Utility Regulator - Find out how to switch

Register of Financial and Non-Financial Interests – September 2017

17 May 2018

10 May 2018

1 Year Home Electricity 20%

3 May 2018

UR consultation on SONI CMA Costs and K term amendment

26 April 2018

Council Minutes - January 2018

Know Your Rights if Affected by Irish Ferries July 2018 Cancellations

in Transport

The Consumer Council is advising Irish Ferries passengers due to sail from Ireland to France on the WB Yeats ferry in July 2018, to check if they will be affected by the cancellations announced on Friday 20 April.

The Consumer Council, which represents and protects consumers in Northern Ireland, confirmed that passengers are entitled to an alternative sailing at the earliest opportunity or a full refund.

Scott Kennerley, The Consumer Council’s Head of Transport Policy said: “Passengers planning to sail from Ireland to France this summer will be upset to have their plans disrupted. They may not have had this happen before and could be unaware of their rights. The Consumer Council has a guide called Plain Sailing which outlines ferry passengers’ rights. To get your free copy telephone us on 0800 121 6022 or email contact@consumercouncil.org.uk. The leaflet can also be downloaded from our website www.consumercouncil.org.uk. Alternatively passengers can contact us via facebook and twitter.

“Consumers affected by these cancellations should, in the first instance, contact Irish Ferries on 00 353 818 300 400 or email customersupport@irishferries.com. If you are not happy with its response you can contact the National Transport Authority on 00 353 187 98300 or email complaints@nationaltransport.ie,” said Scott.

Your Rights At A Glance

  • Choice of an alternative sailing OR a full refund
  • Overnight accommodation if necessary, provided by the ferry company where possible (but not in instances of severe weather). It can be limited to €80 per night and maximum of three nights.
  • You may be entitled to compensation depending on length of delay to your destination and it will be a percentage of the cost of your ticket price. You are not entitled to compensation where delays are caused by severe weather or extraordinary circumstances.

The Consumer Council to attend natural gas information days

in Energy

SGN Natural Gas are running natural gas information days in the Strabane area throughout April and May.

The Consumer Council is attending the SGN Natural Gas Information Events in the Strabane area throughout April and May. These events aim to inform the local community about the construction of the new gas network, and provide an opportunity to learn more about natural gas.

Consumer Council staff will be on hand to provide independent advice on any energy issues and help local consumers save on their energy bills by demonstrating our energy price comparison tool.

Speaking about the events, Richard Williams, Head of Energy at The Consumer Council said, “We’re delighted to be able to attend these events and engage with consumers in the Strabane area. We are encouraging consumers to come along and review their energy costs to see how they could save money.”

The event details are as follows:

Venue

Date

Time

Strabane P.S. (Derry Road)

Wednesday 18th April

4pm-7pm

Strabane Golf Club (Ballycolman Road)

Thursday 26th April

4pm-7pm

Strabane Library (foyer requested)

Thursday 3rd May

4pm-7pm

Riversdale Leisure Centre (Lisnafin Park)

Thursday 17th May

4pm-7pm

Ballycolman Community centre

Wednesday 23rd May

4pm-7pm

 

For more information on energy switching call 0800 121 6022.

Consumer Clinic

Consumer Clinic

Consumer Clinic

Consumer Clinic

19 April 2018

Balmoral Show 2018

The Consumer Council becomes a JAM Card Friendly Organisation

in Business, Consumer Skills

Francis Fitzsimons displays the JAM Card at The Consumer Council, who has become a JAM Card Friendly Organisation. Pictured with Christine McClune (Now Group) and Sarah Hunter (The Consumer Council).

The Consumer Council has demonstrated its commitment to customers by taking part in training that will ensure its staff are equipped to provide excellent customer service to people with learning difficulties and communication barriers.

The JAM Card, which stands for Just A Minute, is a social innovation from NOW Group an organisation that supports people with learning difficulties and autism into employment. It was their service users who said they would like a discreet way of telling people that sometimes they need a little extra time and patience. The JAM Card was created first as a credit card sized card and has recently been developed into an app for smartphones.

