Tesco Christmas in July

What? Well! Supermarkets, department stores, superstores and the like all have a Christmas in July.  What is it? Well, it’s quite ridiculous but magazines like Good Housekeeping etc. are writing their Christmas articles now so need to know what’s the best of stuff out there. So the stores hold events showing off their Christmas wares. Loads of bloggers go too. Probably works the same with fashion. Anyway, although I am a blogger I don’t do sponsored posts, reviews etc. Much as I’d love to get lots of free stuff to review and fings, it wouldn’t be in the spirit of of what The Complaining Cow does.

Because of this I tend not to go to these kind of events. More missing out! But, yeah it was Tesco so had to be done didn’t it? Got to find something to complain about. (See The Complaining Cow’s history with Tesco for lots of stories of complaints, taking them to court, meeting and then interviewing the CEOs and stuff.)

I asked for an invite! They said yes! Told the Media team I would try and find something to complain about! Head of Corporate PR said it was Christmas so don’t try too hard! Like I need to try?

So, whilst all the other bloggers and journalists gather their best bits from all the events I bring  you a piece just on Tesco warts and all!

Alessandra and HelenWhen I arrived they had dedicated the Head of Media Relations, Shoshana and the Chief Customer Officer Alessandra (I interviewed last year) to show me round the event! I wonder if this was because they were more worried about what I might say more than anyone else  and thought pre-warned is pre-armed. Well wanna see what I found? Read on, there’s some nice pictures after all.

A door, yep a welcoming Xmas door to the festivities. I should probably say though that I went to the end/exit to meet Shoshana, because that’s my sense of direction and idiocy. She sensibly came and got me and took me to the front! Anywhere where was I, other than lost? Oh yes  the front door. Glass of prosecco on the way? Don’t mind if I do.

biscuits on a plate to try

Right, chocolate. See that gap? Obviously happy to oblige when asked to “Try one”! Very yummy, hand decorated but frankly who cares?! Belgian choc biscuits £4 bit steep would they have been cheaper if not hand painted? 12. Making them 33.3p each.  Yes that glass is mine.

Here comes a complaint. Not allowed to try the chocolate penguin 🙁 Not allowed to try the double chocolate marshmallows 🙁 Not allowed to try those little cakes 🙁 (all on the row behind the table).

Cotswolds is the theme this year. So you can expect to see scenes from the Cotswolds. You’ll see that through the decorations, paper, cards and china. Interestingly they have designed products so that if you break a bauble, for example, or just want to add to your collection next year, they are keeping designs similar so you don’t have to buy all new sets. Not that I would do that anyway! Far too tight to buy different decorations for the tree every year! Not sure whether I like the designs or not. On balance I think I like them. Will I be buying anything from the range? Possibly but I prefer funny cards. They are still doing very similar if not the same Christmas paper as last year. (And cheap plus my book looks good wrapped up in it! 🙂 )Probably buy that because obviously I liked it. That and I’ll have last year’s gift tags to go with it. Have to say the glasses  and other tableware were tasteful though.

Decorations and wrapping paper

Tesco has its own inhouse design team who knew? Well probably quite a few people but the majority don’t and that includes the people at the event. They design all sorts of stuff throughout the year, but here they were showing off all the design stages of their pictures etc.

Tesco employee drawing

Two women drawing at table

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ha! Best table in the room Alcohol!

Bar two women serving sparkling wines

one white one rose low alcohol sparkling wineI tried a low alcohol sparkling wine! (0.5%) Last time I tried a non alcoholic wine was when I was pregnant, took one sip and threw the rest of the glass and bottle away! But this wasn’t bad, bit sweet but low/no alcohol needs sugar as a preservative.

proseccoOf course I liked the most expensive prosecco on offer. Finished the glass I had and took a glass of that round the rest of the tour! Apparently Tesco is the biggest provider of Prosecco – well wouldn’t it be being the biggest supermarket on the planet? That said, I have a feeling my neighbours and I contribute to the sales rather too much…. Anyway, can’t say it was worth twice the price of their range of prosecco at the other end of the price spectrum but then I probably have a very immature palate?!

