19 February 2024
Advice Column: Parcel Delivery 

I bought my mum a birthday present from an online store. I paid extra for next day delivery but it hasn't arrived. I tried to contact the delivery company but wasn't able to speak with anyone. The online store has said my parcel is with the delivery company and should arrive soon. If it doesn't arrive soon, I won't be able to send it in time for her birthday. What can I do?

 

You paid for next day delivery so your goods should be delivered on the agreed date.

Because you bought something from a business to be delivered to you, it’s the seller’s responsibility to make sure the item is delivered.

 

As the seller used a courier, they should chase the courier to find out what’s happened to your order - it’s not your responsibility.

 

If you want the item:

 

·       Under the Consumer Rights Act, you can ask the seller to deliver the item again if the item wasn’t delivered by the agreed date.

 

Other steps to take if you want the item could be:

 

·       Cancel your original order and reorder it again from the same or a new online store

·       Check if a local store stocks the item(s)

·       Keep trying to contact the delivery company via tracking tools, phone, or email

 

If you want to cancel your order:

 

·       You can cancel and ask for your money back because you haven't received your goods on the agreed date.

·       Tell the seller that what has happened to your order is "a breach of contract under the Consumer Rights Act 2015" - as the delivery date was essential and they didn’t meet it.

 

You can find useful template letters and information about your rights at www.citizensadvice.org.uk Alternatively, you can call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.

 

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Torbay accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Torbay is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk


07 February 2024
Advice Column: Rented Property 

Damp and mould is building up in our house as the weather gets colder. Our living room is the worst and there’s a strong smell, so we’ve stopped having friends round. We’re also concerned about our health. We’ve reported it to our landlord, but they haven’t done anything. With six months left on the tenancy agreement, we’re running out of options. What should we do?

You’ve done the right thing by bringing this to your landlord. To work out if they are responsible you’ll need to find the cause of the damp and mould, but this can take time unless there’s a clear cause, like bad insulation or a leaking roof.

Damp is when an area of your property doesn’t dry out, often because it’s cold. The main types are rising, penetrating, construction, and condensation damp. It can lead to mould, which is a fungus that grows in areas where warm damp air condenses on cold surfaces, like window frames. Information on our website can help you work out what type of damp you have, who is responsible and what you can do. You should also check your tenancy agreement for mentions of repairs and damp.

 

Your landlord is responsible for fixing a damp problem if it’s making your home unsafe to live in. For example, this could be if it’s affecting your health or the health of those you live with. Your landlord will also be responsible if the damp is related to repairs they should have carried out, like if the window frames are rotting. They would have to cover the cost of repairs to any items damaged by the damp, including carpets and furniture.

 

Condensation is a key cause of damp we’re all familiar with. Keeping homes well-heated and well-ventilated is the best way to prevent this, but for many of us today, high heating costs and cold weather are making this very difficult. If you’re finding it hard to insulate and heat your home, check our website to see if you’re eligible for support.

 

Always avoid doing anything that can make damp worse, as it may affect whether the landlord takes responsibility for repairs. Our website has advice on what to avoid, like drying clothes on heaters, blocking air vents, or using portable gas heaters.

 

You may reach the point where you just want to get out of your tenancy agreement early, but remember this can be very tricky and there might be things you haven’t tried yet.

 

For example, if your landlord is responsible for the damp in your home but doesn’t do anything, there are steps you can take, like reporting them to the local authority. And as a private renter, if you’ve got evidence from a health professional that damp is making you ill, you may be able to get free legal advice through Legal Aid.

 

If you’re feeling stuck, always speak to your local Citizens Advice or call our Adviceline on 0808 278 7859 for personalised support.

 

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Torbay accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Torbay is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

 


29 January 2024
Advice Column: Christmas Pay 

My employer asked me to work extra hours in the lead up to Christmas as it was really busy at work. Now that I have been paid I don’t think I have been paid for all the extra hours I worked. What should I do?



