CAB launches super-complaint into penalising loyal customers

Citizen’s Advice Bureau

Citizen’s Advice Bureau has today launched a super-complaint with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). It is calling for the regulator to look into how consumers are being penalised for loyalty in 5 key sectors. It requests an outline from the CMA on how the problem can be fixed.

CAB’s press release said:

“Citizens Advice has revealed customers who stay loyal to their providers are losing out on over £4 billion a year.

The practice of overcharging loyal customers is widespread and Citizens Advice has repeatedly warned that loyal consumers are being ripped off.

Research by Citizens Advice found that across 5 essential markets (mobile, broadband, home insurance, mortgages and savings):

British consumers lose £4.1 billion a year to the loyalty penalty.

8 in 10 people are paying a significantly higher price, in at least one of the markets, for remaining with their existing supplier.

The loyalty penalty is, on average, £877 per year – equal to 3% of the average household’s total annual expenditure.”

ABI and BIBA

Back in May of this year, the ABI (Association of British Insurers) and BIBA (British Insurance Brokers’ Association) launched a set of Guiding Principles and Action Points  The ABI and BIBA has said it wants its insurance industry members to provide all the information about switching in their correspondence to customers.

Graeme Trudgill, Executive Director said “This guidance was a massive step forward in addressing any large discrepancies in premiums between new business and renewal and was put in place after the CA survey was done which informed their report.

In addition the FCA requirement to advise customers that have been with the same provider for several years that other providers are available – their ‘increasing transparency and renewal in general insurance markets’ – launched mid 2017 and may not have been reflected in the research.

“Though some customers may be able to obtain lower premiums it is important to en sure that the cover they have is suitable. Our members, insurance brokers most often do not set premiums and are able to help customers with the ‘shopping around ‘ at renewal. Since the launch of the principles and action points we’ve been highlighting to members the importance of double checking that customers who have been with the same insurer for a while are being offered a fair premium and we will continue to push this message hard with our members.”

The Financial Conduct Authority

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has added its support. In a press release it stated:

“The FCA has been concerned about the issue of long-standing customers being charged more for some financial products than new customers for some time. This has informed our earlier work on cash savings and mortgages.

In the FCA’s 2018/2019 Business Plan we announced that we were looking at the pricing practices of general insurance firms. As part of that work we will launch a market study looking at how general insurance firms charge their customers for home and motor insurance. The terms of reference for this market study will be published in a few weeks’ time.”

Government

To coincide with the super-complaint The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) launched a review of Smart data to protect consumers from rip-off tariffs to look at how the use of technology, such as comparison tools and open banking, can support consumers. It will also cover the speeding up of creative and innovative approaches.

Consumer Minister Kelly Tolhurst said:

“Britain has long been a world leader in ensuring that markets work in the interests of consumers, but many loyal customers are still paying more than they need to.

The Smart Data Review will enable the development of new technologies to make it easier to access the best deals, and follows tough action we have taken in the energy market through our price cap which will protect over 11 million households from poor value default tariffs this winter.

It is our modern Industrial Strategy in action, ensuring markets provide consumers with keen prices and quality products and services through cutting-edge innovation.”

The Government has said it “… wants to ensure that all consumers can benefit from these types of innovative new services, not just those who are digitally savvy and regularly look to switch providers.” But if the review is to only look at technology, one wonders how.

In previous research, CAB found that it is the most vulnerable who are hit by these penalties. It’s exploitation of vulnerable consumers plain and simple.

Let’s hope things are moving in the right direction, and fast!

Help and resources

All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers

All you need to know to make a complaint about energy

How to save money on your car insurance

Top 20 tips for complaining effectively

If you don’t get satisfaction from customer services write to the CEO. You can find their contact details on the CEO email website. You are unlikely to get a personal response but it will escalate matters.

book Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

For lots of help, advice, consumer laws and template letters for complaining about most issues in most sectors GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

Landing in court with Ryanair

Update 05 December 2018

The BBC reports Ryanair compensation claims to go to court

“The Civil Aviation Authority has said it is taking legal action against Ryanair over its refusal to compensate thousands of UK-based customers.

