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What is a consumer champion & how they can benefit business

What is a consumer champion?

A “consumer champion” is the name given to an individual or organisation that speaks up for consumers and their rights.

But how do you see a consumer champion?

Are they…

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An advocate for the consumer?

Fighting for consumer rights, a consumer champion will help consumers get refunds and redress for faulty items and poor service. They may help individuals or advise in the media.

A campaigner?

Consumer champions will often campaign for change in policies, laws and regulations to improve the experience for consumers. For example, organisations such as Money Saving Expert (MSE) and Which? are currently campaigning for new legislation to force large tech companies such as Facebook and Amazon to protect online users from scams and dangerous products sold on their sites.

An intermediary between you and your customer?

A consumer champion may work as a go between, negotiating between your business and your customer.

An inconvenience to you?

Some businesses may see a consumer champion as getting in the way, when they fight for the customer and want improvements. Some businesses will not listen to consumer champions or act on any of their advice, believing that only they know best.

An asset?

Some businesses do see the advantages of working with a consumer champion.

For example I took Tesco to court in 2013 but when Dave Lewis became CEO of the group in 2014 I contacted him and over the next 6 years I still continued to criticize but also found common ground.

Tesco and I did reciprocal blogs, I visited the Head Office and had lunch with him and his executive team, he spoke about me in his financial reporting and more. I interviewed Matt Davies the UK CEO and Dave which was put on the Tesco YouTube channel. I put forward questions from customers in a win-win for Tesco and its customers.

Case study: Tesco and a consumer champion

What do consumer champions do?

If a consumer champion is well established and credible, they will:

Consumer champion roles are various

Review sites could also be considered as a type of consumer champion. They allow customers to leave reviews on their experience of goods and services. They also provide a “right of reply” for businesses, allowing consumers to make an informed decision about a purchase. These are popular ways for people to research goods and services. The UK government is proposing changes to how review sites are regulated.

Review site examples:

  • TripAdvisor,
  • Google Local Guides,
  • Amazon,
  • Patient Opinion

Consumer Expert examples:

  • Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, Martin Lewis, Simon Calder, Paul Lewis
  • Which?
  • Various experts in the media

Resources

There are a number of resources that businesses can work with and use to champion the customer, such as:

Advantages of working with a consumer champion

  • Feedback on customer service performance. A consumer champion will be able to provide the unique perspectives of your customers.
  • They will be able to show you ways to do things that work better for customers and therefore increase your sales.
  • Consumer champions will be keeping abreast of trends and changes with topical issues. They will be able to provide information about consumer behaviour.
  • Involving a consumer champion with your work can increase trust in your company and raise its profile.
  • In the same way, it can be used to generate good publicity. For example, quoting a consumer champion in your press releases.
  • Consumer champions will challenge your company and every stage of the customer journey. If you are open to this kind of challenge and the changes it could bring, it may benefit your company hugely.

How much do you read articles about/from or listen to consumer champions?

If you would like to know more about working with a consumer champion to increase the benefits to your company’s reputation, finances and also help vulnerable customers, thereby increasing your sales, please see below:

The Complaining Cow – free support for businesses

26/04/22 The Customer Journey – How to make Superfans one hour webinar with Becky Stevenson Business Consultant and Strategist and Helen Dewdney, Consumer Champion.

It takes 5 times as much to gain a new customer to retain one. So work on turning your customers into superfans who do much of the heavy lifting for you!

Join the Facebook Group Increase Sales through Customer Service: Compassion, Care and  Integrity  A private group where you can give and get support, advice and share good practice on how to improve customer service.

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Free download Customer Service 5 ways to get rave reviews & referrals a few tweaks to your customer service can help you reduce the risk to your company’s reputation, finances and impact on customers and increase sales.

 

 

The Complaining Cow services

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To see how The Complaining Cow can help you increase your sales through improving your customer service see Services. Consultancy, power hours, speaking, training, workshops and videos.

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Companies customer service Latest News Laws Transport

How to challenge and appeal a private PCN

How to fight Parking Charge Notices

Parking tickets are the bane of every driver’s life. Many of us who drive have fallen victim to them at some time or other. And most of the time they are fair. But at times they are downright wrong.

old fashioned parking meters

What is a private parking ticket?

Private parking tickets – known as Parking Charge Notices (PCNs) – aren’t actually tickets or fines, they are invoices. They are sending you a notice for what they see as a breach of contract.

