The complaining habits of public figures – James Daley MD Fairer Finance

A series of interviews by The Complaining Cow

In my series of interviews with people in the public eye regarding their complaining habits, today is the turn of Managing Director of Fairer Finance James Daley.

headshot James Daley

James Daley’s complaining habits

1) Generally, do you complain to a company regarding a faulty item?
Yes. I’d always ask for a replacement or a refund,

2) How much does the likely redress have to be before you will complain and why?
Very little. Because of the work I do, I almost feel a duty to complain wherever I see bad practice.

 3) How well do you know your legal rights (Consumer Rights Act, different sectors regulations etc.)
Pretty well. I’ve taken a few companies to the small claims court and threatened to so a number of times. I only lost once – and that was because train companies had an exemption from elements of consumer law at that time. But the law’s been changed since, so if I had a rerun, I’m sure I would win.

4) If you receive service over and above good do you give feedback? How?
I might send a tweet. Or fill in a survey if I’m sent one.

5) If you receive poor service how many people do you tell (include your social media followers too!)
Plenty. I often write blogs – or even national newspaper columns – about my personal experiences. Although I try to only do so if I think my experience is indicative of a bigger problem.

6) If you receive good services how many people do you tell?
More likely to just be my friends and family – and perhaps use it as an anecdote to clients and in industry presentations.

7) If you don’t really complain or it has to be a significant amount in question before you will, what stops you from complaining?
I do complain.

8) What do you think of using social media to complain?
I use it if I think a company is likely to be sensitive to it – or I think there’s an important point to be made through my personal experience.

9) Is customer service/being able to gain redress a factor when deciding where to purchase an item
Yes. Speed and convenience are king these days – and those are definitely the most important things when I’m looking to buy something. But I may think twice about buying from an outfit I’ve never heard of, as I know it probably won’t be as easy to get redress if something goes wrong.

10) Do you ever contact a CEO of a company? If so at what point in the complaint process?
If it’s a financial services complaint, I may contact the CEO if I know them – and I think my experience is indicative of a bigger problem. But in most cases, the CEO is not the right person to go to.

11) If you have ever used an ADR scheme (ombudsman/mediation/arbitrator)
or gone to Small Claims Court tell us about it

I’ve taken GWR, Ticketmaster and Airbnb to the small claims court. I wrote columns about all three of those cases. In the case of GWR, I was appealing a fine. I had a valid ticket but had made an honest mistake and only downloaded one portion of my journey from the ticket machine. I could prove the actual ticket hadn’t been downloaded. Unfortunately, at that time, consumer protections for train passengers were not as good. But I decided to fight it anyway, as I thought the train company’s conduct was poor. I wrote a number of pieces about it in the Telegraph, and at the hearing, they admitted they had spent around £1500 on defending the case. It had cost me £25 to take it to the small claims court and £100 for the fine. So I lost the case, but felt like I won the financial and moral victory. Since then, the rules have been changed, and I think I would win in court if we had a re-run.

Ticketmaster put some restrictions on some tickets I bought, which stopped me from selling them in the secondary market. But they provided no mechanism for me to resell them back to them. This was a change in policy and they didn’t make it clear to me in the customer journey. We settled on a no-blame basis.

With Airbnb, I turned up to a place that hadn’t been cleaned, had slept in sheets and was falling apart. I booked somewhere else for my stay. But they wouldn’t get the owner of the original place to provide me a full refund. I used the European Small Claims channel, and we settled on a no blame basis.headshot James Daley MD Fairer Finance talks complaining habits

About James Daley

James Daley has been a consumer campaigner and financial journalist for almost 20 years. Before launching Fairer Finance in 2014, he worked for the consumer group, Which?, where he campaigned for a better deal for customers of banks and insurers in the wake of the financial crisis.

James is frequently interviewed on national television and radio, and has regularly appeared on shows such as Watchdog, Rip-off Britain, Dispatches and Supershoppers.

Before working at Which?, James spent 10 years as a business and finance newspaper journalist, latterly as the The Independent’s personal finance editor and cycling columnist.

He lives with his wife and two children in Tooting, where he is also a local councillor.


Read about the interviewing habits of other public figures in the series of interviews by The Complaining Cow

Help with your complaints

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Avoiding a right Royal Fail at the Royal Mail

Stamp prices going up and service going down

Stamps rise in cost 2019

First class stamps will increase in price by 3p to 70p on Monday 25th March 2019. And second class goes up from 58p to 61p!

However, Royal Mail has also made a “mistake” in doing this! Ofcom capped any rise above 60p until 1 April 2019. On its website it says “Due to an error on our part, our new 2nd Class stamp price of 61p will be 1p above the existing regulatory price cap for a period of 7 days – from March 25 until April 1. We are donating the revenue that we expect to collect from the error – around £60,000 – to the charity Action For Children, which helps disadvantaged children across the UK.”

The cost of stamps has risen year on year.

Cost of second class stamps Cost of first class stamps 

Yearcost% rise on previous yearYearcost% rise on previous year

Price of stamps over the years

In researching historic prices for stamps I thought I would find a huge rise in percentage terms following privatisation. Interestingly, that is not the case. Although frequently not in line with inflation (and often lower) and apparently with no sense of planning by Royal Mail throughout the years, it actually raised its prices more before privatisation. But although privatisation may have actually kept the cost of a stamp down, it has spectacularly failed in other areas, apparently due to bad financial decisions by management.