Their flights were cancelled or delayed over the summer because of strikes by Ryanair pilots and cabin crew.

The CAA says they are entitled to compensation under EU law.

However, Ryanair argues the strike action amounts to “extraordinary circumstances” and that therefore, it does not have to pay.”

“Ryanair has now told the CAA that it has terminated its agreement with ADR.

“As a result of Ryanair’s action, passengers with an existing claim will now have to await the outcome of the Civil Aviation Authority’s enforcement action,” the CAA said.”

However, the AviationADR still shows Ryanair as being members.

Summer of 2018 sees Ryanair, CAA and AviationADR in a flying shame of failures.

Ryanair aeroplane in sky

Ryanair failures

The Summer of 2018, like the Summer before, has seen Ryanair failing passengers trying to get to weddings, funerals, business meetings and, of course, holidays. This year, it seems that Ryanair is even trying to beat last year’s number of cancellations.

In 2015 the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) launched enforcement action against Ryanair. This action followed a review by the regulator that found Ryanair was not complying fully with European consumer law designed to support passengers following flight disruption. Ryanair was required to make policy changes or face the prospect of further enforcement steps leading to court action, if the airline remained non-compliant. Whilst it may have made policy changes “on paper” it appears to continue to flaunt them.

In 2017 the CAA launched enforcement action against Ryanair for persistently misleading passengers with inaccurate information regarding their rights in respect of its recent cancellations. This was after Ryanair repeatedly said it would not offer compensation for cancelled flights. The same is happening again, and although the CAA has issued a statement saying that Ryanair should be paying compensation, it has so far fallen short of taking enforcement action.

AviationADR failures

 

There are six different schemes authorised by the CAA to deal with airline complaints.  AviationADR and CEDR are the two main alternative dispute resolution (ADR) providers. AviationADR is the provider for Ryanair. So, those passengers not getting any joy from Ryanair could take their case to AviationADR. However…..

Which? articles

Earlier in the year Which? attempted to obtain the data on the number of complaints resolved by AviationADR and CEDR through a Freedom of Information Act request to the CAA. I requested the quarterly reports and was also refused. However, my FoI Internal Review request on this decision was successful. Which? reported Fewer than 500 Ryanair passengers awarded compensation by complaints body in 2017.

“AviationADR received over 3,600 EU261 complaints about Ryanair in 2017. Only 496 passengers were awarded compensation. The vast majority of complaints were still outstanding at the end of year. In the first quarter of 2018 AviationADR received over 2,400 flight delay and cancellation complaints about Ryanair. In this time 282 passengers were awarded compensation and 98 were told they were entitled to nothing, leaving thousands still waiting for a decision.

For the first quarter of 2018 the figures are even worse. AviationADR received over 2,400 flight delay and cancellation complaints about Ryanair. In the same period just 282 passengers were awarded compensation and 98 were told they were entitled to nothing, meaning thousands were still waiting for a decision.”

In addition, “Aviation ADR said that a ‘very large’ number of the remaining complaints were ‘put on hold’ because they had been submitted by claims-management companies, who are in dispute with Ryanair. It said: ‘Given the ongoing litigation between (claims solicitor) Bott & Co and Ryanair… the claims management companies have agreed that these claims should be put on hold pending the final outcome of the court case.’

Bott & Co doesn’t accept that it has ‘agreed’ that the claims should be put on hold. It says, ‘we felt that the claims should be looked at, however Aviation ADR have currently refused to do so, because Ryanair won’t deal with claims presented by solicitors.’ It confirmed that it had made about 100 claims through Aviation ADR in 2017, ‘but we never got a response on any of them.’ It also said that it had another 10,000 complaints it had been planning to send, ‘but they told us to wait because they wouldn’t consider the claims whilst Bott & Co v Ryanair was ongoing.’

