Don’t let shopping online become a “rip off”

The Complaining Cow follows up on her Rip Off Britain advice

When purchasing items online it’s easy to get carried away when you see what you think is a bargain. But make sure you know where you are buying from and what your rights are before you part with your money, especially if the retailer is outside the EU.

woman with coffee cup hand on mouse at laptop


If you are buying anything online, under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013  you have 14 days cooling off period for changing your mind. There are some exceptions to this, such as bespoke items. Whether or not return postage has to be paid when you change your mind depends on the trader’s terms and conditions.

If you paid extra for speedier delivery and it wasn’t delivered on time, you are entitled to this cost back. If the item is faulty (regardless of whether it is a bespoke item) you should not have to pay return postage and you should be refunded the full cost of any postage paid for sending the item to you. These regulations were put into place in the UK under an EU Directive and therefore you have this cover for purchasing all items online within the EU.

If the item costs over a £100 and you pay by credit card you will also have cover under Section 75A of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, which is worldwide. Notify the credit card provider if you get no redress from the retailer.

For items paid for using your bank debit card you may be able to use Chargeback. It is a voluntary scheme based on scheme rules set by card issuers such as Mastercard and Visa.

You also have cover when shopping with PayPal. However, completing a credit card transaction through a thirdparty payment service means that the credit card provider and the seller are no longer in a direct relationship, so are not equally liable. This applies therefore to services such as PayPal, Amazon Marketplace, Worldpay and Google Checkout. So you don’t have any credit card cover if you use these kind of services.

Rip Off Britain

On the Pop Up segment of Rip Off Britain I heard the case of Kathy, who ordered a dress online but didn’t realise the website was based in, and the product would be delivered  from, China. The dress was not as described and was of poor quality. The company would not refund the postage costs. Their website however does say that “However you need to pay the return shipping fee on your own if there is no quality issue.”

As there was a quality issue I advised Kathy  it would be worth arguing again that it was of poor quality. I suggested sending an email and including a picture from the website alongside a picture of what was received, as evidence, plus a description of the differences between any description of the item and what was actually received. I don’t know whether she did this so I don’t know the outcome.

That’s all she could do. So take care when ordering online!

How to spot a non UK website

  • The website only lists prices in US dollars or Euros.
  • Look for terms and conditions of returns.
  • Check for poor English. For example on this website in the “Rip Off Britain” case below was the grammatically incorrect phrase “item have stain”.
  • Search for the return address.
  • A website domain name is not always an indication of where the company is based. For example, a website address ending in doesn’t necessarily mean the site is based in the UK

If you need help with a purchase bought from within the EU you can contact the European Consumer Centre who should be able to assist you.

Your Rights, Mail Order, Online and Deliveries

Top 20 Tips for complaining effectively

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Bite back at Apple

 iPhone maker caught slowing older devices – how to get redress

Apple caught slowing older iPhones
Apple has been caught slowing down older iPhones. Whilst customers might suspect that this was done to encourage them to upgrade their devices, the company said in a statement, quoted on the BBC website, that it “wanted to prolong the life” of those devices.

The BBC News article says that “Apple has now confirmed that it made changes to IOS to manage ageing lithium-ion batteries in some devices, since the batteries’ performance diminishes over time.” The company is further quoted as saying that “Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, [when they] have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.”

The company’s statement continues “Last year, we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future. Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers.”

In the US some 15 class actions have been started against Apple and the comments on that article are interesting too.

In an attempt to regain favour, Apple is reducing the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by £54 — from £79 to £25 — for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later. Apple’s statement on the 28th December 2017 A Message to Our Customers about iPhone Batteries and Performance

cables Apple caught slowing down batteriesCan you beat Apple? Yup
On 15 January 2013 I bought an IPhone 4s. The Terms and Conditions told me that I had a one year warranty in addition to my consumer rights. Readers of this blog and followers of me on Facebook and Twitter know what I think of warranties. If you are new here you need to know that I am yet to find a warranty that gives you more than your statutory rights. Often this “Look at us giving you a free warranty for however many years” is to throw you off the scent. Most people would think that after their free warranty of a year or two that’s it they can’t get anything if things go wrong. WRONG.

What the Apple warranty does do is say you can claim using the warranty or your consumer rights. Where this may be helpful is that consumer rights would mean your contract is with the seller which may not always be Apple. The warranty is with the manufacturer Apple in this instance. Although cynically I know that most people would go into an Apple store and be told that the phone is out of warranty and then be out of pocket. Now, that isn’t right. I know it isn’t right and said so when my phone battery was cutting out at 40%.

Well, in March 2016 I’d had enough of the situation and went to the Apple store. The conversation went something like this:

bite back at Apple & get a free battery on picture of mobile phone with The Complaining Cow logo on itMe: My phone’s battery is cutting out at roughly 40% charge. I’d like a replacement battery for free.

Member of staff: Is your phone under warranty?

Me: No, it is over 3 years old.

Member of staff: We can’t replace it for free then.