Many workers will have put in extra hours in the run up to Christmas, and it’s important to make sure you’re paid for it all. Get together evidence of your completed hours. If you haven’t got your own record of your hours, you could use things like:


  • old rotas
  • clocking in records
  • emails from your employer confirming your shifts

Once you have got together your evidence, try speaking informally to your employer. You could also try speaking to your human resources or payroll department, if there is one. Ask them to explain anything you don’t understand on your payslip or why you haven’t been paid. If you disagree with anything, explain why.

If your employer has made a genuine mistake, ask them to pay you the money you’re owed straight away. You shouldn’t have to wait until your next pay day.

 

If you and your employer can’t agree on how much you should have been paid, you can challenge them. You should act quickly - it’ll be much harder to get your money back after 3 months from the date the problem arose.

 

If you’re not getting anywhere, consider the following further steps to get what you’re owed:

 

1.    your trade union might be able to negotiate with your employer for you. If you’re not in a trade union, find out if there’s one at your workplace that you can join. You might find details in your staff handbook, intranet or on notice boards at work.

2.    Check if your employer has a formal grievance procedure you can use. Even if they haven’t, you can still raise a grievance - for example by writing a letter. Explain why you think you haven’t been paid enough and include copies of any evidence.

3.    If your grievance doesn’t get the result you want, you can take your employer to a tribunal. You'll have to notify ACAS first. ACAS is an organisation that provides independent support to help sort out employment disputes. They'll see if your employer will agree to a process called ‘early conciliation' - a way to resolve disputes without going to a tribunal. The quickest way to start is to fill in the early conciliation form on the ACAS website. Or you can call ACAS on 0300 123 1100

4.    Your last resort is to take your employer to a tribunal. Think carefully before you go ahead. You usually have to make a claim to the tribunal within 3 months of your employment ending or the problem happening. You need to have already notified ACAS, gone through the early conciliation process and got an early conciliation certificate. It is best to get advice before proceeding to a tribunal.

 

For more information and advice go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk

 

 

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Torbay accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Torbay is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk



08 January 2024
Advice Column: Debt

I’ve built up a bit of debt and I am panicking. Even though I cut back, Christmas was expensive, my rent has gone up and my paycheque just doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. I’m doing everything I can but it’s not enough - what can I do?


First of all it’s important to know you’re not alone in finding things difficult and, crucially, there’s support available.

You say you’ve built up a bit of debt. The first step is to collect all the information you have about your debts, this might include contracts, bills and statements.

Next, make a list of your debts and write down the details of each. This could include whom you owe the money to (this person/company is your ‘creditor’); when you first missed a payment; and how much you now owe. You’ll also need to make a note of your account or reference number and what steps the creditor has taken to get the money back, eg. sending you letters.

It might feel overwhelming when you see all of your debts written down - but try not to worry, the important thing is that you're sorting them out.

If you’re behind on household bills, prioritise paying your rent or mortgage, plus energy bills and Council Tax first. Not paying these bills has the most serious consequences. You should speak to the person or company you owe money to, to see if there are any manageable steps you can take to start reducing your debt.

Once you’ve got these debts under control, you should look at any other debts like credit card or store card debts, payday loans or missed Buy Now Pay Later payments.

While you’re looking at the money going out, do remember to consider money that could be coming in. It’s always worth checking if there are any benefits that you’re eligible for, including support with your energy costs and living costs. There’s a benefits calculator, advice on how to reduce living costs and information on other ways to increase your income, on the Citizens Advice website.

There’s also emergency support that you may be able to access, such as a food bank or fuel vouchers. You could also contact your local council to see if they can offer support.

We know that times are incredibly tough but please remember, you don’t have to face this alone, do contact Citizens Advice to help you find a way forward.

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Torbay accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Torbay is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

04 December 2023
Advice Column: Subscription Problems 

I signed up to a free TV deal, but now they are charging me because the free period has run out and I forgot to cancel the subscription. I can’t be the first person to fall for this. What can I do?

