Monthly Archives: November 2018

Buyers need to beware as thousands of customers report being ripped off on online marketplaces, says Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Ipswich.

More than 13,000 problems with purchases in England and Wales on online marketplaces were reported to the Citizens Advice consumer service last year.

Online marketplaces – websites where traders and private individuals list and sell products – are becoming increasingly popular for people trying to find the best deal.

As customers turn to online marketplaces in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, Citizens Advice Ipswich is warning residents in Ipswich to be aware of the dangers.

This year’s National Consumer Week, which runs from 26 November to 2 December, focuses on customer rights when buying from an online marketplace. Citizens Advice Ipswich says people don’t always know they have fewer rights when they buy from a private seller, compared to if they buy from a business.

If you buy from a private seller the principle of “buyer beware” applies. This means while the seller can’t misdescribe the item, they can omit information. For example, if a laptop is described as being a silver laptop in “excellent working condition” but it’s faulty, you could ask for your money back. But if “excellent working condition” is missing from the description, you won’t be able to.

As part of National Consumer Week, Citizens Advice Ipswich suggests people check all the product information carefully before buying something on an online marketplace. They also recommend that shoppers take extra care, like reading previous reviews and saving screenshots of their purchases.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer said:

“Far too many people are being ripped off on online marketplaces. As part of National Consumer Week we want to make sure customers know what to look out for when making a purchase and their rights if something goes wrong.”

“With millions of people trying to find a bargain online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, buyers need to beware when purchasing off online marketplaces.”

“To reduce the risk of being left out-of-pocket it’s a good idea to check the product information on these sites carefully before they make a purchase.”

Here are Citizens Advice’s tips for using online marketplaces:

Check the product details

This should include: photos; a description; cost of the item; delivery charges; contact details for the seller; and any cancellation rights.

It should be clear if it’s being sold by a trader or private seller – this is important as your rights are different.

It is wise to read previous reviews as these can often flag potential issues, but watch out for fake reviews. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Take screenshots of the item you want to buy

This will come in handy if the item you receive is different to what you saw on the website.

Use a payment method that protects you

You’ll have a better chance of getting your money back if there’s a problem by using a card or Paypal, particularly if it’s an overseas seller. Avoid paying by bank transfer.

Go back to the seller if there’s a problem

Explain what’s happened, how you’d like them to fix it and give a deadline for them to respond. If they don’t sort it out, see if there’s an alternative dispute resolution service that can help. Report them and the online marketplace to Trading Standards if you think the issue is unfair.

Getting your money back from a private seller

The product description needs to be accurate, but if information is missing you won’t be able to ask for your money back.

If the item doesn’t match the photos on the website, you may also have grounds to ask for your money back.

We need a regulator to rein in rule-flouting bailiffs, Citizens Advice Ipswich says

Citizens Advice Ipswich is throwing its weight behind a campaign for an independent regulator to crack down on badly behaved bailiffs.

New figures from Citizens Advice England and Wales and debt charity StepChange suggest that 850,000 of the 2.2 million people contacted by a bailiff in the last two years were victims of bailiffs breaking the rules.

Of the people affected by, or who witnessed a bailiff breaking the rules, 1 in 5 (18%) had seen unsympathetic treatment of someone with an illness or disability, 1 in 6 (17%) had a break-in threatened, and 1 in 10 had tools or a vehicle removed which were needed for their work.

In the last two years Citizens Advice Ipswich helped 196 people dealing with bailiffs for debts such as council tax arrears, parking fines, and magistrates’ court fines. And the frequency of client contacts concerning bailiffs is on the rise.

In one example, Citizens Advice Ipswich helped a client who was suffering with depression and anxiety after giving birth and was in arrears with her council tax. The bailiff refused to consider a payment arrangement and told her that if she didn’t pay up she would be arrested and her children taken into care. This caused the client’s mental health to deteriorate further.

Rule-breaking bailiffs often cause people more stress, anxiety and financial hardship, according to the research published on Tuesday. When someone had a negative experience with a bailiff:

  • 7 in 10 reported increased stress and anxiety
  • 1 in 2 experienced knock-on effects on their finances, with 1 in 6 people (17%) taking out additional credit to pay the bailiffs

Nicky Willshere, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Ipswich, said:

“The government must step in and regulate the industry to prevent people suffering at the hands of bailiffs who flout the rules. It beggars belief an industry that can cause so much damage is not properly policed by a regulator. We see first-hand the widespread harm the actions of bailiffs and the companies they work for inflict on people and their families. It must stop. The evidence is clear, the Ministry of Justice has no option but to establish an independent bailiff regulator.”

Press Release – Citizens Advice services threatened by proposed withdrawal of County Council funding

Suffolk County Council has told Citizens Advice charities operating across the county that it is proposing to end its funding support.

The full council will vote in February on whether to withdraw the funding, which was worth £375,000 to Citizens Advice across Suffolk during 2017/18. Almost 22,000 people sought help from Citizens Advice in the county last year.

John Ashton, Chair of Sudbury and District Citizens Advice, speaking on behalf of the Citizens Advice network in Suffolk, said:

“While future funding is never guaranteed, we are dismayed that Suffolk County Council is proposing to withdraw all funding from Citizens Advice in the county.”

“We are seriously concerned about the impact of this proposal on our communities, especially on the most vulnerable. It would be very difficult to find alternative sources of funding in time to ensure continuity of service.”

“The Suffolk Trustees and Chief Officers will now consider all options for managing a potentially reduced budget, should the decision remain unchanged. We will work hard to deliver the best outcome that we can for the people of Suffolk.”

In a joint statement, the Chief Officers of Citizens Advice in Suffolk said:

“We are local charities and we rely on local support. The funding we receive from Suffolk County Council enables us to make a real difference in the lives of people across the county and we are very grateful for that.”

“Our top priority is always the people who need us. The number of people we see continues to grow and our dedicated team of staff and volunteers is committed to serving them.”

“National research shows that for every £1 invested in Citizens Advice we generate at least £1.88 in savings to government and public services and £11.43 in wider economic and social benefits.”

“If agreed, these cuts would be a significant reduction in our budgets and will lead to difficult choices. We will work closely with our partners, staff and volunteers to make the best decisions we can in the circumstances.”

This press release has been published on behalf of all Managers of Local Citizens Advice across Suffolk.