Parking tickets – NEVER just pay up

Parking tickets come in two forms. Most people never realise there is even a difference.

The first is that issued by a Statutory Authority, such as the local council or the Police. These are called PENALTY Charge Notices, PCNs, and are quite serious. They are a fine for a parking offence. They mean you have broken the law. They can be appealed, nonetheless.

The second, and by far the most common, is that issued by a Private Parking Company (known as PPCs), and these are not the same at all. They are called Parking Charge Notices (so that their acronym is also PCN, sneaky, eh?), but these have, and pay attention to this bit, NO LEGAL BASIS WHATSOEVER. They are a con, and they are a deliberate attempt to trick you into thinking you are paying a statutory authority for a genuine parking offence, which you are not. Their only claim is that you have somehow breached the contract you entered into by using the car park and this can ALWAYS be questioned, and usually overturned.

You must ALWAYS appeal any kind of parking notice, whether you find it on your windscreen or it just magically appears in the mail.

You may receive some scary letters, and the appeal process is made as complex and daunting as possible, with the intent to deliberately put you off and make you give in and pay. They may threaten you with Court proceedings, even.

If a Statutory Authority pursues you and rejects your appeal, you should pay up.

But you should NEVER pay if a private company threatens you in the same way.

The process to follow is too complex to go into here, and anyway, others have already explained it far more clearly than I ever could.

The invaluable starting point is MoneySavingExpert.com. Your first port of call should be this flowchart, which shows you the essence of the route you must follow.

You should then read this thread for further guidance. It particularly lists the different type of companies that may be issuing the tickets and it is important to ascertain which type of firm you are dealing with.

There are even template letters for you to send off to launch your appeal. It really is all laid out for you.

If you have any questions, contact either MSE.com’s forums or this website, and we will do our best to help you.

NB. There are firms that offer to do all this for you, which you will find at the top of any search on the topic. But they will require payment, so you’re better off doing it yourself with our help. Otherwise you may end up spending more than the ticket would have cost!

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Good news for those lower down the supply chain

New regulations may soon come into force that will allow for fines to be doled out to supermarkets who squeeze their suppliers too tightly.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20591079

Supermarkets bow to pressure on “offers”

As any canny shopper knows, supermarket offers are not always as good as they seem.  We all know full well they fiddle the figures, with multi buys costing more than individual items, prices rising to justify subsequent cuts, and so on.

Well, after mentions on BBC Watchdog and research by the Office of Fair Trading, finally the rules have changed.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20543107

Interestingly, Asda have NOT signed up to this agreement to make offers fair and transparent.

Thought you’d like to know.

What’s new in the world of consumer protection?

Every so often, a news piece catches my eye or ear, and I think, “I must put that on the blog”.

So here are a few recent stories about how naughty firms have been caught out and told off recently and how consumers are being helped or hindered by recent announcements.

Payday loans companies have been warned about their practices

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20406659

Energy firms are going to be restricted to a maximum of four tariffs (plus a duel fuel option)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-20404659

One in ten high street shops is empty

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20390416

Women’s car insurance premiums will rise – here comes that gender neutral thingy from the EU

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20317017

PPI Claims company now having the cheek to impersonate the OFT itself!

http://www.oft.gov.uk/consumer-advice/consumer-alerts/ppi/

The Consumer Affairs Minister, Jo Swinson, warns firms who refuse to hand over personal data on request

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20361954

Misleading makeup adverts banned

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14305041

If you see a story you think I may have missed, please let me know.

A Warning about Shell Drivers’ Club

Dear readers,

You may wish to collect Shell Drivers Club points. I am not going to advise for or against, as I know there are pros and cons to loyalty cards, which I may discuss in detail in a later piece.

I just want you all to be aware that when you earn Shell Drivers Club points, they will not be credited to your account for you to use for SIX MONTHS.

This is despite the website saying points are accrued quarterly, and similar claims being made in correspondence.

I just wanted my readers to be aware.

Drive safely.

The Trouble with the Truth

Now, you see, that’s the trouble with the Truth.  It will out eventually. No matter how hard you try.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20307412

For the non-clickers-on-links,  a whistle-blower has announced that the gas companies have been price fixing. The wholesale price. The one they blame when the retail price goes up. That price.

Entertainingly, on the radio this morning, they were saying that the particular instance of price fixing in question, on 28 September, was when they actually pushed the price LOWER!

What a wonderful piece of PR that is. “Don’t worry. We may be price fixing, but at least it’s downwards, so no harm done to the consumer!”

We believe you.

For maybe one tenth of a second.

If you can fix the price downward with a clear conscience and no need to tell the world, I’m prepared to hazard hard currency on the possibility that you probably wouldn’t mind doing it upwards as well.

Only time and the latest set of enquiries will tell.

But if I were you, I would start setting money aside for the paying back of the customer bit which is bound to follow eventually.

After all, even if you don’t have to pay us back, you’ll need it for your fines.