 

Citizens Advice research has found that many people are getting stuck with subscriptions and are wasting hundreds of pounds on them when they’re no longer wanted, or deals expire.

 

Our analysis found that people lost an average of £160 from subscriptions they wanted to cancel, but weren’t able to. The analysis reveals that companies can make it hard to cancel a subscription with 9 in 10 people prevented from doing so after initially asking. Common reasons for turning down a cancellation include being told to use a specific method, like the phone, or to give more than a month’s notice. People also reported not being made aware they had signed up for a subscription in the first place, or that their contract would continue on an auto renewal basis.

 

With subscriptions now being offered across a range of goods and services, from beauty products to TV streaming, it is important that people check the small print before they sign up to one. Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, businesses can’t enforce terms on consumers that are unfair.

 

Follow our tips on how to avoid getting tied into a subscription next time:

 

1. Check what your cancellation rights are - each supplier can set their own cancellation policy and they don’t need to offer you a right to cancel your subscription early. Make sure the terms and conditions look reasonable before signing up.

 

2. Remember you’ve got a cooling off period if you buy online - if you bought the subscription online, the law says you usually have 14 days to get your money back if you change your mind. However, you might not be able to get a refund if you start using the service straight away.

 

3. Follow the cancellation policy - make sure you follow the cancellation policy set out in your contract when you’re ready to end your subscription. Don’t stop your payment without checking what else is required first - otherwise your subscription may not be cancelled and you could be liable for any missed payments.

 

4. Challenge unfair terms and conditions - there are no strict definitions for what counts as an unfair policy. But if you’re finding it tough or have to give a long period of notice to cancel a subscription, contact the supplier’s customer services department. If this fails go to the supplier’s trade or complaints body or report to Trading Standards via the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.

 

For more information and advice go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk

 

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Torbay accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Torbay is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

27 November 2023
Advice Columns: Energy Bills 

I am a single parent with two kids and I’m really worried about how I’ll afford to pay my energy bills when I have to start putting the heating and lights on more now winter is here. At the moment I just about have enough money to cover my bills but there is nothing left over. The thought of getting into debt keeps me awake at night but the idea of my children being cold and possibly unwell as a result is just unbearable. What can I do?

You are not alone - a record number of people came to Citizens Advice with energy debt in the first four months of 2023 (32,400) - a 112% increase on the same period in 2020 (15,200).

There are things you can do to feel in control when it comes to your energy bills.

There are some simple tips to help save money on your energy bills. They won’t cover all the extra costs, but they can make a difference:

Check your thermostat: A room temperature between 18°C and 21°C is ideal for most people. Try turning your thermostat down by one degree within this range – it could save you around £115 a year. If a medical condition means you need a warmer home, ask your GP what room temperature you should aim for.

Keep the heat in: Check your home for any gaps in the doors, windows and floors. Blocking any holes where you could get a draught could save you around £30 a year. It is important to allow for some ventilation as without it mould and damp can form.

Turn off anything you’re not using: Turning your appliances, like TVs and washing machines, off instead of leaving them on standby could save around £60 a year. Turning off lights when you’re not using them – even if it’s just off for a few seconds - could save around £25 a year.

Consider using LED lightbulbs, which cost less to run.

Watch your water usage: Cutting your shower time by just one minute can make a difference. If everyone in a four-person household with a water meter did this, they could save around £75 a year.

If you’re struggling to afford your energy bills, you might be able to get support from the government or your energy supplier. The first step is to contact your supplier to find out what they can offer. You may be eligible for benefits including the Warm Home Discount, Cold Weather Payments or the Household Support Fund, find out more about these on our website.

 

For more information visit the Citizens Advice website at www.citizensadvice.org.uk

 

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Torbay accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Torbay is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk



30 October 2023
Advice Column: Online Shopping Scams

I do most of my shopping online. I am always on the lookout for a bargain, especially with the festive season coming up but I’m worried about scammers. What should I look for, to avoid getting caught out?

