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

In November 2017, Citizens Advice research revealed 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 debit card 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!

 

 

 

How not to pay a charge made after transaction (and why!)

Outside of UK but inside EU
When I was on Rip Off Britain Live last year I took on a few cases. One of them was for someone whose mother had been charged a £30 booking fee after the booking process on a website that searches for flights then charges that admin fee on top (and for which she was not told about). She had booked a flight from Edinburgh to Southampton directly with the airline. The company’s hidden terms and conditions said that a charge could be made but did not provide the amount! Doubly unfair and doubly in breach of the law! Should you find yourself in this position of being charged after the booking process has completed and the company is based outside of the UK but within the EU, use this template to get your money back!

You will need to fill in all the xxxs with your information. Delete all instructions in brackets.

Dear xxx

On the date I booked a flight from xxx to xxx for (fill in date(s)) booking reference xxxxxx

The fare showed was £xxx. However, once I booked at this amount I was horrified to find that I had been charged a further £xx booking fee. This was not shown at the time of the booking. I am fully aware that in the terms and conditions it is stated that a booking service fee “may” be charged. However, and I quote the terms and conditions, which state “xxxxxxx.” (fill in anything that you have found relating to the charge that was not made known to you at time of booking i.e. hidden away in terms & conditions)

I was notified of the charge after the booking process. Making the charge after a consumer clicks the booking/payment is not part of the booking process. Company name is therefore in breach of its own terms and conditions. In order for it to be part of the process the charge should be shown.

(If the company states in its terms and conditions that it can make a charge after booking include the following paragraph). “The company name may charge a booking service fee which will be notified to you separately during the booking process.” is not an acceptable term. This could be any amount! It is obviously unfair to the consumer if the company can charge any amount it likes to a consumer without informing them of what it is before they have paid!

Company name is in breach of the EU Consumer Rights Directive 2013 (2011/83/EC). The directive prevents significant imbalances in the rights and obligations of consumers on the one hand and sellers and suppliers on the other hand. Terms that are found unfair under the Directive are not binding for consumers. It is quite clearly an unfair term to state that an unknown fee amount will be applied to the total. It is also clearly unfair to not state what this amount is at point of purchase. Under this Directive the trader must ensure that the customer understands what goods and services are being provided and that there are no hidden costs. Clearly this £xx charge was hidden. Ticking a box agreeing to terms and conditions that are not clear and in any case even if they were, were not detailed at point of purchase, is not acceptable under this Directive.

I therefore expect a full refund and redress for this unacceptable charge and stress that it has caused. I would also be interested in your comments regarding your ongoing breach of European law. Should I not be fully satisfied with your response I will not hesitate in taking the matter further. This will include but not be limited to contacting the UK European Consumer Centre which will pick up this complaint on my behalf with the relevant bodies in country where company is based including reporting your breach of the law and going to court if necessary.

I look forward to hearing from you

Yours faithfully/sincerely

For more details on complaining about holidays and flights outside of the UK but inside the EU see All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights.

Inside the UK
The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 state that traders must not mislead you by giving false information or leaving out information as to the price of a product or the way the price is calculated. Also, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2014 states that a practice is unfair and therefore in breach of the law if it harms or is likely to harm the economic interests of the average consumer, so if you as a consumer made a decision that you would not have done if you had been given the full information or not been put under pressure.

For loads more on complaining about holidays and flights see All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights

 

 

 

For more advice, information and template letters to complain about all things consumer see the book How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

 

How to complain about a non/late delivery

Goods must be delivered within the time frame agreed with the seller. If one hasn’t been agreed (you have agreed a time frame if the listing supplies a time frame) the trader must deliver ‘without undue delay’ and at the very latest not more than 30 days from the day after the contract is made. After this time you are entitled to a full refund.

If an item has been left and then stolen it is your responsibility if you provided details for a “safe place”. You are agreeing to it being safe! If there is a chance that it could be stolen don’t use it as a safe place! Common sense really! It has become your property as the retailer has left the item where you specified. You could possibly try and claim from your insurer.

