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

Rights

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 .co.uk 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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What to do when ripped off by a hotel

Hi

If you came here from my appearance on Rip Off Britain talking about how to complain to hotels. Here’s some advice and useful links

  1. Complain at the time. This is important because there is an onus on the consumer to be reasonable as well as the trader. If the matter were to go further you will need to show that you provided the trader an opportunity to put matters right.Ask to see the manager
  2. Get evidence. Take photos, details of names of people you complained to, dates and times and any evidence you can use at a later date if you need to do so.
  3. Consumer Rights Act 2015. Know your legal rights. The key things regarding hotels here are:
    You are entitled to services to be carried out with reasonable skill and care. So if your room isn’t up to scratch or the service you receive is poor then you are entitled to redress. The percentage you should expect will depend on the level of service and how quickly they put matters right.
    The place you stay must match the description. So if the brochure/website said the room will have xyz then xyz must be in the room in good working order.
  4. The ultimate guide to complaining when eating out provides detailed information on how to complain in restaurants and cafes etc.
  5. Complain at a later date. If you feel that you didn’t get redress at the time or you were unable to complain in the time then do complain when you get home. This may be to the manager or if a chain go higher. Use ceoemail.com to find the contact details for any CEO.
  6. Complain effectively! See Top 20 Tips How to complain! for guidance on writing the perfect email/letter
  7. Complain even if hotel not in UK! All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights provides links to a variety of posts discussing how to prevent problems, successful complaints, your rights when booking and after your holiday etc.

The rest of the site provides advice, guidance, information and your rights on a wide range of issues and sectors. For more of this including templates see the Amazon bestseller How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

Make sure your holiday in the sun doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket

Blue Monday is over and people are thinking about holidays, but with the multitude of ways in ways in which people can book we need to be much more careful of how we book with whom and be aware of consumer rights.

Make sure your holiday in the sun doesn’t burn a hole in your pocket

With the weather so cold and adverts for holidays upon us, our thoughts turn to booking holidays in warmer places in the busiest time for travel agents. But as they all compete and more choice is available on how to book, including through sites not based in the EU, what do we need to look out for?

 

Booking through companies not based in UK
Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! has come across many people who have fallen foul of travel agents or companies making themselves looking like one which are not based in the UK. For example,  Susan booked accommodation with Booking.com at the cost of £357.50. The company cancelled less than 24 hours before the trip because the hotel was ‘overbooked’. Susan only discovered that the alternative accommodation didn’t exist when she arrived in London. She had to pay a further £900 to stay in inconvenient accommodation, resulting in numerous taxi and bus fares.  The company told Susan to email them and attach invoices and receipts, but she did not get a response, refund or even an apology. She was also £982.50 out of pocket. She eventually got her money back including out of pocket costs and a goodwill gesture of £250 by quoting relevant laws.

Robert’s mother had been charged a £30 fee after the booking process on a website that searches for flights then charges an administration fee on top, which she was not told about. The company’s hidden terms and conditions said that a charge could be made but did not provide the amount! Writing to the CEO and quoting relevant EU laws meant he got his money back.

So what are your rights?

Man standing on rock looking out to water your rights when booking a holidays or flights

Your rights booking through a UK or EU-based website

  • ATOL (Air Travel Organisers’ Licence) is a government-run financial protection scheme operated by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). All monies you pay for package holidays involving flights and holidays including a flight plus accommodation and/or car hire, must be protected under an ATOL licence
  • ABTA(Association of British Travel Agents) follow a code of conduct, so if they break that you can report them to ABTA.
  • EU Directive 2005/29/EC (for the UK Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008) when a shopper makes a purchasing decision s/he would have made had s/he been given accurate information or not put under unfair pressure to do so.
  • Section 75A of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, you have a right to be refunded if you make a claim within 6 years (5 in Scotland) for purchases over £100 and less than £30,000. You are covered if you pay as little as 1p but the item costs more than £100. But remember you may be charged a percentage of the cost for a transaction fee, but you can try to pay a small amount on the card and the whole cost will be covered.
  • Purchases bought on debit cards may be covered by this voluntary scheme, the rules set by card issuers such as Mastercard and Visa, check if your bank is covered.

Your rights for holidays booked through UK tour operators

  • Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tour Regulations 1992 The organiser (tour operator) is liable for the failures of hoteliers, suppliers and services within the contract. If the holiday is cancelled, the consumer is entitled to a substitute package of equivalent or superior quality (if the other party to the contract is able to offer such a substitute) or to take a substitute package of lower quality and recover the difference in the price or to have a full refund.
  • From 01 July 2018 the new Package Travel Directive comes into force. This widens the meaning of the word “package” so that more companies will have to abide by the regulations. So anyone that puts together a package for a customer will be responsible for all the elements. Think Expedia etc.
  • The organiser must not provide mis-leading information and provide details about changes as soon as possible. The consumer is entitled to redress for a variety of things dependent on what regulation has been broken and when.

Your rights for holidays taken in the UK
The Consumer Rights Act 2015 entitles you to services that are carried out with reasonable skill and care and with information given verbally or in writing to the consumer, which is binding where the consumer relies on it.

Dewdney says you should be careful when you book but that you can nearly always get redress, so long as you know your legal rights. “Armed with your rights you can feel more confident that you won’t lose money either in the booking process or if anything goes wrong once on holiday.”