 

You’re not alone, lots of people do their shopping online these days, it’s convenient and can save you time. But as more and more of us move online, so are scammers, with their tactics becoming more sophisticated all the time.

 

While scams can be tricky to recognise there are always things you can look out for and steps you can take to protect yourself from falling foul to a scammer.

 

The golden rule to remember is that if it seems too good to be true then it probably is. This goes for products which are ‘must-haves’, are sold out at major retailers, or are heavily discounted.

 

If you’re buying from a site you haven’t used before, do some research before hitting buy. Find the company’s return and refund policies so you know your rights if something goes wrong with your purchase. You should also look up the company’s address, this can normally be found in the website’s ‘contact us’ section and should have a street name, not just a post office box.

 

Also take some time to see what other people have said about the website. Start with an internet search and look at different review websites, don’t rely on reviews the company has put on its own website.

 

Be very wary of people contacting you out of the blue on social media or via text and email offering an item for sale or deal on something. And scammers will often ask you to pay in unusual ways, or put you under pressure to buy very quickly. For example, they’ll ask you to send money through a transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union or pay via vouchers.

 

If you do fall victim to a scam, firstly don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed. Scammers are clever and regularly adapt their methods making them harder to spot. Anyone can get scammed.

 

Secondly, do report it, this alerts authorities to scammers’ techniques and prevents others from being taken advantage of.

 

You can report a scam to Citizens Advice or Action Fraud. If you’ve transferred money in the last 24 hours contact the police via the non-emergency number 101, however if you feel unsafe use 999. Also contact your bank to let them know you’ve transferred money, you should still do this if 24 hours have passed.

 

You can find out more about your rights via the Citizens Advice consumer advice pages or by contacting our Consumer Helpline if you need more help.

 

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Torbay accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Torbay is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

30 October 2023
Advice Column: Savings 

I've just had my hours cut at work. I'd like to take on a second job, but there's nothing around. It sounds ridiculous to talk about Christmas now, but I'm already worrying! I usually start buying the kids a few presents really early to spread the cost - but that's going to be impossible this year. How can I make less go further, without going into debt?

 

It is understandable that you have these concerns right now. One way to stretch your household finances is to shop around for the best deals on your mobile phone and broadband (depending on the details of your price plan), and on utilities, such as electricity. Installing a water meter can also sometimes bring savings.


It’s also worth checking any insurances and subscriptions - cancel any you don’t need and shop around for the others. It’s normally cheaper if you don’t leave it until just before the renewal date.


If your children are school age there may be help available with uniforms, technology and free school meals. See www.citizensadvice.org.uk for more details.


A fall in income may mean you’re eligible for benefits, especially if you’re a parent or carer. The Turn 2 Us benefits checker is very useful. See https://benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk/AboutYou for more details


It sounds like you’re normally very organised. Make a list of the cost of your priority outgoings - such as housekeeping and essential travel - against your new income.


It’s easy to slip into overdraft, or miss a payment, and it can then become more and more expensive - and stressful - to get on the right track and out of debt. Likewise, think carefully about any ‘buy now pay later’ deals - they’re not always the best option long term.

 

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Torbay accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Torbay is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

18 October 2023
Advice Column: Halloween 

Halloween is coming up and my children are keen to dress up for trick-or-treat. I’ve read about accidents involving costumes catching fire and I’m worried about buying an outfit that could be highly flammable. I don’t want to spoil their fun but I do want to make sure everyone is safe. How can I check if the costumes would be safe for my children to wear?

 

It’s not easy being the ‘safety police’ when everyone just wants to have fun - especially when that fun includes extravagant costumes. Children should always be kept away from naked flames, but Halloween costumes come with their own set of risks for which extra safety precautions are needed.

 

They’re not always subject to the same fire safety checks as normal clothing as they can often be classed as toys. With Halloween being a time where lots of lit candles in pumpkins are on the same doorsteps that trick-or-treaters congregate on. As you rightly point out there have sadly been accidents associated with dressing-up outfits and so checking the garment complies with UK/EU safety standards should be a top priority.

