The Consumer Rights Directive 2013 Improve Customer Rights

What’s all this mean then? Something that consumers can approve of that the EU has achieved? These new regulations come into force on the 13th June 2014 and replace the distance selling regulations 2000 and ‘doorstep’ selling regulations 2008. The aim was to ensure that consumers would be confident in buying anywhere in Europe.

Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012;
Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013; and
Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading (Amendment) Regulations.

The implementation has a significant effect in modernising consumer law, much of which was written 20 -30 years ago, particularly in relation to digital content that of course was not previously covered.  The new laws have introduced a new distinct category to deal specifically with digital content, which will sit along-side existing categories dealing with the provision of goods and services. Part of the Consumer Rights Directive has already been implemented by way of the Consumer Rights (Payment Surcharges) Regulations 2012, which came into force in April 2013. The Regulations mean traders can no longer charge consumers fees that exceed “the cost borne by the trader” for the use of a particular means of payment whether cheque, direct debit, debit or credit card, or other.

The information which a trader must give to a consumer before and after making a sale

This is the need to ensure the customer understands what goods and services are being provided and ensuring there are no hidden costs. If the paperwork does not comply with the new requirements the consumer may not have to pay. When retailers send you email confirmation of the purchase this must now include a full description of the goods and services purchased including their characteristics and the full price including tax and any additional charges or delivery prices.

How that information should be given

The purpose of the ‘durable medium’ requirement is to ensure that, should a dispute arise at some point after the contract has been concluded, both parties have a record about what was agreed. The burden of proof that the relevant information has been provided rests with the trader.

The right for consumers to change their minds when buying at a distance or off-premises

Consumers now have 14 days to return items because they change their mind. In addition, refunds on cancelled contracts can be delayed until goods are returned. However, if the company has not provided the right information to the consumer then the length of the cooling off period could be extended. Although there are some exemptions, such as bespoke items, downloads have now been added and is no longer exempt. So, if like me you purchase the wrong download by mistake you can now get your money back! If you have downloaded then you won’t get your money back which seems fair enough really!

Unless stated otherwise you will pay for the return postage for any change of mind purchase.

Delivery times and passing of risk

Unless agreed with the trader, goods should be delivered without undue delay and within 30 days. If a particular date or period for delivery has been agreed then delivery should be within that time.

A prohibition on any additional payments which appear as a default option

Traders will need the active consent of the consumer for all payments – e.g. pre-ticked boxes for additional payments, will no longer be permitted. Consumers will not be liable for costs which they have not been told, pre-contract, that they must bear. Even I’ve been caught out by a certain large on line retailer which doesn’t like paying taxes with this. I got my money back when I challenged them with unfair practice but now I have more Laws to throw at them if they do it after June 13th!

A prohibition on consumers having to pay more than the basic rate for post-contract customer helplines

Where traders offer telephone helplines for consumers to contact them about something they have bought, there should be a number available on which the consumer can call for this purpose at no more than the basic rate.

So all in all this is good news for the consumer. In particular, the much requested banning of high rate numbers for customer service and complaint lines, traders now have to supply basic rate numbers. It’s really good too to see downloadable digital content covered by these regulations too.

So, all good news for the consumer, more legislation to follow later in the year.

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Not got the holiday you booked? What to do

AdamMelanie

Meet Adam and Melanie.  Nice couple, they were getting married and booked their honeymoon on Sunmaster. Heard of Sunmaster? I’d never heard of Sunmaster. I won’t be using them now I have heard of them now either!

Booking a holiday

This is a very good example of misrepresentation and not supplying what you paid for.

Now, Adam booked the holiday via their website. Paid for it then was notified it cost a bit more, which he duly paid. (No, I would not have done this but keep reading and you’ll see why!) That was bad. Then it got worse. Although he booked the holiday in July last year for a holiday in April, Sunmaster contacted him to say… that they could no longer go on the accommodation that they had booked and offered an alternative. Oh well these things happen you might say. Well, maybe if the company had offered a refund or a like for like accommodation. But Sunmaster refused to refund and said that the alternative was like for like. You make up your mind whether it was like for like!

The original booking

Small hotel (Riad), only 6 rooms
No children allowed policy
Included Spa facilities
Suite over 2 rooms

The alternative

Large hotel, over 100 rooms
Advertised as a family resort, targeted towards families
No spa facilities
Apartment

Don’t know about you but I think “No children allowed” and “Family friendly” are opposite ends of the spectrum?! I would certainly want the “No children allowed” option with the exception of my own child but it would appear that this is impossible to get 🙁 Also, I don’t think you needs a maths degree to work out that there’s quite a difference between 6 and over 100 rooms.

Not given what paid for

Well, Adam didn’t like this at all. So he challenged it and got told again no refund no other alternative. But you’ll never guess what happened when Adam decided to start his own investigation?! He contacted the hotel directly and not only was it open, it also had his booking. So what on earth was all this about? Adam tried to find out and Sunmaster apologised for the mistake with no explanation for what happened and the holiday went ahead. He complained again but got no response.

