EEnormous bills, Ofcom fine and how to complain about incorrect bills

Today, Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator, fined EE around £2,700,000 for overcharging its customers

The Ofcom investigation concluded that EE made fundamental billing mistakes. It cannot investigate individual complaints. However, you can inform them of problems and if a significant number of people do this regarding the issue then it can investigate and take action. So whilst Ofcom investigates large scale issues what should you do if your ‘phone bill is wrong?

Consumer expert Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! provides us with her top tips:

  • Check your bill! It may seem obvious but most of us just pay by direct debit and forget all about it. This would have been the case for many of over 32,145 EE customers who were charged £1.20 a minute instead of 19p a minute when phoning 150 (customer services) in the EU. There are still 60,000 affected EE customers who have not been traced. Ofcom has instructed EE to continue attempts to trace them. So if you are an EE customer and you phoned 150 from within the EU between 1 July 2014 and 20 July 2015,check your bill and contact EE!
  • Act quickly in writing. You can call but you won’t have a record or evidence of what they have said they will do and laws on using this evidence in court are not clear. Likewise, unless they give their permission for you to do this you won’t be able to use it in court should you need to do this. You can use online chat if available. Don’t trust that this will be emailed to you even if they say it will be! Why you should write not ‘phone to complain effectively for more.
  • Don’t cancel direct debits. Tempting as it may be to do this, don’t! It will confuse the issue and may affect your credit rating.
  • Escalate! If contacting customer services doesn’t get a satisfactory response, write to the CEO (contact details on ceoemail.com. The CEO is unlikely to respond in person but you should get his/her team responding on their behalf. If still not satisfied ask for a deadlock letter (you don’t need to do this if more than 8 weeks has passed since your initial complaint) and take the matter to the Ombudsman. CISAS or Ombudsman Services, depending which the company is a member. It is free to the customer to do this.
  • Know your rights! Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to receive services that are carried out with “reasonable skill and care” and therefore if the company messes up your bills this is not “reasonable skill and care”. The company must put you back into the position you were in before the mistakes arose. If mistakes are made by the company then you can assert that under the company is in breach of contract so therefore if you want you can terminate early without paying any penalty. If the company’s mistakes have caused you to incur overdraft charges, then these too must be refunded.

In 2016 Ombudsman Services investigated 42,963 complaints about communications providers. 39% were billing complaints (this does not exclusively mean ‘wrong bills’ – it encompasses all billing complaints).

All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers for links to various posts regarding all sorts of issues regarding your telecom provider.

Top 20 Tips for complaining effectively

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Will your Gift Cards keep on giving?

Or will they expire before you can use them?!

If you‘ve come here after watching the report on The One Show about gift cards, here are some of those tips and more with the links you might need. Plus other useful links at the end.

The press release with more background information on the story can be found on Looking a gift card in the mouth

1) Carefully check the expiry date of the Gift Card, which could even be different to advertised! Tesco sells the Pizza Express card with an 18 months expiry but when I contacted them they said this was mistake and would change the figure on their website to 24 months. Many independent restaurants can be 6-9 months and experience days are usually 6 or 9. Most will start the clock running again from when the card was last used if you have credit.

2) If you find a card that you haven’t used, go into the store and ask for a balance check. Many of the larger retailers will do this and your time will start again. So if you have only 3 months left on a card but started with 24, the 24 will start again.

3) Remember your consumer rights stay the same. If the item you buy with the card is not of satisfactory quality then under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you can take it back within 30 days for a full refund. After that time a repair or replacement may be offered. But you get refunded using the method by which you paid, so the money will go back onto the Gift Card

4) It isn’t just gift cards as presents you need to be careful of, as sometimes gift cards are given as goodwill gestures by companies. So for example, Eurostar or Ryanair may give you a Gift Card and you don’t intend to travel for a couple of years, but their cards only last a year.

5) Often its grandparents giving children Gift Cards. They don’t like the idea of just giving cash and sometimes feel that if they hand over money in a shop it is more of a present than cash, but those younger children go out shopping less often than adults so check their cards too. Buy them off the children, if you can use them.