John French, Chief Executive of The Consumer Council, said; “Staff from The Consumer Council were delighted to take part in recent JAM Card awareness training, which provided us with the knowledge we need to ensure that users of the JAM Card feel welcome in our office and at our outreach events throughout Northern Ireland. We would encourage other organisations to sign up for the training.”

You can find out more about the JAM Card at www.jamcard.org and NOW Group at www.nowgroup.org

SGN Natural Gas Event

SGN Natural Gas Event

SGN Natural Gas Event

JAM Card Friendly

12 April 2018

Consumer Council welcomes Enforcement Notice on Parcel Deliveries and Surcharges

in Post

Good news for Northern Ireland consumers who often face delivery restrictions.

The Consumer Council welcomes today’s Enforcement Notice on Advertised Delivery Restrictions and Surcharges to UK retailers, by the Committees of Advertising Practices (CAP).

This notice requires retailers to take immediate action to ensure their delivery practices are not misleading or provide false promotional delivery offers to Northern Ireland.  The notice also provides practical guidance for retailers on how they can be more compliant with consumer legislation.

Speaking about the action, Kellin McCloskey, Head of Postal Services at The Consumer Council said, “The Consumer Council has been working on this problem and has taken the concerns of Northern Ireland consumers straight to UK Government and enforcement agencies, through the Consumer Protection Partnership (CPP).  We are pleased that as a result of this work, CAP have taken action and spelt out clearly to online retailers that misleading claims around parcel deliveries will not be tolerated.”

For more information on parcel deliveries see The Consumer Council’s ‘Guide to Shopping Safely Online’ which can be downloaded from www.consumercouncil.org.uk or call 0800 121 6022 for a free copy. 

Approach to Enforcement - April 2018

5 April 2018

Gas Price Comparison Table April 2018

The Consumer Council welcomes competition for electricity connections

in Energy

The Consumer Council has welcomed the announcement that, as of today, the electricity connections market is open to other service providers.

Under the new process if you are planning to connect a new home, business or renewable technology to the electricity network, you will have a choice to select NIE Networks to build your new connection or to appoint an accredited Independent Connection Provider (ICP) to undertake some of the work.  NIE Networks will still manage all applications for new connections. 

Richard Williams, Head of Energy Policy at The Consumer Council, said; “The announcement is a significant development for consumers, who will have a greater choice when they wish to connect their property to the electricity network. Competition can lead to cheaper prices, however, it is important to also consider other factors such as customer service or how the company may handle complaints if things go wrong.”

NIE Networks has produced a number of information resources explaining how the new process works.

Richard added; “As the new process is rolled out The Consumer Council will work with NIE Networks to inform consumers about the changes. We would like to hear consumers’ experiences of any issues that arise.”

Get in touch via telephone 0800 121 6022, email contact@consumercouncil.org.uk or visit our website www.consumercouncil.org.uk

29 March 2018

22 March 2018

Statement on the NI Water tariff increase

in Water

Graham Smith, Head of Water at The Consumer Council said: “Following Northern Ireland Water’s tariff increase, we are encouraging businesses to contact The Consumer Council to undertake a free water bill health check. This will help businesses understand their water bill and ensure they are receiving the correct allowances. In addition, it will provide practical advice on how businesses can lower their water bills. To book a water bill health check contact The Consumer Council on 0800 121 6022, or email contact@consumercouncil.org.uk.”

The Consumer Council welcomes latest Translink performance results

in Transport

Translink Charter Monitoring Results for Autumn 2017

The Consumer Council is encouraged to see improvements in overall satisfaction and passengers’ perceptions of value for money, following today’s publication of Translink’s Charter Monitoring Results for the Autumn 2017 period.

Metro, Ulsterbus and NI Railways all exceeded their punctuality targets, for the first time since Spring 2015. 

