Categories
Uncategorized

How not to pay a charge made after transaction (and why!)

Outside of UK but inside EU
When I was on Rip Off Britain Live last year I took on a few cases. One of them was for someone whose mother had been charged a £30 booking fee after the booking process on a website that searches for flights then charges that admin fee on top (and for which she was not told about). She had booked a flight from Edinburgh to Southampton directly with the airline. The company’s hidden terms and conditions said that a charge could be made but did not provide the amount! Doubly unfair and doubly in breach of the law! Should you find yourself in this position of being charged after the booking process has completed and the company is based outside of the UK but within the EU, use this template to get your money back!

You will need to fill in all the xxxs with your information. Delete all instructions in brackets.

Dear xxx

On the date I booked a flight from xxx to xxx for (fill in date(s)) booking reference xxxxxx

The fare showed was £xxx. However, once I booked at this amount I was horrified to find that I had been charged a further £xx booking fee. This was not shown at the time of the booking. I am fully aware that in the terms and conditions it is stated that a booking service fee “may” be charged. However, and I quote the terms and conditions, which state “xxxxxxx.” (fill in anything that you have found relating to the charge that was not made known to you at time of booking i.e. hidden away in terms & conditions)

I was notified of the charge after the booking process. Making the charge after a consumer clicks the booking/payment is not part of the booking process. Company name is therefore in breach of its own terms and conditions. In order for it to be part of the process the charge should be shown.

(If the company states in its terms and conditions that it can make a charge after booking include the following paragraph). “The company name may charge a booking service fee which will be notified to you separately during the booking process.” is not an acceptable term. This could be any amount! It is obviously unfair to the consumer if the company can charge any amount it likes to a consumer without informing them of what it is before they have paid!

Company name is in breach of the EU Consumer Rights Directive 2013 (2011/83/EC). The directive prevents significant imbalances in the rights and obligations of consumers on the one hand and sellers and suppliers on the other hand. Terms that are found unfair under the Directive are not binding for consumers. It is quite clearly an unfair term to state that an unknown fee amount will be applied to the total. It is also clearly unfair to not state what this amount is at point of purchase. Under this Directive the trader must ensure that the customer understands what goods and services are being provided and that there are no hidden costs. Clearly this £xx charge was hidden. Ticking a box agreeing to terms and conditions that are not clear and in any case even if they were, were not detailed at point of purchase, is not acceptable under this Directive.

I therefore expect a full refund and redress for this unacceptable charge and stress that it has caused. I would also be interested in your comments regarding your ongoing breach of European law. Should I not be fully satisfied with your response I will not hesitate in taking the matter further. This will include but not be limited to contacting the UK European Consumer Centre which will pick up this complaint on my behalf with the relevant bodies in country where company is based including reporting your breach of the law and going to court if necessary.

I look forward to hearing from you

Yours faithfully/sincerely

For more details on complaining about holidays and flights outside of the UK but inside the EU see All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights.

Inside the UK
The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 state that traders must not mislead you by giving false information or leaving out information as to the price of a product or the way the price is calculated. Also, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2014 states that a practice is unfair and therefore in breach of the law if it harms or is likely to harm the economic interests of the average consumer, so if you as a consumer made a decision that you would not have done if you had been given the full information or not been put under pressure.

For loads more on complaining about holidays and flights see All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights

 

 

 

For more advice, information and template letters to complain about all things consumer see the book How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

 

Discussing terms and conditions your rights on The One Show

Categories
Laws

Ofgem Standards of Conduct and Quality Standards

Ofgem Standards of Conduct

In August 2013 Ofgem put new Standards of Conduct into place. They require suppliers and any organisations that represent them, such as brokers or third party intermediaries, to ensure that each domestic customer is treated fairly. They cover three broad areas:

Behaviour:
suppliers must behave and carry out any actions in a fair, honest, transparent, appropriate and professional manner.

Information:
suppliers must provide information (whether in writing or orally) which is:

  • complete, accurate and not misleading (in terms of the information provided or omitted);
  • communicated in plain and intelligible language;
  • related to products or services that are appropriate to the customer to whom it is directed; and
  • fair both in terms of its content and in terms of how it is presented (with more important information being given appropriate prominence).

Process:
the supplier must:

  • make it easy for the consumer to contact them;
  • act promptly and courteously to put things right when they make a mistake;
  • otherwise ensure that customer service arrangements and processes are complete, thorough, fit for purpose and transparent.

