Ten ways GDPR will help consumers

Sara Williams Debt camel guest post on The Complaining Cow

This is a guest post by Sara Williams, an adviser at Citizens Advice who has her own website Debt Camel where she blogs about everything to do with debt and credit ratings. She also guest posted Everything you need to know about Payday loans and Bright ideas for complaining about Brighthouse (& avoiding them in the first place!)

In a month’s time, On 25th May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in Britain and the rest of the EU. This a major change to the rules governing how organisations manage personal data about their customers and employees.

I think it’s all good for consumers. Your existing rights under the Data Protection Act are being clarified and extended, not restricted or watered down, and some dubious marketing practices will now be clearly banned.

What personal information is covered?

The EU GDPR website says this:

“Any information related to a natural person or ‘Data Subject’, that can be used to directly or indirectly identify the person. It can be anything from a name, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, medical information, or a computer IP address.”

Lot of coloured @ buttons

What organisations are covered?

The new regulations apply to all organisations that process or hold data for people living in the UK. This isn’t just companies, it also includes government departments, your local authority, charities, schools, hospitals and GPs. And the organisations don’t have to be based in the UK – it also applies to Google, Amazon, Facebook etc.

Coloured files in cabinet with name labels text "What the new GDPRs mean for consumers

Ten ways GDPR will help consumers

1) The GDPR Right of Access means that organisations will no longer be able to charge £10 when you ask them to provide some or all the personal information they hold about you. This is also called making a Subject Access Request. People don’t like paying £10 if they are unsure what they will get, so no fee is good news.

2) You can also access information about your children or someone for whom you have a Lasting Power of Attorney.

3) Before GDPR, credit data was treated differently with the three Credit Reference Agencies (CRA), Experian, Equifax and Call Credit. They are currently allowed to charge you £2 for a copy of your statutory credit report – but GDPR will apply to them to so this will become free. If you have been having a dispute with a lender, say about a default date that they have added, being able to check all three CRA reports without a charge will be very helpful.

4) Organisations will now have to get your explicit consent to adding you to a mailing list. This means you making a positive decision e.g. by ticking a box. The box can’t be pre-ticked online so you may not spot it. And it can’t be misleadingly worded in the negative “Tick here if you do not want to receive information”.

Organisations also have to be clear why they are gathering information from you and what they will use it for. So if they offer a free information booklet or are giving away money off coupons, this doesn’t mean that they can automatically add you to their mailing list – you have to clearly agree to that.

5) Organisations can’t share or sell your personal information unless you explicitly consent to this. No longer can this buried away in the Terms & Conditions. I can’t think why anyone would ever actually want to consent!

6) The GDPR Right To Object means you have to be given an easy to way to change your mind and opt out of marketing communications in future, both by email and by post.

7) The GDPR Right to Rectification means that an organisation must correct inaccurate data without delay.

8) The GDPR Right to Erasure means you may have a right to get your personal data deleted. This depends on why that data is being held. If it is just for marketing, it should be deleted when you ask for this. But a bank which has given you a loan or a shop that sold you a washing machine will have legitimate reasons to retain this information for a period.

9) Personal data breaches have to be notified to the supervisory authority (typically the ICO) within 72 hours unless they are minor, in which case they have to be documented, including the reason for not reporting them. This would include when personal information is sent to the wrong person, if a laptop containing personal data is left on a train or stolen, or if a hacker managed to download or alter personal data. High risk breaches have to be notified to the persons whose data has been affected without undue delay.

10) An organisation can face fines of up to €20million (£17million in the UK) or 4% of their annual global turnover, whichever is larger. Ouch! That is a huge amount more than the current maximum fine of £500,000 under the old Data Protection Act.

I have only highlighted some points here. The ICO site has lots of information about personal data situations. If you want to know how your personal information should be handled and how to raise a concern, look at the ICO’s “For The Public” page. That has lots of details, including how to make a Subject Access Request and links to specific situations from criminal records to the use of drones. Where necessary, those pages will all be updated when GDPR goes live on May 25th.

