Your rights if your water supply has been interrupted

Water companies are regulated by Ofwat. Every company must follow the Guaranteed Standards Scheme which relates to compensation in the event of service failure.washing potatoes under running tap

However, the standards do not apply in certain situations, including extreme weather. But all is not lost!

Criticism of water companies
In many areas of the country thousands of people were left without water after burst and leaking pipes. The Financial Times reported that industry experts were critical of the water companies.

“For water mains to be affected, the frost needs to penetrate 600mm or 2ft under ground and we haven’t had that degree of penetration so I don’t believe them. Is it because they haven’t upgraded the pipes as they say they do?” asked Roland Gilmore of Thames Blue Green Economy, a lobby group concerned with improving London’s water-related environmental problems.”

“Rachel Fletcher, Ofwat’s new chief executive, said: “While the recent severe weather conditions have undoubtedly had an impact on pipes and infrastructure, water companies have been warned time and again that they need to be better at planning ahead to deal with these sorts these situations, including proactively communicating with customers when they anticipate issues.””

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London also condemned Thames Water saying that the weather should not have caused these problems. Given this criticism, it is worth complaining and trying to claim compensation if you were without water.running water What you can claim
Normally, water companies should provide a minimum of 48 hours’ notice of any interruption to supply and provide details of when it will be restored. If it does not or does not restore supply by the specified time then you are usually entitled to £20 compensation and a further £20 if you don’t receive the first £20 within 28 days. In cases where an emergency such as a burst pipe has cased interruption the company must restore the water within 12 hours although this rises to 48 if it is a strategic main pipe. The company must tell consumers as soon as possible regarding where an alternative water supply can be obtained, when it plans to restore the supply and a telephone number for more information.

If the supply is not restored by the time the company says it will be, compensation is due. £20 for the first 24 hours and £10 for each further 24 hour period the supply remains unrestored. If the interruption lasts more than 12 hours, the company should provide an alternative supply. For example, bottled water or tankers in the street. (Known as bowsers).

South East Water
I was on BBC Radio Kent this morning (06 March 2018) talking water, energy and rail rights in relation to the extreme weather. Douglas Whitfield the Head of Operations at South East Water was on answering questions. When asked if SE Water would be compensating customers he said that they would be writing to all to all customers. Pushed again he repeated himself and pushed again on whether this would definitely include compensation he laughed and said “Maybe”. So take from that what you will. Given the amount these companies pay their shareholders they can afford to compensate you!

How you should complain
Follow the Top 20 Tips How to Complain to make your complaint effective. You can write to the CEO. S/he will not respond personally but the matter will be taken more seriously and escalated above the customer services. Contact details for CEOs can be found at ceoemail.com.

Taking it further
The standards clearly state that the scheme does not affect any legal rights to compensation that customer may have.

If you are not satisfied with your water company’s response you can take the matter to the Consumer Council for Water and ultimately the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. In Scotland the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and in Northern Ireland the Consumer Council.

Other related posts
Freezing energy problems? Your rights all you need to know all you need to know about your rights with weather related issues and your energy supply.

Left out in the cold by a rail company? Your rights all the information you need to complain about delays and cancellations regarding your rail travel.

Everything You Need to Know About Your Water Supply

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! for lots of information, advice, consumer laws and rights, tips and template letters.

 

 

 

Left out in the cold by a rail company? Your rights

Well the Winter of 2018 huh? Pretty cold and pretty snowy! Lots of trains delayed and some stuck in the snow for hours. In some cases it probably couldn’t be helped but even in these cases it doesn’t mean you won’t get redress. It is about knowing your rights. So what are they?

snow on train track Left out in the cold by a rail company - your rights

Cancellations
If your train is cancelled you are due a full refund. If you still wish to travel you should be able to get on the next train then claim as for a delayed journey. If you have a date and time restricted ticket you may not be able to get on a later train. You should check with the station staff before travelling who will be able to advise. If you don’t travel due to the cancellation you are entitled to a full refund.