Speaking about the results, Scott Kennerley, Head of Transport Policy at The Consumer Council, said: “We are pleased to see Translink build on the previous positive results from Spring 2017. These figures show Translink is continuing to improve passengers overall satisfaction with public transport services. Perceptions of value for money also continue to be positive with passengers giving some of the highest ratings on record. 

“The Consumer Council will continue to work with Translink with a view to maintaining these positive results”.  

15 March 2018

Keep safe when online, advises The Consumer Council

in Consumer Skills

World Consumer Rights Day – 15 March 2018

Protecting yourself from online cybercrime and scams are two themes for this year’s World Consumer Rights Day, on 15 March 2018. With this in mind, The Consumer Council has 3 top tips on how to shop online safely and avoid being scammed.

Philippa McKeown-Brown, Head of Consumer Empowerment and Protection at The Consumer Council said “Many of us now shop online but not all of us know how to recognise a safe website. Follow our top tips to shop safely online:”

  1. Make sure the website will keep your card details safe – look for ‘https’ in the website address (the ‘s’ stands for secure) and check for a padlock icon in the browser bar.
  2. If you’re buying from a company you haven’t used before, research them first to check reviews and previous customers’ feedback.
  3. Avoid clicking on web links sent to you in an email as these may direct you to a fake (but realistic looking) website. Better to type in a website address yourself into a search engine and see what comes up.

For more top tips download a copy of The Consumer Council’s ‘Guide to Shopping Safely Online’ and ‘Scams – Know the signs, stop the crime’ leaflet from www.consumercouncil.org.uk or request a free hardcopy by telephoning 0800 121 6022, Twitter (ConsumerCouncil) or Facebook (Consumer Council Northern Ireland).

For more information and advice on scams visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni

Consumer Council Freephone Number - Change of Operating Hours

Consumer Council Freephone Number - Change of Operating Hours

in Consumer Skills

Our complaints team is currently investigating high numbers of complaints therefore as a temporary measure our telephone lines will be open Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm daily. This will allow the team some time off the telephones to get caught up on correspondence.

If your call is urgent, and you are calling between the hours of 9am and 10am or 4pm and 5pm, please contact our switchboard on (028) 9025 1600 to speak to a member of staff.

Any messages left before 10am will be picked up once the telephone lines open and will receive a call back within 3 hours. Messages left after 4pm will be returned the next working day after 10am.

You can also contact us via email at contact@consumercouncil.org.uk and your complaint will be acknowledged within 3 working days.

Firmus Energy customers urged to check if they are getting the best deal following tariff increase

in Energy

The Consumer Council is urging Firmus Energy gas customers in the Ten Towns  and Greater Belfast areas to consider ways to save on their household energy bills. This follows the announcement that Firmus Energy is to put up gas prices in the Ten Towns area by 6.8% from 5 April 2018, and in the Greater Belfast market by 8.8% from 16 April 2018. 

Firmus Energy is the second gas supplier to announce a tariff increase in the last week, following SSE Airtricity’s announcement of a 7.8% increase in Greater Belfast. 

Speaking about the price increase, Richard Williams, Head of Energy at The Consumer Council, said: “This is unwelcome news, however we know that the Ten Towns tariff is analysed by the Utility Regulator, and in Greater Belfast Firmus Energy competes with SSE Airtricity’s ‘regulated’ tariff.  

“Following the price increase, the typical Firmus Energy annual bill in Ten Towns will increase by £39 per year to £619. This compares to £534 for regulated SSE Airtricity customers in Greater Belfast.  This difference is mainly due to Firmus Energy recovering a previous discount on the tariff which was designed to encourage the take up of natural gas in the early days of its roll out in the Ten Towns.  The Utility Regulator has determined that this additional cost will be paid off by consumers by December 2019.   

