All you need to know when an event is cancelled

concert or festival cancelled your rights on top of people dancing on beach

The Summer of 2017 saw a lot of concerts and festivals cancelled. Due to bad weather, poor planning or something else, thousands of people were left disappointed and many of them out of pocket. So what do you do if the event for which you have booked cancels at the last minute?

Well, it depends on what the reason for cancelling was and how much notice you were given really.

So let’s take a few examples…

 

Event cancelled due to not enough sales
The organiser informs you that it has not made enough sales and so is cancelling the concert. This should mean an automatic refund of the tickets. If you made special arrangements, such as buying train tickets, booking a hotel you may be able to claim consequential loss. The organiser is in breach of contract so should be liable for consequential loss. However, you would have to prove that you would not be using the tickets or booking and that they were bought with non refundable terms. You probably have a good chance because not many people know how to complain about this and claim! However the organiser may well argue in which case your only option is to claim in the Small Claims Court. It would probably be a test case though, so if you do it, please let me know!

The closer to the concert they cancel the stronger your case may be. You could also argue that under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 they did not provide services with reasonable skill and care because they did not market the concert well enough.

The concert organisers should have insurance too!

Event cancelled due to ill health
Here the organisers may offer tickets for another day. This is up to you whether you want to take or not as you are still entitled to a full refund.

Consequential loss will be as above but you couldn’t argue not carrying out services with reasonable skill and care.

Event cancelled due to health and safety reasons
It can be a little bit sticky here because it isn’t as simple as there was so much rain and mud we had to cancel. One word “Glastonbury” which sticks two fingers up at bad weather! That’s partly because they put measures to ensure the safety of festival goers. So when you hear of another festival cancelling due to rain and mud you are probably well within your rights to claim consequential loss because the organisers are in breach of contract for not providing services with reasonable skill and care. Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Event cancelled due to organisers going into administration
In short, you are stuck. It means that the company doesn’t have the money to refund you the cost of your tickets. It will owe money all over the place and you will be at the bottom of the list. However, you should write to the administrators as soon as possible with proof of your purchase and you will be added to the creditors list. It is unlikely that you will be paid out, but if another company takes over it is possible and if your name is down you have more chance that for those who aren’t.

Overall
In all cases where the CRA has been beached you should follow the 20 top tips for complaining effectively outlining the reasons for claiming for consequential loss with evidence of these costs being non refundable. Take a copy of the tickets if you are posting your claim and send that, you know, just in case they say they didn’t receive your letter!

When you complain follow the Top 20 Tips for Complaining and if you still aren’t satisfied with the response take it up with the festival organiser CEO you can get their contact details at ceoemail.com

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

 

And for everything else to complain about effectively GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

 

 

Freezing energy problems? Your rights all you need to know

snow high up from ground to treets

Left out in the cold by your energy company? All you need to know about your rights
Well this is a Winter and a half isn’t it? Quite incredible. It is inevitable that many people will have had problems with their gas or electricity supply We just had a bit of emergency with the water tank too! So, in exceptional circumstances such as this weather, what are you rights?

I think one has to be aware that these are truly out-of-the-ordinary circumstances and to understand that energy companies are not going to be able to get to customers as quickly as they would normally. They have both the significant increase in call outs, but also it is as difficult for their repair people to get to you as anyone else driving. With all the accidents and deaths caused in this weather I do think we need to be aware of that. None of us would want someone to risk their life to fix our boiler, I’m sure.

However, companies should be doing all they can. They should have more staff in place during the Winter months and have emergency plans in place to deal with increased enquiries at times like this. You do still have rights and can claim for lack of gas or electricity supply and lack of service.

Your rights with weather-related energy problems on electricity pylon

Vulnerable Customers
Energy customers who are vulnerable (and usually you need to be on the company’s list as such) will take priority for any loss of supply or repair.

If you are struggling to get in contact with your provider, keep a note of all times you called, tried the website etc., as evidence to use in a complaint at a later date.

Cut in supply
In the case of a cut in your gas or electricity supply, it is your distributor, not the supplier, who is responsible. You can find out who your gas transporter is here and electricity supplier here. Complain to them if necessary.

In the event of an unplanned power cut you are entitled to set amounts of compensation. For electricity this varies depending upon the number of homes affected, how long you are without supply and how Ofgem categorises the storm.

In an unplanned power cut you are entitled to set amounts of compensation. For electricity this varies for the amount of homes affected, how long you are without supply and  how Ofgem categories the storm.