Delays
If you don’t want to travel because of the delay then you should be able to get a full refund. Under the National Rail Conditions of Travel you are entitled to 50% refund for a delay of 60 minutes. It is the time of arrival not the time of departure that is considered. Most companies now operate “Delay Repay” providing compensation for these delays regardless of cause. For most of the companies operating this scheme you will get at least 50% refund if you arrive more than 15 minutes late. For others it will be 30 minutes late.

Not travelling out of choice
Could be that an event to which you were travelling was cancelled so you didn’t want to travel. Or any reason! So long as it wasn’t an Advance ticket you should be able to get a refund minus an admin fee. The maximum admin fee that the companies can charge is £10.

Season tickets
Different train companies operate different policies. You will need to check with the relevant company. You will need to submit a claim for each journey rather than a discount at renewal. You are entitled to compensation for a journey delayed 30 minutes or more.

Companies saying weather related you aren’t entitled?
If this does happen tell them they are wrong! In September 2013, The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that rail passengers are entitled to a partial refund of the price of their train ticket even in these circumstances.

Snowing on train

Consequential loss
Well here is interesting! The National Rail Conditions of Travel (NRCT) state that companies are not liable for consequential loss. (If you couldn’t make use of a hotel stay or theatre tickets for example.) However, they do state that companies will consider exceptional cases. But even more interesting, is that since October 1st 2016 the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) kicked in for travel, including trains. Under this Act you are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care. When I asked a few companies about their interpretation of the Act in January 2017, 4 of them gave their views. It is certainly worth trying to claim using both the CRA and the exceptional circumstances of the NRCT. I hope that if a company refuse to pay out for consequential loss that someone soon will take the matter to the Small Claims Court under the CRA. Come back and tell me if you are going to be the one to do it!

How to claim
If you don’t use your ticket to make all or part of your journey take the unused ticket to any train company’s ticket office and receive an immediate refund.

You can usually apply online via the rail company’s website.

Alternatively you can send the claim to the train company. Before you do, take a photo of the tickets just in case they get “lost in the post”! If you are claiming for consequential loss follow these Tips for making you complaint effective.

Make sure you claim within 28 days of the date of travel.

Find your company on the National Rail Enquiries page which will take you to the relevant page.

Missed connection
If you have missed a connecting train due to the cancellation or delay, you can claim a refund for the unused part of the journey should you not go on a later train or use an alternative form of transport. Consequential losses for this as above.

Emergency timetables
Some services ran an emergency timetable. In these instances it is possible that this may affect what you can claim. If you bought your ticket before the new timetable was put in place and decide not to travel then you can claim a full refund as above. However, should you travel and be delayed then the level of compensation will be based on the new timetable.

Not satisfied with response?
Email addresses for CEOs of UK railway companies with links to Delay Repay where applicable.

If you think that the response is unsatisfactory read the NRCT and the train company’s Passenger Charter which will have the details of the procedure you should follow. If still not happy and your journey was outside of London contact Transport Focus. For London (including under and overground) contact London Travel Watch. If still not happy you can take the matter to the CEO of Transport Focus or London Travel Watch (contact details from ceoemail.com) and after that the Local Government Ombudsman. It is hoped that soon the Railway Ombudsman will start.

A note about Southeastern
On its website Southeastern has provided a statement regarding passengers caught up in the disruption due to the weather. It is doubling Delay Repay for delays between  Tuesday 27 February to Friday 2 March inclusive. This is for delays 30 minutes or more. It also states that it will be offering additional compensation for the poor experience so is certainly worth trying to claim for consequential loss as above.

Keeping up to date with delays and cancellations
The National Rail Service website will give you up to date information on delays and cancellations.