“Firmus Energy is the sole supplier of gas in the Ten Towns, however switching payment and billing method, or implementing simple energy efficiency measures, can help save these customers money. Firmus Energy customers in Greater Belfast will see a typical bill increase by £45.  We would encourage these customers to shop around and get the best possible deal. The Consumer Council’s free online price comparison tool will help consumers check if they are on the best deal”

Copies of all resources and guides are available from our website www.consumercouncil.org.uk, by phoning 0800 121 6022, or via our Facebook or Twitter

 

Household Flood Insurance Survey

in Water

We are researching how financial services work for consumers in Northern Ireland. Part of this work is looking at household flood insurance.

If you have experienced household flooding in recent years  and have had issues we household flood insurance then we are keen to hear from you via our short survey.

The survey is anonymous and responses will be sent directly to us. It should take no more than five minutes to complete.

If you have any questions, or would prefer someone to complete the survey on your behalf via the telephone contact us on 028 9025 1600. Alternatively we can post a copy of the survey posted to you.

To complete the survey click here.

8 March 2018

Review your energy bills following SSE Airtricity 7.8% gas tariff increase, says The Consumer Counci

in Energy

SSE Airtricity Gas Tariff Increase to Affect 150,000 Customers

The Consumer Council is encouraging consumers to consider ways to save on their household energy bills, following the announcement that SSE Airtricity is to put up gas prices in the Greater Belfast  area by 7.8%, with effect from 1 April 2018. 

Speaking about the price increase, Richard Williams, Head of Energy at The Consumer Council said: “Whilst unwelcome news, we know that the SSE Airtricity domestic gas price is regulated and the component parts of the price are analysed by the Utility Regulator. Therefore consumers are paying a price that reflects the increased cost of supplying gas. Consumers need to consider all the ways that they can save on their energy bills, including shopping around and becoming more energy efficient. 

“Now is a good time for consumers to take control of all their energy bills and review all their energy costs, including electricity. The Consumer Council’s free online Energy Price Comparison Tool lets consumers compare gas and electricity tariffs currently available with all suppliers. Switching payment, changing billing method or implementing simple energy efficiency measures, can also help save money. We have lots of resources to help; including a step by step switching guide and energy efficiency advice.” 

The increase will affect 150,000 SSE Airtricity gas customers in Belfast and new domestic customers in Strabane. It will see a typical household annual gas bill rise by £39 per year. 

Copies of all resources and guides are available from our website www.consumercouncil.org.uk, by phoning 0800 121 6022, or via our Facebook or Twitter

 

Check You Are Getting the Best Deal Advises Consumer Council

in Transport

Following today’s fares announcement from Translink that fares are due to increase on the 26 March 2018, The Consumer Council is advising passengers to ensure they are on the best value ticket.

Speaking about the announcement, Scott Kennerley, Head of Transport at The Consumer Council said “No one wants to see fares increase.  We know a lot of people still buy single or return fares in cash, but if you are a regular traveller there are better ticket options available.

“For example, a passenger travelling on Metro in the Belfast City Zone will pay £2 in cash per journey. The same journey using a multi journey card will be £1.45 after the fare review, a saving of 55p per journey or £5.50 over 10 journeys. A passenger travelling on the Goldline 212 service between Derry/Londonderry and Belfast will pay £19 for a return ticket if paying by cash. The same journey will only cost £13.801 using a Smartlink card, a saving of £5.20 on one return journey.   

Continuing Scott said, “Translink has a wide range of tickets available so it’s important to know what the best value tickets are based on the journey you are taking. Our advice is to contact Translink and make sure you are getting the best deal.”

Anyone who wants more information on the best tickets available should visit the ‘What Ticket’ section on the Translink website www.translink.co.uk  or contact the Translink Contact Centre on 028 9066 6630.

1 March 2018

Weather: Useful Information

in Energy, Transport, Water

We have a range of useful guides and fact sheets that may be of use during bad weather. Please also see below for other useful contact numbers.

