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How to challenge terms & conditions (even those you’ve agreed)

How to complain about Terms and Conditions

The One Show today covers Terms and Conditions. Who reads them? Would you follow them if told?

There are pages and pages of small print. How many of us tick the box that says “Agree to terms and conditions”, only to fall foul later when we need to complain?

 

The Government thought so too and there was a call for evidence from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills for consumers to provide feedback regarding their experiences. The open consultation ended on 25 April 2016 but there is still no response. I’ve requested details of when this will be forthcoming but as yet not heard anything.

So what can you do in the meantime if you feel that the terms and conditions you agreed to actually turned out to be unfair? Don’t worry, all is not lost!

Consumer Rights Act 2015 and unfair contracts

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) 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 Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (amended 2014) (CPUTRs)

For a practice to be unfair under these rules, they must harm, or be likely to harm, the economic interests of the average consumer. For example, when a shopper makes a purchasing decision he or she would not have made had he or she been given accurate information or not put under unfair pressure to do so.

The regulations prohibit trading practices that are unfair to consumers. There are four different types of practices covered:

A general ban – on conduct below a level which may be expected towards consumers (honest market practice/good faith).

Misleading practices  a practice misleads through the information it contains, or its deceptive presentation, and causes, or is likely to cause, the average consumer to take a different transactional decision specifically; general misleading information, creating confusion with competitors’ products or failing to honour commitments made in a code of conduct.

Aggressive sales techniques using harassment, coercion or undue influence– significantly impairs, or is likely to significantly impair, the average consumer’s freedom of choice or conduct in relation to the product through the use of harassment, coercion or undue influence – and  thereby causes him to take a different transactional decision.

31 specific practices (that would be two long boring pages of  post! It is pretty thorough though and all of them are listed in the book ). 🙂

How to use the law to get out of unfair contracts

Say for example, your mobile ‘phone is constantly losing signal and you can’t use it like any customer would want to, that is a breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 because it has not supplied you with services carried out with reasonable skill and care and you have every right to terminate the contract. If however, the company tells you that in the terms and conditions of the contract that you signed, you can’t break a contract early under any circumstances, that’s a breach of the above laws, because they have not kept to their side of the bargain! In fact, the telecoms sector is downright awful for customer service so here is some more advice on them. All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers.

Another example. You were told that you could have a free cup of coffee and cake for giving your email address. You signed up. You had your coffee and cake they then tell you that in the terms and conditions you have to clean the floor. You argue that you didn’t know but they say “It’s in the terms and condition”. Tough. For them. Under the CRA it could be an unfair contract, because cleaning the floor could be considered as worth more in payment than the coffee and cake (maybe it would depend how big the floor was?!) But under the CPUTRs it is a big fat breach. You would argue that you were misled into giving your email address.

Further help with complaining about unfair contracts

When you complain use the Top 20 Tips to complain effectively

Think before you sign – top 10 tips for saving on subscriptions

Discussing terms and conditions your rights on The One Show

To keep up to date with the latest information about consumer rights sign up to the newsletter. You won’t be bombarded with emails because I can’t be bothered to set up all those automatic weekly things trying to sell you Stuff! I probably only get round to doing a couple a year!

 

 

Cover of How to Complain updated 2019 large cow logo

 

For more information, advice, tips, consumer laws and template letters covering the majority of issues you might incur with most sectors  GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

 

Discussing terms and conditions your rights on The One Show

 

Categories
Complaining about customer service Miscellaneous telecoms

Preventing and complaining about nuisance calls and Ofcom’s record fine

Ofcom fines companies

Record fine for firm behind nearly 100 million nuisance calls

A company behind 99.5million nuisance calls has been fined a record £400,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Keurboom Communications Ltd, a company behind 99.5 million nuisance calls has been issued the ICO’s highest ever nuisance calls fine after more than 1,000 people complained about recorded (also known as automated – calls). £400,000

The calls, made over an 18 month period, related to a wide range of subjects including road traffic accident claims and PPI compensation. Some people received repeat calls, sometimes on the same day and during unsociable hours. The company also hid its identity, making it harder for people to complain.

Companies can only make automated marketing calls to people if they have their specific consent. Keurboom did not have consent so was in breach of the law.

Steve Eckerlsey, Head of Enforcement at the ICO said: “Keurboom showed scant regard for the rules, causing upset and distress to people unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of one its 100million calls. “The unprecedented scale of its campaign and Keurboom’s failure to co-operate with our investigation has resulted in the largest fine issued by the Information Commissioner for nuisance calls.”

During the investigation, the ICO issued seven information notices ordering the company, which is registered in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, to provide information to the regulator. When it failed to comply, Keurboom Communications Ltd and its director, Gregory Rudd, were prosecuted and fined at Luton Magistrates’ Court in April 2016.

Following the ICO’s investigation, Keurboom Communications Ltd has been placed in voluntary liquidation. The ICO is committed to recovering the fine by working with the liquidator and insolvency practitioners.

The ICO’s powers will be further strengthened when the government introduces a new law allowing it to fine the company directors behind nuisance call firms. Making directors responsible will stop them avoiding fines by putting their company into liquidation.

In 2016/17, the ICO had its busiest year for nuisance calls issuing 23 companies a total of £1.923 million for nuisance marketing.

The previous record nuisance call fine was in February 2016, when the ICO fined Prodial, a lead generation company, £350,000 for making 46 million nuisance calls.

So what can you do to prevent and deal with nuisance calls?

Sign up for TPS. The Telephone Preference Service. You can register both your landline and mobile numbers. It doesn’t stop them all but it certainly reduces it. As for the ones it doesn’t stop, report them. It is the law that companies must check names and numbers against the TPS register so they are breaking the law if you are registered and they contact you. Allow 28 days for it to be all registered. TPS is not able to enforce the law or fine, but does pass the information onto the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

If you have consented to receive marketing calls then you will still get these even if you are registered with TPS. Watch out for comparison and other sites and make sure that box is unchecked for wanting marketing emails.

For silent and abandoned calls, (frequently caused by automated systems dropping calls as soon as one is answered) contact Ofcom. Abandoned calls are where you hear a recorded message and there is a standard form online to report these calls. Ofcom won’t take action on individual complaints, however, once it gets a large number regarding the same company it will take action. In 2013 it fined Talk Talk £750,000 for an excessive number of silent and abandoned calls. So report these kinds of calls. The form is simple
and quick to fill out.

For unwanted marketing calls, contact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). In May 2011 it was given powers to impose a fine up to £500,000 on companies who break the rules on unsolicited texts and phone calls.