EVERY Saturday, The Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.
Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Jane Hamilton 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.
Q) THE owners of the business where I work are looking to reduce staff.
Three months ago, within my department, a target was imposed on each member of the team. Over that period, no one in the department achieved this target.
Subsequently, a formal written warning was issued to each person in the department. The target remains the same and everyone is being measured against that target for the next month, with the threat of further action to any individual who does not reach this.
Is this a legitimate way of getting rid of people with more than 15 years’ service at the company, sidestepping the need to make redundancy
A) Your employer is behaving appallingly. It appears to have set totally unreasonable targets for you and your colleagues to meet, which is unlawful.
If this company decides to sack you for failing to reach these targets, you would have a very strong case for constructive dismissal, which would cost it a lot of money.
That’s the good news. The bad news for you is that your employer is allowed to bring in new targets as long as it gives you the training and tools you need to reach them.
If it decides to start sacking people who fall short, the firm must follow strict disciplinary procedures or it would be acting unlawfully.
You seem to suspect that your employer is setting unrealistic targets as a way of avoiding having to pay out large sums in redundancy.
Let me be as clear as I can. This company cannot do this. Keep a record of absolutely everything your employer does and says in the next few months, as this may be invaluable if you need to bring a claim against it.
Q) IN August 2018 my wife and I purchased a new “luxury lodge” on a park site in Cambridgeshire.
We were told that if we had any snags or issues we were to let the park owners know and they would be rectified immediately.
We have consistently chased the owners and employees about numerous snags, but they just don’t seem interested.
These issues include, but are not limited to, a washing machine that floods the place, horrendous creaking in the floor and big holes in the patio doors. I have written to the head office, but have had no response.
My question is, as we have had enough of getting absolutely nowhere with them, can we legally demand a refund of our money, plus costs?
A) You have a number of legal options in this case. Depending on what sort of lodge this is, you may be covered by consumer protection legislation, which might give you the right to a full refund.
However, as this appears to be a newly built home (as opposed to a caravan, for example), your legal remedy is almost certainly not a full refund, I’m afraid. This is because you now own a property which you could sell – even with all these problems.
Importantly, the park is legally bound to repair every one of the defects that you have discovered.
If it fails to do this within a reasonable period, you are entitled to get the repairs done yourself and sue the park owners for all of the costs you have incurred.
I would write to the owners again, making clear that unless these issues are dealt with within 28 days you will be sending on the bill for the repairs and be taking them to court.
Q) AFTER installing my new phone line, the engineer backed into my brick garden post, damaging it and some fencing.
He got out for a look then drove off. My neighbour saw and told me what had happened. I believe the engineer’s company should pay for the repair but it denies responsibility.
A) This engineer (or his company) is legally liable for the damage. Get your neighbour to note precisely what she saw and date it.
Then write to the MD of this firm, making clear you have eye-witness evidence and will take them to court for the damage. If the firm ignores it, bring a claim in the small claims court. It sounds like you have a strong case.
Mel Hunter, Reader’s champion
Q) I VISITED the coastal village of Llangrannog in west Wales, parking in a pay-and-display car park.
One week later I received a parking fine of £100 from One Parking Solution.
I disputed this, as I had bought a parking ticket which I still had. A few weeks later I received a letter from a debt collector demanding £170. It said One
Parking Solution claim I had only put the last three letters of my car registration in the machine.
On TripAdvisor I see that many people have had similar experiences with the parking company.
Tina Winter, Shrewsbury
A) One Parking Solution told me you hadn’t put the full registration number into the machine, but it did agree to cancel your charge.
TripAdvisor lists a number of reviews raising concerns about Llangrannog pay-and-display car park – far more than I would usually expect from a rural parking place in a village where just 775 people live.
Q) I BOUGHT a year-old Vauxhall in December 2015. In March 2017, at 16,000 miles, it suffered a major engine defect and needed a rebuild.
This cost around £2,000 and I contributed £400, with Vauxhall meeting the rest.
In August 2018 it broke down again and I was told the same fault had reoccurred. The engine was replaced for around £4,000 and after I told Vauxhall of my consumer rights, it met the cost.
In July this year, at 38,000 miles, the same fault reoccurred. Vauxhall said I needed another new engine. It offered to pay 40 per cent which I thought was unsatisfactory, but I’d been without a car for two months so I paid the £1,800 bill.
Louise Connelly, Bath
A) An engine that lasts ten months cannot be described as fit for purpose.
It is also questionable whether the underlying cause has been found, and you fear the engine may fail again. With me on the case Vauxhall agreed to refund you the £1,800 you paid and gave you a 12-month warranty on the latest engine.
Q) WE bought a bathroom suite from Soak. When it arrived, the vanity unit was damaged so we returned it. We got a refund, but for the toilet unit instead.
Soak apologised and refunded the difference. Then we returned the toilet, as we changed our mind and we waited for that money to be returned.
When it didn’t arrive, Soak said I had already received the money. I explained that was for the vanity unit and was told it would be sorted.