But Adam contacted me. And me? Well I don’t like this sort of behaviour do I? It’s is not good for the consumer. Time to make a stand for consumer rights! Again. “I’ll get a response”. The Complaining Cow had spoken! Adam and Melanie went on their honeymoon and had a lovely time other than a nightmare transfer. Meanwhile I got to work carrying out one of my services.

couple walking along beach

The Complaining Cow challenges Sunmaster

Well, first things first. Although Adam and Melanie didn’t actually complain about the rise in the cost of the holiday, I did! I pointed out that it was my belief that it was a breach of the Misrepresentation Act 1967.  I also pointed out that there are many reviews on many forums and review sites saying a similar thing, that one goes through the process online then ‘phones to book whereupon they are told that the price has gone up. Whilst I am aware that prices can fluctuate they do not and should not change within minutes of following an online process/database the same as with any other travel agent where you can complete the whole process online. In this case it was even worse as they had paid for the holiday. They were charged an additional £48.60. This seems a very dubious practice to me and I also found that the Advertising Standards Authority had instructed Sunmaster “…to hold evidence to substantiate the availability of their holidays at the advertised prices”. It would appear Sunmaster  is not doing this. A contract is concluded when one pays (or agrees to pay) and the seller gives you your goods or services. This is called consideration. This puts Sunmaster in breach of contract to supply a holiday to them. For this we claimed legally owed compensation.

Secondly. It was not a like for like property was it for crying out loud?! Clear breach of the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982. (For services after October 1st 2015 use the Consumer Rights Act 2015. Interestingly the alternative accommodation was  just short of half the price for ten days on various holiday websites and staff should certainly not have insisted on no refund given the breach of Laws as it was also in breach of the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tour Regulations 1992. (PTPHPT) Regulations 12 and 13 refer to alterations in the package holiday or to departure times or location. (For bookings after July 1st 2018 quote  the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements 2018).

Thirdly. I wanted some answers regarding why the accommodation was changed in the first place!

Fourthly. In the last correspondence from Sunmaster a member of staff said “I have demanded a thorough and full investigation and explanation from our suppliers for this mis-information and I shall contact you further in this regard and in due course.” This was not the case as no further communication had been received. (That’ll be another breach of the SOGASA).

Fifthly. (Is that really a word?) On arrival Adam and Mel found cause to complain again at the appalling administration and service from Sunmaster. To cut another long story short the taxi transfer was dreadful, getting lost, asking for payment and delaying their stay by several hours.

Finally! So, outlining all this and threatening to take Sunmaster to the Small Claims Court I added the details of time spent on the matter, the ignorance shown, and the relevant bodies to be notified if satisfactory redress was not received.

Requested amount

£48.60  difference in quoted and paid price
£35 court fees
£20 Court expenses ( travel)
£250 for loss of earnings due to contacting Sunmaster
£35 transfer costs
£25 for loss of holiday due to taxi failures
£50 for loss of enjoyment of holiday due to start/taxi failures
£200 for inconvenience and stress
£200 costs for witnesses (those who have gone through similar experiences with Sunmaster)
£100 for costs incurred whilst researching possibility of cancelling/postponing the wedding.

Total £963.60

Sunmaster response

Well. Despite emailing the CEO there was no response. Fine – see you in court Sunny Jim and emailed him a second time and gave him seven days. That email was effective and got a response. Offered £410, oh and all the gumph about terms and conditions (remember these can be challenged!) and they didn’t think they had breached any laws. I disagree but Adam and Melanie were pleased with their £410, the holiday cost just over £1000. BUT! One had to laugh, the response referred to Melanie with a different unknown surname, neither maiden or married names. So, I know I advise not to be sarcastic in complaints there are times when sarcasm just has to be used.

Counter response not accepting offer

I included some nice lines I thought. “I do not know what relevance your conversations with a “Miss Hunter” have on my case. Whilst I thank you and accept the offer of £410 I am concerned that the offer you are making includes a sum to a “Miss Hunter” we are not prepared to share any goodwill gesture with anyone else.” “I expect to receive details about your investigation into the transfer in due course” A few other lines about not addressing some points and not believing they had truly looked at a satisfactory amount for redress.

Result

Cor, this is a long post innit? I have cut quite a lot of detail you know, stop complaining. One of the main reasons people don’t complain is because they don’t have the time and it does take time, particularly if you are researching all your legal rights. Anyway, the short story – £710 (everything asked for minus associated court costs). I think we had them worried don’t you?! So 10 day holiday in Marrakech for 2 for just over £300 🙂

Companies can learn a lot from this story, as the Internet becomes more and more popular for booking holidays, sites like Trip Advisor and other reviews sites and people like me around advising people of their legal rights, companies would be better placed getting it right in the first place.

Oh and Adam and Melanie told me I was “Awesome“. So, should you be getting a raw deal or you are from a company that would like to look at improving your service and increase sales see The Complaining Cow Services.

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

 

Or buy the book which will give you masses of information, advice tips and templates on getting refunds and redress for yourself! Check out the reviews!

 

 

 

See All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights/travel for more on complaining about holidays etc.

You can contact the CEO of any company using ceoemail.com which provides contact details for all CEOs.

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