Other useful rail travel posts
Stronger consumer rights against rail companies delayed again This provides more information about
Taken for a ride. Passenger complaints are up (& how you can get redress) Transport Focus announced in february 2018 that their latest National Rail Passenger Survey showed that only a third were happy with their last journey. More Statistics in this post and ways to complain.
Are you on the right track with your Christmas train travel plans? Information regarding cancellations by rail companies forcing passengers to pay walk up fares as cheaper tickets for buying in advance were not released.
Rail Ombudsman is finally coming down the tracks – consultation closing soon information about the proposed Rail Ombudsman including decisions and consultation responses.

Other related posts
Freezing energy problems? Your rights all you need to know all the information you need for complaining about aspects of service provided by energy companies.

20 Top Tips for complaining effectively. 
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! for more information, tips, advice, guidance and template letters.

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Government and regulators continue to fail on resolving consumer disputes

The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system for resolving consumer complaints is broken and in danger of collapse. This is one of the conclusions of a damning new report released today. The report reveals that Government bodies have not heeded the warnings of an earlier report and that regulators have been complicit in making the situation even worse.

Ombudsman Omnishambles The UK ADR landscape 20 months on...The report, “More Ombudsman Omnishambles – 20 months on“, written by consumer campaigners Helen Dewdney and Marcus Williamson, follows on from their June 2016 report that exposed serious failings in the UK ADR system.

The original report highlighted the failings of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Ombudsman Association (OA) in their approvals and oversight of organisations providing alternative dispute resolution for consumers and business.

In February 2018 the Government announced that it was seeking to reduce the number of ADR providers in property to one because of consumer confusion. Despite this, the CTSI continues to approve providers in all sectors, significantly complicating the situation for consumers. For example, South Yorkshire Trading Standards and Kent County Council have already been approved for ADR in retail sectors which are already well covered. In addition, the CTSI is failing to deal with one particular provider which was previously known as The Retail Ombudsman (Consumer Dispute Resolution Limited) and which continues to provide ADR services in a variety of sectors. (RetailADR, AviationADR, UtilitiesADR, CommsADR)

The report demonstrates how the CTSI and the CAA are not verifying information given by providers in their annual reports and in the media. In order for an ADR provider to be an Ombudsman, it must meet certain standards and be a member of the Ombudsman Association. The report highlights that the Ombudsman Association has higher standards for approving an ADR provider (see minutes in report). These include not accepting organisations which have poor governance and corporate control and which provide misleading information.

The authors of both reports, Marcus Williamson and Helen Dewdney, are appalled at what they have discovered during this research. Dewdney says “Consumers are confused by the whole ADR sector. Public money – and consumers’ time – is being wasted because of inadequate monitoring and the approval of organisations which shouldn’t be providing services to the public or which simply aren’t necessary.”

The new report makes a total of 13 recommendations. These include:

· ADR providers should all work towards the higher “Ombudsman” status.
· There should be no new entrants to an ADR sector which already has a
well-established and properly functioning scheme.
· Approval bodies should have access to case management systems to check figures
as part of annual reviews.
· Reviews and reports by ADR providers should all be verified by a chartered
statistician.
· There should be a central portal which signposts consumers to the correct ADR
scheme, funded by the schemes, to reduce confusion for consumers.More Ombudsman Omnishambles crowds of people

About the authors
Helen Dewdney is “The Complaining Cow”, a consumer campaigner, author and broadcaster who blogs here http://www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk She is the author of the consumer advice book How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! 

Marcus Williamson is a journalist and campaigner with a background in the Information Technology sector. In 2010 he established the website http://CEOemail.com which now helps more than 10,000 people every day to resolve consumer issues by escalating them to the individuals who can make a difference, the CEOs and MDs of companies and other organisations.

Taken for a ride. Passenger complaints are up (& how you can get redress)

Picture of a train 2/3 rail commuters unhappy

Transport Focus announced today that their latest National Rail Passenger Survey showed that only a third were happy with their last journey.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus, said:

“For passengers, it’s all about performance – these value for money scores reflect patchy reliability. In London and the South East, Southern, Thameslink and Southeastern passengers have felt performance pick up. However, South Western Railway, TransPennine Express and Arriva Trains Wales passengers, among others, have been buffeted by poorer performance.”