Royal Mail and the move to privatisation

Royal Mail was a public service. However, Wikipedia states that “following the Postal Services Act 2011 a majority of the shares in Royal Mail were floated on the London Stock Exchange in 2013 A 30% stake was retained by the Government but the rest of Royal Mail was sold in 2015.” An Essex postman of 20 years who wants to remain anonymous (we’ll call him Essex Postie), says that about 18 months prior to privatisation things changed dramatically. Posties were told that they would have new, regimented, working hours which meant more ‘calls’ and longer hours, but no pay rise. Essex Postie says “If we finished our rounds within the time period set, we would have to return to the office and complete other duties / deliveries. We were allowed to ‘cut off’, meaning if the day was heavy and we couldn’t deliver before our specified time we could take the remainder back to the office. However, this was highly frowned upon by management staff who wanted a clear office to meet their targets”.

And remember the rebranding of Royal Mail to Consignia in 2002? That was a massively expensive failure. Royal Mail is still reeling from the cost of that.

Royal Mail changes to service over the years

With the increasing use of couriers and email over the years it is no surprise that Royal Mail profits are down and we certainly haven’t seen the increases of previous years. But Royal Mail and even Essex Postie says that the prices are still some of the lowest in the world. However, remember when the postie was the first to notice when an elderly person didn’t come to the door and the postie could raise the alarm that something was wrong? Essex Postie says that, historically, it was always ‘job and finish’, meaning that you were given the autonomy to manage your round, albeit if you were paid beyond your actual work time (good for posties but not so cost efficient for Royal Mail!) But, because of this most took a sense of civic pride in their work. Essex Postie says “I didn’t just deliver mail, I helped people who’d locked themselves out of their homes, notified countless customers that had left their keys in their doors and gave witness statements to police following incidents I had seen on my round. I could stop and chat to a lonely pensioner, or ask if the housebound needed anything bringing to them.” All that has gone. Whilst I appreciate that giving posties unrestricted hours would give rise to obvious issues, surely there is scope for some middle ground?

Essex Postie says that the numerous changes over the years have contributed to a culture of resentment towards management and no sense of office camaraderie. This, he says, has led to colleagues taking much less pride in their role and not having time, good will, or inclination to offer the pastoral care they used to provide to their customers and communities.

Delivery offices once had experienced managers who worked their way up and remained loyal to their office and staff who were hired on permanent full-time contracts. This has changed significantly. Managers started to be moved around from office-to-office, causing upheaval and uncertainty. ‘Casuals’ had always been employed at Christmas to assist with the four-week busy period. However, slowly but surely ‘Casuals’ started to appear as part of the general workforce, to the point of actually taking over some roles completely. New staff hired now are only offered 20hrs per week contracts and if an existing employee (who may have worked in their office for 20 years plus) requests a transfer to another office they must also drop down to 20 hours!

old fashioned post box on stick on cliff top background sea

Lack of strategy and consistency

There seems little cohesion of national policy and procedure implementation and one manager at one office can decide to do something very different (and, often, controversial) to a counterpart elsewhere, creating disparity and resentment amongst staff. For example, some offices do ‘absorption’ and some don’t have to. This is the round of a walk that is not permanently covered by a permanent delivery person which is shared out between 4 people who are expected to deliver this without any extra pay. Other examples are staff being sent out again after their walks have been delivered, although this doesn’t happen at all offices. Some offices still allow staff to use their own cars for deliveries.

There were a number of changes, with posties starting out on foot, then using a Royal Mail bicycle, then their own cars, then cars were banned, trolley boxes were introduced, then a return to Royal Mail mountain bikes, then working in pairs (one of whom would drive due to moving into a new fleet of Royal Mail vans (because ‘parcel drivers’ would no longer exist and all delivery staff would now have to take letters AND parcels as all the rounds were reassigned.)

Royal Mail and the community

A Royal Mail spokesperson said “Every day we receive reports of our people going above and beyond in the communities they serve. Royal Mail takes its corporate responsibility very seriously. We are proud of the work our people do in the community, which goes far beyond delivering mail and parcels.”

Last year it began working with the Home Office on a new community service, “Safe and Connected“, to help tackle loneliness. During the trial postmen and women from three delivery offices – Liverpool North, Whitby and New Malden, made regular scheduled visits to pre-selected volunteer participants to check on their well-being.​

However, it is a trial. It is specific. It was not what we used to know, the natural part and parcel of the job. I asked Royal Mail if staff were given extra hours to undertake this work, or if their rounds were shorter and if there were plans for a roll out. A spokesperson said “We do not anticipate any delay or disruption to the postal round from this trial. We will be considering feedback from all parties including the trial participants before any decisions are made about the future of the service.”

Is it just me that thinks it is peculiar that what used to be part and parcel of a job which staff were clearly happy to do now needs to be part of a limited trial?

What of the future for Royal Mail?

So, perhaps the privatised Royal Mail wants to be seen as working to keep costs down for consumers and with improved service for its customers compared with before privatisation? However, you know what? I for one would be more than happy to pay a penny more for a stamp if it meant that Essex Postie and his colleagues could go back to taking pride in their work, looking out for the vulnerable and helping to be the eyes and ears of local communities.

What do you think? Would you be happy to spend an extra penny on a stamp if it meant an improvement in service?