The ICO summary of 2015 is both reassuring and disturbing in equal measure

Since the law changed in April 2015, the ICO has found it much easier to prosecute and fine companies for cold calling and nuisance calls, as the burden of proof has been reduced from causing “serious damage and distress” to causing a “nuisance”.

As a result, the total amount of fines imposed has trebled to over £1.1m.

There are a further £1m-worth of fines in the pipeline in existing, ongoing investigations.

The BBC article is, as always, here, and includes the naming and shaming of the biggest culprits towards the end of the article.

Mind you, how long does it take to even MAKE six million nuisance calls. And they’re only a nuisance if they’re answered, we would have thought, so how many more were they making that went unanswered?!

The irony of a firm being fined for making nuisance calls advertising call blocking services, however, may be too much for us to bear…

Hopefully this will lead to us all having a Happy (and quieter) New Year.

All the best from Consumer, Fight Back!


Use by v. Best Before v. Sell by v. Display until

What is the difference between the different dates manufacturers and shops put on food?

Well, essentially, Sell by and Display until are nonsense. They are simply there as a calculation by the shop of how long the food will look good!

What matters, and the only one with any legal validity, is Use By. This is about the safety of the food, not its appearance. If food is being sold after its Use By date, then the retailer is committing an offence.

Here is a handy little summary gleaned from the Food Standards Agency website (

“‘Best before’ dates relate to food quality, including taste, texture and appearance. Eating food past its ‘best before’ date is unlikely to be harmful.

‘Use by’ date are the most important date for people to consider, as these relate to food safety.

While it is an offence to sell food after the ‘use by’ date, retailers can, with the exception of eggs, sell products after the ‘best before’ date, providing it is safe to eat. Eggs have a ‘best before’ date, but should not be eaten after the date shown on the label.

Retailers often use ‘sell by’ and ‘display until’ dates on their shelves, but these are not required by law and are used mainly for stock control purposes.”

Clearer? Good. Don’t want anyone getting ill over the festive season.

Bon Appetit and Happy New Year.

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.

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

Thought you’d like to 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 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.

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.


In 2009, a friend of mine went into a T-mobile shop to buy a new phone and change her tariff.

Her only requirement was that the new tariff must have cheap calls to the country where her father lived – he was ill at the time.

She asked the assistant at least three times if the tariff she was being sold had cheap calls to the relevant country and was told it did.

Two weeks later, when the first bill came, it was nearly £100.  The contract had been mis-sold and did not include cheap calls to the country she had specified.

She did the logical thing and telephoned Customer Services, free of charge, from her phone.  They assured her they would refund her and apologised.

But when she went into the store, they, and Customer Services – after around two hours on hold – denied all knowledge of the entire conversation.

It took precisely one carefully worded letter to head office to get the matter settled, a full refund, a new phone and an apology.

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