EVERY Saturday, The Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.
Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Amanda Cable will give you the best advice for buying your dream home, Maddy Tooke rounds up the best coupons to save you money and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.
Jane Hamilton, property expert
EACH December around 72,000 UK families move home.
To avoid added Christmas stress, use these tips from cost comparison site reallymoving.com.
- Enclose a change of address card with your Christmas cards this year. Then set up a post redirection service with the Post Office.
- Be prepared for bad weather. Have salt, grit and shovels on hand to clear roads and paths.
- Book a removals firm early. They get booked up fast as people rush to complete before the holidays, so get quotes and check reviews pronto.
- Make a detailed timeline. Make sure everyone in the chain, plus estate agents and solicitors, know you want to complete before Christmas and pin down a completion date to aim for.
- Begin packing early. Work from the loft down, and remember to put the Christmas decorations to one side so you can find them easily once you’re in your new home.
- Wrap Christmas gifts, not crockery. Asking a removal firm to wrap and pack can save lots of time and may cost less than you thought.
- Use online retailers to send pre-wrapped Christmas gifts straight to friends and relatives. Then you won’t have gifts cluttering your home which might get mislaid in the move.
- Take final meter readings on the day you move and contact your providers as soon as you can. Don’t be without power on the big day and don’t pay for your buyer’s Christmas power either!
Buy of the week
EDINBURGH is home to the UK’s most stylish properties for sale, according to designer interiors brand Arlo & Jacob.
This stunning studio in the city centre ticks all the on-trend boxes and is on sale for £210,000 at zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details/53350744
Timing is crucial
REMORTGAGING on a Friday, Saturday or Bank Holiday Sunday can cost you more.
Research from MoneySavingExpert.com shows that when your current deal expires, you can’t move on to a new deal until the next working day.
In the meantime, you are shifted to your existing lender’s standard variable rate, which can be up to five times more.
Johanna Noble, the site’s money editor, said: “It’s always worth checking what day of the week the end date falls.
“That way, you’ll be able to factor in any potential extra costs.
“In order to treat customers fairly, it’s also vital that mortgage lenders are transparent about the extra cost.”
Deal of the week
VELVET cushions are an instant way to add Christmas cheer to a sitting room or bedroom.
This Marks & Spencer velvet robin appliqué cushion costs £9.50, around half that of designer versions.
Q) My wife works part-time at a supermarket.
Staff have to use their holiday entitlement to book Christmas Day off, even though it is a bank holiday and the shop is closed. Is this legal?
A)I know it sounds awful, because it is, but companies are not required by law automatically to give staff members the day off at Christmas or on bank holidays.
It is also shocking that companies are not legally required to pay extra for staff who work on these days – most companies do this purely because it would be impossible to find anybody to work on those days.
Whether and when somebody is entitled to leave all depends on what is included in the terms of an employment contract.
In your wife’s case, even if her contract says nothing about paid leave on Christmas Day, her employers cannot expect staff members to have to apply for permission to take holiday when their shop is shut.
That would be a wholly unreasonable and possibly unlawful term in any employment contract.
If your wife isn’t a member of a union, I would suggest that she gets together with some of the other staff and emails her direct line manager, copying in the head of HR.
She must ask this company to specify why they take the view that they are lawfully entitled to force staff to apply for leave when the shop is not open. I suspect they can’t.
Sofa so bad
Q) MY daughter bought a sofa but when it was delivered, it was too big to get for the front door.
The salesman had told her that it would come apart.
But then she was told it would cost £190 for a man to take it apart and reassemble it inside.
Has she got any legal rights to stop her bank from paying the sofa store? Ian, Huddersfield
A) our daughter has no automatic right to reject the sofa or stop the repayments, as it isn’t faulty.
But the salesman made a clear verbal representation that it could be delivered in two pieces without additional expenses.
She should get in touch with the managing director explaining that she only took the sofa on the basis it would fit with no fee.
Their bid to charge more is in breach of contract and unlawful. Be tough and I suspect they will give in.
Q) Around eight years ago I started a relationship with a recently divorced woman. After around six months, she and her ex- husband agreed she would buy him out of the house they had shared for £7,500.
This meant she had to arrange a new mortgage for herself and I loaned her the £10,000 deposit she needed and a further £7,500 to repay her ex-husband.
We were together around six years and since we parted she has repaid me around £3,000 at £100 a month. But in the last five months she has stopped doing so and has ignored messages I have sent.
Do I have any way to ensure she pays me back? Nothing is in writing but I do have statements showing a bank transfer to her for the £17,500 and statements to prove that in the last couple of years she has made a regular payment of £100 a month. Les, Bedford
A) This is not legally straightforward, I’m afraid. When you loan money to family or friends, always get an agreement in writing.
That’s because courts do not see contracts between loved ones as legally enforceable unless the parties can prove they intended to take legal proceedings if things went wrong.
