All you need to know when your phone/energy bill is wrong

It has been in the news a lot recently about Vodafone and their billing mistakes. It moved to a new billing platform and since then there have been masses of reports of serious blunders, such as direct debits incorrectly set up, people being put on the wrong tariff and credit agencies wrongly being told that customers have missed payments. So what if you are one of these customers or indeed if you receive bills of any sort what should you do?

Check your bills
Always check your bills. Check that it is what you think it should be. Then check your bank if you pay by direct debit because there’s always a chance that the company has messed that up! Go back through your statements for months too if you haven’t been checking them.

What to do if you find a problem
Act as soon as you find out. You can ring but you won’t have a record or evidence of what they have said they will do. Recording the call is not a great option because 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. Recording calls and the law. You can use online chat if available. Don’t trust that this will be emailed to you even if they say it will be! Copy and paste the transcript into a document. If you have to ring do so through their free number and follow tips for ringing.

Follow the tips for effective complaining.

Don’t cancel any direct debits. This will confuse the issue and may affect your credit rating.

Taking it further
If you get nowhere with customer services, find the CEO contact details from ceoemail.com and write to him or her. Vodafone CEO contact details. You are highly unlikley to get a response directly from him or her but it will be an escalataion as the CEO will have a senior team to deal with complaints. Make sure you add all the dates and evidence of what was agreed prior to writing to him/her.

If this still gets you nowhere then go to the Ombudsman. There is CISAS and the Communication Ombudsman. Your ‘phone provider will be a member of only one of these schemes and you will need to check to see which one. You must ask for a letter of deadlock or wait until 8 weeks has passed since your inital complaint.

Energy bills
Same advice with energy bills. Go to the Energy Ombudsman after following the advice above.

Your rights
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to 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. So for example, if you incurred additional expense such as having to ring the company repeatedly then you should add this to your claim. (Generally speaking, unless excessive, you aren’t entitled to redress for time taken on the matter).  If your credit rating has been affected the company must also correct this.

If mistakes are made by the company then you can and should argue that under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 the company is in breach of contract so therefore if you want you can terminate early without paying the penalty.

Regulatory bodies
Ofcom is the regulatory body for phone providers. 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 will investigate and take action. Ofgem does the same for energy companies.

For more information on how to complain to ‘phone providers and others see Tips and the book and keep up to date with consumer news with the newsletter.

 

 

How to end 3 problems with your mobile ‘phone (& get your money back)

 

I get so many requests for advice about mobile ‘phone contracts and communication companies generally. I do seriously believe that the communication companies are the worst for communication. So because of this, I thought it would be helpful to write a post about your rights when it comes to mobile ‘phones. You’re welcome.

Problem number 1 – ‘phone develops a fault

Your consumer rights are the same for when your mobile ‘phone develops a fault as any other product, but in my experience people are frequently getting fobbed off with lines such as “Send it back for repair” and “Contact manufacturer”.

If your ‘phone forms part of your mobile ‘phone contract, your claim would be against your mobile ‘phone service provider and you may be entitled to a free repair or replacement as part of your contract. Check the terms and conditions in your contract for what you are entitled. However, regardless of the contract you retain your rights under the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994 (for items/services purchased before 1st October 2015) or Consumer Rights Act 2015 (for items/services purchased on or after 1st October 2015) to goods that are satisfactory, fit for purpose and as described. Most companies in my experience will fight this and certainly after a year will say “tough” one way or another. Personally I believe that a ‘phone should last more than a year and I would be prepared to test this in court and set a precedent but unfortunately my phone of over two years hasn’t broken! But I’m ready and waiting to help if anyone wants to try it!

If you bought your ‘phone without any contract then your complaint is always against the retailer and not the manufacturer. You may have a guarantee with the ‘phone and after 6 months you might want to claim on this with the manufacturer, but go to the retailer first who might also contact the manufacturer directly for you.

Problem number 2 – network coverage

There are currently no rules regarding poor network coverage. Even if you move house, you are unlikely to be successful in cancelling a contract for poor network coverage if in the provider’s terms and conditions it allows for breaks in coverage. However under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 a service provider must provide the contracted service with reasonable care and skill. I would argue that the service was not being carried out with reasonable skill and care if they can’t give you any service! It was reported in the media that in 2009 Tom Prescott took Orange to the Small Claims Court and gained £500 plus free cancellation of his contract when he couldn’t get coverage on his 18 month contract. So threaten it and quote this case.

Problem number 3 – mis-sold contracts

It is extremely difficult to successfully complain about mis-sold contracts. That doesn’t mean you should not do it however! It is just that in my experience dealing with mis-selling of a contract was one of the most annoying and tedious complaints to deal with. The fob offs come thick and fast and I’m sure put many people off. I undertook a case for someone regarding this and it was a lot of work and a lot of emails to CEOs and in the end I won and got Ben out of the contract but I’m sure most people would have given up which is of course what the companies want.

Keep records of everything. If the company rings you around the time of the end of your contract make sure anything that they offer for a new one they also put in writing. Although you can request transcript of conversations, (under the Data Protection Act 1998) they are likely to charge for this and again it is time consuming.  If you agree a contract over the ‘phone remember that you have the 14 day cooling off period (Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013) in which you can cancel.

You also have other Acts of law at your disposal. The Misrepresentation Act 1967 and also the more recent Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. For a practice to be unfair under these rules, they must harm, or be likely to harm, the economic interests of the average consumer. Also The Consumer Rights Act 2015.

More on Mobile phone companies called out for overcharging loyal customers and how to challenge and gain redress.

Complaining and taking matters further

lap top on woman's knees phone in one hand

 

See All you need to know when your phone/energy bill is wrong.

 

 

 

 

1) Use these tips and especially using www.ceoemail.com to get to the top, you’ll probably need it
2) Use the links to the Acts above and quote your rights from them
3) Threaten legal action if necessary and be prepared to see it through
4) The ombudsmen only cover mobile ‘phone services and not issues with the actual ‘phones. CISAS and Ombudsman Services Communications depending on which service your company is registered with.

Wherever possible complain see Why you should write not ‘phone to complain effectively.

See a great post on SkintDad’s website – 4 Ways to Stop Overpaying For Your Mobile Phone for ensuring that you are not paying too much for your mobile ‘phone.

 

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

 

More information to come on broadband etc. in the following weeks. More tips, advice, details of law and template letters can also be found in the book GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!