Moving house is considered to be a very stressful experience. Following on from the story of the last week of the couple who hired a man with a van and lost all their possessions here’s how you can prevent that happening to you.
Once you have got past the stresses of dealing with estate agents, solicitors changes in dates and all the rest of it moving day finally comes. What can you do to ensure that moving goes as smoothly as possible and what to do if even after following sensible advice it still goes wrong?
The British Association of Removers is the relevant trade organisation. It has a Trading Standards Institute Code of Practice and an independent Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme. So, should you encounter problems and your removal firm is a member then you are able to use an arbitration scheme. You may like to check their website before deciding on a removal firm to give you peace of mind.
Remember a page on Facebook means nothing. All the reviews could be written by the firm. If recommended by a friend of a friend, this still may not be good enough especially if a friend of a friend on Facebook given how so many people have “friends” on Facebook that aren’t friends and are often people with whom they have never met or spoken.
Get more than one quote especially if you insist on using a non specialist removal service. If a quote sounds cheap remember if something sounds too good to be true it probably is.
Consumer rights When you have instructed a removal firm to move your possessions from one place to another you are covered (for services up to the 1st October) by the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. From 1st October 2015 you are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. You can expect to receive services undertaken with reasonable skill and care. That means no damage and arrival at an agreed time. Should this not be the case then you have grounds to complain.
If any items get damaged you have the right to repair/replacement or sum of money covering the cost of replacement. You are also entitled to any out of pocket expenses you might incur due to damages of items or delay in timings of the removal.
Check your insurance. When moving from one place to another check that you are covered and by which company – the insurance at your old place or the new one. This may give you additional cover particularly for anything you might move yourself. The company should have its own insurance to cover any breakages.
What to do if things go wrong Keep a list of everything. If you notice damage at the time of moving mention it to the staff and keep a record. Put your complaint in writing following the tips here. Outline all the damage and out of pocket expenses and what you want to put the matter right. Give a timescale for response. If not satisfied with the response you can go to the ombudsman as detailed above. You can also go to the Small Claims Court (even after using the ombudsman.)
The Consumer Rights Act 2015
This Act came into force from 1st October 2015, when the following Acts were repealed/amended:
Supply of Goods (Implied Terms) Act 1973 will cover business to business contracts and consumer to consumer contracts only. Sale of Goods Act 1979/ Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994will still apply to business to business contracts and to consumer to consumer contracts. Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 will cover business to business contracts and consumer to consumer contracts only. Sale and Supply of Goods to Consumers Regulations 2002 will be replaced Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 will cover business to business and consumer to consumer contracts only. Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999 will be replaced.
For goods and services purchased before October 1st 2015 see this post.
The sale and supply of goods
The person transferring or selling the goods must have the right to do so and the goods must be of a satisfactory quality. Goods must be of a standard that a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory. Quality is a general term, which covers a number of matters including:
fitness for all the purposes for which goods of that kind are usually supplied – appearance and finish
freedom from minor defects
In assessing quality, all relevant circumstances must be considered by the retailer, including price, description, and their own or the manufacturer’s advertising. Goods must:
be fit for a particular purpose. When you indicate that goods are required for a particular purpose, or where it is obvious that goods are intended for a particular purpose and a trader supplies them to meet that requirement, the goods should be fit for that specified purpose.
match the description, sample or model. When you rely on a description, sample or display model the goods supplied must conform
be installed correctly, where installation has been agreed as part of the contract.
The consumer can reject the goods within 30 days unless the expected life of the goods is shorter e.g. highly perishable goods. You can also choose repair or replacement in this time and up to 6 months after purchase as it is assumed that the fault was there at the time of delivery unless the trader can prove otherwise or unless this assumption is inconsistent with the circumstances (for example, obvious signs of misuse). If accepting repair you still retain your legal rights.
If more than six months have passed, you have to prove the defect was there at the time of delivery. You must also prove the defect was there at the time of delivery if you exercise the short-term right to reject goods. Some defects do not become apparent until some time after delivery, and in these cases it is enough to prove that there was an underlying or hidden defect at that time.
All these rules also apply for distance selling and digital goods.