The good news in this case is that, because your ex-partner has paid you back precise instalments over several years, there is evidence of an enforceable verbal agreement which will be extremely significant if you need to bring legal action against her.
Meanwhile I strongly urge you to write to her confirming that she agreed to pay back this money.
If she acknowledges this and still fails to pay, given the sums involved here, you could take her to the Small Claims Court and get a judgment against her.
But I would suggest trying to negotiate smaller instalments with your ex before you get to that stage.
- Judge Rinder regrets he cannot answer questions personally. Answers intended as general guidance. They do not constitute legal advice and are not a substitute for obtaining independent legal advice.
- Got a question for Judge Rinder? Email email@example.com
Mel Hunter, Reader’s champion
Q) I PURCHASED a new Nikon D5600 camera from Jessops in April.
Within days an intermittent fault occurred whereby the camera could not see the data card. This meant I couldn’t take any photos.
The camera was returned to Jessops after 11 days, where a new card was fitted free of charge.
The fault persisted and, a month later, I returned the camera again. New software was installed while I waited. I did request a new camera body, but this was declined by Jessops.
The fault returned within ten days. I stopped using the camera as I had no confidence that it would not fail again and it was costing me money in travel expenses to visit the store.
Several emails were sent to Jessops’ customer service, which has continued to insist the camera must go through its repair process.
For a camera costing just under £700, I believe I am not receiving the service I am due. David Rhodes, Selby
A) By the time you contacted me, the camera was back being repaired and Jessops eventually replaced the digital control hardware.
I am pleased they finally seem to have fixed the camera and you have a six-month guarantee, but if anything further goes wrong, you should insist on nothing less than a new device.
At this time of year, it’s worth other readers knowing their rights: If something goes wrong within the first 30 days, get a replacement or refund.
After the first month, allow them one chance to fix the problem, then ask for your money back.
Q) LAST winter, my landline was so crackly I could barely have a conversation. I twice got engineers out but there was no improvement.
It got impossible to use and a Virgin Media engineer again called in September. He disconnected the line and said a new cable was needed from the road to my house.
I phoned Virgin many times and an engineer was finally booked in . . . but he didn’t turn up.
I am a widowed pensioner and if anything happens to my mobile I will not be able to contact anyone. I feel defeated and frustrated.
What’s more, I am still paying for my line! Sandra Hills, Middlesex
A) You should have been Virgin’s top priority but again an engineer failed to show up for an appointment.
When I got on the case, your luck finally changed.
Virgin called you within 24 hours and arranged for the engineer to finally come out the following day.
He duly restored the landline and sorted out problems with the phone cables inside your house.
Virgin credited your account with £336 to compensate you for the loss of your phone service. This was a huge weight off your shoulders.
A Virgin Media spokesperson said: “We are pleased to have resolved the matter to Mrs Hills’ satisfaction and have compensated her for the disruption she experienced.
“We apologise to Mrs Hills for any inconvenience caused.”
Maddy Tooke, Coupon Queen
My top five freebies this week
- Get a £15 LEGO spend for new Topcashback.co.uk members at bit.ly/tcblego and place an order at LEGO. Expires tomorrow.
- Pack of Bodyform towel and liner samples at bit.ly/freebodyformpack. Available while samples last.
- Vegan starter pack – magazine, recipes and a wallchart – from Viva. Use code VEGANFOOD at bit.ly/veganstarterpack while stocks last.
- Nappy sample from Freelife Nappies at bit.ly/freelifenappies.
- Copy of book The Librarian Of Auschwitz, worth £8.99, for O2 customers from WH Smith high street stores. See bit.ly/o2freebook.
Top 10 deals
- Save ten per cent on Debenhams orders over £50 at bit.ly/debenhams10. Expires tomorrow.
- Get £20 off handset upgrades and free next day delivery at Mobiles.co.uk. Includes Samsung S10. See bit.ly/mobiles20off.
- Get £7 off first bookings over £35 at spa and salon appointment booker Treatwell. See bit.ly/7treatwell. Expires December 31.
- Save 20 per cent on first orders over £60 at River Island before December 30. See bit.ly/20riverisland.
- Get a meat hamper from Muscle Food for £31, down from £59.86. Expires on Tuesday. See bit.ly/msemeathamper.
- Save 20 per cent on fashion, footwear and lingerie orders from JD Williams. Offer ends on Monday. See bit.ly/jdwilliams20.
- Get an extra 20 per cent off outlet orders at Adidas with code HOLIDAY20. Deal ends December 15. See bit.ly/20adidasoutlet.
- Save £18 on first Sainsbury’s grocery orders over £60 with Vouchercodes.co.uk. Combine with 25 per cent off when you buy six bottles of wine to save even more. Both deals end December 15. See bit.ly/sainsburys18.
- Get 10 per cent off Thorntons. Combine with 3-for-2 Christmas chocolate offer to save more. Expires December 31. See bit.ly/thorntons10.
- Save 19 per cent off orders from Footasylum until tomorrow. See bit.ly/footasylum19.