Will this really make a difference?

The ICO says:

“…it’s scaremongering to suggest that we’ll be making early examples of organisations for minor infringements or that maximum fines will become the norm.”

But the fact that huge penalties will be possible is causing many organisations to take GDPR very seriously.

If this means that firms are more careful with our information, they only hold what is actually needed, the nuisance of unwanted marketing is reduced and it’s easier to get problems resolved then GDPR will be a positive help to British consumers.

 

How to prevent problems when booking a holiday let (plus what to do when things go wrong)

I was on ITV Anglia on the 20th April talking about a bad experience someone had with using an online holiday letting website and how you can protect yourself. So thought a post providing more information would be useful.sofa in ground floor property with open stairs and text Holiday lets, problems, prevention and your rightsWith the increase in sites such as AirBNB, HomeAway.co.uk and HolidayCottages.co.uk more and more people are letting their homes and holidaymakers are taking advantage of the additional competition and range of places to stay. However, with an increase of availability comes of course an increase in problems.

I’ve been hearing a growing number of complaints from people who have booked through these type of sites. So how can you protect yourself when looking for somewhere to stay?

    • Only book through a third party site which has a clear refund policy and which takes secure payments by credit card. Don’t book directly if the owner tries to get you to do this, as you will have less protection. Airbnb, for example, will ban a host who tries to get a guest to book directly.
    • You wouldn’t buy a high-priced item from an unknown shop or person without reservations or putting some checks in place, so be careful of doing it online.
    • The site should display a valid postal address, a working customer service email address and phone number and have a good “About us” page.
    • Check out reviews about the property on the booking and on other sites. Google the place to get a good feel of what is being said about it. If there are not many reviews, ignore the very best and the very worst. There are such things as fake reviews, both from competitors and friends and family of the property owners!
    • When you arrive, if there are any problems, take pictures or film with running commentary, ensuring that they are all dated and timed. This will make for good evidence should you need to complain.
    • If possible, ask the landlord to be present at time of you taking over the property to makes notes of any damage or breakages and sign a document to this effect.
    • Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to services that are carried out with reasonable skill and care. The property and its facilities must also be as described. So, if the property does not match the description, you’ve been misled or the site or owner has provided you with services not carried out with reasonable skill and care then you can use this law to gain redress. This may be a partial or full refund, for example.

 

To complain effectively see Top 20 Tips.

See also

How to complain when booking a service based in the EU – covers two stories one of them for Rip Off Britain) I dealt with regarding Booking.com where EU law was used to gain redress.

What to do when ripped off by a hotel – more information regarding complaining about hotels

All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights – links to various posts regarding stories, advice, tips and your rights for various aspects of booking and taking your holiday/flights.

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GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS! for more information, tips, advice, consumer rights, stories and template letters for complaining about most issues in most sectors!

 

 

 

All you need to know when an event is cancelled

concert or festival cancelled your rights on top of people dancing on beach

The Summer of 2017 saw a lot of concerts and festivals cancelled. Due to bad weather, poor planning or something else, thousands of people were left disappointed and many of them out of pocket. So what do you do if the event for which you have booked cancels at the last minute?

Well, it depends on what the reason for cancelling was and how much notice you were given really.

So let’s take a few examples…

 

Event cancelled due to not enough sales
The organiser informs you that it has not made enough sales and so is cancelling the concert. This should mean an automatic refund of the tickets. If you made special arrangements, such as buying train tickets, booking a hotel you may be able to claim consequential loss. The organiser is in breach of contract so should be liable for consequential loss. However, you would have to prove that you would not be using the tickets or booking and that they were bought with non refundable terms. You probably have a good chance because not many people know how to complain about this and claim! However the organiser may well argue in which case your only option is to claim in the Small Claims Court. It would probably be a test case though, so if you do it, please let me know!

The closer to the concert they cancel the stronger your case may be. You could also argue that under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 they did not provide services with reasonable skill and care because they did not market the concert well enough.

The concert organisers should have insurance too!