From the Ofgem website:
Service Guaranteed Standards payment
Supply restoration: severe weather
The time you are off supply before being able to claim varies according to severity of storm. This is because
the companies will have more work to do to fix faults.

Storm category 1: After 24 hours
Storm category 2: After 48 hours
£70 for domestic and non-domestic customers.

A further £70 will be paid for each additional period of 12 hours in which supply is not restored, up to a cap
of £700 in total.

This applies to both storm category 1 and storm category 2

More on  power cuts (e.g. multiple cuts) can be found on Ofgem Know Your Rights Power Cuts page.

For gas you will be paid £30 plus £30 for each 24-hour period without gas. See 1 little Known Fact You Need to Know When Your Gas is Cut Off!

If you are on the Priority Services Register or a cut was due to bad weather you SHOULD get the payment automatically. Keep an eye out though and claim if you don’t receive it.

You should be paid with 10 days of the end of the power supply cut if automatic and within 10 days from any claim. If not, make sure you get the extra £30 entitlement for that breach of the Standards.

Also useful to know… if you have more than 4 power cuts in one year you are entitled to £75. (The year runs from  01 April to 31 March).

Services
Energy companies are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and so you are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care.

Cold weather payment
This is different to the Winter fuel payment. If you receive certain benefits and the temperature was forecast to be or is zero degree celsius or below for seven consecutive days you will receive £25 for each 7 day period between 1 November and 31 March. You can check if you are eligible and whether you will receive the payment (you do not need to claim it will be automatic) on the Government Cold Weather Payments page. Details for how to claim if not received are also on the site.

Boiler and heater breakdowns and cover
You will need to check your policy. But in general if the company has been unable to undertake the repair you should be able to employ another tradesperson to do the work. British Gas for example has said that “some Homecare polices will cover reimbursement for work we are not able to do which is then done by a third party, if the work is covered by the policy. Customers should check their policy if they wish to claim for a reimbursement. They will need a VAT invoice from their tradesman in order to claim.”  When SE leaves your elderly aunt without adequate heating for 11 days…  tells the story of what I did to claim when they did that to my aunt!

Other help
See Ofgem Standards of Conduct and Quality Standards for what you should be able to expect from your supplier. If it fails to meet the level of service required it must make a compensation payment. However, note that they do not need to do this if severe weather makes it impossible to restore the supply. See above for this.

See All you need to know to make a complaint about energy for more information including how to complain when a provider leaves a vulnerable customer without supply, about bills and how best to prepare a case for the Energy Ombudsman. See Top 20 Tips How to Complain! should you need to start getting your case together!

Left out in the cold by a rail company? Your rights if you have been affected by train delays or cancellations.

Your rights if your water supply has been interrupted

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 ways how not to use Twitter to complain (and 5 ways how you should)

The twitter symbol How not to complain on TwitterI hear all the time from people that they have successfully complained because they have used social media. Occasionally if used in the right way, your complaint is simple, the trader has a good social media team and the wind is in the right direction this may be the case. Used in the right way it can be a good tool to name and shame and speed things up but that’s the limit as in the end you will still need to provide all the details off the public forum which is as good as sending an email in the first place. So what are the no nos?

1) A rant is not an effective complaint. Don’t get me wrong, I can rant for England and if ever there was an Olympics for ranting I’d be there. I will name and shame where it’s genuine too, it’s good for a laugh if nothing else. But it isn’t a complaint. It isn’t going to get you redress. Sometimes the company will respond sometimes they won’t. If you carry on ranting it’s the same as shouting, it’s not going to get you anywhere. It’s pointless and frankly very few people, if anyone is taking any notice of your rants. Why? Because social media is full of them and it’s boring. Remember I rant for England, but you’ll notice my rants are after I’ve effectively got my redress or just a rant for rant’s sake because I want to get it out of my head and I feel better then! So if you want to rant and it makes you feel better, do it, don’t expect anything significant from it though ‘cos no one cares. Think – how many times have you ever really joined in or contributed to someone else’s rant?

2) Personal information. I was in a meeting the other week with some people from a few financial institutions and other consumer organisations looking at complaints handling (trust me 3 hours we only scraped the surface!) but I was asked by a senior executive of a very large financial institution what I thought about complaining on social media. I said it drove me nuts. It isn’t the place to effectively sort out complicated issues and it certainly isn’t the place to be trying to resolve financial products. He agreed saying that they have a problem with people giving out personal details. They are far less worried about you saying “oi @xyzbank your service stinks” than you being very polite and then giving your age, your address and your policy numbers openly! You are opening yourself up to fraud on your account to say nothing of identity theft.

