Argos caught playing around with toy prices

Press release

Argos have been caught out playing with prices, according to consumer expert, The Complaining Cow, aka Helen Dewdney. She has this week spotted customers complaining about their ‘special offers’ on Facebook, as you can see here…

When is a 3 for 2 bargain not a bargain? When it costs more than buying 3 the day before! The more organised of us have started their Christmas shopping and savvy consumers are looking out for the bargains. The Complaining Cow has found that for eagle-eyed shoppers, all is not as it appears at Argos.

When Argos promoted its 3 for 2 offer on its Facebook page [1], people flocked to complain about being scammed. Jaki Young posted a picture saying “Yesterday’s price vs todays on the joke of a 3 for 2 deal” Argos responded to comment, saying “Our prices do fluctuate up and down throughout the year, driven my many factors. Many items had been sold at reduced prices in the weeks or months before the 3 for 2 started and have now returned to their original selling price.”

However, Cora Harrison [3] who runs The Mini Millionaire blog highlighted that Argos has been sneakily rising prices just before starting the 3 for 2 offer and her Facebook post highlighting the issue has received well over 2,000 shares compared to Argos Facebook advert receiving 54!

Cora, had put three items into her basket on the previous evening. The Fisher Price Laugh and Learn chair was £26.99, (now £39.99), The Cookie Shape Surprise was £10.99, (now £19.99) and the Puppy £10.99. Had the prices remained the same Cora would have paid £48.97. However, expecting to receive the 3 for 2 offer she found that she would be paying £59.98. These items didn’t appear to be on any offer during the previous day.

Other examples include the “lowest price ever” £27.99 VTech Chase me Casey which went up to £37.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Argos Facebook page was inundated with examples of this kind of spurious pricing. The Disney Frozen Foot to Floor Ride on shows no offer on when priced at £19.99 but went up to twice the price at £39.99. The Disney Cars 3 Lightening McQueen Tri-Scooter was £21.99 reduced to £19.99 but went up to £23.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some stores were honouring both prices, whilst others were not. Sheree Brumby reserved £250 of toys, but when she went to collect the “3 for 2” offer was not honoured, so she went elsewhere!

 

When Kayley questioned Argos, the company’s response was that it was up to individual store managers to honour the deal or not:

When contacted for a statement, an Argos spokesperson said We recently ran a promotion on a limited selection of toy products which ended on Tuesday and the products returned to their full price. Customers can now take advantage of our ‘3 for 2’ offer across an even wider range of toys which offers great value and launched on Wednesday.”

But this isn’t the only problem that Argos are having with their offers. Kelly Gibson posted on the Argos page that a £39.99 item she put in her basket changed to £59.99.

Argos customers were reporting numerous items going out of stock straight away at the start of the promotion suggesting, that it isn’t Argos not planning properly (it does after all have enough yearly figures to use for planning) but that something else going on….

Consumer expert Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! [14] says that a trader must comply with Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and it must show that it has a due diligence system in place to prevent misleading practices.

“Whilst it is unlikely that it could be considered that Argos has breached these regulations and we all understand that prices change, it would appear that there are many examples of prices increasing literally overnight. It seems from these examples that many were not in any kind of offer before and certainly numerous customers are saying that they have been misled. With the increase of the use of social media, more and more people are sharing their experiences and sharing intelligence! So companies have got to treat customers better if they want to retain loyalty.”

Update 7.55pm Argos replied to my Facebook post, so I replied back! Feel free to add your comments ‘cos Argos will be back to it!

Argos caught playing around with toy prices …

Posted by The Complaining Cow on Thursday, 28 September 2017

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Ryanair flies into oblivion

In the latest apparent “Let’s treat customers as badly as possible” Ryanair business plan, it has decided to cancel 40-50 flights a day from its schedule of over 2,500 flights for  six weeks to the end of October. This is caused by incredibly bad management of staff leave. Not only that, it is so poor that they aren’t even managing the cancellation properly. Giving people little to no notice.

Ryanair’s Facebook and Twitter feed provides little information and people are flocking to share their outrage at the appalling management of the whole situation.

