Additional advice areas
If you have ever bought anything from a shop or a website then you are a consumer. Computers, clothes, cars, CDs etc are known as 'goods', whereas bank/ insurance products, meals in restaurants, contracts or transport (bus/train journeys) are all types of 'services'.
Whether you are a consumer of goods, or services, or both, the law protects you from traders who treat you unfairly, or sell you faulty items. You have legal (statutory) rights even when you buy things online, via your phone or on Ebay/auction sites.
The law does not give you any rights to exchange or get a refund for items that you have just changed your mind about, does not fit, or you have bought the wrong colour. Many shops will help in these situations as a gesture of good will, but they have no legal obligation to do so.
If you have a problem with goods or services you have bought, make sure you know what your rights are and understand the obligations of the seller before you start negotiating with them. Time is often an important factor in consumer contracts, so make sure you find out what your rights are and act on this in a reasonable time.
Our advisers are able to help you understand your rights in your own particular situation. Contact us to make an appointment, or email your query to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Problems with Goods
Goods should be; ‘…of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable length of time.’ Sale of Goods Act 1979.
Even if you bought the item in a sale, it must still fulfil the above. However, if you are trying to change something just because you don't like it any more, or the colour is wrong, the shop does not have to give you a refund or replace it.
If you do have a legitimate reason to take the item back, you don’t have to have a receipt (although it does help), as long as you can prove you bought it there, a bank or credit card statement is enough.
If you bought online you actually have more rights because these sales come under the Distance Selling regulations. However, you probably will have to pay to send the item back.
Our Advisers will be able to advise you further on your specific situation, so please call us to arrange an appointment.
Problems with Services
A service is anything from a meal in a restaurant, insurance or bank products, or even your University Halls accommodation.
The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, says that services provided should be carried out with reasonable care and skill, within a reasonable time, and at a reasonable cost.
The emphasis is on the word reasonable and this is always open to debate.
Common problems for students are utility companies (e.g. gas, water, electricity, broadband etc), mobile phone contracts, and banks/insurance products.
Because the test of ‘reasonableness’ is open to interpretation, it may be best for you to come and talk about your problem with a service to one of our advisers. You can email us email@example.com, or contact us to make an appointment.
However, if you don’t want to read more about your rights and how to negotiate with a service provider the Money Saving Expert website has a lot of useful information as does the Citizens Advice website.
These days, scams or frauds are a sad fact of life and the scammers are always finding new and inventive ways of taking your money from you.
Firstly, most people will be caught by a clever scammer so you have nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about if you get caught out. Unfortunately, students are often the target for scams.
Some of the classic scams we have seen are:
- The house that does not exist Students are lured by lovely photos of a house or flat. When they contact the landlord, he/she asks for money to be sent (usually via Western Union Credit) to ‘prove’ they are really interested/have the money. They may suggest you send it to a friend, but the money will be intercepted and you won't see it again. Any landlord that asks for money before you have even seen the property should set your alarm bells ringing.
- Insurance through a person from your home country This can seem reassuring and helpful, but they are often using a stolen credit card to pay for the insurance. You may get the paper work, but then the policy is cancelled and you are left uninsured. Always arrange your insurance through a proper broker; if they only have a mobile phone number you should be concerned!
- Emails from a friend in need This scam involves an email from someone you know telling you they have been robbed and are in a foreign country without money to get a new passport. Never send money to such a request. Always check to see if the story is true first.
- Mystery Shopper jobs This ‘job’ offer involves you paying a cheque into a bank/or other organisation keeping a portion of the money for yourself (your wages) and returning the remainder with your ‘report’ on the business they asked you to use. The cheque will bounce and you will be left short of money, with no way of recovering it.
There are many more scams out there, if something feels wrong, talk to one of our advisers first. It is always better to be safe than sorry!
If you have been a victim of a scam, report it to us or to Action Fraud.
Unfair Trading Practices and Rogue Traders
Most of the laws that deal with unfair commercial practices are covered by the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (2008). These rules set out clearly what unfair commercial practices are. They are there to make sure that traders act in an open and honest way and give you all the information you need to make free and well-informed buying choices.
They also protect you against aggressive selling techniques and traders who mislead you about their products or services. This may include companies who pressurise you into signing a contract, or entice you with incentives, that turn out to be not as good as they lead you to believe.
If a trader does something you think is dishonest or unfair but doesn't seem to be covered by the specific banned practices then there is a catch-all category in the regulations called general prohibition which places a general duty on traders not to trade unfairly.
We have strong links with the local Charnwood Citizens Advice Bureau, who run a special project known as the Consumer Information Gathering Service.
This scheme uses information (given by clients of local CAB's and ourselves) about traders who use unfair and dangerous trading practices. The information helps Leicestershire Trading Standards identify businesses which are acting outside the law so that the problem can be stopped at source.
We pass information received from students (with their permission) to help ensure that Leicestershire and Loughborough residents are not unfairly treated by rogue traders. