THE Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.
Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Jane Hamilton will give you the best advice for buying your dream home, and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.
Jane Hamilton, property expert
IT’S been an unusual year, with so many of us spending all our time at home and using lockdown to improve our spaces, carve out home offices and gyms, and treat gardens like an extra room for eating and entertaining.
So what will 2021 bring? Here, the experts at priceyourjob.co.uk predict interior trends.
- Farmhouse decor: Cosy and nostalgic, this embraces natural wood furniture and neutral colours, easy to achieve for any room in the house.
- Foam mirrors: This wacky fashion began on Instagram, with influencers using builders’ expanding foam to create a cloud-effect frame around a standard mirror.
It is simple to do but make sure to wear goggles and protective clothing and spray the foam outside or in a well-ventilated room.
- Canopy beds: Loved by royals, these grand beds are perfect for staying snuggled up at home during lockdown. You can pick up some affordable versions from £130 on eBay.
- Curved sofas: These social sofas look just stunning and bring families closer together – but you will need a room with plenty of space.
- Dried flowers: Easier to care for than the house plants which trended this year, dried flowers can be made into pictures, wall art or traditional arrangements.
- Fire bowls: Smaller than a fire pit, fire bowls fit even the tiniest balconies and patios, so you can use your outside space even on chilly nights. Pick one up from £34.99 at The Range.
Buy of the week
HUNGRY to like Wolves? The West Midlands city of Wolverhampton has topped the house price growth table for 2020, up by 9.5 per cent on last year.
But the city is still one of the UK’s more affordable areas. This three-bedroom detached home is on sale for offers over £140,000, at zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details/52940349.
Pensioner’s property wealth
PENSIONERS who own property saw that asset increase in value by on average more than £9,200 in the past year.
The total property wealth owned by over-65s who have paid off mortgages is now more than £1.2trillion, a survey for the Key Pensioner Property Equity Index found.
Will Hale, CEO at Key, said: “Millions of over-65s retain considerable property wealth.”
Deal of the week
LIGHT up your life with this hanging pendant sphere, suitable for both house and garden.
Was £59.50, now £39.50, at oliverbonas.com
Judge Rinder, legal expert
Q: MY husband and I booked two Covid tests at Gatwick Airport, to be carried out on Boxing Day morning, as a condition of our planned travel. Then the Government brought in Tier 4 restrictions for our area on December 23.
This meant we were unable to travel so did not need the tests. The testing website advises that if Tier 4 restrictions stop you travelling, they refund your payment or offer a voucher for future use.
But this is only available if you cancel more than 72 hours before your test, which we were unable to do.
It seems very unfair, especially as it is out of our control when restrictions are brought in. Is there anything we can do?
A: There were no Tier 4 restrictions on leaving your area at the time you booked so you would hope to be entitled to a refund or a voucher for future use.
While the terms and conditions may appear unfair to you, they are clear that a refund will only be given if the test is cancelled with 72 hours’ notice.
If the test was a condition of boarding the flight, the CAA may be able to help. If you booked through a tour operator or agent and it was the country they were travelling to that asked for the test, then Abta may help.
But either way, I think the terms and conditions of the testing company may mean there is no legal redress. You could try writing to the head of customer relations of the testing company and appeal to their better nature.
Q: MY mother died earlier this year. Having recently also lost my mother-in-law, I knew how expensive funerals could be.
So I specified to the undertakers that I wanted no hidden fees, and needed to know the total cost upfront. They agreed, and after the funeral I paid the invoice in full.
A few weeks later, we received a letter from the undertakers telling us we owed the cemetery, in London, £452 for burying Mum out of her borough.
The cemetery said it’s a standard fee they charge but the undertakers should have added it to my invoice.
So I emailed the undertakers to dispute the fee, as it was not included in our quoted costs. I had no response until I received a letter from a debt agency.
I’m worried sick and still can’t get a response from the undertakers. I can’t afford to pay.
A: I understand why you are worried but frankly, these undertakers should be more worried about you and what legal action you intend to bring.
As soon as you agreed a fixed price with them, you had a concluded contract.
Unless they issued you with clear terms and conditions stating that they were entitled to amend the fees without giving you notice – which I highly doubt – this company had no right whatsoever to charge you money to rectify their mistake.
Write to the undertakers, and the debt- collection firm, enclosing any communication you have in which the fixed price was agreed, and make it clear you expect the debt to be cancelled immediately.
If they persist with this, they would have, by the sound of it, almost no chance of winning a case against you in the small-claims court.
Q: MY mother ordered a chair and it took four months to be delivered, by which time, sadly, she had passed away. I asked the company for a refund but they said no, because it had been made to order. Is there anything I can do to get the money back from them?
A: Sadly, the furniture company are not under a legal obligation to refund you.
Consumer goods are usually refundable and returnable if they are unused but there are stricter laws governing made-to-order or bespoke products like the chair your late mother ordered.
Nevertheless, if it was specially made, I would get in touch with the managing director of the firm and explain what has happened.
The law might not be on your side but businesses will often act kindly in these situations.
Mel Hunter, readers’ champion
Q: ON March 18, at the time of the first lockdown, my husband and I had a short break booked to Amsterdam.
The day before we were due to leave, we were advised not to travel unless it was essential.
As we both work for the NHS, going away was unthinkable so we turned to our travel insurance with ERV Insurance Services.
Our policy contained a clause confirming we could claim if “unexpectedly required for emergency and unavoidable duty” as a member of the emergency services.
Since then, I have had lengthy conversations with ERV, sending all the invoices and booking information, for the claim of £685.
ERV is now asking for proof that the air tax was refunded by EasyJet, which is stated in the letter I have already given it from the airline.
I believe they think I will forget about claiming.
A: Your insurance policy pre-dated the pandemic and so you should have been covered, particularly as it contained a specific clause recognising your essential work as a nurse.
You had been battling for seven months when you first got in touch with me and I wanted to take this stress off your shoulders.
After some effort, I got hold of ERV – also known as Ergo travel insurance – and it was able to approve your claim without presenting further hoops for you to jump through.
I finally got the money back in your account in time for Christmas and hope you and your husband can take the break you deserve very soon.
Q: MY son Sam has multiple sclerosis and cannot walk.
He booked a flight with Ryanair for himself, his friend and carer to go to Malaga, in Spain, for a friend’s wedding.
The flights ended up being cancelled because of Covid and he opted for a refund.
We waited patiently but nothing happened and we are still trying to get his £388 back.
This would have been Sam’s first holiday in seven years.
He saved up hard to pay for the break and is now resigned to losing the money.
If you can help to get the money back, it would restore his faith in others.
A: Around the time you wrote to me, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said all customers had been reimbursed for flights between March and July.
He argued that their claims that they had not been refunded were “false”. Well, yours certainly was not.
You and your son had a genuine claim that you had been chasing for months, and the lack of progress was really getting him down during an already challenging time.
I flagged up the case to Ryanair and finally got Sam’s refund sorted.
Ryanair offered no explanation for what had happened or why your case seemed to contradict its CEO’s angry claims.
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