 

 

What the pilots are saying
I was on Radio 5 this morning and there were a few calls from Ryanair pilots who wanted to understandably remain anonymous. They were saying that Ryanair pay poorly and whilst they recognise that pilots are well paid, it is below the industry average. They also have to pay for their own accommodation and training and so staff turnover is high. A pilot for Jet2 said that Ryanair pilots are always leaving and joining them. Pilots are limited to the hours they can fly a year So the problem is not only that Ryanair has mismanaged the leave, it would also appear that it is because they treat their staff badly they get fed up and quit. Of course, if Ryanair paid better, the cost of the flights would go up? Maybe it is something it needs to look at if it is to survive.

On the news this evening (18/09/17) pilots were saying could happen again next year. (I won’t be flying Ryanair, I use them all the time, I won’t be now!)

Not informing you of your rights
But, not only is Ryanair not providing information about cancelled flights quickly enough, it also isn’t giving people their legal rights, most importantly the significant compensation that people are due. Just like BA powercut debacle: Airline keeps passengers in the dark about their rights update 18/09/17 CEO has said will pay EU compensation.

Ryanair has now released a list up to 28th October.  Still no mention of applying for compensation on there!

What Ryanair should be doing
Ryanair should be trying to get you onto another flight, even if that is with another carrier and must pay you compensation. Airline template and information for all the details. You can use their form but you could write, adapting the letter for your circumstances and the costs that you incurred and give a deadline for payment as they will have a huge rise in claims at the moment methinks!

If the flight is more than 14 days away then you will not get the compensation.

You are entitled to the compensation (details in link above) unless you are offered re-routing, allowing you to depart no more than one hour before the scheduled time of departure and to reach your final destination less than two hours after the scheduled time of arrival”.

If Ryanair has left you stranded you are entitled to the hotel and refreshment/food costs until they can get you onto another flight. You must keep these reasonable though and I would advise you keep evidence of searches to find low cost accommodation etc.

Consequential losses
If you have booked a hotel and other things, Ryanair is saying that it will not pay and you may be able to claim on insurance. Again, I’d like to see this tested in court. It is Ryanair’s fault and I don’t see why the insurance companies should pay which will ultimately put our premiums up!

The EU laws don’t cover consequential losses. However domestic law may, but because Ryanair is based in Ireland you would need to sue through the Irish courts. You should be able to get advice from the UK European Consumer Centre. (Court action may mean having to pay Ryanair costs so take advice).

The Association of British Insurers is urging travellers affected by Ryanair cancellations to contact the airline in the first instance to seek replacement flights and compensation. Mark Shepherd, head of property, commercial and specialist lines at the ABI, said:

“Ryanair has admitted it is to blame for the large number of flights currently being cancelled. Travellers affected will be understandably upset and have every right to expect help and support from the airline, whether that is alternative flights with a different carrier or compensation for the disruption suffered and other expenses incurred. If passengers are experiencing additional costs which for some reason Ryanair is refusing to cover they may be able to make claims on a travel insurance policy, but this may depend on the level of cover they bought. Clearly the first port of call must be Ryanair itself.”

Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into force to cover airlines October 1st 2016 but it is such a new law that it’s largely untested and will be until we get a definitive judge-lead ruling. So given the lack of confidence in the airline ADR provider (as highlighted recently on BBC Watchdog) which lost its previous ombudsman title, in circumstances which remain unclear,  The Retail Ombudsman is no more  the consumer really has 2 realistic routes, that’s to go direct to the airline setting out that there has been a breach and the losses and if there is no remedy there it’s on to court for a ruling on both the CRA and contract breach. I think Ryanair will settle they wouldn’t want to risk it. So write to the airline detailing your case I think you’ll find that they will pay out just as BA did with their fiasco in May.

The UK EU Consumer Centres says “Consumers may be able to pursue the airlines under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) as the company should perform a service with reasonable care and skill. Also, another instrument that passengers may be able to use is the Montreal Convention.” The CAA has been looking at how the CRA will work with the Montreal Convention as it is very complicated regarding what and when you are covered as the MC applies once in the sky and over rules anything else. It is far from clear cut!

However, request it as advised in the post and if you follow the tips you’ll get it as people are.

Package holidays
If you have booked a package holiday through a travel company which has put you on a Ryanair flight, it is responsible for getting you to your destination. It, should also be informing you of any issues with your flight. If not, it has not been providing services with reasonable skill and care which is a breach of  the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and also Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tour Regulations 1992. Regulations 12 and 13 refer to alterations in the package holiday or to departure times or location.

