many companies will try and wriggle out of providing a full refund when it is due, for example. Also people give up when given the run around by companies, or don’t know how to complain effectively and so fail in getting refunds and redress.”

How about social media? This offers a new way for consumers to seek justice, with the proportion of complaints raised on sites like Facebook and Twitter increasing to 36 per cent, up five per cent from a year ago – more than 18 million complaints in total. This may account for the rise in complaints but are they actually complaints gaining redress or are they just rants?

When customer services doesn’t work, people have a number of choices as to where to go next, whether it’s to the CEO, to an ombudsman or even to the small claims court.

Marcus Williamson, editor of the consumer website ceoemail.com which provides contact details for many CEOs, recommends escalating issues to the CEO as a next step, when necessary. He says “Sometimes it takes an email to the top man or woman to get issues moving. It is the best way to get attention for your issue, if you’re being ignored by the usual channels.”

So, how well do you know your legal rights and how to complain effectively?

1) Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to goods that are of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, match the description and last a reasonable length of time. If items you purchase are in breach of this Act you are entitled to a full refund (up to 30 days from purchase) repair or replacement.

2) Under the same Act you are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care.

3) When complaining, put it in writing so that you have the evidence should you need to take the matter further. If you do ‘phone make sure you take the name of the person, any reference number and follow up any agreements made verbally with an email.

4) Be objective, polite and succinct. Bullet point issues if it is a long complaint.

5) State what you want to happen as an outcome to your complaint, such as explanation, apology, refund etc.

6) Give a deadline by which you expect to receive a response and what you will do if you don’t receive a satisfactory one, such as contacting a relevant ombudsman, Small Claims Court etc.

7) If it is a serious complaint, or you are not satisfied with customer services, go to the CEO. The CEO is unlikely to respond personally (although some will) but the complaint will go to a more senior team than customer services.

 

 

References

[1] Link to Ombudsman Services survey: https://www.ombudsman-services.org/2015-complaints-top-50-million.html

[2] Last year’s figure was 38 million complaints.