Knowing your consumer rights

These days, consumerism is an essential part of our lives. From gas bills to online shopping, we rely on an endless list of companies for our day-to-day services. However, when dealing with so many different organisations, how do you make sure you’re not getting ripped off with sub-par service?

It’s simple – know your consumer rights.

We’ve teamed up with online complaints and claims platform, Resolver, to walk you through five situations when it’s important to know what you’re entitled to as a consumer.

Slow broadband

Most people think that slow broadband is just a fact of life. Not true. When you enter into a contract with a broadband service provider, they are legally obliged to deliver the internet speed that they have promised you. Anything less and you’re fully justified to complain to them and, what’s more, they have to deal with your case according to Ofcom’s recent amendments to their rules.

Most of the major providers are signed up to the Ofcom Voluntary code of practice, meaning they are obliged to share information on broadband speeds in your local area. You can also use a free online checker, provided by Broadband.co.uk or Google. This can help you refute a company if they try to make false claims about the speed of their service in your area when dealing with your claim.

Resolver says: If you’re suffering from slow speed, the best thing you can do is to keep a speed diary tracking your connection’s ups and downs! Loads of providers demand that you call them every time you experience slow speeds so they can keep a log ­– this can be a right pain. Keeping a diary should give you the proof you need to ditch their dodgy service without a penalty.


Compensation for flight delays and cancellations:

When it comes to flight delays or cancellations, there are a few very important things that you should know. Whether it’s Ryanair Economy or British Airways Business Class, all flights operated by an EU carrier which are travelling either to, or from, the EU are compensated by what’s known as 261/2004 regulation. This means that you are legally entitled to compensation if your flight is delayed by over three hours, as long as it wasn’t due to something completely out of the airline’s control.

In the event of a cancellation, an airline must do one of two things: either book you a new flight to your destination or refund all unused parts of your ticket which, if the cancelled flight is an outbound one, includes your return ticket.

Resolver says: Something important to note is that loads of airlines will offer to pay you compensation in air miles or other vouchers. Always remember that you don’t have to accept! The rules say you’re within your rights to ask for your compensation to be paid in cash – although it’s worth noting that airlines might offer a little extra in vouchers.

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Online shopping:

For many, online shopping is an indispensable way to save time and effort. However, when it goes wrong, it can be a real logistical headache. If you’ve ordered something online but you receive the incorrect item, you should contact the supplier immediately. This is because, unless you’ve organised the courier yourself, it is the supplier’s responsibility to ensure that your item reaches you safely.

Regarding delivery times, usually you can expect a delivery to arrive within 30 working days. Any longer than this and you’re entitled to a full refund on return of the goods (or a refund on the delivery costs).

Lastly, a word of warning regarding returns. Although you’re not expected to return your items in the original packaging, it is your responsibility to ensure that it is safely packaged so as not to be damaged on-route so take care!

Resolver says:  Loads of consumers get confused when their online order doesn’t arrive. Who should they complain to – the retailer or the courier? The answer is simple. You should always complain to the retailer, since they’re the ones you have a ‘contract’ with for the delivery. Don’t let them get away with trying to pass the burden of responsibility to the courier!

Issues at hotels:

Hotels are slightly trickier when it comes to registering complaints. Normally, you aren’t entitled to cancel your hotel reservation and receive a refund. In fact, you’ll usually be charged for doing so, especially if you cancel close to the date of your stay. Likewise, with a travel agent, you’ll only be entitled to a refund if the agent has made a mistake with your booking or provided you with false information.

If you do find that facilities or services you’ve been promised are not satisfactory, or even existent, you should raise these concerns with the hotel management. If the problems aren’t dealt with there and then, you can use Resolver to make a follow-up claim.

Resolver says: For the best chance of success, always try and make a follow-up claim within 28 days! In addition, it’s often best to pay for all or part of your hotel booking on a credit card. If your total stay is over £100, you may be able to claim your money back from your credit card provider if things go wrong (under Section 75 – more info here)

Energy outages and power cuts:

The golden rule for energy-related compensation is 2 days’ notice. This is the minimum amount of warning that your energy provider needs to give you before a planned energy outage, otherwise you may be entitled to compensation from them.

With electricity, in order to receive compensation, the outage usually has to be at least 18 hours long. You are entitled to compensation for power cuts resulting from emergencies, severe weather or faults but it is usually determined by the number of houses affected. However, if you were to go to an ombudsman they’d likely compensate you for any outages, regardless of the cause.

If you are without gas for more than 24 hours, the Gas Guaranteed Standards means that you’re entitled to an initial £30 of compensation, with an additional £30 added for every 24 hours thereafter.

Resolver says: For outages, it’s worth noting that you have to go to your regional electricity distributor rather than your leccy company! To find out who to contact, check with ofgem.

Information thanks to Resolver