How to make sure your wedding goes royally well…

The Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle takes place on Saturday 19th May.

We can be sure that there will be no shortage of people involved in the planning and that there will be no scrimping and saving to put on the wedding of the year. The wedding planning website Bridebook.co.uk puts the cost (without security and the honeymoon) at some £1,969,873. By comparison, the national average spend on a wedding is still a staggering £17,913.

What if you are planning to get married and you don’t have these resources but still want to reduce the risk of things going wrong, as well as ensuring you can get the best of what you can afford? Four  money bloggers and I take a look at how you can save money and make sure the big day still goes well.

You could take a leaf out of the royal couple’s book and invite people and tell them to bring their own food! (Those members of the public with a golden ticket). But perhaps more useful ideas are shared below.

Venue

Harry and Meghan will tie the knot on a Saturday at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, which is out of reach of the average bride and groom But Fiona Elizabeth Hawkes from the blog Savvy in Somerset provides some great tips on how you can still get married somewhere special.

 

  1. Try going for midweek or a Sunday service for a cheaper deal. Most weddings are booked for Saturdays and reserved over a year in advance, so family members shouldn’t get have trouble booking time off work that far ahead.church pews
  2. Alternatively, if you’re feeling brave, leave it right up until the last minute – venues often have massive discounts if you book 6-8 weeks in advance.
  3. Look for smaller quirky venues that don’t normally host weddings – there will be less of a premium than a regular venue.
  4. Have a celebrant or friend marry you on the day, rather than a vicar or registrar and do a cheap 2+2 ceremony at registry office before or after the big day.

Flowers 
photo of Emma Maslin

If your budget doesn’t quite bloom to involving floral bouquet creations from The Crown Estate and Windsor Great Park, Emma Maslin from The Money Whisperer has some suggestions:

 

  1. Ask your florist and venue about moving arrangements between the ceremony and the reception. For example, ceremony aisle ends can be tied to back of top table chairs, signing the register flowers can be used on the top table, etc.
  2. Consider where you want the most impact and focus the money there. If people are looking at the brides amazing bouquet they won’t care that the flower girls have wands wrapped in ribbon instead of their own bouquets.pink background strip 3 boxes variety of flowers boquets
  3. Seasonal flowers will be cheaper, so ask what is going to be in season for the date of your wedding, rather than going with your first choice of flowers.

The dress The name of Meghan’s dress designer is still under wraps, but Kaya La Roche from Earning by the Sea dismisses the need for you to fork out a huge sum of money for a dress you will only wear once. Here she suggests some ways you canbe stylish without the designer price tag:

 

  1. Buy a second-hand dress, you can get dresses that have never actually been worn if a wedding has been cancelled, and even if they have been worn it’s usually only once!)
  2. Ask family if there is one that can be handed down to you and add personal touches to make it your own.
  3. Buy a dress that wasn’t designed to be a traditional wedding dress from a boutique, as some beautiful designs are available at a fraction of the cost.

Catering
Harry, Meghan and guests will be tucking into something that most of us probably won’t even be able to pronounce, even less be able to afford. (Their cake is being made by Claire Ptak at Violet Bakery and prices on her website show a wedding cake for 150 people is £784.80. The royal wedding guest list is 4,040 people, tasty work if you can get it).

photo Faith Archer

 

But Faith Archer from the aptly named blog Much More With Less cooks up some ideas:

 

  1. Food and drink can be a massive part of your wedding budget. Think about what’s really important to you:fabulous food, in which case you might
    want to invite few guests to a more intimate wedding, or feeding hordes of friends and family in a lower cost way, with perhaps a buffet or hog roast.
  2. Get married late afternoon 3pm and focus funds on just one meal late afternoon rather than catering for lunch and early evening.
  3. If you aren’t bothered about a fancy wedding cake, get a local bakery to whip up a delicious cake and use fresh flowers to decorate it.
  4. Check with the venue if you can bring your own booze, as even if you pay corkage, it could work out cheaper.Tables of plates and glasses big plate in middle with salmon and dressing

Honeymoon
Save on any holiday! See Don’t get blue this Monday, get away from it all… 

Lots of other  money bloggers and I  joined forces to give you 15 tips on saving money when choosing and booking holidays! We look at turning the tables and playing the travel companies at their own game, so you can save money when you book your trip away whether here or abroad. Good huh?