 

No one wants an unexpected horror story at Halloween so it’s always best to know what you’re looking for when buying any costume to make sure the risks are limited as much as they can be:

● Always buy your Halloween costumes from reputable shops and online retailers. If you haven’t bought anything from the shop before make sure you check online reviews.

● Make sure the costume comes with safety instructions, a UKCA or CE marking and the manufacturer’s name. The UKCA marking is the post-Brexit British equivalent of the CE mark which is also still valid.

● Check for any product recalls online — searching for ‘product safety recalls’ will bring up the Office for Product Safety and Standards list.

 

And while you might like to let your creative streak run wild and attempt to make your own bespoke costume, it’s worth keeping in mind that homemade fancy dress costumes may also come with risks, especially if you use fabrics or decorations not designed to be worn.

If you’d like more advice, or to report something to Trading Standards, contact Citizens Advice consumer service by phone or online.

 

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Torbay accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Torbay is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

02 October 2023
Advice Column: Nuisance Neighbours 

I live in a rented property and a family has moved in to the house next door and is being a nuisance, yelling late at night over a loud television and leaving bin bags strewn over the front of the house. I don’t want to antagonise them in case they become threatening. What can I do?

 

It’s best to try to resolve problems by speaking with your neighbour, if it’s safe to do so. Explain the effect their behaviour is having and ask them to stop. If the problem continues, keep a record of incidents, which will come in handy if you decide to take the matter further.

 

A mediator may help you and your neighbour find a solution. If you’re a council or housing association tenant, they may have their own mediator you can use. If not, you’ll need to find one yourself and pay a fee.

 

Ask your neighbour’s landlord to speak to them on your behalf. If your neighbour lives in social housing, their landlord should have a policy for dealing with antisocial behaviour.

 

If the landlord can’t help, or you don’t know who it is, your council might be able to help. Visit its website for information on the types of complaint it deals with.

 

If you’ve tried everything but the problem persists, ask for a Community Trigger. The council might work with the police and others to create an action plan. As a last resort, you can go to an ombudsman if you’re unhappy with how your council or social landlord has handled it.

 

If your neighbour becomes threatening or violent, you should tell the police.

 

More information and advice is available at: www.citizensadvice.org.uk

 

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Torbay accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Torbay is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

16 August 2023
Time to help your community and enrich your life! 

If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to be a volunteer with Citizens’ Advice Torbay, come to one of our Volunteer Taster Sessions on either Wednesday 13th September or Wednesday, 20th September.  We will be there 10am - noon or 2-4pm both days.

 

You’ll be able to meet some of our wonderful paid staff and volunteers, and hear from them what it’s like helping your local community in these difficult times. We need more trainees to become advisers, trustees, to help with admin and IT. Our training is quality marked, and we will be running an initial training course starting in October. If you have some time to spare, then we’d love to hear from you!

 

Joy says “being a volunteer for Torbay Citizens Advice has certainly been a landmark at this late stage in my life. It has given me so much: ongoing training, the confidence-boosting opportunity of helping others with issues from the simple to the complex, and the security of knowing that the amazing supervisors are always there, ready to help and advise”.

“I started volunteering to get a break from my full-time caring role and to meet a variety of talented people”, says Patrick, who started volunteering with us last year. “I like being part of a team doing useful work which can change people's lives for the better. For me, volunteering is not charity. At the end of the day when I am alone and look in the mirror with my toothbrush in hand, I know the value of what I did that day, even just making coffee for everyone perhaps, and I feel good. That is my reward”.

Liz has just completed initial training and has started advising on the phone. She says “volunteering with Torbay Citizens Advice is very rewarding in that you feel that you are helping people in times of need. You are very much part of a team and feel supported in every aspect of your work. The training is very thorough but very interesting. Keyboard /computer skills are really helpful. I am constantly learning and find the information helpful in day-to-day life”.