Useful Resources 

Weather the Winter leaflet

'During A Powercut' leaflet

Flooding Advice Guide

'Flight Disruption Caused By Severe Weather' fact sheet

'Plain Sailing' guide

 

Useful Contacts

  • NI Water Waterline - T: 03457 440088
    W: www.niwater.com/winter-proof-your-home.aspx
     
  • Translink Contact Centre - T: 028 9066 6630
     
  • NIE Networks - T: 03457 643 643 W: www.nienetworks.co.uk 
     
  • Flooding Incident Line - T: ​0300 2000 100
     
  • NI Gas Emergency Services - T: 0800 002 001
     
  • Royal Mail - W: www.royalmail.com/serviceupdate 

What to do when a company goes out of business

Old Bank of England £10 notes expire next week

in Consumer Skills, Money Affairs

The old paper £10 note will cease to be legal tender from 1 March 2018

The Consumer Council is urging consumers to hunt out their old paper Bank of England £10 notes and either spend or exchange them at the bank or Post Office, before they become worthless next week.

The paper Bank of England £10 note will cease to be legal tender from 1 March 2018 and will no longer be accepted in retail outlets. The paper note has been replaced with a newer polymer £10 note which features a portrait of Jane Austen and has a number of security features to help combat counterfeiters.

Philippa McKeown Brown, Head of Consumer Empowerment and Protection at the Consumer Council, said; “In just under a week’s time the old £10 notes will cease to be legal tender and you will be unable to use them as a method of payment. We are urging consumers to hunt out any old paper £10 notes and either spend them or exchange them at their bank or Post Office.”

22 February 2018

3rd Ards Scouts receive their ‘Consumer Scout’ badge

in Consumer Skills

Scouts from the 3rd Ards Scout Unit, Newtownards recently received their ‘Consumer Scout’ badge.

The ‘Consumer Scout’ badge has been developed by The Consumer Council and Scouts NI, to help raise young people’s awareness of their consumer rights when they shop online or on the high street. The ‘Consumer Scout’ is currently being rolled to 150 Scout groups across Northern Ireland, reaching approximately 2,400 young consumers aged between 10 ½ – 14.  For more information on being a member of Scouts NI or finding your nearest unit, contact 028 9049 2829 or visit www.scoutsni.org. To find out more about the ‘Consumer Scout’ initiative or your consumer rights contact The Consumer Council on 0800 121 6022.

The Consumer Council consultation response on Changes to the Affordable Warmth Scheme

The Consumer Council response to Utility Regulator Draft Forward Work Programme

15 February 2018

Council Minutes - December 2017

The Consumer Council response to OFCOM’s proposed annual plan 2018

The Consumer Council response to Citizens Advice workplan

Translink Site Visit Report

Stena Line Site Visit Report

8 February 2018

Freedom Tariff

Consumer Parliament coming to Derry / Londonderry 23 March 2018

in Consumer Skills

Residents in Derry City and Strabane District Council area will soon get to have their say on the consumer issues that concern them, thanks to The Consumer Council which is staging a ‘Consumer Parliament’, in partnership with Derry City and Strabane District Council, at the Guildhall on Friday, 23 March.

Welcoming the Consumer Parliament to the City, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Maolíosa McHugh, encouraged residents to take advantage of this fantastic opportunity: “Whatever your age, wherever you live and whatever you do, I hope you will come along to this event and raise any consumer concerns you have directly with the people who can help you,” he said.

“Not only will you be able to have your voice heard, you will also be able to learn about your rights as a consumer, get tips to reduce your household bills, and get help with your enquiries and complaints.”

Sheila McClelland, Chair of The Consumer Council, expressed her appreciation of the support that Derry City and Strabane District Council had provided, including the use of the Guildhall: “We received extremely positive feedback from participants at our first Consumer Parliament in Belfast last year, so we are very excited to be able now to provide the same opportunity to consumers in Derry City and Strabane District Council,” she said.

“Northern Ireland may be small, but the issues consumers face can be very different depending not only on their situation but also where they live.  For that reason, the Consumer Parliament will include a dedicated session on flooding as well as sessions on postal services, transport issues and home energy.

“We want to hear directly from residents about the issues they have and ensure they are provided with the necessary support.” 