The Act defines ‘digital content’ as meaning ‘data which are produced and supplied in digital form’. Therefore a huge array of digital-format products fall within this definition such as:
virtual items purchased within computer games
mobile phone apps
systems software for operating goods – for example, domestic appliances, toys, motor vehicles, etc. In many cases digital content is supplied in a format that can be physically touched such as a Blu-ray disc containing a film. Increasingly, however, digital content does not have a tangible form – for example, a film downloaded to a computer or a virtual car purchased when playing a computer game.
Digital content rights are slightly more complicated and you can find out more details here.
The contract for the supply of services
A contract is an agreement consisting of an offer and acceptance. When a consumer buys services from a trader, both parties enter into a contract which is legally binding. In order for a term to be binding it must clearly be part of the contract and be legal. Terms given to a consumer after the contract is made are not part of the contract and they have no effect. A contract can be verbal but it is advisable to detail important terms in writing so there can be no dispute later on.
All services should be carried out:
with reasonable care and skill.
information given verbally or in writing to the consumer is binding where the consumer relies on it.
the service must be done for a reasonable price (if no fixed price was set in advance)
the service must be carried out within a reasonable time (if no specific time was agreed)
You have up to 6 years in which you can bring a claim against a trader.
The law creates a ‘fairness test’ to stop consumers being put at unfair disadvantage. A term is unfair if it tilts the rights and responsibilities between the consumer and the trader too much in favour of the trader. The test is applied by looking at what words are used and how they could be interpreted. It takes into consideration what is being sold, what the other terms of the contract say and all the circumstances at the time the term was agreed. There is an exemption for the essential obligations of contracts – setting the price and describing the main subject matter – provided the wording used is clear and prominent. There is also an exemption for wording that has to be used by law. 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.
The Consumer Rights Act contains equivalent rights and protections to the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. This means that, though there may be some technical differences in the way these aspects are implemented, from a consumer’s point of view there would be no difference – under the Consumer Rights Act the consumer may argue that a term is unfair in the same way as they would have under the aforementioned Acts.
How many people complain?
According to this survey undertaken July 2014 70% of us complain when we receive poor service. This rises to 90% who complain when we purchase a faulty item. If you look to your own networks this doesn’t really ring true and I think many people put that they generally complain because they felt that they should! Or it is not every time they receive poor service. Or many of those complaints are not successful in gaining redress. This theory is backed up by answers to another question, “If you usually don’t complain is it because…” Now, 59% of respondents gave reasons and only 41% said that they always complained. However, complaining is on the increase and the latter figures fit in with The Ombudsman’s report on complaining. 38 million customers complained in 2013. But 40 million more complaints went unaddressed as people stayed quiet. 48% and 52%.
In addition, as detailed below many more people are now using social media to complain and some people may consider writing a 140 character tweet as regularly complaining! It’s not necessarily always gaining redress and it’s very difficult to assert your legal rights in 140 characters!
46% say that when they don’t complain it is because it is too much effort or takes too much time.
When considering purchasing an item/service either online or in store how easy it will be to gain redress if anything goes wrong is a factor in 74% of people’s decision making about where to buy (either sometimes or always). The same number of people shop online as do in store because they think it will be easier to return an item that way.
How well do you know your legal rights?
This is what I found the most interesting. Given that 70- 90% of people say they always complain, only 7% said they know their legal rights well and use them regularly. 5% know the basics of the Sale and Supply of Goods Act and Supply of Goods and Services Act. A further 33% will check out their rights before complaining, so assuming that they won’t always do that for various reasons, we know that fewer than 45% of people use their legal rights. So 7 + 5 + 33 = the 45% but I believe that is lower as some of the 33% won’t always check out their legal rights and complain.
Uswitch undertook a survey in May 2014 and found that almost two fifths of consumers (38%) are unsure about their rights and 36% say they do not know them well. Only 4% claim to be truly confident.
How many people do you tell about poor service?
Remember the line “Receive good service tell 1, receive poor service tell 10”? Not any more.
Less than 2% of people tell no-one.
49% tell 1 – 10 people
11% tell 10 – 20 and now
38% tell hundreds and sometimes thousands of people due to social media.
So companies be warned! It is wholly irrelevant how many complaints you actually receive! Less than 60% don’t always complain but look how many people are they telling?
68% of respondents use social media to complain.