We still didn’t get the refund, so had the same conversation to no avail. I went through this all again, was promised another refund but am still waiting for the £139.99.
Terry & Vikki Buttle Maidstone, Kent
A) Soak aims to “exceed expectations” but it in your experience it didn’t.
When I got in touch, however, it sorted things out quickly, saying this “is not the kind of service we want to be providing our customers”.
Any confusion was quickly cleared up and the refund was sorted.
Jane Hamilton, property expert
THE number of first-time buyers is the highest since just before the financial crisis of 2007-2008.
They took out 35,010 mortgages in August, figures from UK Finance show. It follows stamp duty reforms meaning first-timers do not pay out on homes worth up to £300,000 and only on the remaining balance of homes up to £500,000.
Here are top tips for buyers . . .
- Work out how much you need: The lowest deposit most lenders accept is five per cent of a home’s price but you get better mortgage rates with a ten or 25 per cent deposit. You need money for legal and moving costs, a survey and to furnish.
- To help save for a deposit, cut rent: Move to a cheaper area, or in with pals or with parents. If you have a spare room, rent it or put it on Airbnb?
- Slash spending: Get on lower tariffs for bills – from gas and electric to mobiles, broadband and insurance. Ditch takeaway coffees and eating out. Cancel direct debits you do not need. Shop at a cheaper supermarket.
- Make extra money: Maybe take a second job, sell unwanted items on eBay and freelance on platforms such as Fiverr.
- Turn to the bank of Mum and Dad: They may give money towards your deposit or agree to guarantee your mortgage.
- Consider schemes to get you on the housing ladder: Can you benefit from Help to Buy where the Government loans up to 20 per cent of the value of your home? Find out at helptobuy.gov.uk or look at your local shared ownership schemes.
RETIRED folk do love to be beside the seaside, with the coastal city of Plymouth named the best-value spot for OAPs, according to Profile Pensions.
This stylishly decorated two-bed bungalow with south-facing large garden is on the market for £170,000 at zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details/52243556.
THE average time it takes to sell a home has reached 247 days, according to comparison website getagent.co.uk.
Islington and the City of London are the UK’s slowest property markets, averaging more than 400 days to complete a sale. Eden, Cumbria, is the longest outside the capital.
The site’s boss Colby Short says: “This is largely due to hesitation from buyers but also because home sellers are failing to adjust their price expectations in line with the current landscape.”
Deal of the week
DULUX has named its pale green shade Tranquil Dawn as the home interiors colour of the year for 2020.
But you can spruce up your room for less by going for lookalike shade English Sage from Wilko instead.
SAVE: £3 on a 2.5litre tin
Maddy Tooke, Coupon Queen
My top five freebies this week
- Get two free Thorntons advent calendars worth £16 by signing up to Topcashback.co.uk through bit.ly/freethorntonsadvent. 5,000 redemptions available.
- Free Halloween slime-making at selected Hobbycrafts from Oct 21-25 for kids aged four to 16. Book your childs place at bit.ly/freeslimemaking.
- Free fireworks guide from PDSA to keep your pet calm and safe this bonfire night. For yours, fill in the form at bit.ly/pdsafireworkguide. While stocks last.
- Free fireworks spectacular at Wembley Park on Nov 10 from 5-7pm. Book free tickets at bit.ly/freefireworkswembleypark. Limited availability so be quick.
- Free Lancome Advanced Genifique sample from bit.ly/lancomegenfiquesample. 20,000 available but these will go fast so be request yours now.
Top ten deals
- Get a free kids’ meal deal at Giraffe until November 3. bit.ly/giraffekidsfree.
- Get 50 per cent off everything or 55 per cent off dresses at Miss Pap from vouchercodes.co.uk. bit.ly/misspap50. Expires Oct 31.
- Save 25 per cent on Adidas outlet orders or 20 per cent on full-price orders with Vouchercodes code. bit.ly/25offadidas. Ends Nov 5.
- Get £10 off Cotton Traders orders over £35 with CA13 from vouchercloud.com. Ends Dec 20. bit.ly/10offcottontraders.
- Save £85 on online Furniture Village orders over £850 with vouchercodes.co.uk code VCUK85. Offer ends October 27. bit.ly/furniturevilliage85off.
- Get 30 per cent off men’s Halloween outfits from BoohooMAN with code SCREAM30 from vouchercloud.com. Ends Oct 31. bit.ly/boohoohalloweenman.
- Save £20 on Habitat orders over £100 with WELCOME20 vouchercloud.com code. Ends Oct 21. bit.ly/20offhabitat.
- Get 25 per cent off at Body Shop with code 38938. Ends Oct 20. bit.ly/thebodyshop25off.
- Get 25 per cent off orders over £15 from The Works with code VCUK25 from vouchercodes.co.uk. Ends Dec 31. bit.ly/theworks25.
- Get ten per cent off a Kwik Fit car service with vouchercloud. com code 10VCLOUDSER2010. Book by Oct 20. bit.ly/10offkwikfit.
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