The survey, which included more than 27,000 passengers, showed that satisfaction has dropped to 75% overall and to 64% for South Western Railway. These results contrast starkly with Thameslink, where satisfaction is up 13%, one assumes due to the increase in investment by the company.

“Train companies and Network Rail need to keep to their basic promises and deliver a relentless focus on day-to-day performance and better information during disruption”, said Anthony Smith, chief executive of Transport Focus.

Penny Thompson, blogger at Pennyssavings.com  agrees. “Despite really mucking it up when things go wrong, the new 12-car Thameslink trains really have been an improvement. Yes, services are still busy, but those extra carriages have made a difference, as have the in-train information systems which show you live data on the passenger loading across the carriages.”Train trackI’m not surprised by the results. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that investment in the railways will improve the service! Although many people moan about rail services, they don’t complain to the companies and get the redress to which they are entitled. If more people did this then at least they would get some recompense and send a strong message out to these companies.

Network Rail compensates train operators for delays due to track problems which are their fault. But the companies do not hand over this compensation to the customers who were inconvenienced. So, what do we need to make sure we get redress in the easiest way possible?

Here are your rights and tips for getting redress:

1.The Consumer Rights Act 2015 covers rail travel, so you can complain about more than just delays! If that journey was provided with poor service and therefore without “reasonable skill and care”, according to the law, write and complain!

2.Passengers are entitled to have their compensation paid within 14 days, issued by the same method the passenger used to pay for the ticket.

3.Keep your tickets as evidence and take a copy if you have to post them.

4.Make a note of your journey: Date, time, where travelling from/to and how long you’ve been delayed at the time, before you forget!

5.Make a note of the reason given by the train company for the delay.

6.Check how long you have to claim, it is usually up to 28 days.

7.Passengers can claim for any length of delay. If you suffer repeated delays of less than half an hour or overcrowding due to an unexpected lack of carriages, you might get money back if you take your case to court. Currently, no compensation is offered for delays less than 30 minutes.

8.Where a service has not been provided with “reasonable skill and care”, passengers will now have a right to a refund of up to the full ticket price.

9.Put your complaint (unless web based delay/cancellation refund) in writing so that you have a record.

10.You don’t need a third party company to claim for you, just like claiming for delayed airline flights. Instead, do it yourself and get 100% of the refund.

11.If the issue was within the company’s control, be objective, succinct and clear in outlining the issue that occurred.

12.Make it clear what you want to happen as an outcome and what you will do if you are not satisfied with the response (e.g. take it further through Transport Focus or if inside London, London Travel Watch or the Small Claims Court.

13.If you are still not satisfied with the response, write to the CEO of the train operator using contact details from the Ceoemail.com The matter will then be escalated and taken seriously.

14.It may also be possible to claim from your credit card company under Section  75 if the cost of the ticket was more than £100.

Transport Focus press release in full

Key results of the survey:

• overall 81 per cent of passengers nationally were satisfied with their journey (73 per cent for commuters)
• satisfaction with punctuality is up to 74 per cent – this figure drops to 65 per cent for commuters
• value for money ratings continue below the half-way mark, at 47 per cent (down to 33 per cent for commuters)
• satisfaction with how well delays are handled is at 38 per cent overall (30 per cent for commuters)
• in Scotland 85 per cent of passengers were satisfied with their journey
• highest-scoring operators were Grand Central (96 per cent), Hull Trains (95 per cent), Virgin Trains East Coast (92 per cent), Virgin Trains West Coast and Heathrow Express, both with 91 per cent satisfaction
• lowest-scored were Southern (72 per cent), TfL Rail (75 per cent), South Western Railway (75 per cent), Great Northern (77 per cent), Arriva, Trains Wales and Great Western Railway, both with 79 per cent
• TransPennine Express passengers were the least satisfied with the level of crowding on their train, at 58 per cent.

Rail delay compensation – Light at the end of the tunnel?

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

 

For more consumer rights, laws, advice, information and templates for this and other sectors GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!