Money Mat­ters

The Oldie - - CONTENTS - Mar­garet Dibben

Make 2019 the year you com­plain – and com­plain ef­fec­tively. It is too easy to shrug off bad ser­vice and over­charg­ing be­cause you think the money in­volved is not worth the ef­fort or be­cause you as­sume you will be wast­ing your time.

Look at it this way: you have a duty to com­plain to hold com­pa­nies to ac­count, de­ter bad be­hav­iour and im­prove ser­vice for all cus­tomers.

I have al­ready de­cided to make more ef­fort and have achieved sev­eral pleas­ing suc­cesses. The most sur­pris­ing was a re­fund from the pri­vate car park­ing com­pany, Parking­eye, which runs the car park at our lo­cal hospi­tal. We cor­rectly paid to park; so were sur­prised two weeks later to re­ceive a penalty charge for £40 ris­ing to £80. We had paid in cash and lost the re­ceipt; so my part­ner im­me­di­ately set­tled the fine to avoid the higher charge.

I dis­agreed with this tac­tic and ap­pealed, sug­gest­ing that we might have en­tered one digit of the car reg­is­tra­tion num­ber in­cor­rectly. Parking­eye found that we had and promptly re­funded us £40. It did not even deduct an ad­min­is­tra­tion fee.

My big­gest re­fund came from Tesco Bank. A year ago, I switched house in­sur­ance away from Tesco but for­got that the pol­icy re­newed au­to­mat­i­cally. Tesco emailed an up­dated pol­icy and took £258 from my bank ac­count. It was en­tirely my fault that I did not no­tice and

paid for in­sur­ance twice over. Twelve months later, the pol­icy again re­newed and, this time, I did see it. I sent Tesco proof that I had been in­sured else­where and it re­funded the whole £258.

On a smaller scale, I had sev­eral gar­den­ing suc­cesses with mis­la­belled plants that even­tu­ally flow­ered in the wrong colour. A lo­cal nurs­ery and a bulb-provider both re­funded the cost and let me keep the wrong plants. The on­line nurs­ery Cro­cus emailed a 20 per cent dis­count one day af­ter I had placed an or­der. When I ap­pealed, it took 20 per cent off my bill.

One key to suc­cess­ful com­plain­ing is to be po­lite. Avoid be­ing emo­tional or re­venge­ful. Mar­shal your facts and check where the law is on your side. Be clear about what you want to achieve, whether this is com­pen­sa­tion, a re­place­ment or sim­ply an apol­ogy.

Some com­pa­nies au­to­mat­i­cally put up hur­dles to hin­der your com­plaint. Staff are trained to knock down your ar­gu­ments – so be pre­pared to per­se­vere. Put your case in writ­ing, even if you ini­tially speak to some­one on the phone, and al­ways keep a note of the date, time and names of peo­ple you speak to.

You can take en­cour­age­ment from sev­eral re­cent mea­sures across dif­fer­ent sec­tors that boost con­sumer rights and com­plaints pro­ce­dures. Ofgem has or­dered the largest en­ergy sup­pli­ers to im­prove the way they deal with com­plaints. The Gam­bling Com­mis­sion has in­tro­duced tougher ac­tion against busi­nesses that break ad­ver­tis­ing rules or breach con­sumer law. The Fi­nan­cial Con­duct Author­ity has in­structed pay­day lenders that they must com­pen­sate cus­tomers who were sold un­af­ford­able loans.

There is a pro­posal to raise the max­i­mum the Fi­nan­cial Om­buds­man Ser­vice awards from £150,000 to £350,000 for prob­lems start­ing next April.

Fi­nally, if you need back-up han­dling a com­plaint, con­tact Re­solver – www. re­ – a free ser­vice.

‘This is your desk and com­puter – if you need any help with your caf­feine drip, ask Roy’

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