A GROUP of 12 robbers in New York stripped a man of his clothes and cell phone in broad daylight on a downtown Manhattan street…
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
BEAT the big freeze and make your home more energy efficient.
With the lockdown meaning we’re all at home more, heating bills are a worry for many.
But following these six simple tips can cut costs and even boost your home’s value. You can find out more at energysavingtrust.org.uk.
1) Lag your loft: Insulating your loft costs around £300 to £400 but you will get the cash back in around two years through lower energy bills. Use insulation at least 270mm thick.
2) Draught-proof: Do both windows and doors for maximum impact. Door draught excluders start at less than £4 while window weather strips are as little as £2.50. Try Screwfix or a builders’ merchant.
3) Fit curtains as well as blinds: Big curtains are back in fashion, so not only will your room look stylish, you will keep heat in too. Close them at dusk for maximum warmth and open them when the sun comes up to let heat back in. Dunelm.com has an affordable range.
4) Let heat circulate: Move heavy furniture away from your radiators. Shelving above? Add foil to the bottom to reflect heat into the room.
5) Bleed your radiators regularly: This costs nothing to do but will ensure your radiators work efficiently. For a handy guide on how to do it see uswitch.com/energy-saving/guides/how-to-bleed-a-radiator.
6) Insulate pipes and tanks: These lose heat quickly so fit lagging to keep them warmer for longer.
Deal of the week
BUY ’ECC! The town in Greater Manchester with a cake named after it, Eccles, has seen the nation’s biggest asking price growth in the last year according to Rightmove – up 16 per cent.
You can snap up a tasty one-bed apartment in the building above for £120,000 at rightmove.co.uk/properties/73259316.
Useful to know
REFORMS that will allow leases on homes to be extended by 990 years could save leaseholders tens of thousands of pounds.
The shake-up means millions of people will no longer have to pay any ground rent to freeholders, removing added expense from owning a home.
Check out the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership for what the changes could mean for you at leaseholdknowledge.com.
Buy of the week
GOING into full Mrs Hinch mode on your home for the new year?
Get organised with this £1.50 cleaning supplies box from bmstores.co.uk.
SAVE: £3 on similar items elsewhere
Q) I GOT a county court judgement against a certain person in February 2020, entitling me to the sum claimed as well as fixed costs and interest.
This person seems to know the system as I have since discovered they have three other unsatisfied records against them and may have changed address.
Are they legally bound to inform the court of their new address? If not, how do I enforce payment? Jane, Tyne and Wear
A) It is up to you to ensure the judgment and enforcement proceedings are properly issued against this nasty person. You are not required to conduct some sort of Perry Mason investigation to find his whereabouts.
The court’s order must be served at the defendant’s last known address. So your first step is to ensure the judgment was correctly sent to this person (the address he submitted in response to the proceedings you brought is the starting point).
If he has vanished, you could (and perhaps should) spend some time and money instructing an inquiry agent who would probably have no difficulty finding this man.
As soon as the agents have a confirmed address, proceedings can begin and, if necessary, court bailiffs can get involved.
You must be tough here. Too many people let it slide and defendants get off scot-free.
Skip to the end
Q) SIXTEEN weeks ago, my dad hired a skip. It was just for the weekend but the owner hasn’t come back to pick it up, so it’s in my parents’ driveway and Dad can’t park his car.
The firm’s owner refuses to pick it up, but is still advertising his skip hire company. What can we do? Carrie, Dorset
A) This company is not only in breach of its contract with you to remove the skip once it was full, it is now causing a legal nuisance to your property.
Your first option is to write threatening legal action unless the skip is removed within seven days.
The next best option, if this firm still refuses, is to get in touch with another waste disposal company and invite them to give you a quote for removing everything.
Once you have obtained this, you should then inform the original skip company you will be using this new firm and sending them the bill.
Q) ON October 16 I took a faulty laptop back to the store where I bought it. I had its care-plan insurance so was entitled to an e-voucher for the purchase price if the firm was unable to repair it.
It turns out the laptop was irreparable so I asked for the e-voucher. I was told I would get it within three days but nothing appeared.
It took until early November to get in touch with the repair facility again and I was then told there was a problem with my e-voucher as they had two mobile phone numbers listed against my repair – mine and one I did not recognise.
The voucher was supposedly sent to the other one.
I was told the company had to carry out checks to see if I or my family had a connection to this number and would get back to me within a couple of working days.
I called the police to say I might be a victim of fraud. They said this was not in their remit and passed me on to Trading Standards – on whose advice I sent a recorded-delivery letter to the store’s customer services director asking for a response by December 20. Again nothing.
I’m 73 and stuck at home due to Covid. I really need that laptop. Peter, Milton Keynes
A) You have done everything correctly so far. By the sound of it, you are entitled by law to a replacement laptop, a full repair or a voucher like the one this firm offered as part of its insurance package.
I do not understand why this company is attempting to deny this on the basis of some erroneous suggestion there are two mobile phone numbers on the account.
This seems to me, as you say, a rather alarming attempt to fob you off.
Write to the MD of the firm making clear that your statutory consumer rights are in no way affected by the phone numbers on the account and demand a full refund or a voucher.
If the company refuses, I suggest you publicise precisely what has happened and take the company to the small claims court. The law is on your side.
Mel Hunter, Consumer champion
Q) LAST summer we rented a boat on the Norfolk Broads with Hoseasons for £1,500.
We set off in horrendous weather and as we moored, my husband lost his footing and fell, hitting the dockside before rolling into the water.
He was rescued by two people from another boat. He injured his leg, arm and side.
We took the boat back as my husband was unable to continue. He later collapsed at home, though fortunately made a recovery.
We had insurance via Hoseasons but since that day the only way we have been able to contact the company is on Facebook.
We can’t get through by phone or email and they won’t answer questions or offer help. One employee said they would send insurance forms but nothing arrived.
We have no way of making a claim unless we get that paperwork. Gillian, Peterborough
A) Before contacting me, you tried every which way to get hold of Hoseasons, to no avail.
When you spoke directly to the insurance company, it said the claim had to come from Hoseasons.
What’s more, you believed there was a 14-day limit on lodging the claim that had long passed.
I was able to get through to the right person at Hoseasons and asked them to send you all the information you needed. I am pleased to say the firm went one better, refunding the full cost of your ruined holiday.
It should now be much easier to get through to the company on the phone.
A spokesperson for Hoseasons said: “We understand how distressing it is when a customer has to cut short their break due to an accident.
"That’s why cancellation and curtailment protection is included in the price of all our boat bookings.
"We have apologised to the customer for the delay in handling this case and processed a full refund as a gesture of goodwill."
Q) I HAVE a dual gas-electric account with Scottish Power. The outstanding bill I was given is £4,600.
Until I had a new gas meter fitted in December 2019, I was able to claim back overpayments.
Scottish Power agrees the bill is wrong but I can’t get it to rectify the situation.
The amount of money owing against my name has caused me great worry.
I can’t swap to another supplier with a cheaper tariff due to this situation. Mike, Barnsley
A) You were stuck with Scottish Power until it sorted this out for you – but despite numerous conversations and emails, your fuel account remained thousands in arrears.
I put a rocket up the supplier and got things moving. It turned out your new meter already (wrongly) had 9,000 units on it, suggesting you were guzzling gas.
The firm cancelled the £4,600 bill and recalculated it to £519.
It also gave you £150 as a goodwill gesture and said: “We would like to apologise for the significant error on Mr Dawson’s energy bill.”
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