CAA launches consultation and tells no-one…

Press release

Airline regulator goes hush-hush – Does it want opinions or not?

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), the UK’s airline regulator, recently launched a consultation. But decided not to tell anyone about it…

On 17 July 2020 The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) launched a consultation on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) which closed on 25 September 2020. The ADR process is meant to ensure that passengers have a place to go to arbitrate in cases where the airline and consumer are in dispute.

Yet, despite launching the consultation, it seems that the CAA decided not to publicise it nor to seek input from the most important stakeholders, airline passengers!

The CAA says that they would only consult with CEDR and AviationADR, the two existing providers of ADR for UK airlines.

“We would not typically consult airlines or airports as they are not the regulated entities in this situation”, says the CAA website “However, given the interest expressed by a number of airlines in the proposed changes, in this case we have decided to extend the consultation to include airlines and airports.”

It is clear from this statement that they don’t see it, nor did they market it as a public consultation. There is no reference to the consultation in their social media feed at all and no press release was sent out.

Aeroplane in sky with clouds

Airlines have their say… or not?

British Airways, a member of the CEDR scheme, did not want to make a statement regarding the consultation or Which?’s call for a single Ombudsman instead of AviationADR and CEDR.

A spokesperson for Ryanair, which was previously a member of AviationADR and is no longer a member of any scheme, said

“These claims are completely baseless and this is nothing more than yet another cheap publicity stunt by Which? There are no Aviation ADR claims outstanding and Ryanair meets all of its obligations relating to EU261.  In the small number of cases where claims are rejected we refer passengers to the CAA’s Passenger Advice Complaints Team (PACT) or the European Commission’s Online Dispute Resolution (ECODR) service”

Passenger refund shame

There has been widespread condemnation of airlines not providing refunds for flight cancellations during the pandemic and equal criticism of the CAA for not doing enough to hold airlines to account. A new chairman, Stephen Hillier, started on 1 August 2020 and appears so far to have done nothing to improve the situation.

Whom did the CAA consult?

The question as to whether consumer champions, individuals and organisations were consulted remains unanswered but it is known that bizarrely the Ombudsman Association (OA)  was not notified. Despite being the professional organisation for ombudsman schemes and complaint handlers, their staff and others interested in the work of independent complaint resolution were not notified. One would expect that such an organisation would have been consulted about best practices in complaint handling by ADR providers.

The OA was identified as having higher approval criteria standards than the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) and the Civil Aviation

Authority (CAA) both of which approve ADR providers. This was outlined in the Ombudsman Omnishambles report in 2016 and in More Ombudsman Omnishambles, published 20 months later, which revealed serious unresolved issues affecting the operation of the ADR sector in the UK. The CAA was amongst those highlighted as failing the customer in this report.

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, consumer champion and co-author with Marcus Williamson of the investigation reports, is not surprised by the latest revelation. “The CAA’s approach to consultation is flawed and blinkered. It’s almost as if they don’t want to hear the changes and recommendations from the people who are best qualified to suggest improvements, the passengers themselves!”

Currently there are two ADR providers in the UK, CEDR[1] and AviationADR[2]. Membership of an ADR body is still not a legal requirement for UK-based airlines.

Currently there are two ADR providers in the UK, CEDR[1] and AviationADR[2]. Membership of an ADR body is still not a legal requirement for UK-based airlines.

The OA joins Which? and other consumer champions in the call for a single robust dispute resolution service in the airline sector. Which? believes that the ADR provider should be an ombudsman.

Donal Galligan, CEO of the OA, said:

“There are numerous examples from various sectors that what works best for both consumers and driving improvements in an industry is a single mandatory ombudsman. The evidence that Which? have collated clearly shows that the CAA’s experiment with non-mandatory, multiple providers, some of which charge a fee to access that service, has not delivered for either consumers or the aviation industry. It is time that the UK Government mirrored their own approach in rail, energy, and new homes, and drive the establishment of a single mandatory aviation ombudsman.”

When things do go wrong with travel it can be highly disruptive for passengers, regardless of the mode of transport.

The Rail Ombudsman, which was also another stakeholder not informed about the consultation, is the only approved Ombudsman operating in the travel sector. It was established in 2018 and has operated to the satisfaction of passengers, industry and other stakeholders since. Their remit is underpinned by the regulator which means that passengers can rely on its decisions if things go wrong.