Which? has previously raised concerns about AviationADR in Passengers still having to fight for flight delay compensation. This article outlined that The Retail Ombudsman (Details of reasons for the name change from TRO to various others can be found at The Retail Ombudsman is no more) was:

  • Committing an offence by even calling itself an ombudsman.
  • Wrongly implied in its 2015 annual report that Sainsbury’s and Tesco, as well as many other retailers, were members of its ADR scheme.
  • Allowed to call itself an ombudsman for more than a year by the Ombudsman Association (OA) before investigating. THE OA later issued a statement that The Retail Ombudsman ‘did not meet the OA’s membership criteria for independence, fairness, effectiveness, openness and transparency, and accountability’.

The Independent article

The Independent reported on AviationADR where a wrong decision had been made advising a passenger to claim against the airline with which she flew when Ryanair cancelled her flight. Not only that, it incorrectly advised her to claim against that airline, rather than against Ryanair! The airline was also an AviationADR member, so it would have been paid twice for essentially the same complaint!

Omnishambles reports

The two reports I co-authored with Marcus Williamson, ceoemail.com Editor, on the oversight of Ombudsmen and ADR providers, Ombudsman Omnishambles (OO) and More Ombudsman Omnishambles (MOO), heavily criticised the approval of Consumer Dispute Resolution Limited (CDRL), the company that runs the AviationADR scheme.

Delays in payment

Air India customer, Mukhtiar, is having problems getting the airline to pay the compensation he is owed.  He was told on 21 February 2018 that AviationADR had ordered Air India to pay up on his case but he’s still yet to receive anything. On the 26 June 2018 Mukhtiar asked AviationADR for an update. AviationADR said “I can confirm however that we are seeking further assistance from the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) regarding this matter.” This begs the question: if AviationADR has to refer to the CAA for an issue of non-payment, just how effective is it? Six months later, as of 20 August 2018, Mukhtiar still does not have his money.

A spokesperson for the CAA said:

“The CAA maintains a regular dialogue with the UK ADR providers and is aware of only a relatively small number of cases of late payment of awards. The CAA itself receives a handful of complaints from consumers about late payment of awards. In the CAA’s view, this does not indicate that there is a systematic issue with the timeliness of the payment of awards resulting from ADR decisions. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Ryanair comment regarding ADR

Ryanair was asked for the number of customers who have been paid out through AviationADR decisions and how many where the customer has come direct and Ryanair has made a decision in the customer’s favour. It was also asked how many cases for compensation it received in 2017and how many of those it awarded compensation and how many went to ADR. Ryanair said “We don’t break down our data on claims to that extent.”

Strike action

As regards the strike action, a spokesperson from Ryanair said “With regards to EU261 compensation for cancellations arising from strikes, our position has not changed: “Ryanair complies fully with EU261 legislation, under which no compensation is payable to customers when the (strike) delay/cancellation is beyond the airline’s control. If these strikes, by a tiny minority of Ryanair pilots, were within Ryanair’s control, there would have been no strikes and no cancellations.”

When asked for a comment regarding the strikes by cabin crew Ryanair refused to provide a comment.

The European Court of Justice ruled in the case of Helga Krüsemann and Others v TUIfly GmbH case, that a strike by the company’s employees are not “extraordinary circumstances”.

CAA monitoring of ADR schemes

A spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority said:  “The ADR Regulations, which set out the rules to which approved ADR bodies must adhere, specifies that ADR providers must reach their decisions within 90 days from the receipt of the complete case file – and to report each year on the average time taken to resolve complaints. For the year up to March 2018, the two ADR providers reported an average time of 65 days to reach a decision, well below the 90 day threshold. We are aware that a small number of complaints do exceed the 90 day threshold, and indeed we receive a handful of complaints ourselves from consumers who have experienced a delay in their complaint being decided. We will continue to monitor this issue and to work with the ADR providers to ensure that complaints are dealt with in a timely manner.”

It is important to note, “90 days from the receipt of the complete case file”. This means that an airline could hold up the case indefinitely by never sending required documents! As far as the CAA is concerned the providers are doing ok even if an airline takes 5 months to send information!

