The Complainers Giving Complainers a Bad Name?

My experience with The Complainers
Well The Complainers filmed me. Lovely Tom and Jon came to film me and said they would be back to film updates to the stories and film me with the blog and stuff! I’m probably old enough to be Tom’s mother but should you ever be filmed by Dragonfly (they made The Hotel – hilarious, and One Born Every Minute so a great company) ask for him, he is very very easy on the eye! 🙂 They asked to be kept informed and that was that. I kept them informed, the researcher seemed interested in the workshops and community radio I was doing, all more interesting than filming someone emailing and said she’d ‘phone on the Monday. Then I was on the BBC….. Then it all went quiet. I joked that perhaps Channel 4 may not like showing someone who had been on the BBC! It became clear that despite more interesting things to film, like having my carpet cleaned courtesy of The Body Shop and updates to stories, workshops and radio, Dragonfly didn’t contact me. After a few months I was curious why and emailed. Jon replied “We had a bit of a change of direction after we met you so it became more about longstanding complaints within the utility sphere and then it got more focussed from there. Certainly I hope when you see the documentary that our episode wouldn’t have been the right fit for your endeavours, even though both Tom and myself had a fantastic time coming to meet you.”

Hmm, I took long standing to mean longstanding. My complaint with Virgin that they filmed had reached the point of CISAS and that has to be 8 weeks before you can do that. I thought all my stories re Tesco showed that I often picked on them. But then we saw the first episode and things became clearer.

The first episode
I thought that this would be interesting. See things from the other side and how Transport for London deal with complaints. Although we didn’t see that. We saw abuse sent through Twitter which is nothing to do with complaining. We saw Traffic Droid, giving out red cards to road users who in his opinion were not abiding by the rules, and by others’ opinion, putting others in danger. I’m not certain as I got so bored watching the programme. The Telegraph summed it up in a good review. An opportunity to show what happens in call centres but we didn’t see one complaint being handled. There must be hundreds of complaints about transport but did we see any? No. Far too much of one person, even in the name of entertainment was he really the only “character” they could find? So if you were watching in the hope of finding out how to complain about delayed trains this is what you need.

The second episode
Councils. Well this will be full of “characters” I thought. Even if we don’t see complaints being resolved. Nope. Just a few yet again. Ridiculous, there must have been loads to choose from. An extreme complainer – no sign of complaining about consumer issues or asserting legal rights. At least I think in this episode we did see a couple of call centre staff answer a call and resolve a complaint.

The third episode
Well apparently this is the one I would have been in. And there it was the reason I was not used. Fair enough. Yep, “My endeavours were not a good fit”. No wonder Tom and Jon wanted to come back to my house and have me cook for them! They must have liked coming to my house, it was clean and they happily drank tea, ate biscuits and had a glass of wine. But I am polite (well, when I write complaining to companies) assertive and use the Law. At least the programme was extreme enough for people who don’t complain to realise that this is not the way to do it and hopefully see that not everyone sees a complaint as an “opportunity”. Shame about the stereotyping too for 2 of the characters, although moving your stuff via a nicked shopping trolley did make me laugh Ian 🙂

Overall thoughts
Well, I can see why I wasn’t used! Although I write (I’m reliably informed) a useful and entertaining blog and give good free advice on social media I’m not sad/loony/desperate enough to go looking for complaints or continue on and on with the same complaint (having got it resolved in the first place). I named the insect in the Tesco rice Phillip after the CEO and I had a hammer which I was tenderising chicken with while I slated the Tesco CEO. It amused Jon and Tom at the time but I think that as time progressed and the powers that be decided they wanted extreme complainers (as opposed to people complaining and asserting their legal rights) it would have been used if I had gone to the Tesco offices with insect and hammer in hand demanding to see Clarke!

I loathe the term “serial complainer” and “professional complainer” both are ridiculous terms and don’t reflect what many other people and I do which is to complain effectively. We don’t go looking for complaints or continue complaining when a matter is resolved. But the people reflected in this programme were not just asserting their legal rights or righting wrongs. A better title for the programme would have been “Extreme Complainers”. Then that would have truly reflected the programme. As it was, it was disappointing as we didn’t see how best to complain or how complaints were dealt with. Should you want to know how to make complaints effectively then I talk about tips:

and 2o Top Tips

So all in all, I was of course a bit gutted that I wasn’t filmed more and shown as it would have been great PR for the blog. If I didn’t write this blog I wouldn’t have wanted to appear so perhaps that’s another difference between your average complainer and an extreme one. I was filmed for Ripped Off Britain last week, so looks like I’m more of a BBC gal! Tell you what these director chappies are really very nice although you should shave off the beard Iain, it doesn’t suit we need to see more of your face 🙂 I also think that directors are like police officers, all getting younger and making you feel old!