However, if some fool has put it in a wheelie bin and it’s a bin day then the service has not been carried out with reasonable skill and care and you are entitled to a full refund.

A common mistake people make is to contact the courier and some retailers will try and fob you off and make you do this. However, your contract is with the trader, their contract is with the courier. Here is a template letter for when things go wrong with a delivery (put in your own information instead of the writing in bold).

Use “faithfully” when it is “Dear Sir/Madam” and “sincerely” where you know the name of the person to whom you are writing) and replace the bold with your information!

Dear xxx

Re: Item

On the date I ordered and paid in advance for item(s). It is now the date and I have not received it/them.

The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation  and  Additional  Charges) Regulations 2013 states that goods must be delivered within the time frame agreed with the seller. The listing for this item stated that I would receive the item(s) by date. You are therefore in breach of contract and I am requesting a full refund.

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 my contract is with you and not the courier.

I look forward to hearing from you within seven days. Should I not be fully satisfied with  your  response  I  will  not  hesitate  in  taking  the  matter  further  which  will include, but not be limited to, informing Trading Standards and if necessary starting proceedings through the Small Claims Court.

Yours sincerely/faithfully

More information about your rights regarding buying online and deliveries can be found in Your rights mail order, online and deliveries.

If you don’t get a satisfactory response from the company contact the CEO. You can find the contact details for any CEO on ceoemail.com

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

 

 

For more templates, advice,information and guidance about your rights and the laws there to protect you from faulty goods and poor service see How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

Christmas shopping all wrapped up with Ten Top Tips

 

 

Christmas shopping can be a stressful time – who to buy for and what to buy them? Where are the bargains? What to do if the recipient doesn’t like what you have bought? What happens if you change your mind? What can you do if there’s a delay in an order?

Here are my Top 10 tips for ensuring you know and use your rights when shopping for Christmas presents and in the sales!

 

Change of mind
 1) When purchasing something as a gift, get a gift receipt. Stores do not have to take anything back and give a refund or exchange just because you changed your mind (or in this case the recipient doesn’t like it) but many do and are more likely to do so with a receipt (or any proof of purchase). Many shops will also need this for an exchange too.

2) Under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, consumers have 14 days cooling off period for changing their minds when buying something not on the retailer’s premises. There are some exceptions to this, such as bespoke items. Whether or not return postage has to be paid depends on the trader’s terms and conditions.

Delivery
3) Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 goods must be delivered within the time frame agreed with the seller. If one hasn’t been agreed (you have agreed a time frame if the listing supplies a time frame) the trader must deliver ‘without undue delay’ and at the very latest no more than 30 days from the day after the contract is made. After this time you are entitled to a full refund.

4) You are entitled to any out-of-pocket expenses if the company don’t turn up when they say they will, such as recompense for time taken off work. See here.

5) Your contract is always with the retailer to whom you gave the money. It is NOT the courier, unless you have paid your money directly to the courier. Always insist on redress from the retailer company, so that IT can get the money back from the courier!

Faulty goods
6) Your purchases are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and you have 30 days from the date of purchase to demand a refund if the item is not of satisfactory quality, fit for purpose, doesn’t last a reasonable length of time or match the description. After this time the trader can offer a repair or replacement. So you can check the item or give a gift receipt with the present.

7) These rights also apply to digital goods although the 30 day rule does not apply to non tangible digital goods such as downloads.

8) Your rights remain the same in the sales unless a known fault was pointed out at the time of purchase.

Christmas meals out
9) When you have a works or office Christmas meal you also have rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Your meal should be of satisfactory quality and of a similar price to a comparable establishment. If you are not happy with it don’t eat it and take photographic evidence should you need to complain later. You can refuse replacement courses and claim a refund. More here.

10) When you have made a booking for a hotel/restaurant for a Christmas “do” you are entitled to that booking! If it isn’t honoured speak to the manager about immediate compensation, such as free drinks, whilst you wait for your table. If this can’t be done and you have to make alternative arrangements, the establishment is liable for any out of pocket expenses you may incur.

If you need to complain follow these Top Tips.

And see How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results, for load of advice, information, tips, templates and your consumer rights!