Preventing Problems
I see a lot of people who have some bad memories of what should have been the best day of their lives. Whilst you may want to save money, be careful of how you do it:

  1. It may be tempting to ask a friend to take your wedding photos or make your cake but that could quickly give rise to problems. Will you get your money back if something goes wrong with the cake? What will happen to the friendship if the photos are shaky and blurred?
  2. Don’t rely on review sites, including those on social media sites, they could all be false. Try and get personal recommendations of services where you can.
  3. Discuss in detail what you want and what can be provided with service/product providers. Put ALL agreements in writing. Deadlines, costs, detailed descriptions and even a picture (such as for a cake), if appropriate.

wedding cake groom and bride with white frill round them flower either side

  1. Your rights
    What if you have done absolutely everything possible to prepare for the big day but something still goes wrong? I’m on hand to ensure that you don’t get fobbed off!
  1. Under the Consumer Rights Act you are entitled to services carried out with reasonable skill and care. So, if your hairdresser cancels or the cars are motorbikes, you can claim redress and, if applicable, any consequential loss. (e.g. having to pay extra for another caterer, etc).
  2. Under this Act, all products must be as described, of satisfactory quality and free from faults. So, if your cake was burnt or half the flowers were dead you can claim a partial or full refund, depending on whether you still used them.
  3. Collate your evidence. Take photos or video, and include this with details of what was agreed compared to what happened. Put your complaint in writing, being assertive but polite.
  4. Be objective, set a deadline for when you expect a response and what you will do if you not receive an acceptable response, such as going to the Small Claims Court.

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

 

If you do have any issues with good or services see Top 20 Tips on how to complain effectively.

Get the book How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

I’m taking part in the Monday Money linky with Lynn from Mrs Mummy PennyFaith from Much More With Less and Emma from EmmaDrew.Info go see them for more money saving ideas!

 

 

Tasty solutions for food delivery troubles

picture of Chinese takeaway food laid out on plates on tableHave you ever ordered a takeaway that has taken significantly longer than advertised to deliver?

A consumer is totally within their rights to reject the order when it arrives. Consumers have a right to a discount on the order if they decide to keep it.

pizza pieces Takeaway troubles? How to get your appetite back.In fact, if the delivery was so late that the consumer has had to order another takeaway at additional cost to the original order, they could argue that in law they are entitled to the difference too. One must be reasonable, so the delay would need to be unreasonable and within the delivery company’s control.

Any food delivery company not delivering when promised would be in breach of a number of laws.  Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) services should be carried out with information given verbally or in writing to the consumer which is binding where the consumer relies on it. Any service must be carried out within the agreed time. Secondly, The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (amended 2014) (CPUTRs) prohibit trading practices that are unfair to consumers and there are bans on Misleading Practices.

You may already have paid for the delivery before it arrives and the find it difficult to get the refund/discount. Take a picture of the delivery with the time and making copies of any evidence showing the delivery time. (Always make a note of the time you placed the order). Then write to the manager of the company with who you paid the money whether this is the actual delivery company or not, your contract is always with whom you paid your money.

Give details of date, time of order and time of delivery with any evidence. State that the company is in breach of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and The CPUTRs (using the information above). State that should you not be fully satisfied with the response then you will take the matter further which will include but not be limited to informing Trading Standards and detailing your experience on relevant review sites. You could even threaten the Small Claims Court but few people would carry this threat through. Quoting your legal rights in this way usually gets the redress you are owed!

If you are still unhappy you can always write to the CEO, contact details for CEOs can be found at www.ceoemail.com. The CEO won’t necessarily respond personally but the matter will be escalated and taken more seriously. If more people started to complain and assert their legal rights then service would have to improve or companies would go under from providing refunds and discounts. As for companies who repeatedly breach the CPUTRs a breach is a criminal offence. The maximum penalty on conviction is a fine and two years’ imprisonment!