Should you have a problem with your holidays see: All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights

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

 

 

For more tips, information, advice, your consumer rights and template letters GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

Consumer champion says “Know your EU rights”

Consumer champion says “Know your EU rights”

As a nation the British aren’t very good at complaining. Fewer than 45% of us know and use our legal rights.[1]

Although there is an increase in using social media to complain and whilst this may be considered complaining, it often doesn’t gain the legal redress that letters or emails can elicit. The main reasons cited by people for not complaining are that it takes too much time and effort and that they are unsure of their legal rights.

The Consumer Rights Act, introduced on the 1st October, consolidated a number of Acts and introduced cover for digital goods, but with so few people currently knowing and using their legal rights the numbers complaining might decrease still further.

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, consumer rights blogger and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! touched upon this on Rip Off Britain Live on 22 October.[2]  Dewdney says that whenever she has used EU law when complaining it has made it easier to gain redress.

Recently a friend of hers booked a hotel in Germany through an online travel agent based in the Netherlands. He was told that the booking did not complete and to book with the hotel directly. When he did this he incurred a 7% admin fee on the credit card payment where there had been none before. Dewdney says “The Directive on Consumer Rights (2011/83/EC) states the need for a trader to ensure that the customer understands what is included in the contract and with no hidden costs. This is clearly not the case here. The email from the website stated that he needed to provide the credit card details and that the hotel would process the payment. The email clearly led him to believe that his contract was still with the website acting as a travel agent but the hotel would only be processing it. The “invoice” which he received after payment showed the credit card charge of 7%. Had the booking gone through normally there would have been no charge.[3] Dewdney succeeded in getting a refund of the full fee. (Full story here).

With more and more of us shopping online it is becoming increasing necessary to not only know our legal consumer rights for this country but in the EU too. If you need help with fighting a case across borders within the EU, the UK European Consumer Centre can advise.

How well do you know your rights? Here’s a list of some you may need to know : [5]

1) The Directive on Consumer Rights (2011/83/EC) [4] 
Understanding what goods and services are being provided and ensuring there are no hidden costs

Burden of proof of contract lies with trader

Right to change your mind when buying at a distance or off premises with a 14 days cooling off period

Deliveries without undue delay within 30 days unless other time frame agreed by both parties

Pre-ticked boxes for additional payments are not allowed

2) EU Directive 1999/44/EC
Minimum 2 year limitation period within which you can bring a legal claim against the retailer from whom you purchased the goods. (In UK it is maximum of 6 years under the Consumer Rights Act 2015)

3) Unfair Consumer Contracts Regulations EU Directive 93/13/EEC
Where you and the trader haven’t negotiated terms a contract term can be deemed as unfair if it creates “significant imbalance” in the trader and consumer’s positions.

4) Denied Boarding Regulations EU EC261
Compensation if your flight is delayed (amounts vary for length and distance departing from any EU airport regardless of airline. More details here.

5) The ADR Directive 2013/11/EU
Consumers can use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) entities for all kinds of contractual disputes that they have with traders. This applies no matter what they purchased (excluding disputes about health and higher education) and whether they purchased it online or offline, domestically or across borders. In the UK retailers need only “signpost” to an ADR scheme, as it is not mandatory for retailers to belong to a scheme.[6]  More here.

[1] Fewer than 45% of People in the UK use their Consumer Rights according to research published in October 2014 here.

[2] Rip Off Britain Live 22 October 2015.

[3] More on the story here

[4] This directive replaces, as of 13 June 2014, Directive 97/7/EC on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts and Directive 85/577/EEC to protect consumer in respect of contracts negotiated away from business premises. Directive 1999/44/EC, on certain aspects of the sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees as well as Directive 93/13/EEC on unfair terms in consumer contracts, remains in force.

[5] More details available from Helen Dewdney.

[6] More details about ADR in the UK here

Rip Off Britain appearance and information

Hi! If you have found me from my appearance on Rip Off Britain and/or their website. I’ll list some links that you may find helpful.

More details on me and see why I think it so important to complain here

Top 20 Tips on complaining

The bestselling book here.

Your rights when it comes to faulty goods and services here for purchases and services prior to October 1st 2015.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 for purchases made on or after October 1st 2015

More about the Consumer Rights Act and how it relates to digital content here.

I’m on Facebook here,Twitter here and Pinterest here. For daily tips and the odd rant. Do join in!

Ceoemail.com for contact details for all CEOs

Previous appearance on Rip Off Britain here.

Post about complaining on social media pros and cons etc. here.

Keep up to date with consumer issues, free updates to the book etc.

The story covered in the show was regarding a website acting as a travel agent which is not based in the UK but is in the EU. A story regarding a company and gaining redress using EU law is here. All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights provides links to numerous other posts/information about holidays and flights.

The story above took a lot of time to deal with. In addition to writing in a different style, more objective, provided clarity etc. I also undertook a few other things such as:

1) Putting everything in order of events
2) Writing to the CEO as customer service people had been so useless
3) Making it clear where evidence has been attached
4) Adding in a Claim for calls whilst included -although her calls were free they may have taken her over the contacted amount
5) Claiming for all travel for complainant and other members of the party incurred due to the change in accommodation location
6) Researched distances of travel and provided evidence
7) Researched Marshall Street accommodation and found evidence that the agent don’t offer it anymore
8) Researched costs of bus travel and provided details
9) Provided evidence that the Novotel was 3.6 not 1km away from the original booking
10) Added in UK and EU laws
11) Listed what I expected to resolve the matter
12) Stated what the next steps would be if complaint not satisfactorily resolved
13) Gave a time limit for response before taking matter further
14) Added a summary

If you have a complaint, then everything you need is on the website here and the book which includes over 40 template letters.

Now go, go get that redress!