 

Val has been volunteering with us for many years and says “volunteering keeps me engaged in what's happening locally and nationally, but particularly for people in Torbay. It is rewarding when someone says you have helped them. I learn new things daily from clients and from researching answers to their problems. It keeps the grey cells working!” 

 

So, if you’re thinking of giving some of your time to your local community, why not come along to one of our Volunteer Taster Sessions and find out more. This could be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for! Our office is on Tower Road at the rear of 29 Palace Avenue, Paignton, TQ3 3EQ

You can find more information on our website www.citizensadvicetorbay.org.uk or send an email to training@torbaycitizensadvice.org.uk

07 August 2023
Advice Column: School Costs 

My children are starting new schools in September, one is in primary school and the other secondary. Between uniforms, PE kit and knowing they’ll need to catch the bus each day the costs are adding up. I’m already pretty stretched, so I’m not sure how to cover these extra outgoings. Is there any help I can get?

 

A new school year can put pressure on lots of people’s budgets, so you’re not alone in your worries. But there is help available.

 

A good place to start is the Citizens Advice website where you’ll find lots of information on the support you might be entitled to for school-related costs.

 

The help you can get to cover school lunches will vary depending on how old your children are and if you claim benefits. Children in Reception, Year 1 and 2 automatically get free school meals. You can apply for free school meals for older children if you claim certain types of benefits, including Universal Credit, Child Tax Credit and Income Support. The full list is available on the Citizens Advice website.

 

You mentioned concerns about travel costs. If your child can't walk to school because of special educational needs or disabilities they should get free school transport. You may be able to get help with transport costs from your Local Education Authority if your children can’t walk because it's dangerous or too far. Your Local Education Authority is part of your local council that deals with education in your area, you can find yours on GOV.UK. Contact it directly to find out exactly what support it offers.

 

If you’re on a low income, your Local Education Authority may also be able to help you with activity and school uniform costs. You’re likely to be considered to be on a low income if you get means-tested benefits like Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. In some places there are also local charitable schemes that can help. A good place to find out about these is the school itself or Parent Teacher Association (PTA) both will usually know if these kinds of schemes exist.

 

A lot of people are feeling the squeeze at the moment, but it’s important to remember that help is available with starting school costs and you’re not alone. For more information visit the Citizens Advice website.

 

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Torbay accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Torbay is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk



24 July 2023
Advice Column: Trusted Traders 

I’ve got loads of problems with my house that I’ve been putting off fixing - a faulty boiler, a window that won’t shut properly, broken light fittings. The list goes on! I want to sort it out but I’ve had bad experiences with dodgy builders in the past. How do I find someone I can trust?

Making home improvements can be stressful, but there are a few steps you can follow to help it go smoothly. First, find a Trading Standards ‘approved trader’. You can look for one in your area online or use the Government’s approved trader scheme TrustMark. 

 

It’s also worth checking if they’re a current member of a trade body. Trade bodies have codes of practice and can help resolve problems if things go wrong. Ask who they’re registered with and then check the trade body’s website. For any gas and electric fixes, only use certified traders - it’s dangerous to use someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. You can check the Gas Safe Register for a list of traders and use a registered electrician who can certify their own work. It’s always helpful to get references or recommendations where possible.

Ask your friends, family or neighbours if they know of anyone they’d recommend. You can also ask the person you hire for examples of work they’ve carried out in the past. Try to avoid contractors who won’t give references - it’s a sign they could be dishonest. When you find someone, ask for a written quote - this is different to an estimate.

A quote is legally binding and the tradesperson can’t change it without a good reason - for example, if you ask for extra work to be done. It’s worth comparing quotes from several contractors to make sure you’re getting a fair price. Next, get a written contract. This should cover exactly what you’re paying for and everything you’ve agreed on, including timings, payments, who will pay for materials and any subcontractors if needed.

When it comes to payment, it’s best to opt to pay in stages rather than upfront. Try to pay by card if you can - this can give you extra safeguards if something goes wrong. Finally, make sure your trader is fully insured. Keep copies of receipts and your written contract. These will be important as evidence if things go wrong. It’s also helpful to take photos of any problems if they arise.