The Consumer Parliament will run from 10.00am to 3.30pm on Friday 23 March at the Guildhall.  Registration will open at 9.00am.

A consumer clinic – to provide one-on-one support to residents – will run simultaneously throughout the day.

There will also be exhibition stands from a range of consumer organisations, utilities and service providers. 

To register for the Consumer Parliament visit www.consumercouncil.org.uk/consumerparliament or call free on 0800 121 6022. 

Residents unable to attend can still have their say by completing a short survey available at www.consumercouncil.org.uk/consumerparliament

Refreshments and lunch will be provided free of charge – register early as spaces will be limited.

 

Current Account Comparison Table

SGN Natural Gas Information Event

Experiences and attitudes of vulnerable consumers and businesses to the postal service

The Consumer Council - Helping Your Business

Consumer Parliament

1 February 2018

Consumer Parliament

Electricity Price Comparison Table April 2018

Flying this spring/summer?

Need home heating oil?

Got a Complaint?

Save on your energy bill

Don’t be left out of pocket advises The Consumer Council

in Energy, Consumer Skills

Pay As You Go Energy Top Up Scam.

The Consumer Council and PSNI are advising consumers to be extra vigilant about bogus callers on your doorstep or social media sites offering discounted pay as you go electricity top ups. This is a scam and consumers doing this will end up paying twice for their energy supply. 

Electricity and gas top ups should only be purchased from official PayPoint or Payzone outlets or directly from the energy supplier’s website, app or telephone service, and not from a doorstep seller or via social media.

John French, Chief Executive of The Consumer Council, explains: “Energy suppliers will never call at your door offering discounted energy top ups. If this does happen we ask you to follow the advice below to help protect you from a scam and ultimately losing money.”

  • Don’t ever buy an electricity or gas top-up from someone who calls to your door.
  • Do buy electricity and gas top-ups only from official outlets or directly from your supplier.
  • Stop and think; if someone is trying to sell you something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you buy a top-up this way, you will be the one that ends up out of pocket as you’ll have to pay twice for it.
  • Be aware of fraudsters calling at your door. Insist on time to speak to a family member before making your decision. Never give your bank details, credit card or other personal details to anyone calling at your door until you have checked their credentials and are completely satisfied they are genuine.
  • If you’re worried about someone who is calling at your door, phone 101, the PSNI’s non-emergency number. In an emergency, always dial 999.

For more information on scams, download a copy of The Consumer Council’s  ‘Know the signs, stop the crime’ scams leaflet at www.consumercouncil.org.uk or call freephone 0800 121 6022 for a free copy.

 

Ofcom Recovering postal regulation and consumer advocacy costs

Post Office Network Consultation

The Consumer Advocacy Bodies response to Ofcom’s Review of the Regulation of Royal Mail

The Consumer Council statement on Kilroot and Ballylumford Power Stations

in Energy

John French, Chief Executive of The Consumer Council, said: “Following today’s announcement by AES, assurances will need to be provided to Northern Ireland consumers about the long and medium term cost and reliability of electricity in Northern Ireland.


“The Consumer Council recognises that Northern Ireland’s energy market has become increasingly diversified in recent years with renewables now playing a key role, and that the new Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM), will over this auction period (16 months from 23 May 2018) bring cost savings. However, over the last three years Kilroot has met around one-fifth of Northern Ireland’s electricity demand, and therefore reassurances are needed from both the I-SEM Committee and System Operator for NI (SONI) that this will ultimately not be counter-productive for Northern Ireland’s consumers in the long and medium term.” 

 

 

Unfair Private Parking Charges Factsheet

25 January 2018

Consumer Council welcomes north-south electricity interconnector planning decision

in Energy

Welcoming the planning decision, John French, Chief Executive of The Consumer Council, said: “The Consumer Council welcomes today’s announcement from the Department for Infrastructure regarding the planning go-ahead for the construction of the second north-south electricity interconnector. The Consumer Council looks forward to working with SONI, Utility Regulator and NIE Networks to ensure the interconnector delivers the expected benefits and is completed in the most cost effective way for consumers.”

