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How to get money back and compensation for substandard products by knowing your consumer rights

For over 20 years I have been complaining about shoddy service and scam products. From second rate spa stays to bland supermarket steaks, you name it, I’ve complained about it – and been compensated.

I have £600 in my pocket in the first six months of this year alone. But while knowing how to fight around your corner can make you money, that’s not the only reason I do it.

We work harder than ever for our money, and if you part with your money, it shouldn’t be for something imperfect.

So what’s my secret? It’s easy. I know my consumer rights and I’m willing to shout about it. I don’t even really see it as complaining – just honest feedback.

Don’t accept sloppiness: Jane isn’t afraid to demand more from companies

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 explains what customers can expect from businesses when they pay for goods and services. If companies do not meet these standards, you have every right to compensation.

When you buy a product, it must correspond to the description, be of satisfactory quality and fit for its intended purpose. If you pay for a service, it must be provided with ‘reasonable care and skill’.

Did the company or employee do everything they had to do to professionally deliver what you paid for?

I know what great customer service should look like because I’ve worked on the other side of the counter for over a decade, first in a hair salon at age 14, then in restaurants and hospitality.

Later I worked as a cabin crew member for a major airline, serving people from all walks of life. But my years as a flight attendant were cut short when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 26.

Many companies are now hiding behind a new excuse for sloppiness: Covid. But companies have had two years to deal with the changes. If we can adapt, so should they.

I had always enjoyed writing and did so for local publications after I left the airline. Then my husband and I decided to build our own house. It took us seven years and we were battered by bad customer experiences: bad materials, damaged fittings and poor workmanship.

Dismayed, I started my blog, ladyjaney.co.uk, in 2017. I wanted to share my experience and show other people how to complain.

But as I built my reputation as the queen of customer service, the standards of some major companies declined.

Desperate penny pinching means cutting corners, less staff on hand to help, and less money spent on training. Customers continue to pay more while quality and standards plummet.

Unfortunately, things have gotten worse since the pandemic and many companies are now hiding behind a new excuse for sloppiness: Covid. But enough is enough. Companies have had two years to deal with the changes. If we can adapt, so should they.

Complaint Queen: One of Jane's Biggest Wins Was Against a Kitchen Company

Complaint Queen: One of Jane’s Biggest Wins Was Against a Kitchen Company

Looking back at some of my biggest wins, a win over a kitchen company stands out.

I had paid over £30,000 but was plagued with pricing errors, missing components and units of the wrong specification. I also had to pay extra for lamps that I thought were included in the price.

After I challenged the shop under the Consumer Rights Act, I was refunded £362.70.

In January I complained to my insurance company about the poor communication when handling a drain claim. I have received £250 as a gesture of goodwill.

Then, while staying at a spa hotel in February, some facilities were unavailable due to renovations. After complaining I was given a free visit worth £200.

The late April takeaway minus my favorite dish earned me a partial refund of £13.50 for not being delivered with due care and skill.

And after poor service from my mobile phone provider when I tried to cancel my contract, the company coughed up three months of line rent worth £49.59 in May.

A host of horrendous groceries in June including unwrapped cling film (not fit for purpose), a cracked egg (item not as described) and a gristly tasteless steak (poor quality) netted me £10 in a week.

I may sound fussy, but if every week were like this, I’d be wasting over £500 a year on useless and inedible goods.

How to Complain… and Get Compensated

So how do you hold a company accountable? The complaint process and contact details should be listed on the website or on the back of your receipt. Always follow up every first conversation with an email or letter.

In case of problems with online grocery orders, return the items with the product and proof of purchase to the store or call the home delivery service of customer service. Your delivery person can even refund them on the spot, just like mine.

When you write, stay to the point and summarize the problem in bullet points. Indicate which part of the Consumer Rights Act you believe the company has failed to comply with.

Indicate what action you expect to take to resolve the issue. Give a clear time frame for responding – I would suggest seven days.

Know your rights: If a product or service isn't up to par and the provider doesn't refund them, consumers can often get their money back from their debit or credit card provider

Know your rights: If a product or service isn’t up to par and the provider doesn’t refund them, consumers can often get their money back from their debit or credit card provider

If a refund is not forthcoming and you have made a full or partial payment by credit card, please contact your lender to see if you may be entitled to a refund under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. Goods must be Cost £100 or more to qualify.

If you used a debit card, you may be able to get a refund through a chargeback. This is where your bank tries to recover the money from the merchant’s bank if you don’t receive your purchase. There may be a time limit on claims.

Check the company’s website to see if it is enrolled in an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme. For example, most airlines are members of the Aviation ADR or CEDR (Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution).

Banks, insurers and investment firms are members of the Financial Services Ombudsman. This is a free and faster solution than going to small claims court.

The decision is not binding, so you can still make claims up to £10,000 in court, provided you have given the company sufficient opportunity to address the issue.

It sounds scarier than it is. After paying £1,678 for roof tiles that did not arrive and caused costly delays in rebuilding our garage, I sued the shopkeeper for negligence and breach of contract.

We sued not only for the cost of the tiles, but also for the difference in price to buy new ones and additional labor costs – and won.

Depending on the size of the claim, there will be an upfront charge of between £35 and £455 but will be refunded if you win.

When you feel let down, it’s (almost) always worth fighting back.

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