Me: Under the Sale of Goods Act 1994 goods are expected to last a reasonable length of time. I expect a battery for a phone to last more than 3 years.

Member of staff: Oh, your consumer rights, let me take the phone for you and change the battery over.

They changed the battery successfully, easily and for free.

So, Apple, you can be pretty damn sure if you’ve slowed down my battery on my iPhone 5s I’ll be after a free battery.

What does this mean for the current situation?
You could try what I did. Say that under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (or Sale of Goods Act 1994 if you bought it before 1st October 2015) you are entitled to products that last a reasonable length of time.

The iPhone was released in September 2014 so you are looking at the same length of time for the battery as mine, or indeed less.

In this instance of Apple slowing the battery down I would argue that it hasn’t lasted a reasonable length of time and therefore is a breach of consumer law. Even if they argue they have slowed it down to lengthen its life, there shouldn’t have been a need to slow it down.

If they say no, put your complaint in writing following these tips. Threaten to take them to the Small Claims Court if they do not provide you with a new battery. If they still don’t, do it. I’m not a lawyer and it hasn’t been tested in court but it sure would be fun to try and set a precedent. This is another reason why Apple is likely to give you a free battery as a goodwill gesture. Imagine risking the influx of cases for the sake of £25?!

Do it, and then come back and tell me how you got on!

I asked Apple for a comment on what it would do if anyone quoted their Consumer Rights to get a new battery. There hasn’t been a response to this question. Draw your own conclusions.

Here are my Top 20 tips for complaining effectively

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


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11/01/2018 The Guardian reports Apple questioned by US Senate over practice of slowing down iPhones saying “The French fraud watchdog, which is part of the finance ministry, opened an investigation last week over alleged “deception and planned obsolescence”, following a complaint by a consumer rights group.

A 2015 French law makes intentionally shortening the lifespan of a product in order to encourage consumers to replace it illegal, with possible fines of up to 5% of annual turnover and jail terms of up to two years.”

Jolly good.

Harrods customers try to bag a bargain – but can they keep it?

Website glitch shows ridiculously low prices for handbags

Ha! Harrods glitch! The Evening Standard reported that Harrods Aspinal handbags, normally retailing at £950, were on sale on their website for £8. They sold out (pretty quickly!)

The Standard also reported that fine Italian leather handbags, which would have usually cost several hundred pounds, were listed at less than £5. One £250 pure leather tote bag cost just £2.13, while the brand’s Marylebone tote bag, usually costing £950, was on sale for just £8.08.

So, does Harrods have to honour these prices and ship the orders?

In a word, sadly, NO.

1 Aspinal handbag full price £950 and one at £8.08


Many people wrongly believe that if something is marked up at a certain price then that is the price you pay. The price label is actually just an “invite to treat”, in legal terms. This means that it is open to negotiation between the two parties. Sorreeeee!

In some cases, it may be that traders’ terms and conditions state that the contract has been entered into once payment has been taken and you receive the confirmation email.

However, in the Harrods’ terms and condition it states:

“When you place an order, we will send you an acknowledgement email to let you know that we have received your order. This is not an order confirmation or acceptance. We will request pre-authorisation against your payment card at this stage.

We will send you a confirmation email to confirm that your order has been dispatched for delivery. This is confirmation and acceptance of your order. Your payment card will be charged on dispatch.”

So, unless you have received a confirmation email to say that your item has been dispatched, you can be pretty sure that Harrods will not honour the sale on these apparent bargains.

I have asked Harrods for comment and whether they will be offering customers a goodwill gesture to make up for the disappointment! As yet I haven’t heard anything…

The cynic in me wonders if this was all a publicity stunt? Why haven’t they put out a statement yet? Are they just waiting for the story to spread a bit more?

If you fancy writing to the Harrods CEO catch his email address here at (where you can find any CEO contact details!


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


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




Are you on the right track with your Christmas train travel plans?

Problems on the trains this Christmas and your rights

Is your train running this Christmas or have you been duped?

It looks like thousands of Christmas holiday train travellers have been misled into buying more expensive tickets than they would have done normally.

Transport Focus discovered around 15,000 errors in the Rail Delivery Group timetable database. In just one week in December it found 2,648 invalid journeys listed on the database. This is likely to result in Christmas travellers not being able to make the journeys planned. Tickets have been incorrectly sold for services which will not run due to engineering works.