How to end 3 problems with your mobile ‘phone (& get your money back)

 

I get so many requests for advice about mobile ‘phone contracts and communication companies generally. I do seriously believe that the communication companies are the worst for communication. So because of this, I thought it would be helpful to write a post about your rights when it comes to mobile ‘phones. You’re welcome.

 

 

Problem number 1 – ‘phone develops a fault
Your consumer rights are the same for when your mobile ‘phone develops a fault as any other product, but in my experience people are frequently getting fobbed off with lines such as “Send it back for repair” and “Contact manufacturer”.

If your ‘phone forms part of your mobile ‘phone contract, your claim would be against your mobile ‘phone service provider and you may be entitled to a free repair or replacement as part of your contract. Check the terms and conditions in your contract for what you are entitled. However, regardless of the contract you retain your rights under the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 (for items/services purchased before 1st October 2015) or Consumer Rights Act 2015 (for items/services purchased on or after 1st October 2015) to goods that are satisfactory, fit for purpose and as described. Most companies in my experience will fight this and certainly after a year will say “tough” one way or another. Personally I believe that a ‘phone should last more than a year and I would be prepared to test this in court and set a precedent but unfortunately my phone of over two years hasn’t broken! But I’m ready and waiting to help if anyone wants to try it!

If you bought your ‘phone without any contract then your complaint is always against the retailer and not the manufacturer. You may have a guarantee with the ‘phone and after 6 months you might want to claim on this with the manufacturer, but go to the retailer first who might also contact the manufacturer directly for you.

Problem number 2 – network coverage
There are currently no rules regarding poor network coverage. Even if you move house, you are unlikely to be successful in cancelling a contract for poor network coverage if in the provider’s terms and conditions it allows for breaks in coverage. However under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 a service provider must provide the contracted service with reasonable care and skill. I would argue that the service was not being carried out with reasonable skill and care if they can’t give you any service! It was reported in the media that in 2009 Tom Prescott took Orange to the Small Claims Court and gained £500 plus free cancellation of his contract when he couldn’t get coverage on his 18 month contract. So threaten it and quote this case.

Problem number 3 – mis-sold contracts
It is extremely difficult to successfully complain about mis-sold contracts. That doesn’t mean you should not do it however! It is just that in my experience dealing with mis-selling of a contract was one of the most annoying and tedious complaints to deal with. The fob offs come thick and fast and I’m sure put many people off. I undertook a case for someone regarding this and it was a lot of work and a lot of emails to CEOs and in the end I won and got Ben out of the contract but I’m sure most people would have given up which is of course what the companies want.

Keep records of everything. If the company rings you around the time of the end of your contract make sure anything that they offer for a new one they also put in writing. Although you can request transcript of conversations, (under the Data Protection Act 1998) they are likely to charge for this and again it is time consuming.  If you agree a contract over the ‘phone remember that you have the 14 day cooling off period (Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013) in which you can cancel.

You also have other Acts of law at your disposal. The Misrepresentation Act 1967 and also the more recent Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. For a practice to be unfair under these rules, they must harm, or be likely to harm, the economic interests of the average consumer. Also The Consumer Rights Act 2015.

More on Mobile phone companies called out for overcharging loyal customers and how to challenge and gain redress.

Complaining and taking matters further
1) Use these tips and especially using www.ceoemail.com to get to the top, you’ll probably need it
2) Use the links to the Acts above and quote your rights from them
3) Threaten legal action if necessary and be prepared to see it through
4) The ombudsmen only cover mobile ‘phone services and not issues with the actual ‘phones. CISAS and Ombudsman Services Communications depending on which service your company is registered with.

Wherever possible complain see Why you should write not ‘phone to complain effectively.

See a great post on SkintDad’s website – 4 Ways to Stop Overpaying For Your Mobile Phone for ensuring that you are not paying too much for your mobile ‘phone.

Also see All you need to know when your phone/energy bill is wrong.

More information to come on broadband etc. in the following weeks. More tips, advice, details of law and template letters can also be found in the book How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress, and Results!

 

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! Signed copies – please let me know what personalised message you would like written in the book or it will just have the signature.