Young at Heart Retirement Exhibition - Craigavon

18th January 2018

Goods and Services

Ban on credit and debit card surcharges comes into effect on Saturday 13 January

in Consumer Skills, Money Affairs

The Consumer Council wants to remind consumers that from this Saturday businesses can no longer apply an additional charge (surcharge) to your order when you pay by debit or credit card.

Dr Catriona MacArthur, Director of Consumer Insight, Empowerment and Protection at The Consumer Council, said: “There have been fears expressed that the ban on surcharges will lead to price increases as businesses seek to recoup their costs elsewhere. Already there is evidence of some companies replacing the card surcharge with a ‘service charge’.  We may also see more businesses impose a minimum spending limit, or a refusal of card payments altogether. 

“However, in spite of these fears, we believe the ban is a positive move as prices should become more transparent, making shopping around and price comparison easier for consumers. 

 “Another important benefit is that it will prevent consumers being deterred from using their credit or debit card to make payments. Credit cards offer greater protection for purchases of single items costing over £100 up to £30,000 as the credit card provider must by law help get your money back if problems arise. The Chargeback process is also available for credit card purchases under £100, and all debit card purchases.” 

To find out more about protection offered by different payment methods, please contact The Consumer Council on 0800 121 6022 for your free copy of Safer Ways to Pay, or you can download it from www.consumercouncil.org.uk

If you notice any businesses not complying with the ban on credit and debit card surcharges you should report this to Trading Standards Service via Consumerline: 0300 123 6262.

11 January 2018

Young at Heart Retirement Living Exhibition - Belfast

Postal Resources

Consumer Clinic

Consumer Clinic

Consumer Clinic

4th January 2018

Hospital union members land airline compensation with help from The Consumer Council

in Transport

17 union members get back £4,513 in airline compensation

Union members from a number of Northern Ireland hospitals are flying high after receiving over £4,500 compensation for cancelled flights.  

Members of the UNISON public service union were due to return from London following a conference in June. Their flight from Gatwick was cancelled leaving the passengers stranded. When they finally made it home on later flights, they contacted the airline for compensation, without success.  

John Murray, Belfast City Hospital UNISON Representative, said; “After the airline failed to compensate passengers, I saw a tweet by another passenger who had contacted The Consumer Council. I followed suit and as a result 17 members of UNISON were able to obtain a total of £4,513 in compensation. We are delighted with the way The Consumer Council handled our case, and would recommend anyone else who experiences problems to get in touch with them.”  

Noleen Charnley, Consumer Empowerment Officer at The Consumer Council, said; “We are delighted to have helped Belfast City Hospital UNISON members receive compensation from the airline. This shows the power of social media, and thanks to one passenger sharing their successful outcome, we were then contacted by several others! If anyone else is experiencing difficulties in obtaining compensation for delayed or cancelled flights, The Consumer Council is here to help”.   

For more information about your passengers rights, visit: www.consumercouncil.org.uk/transport/air-travel or telephone 0800 121 6022 for a free copy of The Consumer Council’s ‘Plane Facts’ guide. 

Postal Complaints

28 December 2017

Giving back this Christmas - Advice for returning unwanted gifts

in Post

Tis the season of giving but on occasions we may wish not to receive some gifts (e.g. itchy jumpers or pungent soap).

Philippa McKeown-Brown, Head of Consumer Empowerment and Protection at The Consumer Council, said: “Sometimes we are given a Christmas present, which either we already have, isn’t suitable or we simply won’t use. In these cases we are often left wondering what to do.  The Consumer Council has developed a checklist for those of us who may receive unwanted gifts.”