37% of those find it effective sometimes
16% find it always effective
12% find it is never effective
Clearly social media is on the rise. There are more details on what social media works for in complaining here.
When you receive good service do you give feedback?
The majority of people think they do. I think some customer service people may disagree!
It would appear that people think they complain more than they do, certainly less know their legal rights. 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 longer correspondence elicits. The main reasons for people not complaining are that it takes too much time and effort which might suggest that companies make it difficult to complain? Thoughts around how easy it is to gain redress when things go wrong are becoming a key factor in where people choose to buy.
People really need to complain more. If they did perhaps service would improve it would have to. And now, to help you, here’s a book! #complainlikeacow
So, you get poor service at the restaurant and don’t complain or if you do complain you don’t gain redress. You buy an item that’s faulty but don’t get a refund. Why?
1) Your expectations are too low. You think that the item was cheap so what do you expect? You think the meal you had at that place last time was bad so you aren’t surprised when it is again. If a kettle was bought to boil water it should boil water. Simple! If you buy a meal it should be made with reasonable skill and care. If you had a bad meal there last time you should have complained and maybe things would have improved!
2) You don’t know your legal rights. The main ones you need to know are The Sale of Goods Act 1979 (amended to the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1994) and The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. Items should be of satisfactory quality, be fit for purpose, be as described and last a reasonable length of time.
3) You think it will take too much time and effort. Going back to the shop arguing about refunds. Well, if you know your legal rights you won’t be arguing you’ll be assertive and if you still don’t gain redress you can take the matter further by which time you will be asking for more than a refund.
4) You shout at people on the ‘phone or in person. Would you give me what I wanted if I yelled at you? Think, be polite particularly as often the person or people at fault aren’t usually the people to whom you complain.
5) You’ve gone back to the wrong shop! Yes I have heard of this being done, frequently! Check your facts first.
6) You think that because you have lost the receipt that you can’t get your money back. Wrong. You just need proof of purchase such as a credit card bill.
7) You don’t like complaining and aren’t assertive. Fair enough, but seriously? You’d rather be out of pocket? If you are in the right you have nothing to worry about!
8) You are complaining about something trivial and you aren’t out of pocket. There is a difference between complaining about 69p because it is the principle of the thing and complaining that you don’t like the colour of the carpet.
So, get out there and complain when something goes wrong! Tips here and here on how to complain.
Who has got some complaining failures to tell? Customer Service representatives what other things can the complainer do that will ensure you don’t give redress?!
Meet Adam and Melanie. Nice couple, they were getting married and booked their honeymoon on Sunmaster. Heard of Sunmaster? I’d never heard of Sunmaster. I won’t be using them now I have heard of them now either!
Now, Adam booked the holiday via their website. Paid for it then was notified it cost a bit more, which he duly paid. (No, I would not have done this but keep reading and you’ll see why!) That was bad. Then it got worse. Although he booked the holiday in July last year for a holiday in April, Sunmaster contacted him to say… that they could no longer go on the accommodation that they had booked and offered an alternative. Oh well these things happen you might say. Well, maybe if the company had offered a refund or a like for like accommodation. But Sunmaster refused to refund and said that the alternative was like for like. You make up your mind whether it was like for like!
The original booking
Small hotel (Riad), only 6 rooms
No children allowed policy
Included Spa facilities
Suite over 2 rooms
Large hotel, over 100 rooms
Advertised as a family resort, targeted towards families
No spa facilities
Don’t know about you but I think “No children allowed” and “Family friendly” are opposite ends of the spectrum?! I would certainly want the “No children allowed” option with the exception of my own child but it would appear that this is impossible to get 🙁 Also, I don’t think you needs a maths degree to work out that there’s quite a difference between 6 and over 100 rooms.
Well, Adam didn’t like this at all. So he challenged it and got told again no refund no other alternative. But you’ll never guess what happened when Adam decided to start his own investigation?! He contacted the hotel directly and not only was it open, it also had his booking. So what on earth was all this about? Adam tried to find out and Sunmaster apologised for the mistake with no explanation for what happened and the holiday went ahead. He complained again but got no response.
But Adam contacted me. And me? Well I don’t like this sort of behaviour do I? It’s is not good for the consumer. Time to make a stand for consumer rights! Again. “I’ll get a response”. The Complaining Cow had spoken! Adam and Melanie went on their honeymoon and had a lovely time other than a nightmare transfer. Meanwhile I got to work!