 

salmon and bagel wraps

£3.50 for that salmon bagel! Well it looked nice but seriously £3.50? Apparently I wasn’t the only one to comment on the price. Apparently it is because the salmon is gin-and-juniper cured and another piece is oak smoked. Buy a bottle and some salmon and do it yourself? Oh and don’t forget the “candy striped beetroot” ‘cos obviously that is worth paying for right? Where’s the rolling eyes emoticon gone?

 

sausage rolls

Mind you, next to this were some very good sausage rolls.

OMG! They were vegan. Blimey! Maybe it wasn’t those I tried. Surely? Perhaps I’m muddling them up with some little pork pies, they were good! Can’t remember the detail though sorry!

I called the below the Tummy Rumbler table. Also known as Quite The Teaser. Very good looking prawns, pork burger things (they were good, buying them) and other stuff which you can’t see very well because my picture is rubbish. Did make me want to have some people round though! It all cooks at the same time same temperature. More time to spend with guests drinking prosecco! They did do that last year so it aint new! Okay, looking in the Tesco marketing whatsit the pork burger things are called “Tesco Finest Hog Roast Crackling Sliders” Oh, they have apple and cider chutney in them. Don’t like cider and apple chutney. What happened there then? That’ll teach me to keep telling my son to try new foods when I don’t.

Xmas party food on tiers baubles hanging in cornerYou know pigs in blankets? Tesco has introduced pigs in duvets (on the left in the picture below) I kid ye not. Looked nice though, but again couldn’t taste 🙁sausage rolls, pigs in blankets on standCold meats

Right, now. This Italian meats table was all very good lots of new stuff. Tesco staff have been on jollies to Italy and experimenting with stuff! I have to tell you the proscuttio soaked in prosecco was really very good! Very moist. Looked it up to buy but it’s not available yet 🙁

Toys, variety of new products, including pooing unicorns. Amused me anyway.

unicorn pooToys on tiered stand

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas treats for your pets anyone? Advent calendars? They sold hundreds of thousands of these Christmas pet items last year! I suppose if you buy treats then getting an Xmas bone isn’t very different but please tell me why, if you actually buy an advent calendar for your dog?!Pet treats, advent calendarsThere were Christmas jumpers, The usual stuff. Cute winter coat for a little girl though. £16 navy blue based on the Royals (roll of eyes emoticon) but cute and good value, well certainly less than the one bought for Charlotte Windsor. Don’t suppose that came from Tesco.

Then came the last room. This is where the tummy rumbles became seriously audible. Have to say the stuff around looked fantastic and I wasn’t the only one that wanted to tuck in!

Table full of Xmas day food

cauliflower in

 

If you are veggie then er have some cauliflower in pastry. £6 I’m not sure I have a comment.

 

 

 

Puddings. Phone ran out of charge! What a time to go! So here are some pics from the promotional whatsit that was in the goody bag:

pictures of cakes

Just, just, look they looked fabulous in real life ok?! And yeah I have got a complaint. To put all that out and only have a few profiteroles out for tasting was cruel. Cruel I tell you. And there isn’t a picture of the Xmas tree cone chocolate hoojamaflips. Now, they are superb.

But last year I went to a Tesco thing to catch early viewing of the advertscakes and profiteroles and they had the chocolate cone tree hoojamaflips out for tasting. I don’t like Xmas pud and decided I wanted them for my pud come 25th December. I went to order and they didn’t have any. The lovely manager at Lea Valley even tried to find me some. I was assured that this year there will be enough. Someone is in big fat serious trouble if I don’t get them this year.

Good selection of cheeses, didn’t take a photo wasn’t impressed by them putting them all on a grand piano frankly. Not what a piano is for.