3) Hashtags. Really? Must you? Inventing your own? Unless you have hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers who are all going to rt you why are you bothering? Who is going to look? Who is going to care? Perhaps find and use a hashtag so your tweets come up as one of many,  but think about it, how often do you look up a hashtag that you don’t know exactly what it is for and join in?!

4) Keeping on. Now, I know I say if you aren’t happy go back until you are, but that’s when you have written your email outlining exactly what you want. I can keep going for as long as it takes going through customer services, the CEO, ombudsmen, the court, whatever, but not on Twitter or Facebook! I have been known to have a conversation or two with Virgin Media on Twitter. But that’s because I simply had a query that I wanted to do online and they were thoroughly obtuse. Only answering within certain times of the day and stuff! So I ended up having a conversation complaining about their stupid systems and their responses which had nothing to do with the initial enquiry anyway! (Now, see? I could rant forever and a day about the telecoms sector! But if you could too but actually want to get anything resolved see All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers) So where was I? Ah yes probably proving my point about not ranting in the last few sentences. If the company has not responded to two of your tweets or you haven’t been asked to send details about the complaint via their processes/email/private message then stop. Either you haven’t made yourself clear or they are useless at dealing with complaints on social media. Whatever the reason you are now wasting your time. No one is listening and you are being ineffective. Stop.

5) Copying in consumer people and organisations. I’m afraid I am unable to pick up people’s tweets and do their complaints for them. How can I possibly without all the information? And see Contact for more on what I can and can’t do). Imagine if I picked up or commented on everyone who follows me tweeted their complaints! I’d do nothing else! So how can the big guys, Watchdog, Rip Off, Dom Littlewood, MSE all do it? They can’t and won’t it just isn’t possible. Nor is it fair to pick up one tweet and not another, your complaint is not unique I promise you! (Have the manners to tweet me personally and I’ll direct you to the relevant page on my blog though!) If I can’t do it with only about 10k followers (plus the people who don’t even follow me, yet expect me to do something!) how on earth could the big organisations/media do it? It will not make the company any more likely to deal with your complaint because they know that anyone you have copied in will not get involved. Don’t waste the characters!

Good examples of how to use Twitter to complain.

1) Quick stuff. This is where the company has your bank details and can refund you. E.g. @tesco here is a pic of the rotten tomatoes that came in my delivery please refund. Appropriate response? “Sorry to hear that, please dm us your order number email and mailing adds., will reimburse.”

Complaining using Twitter various pics of supermarket goods with tweets about cracked eggs, rotten grapes and tomatoes

2) Where you have not had a reply to a written complaint e.g. “@virginmedia wrote to you on (date) not had reply please investigate”. Appropriate but unlikely response “Sorry to hear that please dm your name, add, and account number and we will look into this.” Then follow up in the dm with the required details and give deadline for wanting response.

3) When you don’t know where to send your complaint e.g. “@anytelecomco I have a complaint I want to email you but there is no email address please provide”. Appropriate response (from most companies but few if any telecoms)  “here it is …” you have the choice of carrying on arguing pointlessly, or to use ceoemail.com and write to the CEO and add to your complaint that if their site provided an email address instead of whatever way they have tried to make you contact them it would be a lot better!

4) Part query, part complaint e.g.”@traincompany 5.40 to London delayed no information being given at all please advise”. Appropriate response (most cases) “due to xxx next train will be at yyyyy” or similar.

5) Query turning into complaint about fob off! E.g. “@retailer my order hasn’t been delivered”. Appropriate response “Please dm us your order number, name and address and we will investigate for you.” If fobbed off say “@retailer no, under Consumer Rights Act 2015 my contract is with you. Pls follow so can send you details for you to investigate”. (For more on your rights regarding deliveries see Your Rights, Mail Order, Online and Deliveries.

If you don’t get the appropriate responses do not waste your time continuing with social media. You are not succeeding.

See Top 20 Tips How to Complain! for complaining effectively.

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

 

For effective complaining information, guidance consumer laws, rights and template letters to ensure you get the redress to which you are entitled, GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

Energy ombudsman shows how to keep heat on your supplier

radiator

I often hear from people how they think an ombudsman hasn’t been fair or impartial in their case. Most frequently I hear the criticism that the ombudsman always sees in favour of the trader because the trader pays for membership. What people don’t realise is that’s the only way an ombudsman can be funded! But more importantly what people don’t realise is that they not only do they pay for yearly membership but they also pay per case whilst the customer pays nothing. So it is in the company’s interest for a case not to go to the ombudsman.