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

 

For more information, tips, advice, consumer law and template letters for most consumer complaint scenarios GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

Energy ombudsman shows how to keep heat on your supplier

radiator

I often hear from people how they think an ombudsman hasn’t been fair or impartial in their case. Most frequently I hear the criticism that the ombudsman always sees in favour of the trader because the trader pays for membership. What people don’t realise is that’s the only way an ombudsman can be funded! But more importantly what people don’t realise is that they not only do they pay for yearly membership but they also pay per case whilst the customer pays nothing. So it is in the company’s interest for a case not to go to the ombudsman.

Sometimes, people approach the ombudsman with issues outside of their remit. Typically:

  • The complaint has been made too late – complainants have 12 months from the date the supplier issues its final response (known as a deadlock letter) to raise the issue with the ombudsman.
  • The complaint has been made prematurely (less than 8 weeks from the initial complaint or no deadlock letter received) – complainants need to raise the issue with the supplier and give them an opportunity to put things right before the ombudsman can become involved.
  • The trader does not participate in the ombudsman’s scheme.
  • The complaint is about a product or service which does not fall inside the ombudsman’s jurisdiction.

So, you have your issue, it falls within the remit and you still don’t get the decision you wanted so what do you do? I’ve asked Lewis Shand Smith the Chief Ombudsman at Ombudsman Services to share the traps people fall into and how to make a stronger case when submitting their issue. He looks at energy in particular but the points are valid for all sectors.

Head shot Lewis Shand SmithLewis Shand Smith Biography

Lewis Shand Smith was appointed Chief Executive and Chief Ombudsman of Ombudsman Services in 2009. Ombudsman Services is a not for profit organisation which resolves disputes in the energy, communications, property, and copyright licensing sectors, amongst others. Lewis was also the Chair of the Ombudsman Association. Previously he was the Crown appointed Deputy Ombudsman and a member of the Executive Board at the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). He is a priest in the Scottish Episcopal church and has served several congregations in Motherwell, Shetland and Dumfries. He was a Canon of St Andrew’s cathedral in Aberdeen. From 1990 to 1999 Lewis was a member of Shetland Islands Council, becoming Convener/Leader in 1994. He has served as a non-executive director or trustee with a number of companies and charities. He is a former Vice President of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, was a member of the Executive of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, and represented the UK on the European Committee of the Regions.

Submitting cases to an Ombudsman service

Ombudsman Services receives complaints in a variety of forms. There are complaints the energy supplier would have resolved if the right person had picked it up. There are complaints where the parties agree on the facts – but disagree on an appropriate remedy. There are complaints where the parties fundamentally disagree on the facts. And there are complaints where neither party has yet been able to understand what happened.

In the period November 2016 to October 2017, Ombudsman Services closed 49,117 energy complaints. Of those, it helped resolve 8% without investigating because the energy company was willing to provide the consumer with their desired resolution.

Of the complaints that Ombudsman Services investigated, it:

  • upheld 66% (finding that the energy supplier had done something wrong and had not done enough to put it right).
  • maintained 26% (finding that although the energy supplier had done something wrong, it had already offered a fair resolution to the customer).
  • did not uphold 8% of complaints, (concluding that there was no substance to the original complaint and the energy supplier had treated the customer fairly).

These figures suggest that the majority of complaints needed Ombudsman Services intervention to ensure a fair remedy for the consumer. But many could have been resolved without Ombudsman Services’ help. In most cases, the complaints reached Ombudsman Services because of a failure in the energy supplier’s complaint handling; but some could have benefited from better complaining from the consumer – or the consumer accepting a resolution that was already fair.

So, below are some common reasons why consumer actions mean a complaint is not resolved with the energy company – along with some advice on how not to fall into the traps.

5 top tips for ensuring you have the best case if you need the ombudsman on picture of electricity pylon

 

  1. Focusing on the problem, not the solution

It is very easy to focus on what went wrong and how it should never have happened. But a complaint normally only ends successfully when the wronged party focusses on what needs to be done to put things right. So, before you complain, think about what you would like your supplier to do to resolve your complaint – and let the supplier know.