6) My mum always bought mine at face value when I was a child because she’s nice, but if you don’t have the option of exchanging for face value you can always sell them on a website. Zeek (that’s an affiliate link so if you use it and register at no cost then you and I should both get a payment!) has been going for a couple of years in this country. It provides a way to can sell your unwanted gift card for slightly less than face value and Zeek takes 7% (you just have more than 3 months to go on the card). Zeek checks balances on cards before they can be sold. You may find gift cards on auction st of course eBay doesn’t check what sellers sell. Useful guidance can be found  on eBay Buyers Guide to purchasing Gift Vouchers & Gift Cards from the UK Giftcard and Voucher Association.

7) Keep the receipt in a separate place to the card. If you lose the card you will still have the details so that if you act quickly enough the store maybe able to cancel the card. But in essence the card acts like cash.

8) Check that you can use in concessions within a store and online, as again all varies from store to store!

9) If store goes bust act quickly. It will be up to the administrators as to whether they will continue to accept them.

10) If your card has expired don’t despair. Although it is unlikely you will get a full refund it is worth asking at the checkout, then with customer services and then the CEO, by telling him or her what you think of their ridiculous unnecessary expiry dates!

 

 

Big name companies which only have one year expiry dates are:

12 months
Wiggle, Eurostar, Habitat, Ticketmaster, Crew Clothing, Ryanair, Spafinder, O2 Climb, Vue, Westfield Shopping Centre, JD Sports and Restaurant Choice (variety of chains and you can’t even use with any discount promotion either!)

10 months
Buyagift and Spabreaks

6 months
Various independent restaurants, We Are Vertigo and UK Paintball

Useful information

Consumer Rights Act 2015

20 Top Tips for Complaining Effectively

Signed copies of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! . Or get unsigned copies from Amazon here.

See Ceoemail.com for the contact details for any CEO.

Newsletter. Promise not to fill up your inbox with lots of rubbish on a regular basis! I don’t send them very often, but when I do it’s usually to tell you about changes in the law, updates and items of interest. So go on sign up you know you’re interested and I shall of course complain if you don’t!

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Christmas presents, returns – your rights

So, the jumper doesn’t fit, you don’t like the hideous ornament that your aunt bought. What can you do?

  1. If the item is not faulty the store is under no legal obligation to refund or exchange with or without proof of postage, but many of the big stores will
  2. If you are the giver and taking something back with your proof of purchase and the store will refund or exchange remember that although the store may do this, there may be a time frame for returns, so if you bought a bargain in the Summer, the store may not refund/exchange or will only give a gift card.
  3. If the item is faulty you still have rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and so long as you have proof of purchase you are entitled to refund/repair or replacement depending on when the item was bought.
  4. If the store takes back items without proof of postage, you will be given the price that the item is at that time, so if in the sale that’s the price you will get
  5. If the giver has given you a gift receipt it should mean that the store will give you a refund, but again likley to be on a gift card.
  6. As the store is under no legal obligation to give you a refund for non faulty or misdescribed it is likely you will be given a gift card.
  7. If you get a gift card Looking a Gift Card in the mouth? provides some important information you need to know!
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Looking a Gift Card in the mouth?

Many of us will be buying and receiving gift cards this Christmas. They have become big business since the first book token was issued in 1932. Whether you think it shows lack of thought (why not give cash instead of restricting the recipient?) or shows more thought by showing that they have chosen a particular store, it is now big business.  The voucher and gift card industry has grown into a £5.6bn a year operation in the UK according to the latest figures from the UK Gift Card & Voucher Association (UKGCVA). This up from 4bn in the previous year and is continually growing year on year.

Gail Cohen, Director General from the UKGCVA, says, “Research from The UK Gift Card and Voucher Association shows that 60% of members saw a growth in sales during H1 [first half of] 2016, and 4.44% growth compared to the same period in 2015.” This analysis is based on data provided by UKGCVA’s retail issuer members that agree to share their data.

The figure for the amount of unspent gift cards in the UK is £300 million, which accounts for just over 5% of the entire value of gift cards and vouchers in the UK. The UKGCVA says it is working with its members to increase consumer awareness around gift cards, with the aim of further decreasing this figure in the future.

Now that consumers can sell their gift cards they believe they will never use, this unspent figure may reduce. Zeek (that’s an affiliate link so if you use it and register at no cost then you and I should both get a payment!) is a marketplace website/app where gift cards can be bought and sold.  Sellers can set their own price and the bigger the discount, the faster the voucher sells. Typical discounts right now are between 5% and 25%. Zeek takes 7% of the selling price (£3 minimum). This compares favourably with auction sites, such as eBay, which which takes 10%. Zeek verifies the balance and expiry date of every card that is listed for sale.  Digital vouchers, which tend to be redeemed immediately, must be valid for at least a month. Physical vouchers, where you need time to get to the store, must be valid for at least 3 months.