Four “core” tariffs per fuel (electricity and gas) will be the limit that any supplier can offer. This will apply to each payment type. Suppliers will be allowed to offer these tariffs to collective switching schemes. They will also be able to offer extra fixed term tariffs into schemes that meet their criteria.

Standing charge and a single unit rate for all tariffs and suppliers can set the standing charge at zero if they wish

Dual fuel and online account management discounts remain. They will not be considered as “core tariffs” but as a discount. They will be simplified and will apply uniformly across all tariffs as £/pence per year. For example, a supplier would be able to offer a direct debit customer a choice of no more than four electricity and four gas tariffs. The customer could then choose a dual fuel discount and an online account management   discount.

Existing, expensive “dead tariffs” (i.e. tariffs that are no longer marketed) – customers must be transferred onto the cheapest variable rate. A supplier will only be able to keep consumers on dead tariffs if they are cheaper, or as cheap, as the supplier’s lowest standard or evergreen tariff.

Ban from increasing prices on fixed term deals or making other changes to fixed term tariffs (except trackers or structured price increases set out in advance which are fully in line with consumer protection law).

Ban from rolling forward household customers onto fixed term contracts without their consent.

42-49 day window before customers’ end date of their fixed term tariff for them to decide if they want to stay with the supplier or switch.

Requirement to give all customers personalised information on the cheapest tariff offered for them. This information will appear on each bill and on a range of other customer communications.

All information suppliers send to consumers is to be simplified, more engaging and personalised to them.

Tariff Comparison Rate (TCR) – all suppliers’ communications to provide “at a glance” information to help customers compare tariffs. The TCR will be similar to the APR comparison rate used with credit cards. Ofgem is also requiring suppliers to provide personalised estimates which take account of a customer’s usage to enable them to compare tariffs more accurately when switching.

Tariff information label will set out key terms and conditions as well as relevant information to help consumers compare across suppliers.

Quality of Service Guaranteed Standards

The Quality of Service Guaranteed Standards are guaranteed standards of service levels that must be met by each distribution company. The Direction was made by GEMA and took effect in October 2010. These standards have been set to guarantee a level of service that is reasonable to expect companies to deliver in all cases.

If the distribution company fails to meet the level of service required, it must make a payment to the customer subject to certain exemptions which are:

  • severe weather makes it impossible to restore the supply
  • strikes or industrial action
  • you’re out when the energy company visits and you knew they were coming
  • you cancel an appointment.

Payments under the guaranteed standards compensate for the inconvenience caused by loss of supply. They are not designed to compensate customers for subsequent financial loss.

Ofgem monitors and enforces the guaranteed standards relating to quality of supply.

The guaranteed standards cover 12 key service areas, including supply restoration, connections and voltage quality, and for the consumer cover situations when:

  • you report a faulty prepayment meter to your supplier and someone is not sent to repair or replace it within a specified time
  • the supplier doesn’t arrive within agreed time slot for a visit to your  home
  • the supplier doesn’t respond to your written enquiries within a certain time limit gas supply is interrupted because of a fault – you may be entitled to a compensation payment, depending on for how long it is off. It must be restored within a specified time depending on the weather and the number of homes affected.
  • the supplier does not give two days or more written notice when an electricity distributor plans to interrupt your supply (example here)
  • a gas transporter digs up your garden or driveway and any damage caused by the work is not made good within ten days
  • you are on the Priority Services Register and your gas supply is interrupted but you are not given alternative heating and cooking facilities within four hours.

Back billing

Energy suppliers are signed up to Ofgem’s back-billing principle. If the supplier is at fault for not sending you a bill for more than a year, (and this could be for a number of reasons including, not dealing with requests from you about a faulty meter or account and subsequently allowing a large debt to build, failing to process a direct debit or just failing to send you a bill) then you do not have to pay. There are some reasons when this doesn’t apply, such as if you make no attempt to make a payment. Should the company not honour this principle then follow their complaints procedure.

From 01 May 2018 all energy suppliers had to follow Ofgem’s back billing rules. Before then it was only the big six and according to Ofgem did not always follow the principles.

How to complain about your energy supplier

Electricity pylon Everything you need to know to complain about energy problemsAll you need to know to make a complaint about energy wrong bills, poor service, stories, how to take it further etc.

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

For more details about complaining to energy companies including advice, tips and templates see How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!