Kevin Grix, Chief Ombudsman at The Rail Ombudsman, said “As an Ombudsman we have a wealth of knowledge and understanding and we would be pleased to share our views and recommendations with colleagues at the CAA to help cure any defects with the system”.

The CAA were asked to comment but failed to respond by the deadline given.

The Department for Transport were asked to comment but refused, passing the request onto the CAA.

Which? has said that

“The government must ensure that passengers’ needs are front and centre in its aviation recovery plan, starting with the introduction of a mandatory, single ombudsman scheme for airlines, as a first step to restoring trust in the sector.”

Dewdney agrees, saying that “The new CAA Chairman should be taking a much stronger lead and ensure that the mess that is the current ADR provision is fit for purpose. Problems and failings with ADR providers and the monitoring and regulation have been highlighted for more than three years, so overhaul is long overdue.”

CAA acknowledge error in consultation

Update 08 October 2020. Later today when the article was published the CAA sent this statement ” We were recently made aware that, due to an IT error, a small number of interested parties had not received an email alert about this consultation going live and therefore had not responded when the consultation closed. Given the importance of this matter, the Civil Aviation Authority will be reopening the consultation for a six week period from Friday 9 October 2020 in order to allow for further responses to be considered as we continue to improve the ADR service for consumers.” This statement was in response to my sending a link to this article and not to the request made a week previous.” I do not call every Ombudsman in the country, consumer champions and the general public a “small number”!

Update 09 October 2020. The consultation is on the website with the deadline extended but they still haven’t informed stakeholders. No press release, no emails, nothing on social media. Weird right?

Notes 

[1] CEDR is the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution which provides conflict management, ADR, mediation and training. It is a not for profit charity.

[2] AviationADR is part of Consumer Dispute Resolution Limited, owned by Dean Dunham, who was identified as a provider of concern in the Ombudsman Omnishambles and the More Ombudsman Omnishambles investigation reports.

Thursday 8 October 2020 is International Ombudsman Day, which aims to improve the awareness and educate the public about the history and practices of ombudsmen.

Make Light Work of Black Friday

Saving money this Black Friday

Black Friday is coming around again, that day in the calendar which marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

Black Friday is 24th November this year, (2018) but are there really bargains to be had? Last year a Which? investigation into Black Friday revealed that 49% of products on offer were actually cheaper in the months before or after Black Friday and the prices it checked last year showed that only 8% of the Black Friday deals were actually the lowest prices. In September Argos was lambasted for its 3 for 2 toy offer where many of the toys worked out cheaper if you bought them the day before.

Update 2019. Which? found that 95% of products in Black Friday ‘deals’ are cheaper or the same price after the sales

So it is getting more difficult to grab a real bargain in the Black Friday sales in 2019!

So how careful do we need to be of Black Friday? Are there really bargains to be had and if so how best to get them?

1) Write a list before you go shopping

Write down all the things you need to buy. This can include: the people for whom you have to buy presents, possible ideas and a budget. This will help you not go over a budget if you are easily carried away with possible bargains and gives you choices.

2) Do your research before shopping

Armed with your list, look up the likely stores for those people/items. Make a list of the prices that you find.

3) Use comparison websites before shopping

Do an Internet search on specific items and use sites which will compare prices. You may find that there are other stores which stock the items you are after and some may have a better deal regardless of Black Friday!

4) Get right ahead with your shopping!

Put items in baskets! Go online and put things in baskets and don’t checkout. Make a note of what stores you have done this with! Then when Black Friday comes take a look at all the online baskets and see who has what for the cheapest. This way, not only will you have done all your research but you’ll be ahead of others shopping that day for popular items likely to go out of stock!

5) Share the presents round this Black Friday!

Often people will say it’s only a bargain if you need it. Twaddle. We don’t need half the clothes and shoes etc. that we own, but if we see a pair of boots reduced it makes the purchase far more attractive. So, have an idea of what items you would like for yourself, if they are reduced.

6) Check for further discounts when shopping online and in store

Internet search your items with phrases like “discount codes” “discount offers” and “vouchers” to see if you can get more discounts. There are a number of sites that provide discount codes for numerous stores.

7) Check out Zeek*.