Apparently, agreeing a price, whether up or down, is frowned upon by both the FSA, Ofgem and all sorts of bits of European Union bureaucracy (see, it was bound to have a use in the end!). Who knew?! (Apart from everyone?)

Big fines are coming.  Huge.  Trust me.

Cold Calling – Good News and Bad News

Firstly, the Bad News.

According to a BBC Panorama investigation broadcast in July of this year, the Telephone Preference Service is being ignored.

Now, for the unfamiliar, the Telephone Preference Service (and its lesser known sisters, the Fax Preference Service and the Mail Preference Service) are one of the longest standing, but coolest, bits of consumer protection legislation in the UK.

By registering your telephone number (or fax number or postal address) on a website, you are added to a list of numbers that cold calling marketing companies are NOT ALLOWED TO CALL.

See? How cool is that?

Sadly, if they lie, and say you asked them to call, or if they say they are not selling, but just conducting a survey, they can circumvent the rules. Naughty.

Or just pretend they have no idea what the TPS is.

The answer is, if you get a cold call, and you’ve put your number on the website (which takes all of thirty seconds, you’re a fool if you don’t), you just interrupt the blah and tell them:

“This number is registered with the Telephone Preference Service and you are therefore breaking the law by telephoning it. Please give me your name and company name so that I can report this to the Information Commissioner”.

You’ll hear a dialling tone by about “and”. Ideally, the first ‘and’, but at worst, definitely by the second.

The Telephone Preference Service can be found here:

http://www.tpsonline.org.uk/tps/number_type.html

The left hand column contains links to the Fax and Mail Preference Service and also to the Baby Mail Preference Service.  It is sad that this is needed, but this is a truly wonderful and thoughtful service. It blocks people from sending you (or someone you care about) baby-related junk mail and adverts if your child has died.  It must be hard enough to deal with such a thing, without Pampers putting vouchers for nappies through your door every morning. What a wonderful idea.

A bit of the recent Panorama programme can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18670314.

Further advice on how to deal with cold callers can be found here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/skillswise/learners/rip-off-britain/rip-off-britain-cold-calls

And now for The Good News: if you’re able to record your telephone calls, you can fight back.  The legal precedent has been set.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20068927

This man said “I am going to charge you £10 a minute for my time  if you keep talking to me”.  And then he sent them a bill. And when they didn’t pay, he sued them.

And he won.

So there is now no reason to put up with cold callers, unsolicited faxes or even unsolicited junk mail through your letterbox. You have the power. Take control. Consumer, Fight Back!

The real scandal at Comet

This is a short rant about Comet.

For the non-UK bods, Comet is a large electrical goods chain that has been in financial trouble for YEARS.  Last year, it was sold for just two pounds sterling.  This week, it finally kicked its legs in the air and went into administration.

Okay, fair enough. Although perhaps not for the seven and a half thousand employees who may be unemployed by Christmas, obviously.

The trouble is that, when people buy white goods or large ticket items, they save up over time (or get into debt with payday loan companies and weekly payment schemes, but that’s another story).  They often gather gift vouchers and cards to put towards their major purchase for a considerable period of time.

Before the weekend, the television pundits advised anyone with vouchers lying in a drawer to get out and spend them before the administrators moved in this week.

This was a problem because the first thing the administrators did was refuse to accept all vouchers and gift cards.

Now, I don’t consider myself a MASSIVE expert on retail economics, but I’m pretty sure that when you buy a gift card for someone, you have ALREADY PAID THE MONEY to the retailer.

To then turn around to the holder of, what essentially amounts to a receipt for funds already paid, and tell them they cannot take the goods that have already been paid for, is just not on.

In fact, strictly speaking, I think it’s theft, as defined by the Theft Act 1969 (as amended), because it is the taking of payment for goods or services you have no intention of supplying.  That’s the definition of theft. Or to put it another way, that the Bill fans might find more familiar, it is the taking away with the intent to permanently deprive.

Now, conveniently, as at 19:16 today, 6 November 2012, the BBC News website says that Comet vouchers have now been reinstated, so this little boy can now redeem his voucher.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-20191490

If you normally skip the links, read this one.

The refusal of this little boy’s voucher caused public ire on a scale I have rarely seen. We get annoyed, we sigh, we mutter amongst ourselves, when large companies misbehave, but we rarely see fury on the scale that this generated. The fact that they have now backed down is, frankly, the safest thing they could have done.

There were those who tried to explain the concept of creditors and the rules of administration, but no one was listening.

And on this occasion, I think the “people” were right. People who have purchased vouchers should not be treated as creditors, and if the law needs to be changed in this area, then so be it. Sort it out, legislators, because this cannot be allowed to happen again. Ever. Even for three days.

Once payment has been made, consumers should always have the right to claim their goods. Anything else is a shameful state of affairs that needs remedying forthwith.

This piece also appears on Mpinion.

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