A spokesperson for the CAA said:

“The CAA maintains a regular dialogue with the UK ADR providers and is aware of only a relatively small number of cases go over the 90 day time limit. The CAA itself receives a handful of complaints from consumers about the timeliness of ADR decision making. In the CAA’s view, this does not indicate that there is a systematic issue with the timeliness of ADR decision making. We will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Trying to gain examples of monitoring has proven difficult. The CAA has been given copies of both the OO and MOO report and is aware of the OA and Which? criticism but has continued to approve AviationADR.

In February of this year the CAA said that  the average rate for consumer complaints being upheld by CEDR was 89% and for AviationADR  71%

If you have used ADR and not been paid out, contact the CAA  CEO.

What if you do not want to use AviationADR?

Having read the articles and documents you may not want to use AviationADR, so what do you do?

Do you need to show you have used ADR before you can go to court?

The Pre-Action Conduct guide, published by the Department of Justice, explains the conduct and steps courts would normally expect parties to take before commencing proceedings for particular types of civil claims.

This conduct states that litigation should be a last resort. The defendant and complainant should consider whether negotiation or ADR might enable them to settle their dispute without commencing proceedings. They should consider the possibility of reaching a settlement at all times throughout the process.

The court may decide that one or more parties (claimant or defendant) has failed to comply if s/he has unreasonably refused to use a form of ADR, or failed to respond to an invitation to do so.

If there has been a non-compliance that is not materially important then there’s no need for the court to do anything. But if there has been a non-compliance the court could pause or stop the proceedings until the party fulfils its duty under the pre-action conduct/practice direction. It is possible that if a claimant hasn’t tried ADR, the court could stop the case proceeding any further until the parties have used an ADR provider. The court could also apply sanctions.

The sanctions that could be applied (for any non-compliance with the protocol) cover the financial implications. The party at fault for non-compliance may have to pay the cost of proceedings, or part of the cost to the other party. This could be on an indemnity basis (which means that it might not be proportionate). If the claimant has been awarded money s/he may be awarded less interest than otherwise may have been the case. (If the defendant is at fault, s/he may be awarded a higher rate

I am not aware of any cases where someone has received sanctions as described above for not undertaking ADR. I would think the suitability of the ADR provider could provide grounds for your refusing to use that route.

Don’t be tempted into using a claims company either. they aren’t going to be able to do anything you can’t. See ECJ ruling on flight delays: Consumer champion warns against third-party claim firms

Possible reasons for putting forward the case not to use ADR

The wording in the protocol clearly states that ADR should be considered. It does not say it must be taken. The Which? articles, the article in The Independent and the two reports go into a lot of detail about failures, delays in dealing with complaints, mistakes etc. It should be easily possible to argue that you have considered ADR in this case but for the following reasons:

1)    Details of the Which? articles

2)    Details of The Independent article

3)    The points from OO report that relate to AviationADR (The Retail Ombudsman/CDRL)

4)    The summary of the financial history of Dean Dunham’s companies provided in the MOO report

5)    The list of points in the MOO report which relate to AviationADR

6)    The minutes from the Ombudsman Association (reproduced in the MOO report) that show that CDRL lack the credentials to provide quality ADR.

7)    Examples of AviationADR not enforcing decisions to make airlines pay. Small claims court process made simple gives you an outline of what you need to know about the process.

I am not a lawyer and do not give legal advice. I give help and guidance and the above is just my opinion. However, I believe a court will understand if you feel that AviationADR would be unable to deal with your case satisfactorily, given the background information shown here!

Westminster Business Forum seminar Next steps for consumer protection in the UK – dispute processes, enforcement and the consumer markets green paper. 15/11/18 Alternative Dispute Resolution – approval and oversight in the loosest possible sense of the words…

Look East interviews Ryanair CCO and Helen Dewdney

LookEast Evening and Late News 23/08/18. Two interviews with me regarding the current situation and one with the Ryanair Chief Commercial Officer David O’Brien. Looks at strikes, rights, bounced cheques and baggage issues.

Further advice and help regarding holidays

What to do when your flight is delayed or cancelled – the full guide

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