A spokesperson for Zeek said that it sees thousands of new buyers and sellers join Zeek every day. November was their biggest ever month. 94% of vouchers sell within 24 hours. Department stores, supermarkets, Amazon and fashion always sell very quickly.

Zeek’s CEO and co-founder Daniel Zelkind said “Shopping with discounted gift vouchers is a simple way to cut the cost of the festive period and if Santa gives you a gift voucher you’ll never use, it’s easy to turn it into cash and buy something you actually want.”

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, consumer expert and author for How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! provides ten top tips regarding gift cards:

What should you be aware of when buying or receiving gift cards?

1) Always check the expiry date and spend quickly if you can so that you don’t forget it!

2) Make a note of the number. If you lose the card, the store should be able to trace the card, stop the amount and issue you with a new one.

3) If you return the item, whether you change your mind and the store allows it, or even if the item is faulty, the refund will be put back on a gift card.

4) It is unlikely that you will be able to use the card in store concessions but do check as this varies from store to store.

5) If the store goes bust it will be up to the administrators as to whether they will accept gift cards, so keep hold of them as it is unlikely but possible that they will be accepted. The purchaser may be able to get money back using Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if it was for more than a £100 and paid for on a credit card or using Chargeback if less than a £100 from your bank. The latter is a voluntary signed up to scheme rather than law.

6) When giving a gift card, also give the receipt which the recipient can keep in a separate place in case the card gets lost or stolen.

7) Check that you can use the card online.

8) Your consumer rights when buying goods or services are the same as when purchasing items with a gift card.

9) If your card has expired ask for an extension. There’s a chance the store may allow it.

10) Check the terms and conditions. Sometimes the expiry date is from when it is bought, last used or just checking the balance so you may be able to extend the gift card’s life time!

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Tesco on track to increase fake farms

Time for a bit of Tesco bashing, well it’s been a couple of months. (For those new to the blog see History with Tesco). I’ve seen the slides from a “Tesco Investor and Analyst Seminar”. The presentation doesn’t have a title which is pretty poor in the first place but moving on.

All quite dull really other than there’s a move to match price and quality of more products.

Tesco’s new strategy will increase its benchmarking of 500 product lines to a total of 11,000 lines. Yep 11,000 that wasn’t a typo.

product-architecture

Slide not make much sense? Maybe when someone was presenting it did. But key pointers are that Tesco says that it will match the quality and price (including “farm brands”) of at least 60% of Aldi and Lidl products and aim to ensure that the products are preferred to their Aldi and Lidl equivalents by at least 6 out of 10 customers.

Tesco brand products will be benchmarked against the quality of Sainsbury’s and the price against Asda, and aim to ensure that they are preferred by at least 8 out 10 customers. I feel I should put in a picture of a cat here.

8 out of 10 cats preferred food from a real farm

The finest* brand products will benchmark the quality against the market leader by product category (e.g. M&S/Waitrose) and there will be no specific price benchmark, it says to ensure that they can offer the best possible quality products. They aim to ensure that these products are preferred by 10 out of 10 customers. Well if there’s no price match that’s all rather pointless isn’t it?! Oh look it tastes as good as M and S but look pay even more. Great policy Tesco??

So does that mean more fake farms? This story about increasing ranges hasn’t been covered much in the media has it? So it’s not like we are going to be aware to check. Along come some more fake farms. Some people may even be fooled into thinking that Tesco has listened to criticism and brought in some new REAL farms!

When I quizzed Tesco on the point about increasing fake farms a spokesperson said, “Our exclusive fresh food brands have been very popular and we’re really pleased with the feedback we’ve had from our customers. Customers tell us they like the combination of market leading prices and quality right across the range.”

Maybe so, I buy some of the range and part from tomatoes which are frequently rotten the quality is fine, that isn’t what some of us have an issue with. The issue is the marketing.

When I interviewed Dave Lewis, Tesco CEO a couple of months ago I asked about fake farms:

but still play on insinuation?

So despite Fake Farms – A bad country smell that won’t go away… (providing information on just how close those names are to existing farms, what farms, Trading Standards and what customers say, it looks like there will be more fake farms on the way!

 

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