Tag Archives: consumer

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.

Citizens Advice Ipswich warns people of getting tied into subscriptions

Citizens Advice Ipswich is warning people about getting stuck with subscriptions after new research reveals people are wasting hundreds of pounds on them when they’re no longer wanted.

Analysis of 500 cases reported to the Citizens Advice consumer service between June and August 2017 finds people lost an average of £160 from subscriptions they wanted to cancel, but weren’t able to.

Citizens Advice Ipswich is now sharing tips on how to avoid getting tied into a subscription and will be taking part in National Consumer Week – a campaign to help people understand their consumer rights which launches on Monday 27 November.

The analysis from national Citizens Advice reveals that companies can make it hard to cancel a subscription with 9 in 10 people prevented from doing so after initially asking. Common reasons for turning down a cancellation include being told to use a specific method, like the phone, or to give more than a month’s notice.

People also reported not being made aware they had signed up for a subscription in the first place, or that their contract would continue on an auto renewal basis.

With subscriptions now being offered across a range of goods and services, from beauty products to TV streaming, Citizens Advice Ipswich is urging people to check the small print before they sign up to one.

Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, businesses can’t enforce terms on consumers that are unfair.

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

“People can be made to feel like they’re going round in circles when trying to cancel a subscription.”

“This research shows that companies are continuing to cash in on unwanted subscriptions by blocking people’s cancellation on the grounds of a technicality. It’s important for people to read any terms and conditions before signing up to a subscription, but they should also be on the lookout for companies who are deliberately throwing obstacles in their way when they try to cancel.”

“Anyone who needs advice on how to cancel a subscription, or runs into difficulty doing so, should contact us for further help.”

Need to know tips about subscriptions

Check what your cancellation rights are
Each supplier can set their own cancellation policy and they don’t need to offer you a right to cancel your subscription early. Make sure the terms and conditions look reasonable before signing up.

Remember you’ve got a cooling off period if you buy online

If you bought the subscription online, the law says you usually have 14 days to get your money back if you change your mind. However, you might not be able to get a refund if you start using the service straight away.

Follow the cancellation policy

Make sure you follow the cancellation policy set out in your contract when you’re ready to end your subscription. Don’t stop your payment without checking what else is required first – otherwise your subscription may not be cancelled and you could be liable for any missed payments.

Challenge unfair T&Cs

There are no strict definitions for what counts as an unfair policy. But if you’re finding it tough or have to give a long period of notice to cancel a subscription, contact the supplier’s customer services department. If this fails go to the supplier’s trade or complaints body or report to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice consumer service.

Citizens Advice Ipswich reveals home improvement nightmares

Citizens Advice Ipswich is warning residents to be on the lookout for rogue builders as the national charity reveals it has helped people with 40,000 problems related to home improvements in the last year.

As people make use of the summer to have work done on their homes, Citizens Advice Ipswich is revealing the top three most common building problems people report:

  1. Complaints about the quality of the work carried out, such as using the wrong fixings to secure a TV bracket to a wall so that it fell off the wall, breaking the TV and damaging the plaster
  2. Work being unsafe or faulty, for example a visit from a boiler company that resulted in no hot water, no central heating and two leaks that weren’t there before
  3. Worthless warranties, like that provided by a driveway paving business that came into the area, sold its services to local residents and then disappeared

People contacted Citizens Advice wanting to know how to resolve their home improvement problems and their rights around refunds and compensation.

Citizens Advice Ipswich is offering top tips on how to avoid problems when hiring someone to carry out work, and your rights if things do go wrong.

What to do when hiring a trader:

  • Get references or recommendations – you can either get recommendations from people you know, or use a website that rates traders. If you can’t get a recommendation, you should ask the person you hire for examples of work they have carried out in the past.
  • Find out if they are a member of a trade body – trade bodies have codes of practice and can help resolve problems if things go wrong.
  • Get a written quote – not an estimate, and be clear about what the quote covers. A quote is legally binding and the builder can’t change it without a good reason. An estimate is just a guess at how much the work will cost, and so it could change. You can compare quotes from a number of contractors to make sure you’re getting a fair price.
  • Get a written contract – this should cover timing, payments, who will pay for materials and subcontractors, and what exactly is being done. If you can, you should pay in stages rather than upfront.
  • Keep copies of receipts and your written contract as evidence, as well as photos of any problems which arise.