Getting another flight
You are entitled under EU rules to “rerouting, under comparable transport conditions, to your final destination at the earliest opportunity”. Unfortunately what exactly “the earliest opportunity” means has not been properly tested and defined in court. Yet.

Ryanair in their continuing poor customer care are telling passengers that hey may have to wait three days or more before they can be flown to their destination. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says that airlines are obliged to book you on a rival airline “where there is a significant difference in the time that a reroute can be offered on the airline’s own services”. The CAA does not define “significant” Different airlines have different rules regarding what they think is “significant”. However, whether they are legal remains to be seen, so if you get another flight at two days and Ryanair don’t pay then please do take them to court and let me know about it!

Accountability
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is the enforcement body for upholding the consumer rights of air passengers, and so it is able to take action against any airline that operates out of the UK, regardless of nationality. (It does not, however, regulate Ryanair from a safety perspective, this is done by the Irish Aviation Authority.   My investigation into airlines charging to sit children with an adult Plane greedy – Are airlines holding families to ransom? uncovered that Ryanair are making a mandatory charge to sit a child with an adult in the group. The CAA categorically stated that the airline should not charge but would not do anything about it because Ryanair is based in Ireland and the IAA have refused point blank to comment. So I don’t hold out much hope here.)

Update – 27th September 2017  CAA has  launched enforcement action against Ryanair for persistently misleading passengers with inaccurate information regarding their rights in respect of its recent cancellations.

Misleading, blatant lie or just incompetent?
See this letter below? Utter utter utter twaddle, codswallop, hogwash to give it the technical terms. Even the CEO, Michael O’Leary has said today that they will pay compensation. NO! You are entitled to the compensation AND the refund, they are two very different things. See Airline compensation.

Ryanair has previous
Just to show that the CAA can take action when it wants to do so, this from September 2015 on the CAA website:

Ryanair faces CAA enforcement action for breach of consumer law. As part of its on-going campaign to safeguard the rights of UK air passengers, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched enforcement action against Ryanair. This action follows a review by the regulator that found Ryanair is not complying fully with European consumer law designed to support passengers following flight disruption. Ryanair is now required to make policy changes or face the prospect of further enforcement steps leading to court action, if the airline remains non-compliant.

Contact details for Ryanair COO here.

Price hikes

 

 

All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights for masses of info about booking/taking holidays and flights.

GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS! for information, advice, laws and template letters.

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Where there’s blame there’s a claim (even when there isn’t?)

You’ve had a great holiday, weather was good, accommodation clean and spacious and the food was amazing. Although was the food perfect?

There have always been reports of people with dodgy tummies after holidays but is it on the increase. Are hotels really getting worse or is something else going on?

It is reported that some Claims Management Companies appear to be trying to get in on the act and either helping people claim when they could easily do so themselves and get 100% of the redress or in some cases encouraging holiday makers to make fraudulent claims. Ambulance chasers hit a brick wall

So watch yourself if you are thinking of trying it on. 1) It gives people with genuine complaints a bad name, 2) You could end up with a huge fine, a criminal record and even be out in prison for fraud 3) Ultimately places may well stop taking holiday makers from countries where people lie and at the very least put prices up! There is even talk in some places of treating people from the UK differently such as having to swipe in and out when having a drink or something to eat.

More stories in the media on holiday makers and fraud
Why Brits got the bug for holiday sickness scams

Holidaymaker hit with £25k bill after falsely claiming she had suffered food poisoning at five-star hotel

‘BOGUS’ COMPO BACKLASH Brit couple who made ‘fake’ claim over ‘dodgy food’ at Greek hotel could lose home because they were sued back for £170,000 by the furious chain

Update 13th October 2017  Fake holiday sickness couple from Wallasey jailed 9 months and 15 months sentences for trying to defraud Thomas Cook

So don’t do it!

But what if you really do get food poisoning abroad what should you do?
1) Report it to the hotel at the time.

2) If it is a package holiday, tell the rep as soon as you can.

3) Go to the doctor. If the hotel can recommend one go there.

4) Keep copies of any doctor’s notes, prescriptions and receipts for medication.