If you have a problem with a contractor and you’re not sure what to do, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline 0808 223 1133 or talk to an adviser online through the Citizens Advice website.

 

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Torbay accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Torbay is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk



10 July 2023
Advice Column: Scams

I bought a pram for £400 online, but it never arrived. At checkout it said delivery would take 3-5 working days, but I never received any tracking information. I chased the seller and they said they’d speak to the delivery company, but now when I try to phone them my call goes straight to voicemail. I’ve had no response to emails either. The website I bought it through looked legitimate but now I’ve seen people posting on review sites about products that never arrived and some are saying this is a bogus seller. Have I been scammed and if so, what can I do?

 

This sounds like a very frustrating situation, and unfortunately scammers are always finding more sophisticated ways to trick shoppers, including having very legitimate-looking websites.

 

From your letter, there are signs it could be a scam. We’ve detailed information on our website about how to spot the signs of a scam that you might find useful to check.

 

As you’ve already parted with your money, the first step is to contact your bank immediately to let them know you think you’ve been scammed.

 

In terms of getting your money back, a lot depends on how you paid. We have full details on our website on the routes you can take. For example, if you paid by debit card, your card provider can ask the seller’s bank to refund the money. This is known as the ‘chargeback scheme’. If you paid by credit card and the item cost more than £100 but less than £30,000 you might be able to claim under the Consumer Credit Act. This is known as a ‘Section 75 claim’. Under £100 on credit card you can’t use Section 75, but you can use chargeback.

 

It’s always a good idea to report a scam, even if you haven’t got your money back yet. You can do this by contacting Action Fraud.

 

It’s also worth knowing your rights as a consumer in case the seller does get back in contact and turns out not to be a scammer. If something you ordered hasn’t arrived, it’s the seller’s responsibility to get the item to you. So if they say they don’t know where the pram is, you can ask for a redelivery or, depending on how long you’ve waited for a delivery, you may be able to get a refund from the seller.

 

We have advice on our website about how to do this.

 

It’s also worth knowing that if a trader, having taken your money, refuses to deliver an item, Trading Standards may be able to investigate them. For more advice on dealing with suspected scams or problems with traders, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline 0808 223 1133 or talk to an adviser online through the Citizens Advice website.

 

Many people may need emotional support after falling victim to a scam, and we have advice on our website about how to get this too. Citizens Advice runs Scams Awareness campaigns aiming to: give people skills to identify scams; encourage people to share their experiences with scams; help people gain the confidence to report scams. The campaign is led by Citizens Advice in collaboration with the Consumer Protection Partnership (CPP).

 

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Torbay accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Torbay is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

26 June 2023
Advice Column: Council Tax 

I know I’m not going to be able to afford my council tax bill with so many other important bills to pay, let alone food. What should I do?

 

Council tax arrears is a “priority debt”, which means you need to address it before paying off other non-priority loans like credit cards.

 

Once you’ve missed a council tax payment, you’re in “arrears” and so owe money to your council.

 

It’s important you speak to the council straight away if you don’t think you can pay. Ask to speak to someone in the council tax office and tell them about your situation. Don’t just stop paying.

You’ll probably be asked to commit to paying a regular amount each month. If you're not sure how much you can afford, use the national Citizen Advice website budgeting tool at: www.citizensadvice.org.uk

 

If you're on a low income, you might be able to get a reduction on your council tax bill. You might also be able to qualify for your council’s Hardship Scheme. You can read more about getting help with your council tax on the national Citizens Advice website. 

 

If you fail to pay your council tax arrears you’ll have to pay court costs and possibly bailiff fees as well as your debt, which can add hundreds of pounds to your bill.

 

If you’re struggling with multiple debts you can call us on 0808 278 7859 or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

 

The information contained in these articles does not constitute advice. Citizens Advice Torbay accept no liability for the information published. Citizens Advice Torbay is unable to respond to individual requests for advice through these columns. Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date information, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk