Every Saturday, The Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.
Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Amanda Cable will give you the best advice for buying your dream home, Maddy Tooke rounds up the best coupons to save you money and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.
5 Judge Rinder helps a reader with a repair issue
Q) I HAVE a problem with a brick wall that is a division between the rear of my garden and a council-owned car park.
It is approximately 9ft high and a solid 9in wall which I rendered my side about 25 years ago.
I have lived in the house for more than 50 years and never had a problem with the wall until January 2018, when I discovered a vertical crack appearing.
I went into the car park and noticed a large plant growing out of the wall.
I notified the council in February 2018 and, as yet, nothing has happened. The council has put metal fencing in the car park around the wall which is now leaning towards my garden, bringing the
wall next door with it.
The council has offered to take the wall down to 6ft at its cost but my neighbour and I want the wall rebuilding to the height it is now for security.
What would be the way forward?
A) I do not understand the council’s offer to you. It is its fault the wall is unsafe so it is legally bound to fix and restore the wall to its original height.
The council cannot simply decide to reduce the height of a wall that has been part of your property for more than 50 years.
Council planning departments can be slow and tricky to deal with. I would write to the council rejecting its offer and insist the wall must be made safe and rebuilt to 9ft.
If it refuses, you and your neighbour should contact the council’s head of planning making clear you are prepared to take legal action.
In the meantime, your local council representative might be able to help.
5 Judge Rinder is here to help with your questionsCredit: Handout
Q) MY husband and I were buying a house in Spain from a friend. He was advertising it for sale locally and we agreed a selling price with him, subject to our being able to secure a Spanish mortgage.
He asked us to pay a £5,000 gesture of intent/goodwill to remove the house from the market and to show we were serious.
We agreed after ensuring that the £5,000 was fully refundable. He agreed that if there were any legalities that caused a problem he would refund the sum. We paid by bank transfer and then started to enquire about mortgages. Unfortunately, we were not able to secure one so had to cease the purchase.
He says he has incurred costs. We said we would consider covering these costs if he provides evidence. He has now stopped communicating with us and is refusing to return the cash. What can we do?
A) I must assume (or at least hope) that you have this agreement in writing. One of the problems in this case is that it’s unclear whether the contract you have is covered by English or Spanish law.
Assuming you made this agreement then sent your money to this man from the UK, you may be able to bring an action against this person in the small claims court in this country if he fails to provide you with evidence of his expenses or return your £5,000.
I would email him and write to him at his last known address making clear that you intend to sue him for breach of contract unless this matter is resolved within 28 days.
Q) I AM going to a wedding in Nice in August. I booked flights in December last year but I have just received an email from the airline saying the return flight has changed from a Tuesday to a Sunday. This is useless to me. Am I entitled to a refund AND compensation, as I will not be able to get a flight with another airline as cheaply now it is close to the date?
A) You are certainly entitled to a full refund. Regarding compensation, the airline has given you adequate notice (in law) of the change, so it may not be liable to repay you the difference between your new flight (with another airline) and the original price. But write to the airline’s head of public affairs with evidence of the price difference making clear you want compensation in addition to the refund.
Mel Hunter, Reader’s champion
5 Mel Hunter advises on consumer issuesCredit: The Sun
Q) MY siblings and I try to help our elderly parents as much as we can as they are living on a state pension. I switched their utilities to Toto Energy more than a year ago. They also had a new meter installed.
About four months ago I had a very upsetting call with my mum as Toto had rung my parents and told them they had to pay £1,600. They could not afford this, so my siblings and I paid.
I rang the firm and have made numerous complaints but have never heard anything back.
I subsequently switched my parents’ account to Octopus. Within a month it rang to say it could not produce the bills as the meter had not been registered. It is upsetting my parents.
Emma Stanley, Milton Keynes
A) If Toto had actually come back to you, it would have worked out it did not install the meter. That was Npower – the supplier before Toto took over.
So I got on to Npower, which confirmed the problem. It updated its details and realised it owed your parents, who’d been scrimping to pay their bills, more than £1,250.
Npower told me: “We’ve updated the metering details on our systems and re-billed the account on the correct data. We’ve contacted the two other suppliers involved and given them the correct information so they can update their details.”
So I turned my attention to Toto, which realised it had overbilled to the tune of more than £1,100, which it said stemmed from Npower providing the wrong meter details when your parents switched.
After I was able to get your parents nearly £2,500 back, you were over the moon.
5 A reader had been paying for and iFitness membership they didn’t even know they had
Q) I WAS told by EE that I’d signed up to a subscription with iFitness in May 2016 and have been paying £3 a week ever since.
I never intentionally or knowingly did this – EE told me I may have signed up in error by simply clicking a link.
I called iFitness to cancel and request a full refund and was eventually offered half the money, £226.50. I’m still insisting on a full refund.
The Phone-paid Services Authority (PSA) told me to get information from iFitness. I did, and it showed I had never accessed its service.
Damien O’Brien, Chessington, Surrey
A) I got you a full refund – £450 for a service you had no knowledge of being signed up for and you’d never used. You’d already contacted the PSA, and that is where I would advise other readers to go if they unexpectedly find themselves paying for a subscription or premium-rate service.
A spokesperson for PM Connect, the parent company of iFitness, said it was giving you a “full exceptional discretionary payment”.
It continued: “However, we would advise customers not to ignore texts they receive from mobile payment providers.
“All our contracts are issued with no minimum term, with receipts sent to the customer every month and the option to cancel at any time by texting STOP or by calling our 24/7 customer service.”
It confirmed it no longer offered “single-click payment”.
Jane Hamilton, property expert
5 Jane Hamilton gives tips to tenants who want petsCredit: Stewart Williams – The Sun
COMPLAINTS about estate agents have hit a record high, as more of us become aware of our consumer rights.
Gripes from fed-up customers leapt 22 per cent last year, with agents paying out more than £2million in compensation, figures from the Property Ombudsman reveal.
Paula Higgins, chief executive at HomeOwners Alliance, reveals what to do if you are unhappy with your agent.
Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) estate agents must ensure information they provide is accurate and cannot omit key information potential buyers need
to make informed decisions. They must provide sellers with all details of fees in writing and cannot discriminate between buyers, such as favouring a buyer using their extra services.
If you think an agent has broken these rules, complain in writing to the local manager, specifying the breach and what you would like to see done about it.
Ask for written confirmation of the name of the person dealing with your complaint, and timescales. You should receive a reply within 15 days.
If the agent does not respond or does not uphold your complaint, you can complain to the Property Ombudsman or The Property Redress Scheme.
You could also find out which of the two trade bodies — the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) or Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) your estate agent is a member of and complain to that.
Find out more at tpos.co.uk.
Buy of the week
PRICES have soared seven per cent in the past year in Wales, according to the latest UK House Price Index.
But the region is still more affordable than most in the UK.
This new-build semi in Cardiff is ideal for a growing family and is for sale at £184,995 at zoopla.co.uk/new-homes/details/51809558.
RATE ROULETTE Borrowers charged £453 more for typical £8,000 loan than the advertised price DAY AND KNIGHT How to get two free tickets to Warwick Castle worth over £55 with Sun Savers MCLOVING IT McDonald’s is replacing Dairy Milk and Crunchie McFlurries SALE ON Mothercare launches up to 50% off sale FEELING LUCKY Your paper could be worth £50,000! UNIVERSAL HELL Universal Credit means my baby and I go without food but I can’t work either
FED up with mucky floors in this wet weather? Then hide those muddy footprints.
Atrafloor has launched a range of trendy vinyl flooring featuring puppy-sized paw prints.
The custom-made covering comes in beige, pink and blue and is ideal for kids’ rooms or kitchens – but it is costly at £59 per square metre.
For a budget buy, pick up paw-print rubber flooring from £12.99 a metre on eBay.
Deal of the weekDINE in style. Geometric embossed dinner sets are on all the best dressed tables this summer.
This 16-piece beauty from B&M Stores looks almost identical to the £48 12-piece Next version, but for just £19.99 you get much more for your money.
Our top eight apps to help you save money in 2019