5) Don’t continue to to eat and drink! Follow the medical advice.

6) Notify your insurance company.

7) Write to customer services on your return providing all the details of when you fell ill and all the evidence. State that you wish to claim redress under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992.

8) Should you not be happy with the response you can write to the CEO – you can find the contact details for CEOs on ceoemail.com

9) You can take your case to ABTA where there may be a charge or go to court.

10) Be polite and objective in your correspondence. Give a deadline as to when you you expect to hear and what you will do if not satisfied with the response. For example, using review forums and websites, going to the Small Claims  Court etc.

More at All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights

See How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS! for guidance, tips, advice, laws and template letters for all you need to know in getting redress!

 

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All you need to know about tax free childcare/30 hours funding

This guest post has been written by Emma who is a Finance Manager for a regional chain of nurseries. She also blogs on personal finance at The Money Whisperer. As a Chartered Accountant,she found that a lot of her mummy friends came to her with financial questions. She undertakes lots of financial research to invest and grow her own family’s wealth and make good financial decisions, so now shares on her blog which seemed an easy extension of this research. It’s important to her that people of her generation who learnt no formal financial literacy at school have access to information so that they can make good choices for themselves and their children.’’

As for me, given that my background is in children’s services I thoroughly agree with Emma and most if not everyone in the sector that the whole funding scheme always badly thought out and implemented appallingly. As usual Government not listening to the experts in the field. So hopefully another blog post outlining the issues and what you can do if affected will add to the voices out there as well as helping parents access any funding.

Tax free childcare or 30 hours funding – what is it all about?
In an effort to help families with the crippling cost of childcare, this year the government has made some major changes to the way that they provide support to working families with their childcare costs. April 2017 saw the launch of the Tax-Free Childcare scheme, whereby eligible families can receive a government top up worth 20p for every 80p contributed by the parent. Last week the government’s somewhat controversial scheme to provide 30 hours of funded childcare to eligible working parents was launched.

Both schemes are administered through the government website; parents apply once and are assessed for both schemes. However, the website has been dogged with technical problems since it was launched. Huge amounts of downtime have resulted in parents being unable to apply, or apply and then find themselves completely locked out of their accounts.

Within days of launch in April, a number of childcare providers reported not being able to sign up to Tax-Free Childcare, either because they didn’t receive a temporary password from HMRC, or the one they were sent didn’t work. In other cases, childcare providers were unfamiliar with their Unique Tax Reference which is required for the registration process. Charity-run settings with no Unique Tax Reference were left unable to set up an account also. This left many parents with no ability to use the service to pay their childcare fees – without a provider account they had nowhere to send their money to.

Common issues encountered by parents using the Tax-Free Childcare service include:
• delays in receiving passwords to enter the site
• failure to be able to log in using the usernames and passwords supplied after successful registration
• technical downtime – often with the landing page stating ‘‘We’re experiencing technical difficulties’ and ‘We don’t know when the service will be available again.’
• delays in receiving the government’s 20% top up in to their Tax-Free Childcare accounts resulting in payments to childcare providers being made late
• payments being sent from the parent’s Tax-Free Childcare account but not reaching the childcare provider’s account
• some even reported being advised their child did not exist!

With childcare providers requesting payment from parents who had money tied up in a Tax-Free Childcare account which they couldn’t access, some parents had to find the money from elsewhere to make a second payment directly to their provider to ensure they were paid.

The technical glitches have continued for months. With many parents leaving it to the last minute to apply for the eligibility code required to access 30 hours of funding, it has left many without a code on the deadline date of 31 August 2017. It is reported that of the 200,000 families signed up for the 30 hours funding, an estimated 80,000 have had difficulties getting an eligibility code.

What can parents do to complain?
Tax-free childcare accounts
New guidance published on the gov.uk website under the heading ‘Childcare Service Compensation’ states that if you have been unable to access tax free childcare through your childcare account for technical reasons, you may be able to claim compensation. You may be eligible for these payments if you:
have been unable to complete your tax-free childcare,
• have been unable to access your childcare account, or
• have not received a decision about whether you are eligible, without an explanation, for more than 20 days.

