Tesco insect in raspberries!

Time for a Tesco complaint story. Well would be a shame not to wouldn’t it? For those new here see History with Tesco!

So, there I was down at my Mum’s and she bought some raspberries and cream. She did this little shriek when she nearly put some sort of flying insect thing in her mouth ‘cos it was stuck on a raspberry. Now, given that I once found an insect in Tesco rice a few years back and how Tesco dealt with it – I refused to take back to the store as not knowing if it would get “lost” in the post. Anyway, I sent it for them to investigate and they found out what insect it was and gave me £30 for my trouble. This was in Clarke’s day and I wondered if things had changed.

Now, having met Dave Lewis the group CEO a few times including interviewing him last year I thought I’d email him. Normally I wouldn’t expect a CEO to respond directly but I thought well he knows me and I’ll use my normal humour and see if it makes him smile.

See if it does you?


Before your time at Tesco I bought some rice from Tesco with an insect alive in it. I named him Phillip. Insect in rice.

But now there’s big trouble because I’m down at my Mum’s and she bought some raspberries from Tesco. (Taunton). Raspberries and cream we had and she just stopped short of putting some in her mouth as some thing very big with lots of wiggily wriggly legs crawled out of a raspberry. It may have had wings but there was a bit of a cream crust so can’t be sure. Was hoping to film him crawling but my mother suffocated him with some Tesco finest clotted cream. Not a bad way for Mike to go I suppose but even so Tesco has upset my Mum now and so, well, that has to be at least an email to the CEO obviously! She was very cross which means I am. But I won’t bother with the stuff that I usually put in these things regarding legal stuff and redress because I trust you to do right by my mum!

I have Mike ready to post to Tesco for testing to see what it was and where it came from. If he has wings we may need to change the name to Saint Michael.

Happy Easter

Kind regards

Well we thought it was funny. I’d normally do the kind of email that always gets results regarding Consumer Rights Act 2015 etc etc. But got the usual email from the executive office. They took a long time getting back to me with no reference to the story. Miserable whatsits. They told the supplier but didn’t want the raspberries to check what it was. They gave my mum £20.

Well my Mum was pleased….

Tesco Group CEO email or Tesco UK CEO contact details  should you need them.

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!



Ofgem Standards of Conduct and Quality Standards

Ofgem Standards of Conduct
In August 2013 Ofgem put new Standards of Conduct into place. They require suppliers and any organisations that represent them, such as brokers or third party intermediaries, to ensure that each domestic customer is treated fairly. They cover three broad areas:

suppliers must behave and carry out any actions in a fair, honest, transparent, appropriate and professional manner.

suppliers must provide information (whether in writing or orally) which is:

  • complete, accurate and not misleading (in terms of the information provided or omitted);
  • communicated in plain and intelligible language;
  • related to products or services that are appropriate to the customer to whom it is directed; and
  • fair both in terms of its content and in terms of how it is presented (with more important information being given appropriate prominence).

the supplier must:

  • make it easy for the consumer to contact them;
  • act promptly and courteously to put things right when they make a mistake;
  • otherwise ensure that customer service arrangements and processes are complete, thorough, fit for purpose and transparent.

Four “core” tariffs per fuel (electricity and gas) will be the limit that any supplier can offer. This will apply to each payment type. Suppliers will be allowed to offer these tariffs to collective switching schemes. They will also be able to offer extra fixed term tariffs into schemes that meet their criteria.

Standing charge and a single unit rate for all tariffs and suppliers can set the standing charge at zero if they wish

Dual fuel and online account management discounts remain. They will not be considered as “core tariffs” but as a discount. They will be simplified and will apply uniformly across all tariffs as £/pence per year. For example, a supplier would be able to offer a direct debit customer a choice of no more than four electricity and four gas tariffs. The customer could then choose a dual fuel discount and an online account management   discount.

Existing, expensive “dead tariffs” (i.e. tariffs that are no longer marketed) – customers must be transferred onto the cheapest variable rate. A supplier will only be able to keep consumers on dead tariffs if they are cheaper, or as cheap, as the supplier’s lowest standard or evergreen tariff.