Event cancelled due to ill health
Here the organisers may offer tickets for another day. This is up to you whether you want to take or not as you are still entitled to a full refund.

Consequential loss will be as above but you couldn’t argue not carrying out services with reasonable skill and care.

Event cancelled due to health and safety reasons
It can be a little bit sticky here because it isn’t as simple as there was so much rain and mud we had to cancel. One word “Glastonbury” which sticks two fingers up at bad weather! That’s partly because they put measures to ensure the safety of festival goers. So when you hear of another festival cancelling due to rain and mud you are probably well within your rights to claim consequential loss because the organisers are in breach of contract for not providing services with reasonable skill and care. Consumer Rights Act 2015.

Event cancelled due to organisers going into administration
In short, you are stuck. It means that the company doesn’t have the money to refund you the cost of your tickets. It will owe money all over the place and you will be at the bottom of the list. However, you should write to the administrators as soon as possible with proof of your purchase and you will be added to the creditors list. It is unlikely that you will be paid out, but if another company takes over it is possible and if your name is down you have more chance that for those who aren’t.

Overall
In all cases where the CRA has been beached you should follow the 20 top tips for complaining effectively outlining the reasons for claiming for consequential loss with evidence of these costs being non refundable. Take a copy of the tickets if you are posting your claim and send that, you know, just in case they say they didn’t receive your letter!

When you complain follow the Top 20 Tips for Complaining and if you still aren’t satisfied with the response take it up with the festival organiser CEO you can get their contact details at ceoemail.com

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

 

And for everything else to complain about effectively GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

 

 

7 consumer rights misconceptions (and what they are really)

One hears it often “I know my rights” But do you? Here are the most common misconceptions.

Consumer rights misconceptions list of headings

1) I received the wrong item, unsolicited goods I can keep them!
No, you can’t.  See  All you need to know about unsolicited goods. I actually stopped comments on this post because despite it clearly stating all the things that are not unsolicited good people were desperate for me to tell them that their case was different! Only one example was unsolicited and that was an item from Estonia! If you have received an item by mistake it is NOT unsolicited goods and you need to take reasonable steps to ensure that the item is returned at no cost to you. (More advice in that post).

2) It was marked at that price so I can have it at that price!
Nope. Quite simply any price tag is an “invite to treat.” There have been some high profile case such as the Harrods handbag story Christmas 2017. If however, you have bought it at said price and have received a confirmation then you have entered a contract and then the trader must honour the price otherwise in breach of the Consumers Rights Act 2015.  If the trader has specifically advertised it at one price and then won’t honour it would be breach of  the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (amended 2014).

3) It’s the manufacturers’ fault
That’s as maybe but it isn’t the manufacturer to whom you send the faulty item. In fact it’s a very common fob off from retailers. Your contract is always with the retailer to whom you gave the money. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 applies. Within 30 days of purchase you are entitled to a full refund. After this time a repair of replacement. The retailer may say you should send off for a repair. Don’t accept this. You’ll be paying postage! Always remember contract is with retailer.

4) My item is under warranty so I have to use that and send it to the manufacturer though?
Warranties are like insurance they are rarely better than your consumer rights. The only time a warranty may help is when the item is older than 6 months. This is because although your rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 remain, the only difference is that after 6 months from point of purchase the onus is on the customer to prove that the fault was there when they bought the item. You could still do this. Complain to the retailer and take the case to the relevant ADR scheme if there is one for the retailer who is likely to undertake an independent report at the cost to the retailer. If you want to be quicker and/or are unsure that the fault was there at point of purchase then you could use it. Some brands on specialist items do have really long warranties/guarantees so keep the paperwork for these!

5) I’ve only had my item two months, the store has to give me a refund
It doesn’t actually. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 you are entitled to goods and services that are fit for purpose, of satisfactory quality, as described and last a reasonable length of time. However, after 30 days from point of purchase the retailer can offer a refund or repair. They must give a refund before 30 days.

