Don’t get blue this Monday, get away from it all…

Don’t get blue this Monday, get away from it all…

Holiday companies use Blue Monday for marketing – here’s how to turn the tables and make it sunny for you and for your wallet!

couple on beach sunset

Blue Monday is the third Monday in the first month of the year, falling this year on 15 January… It is claimed by some to be the most depressing day of the year. The term was coined by Cardiff University lecturer, Dr Cliff Arnall, in 2005, when he “scientifically calculated” a formula for a press release for Sky Travel. (See this Guardian article for more information)

Why depressing? Well, it’s cold, we’ve had a nice few days off over Christmas but we haven’t been paid yet and the credit card bills are starting to come in now. Our New Year resolutions are already failing… What can we do? How about getting away from it all or at least thinking about a future holiday?

Holiday companies will clamour to use this “special” day once again to boost their “deals”. So, for the 15th January, some expert money bloggers and I have joined forces to give you 15 tips on saving money when booking that holiday! We look at turning the tables and playing the travel companies at their own game, so you can save money when you book your trip away. Good huh?

sun setting over water consumer rights, ways to shop around, discounts, alternatives, thinking beyond and searching

Rights

1) I’ll kick off, as you would expect, with your consumer rights. “You have numerous consumer rights to cover you when booking your holiday and for when you are on holiday.  Be aware of them when booking. For example, if you feel that you have made a purchasing decision that you wouldn’t have made had you been given accurate information (such as a misleading price) you may be able to claim a refund under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008”.  There is also the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tour Regulations 1992 of which you should be aware. These give you lots of rights regarding any changes that the company may make, amongst other things!”

Dates and shopping around

2) The Money Whisperer, Emma Maslin says “If you are looking for popular times e.g. school holidays for package holidays, it maybe best to book ahead but if you can be more flexible, wait until closer to the date for the best last-minute deals. We’re going to the same island we went to last year but booked ahead this time. We booked just 7 days before last year and it was over £200 cheaper per person. This year, it might not be a last minute option – that’s the risk you take. But if you are flexible and can go elsewhere or fly a different day to save money, then it pays to look around.”

3) Fiona Hawkes from Savvy in Somerset has found that booking accommodation and flights separately has always been cheaper than a package. She also advises looking round at all the various websites that do this for you, as some will also offer free cancellation or low cost cancellation cover for accommodation.

4) “Haggle!” implores blogger Emma Drew.  “We have haggled between Disney and Virgin Holidays for a cruise. Virgin Holidays were selling it for more than Disney, so we went armed with the info and got them to match Disney and throw some on board credit in! Add that to shopping around for flights with sites like SkySkanner where you can find flights cheaper than going direct.”

Discounts 

5) “Try it on!” Catherine Morgan Financial Money Coach cheekily encourages. “Say you are on your honeymoon or it’s a wedding anniversary, sometimes it works!  Be a bit savvy too. We saved a mint last year when we booked a TUI week away to Kos. We contacted the hotel directly and paid them £100 and got an upgrade with a swim up room. Thomson wanted to charge us £700 extra for the same!”

6) Mrs Mummy Penny, Lynn James, suggests thinking of your friends and family who work for a travel company or hotel. Maybe they have a friends and family offer code they can give you? One of her friends is a concierge at Aria in Las Vegas and can always find her a deal. Often it makes it cheaper than package deals.

7) “Use cashback!” exclaims Emma Bradley of Mums Savvy Savings “Look for discount codes and then use sites like Topcashback* which will give you money straight back into your account too. I saved about £150 from doing this last year.” (I got about £70 from Thomson last Summer too. You can also use Zeek* to see if there are any discounted gift cards which you will be able to use with discounts to reduce the cost still further. (*Refer a friend links. So if you sign up you’ll get a bonus and so will I 🙂 ))

Thinking ahead

8) Faith Archer from Much More with Less cuts food costs while away by booking somewhere to stay with self-catering facilities. “Even the odd breakfast in your room or packed lunch can save cash compared to eating out for every meal!”, she says.

9) Andy Webb from Be Clever With Your Cash advises booking car hire far in advance for the lowest prices “AND make sure the car is big enough! It will only cost a few quid more to get a bigger car when booking, but can be hundreds if you have to upgrade at the check-in desk! Shop around for the car hire, looking direct as well various comparison sites. Plus, if the excess waiver isn’t included don’t buy it from the car rental company. You can get policies for a few quid elsewhere that’ll cover you for damage to the car. Make sure you are comparing like for like inclusive totals.”