The Complaining Cow gets to work
Well, first things first. Although Adam and Melanie didn’t actually complain about the rise in the cost of the holiday, I did! I pointed out that it was my belief that it was a breach of the Misrepresentation Act 1967. I also pointed out that there are many reviews on many forums and review sites saying a similar thing, that one goes through the process online then ‘phones to book whereupon they are told that the price has gone up. Whilst I am aware that prices can fluctuate they do not and should not change within minutes of following an online process/database the same as with any other travel agent where you can complete the whole process online. In this case it was even worse as they had paid for the holiday. They were charged an additional £48.60. This seems a very dubious practice to me and I also found that the Advertising Standards Authority had instructed Sunmaster “…to hold evidence to substantiate the availability of their holidays at the advertised prices”. It would appear Sunmaster is not doing this. A contract is concluded when one pays (or agrees to pay) and the seller gives you your goods or services. This is called consideration. This puts Sunmaster in breach of contract to supply a holiday to them. For this we claimed legally owed compensation.
Thirdly. I wanted some answers regarding why the accommodation was changed in the first place!
Fourthly. In the last correspondence from Sunmaster a member of staff said “I have demanded a thorough and full investigation and explanation from our suppliers for this mis-information and I shall contact you further in this regard and in due course.” This was not the case as no further communication had been received. (That’ll be another breach of the SOGASA).
Fifthly. (Is that really a word?) On arrival Adam and Mel found cause to complain again at the appalling administration and service from Sunmaster. To cut another long story short the taxi transfer was dreadful, getting lost, asking for payment and delaying their stay by several hours.
Finally! So, outlining all this and threatening to take Sunmaster to the Small Claims Court I added the details of time spent on the matter, the ignorance shown, and the relevant bodies to be notified if satisfactory redress was not received.
£48.60 difference in quoted and paid price
£35 court fees
£20 Court expenses ( travel)
£250 for loss of earnings due to contacting Sunmaster
£35 transfer costs
£25 for loss of holiday due to taxi failures
£50 for loss of enjoyment of holiday due to start/taxi failures
£200 for inconvenience and stress
£200 costs for witnesses (those who have gone through similar experiences with Sunmaster)
£100 for costs incurred whilst researching possibility of cancelling/postponing the wedding.
Well. Despite emailing the CEO there was no response. Fine – see you in court Sunny Jim and emailed him a second time and gave him seven days. That email was effective and got a response. Offered £410, oh and all the gumph about terms and conditions (remember these can be challenged!) and they didn’t think they had breached any laws. I disagree but Adam and Melanie were pleased with their £410, the holiday cost just over £1000. BUT! One had to laugh, the response referred to Melanie with a different unknown surname, neither maiden or married names. So, I know I advise not to be sarcastic in complaints there are times when sarcasm just has to be used.
I included some nice lines I thought. “I do not know what relevance your conversations with a “Miss Hunter” have on my case. Whilst I thank you and accept the offer of £410 I am concerned that the offer you are making includes a sum to a “Miss Hunter” we are not prepared to share any goodwill gesture with anyone else.” “I expect to receive details about your investigation into the transfer in due course” A few other lines about not addressing some points and not believing they had truly looked at a satisfactory amount for redress.
Cor, this is a long post innit? I have cut quite a lot of detail you know, stop complaining. One of the main reasons people don’t complain is because they don’t have the time and it does take time, particularly if you are researching all your legal rights. Anyway, the short story – £710 (everything asked for minus associated court costs). I think we had them worried don’t you?! So 10 day holiday in Marrakech for 2 for just over £300 🙂
Companies can learn a lot from this story, as the Internet becomes more and more popular for booking holidays, sites like Trip Advisor and other reviews sites and people like me around advising people of their legal rights, companies would be better placed getting it right in the first place.
Oh and Adam and Melanie told me I was “Awesome“. So, should you be getting a raw deal and need some help contact me! Or buy the book which will give you masses of information, advice tips and templates on getting refunds and redress for yourself! Check out the reviews!
You can contact the CEO of any company using ceoemail.com which provides contact details for all CEOs.