Ban from increasing prices on fixed term deals or making other changes to fixed term tariffs (except trackers or structured price increases set out in advance which are fully in line with consumer protection law).

Ban from rolling forward household customers onto fixed term contracts without their consent.

42-49 day window before customers’ end date of their fixed term tariff for them to decide if they want to stay with the supplier or switch.

Requirement to give all customers personalised information on the cheapest tariff offered for them. This information will appear on each bill and on a range of other customer communications.

All information suppliers send to consumers is to be simplified, more engaging and personalised to them.

Tariff Comparison Rate (TCR) – all suppliers’ communications to provide “at a glance” information to help customers compare tariffs. The TCR will be similar to the APR comparison rate used with credit cards. Ofgem is also requiring suppliers to provide personalised estimates which take account of a customer’s usage to enable them to compare tariffs more accurately when switching.

Tariff information label will set out key terms and conditions as well as relevant information to help consumers compare across suppliers.

Quality of Service Guaranteed Standards
The Quality of Service Guaranteed Standards are guaranteed standards of service levels that must be met by each distribution company. The Direction was made by GEMA and took effect in October 2010. These standards have been set to guarantee a level of service that is reasonable to expect companies to deliver in all cases.

If the distribution company fails to meet the level of service required, it must make a payment to the customer subject to certain exemptions which are:

  • severe weather makes it impossible to restore the supply
  • strikes or industrial action
  • you’re out when the energy company visits and you knew they were coming
  • you cancel an appointment.

Payments under the guaranteed standards compensate for the inconvenience caused by loss of supply. They are not designed to compensate customers for subsequent financial loss.

Ofgem monitors and enforces the guaranteed standards relating to quality of supply.

The guaranteed standards cover 12 key service areas, including supply restoration, connections and voltage quality, and for the consumer cover situations when:

  • you report a faulty prepayment meter to your supplier and someone is not sent to repair or replace it within a specified time
  • the supplier doesn’t arrive within agreed time slot for a visit to your  home
  • the supplier doesn’t respond to your written enquiries within a certain time limit gas supply is interrupted because of a fault – you may be entitled to a compensation payment, depending on for how long it is off. It must be restored within a specified time depending on the weather and the number of homes affected.
  • the supplier does not give two days or more written notice when an electricity distributor plans to interrupt your supply (example here)
  • a gas transporter digs up your garden or driveway and any damage caused by the work is not made good within ten days
  • you are on the Priority Services Register and your gas supply is interrupted but you are not given alternative heating and cooking facilities within four hours.

Back billing
Energy suppliers are signed up to Ofgem’s back-billing principle. If the supplier is at fault for not sending you a bill for more than a year, (and this could be for a number of reasons including, not dealing with requests from you about a faulty meter or account and subsequently allowing a large debt to build, failing to process a direct debit or just failing to send you a bill) then you do not have to pay. There are some reasons when this doesn’t apply, such as if you make no attempt to make a payment. Should the company not honour this principle then follow their complaints procedure.

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


For more details about complaining to energy companies including advice, tips and templates see How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!




How to take charge of your home removal

Moving house is considered to be a very stressful experience. Following on from the story of the last week of the couple who hired a man with a van and lost all their possessions here’s how you can prevent that happening to you.

Once you have got past the stresses of dealing with estate agents, solicitors changes in dates and all the rest of it moving day finally comes. What can you do to ensure that moving goes as smoothly as possible and what to do if even after following sensible advice it still goes wrong?

Choosing a removal firm
The National Guild of Removers and Storers ensures its members are regulated and quality checked through the Removal Industrial Services Ombudsman Scheme.

The British Association of Removers is the relevant trade organisation. It has a Trading Standards Institute Code of Practice and an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. So, should you encounter problems and your removal firm is a member then you are able to use an arbitration scheme. You may like to check their website before deciding on a removal firm to give you peace of mind.

Remember a page on Facebook means nothing. All the reviews could be written by the firm. If recommended by a friend of a friend, this still may not be good enough especially if a friend of a friend on Facebook given how so many people have “friends” on Facebook that aren’t friends and are often people with whom they have never met or spoken.

Get more than one quote especially if you insist on using a non specialist removal service. If a quote sounds cheap remember if something sounds too good to be true it probably is.

Consumer rights
When you have instructed a removal firm to move your possessions from one place to another you are covered (for services up to the 1st October) by the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. From 1st October 2015 you are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. You can expect to receive services undertaken with reasonable skill and care. That means no damage and arrival at an agreed time. Should this not be the case then you have grounds to complain.

If any items get damaged you have the right to repair/replacement or sum of money covering the cost of replacement. You are also entitled to any out of pocket expenses you might incur due to damages of items or delay in timings of the removal.

Check your insurance. When moving from one place to another check that you are covered and by which company – the insurance at your old place or the new one. This may give you additional cover particularly for anything you might move yourself. The company should have its own insurance to cover any breakages.

What to do if things go wrong
Keep a list of everything. If you notice damage at the time of moving mention it to the staff and keep a record. Put your complaint in writing following the tips here. Outline all the damage and out of pocket expenses and what you want to put the matter right. Give a timescale for response. If not satisfied with the response you can go to the ombudsman as detailed above. You can also go to the Small Claims Court (even after using the ombudsman.)

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


For more information, guidance, tips, consumer laws, rights and template letters for complaining to most sectors about most things… GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

Complaining effectively is child’s play (usually)

Well! Here’s a complaint story that’s a little different. Those of you who have bought the book know that it is dedicated in part to my son, “The Complaining Calf who appears to be a chip off the old block!” Here’s the proof!

First – My complaint
In April I took out a year’s subscription to the Beano for my seven year old son. Worked out to be about half the price of the cover price. There should have been a Gnasher and Dennis bumper car set as a free gift.

On the 1st June we had received two issues of The Beano but no free gift so I wrote to complain. I received an email on the 8th June (how bad is that? It gets worse) to say that they had run out of the free gift and were arranging for a new gift sending me a picture of the replacement. I replied immediately saying this:

“I don’t find this acceptable. 1) I took out the subscription nearly two months ago. 2) If the gift was not available it should not have been advertised as available. This is a breach of The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Misrepresentation Act 1967 3) We have actually received 3 issues and no correspondence until I emailed you 4) this would appear to be a standard email from you sent to anyone who complained that they did not receive their item because you have not even had the courtesy of addressing me by name and 5) the attached picture of the gift I assume you will be sending has no relevance to the Beano whatsoever and certainly not to Dennis the Menace and Gnasher.”

I didn’t receive a reply so on the 17th June I forwarded the correspondence to the CEO of DC Tompson contact details for whom you can find here. I didn’t receive a reply. How very very very rude.  At the end of the month we finally received the gift. This:

A new character in The Beano since your day? Nope. No relevance whatsoever. So not only was it sent late (Subscription taken out 24th April, payment taken 10th May) it was Beano character unrelated.

Meanwhile…The Complaining Calf’s complaint
While I was waiting for a response, The Complaining Calf had received three issues and he had found a problem with them all. He suggested we complained. After all we had paid for something and it wasn’t fit for purpose and nor was it fair. Why? Well I’ll let him tell you:

7 year old's complaint to The Beano

So, a child had had his picture in two issues and thereby getting two gifts and then a strip was repeated in another issue. Not good huh? Now, we posted that together to the editor on the 7th June. I allowed over 3 weeks for them to respond.

The Complaining Cow steps in…
Okay, so at this point I got cross. I got really cross. (It would appear that The Beano has a record of ignoring letters from children. See story here. It’s bad enough when people are stupid enough to ignore me, (ending up in court sometimes!) but a seven year old? And MY seven year old? Nope, that aint happening sunshines. Customer services and the CEO ignore me and the editor ignores a seven year old. So I decided to try something out. Call me a menace if you like. I forwarded the unanswered emails to the CEO from my Complaining Cow account on the 2nd July. I told the CEO this:

I find this ignorance and blatant rudeness wholly unacceptable. The free gift has finally arrived but a response to either of the emails below has not.