What to do when things go wrong:

  • Ask the builders to fix the work if the work is not up to scratch or is unfinished.
  • Ask for some money back. Suggest a figure and explain why it is reasonable – for example, you may have to pay to have the work fixed.
  • Complain in writing to the trader or their company, and check to see if they are a member of a trade association to see if they can help.
  • Look for an approved alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme – this is an independent third party who can help you to reach a resolution. The trader should provide you with the name of a certified scheme.
  • Consider taking the builders to county court. This is a last resort and you should be aware that you will need to pay fees.

Citizens Advice Ipswich Chief Executive Nicky Willshere said:

“Shoddy workmanship and unfinished home improvements are leaving people in Ipswich out of pocket and facing huge disruptions to their lives.”

“Many people have come to Citizens Advice Ipswich in the past year wanting to know how they how they can get refunds or compensation for dodgy building work.”

“If you’ve had a problem with building work, and you’re not sure about your rights or what to do next, visit Citizens Advice Ipswich or call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.”

Failing consumer markets undermine government attempts to improve household finances

23 September 2016

People losing £23bn a year – an average of £446 per person – as consumer markets fail

Key government attempts to improve household finances such as increasing the income tax threshold and raising wages are being undermined by companies who let down consumers and rip people off, according to a major new report.

Citizens Advice today lifts the lid on the cost of consumer detriment in the UK – showing that people are losing on average almost the equivalent of a week’s pay for an average worker on shoddy services, faulty products and delayed deliveries.

While there’s been a lot of public debate about improving people’s incomes through wages and taxes, there has been less talk about the consumer problems that hit people’s money when they spend.

With consumers losing so much money owing to shoddy products and services, government changes like increasing income tax thresholds or wages, can have less impact on household finances.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Officer of Ipswich Citizens Advice said:

‘In Ipswich and surrounding districts, over a 170 people have sought our help with a range of problems with goods and services since the beginning of the year. These problems range from getting large credits held by utility companies paid back to the consumer, to getting shoddy goods replaced or money back. This is both time consuming and expensive and can cause untold stress and upset for people who just want to get value for money when shopping for goods, both essential services and treats for themselves and their families.’

The report finds:

  • People are losing £23bn a year due to consumer market failures – which is an average of £446 per person per year. There is huge variance in the average loss per person – it ranges from a large proportion of people whose average losses have been under £100 in markets such as telecoms, to a relatively smaller but still significant group who lost substantially more in areas like construction.
  • People spend an average of 22.5 hours a year – including six hours of work time – trying to clear up consumer problems. Similarly, this ranges from a large proportion of people who were able to resolve their problems very quickly to those who spent days trying to resolve a single issue.
  • 55% of consumers do not push for compensation, often because they find the process too complicated or do not think they will be compensated.

The charity says it is pleased new Prime Minister Theresa May has already identified that companies let consumers down and that she wants to strike a better deal for people.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“People are paying through the nose for the mistakes and failures of businesses.”

“Consumer markets are a vital pillar of the UK economy – but at the moment there are some companies who are ripping off consumers and undercutting businesses that do the right thing.”

“As well as hammering household finances, failing consumer markets hit essential parts of people’s lives that they rely on – like energy supply, transport, banking and insurance.”

“It’s good the Prime Minister is keen to help working people who are struggling and wants to push consumer affairs further up the political agenda. A fresh look at how businesses are failing consumers could mean people benefit more from changes to tax and wages.”

The figures, based on interviews with more than 1600 people, says the worst-offending sectors by number of problems are:

  • TV, phone and internet (27.6m);
  • Train services (9.6m);
  • Energy (8.9m);
  • Electrical appliances (6.4m);
  • Bus services (6.1m);
  • Catering such as restaurants and bars (5.1m);
  • Construction (4.8m).

Problems with TV, phone and internet – such as poor reception, higher than expected bills or difficulties ending a contract – are the most costly to consumers at £4.2bn per year. Issues with professional services, like lawyers and accountants, cost £4.1 billion, £3.5bn was wasted on construction, £2.6bn on home maintenance such as decorators, £2.6bn on property services like letting agents and £1.2bn on pension and investment services.