Returning unwanted gifts checklist:

  • Check the retailer’s refund policy. By law, a retailer doesn’t have to do anything if there’s nothing wrong with the item other than that you don’t want it, but many stores will offer gestures of goodwill such as an exchange or credit note.
  • If the item was bought by debit or credit card, and you haven’t been given a gift receipt, the cardholder will need to be present to enable the refund to go back on their card.
  • You will probably be asked for proof of purchase. The best way to do this is to have the receipt, or a gift receipt. However, if the item was bought by card then a bank statement will also act as proof. As above, the account holder will need to be present. 
  • Not all goods can be returned, for example DVDs and games which have had the seal broken or goods that have been personalised e.g. engraved with your name or perishable items like a food hamper.
  • If you receive a gift which is faulty, not fit for purpose or of unsatisfactory quality, you should contact the person who gave you the gift as they have 30 days to reject the item and return it for a refund.
  • If a fault appears after 30 days, you still have consumer rights. In fact, you have up to six years to complain if it’s reasonable to expect the gift item to last that long.
  • To find out more about your rights under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=781v8vfGvTQ or telephone us for a factsheet on your rights as a consumer.

For further information, The Consumer Council has produced a ‘Returning Unwanted Gifts’ factsheet. This can downloaded at www.consumercouncil.org.uk or to request a free copy call 0800 121 6022 or email info@consumercouncil.org.uk. You can also get in touch with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Help is at hand with Christmas postal issues

in Post

The Consumer Council provides advice for lost, damaged, delayed or mis-delivered Christmas post.

The Consumer Council is advising consumers to complain if they have experienced problems with their Christmas post.

Kellin McCloskey, Head of Post at The Consumer Council said; “Many of us will have ordered online or sent parcels this Christmas. Whilst most items will have arrived hassle free, some of us may have experienced issues with damaged, delayed or mis-delivered items, causing loved ones to have missed out on their gifts or being left out of pocket for a gift which didn’t arrive.

“If you have had a problem with your mail, you can complain and may be entitled to refund or compensation. If your complaint is about a postal delivery regarding an online purchase you should firstly contact the retailer. However, if your complaint is in relation to the postal operator with whom you have organised delivery you should contact them directly.”

Kellin added, “If you are hitting the January sales online then we would also advise you to always check the delivery terms and conditions before ordering to check the terms and conditions and if there are any delivery restrictions.”

Any consumer who has a postal enquiry or complaint can download The Consumer Council postal guide ‘Making a Postal Complaint’ by visiting www.consumercouncil.org.uk or get in touch on 0800 121 6022.

Draft Forward Work Programme Consultation Event

Draft Forward Work Programme 2018-19

21 December 2017

Response to Utility Regulator Call for Evidence TPI in the non domestic retail market

Council Minutes - October 2017

Dreaming of a light Christmas energy bill

in Energy

Get the gift of reduced energy bills: Festive energy savings tips to help reduce New Year energy bills


The Consumer Council is encouraging households to be energy efficient this Christmas.  
Richard Williams, Head of Energy at The Consumer Council explains “It can be easy for energy consumption to increase over the Christmas holidays.  However there are a number of simple measures you can make to help reduce New Year energy bills.”

  • Ask Santa for a cheaper energy supplier – Check to see if you can get a better energy deal – use our online energy price comparison tool here
  • Elf time hours - If on Economy 7 save money by using large appliances at night time. 
  • Festive lights – Switch to more efficient LED Christmas lights and turn off room lights when the tree is lit. Consider purchasing a timer, otherwise remember to turn off the festive lights before going to bed.   
  • Christmas dinner - Leave the oven door open after cooking to let the heat warm your kitchen or dining area.
  • Christmas dishes – Make sure you fill the dishwasher before putting it on. The fuller the load, the more efficient the cycle. Same applies for the washing machine. 
  • Christmas gadgets - Turn your TVs, games consoles and computers off when not in use and don’t leave on standby. 

The Consumer Council has a range of resources, including our online electricity price comparison tool to our step by step guide to the switching process, to help consumers save money on their energy bills. Copies of all resources and guides are available to download from www.consumercouncil.org.uk, by contacting us on 0800 121 6022 or via Facebook or Twitter.

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