10) Buy your travel insurance the day you buy your holiday in case you need it before you go! “But also think about how you are going to buy it. Shop around as it will nearly always be cheaper than the one you get offered with a package. And look at all the group (e.g. group, couple, family) options however your group is made up” says William Pointing from Great Deals Made Easy.

Alternatives to the usual booking routes

11) Hollie Gregersen from ThriftyMum recommends house sitting or pet sitting! “There are a number of websites that provide details of homes you can stay at providing affordable options for holidays in the UK and abroad, including house swaps”.

Getting there

12) Pete Chatfield from Household Money Saving suggests taking a coach if travelling in Europe and saving a fortune.

13) A Thrifty Fox blogger Emily Rowley considers stopover flights; if flying long haul you could save hundreds by planning a break in your journey (tie in with meals if it makes it more bearable!)

14) Joseph Seager of A Thrifty Chap tries to be flexible when booking. Midweek is nearly always cheaper than a weekend. So are less sociable hour flight times. You can save by flying from other airports too, but make sure to factor in different travel to airport/parking/stay costs for your final comparison.

Everytime you search!

15) Above all, if you go back to a website, clear your cookies first. The travel website will put that price up if it knows you’ve looked at that holiday before!

For everything you need to know about your rights when booking, during and after, your holiday see All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights for lots of different rights and what you should do when and how.

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

How to challenge terms & conditions (even those you’ve agreed)

The One Show today covers Terms and Conditions. Who reads them? Would you follow them if told?

There are pages and pages of small print. How many of us tick the box that says “Agree to terms and conditions”, only to fall foul later when we need to complain?

The Government thought so too and there was a call for evidence from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills for consumers to provide feedback regarding their experiences. The open consultation ended on 25 April 2016 but there is still no response. I’ve requested details of when this will be forthcoming but as yet not heard anything.

So what can you do in the meantime if you feel that the terms and conditions you agreed to actually turned out to be unfair? Don’t worry, all is not lost!

Consumer Rights Act 2015 and unfair contracts
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) creates a ‘fairness test’ to stop consumers being put at unfair disadvantage. A term is unfair if it tilts the rights and responsibilities between the consumer and the trader too much in favour of the trader. The test is applied by looking at what words are used and how they could be interpreted. It takes into consideration what is being sold, what the other terms of the contract say and all the circumstances at the time the term was agreed. There is an exemption for the essential obligations of contracts – setting the price and describing the main subject matter – provided the wording used is clear and prominent. There is also an exemption for wording that has to be used by law. If you have been misled into making a decision that you would otherwise not have made then the company is in breach of this law.

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (amended 2014) (CPUTRs)

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 or not put under unfair pressure to do so.

The regulations prohibit trading practices that are unfair to consumers. There are four different types of practices covered:

A general ban – on conduct below a level which may be expected towards consumers (honest market practice/good faith).

Misleading practices  a practice misleads through the information it contains, or its deceptive presentation, and causes, or is likely to cause, the average consumer to take a different transactional decision specifically; general misleading information, creating confusion with competitors’ products or failing to honour commitments made in a code of conduct.

Aggressive sales techniques using harassment, coercion or undue influence– significantly impairs, or is likely to significantly impair, the average consumer’s freedom of choice or conduct in relation to the product through the use of harassment, coercion or undue influence – and  thereby causes him to take a different transactional decision.

31 specific practices (that would be two long boring pages of  post! It is pretty thorough though and all of them are listed in the book ). 🙂

How to use
Say for example, your mobile ‘phone is constantly losing signal and you can’t use it like any customer would want to, that is a breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 because it has not supplied you with services carried out with reasonable skill and care and you have every right to terminate the contract. If however, the company tells you that in the terms and conditions of the contract that you signed, you can’t break a contract early under any circumstances, that’s a breach of the above laws, because they have not kept to their side of the bargain! In fact, the telecoms sector is downright awful for customer service so here is some more advice on them. All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers.

Another example. You were told that you could have a free cup of coffee and cake for giving your email address. You signed up. You had your coffee and cake they then tell you that in the terms and conditions you have to clean the floor. You argue that you didn’t know but they say “It’s in the terms and condition”. Tough. For them. Under the CRA it could be an unfair contract, because cleaning the floor could be considered as worth more in payment than the coffee and cake (maybe it would depend how big the floor was?!) But under the CPUTRs it is a big fat breach. You would argue that you were misled into giving your email address.

When you complain use the Top 20 Tips.

To keep up to date with the latest information about consumer rights sign up to the newsletter. You won’t be bombarded with emails because I can’t be bothered to set up all those automatic weekly things trying to sell you Stuff! I probably only get round to doing a couple a year!

 

For more information, advice, tips, consumer laws and template letters covering the majority of issues you might incur with most sectors  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!

 

 

Do Morethan just comparison websites for insurance quotes!

How do you take out your contents and building insurance? I hope you don’t just renew every year and that you look at comparison sites for switching insurance, energy etc. I do this but do do a little more. I also check the site that comes out the cheapest.

Comparison v direct
huh_450Last year MoreThan came out cheaper on the Moneysupermarket comparison site. But this is when it got odd. I went through Moneysupermarket.com and got a reference number and password which did not work when I clicked to go through to the website. The quote included some cover which I did not wish to have. I looked to see if I could ‘phone to discuss the quote and noted that only an 0844 number was provided. It is now illegal to only provide such numbers for customer helplines under the The Consumer Rights Directive 2013 but oddly it was provided at a later date but it wasn’t on the website!Secondly I tried to use Topcashback* (excellent cashbacksite) and get a quote from MoreThan directly. This seemed to come to much MoreThan the Money supermarket.com quote! But it did not include the cover that I didn’t want! It also requested details on specific items which was not included on the Monesysupermarket.com site. The Moneysupermarket.com quote listed certain other items and not others. Basically, the comparisons between the two sites were ridiculous and one could not change them either.

Complaint
So off went the email to the CEO as I felt that something was seriously flawed with their systems. Why can’t you just get the same cover going through the comparison site as going direct? Why does it cost more direct for a different cover and you can’t use the cashback site when going through the comparison site for the cheaper quote. I stated that I wanted the price stated with moneysupermarket.com minus the cover I didn’t want and to include the cover I did. I also expected to receive the £21.00 Topcashback  to which I felt entitled. I got a new quote about £100 more than other quotes in order to get everything I wanted, and a cheque for the difference between the new quote and the cheaper Moneysupermarket.com quote plus the £21 cashback.

I’m not sure that any Laws were broken here, although one wonders about misleading practices and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. I do think it’s poor practice and would advise anyone looking at their insurance to explore all possibilities and to look at the comparison sites and then look at the site directly for further comparison. Make sure you have the cover you want and contact the company if you see anomalies. My guess is that this practice is quite widespread and that we need to make sure that we are not being ripped off as well as ensuring that we have the cover that we want and need.

Lots more information about comparison websites, approved sites etc here.

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

 

For more guidance, advice, tips, information, consumer laws and templates GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

*refer a friend link so if you sign up I’ll get a few pennies for referring you and you should get a few pennies as a welcome gift!

Mis-sold a contract? How to get out of it

I think that the Communications sector is the worst for communication and is thoroughly appalling when it comes to customer service. I’ve taken Virgin to CISAS, the communications ombudsman twice (won both times) for starters. I also wonder if the fact that this is the only sector that has two Ombudsman services (CISAS and Ombudsman Services Communications) is because they have twice the amount of complaints than any other sector!

Ben bought a mobile ‘phone from Phones 4u and a contract with Vodafone. Ben bought a ‘phone with a Vodafone contract from Phones 4u. He was told that after one year the monthly fee would reduce by £5.00 a month but this did not happen.

Ben wrote to complain to Phones 4u and was offered £60 as a goodwill gesture (i.e. the difference). Ben’s letter stated that he actually wanted to terminate the contract but both Phones 4u and Vodafone refused to do this. We emailed CEO’s, heads of operations and we had to refuse to pay for transactions of ‘phone calls when Vodafone refused to deal with anything in writing! We quoted the Misrepresentation Act and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (a misleading practice because it would appear that the sales person led Ben to take a different transactional decision than he might have taken if given the full correct information.) As stated on the Advice Guide “If the statement made by the sales person is false and it influenced your decision to buy the service, this is called misrepresentation. If this is the case you can cancel the contract without charges and may be able to take legal action for compensation. A false statement which influenced your decision to enter into a contract is also an example of an unfair commercial practice This is a criminal offence” We got a further £90 from Vodafone.

For ensuring that you are not paying too much for your mobile ‘phone see this great post from SkintDad 4 Ways to Stop Overpaying For Your Mobile Phone.

See All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers for various posts about consumer laws, rights and contracts, how to complain etc.

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

 

 

More advice, guidance, tips and template letters for the most common complaints against your telecom provider GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!