Sometimes, people approach the ombudsman with issues outside of their remit. Typically:

  • The complaint has been made too late – complainants have 12 months from the date the supplier issues its final response (known as a deadlock letter) to raise the issue with the ombudsman.
  • The complaint has been made prematurely (less than 8 weeks from the initial complaint or no deadlock letter received) – complainants need to raise the issue with the supplier and give them an opportunity to put things right before the ombudsman can become involved.
  • The trader does not participate in the ombudsman’s scheme.
  • The complaint is about a product or service which does not fall inside the ombudsman’s jurisdiction.

So, you have your issue, it falls within the remit and you still don’t get the decision you wanted so what do you do? I’ve asked Lewis Shand Smith the Chief Ombudsman at Ombudsman Services to share the traps people fall into and how to make a stronger case when submitting their issue. He looks at energy in particular but the points are valid for all sectors.

Head shot Lewis Shand SmithLewis Shand Smith Biography

Lewis Shand Smith was appointed Chief Executive and Chief Ombudsman of Ombudsman Services in 2009. Ombudsman Services is a not for profit organisation which resolves disputes in the energy, communications, property, and copyright licensing sectors, amongst others. Lewis was also the Chair of the Ombudsman Association. Previously he was the Crown appointed Deputy Ombudsman and a member of the Executive Board at the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). He is a priest in the Scottish Episcopal church and has served several congregations in Motherwell, Shetland and Dumfries. He was a Canon of St Andrew’s cathedral in Aberdeen. From 1990 to 1999 Lewis was a member of Shetland Islands Council, becoming Convener/Leader in 1994. He has served as a non-executive director or trustee with a number of companies and charities. He is a former Vice President of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, was a member of the Executive of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, and represented the UK on the European Committee of the Regions.

Submitting cases to an Ombudsman service

Ombudsman Services receives complaints in a variety of forms. There are complaints the energy supplier would have resolved if the right person had picked it up. There are complaints where the parties agree on the facts – but disagree on an appropriate remedy. There are complaints where the parties fundamentally disagree on the facts. And there are complaints where neither party has yet been able to understand what happened.

In the period November 2016 to October 2017, Ombudsman Services closed 49,117 energy complaints. Of those, it helped resolve 8% without investigating because the energy company was willing to provide the consumer with their desired resolution.

Of the complaints that Ombudsman Services investigated, it:

  • upheld 66% (finding that the energy supplier had done something wrong and had not done enough to put it right).
  • maintained 26% (finding that although the energy supplier had done something wrong, it had already offered a fair resolution to the customer).
  • did not uphold 8% of complaints, (concluding that there was no substance to the original complaint and the energy supplier had treated the customer fairly).

These figures suggest that the majority of complaints needed Ombudsman Services intervention to ensure a fair remedy for the consumer. But many could have been resolved without Ombudsman Services’ help. In most cases, the complaints reached Ombudsman Services because of a failure in the energy supplier’s complaint handling; but some could have benefited from better complaining from the consumer – or the consumer accepting a resolution that was already fair.

So, below are some common reasons why consumer actions mean a complaint is not resolved with the energy company – along with some advice on how not to fall into the traps.

5 top tips for ensuring you have the best case if you need the ombudsman on picture of electricity pylon

 

  1. Focusing on the problem, not the solution

It is very easy to focus on what went wrong and how it should never have happened. But a complaint normally only ends successfully when the wronged party focusses on what needs to be done to put things right. So, before you complain, think about what you would like your supplier to do to resolve your complaint – and let the supplier know.

 

  1. Disbelieving accurate responses

When things go wrong, people lose trust. So people often lack confidence in energy company’s answers. It can be worth seeking advice online or from friends and family. This can sometimes provide the reassurance consumers desire without the need for an ombudsman investigation.  See All you need to know to make a complaint about energy for advice, tips, information and consumer rights regarding energy complaints and  the Ombudsman website for Energy complaint advice and cases. 

  1. Unreasonable expectations / asking for bills or balances to be wiped

Energy suppliers do offer financial awards – but they are normally goodwill gestures to acknowledge what went wrong. Energy suppliers rarely relate awards to the size of a consumer’s outstanding balance.