You can buy and sell gift cards on Zeek. Choose from a range of monetary value gift cards for hundreds of stores with varying discounts. Update 07/02/19 looks like Zeek is going into administration.

8) Black Friday is not just for Christmas

Many retailers spread their deals over the month and others throughout the year. The idea is that consumers will spend the same amount over a year whether the majority is across all year or concentrated over a few weeks. So don’t just look for bargains on Black Friday. There will be Cyber Monday and places like Amazon have daily deals which also need to be checked. Use the Camel Camel Camel website which is a price tracker that provides price drop alerts and price history for products sold by Amazon.

9) Emails and social media can save you money when shopping!

Sign up to newsletters now. You can always unsubscribe later but often newsletters are the best way to be the first to learn of any discounts and offers. “Like” Facebook pages and follow on Twitter as many retailers will announce their offers and discount codes through these methods too. Follow money bloggers who will frequently share discounts and deals. Join forums and money saving groups if you really want to get everything going and check with others if so-called deals are really deals. You could set up a separate email account for all these emails and then allocate some time each day to look at just the deals!

10) Store versus shops

If you intend to go to the stores on Black Friday take your list with you and check the online prices either with that or on the phone. Then you have the double whammy, as sometimes items are in stock online only or in store only.

11) List upcoming events that you need to shop for in the future

Think of future, parties etc. You can pick up some bargain toys for children’s parties that you know you will have in the year and just put them away. (But remember toys will be discounted a lot in the run up to Christmas and after Christmas sales too).

12) Avoid the mobs when shopping

Possibly impossible?! Certainly if you are setting out early for certain stores! But this is where you need a) your list so you don’t get carried away and b) to be sure that that store will have items you want. Remember too that offers written on doors are often just a way to get you in and there may be limited stock!

13) Take care on seasonal items

Things like Winter coats are likely to be in the sales and discounted further when retailers want to get rid of their stock and Christmas decorations will still be cheaper after the event!

14) Use Cashback sites to save even more money

Sites like Topcashback*, Quidco*, Free Fivers*, Kidstart* (Kidstart cashback goes to your nominated child’s bank account). Others that I’ve not used are  Imutual, Give or take and there are others. They all provide cashback when you go through their sites and make purchases from the stores listed. Check them all, as they have different retailers and different percentages! Do this before filling your online baskets so you’re all set to go! Most have apps so you can do this whilst out shopping when you see a bargain and can order and get it delivered instead! Don’t rely on this though as there may be terms and conditions that you miss (such as using vouchers) negating the cashback.

15) Make sure that a price promise really is a price promise

Some places have a price promise which is great. But read the small print! Some stores such as John Lewis won’t match an online price, for example. Others will only match the price if it was on sale that exact same day and most, if not all, will tell you it has to be exactly the same item/bundle. So, exactly the same colour, make, model, free gift, warranty etc. (Although remember your consumer rights provide more protection than any “free warranty”).

16) Check the model before you think you have a bargain

Black Friday is usually good for getting the latest technology, but check the release dates for the next model. Will you still want that ‘phone or laptop if the newer version comes out a week later?

17) Stay up late!

If you have done all your preparation, be ready to go online just after midnight on Black Friday morning, so you get your bargains before things go out of stock.

18) Security is important when you are shopping online

Check that the site is secure and bona fide to prevent any fraud. Don’t just click on the first site that comes up in a search engine query unless you’re sure where you’re going. See Don’t let shopping online become a “rip off”

19) Add ons to your purchases

A lot of the items may need additional things such as batteries. Don’t get these at the same time, you will more than likely get these cheaper when you do research on that at a later date!

20) Articles about Black Friday

Every so often Google “Black Friday offers (insert year)”! This will bring up store pages and online newspaper articles which reveal where some of the best bargains are.

Consumer Rights and Black Friday

Remember your consumer rights are just the same when buying items in the sales. See Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Should you have need to complain see Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

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

 

For more information on consumer rights, laws, tips and templates get the book How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

 

 

*Referral links.  I’ll get a few pounds if you sign up once you’ve made more than whatever their minimum is. (Topcashback is the one I really use and that’s £10) Depending on when you click on this link you should receive a bonus too but that depends on the offer on at the time. You can then use your own referral link and send to friends too! Free money!