Virgin train not providing tickets early enough

It also found that in the 12 weeks before Christmas – when regulations say timetables and advance tickets should be released –  that six major rail firms (Virgin, London Midland, South Western, Great Western, Greater Anglia and Southern) had not offered a full range of advance purchase fares. Passengers were therefore forced to buy more expensive tickets. Sky News reported, for example, that only 15% of services were open for reservation on Greater Anglia, and 25% on Virgin Trains. It also reported that Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, has ordered an immediate investigation and said:

“It would be totally unacceptable if any passenger has to pay walk-up fares this Christmas because advance tickets were not available. I expect passengers to be offered the highest standards of customer service and have ordered an immediate investigation into this report. We are delivering the biggest investment in our railways since the Victorian era, and at times those works will cause disruption. I have set out clear plans to bring the operation of track and train closer together that will improve future reliability for passengers.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog, Transport Focus, said:

“Failure to release timetables 12 weeks ahead of travel can mean passengers buy tickets for trains that will not run. That can’t be right. Train operators’ advice is to book early at Christmas to get the best deal, but if the timetable has not been finalised only more expensive ‘on the day’ tickets can be bought. Being forced to change plans because the railway hasn’t got this right will only result in more frustration from passengers. The rail industry must act urgently to make sure the timetable is accurate 12 weeks ahead if passengers are to trust they are on their side.”

Rail firms are passing the blame on to Network Rail for failing to finalise their schedule of engineering work. Twaddle! And no doubt if this is true then rail companies will be claiming from Network Rail far more than they will be paying out to compensate customers. Transport Focus said that the failings could lead to a loss of faith in train companies. I say “EVEN more loss of faith!”

Check with your train operator if the train you have booked is running from National Rail Enquiries.

What do you need to know if you want to complain?
1) From 1 October 2016 rail is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which gives you more rights few know about. If you have been misled into making a decision that you would otherwise not have made then the company is in breach of this law, for starters!

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 including: 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 over the tannoy or on displays, for the delay.  Take a photo of any excuses shown on displays.

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.

8) Currently, no compensation is offered.

9) 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.

10) Put your complaint in writing so that you have a record. Keep a screen capture or print out of a web-based refund claim.

11) 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.

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

13) Make it clear what you want to happen 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 Small Claims Court.

14) If you are not satisfied with the response, write to the CEO using contact details from the website. The matter will then be escalated and taken seriously.

15) It may also be possible to claim from your credit card company under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act for non-delivery of services.

Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

Email addresses for CEOs of UK railway companies with links to Delay Repay where applicable.

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


For more on your consumer rights, advice, information, tips and template letters get the book!


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

Mobile phone companies called out for overcharging loyal customers

Press release

Mobile phone companies called out for overcharging loyal customers: The Complaining Cow shows how to take on your mobile phone provider
Mobile phone companies have been found to be overcharging customers whose fixed deal has ended. CAB and The Complaining Cow are campaigning for mobile companies to end this behaviour.

A mystery shopping exercise conducted by the Citizens Advice Bureau discovered that customers of Vodafone, EE and Three who choose to stay on the same phone plan after the fixed deal ends do not get their bills reduced. –This means that customers are paying on average an extra £22 a month for a phone they have already paid off. Loyal customers could find themselves still paying £46 a month extra for the iPhone 8, after it has been paid off.

Mobile phone companies typically incorporate the cost of the mobile phone handset into the price of the contract. This means that the cost is paid over the initial period of the contract, with part of each month’s charge paying for the phone and part paying for calls, texts and data. But, as CAB has found, some companies are continuing to charge for the phone, even after its cost has been paid off.

CAB found that 36% of people with a handset-inclusive mobile phone contract stayed on the same contract after the end of their fixed deal period, with 19% staying on the same contract for more than 6 months afterwards.

Consumer expert Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! is unimpressed by the findings and joins CAB in calling for the providers to reduce the cost of the renewed contract, as the phone has been paid for.

She advises taking on the provider and asserting your rights if you have been affected!
1) If your provider renewed your contract after you had paid off the handset and you could have taken up a contract with another provider, you should write to the provider and state that it is in breach of The Consumer Rights Act 2015 because the contract is weighted in favour of the trader and…

2) that it is also a breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2014 because the trader could be considered as committing a misleading practice and you can request one of 3 options:

i) Unwind a contract and get the money back and restore yourself to the position you were in before entering the contract

ii) Fixed discount on the price dependent on the severity of the misleading practice, 25% more than minor, 50% significant, 75% serious and 100% if very serious

iii) Damages for detriment caused can be secured when losses exceed the price paid and can be applied if you have incurred distress and inconvenience


3) under The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations (2013) you must understand what goods and services are being provided and there should be no hidden costs.

4) Quote all these laws and regulations in your email or letter to the company. Make sure you write, as then you have the evidence trail should you need to take the matter further.

5) Give details of when the contract was taken out and the circumstances of the renewal and be clear about what you want them to do to resolve the matter.

6) Should you not be satisfied with the response you could contact the CEO (contact details for CEOs at You are unlikely to get a response from the CEO but the matter will be escalated to the Executive team.

7) You can take the matter to an alternative dispute resolution scheme. This will be CISAS or Ombudsman Services depending on which scheme your provider is signed up with. You can go to them after 8 weeks from when you submitted your complaint or request a deadlock letter from the trader before that time.


For more information about the naughty companies see Citizen’s Advice Bureau press release Mobile phone networks overcharging loyal customers by up to £38 a month

All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers advice, laws for almost every complaint about telecom providers!