To make a claim:
Send the following to Childcare Service, HM Revenue and Customs, BX9 1GR:

1. Name
2. Home Address
3. National Insurance Number
4. Copies of their receipts for payments to your childcare provider
5. Bank name, sort code and account number
6. A brief description of the issues you’ve had

You may be able to get the government top-up as a one-off payment. HMRC will also consider refunding any reasonable costs directly caused by their mistakes or unreasonable delays.

30 hours funding
The deadline for applying for 30 hours funding for childcare in September was 31 August 2017. However, due to the problems with the national computer system there may be some families who started their application process before 31 August but did not received their eligibility code in time.

To make a claim:
• Contact the childcare service helpline on 0300 123 4097 to receive a temporary code beginning with ‘11’.
• Give this code to your preferred childcare provider along with your national insurance number, your date of birth and your child’s date of birth.
• Childcare providers are able to process and verify these temporary codes with your local authority, so as long as your preferred provider has space for you, you may still be able to get a place. You will need to be quick however as most local authorities require providers to inform them of their headcount figures by late September.

 

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Back to school cheaper than ever (& how to make the most of it)

As if children aren’t expensive enough we have to buy school uniforms and all that other stuff! However, I am a fan of school uniforms for a variety of reasons, but it wasn’t too many years ago that it would nearly break the bank to send kids back to school. Prices of many items come down in the last few years. One assumes that it is because of more competition. With more supermarkets, more outlets and more online opportunities, stores are having to be more competitive with inevitable reduction in prices. Good. But could it also be that with their mass purchasing power that they are getting stock cheaper than others and even using as a loss leader. I fear most of us parents don’t care!

Are these items good value for money though? I think so. I have bought school uniforms from supermarkets for the last 5 years and they all last as long as each other. Although you do have to be careful that you are comparing like with like though. For example, one pair of school trousers may be cheaper than another but does the more expensive pair have reinforced knees? I have found from experience that one pair of trousers will be cheaper than the inevitable two….!

What do the supermarkets say?
A spokesperson for Sainsbury’s said “We have longstanding relationships with our school uniform suppliers. This allows us to offer choice, quality and value at scale during the busy back to school period and beyond.”

 

 

A spokesperson for Morrisons said “We offer a 200 day no-quibble guarantee on our children’s clothing. We’re so confident with the entire range that if a customer is not happy with ANY Nutmeg children’s item, for any reason, they can return it up to 200 days after they bought it with proof of purchase.” That is well over your statutory consumer rights too!

 

Shoes
There’s an interesting one. Clarks and Start-rite appear to have the monopoly on parental guilt when it comes to shoes. They certainly don’t last as long as any other supermarket shoe, we aren’t paying for durability! But they do provide us with a width fitting and it is easier to get the half size fitting. However there is little evidence on whether they are better or not for growing feet, who knows? Anything from £30 – £50 for Clarks’ school shoes instead of a supermarket shoe for a quarter of the price? Difficult one and a personal choice but we can at least compromises and buy the less worn P.E. footwear from supermarkets.

A spokesperson for Clarks said “Our price points are based on the high quality, premium materials and manufacturing processes that are used in the creation of our footwear. All of our footwear is also subject to a large number of tests designed to ensure comfort, safety and durability.” I’d like to see the results of the durability tests!!

Rest of the kit
When it comes to kit, such as pencil cases and backpacks etc. are they really that different from others. We are only paying for the picture not the quality on there aren’t we? Who is going to know where we bought it and does it matter where most parents are trying to save money on school essentials?

Some tips for back to school shopping:
1) Check the quality of the item before you buy. Give the uniform a pull and a stretch see if any stitching will come undone when worn once!
2) Buy early, try one item and give it a wash before buying others to check how they will last from regular washing.
3) Shop around, use comparison websites for absolutely anything!
4) Buy at the end of term too. Some supermarkets have discounts then and at certain times of the year. And buy ahead as you know those kids will grow! I pointed out to Tesco CEOs when I interviewed them last year that kids don’t grow to term times and we need uniform around the year but I don’t know if anyone is listening!
5) Remember that it doesn’t matter how cheap the items are, you are still covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. You are entitled to goods that are of satisfactory quality and that last a reasonable length of time. If they don’t meet this, then take them back with your proof of purchase and gain a refund or replacement (or repair!)

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