On approaching the big table I saw Dave Lewis (Tesco CEO). I don’t know if he saw me but he disappeared very quickly. He wasn’t going to get away with it so I emailed him!  In fact I told him that I was told Tesco is the biggest prosecco supplier and that was down to my two neighbours and me and that he was welcome! Even though I still hadn’t received an invite to test prosecco and chocolate truffles! He has tried to assure me that he didn’t run (one assumes he walked quickly!) and that we could have had some impromptu prosecco tasting! Well now he owes me!

Home time. Got a nice goody bag, flipping heavy to carry though. Can’t show you a photo ‘cos I accidentally ate some of the contents on the tube home and drank the half bottle of wine when I got home. But here’s someone else’s pic!

So there you go. My work here is done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Should Lush stick to selling soap?

What do we think of the Lush campaign? Does it help to highlight an important issue? Is it putting staff in danger? Does it undermine the police? Is it ill thought out? Does it make for good PR for Lush? Perhaps it’s all of these things?

The recent Lush campaign saw store windows decorated with posters and the #spycops hashtag and fake police tape with the words “Police have crossed the line” emblazoned on it. It was due to run until 17 June but the BBC has reported (Lush drops ‘anti-spy cops’ campaign) that the campaign was ended on 8 June 2018 by Lush “for the safety of our staff”.

Lush poster as Twitter feed header "Paid to lie #spycops" picture of man's face split in two police helmet one side

But it continued less than a week later.

13 June 2018 The Guardian reported that Cosmetics chain Lush resumes undercover police poster campaign. Lush put up new posters in their windows without pictures.

Its Twitter account was limited to the one tweet:

Others tweeted the posters:

What is this all about?

 In 2015 an Inquiry into undercover policing was established. Its purpose is

… to investigate and report on undercover police operations conducted by English and Welsh police forces in England and Wales since 1968. The Inquiry will examine the contribution undercover policing has made to tackling crime, how it was and is supervised and regulated, and its effect on individuals involved – both police officers and others who came into contact with them.”

In brief, undercover police officers infiltrated peaceful campaign organisations and became involved in the lives of members of those organisations. Activists unwittingly found themselves in relationships with undercover police officers. Some even had children as a result of those relationships.

When this was discovered, activists reacted with anger and horror. One said that it was “like being raped by the state”  Trauma of spy’s girlfriend: ‘like being raped by the state’ (Guardian)

Legal actions are ongoing from those affected by the undercover police scandal.

Lush is highlighting the issues around the Inquiry and the stories of those activists whose lives were damaged by undercover police behaviour which was approved and funded by the police and by the Home Office.shop window paid to lie poster #spycopsWhat Lush says

Faced with widespread criticism of branding all police officers as spies and liars, Lush released a statement. It starts “This is not an anti-state/anti-police campaign. We are aware that the police forces of the UK are doing an increasingly difficult and dangerous job whilst having their funding slashed.  We fully support them in having proper police numbers, correctly funded to fight crime, violence and to be there to serve the public at our times of need.

This campaign is not about the real police work done by those front line officers who support the public every day – it is about a controversial branch of political undercover policing that ran for many years before being exposed.”

Those affected by the undercover police officers

The Guardian published an article with a long list of MPs, representatives from unions, justice campaigns etc.

As victims of spycops, we stand with Lush in campaign for full disclosure 74 victims of secret undercover police operations, lawyers gave a joint statement saying “The cosmetics retailer Lush has used its facilities to help us as victims press for full disclosure and reform so that this never happens again….. This is not an attack on police; it serves to help all those in the police service who wish to uphold the highest standards of policing. For this we thank Lush for its support. We condemn those who have misrepresented Lush and our campaign and especially those who have sought to intimidate Lush staff.

and it published another article on freedom of speech:

I don’t like Lush’s #spycops campaign, but shutting it down is an abuse of power

Other MPs gave their support on Twitter:

After Lush closed down it’s campaign early, The Guardian published the story of the son of one of the victims.  As the son of an undercover cop, I support what Lush did. He talks about his loss of identity and the refusal of the police to help him. It’s very moving.