 

  1. Disbelieving accurate responses

When things go wrong, people lose trust. So people often lack confidence in energy company’s answers. It can be worth seeking advice online or from friends and family. This can sometimes provide the reassurance consumers desire without the need for an ombudsman investigation.  See All you need to know to make a complaint about energy for advice, tips, information and consumer rights regarding energy complaints and  the Ombudsman website for Energy complaint advice and cases. 

  1. Unreasonable expectations / asking for bills or balances to be wiped

Energy suppliers do offer financial awards – but they are normally goodwill gestures to acknowledge what went wrong. Energy suppliers rarely relate awards to the size of a consumer’s outstanding balance.

Ombudsman Services applies similar principles in our complaint handling. Customers should pay the correct amount for the energy they have consumed. If something has gone wrong and a financial award is due – the amount will be proportionate to the trouble the consumer experienced – not the outstanding account balance.

  1. Failing to engage with an energy supplier

Poor energy supplier responses can leave consumers feeling that the problem won’t be resolved without help. But Ombudsman Services can only help after a consumer has tried to resolve the problem with the energy supplier direct for several weeks. As frustrating as it is, consumers should plug away with the energy company. Be clear about what the problem is and what needs to be done to put it right. Check out 20 Top Tips for complaining effectively to increase your chances before needing the Ombudsman. Hopefully someone at the energy company will understand the complaint and correct the problem. This will mean a far quicker resolution than if you go to the Ombudsman.

  1. Becoming too invested in the complaint

If a consumer feels they’ve been wronged, they’re likely to tell people about it. Sometimes it turns out that the consumer is at fault, and in such circumstances, it can be difficult for consumers to admit their error to other people on the complaint journey. They can reach for excuses and/or change the substance of their complaint so as not to lose face. This rarely leads to success and escalating to Ombudsman Services can sometimes prolong and increase the disappointment. If a consumer realises that they are wrong, there is sometimes value in not continuing the complaint.

If consumers feel wronged they should always complain; but they should do so in a focused way and seek a proportionate outcome.

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!For tips on writing that initial complaint see Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

 

For information, advice, consumer law and template letters GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

Don’t gobble rancid Tesco turkey. Know your rights

So, to another Tesco story. Tesco History with The Complaining Cow. But this time it isn’t involving me! This Christmas people appear to have bought gone off and rancid turkeys. Costing up to £59, the Tesco finest range is coming under fire. The Telegraph, The Guardian and others reported numerous people complaining on social media having bought a turkey that they either threw away or cooked and had their meal ruined and were ill. On Twitter there were claims of people being sick but some people didn’t believe that everyone would be il from one mouthful, or that one wouldn’t smell it was off before cooking. Tesco has said that it would provide full refunds for affected turkeys. But what are your rights? Are you entitled to more?

1) First and foremost under The Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to goods of satisfactory quality. Clearly this is not the case if you bought a rotten turkey, so are entitled to a full refund. You will need to evidence then purchase with any proof of purchase e.g. receipt, Clubcard record, statement etc. Evidence could be a photograph, report from your local council Environmental Services etc.

2) By breaching a contract (The Consumer Rights Act 2015) it should be considered that Tesco is liable for consequential loss. This means that if it ruined the rest of your meal you are entitled to the cost of the other food. So for instance, in the example regarding giblets used to make the gravy and poured over the food, Tesco is responsible for that too.

3) You are also entitled to loss of enjoyment of the meal. Harder to fight for, but if you were to argue in the Small Claims Court for loss of enjoyment on the big day you’d probably win and frankly trust me on this, although I have taken Tesco to court and won it is unlikely that they would let it go to court. Don’t forget photos of all the untouched turkey.

4) Been made ill? Prove it. Easily done. If you really have had food poisoning you would go to the doctor (each and everyone of you that has the sickness) and provide this evidence. You should also keep part of the turkey. Send some to Tesco for analysis and some to your local Environmental Health department.

5) Tesco has now said it is offering £75 as a goodwill gesture on top of the refund. You could go more if you feel that your loss was more and outline reasons using the Top 20 Tips for how to complain effectively.