  1. 6) I have the packaging and I know when I bought it from what store so I should get redress for my faulty item
  2. This is a common misconception. People hear that they don’t need a receipt but don’t always hear the second part! You don’t need a receipt but you DO need a proof of purchase, so this could be a credit card bill statement where a store can trace the transaction.
  1. 7) The jumper doesn’t fit the trader has to give me my money back.
  2. Sadly not. This is considered a “change of mind” and it is down to the goodwill of the company. If there’s nothing wrong with the item and it’s as described you  will have to see the store’s terms and conditions.However. If the item was bought online you do have more rights. You have a 14 day cooling off period. You may have to pay return postage costs if there is nothing wrong with the item. For more on online rights see Your Rights, Mail Order, Online and Deliveries.For more about unwanted purchases and gifts see What to do with the ghost of Christmas Present?

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

 

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Your rights if your water supply has been interrupted

Water companies are regulated by Ofwat. Every company must follow the Guaranteed Standards Scheme which relates to compensation in the event of service failure.washing potatoes under running tap

However, the standards do not apply in certain situations, including extreme weather. But all is not lost!

Criticism of water companies
In many areas of the country thousands of people were left without water after burst and leaking pipes. The Financial Times reported that industry experts were critical of the water companies.

“For water mains to be affected, the frost needs to penetrate 600mm or 2ft under ground and we haven’t had that degree of penetration so I don’t believe them. Is it because they haven’t upgraded the pipes as they say they do?” asked Roland Gilmore of Thames Blue Green Economy, a lobby group concerned with improving London’s water-related environmental problems.”

“Rachel Fletcher, Ofwat’s new chief executive, said: “While the recent severe weather conditions have undoubtedly had an impact on pipes and infrastructure, water companies have been warned time and again that they need to be better at planning ahead to deal with these sorts these situations, including proactively communicating with customers when they anticipate issues.””

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London also condemned Thames Water saying that the weather should not have caused these problems. Given this criticism, it is worth complaining and trying to claim compensation if you were without water.running water What you can claim
Normally, water companies should provide a minimum of 48 hours’ notice of any interruption to supply and provide details of when it will be restored. If it does not or does not restore supply by the specified time then you are usually entitled to £20 compensation and a further £20 if you don’t receive the first £20 within 28 days. In cases where an emergency such as a burst pipe has cased interruption the company must restore the water within 12 hours although this rises to 48 if it is a strategic main pipe. The company must tell consumers as soon as possible regarding where an alternative water supply can be obtained, when it plans to restore the supply and a telephone number for more information.

If the supply is not restored by the time the company says it will be, compensation is due. £20 for the first 24 hours and £10 for each further 24 hour period the supply remains unrestored. If the interruption lasts more than 12 hours, the company should provide an alternative supply. For example, bottled water or tankers in the street. (Known as bowsers).

South East Water
I was on BBC Radio Kent this morning (06 March 2018) talking water, energy and rail rights in relation to the extreme weather. Douglas Whitfield the Head of Operations at South East Water was on answering questions. When asked if SE Water would be compensating customers he said that they would be writing to all to all customers. Pushed again he repeated himself and pushed again on whether this would definitely include compensation he laughed and said “Maybe”. So take from that what you will. Given the amount these companies pay their shareholders they can afford to compensate you!

How you should complain
Follow the Top 20 Tips How to Complain to make your complaint effective. You can write to the CEO. S/he will not respond personally but the matter will be taken more seriously and escalated above the customer services. Contact details for CEOs can be found at ceoemail.com.

Taking it further
The standards clearly state that the scheme does not affect any legal rights to compensation that customer may have.

If you are not satisfied with your water company’s response you can take the matter to the Consumer Council for Water and ultimately the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. In Scotland the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and in Northern Ireland the Consumer Council.

Other related posts
Freezing energy problems? Your rights all you need to know all you need to know about your rights with weather related issues and your energy supply.

Left out in the cold by a rail company? Your rights all the information you need to complain about delays and cancellations regarding your rail travel.

Everything You Need to Know About Your Water Supply

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

 

GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS! for lots of information, advice, consumer laws and rights, tips and template letters.