Whilst this all shows support of Lush, not all victims are supportive. BBC News online reported on one of the victims who had a baby by one of the officers, headlined “Lush ‘using me to sell soap’

The piece says: “Jacqui told BBC Radio 5 live that she felt her case was being “used to sell soap” and that the firm should have “had the courtesy to warn me” about the campaign.

She said: “I’d just like an apology from them.”

Jacqui said no-one from Lush had contacted her about the campaign and that she had received a barrage of calls since it was launched.”

What the police say

The Police Federation wrote an Open letter to the Advertising Standards Authority. In it the chairs of the Police Federation of England and Wales, Scottish Police Federation and the Federation for Northern Ireland said: “We have been contacted directly by hundreds of police officers from the four countries of the United Kingdom who, like us, find the campaign distasteful, offensive and consider it deliberately provokes an anti-police sentiment.”

They requested an apology from Lush.

But on the 2nd June 2018 the BBC reported (Dorset PCC supports Lush ‘spy cops’ campaign) that the  Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill described the infiltration of animal rights activists as “disproportionate and distasteful”.

“In short, I do support Lush in exposing this issue,” he added.

What an ex undercover spycop says

What the Advertising Standards Authority says

In a statement an ASA spokesperson said “We can confirm we received over 30 complaints about the Lush police campaign. The material displayed in the Lush shop window is not within our remit as it’s not a sales promotion. The online and social media entries don’t fall within our definition of advertising as set out in the Advertising Codes that online material must be ‘directly connected’ to the sale of goods and services.  Although this material on the website and Twitter page associates the Lush brand with the campaign, the opinions expressed are not directly connected to the sale of their products.”

It’s certainly advertising because it’s using a brand (Lush) to highlight an important and controversial issue. So whose remit is it to regulate this?

Marketing lessons?

What lessons can be drawn from a marketing point of view from this debacle?

  • Be really offensive and keep your brand in the news for ages, with positive or negative consequences.
  • Don’t run a campaign which you have to explain. Lush had to explain that they weren’t talking about all police officers. Not everyone knows about the undercover police issue and the picture states “paid to lie” with no reference to the whole story.
  • Think of your staff facing the backlash of your decisions. Many Lush staff had to face members of the public who were angry at the company’s handling of the issue.

What should Lush do now?

A PR disaster like this can cause serious damage to a brand if it is not properly handled. Perhaps Lush should now apologise to both sides of the debate and avoid getting involved in complex issues. It has returned to campaigning, perhaps being slightly less controversial, perhaps trying harder to explain the issue, but still without any apology?

The poster has a picture of a police officer with the slogan “paid to lie”. Does that indicate that they are calling all police liars? Despite what Lush says this is the message that has come across to anyone not fully aware of the inquiry.

What Lush co founder has to say

20 June 2018 The Guardian, in an article How the Lush founders went from bath bombs to the spy cops row, interviewed two of the co founders, Mark and Mo Constantine. In the article they say:

““I think we put a stick in a hornets’ nest and all the hornets came out and we got stung,” says Mark Constantine, one of Lush’s seven founders. “If you’ve put the stick in the nest you can hardly complain.””

There was a feeling that Lush was criticising the police as a whole. Were there things they could have done differently? “We worked with the groups and the victims and that [campaign] is what they wanted. They chose the words, the sentiment,” says Mark. He might have modified the campaign, but he felt it wasn’t up to the company to tell the victims what they could and couldn’t say. “It was a successful campaign. If we had done something that was less striking perhaps this issue wouldn’t have been so highlighted to people.””

“I thought it was unfortunate that it looked as if we were anti-police,” says Mo, “which had never been the intention.”

Over to you

Whilst I do think we need to raise awareness of the issues of what has gone wrong with the policy on police undercover investigations, was the original  Lush campaign the best way to do it? Is it much better now?  Is Lush insinuating all police are liars? Does it matter how it was done as it has made so many more people aware of the issues? Did you change your view?

 

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!

Paying through an app? Your contract is always with whom you paid. So just like companies that try and fob you off and tell you to contact the courier when you’ve ordered something online… don’t be fobbed off re food delivery. Let the company you paid get its money back from the fast food place!

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!