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

For substantial information, advice, consumer law and templates for complaining effectively get the book! How to Complain Effectively: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

 

 

 

 

Are you on the right track with your Christmas train travel plans?

Problems on the trains this Christmas and your rights

Is your train running this Christmas or have you been duped?

It looks like thousands of Christmas holiday train travellers have been misled into buying more expensive tickets than they would have done normally.

Transport Focus discovered around 15,000 errors in the Rail Delivery Group timetable database. In just one week in December it found 2,648 invalid journeys listed on the database. This is likely to result in Christmas travellers not being able to make the journeys planned. Tickets have been incorrectly sold for services which will not run due to engineering works.

Virgin train not providing tickets early enough

It also found that in the 12 weeks before Christmas – when regulations say timetables and advance tickets should be released –  that six major rail firms (Virgin, London Midland, South Western, Great Western, Greater Anglia and Southern) had not offered a full range of advance purchase fares. Passengers were therefore forced to buy more expensive tickets. Sky News reported, for example, that only 15% of services were open for reservation on Greater Anglia, and 25% on Virgin Trains. It also reported that Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, has ordered an immediate investigation and said:

“It would be totally unacceptable if any passenger has to pay walk-up fares this Christmas because advance tickets were not available. I expect passengers to be offered the highest standards of customer service and have ordered an immediate investigation into this report. We are delivering the biggest investment in our railways since the Victorian era, and at times those works will cause disruption. I have set out clear plans to bring the operation of track and train closer together that will improve future reliability for passengers.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog, Transport Focus, said:

“Failure to release timetables 12 weeks ahead of travel can mean passengers buy tickets for trains that will not run. That can’t be right. Train operators’ advice is to book early at Christmas to get the best deal, but if the timetable has not been finalised only more expensive ‘on the day’ tickets can be bought. Being forced to change plans because the railway hasn’t got this right will only result in more frustration from passengers. The rail industry must act urgently to make sure the timetable is accurate 12 weeks ahead if passengers are to trust they are on their side.”

Rail firms are passing the blame on to Network Rail for failing to finalise their schedule of engineering work. Twaddle! And no doubt if this is true then rail companies will be claiming from Network Rail far more than they will be paying out to compensate customers. Transport Focus said that the failings could lead to a loss of faith in train companies. I say “EVEN more loss of faith!”

Check with your train operator if the train you have booked is running from National Rail Enquiries.

What do you need to know if you want to complain?
1) From 1 October 2016 rail is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which gives you more rights few know about. 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, for starters!

2) Passengers are entitled to have their compensation paid within 14 days, issued by the same method the passenger used to pay for the ticket.

3) Keep your tickets as evidence and take a copy if you have to post them.

4) Make a note of your journey including: Date, time, where travelling from/to and how long you’ve been delayed at the time, before you forget!

5) Make a note of the reason given over the tannoy or on displays, for the delay.  Take a photo of any excuses shown on displays.

6) Check how long you have to claim, it is usually up to 28 days.

7) Passengers can claim for any length of delay. If you suffer repeated delays of less than half an hour or overcrowding due to an unexpected lack of carriages, you might get money back if you take your case to court.

8) Currently, no compensation is offered.

9) Where a service has not been provided with reasonable skill and care, passengers will now have a right to a refund of up to the full ticket price.

10) Put your complaint in writing so that you have a record. Keep a screen capture or print out of a web-based refund claim.

11) You don’t need a third party company to claim for you, just like claiming for delayed airline flights. Instead, do it yourself and get 100% of the refund.

12) If the issue was within the company’s control, be objective, succinct and clear in outlining the issue that occurred.

13) Make it clear what you want to happen and what you will do if you are not satisfied with the response (e.g. take it further through Transport Focus  or if inside London, London Travel Watch  or Small Claims Court.

14) If you are not satisfied with the response, write to the CEO using contact details from the CEOemail.com website. The matter will then be escalated and taken seriously.

15) It may also be possible to claim from your credit card company under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act for non-delivery of services.

Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

Email addresses for CEOs of UK railway companies with links to Delay Repay where applicable.

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

For more on your consumer rights, advice, information, tips and template letters get the book!

 

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!