Of the total £23bn more than £10bn is wasted because of poor quality service, £3.2bn on failure to provide an item or service, £2.6bn of problems with prices charged and £1.3bn on poor quality goods.

The introduction of the Consumer Rights Act 2015 has helped to bring coherence to consumer legislation, Citizens Advice adds. The Consumer Protection Partnership has also been good at bringing enforcers and other consumers bodies under one roof to pinpoint and act on problems that need to be solved.

The Consumer Detriment: Counting the Cost of Consumer Problems report measured the loss to consumers by calculating money they directly lose and adding the impact of lost time.

Citizens Advice helps millions of consumers every year through its local network, national phone service and via online support. One 81-year-old man who came to the charity was contacted by bailiffs acting for his energy supplier who demanded he pay them £800 – when in fact the company owed him money. Another couple’s broadband connection cut out every 10 minutes over a three month period – it was not until they lost patience and emailed the CEO of the firm directly that engineers were sent to fix it.

Graduates reported five times as many consumer issues as non-graduates. While young people reported a higher number of problems on average, people aged 35 to 54 suffered a bigger financial loss – mainly owing to higher levels of lost earnings. This age group also reclaimed the lowest level of compensation.

The report also finds that 60% of the overall 1.2bn hours wasted trying to resolve consumers problems was lost leisure time, with 40% work time.

Citizens Advice fears today’s numbers may only be the tip of the iceberg with people also losing out on scams that go undetected and by not regularly switching suppliers on services like energy and telecoms.

Press Release: Ipswich Citizens Advice gives top tips for tackling festive shopping issues

Ipswich Citizens Advice is offering advice to residents this Christmas on how to resolve shopping problems from faulty Christmas gifts to sale items that aren’t up to scratch.

Ipswich Citizens Advice helped with over 500 enquiries about consumer products and services in the last 12 months including a brand-new reclining chair that needed repair within two months of purchase, and a client who took his laptop in for a cracked screen to be replaced and got it back weeks later to find that his processor had been switched, without his knowledge, for a slower and cheaper alternative. We also helped with over 150 problems with utilities issues such as internet and mobile phone providers.

Nationally, Citizens Advice consumer service dealt with nearly 600,000 enquiries in the last year from people who wanted help resolving problems with goods or services or more information about their rights.

As Christmas presents are unwrapped and sale shopping gets underway, Ipswich Citizens Advice is offering top tips explaining your consumer rights and what you should do if you’re unhappy with your purchases.

Nicky Willshere, Chief Executive of Ipswich Citizens Advice said:

“Problem presents and faulty sale items can cause headaches over the festive period, but there’s lots you can do to resolve issues with your purchases.

“Whether an online order isn’t what you were expecting or you’ve received a gadget that doesn’t work, you can use your consumer rights to get problem items fixed, or get your money back.”

Top tips

Faulty goods? – If you’ve bought something which turns out to be faulty, poor quality or not fit for purpose, you can return it within 30 days and get an exchange, repair or a refund. It doesn’t matter if you bought it online or shopped in store, your rights remain the same.

Changed your mind about a purchase? If you shopped in-store, you’ve got no legal right to return an item because you’ve had second thoughts. However some stores have their own policy allowing you to do this, so ask in store or check their website. If you’ve bought something online, the law does allow you to return an item you’re not sure about within 14 days.

Problem with a present? The right to return a faulty product lies with the person who bought it. They’ll need proof of purchase, and should return it within 30 days. If you can’t tell the giver that there’s a problem, it’s still worth checking with the retailer if they’re able to accept your return.

Returning a gift? If you’ve been given a present which isn’t faulty but you don’t want to keep, you have no legal right to return it. However, some shops have their own policy on this and will offer you a refund, exchange or credit note.

Buying faulty items in the sales? Christmas sales can include products which are marked down because they’re faulty. If you’ve bought a faulty item, you can’t return it because of the fault that was pointed out to you. If there’s a different problem, your usual rights apply and you can return it within 30 days.

Second thoughts on sale shopping? Shops which accept goods you’ve changed your mind about can alter their policy during the sales. For example, they may reduce their return period from 28 days to 14 days, or not accept returns at all. Ask before you buy.

Can’t resolve a problem? If you’re struggling to resolve a problem with a purchase Citizens Advice can help. Go online at www.citizensadvice.org.uk, visit your local service or call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for the Welsh language line.