Ombudsman Services applies similar principles in our complaint handling. Customers should pay the correct amount for the energy they have consumed. If something has gone wrong and a financial award is due – the amount will be proportionate to the trouble the consumer experienced – not the outstanding account balance.

  1. Failing to engage with an energy supplier

Poor energy supplier responses can leave consumers feeling that the problem won’t be resolved without help. But Ombudsman Services can only help after a consumer has tried to resolve the problem with the energy supplier direct for several weeks. As frustrating as it is, consumers should plug away with the energy company. Be clear about what the problem is and what needs to be done to put it right. Check out 20 Top Tips for complaining effectively to increase your chances before needing the Ombudsman. Hopefully someone at the energy company will understand the complaint and correct the problem. This will mean a far quicker resolution than if you go to the Ombudsman.

  1. Becoming too invested in the complaint

If a consumer feels they’ve been wronged, they’re likely to tell people about it. Sometimes it turns out that the consumer is at fault, and in such circumstances, it can be difficult for consumers to admit their error to other people on the complaint journey. They can reach for excuses and/or change the substance of their complaint so as not to lose face. This rarely leads to success and escalating to Ombudsman Services can sometimes prolong and increase the disappointment. If a consumer realises that they are wrong, there is sometimes value in not continuing the complaint.

If consumers feel wronged they should always complain; but they should do so in a focused way and seek a proportionate outcome.

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!For tips on writing that initial complaint see Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

 

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

 

 

Whirlpool/Hotpoint/Indesit shows contempt for tumble dryer customers

Press release

Dryer replacement scheme ends for Whirlpool/Hotpoint/Indesit users – Company updates list of affected machines without telling customers

Whirlpool has announced that it is ending its replacement scheme for dangerous tumble dryers that have caused fires.

With growing waiting lists for repairs, Whirlpool had previously offered customers the option of purchasing a new dryer at the reduced rate of £50. Customers had been given the option of a vented dryer priced at £59 (RRP £219) or a condenser dryer priced at £99 (RRP £299).

This latest move has angered consumer groups and the chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy committee, Rachel Reeves, who has demanded to know why Whirlpool is ending its replacement scheme for dangerous tumble dryers.

A growing list of affected machines

Whilst Whirlpool continues to make customers wait for repairs, Helen Dewdney – The Complaining Cow consumer expert and author of How to Complain – has discovered that customers have found that they own machines they were initially told were not affected.

Whirlpool customer, Juliet Govey, saw the announcements in the media regarding the defective tumble dryers and checked the list. Her model was not listed. In 2017, when she needed a repair on her machine and called out a Hotpoint engineer, he realised the machine was on recall and made the necessary modifications on the spot. She says “His view was that we may well have been safe as we kept the filter, condenser and casing clean and as fluff free as possible. There was very little fluff behind the drum when it was dismantled. I think we were just lucky.”

On my post regarding what to do if you have an affected dryer, Jess commented that she had bought a Hotpoint dryer in early 2015. Late in the year the announcements were made about the hazards and she was advised to go online and check if affected and was told it was too new for the problems and was not one of the models. On renewing her house insurance this year she told them it was a safe one. A few weeks ago she smelt burning from the dryer and immediately unplugged it and pulled it out and called out a repair man. He said it needed a new belt which would be about £10. She asked him to fit it but when he checked the model he refused, saying he wouldn’t work on a ‘fire hazard’. Jess checked online again, and found that the machine had been added to the list. On contacting Hotpoint she was told that the list had been updated.

Check online to be sure

I’m urging anyone who bought their machine and was told that their machine was safe to check again online on the Indesit and Hotpoint safety sites (Creda owners can check via the Hotpoint site) to see if their machine has now been added. “It is shocking and reprehensible that Whirlpool seems to have such a poor regard for safety. Why haven’t they kept records of people who have contacted them and done more (or anything!) to raise awareness that models have been added to the list? This in conjunction with all the other evidence against them regarding their slapdash attitude beggars belief.”

Coroner’s report

This latest revelation follows on from the coroner’s report, published on 31 October 2017 into the deaths of Bernard Hender, 19, and Doug McTavish, 39, who died in a flat in Llanrwst, Conwy county, in October 2014. The coroner, David Lewis, said that the fire was caused “on the balance of probabilities” by an electrical fault with the door switch on the dryer. Describing the evidence presented at the inquest by Whirlpool as “defensive and dismissive” he stated the company’s approach was an “obstacle” to finding steps to prevent future fires. He called on the company to take action to prevent future fires. Whirlpool has until 26 December 2017 to respond.