The process for appealing a council issued parking ticket differs to that of a private firm. See How to appeal a council parking ticket.

The Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 bans clamping and towing in England and Wales and it has been banned since 1992 in Scotland. Clamping is still allowed on private land in Northern Ireland.

(Clamping is still allowed under certain some circumstances in England, Scotland and Wales because sometimes Government agencies, e.g. DVLA, police and local authorities sub contract. Also they may be used where bylaws are in place, such as at stations.)

Given that clamping is allowed in certain circumstances, don’t remove the clamp, as you could be charged with criminal damage to add to your woes!

DVLA and parking tickets

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is complicit in the parking shark business. It permits access to its car owner database for members of the International Parking Community (IPC) and British Parking Association (BPA). This allows companies to write to car owners about alleged “debts” for parking.

Is this simply a money making exercise for the DVLA? The latest Which? research shows that the 10 major private parking companies operating in Britain revoked at least 33 per cent of the 14.7 million charges they issued in the last four years and that the majority of people pay up after being harassed. This figure for wrongly applied charges is huge. If the DVLA refused to give out these details, motorists would rightly escape being wrongly charged millions of pounds a year!

A spokesperson for the DVLA said that the fees they charge are merely to recover costs and that it has robust procedures in place to ensure data sharing activities comply with data protection law, specifically “Regulation 27 of The Road Vehicles (Registration and Licensing) Regulations 2002 allows vehicle keeper details to be disclosed to third parties in various circumstances.” Their statement goes on to say that “Local Authorities and Private Landowners would have great difficulty in applying parking restrictions if there was no way of following up alleged breaches.”

Challenging a private parking invoice

It would appear that many of the companies in this sector have one simple business model: Grind people down, ignore evidence and just keep going until people pay up.

Do not stand for it! Here are some tips for how to protect yourself and how to complain if you receive an incorrect charge.

1) Keep evidence of payment. All of it! The actual payment, so screenshot a payment acknowledgement, the bank transfer/credit card statement etc. Keep the receipt.

2) The firm sending you the charge usually won’t be the landowner, so you could also write to the landowner. So, for example, if the landowner is a supermarket you could try a two prong attack and write to the manager of the store as well as to the parking firm.

3) You can appeal on a number of things. In the example I used in my article for This Is Money, the defence was the parking had already been paid! Other possible defences include: poor signage (take photos as evidence), broken pay and display machine (again take photo at the time with date and time shown), you broke down, there was an emergency or that the car owner details recorded are incorrect.

4) When the charge comes from the company, follow their appeals process. This will usually be an appeal internally. Then, if they are a member of either the BPA or IPC, you can appeal to one of those organisations.

5) If the firm is not a member, it cannot get your details from the DVLA which means they can’t take you to court if you don’t pay! Don’t write to the firm, as it will then have the address details it needs to pursue you.

Parking (Code of Practice) Act 2019

On 7 February 2022 the Government announced changes to the regulations covering private parking firms. By the end of 2023 private parking operators in England, Scotland and Wales must have new measures in place. These include:

• Terms & Conditions must be clearly displayed.

• For car parks where CCTV and number recognition is used you may leave within 5 minutes not having parked and won’t be charged.

• You will have 10 minutes leeway before the parking company can issue a late charge.

• In England outside of London and in Wales, most parking charges will be capped at £50. Currently, companies can charge up to £100. There will be exceptions, such as if you abuse Blue Badge bays or trespass on private land.

• 50% discount if you pay within 14 days.

• Companies will not be allowed to increase a charge for late payment.

• Parking charge debt collectors will be banned from adding excess fees to the parking charge, currently as much as £70.

• Parking companies will be banned from using aggressive or pseudo-legal language to intimidate motorists into paying fines.

New, simpler appeals procedure, which will make it easier to appeal and get the ticket fully cancelled if you:

• have a mitigating reason for overstaying, such as breaking down
• made a genuine error, such as keying in a digit from your number plate incorrectly
• have a Blue Badge, valid ticket or permit but didn’t display it correctly,

This is an edited and updated version of a much longer piece I wrote for my This Is Money Column. Watch out, there’s a parking shark about: The CONSUMER FIGHTBACK column on how to appeal an unfair private parking ticket.

Further help with complaining effectively

 

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If you need help with complaining effectively and making sure you are never fobbed off. GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

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101 Habits of an Effective Complainer to help you become more skilled and assertive when making complaints