My seven year old son wrote to the editor of the Beano regarding two matters across 3 issues of the Beano. He wrote this on the 7th June and has not received a response. It would appear that rudeness is a key quality throughout the organisation. However, it is utterly appalling that a seven year old who has taken the time to write to the Beano should be treated in such a way. I think most people would be disgusted. He of course is naturally very disappointed that no-one has bothered to reply to even thank him for his letter. In a day and age when we are trying to bring up children with manners in a growing culture of bad manners, it is sad to say that the editor, customer services and indeed the CEO can be so rude to people, particularly their target audience. You show a complete disregard for customers that is contemptible.

As author of Amazon bestseller How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results and writer of the popular blog www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk I will be writing up this dreadful lack of customer service. My son’s unanswered letter will of course be shared on social media where I am sure it will be shared many times and as I regularly comment in the media on customer services I shall be sure to share this story.”

So who thinks this got a reply when previous emails were ignored? Yup it did.  24 hours and 13 minutes later I got this:

“I’m sincerely grateful that you’ve taken the time to get hold of me.  Since I got your mail yesterday, I’ve got to the bottom of what happened.  As I think you now know, your subscription to the Beano was taken out on 24th April but your first payment was not taken until 10th May so the free gift request to the warehouse was delayed until 2 weeks after the first payment, contributing towards the delay.  We ran out of the gift we featured and sent a replacement which we did say may happen, but the choice, quality of service & the timing of our response was way, way below what was reasonable and weve fallen very short of what you and any customer should expect.  We’ve changed handling houses which has in part caused our errors and we messed-up ourselves in our own efficiency, but that’s for me to sort out and I assure you I am.   To be tardy in responding to the complaint just further compounds our error, and I utterly own-up to us letting you, and more importantly, Oliver down.  We’ve not received the letter you say he sent and have searched high and low for it, but we’ve enough from what you’ve said to enable the Editor to give him a suitable response.  

I’ll of course ensure that the postman gets you a much more fitting wee Beano bundle to say sorry for the way we handled the issue, but much more importantly we hope that the letter from the editor – and possibly a scrawl from Dennis himself – will be a nice surprise for Oliver.

You can always reach me via this email address if there’s any further chat you want on the matter, and thank you for helping me find a gap in our standards that I will ensure is now properly filled.”

Ok – so who thinks the letter to the editor arrived and got thrown away and who thinks that it arrived? The odds are stacked against them here given that the Beano staff have previous for being ignorant…

Continues complaining…
You will have remembered of course that Oliver actually wrote on a different matter and the more observant of you will have noticed that I did say this in my email to the CEO. So I was forced to write again – I could just see them writing to Oliver about the free gift which I hadn’t told him about! So I emailed a copy of the letter and whilst I was there also added that his email hadn’t actually explained the ignorance shown by him and it did beg the question why I got an answer when writing as Helen Dewdney. I got this in reply:

“We clearly fell short on standards and are working to ensure we’ve learned from our mistakes to make sure things are a lot tighter”

So you make up your own mind as to whether you think it was the mention of bad publicity and inclusion in a blog and a book got the response or whether I would eventually have got one?

To recap on correspondence:
1st June wrote
8th June got unsatisfactory reply
8th June wrote
No response
7th June letter different matter
No response
17th June wrote to CEO
No response
2nd July The Complaining Cow writes
3rd July almost satisfactory reply

The letter and parcel
Well to be fair, although dire rude service and the need to complain as a different person was apparently needed, one little boy was pretty pleased and impressed with the letter and bundle:

Letter from The Beano

Beano goodiesBeano bag
Beano Summer Special
Beano long sleeved top
Beano joke book
Beano aeroplane kit
Beano trick pencil
Beano trick ink
Beano trick ice cube

“All that just for writing a letter!” said Oliver. So I have of course explained complaining isn’t about getting freebies, it is about making people know about mistakes and faults in things which you have paid for. An alternative route for an adult would have been to quote the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 but I think he did just fine, an excellent start! The letter was also used as his homework that week so win win. “Writing for a purpose.”

As I always say when it comes to complaints, every company makes mistakes, it is how they deal with them that matters and here eventually they did come good. So you see, all you need is a little know how (see tips) and you won’t be disappointed with your purchases and if you are you will gain redress. Simples.