But the real shame is that such an opportunity to inform people was missed in an effort to “entertain”. But if they were wanting people to talk about it like Benefits Street the commissioners or whomever made the decisions to change the focus from genuine complaints and looking at how complaints are dealt with to showing extreme complainers were misguided. Reviews have been poor, characters were limited and people don’t care enough. Benefits come from our taxes, we generally care how our taxes are used and it is an issue which gets people worked up. You are either a complainer or you aren’t. One isn’t going to get worked up about how someone fills their time when it does not affect them personally. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There is a need/opportunity for a programme on how people complain without being an extreme complainer and without having to resort to media programmes like Watchdog to take up cases. Sadly, The Complainers did not fill that gap.

What did you think of The Complainers?

If you want to be an effective complainer and always get redress, then buy the book!

The Consumer Rights Directive 2013 Improve Customer Rights

What’s all this mean then? Something that consumers can approve of that the EU has achieved? These new regulations come into force on the 13th June 2014 and replace the distance selling regulations 2000 and ‘doorstep’ selling regulations 2008. The aim was to ensure that consumers would be confident in buying anywhere in Europe.

Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012;
Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013; and
Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading (Amendment) Regulations.

The implementation has a significant effect in modernising consumer law, much of which was written 20 -30 years ago, particularly in relation to digital content that of course was not previously covered.  The new laws have introduced a new distinct category to deal specifically with digital content, which will sit along-side existing categories dealing with the provision of goods and services. Part of the Consumer Rights Directive has already been implemented by way of the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012, which came into force in April 2013. The Regulations mean traders can no longer charge consumers fees that exceed “the cost borne by the trader” for the use of a particular means of payment whether cheque, direct debit, debit or credit card, or other.

The information which a trader must give to a consumer before and after making a sale

This is the need to ensure the customer understands what goods and services are being provided and ensuring there are no hidden costs. If the paperwork does not comply with the new requirements the consumer may not have to pay. When retailers send you email confirmation of the purchase this must now include a full description of the goods and services purchased including their characteristics and the full price including tax and any additional charges or delivery prices.

How that information should be given

The purpose of the ‘durable medium’ requirement is to ensure that, should a dispute arise at some point after the contract has been concluded, both parties have a record about what was agreed. The burden of proof that the relevant information has been provided rests with the trader.

The right for consumers to change their minds when buying at a distance or off-premises

Consumers now have 14 days to return items because they change their mind. In addition, refunds on cancelled contracts can be delayed until goods are returned. However, if the company has not provided the right information to the consumer then the length of the cooling off period could be extended. Although there are some exemptions, such as bespoke items, downloads have now been added and is no longer exempt. So, if like me you purchase the wrong download by mistake you can now get your money back! If you have downloaded then you won’t get your money back which seems fair enough really!

Unless stated otherwise you will pay for the return postage for any change of mind purchase.

Delivery times and passing of risk

Unless agreed with the trader, goods should be delivered without undue delay and within 30 days. If a particular date or period for delivery has been agreed then delivery should be within that time.

A prohibition on any additional payments which appear as a default option

Traders will need the active consent of the consumer for all payments – e.g. pre-ticked boxes for additional payments, will no longer be permitted. Consumers will not be liable for costs which they have not been told, pre-contract, that they must bear. Even I’ve been caught out by a certain large on line retailer which doesn’t like paying taxes with this. I got my money back when I challenged them with unfair practice but now I have more Laws to throw at them if they do it after June 13th!

A prohibition on consumers having to pay more than the basic rate for post-contract customer helplines

Where traders offer telephone helplines for consumers to contact them about something they have bought, there should be a number available on which the consumer can call for this purpose at no more than the basic rate.

So all in all this is good news for the consumer. In particular, the much requested banning of high rate numbers for customer service and complaint lines, traders now have to supply basic rate numbers. It’s really good too to see downloadable digital content covered by these regulations too.

So, all good news for the consumer, more legislation to follow later in the year.

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 consumer laws, tips, guidance, advice and template letters GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

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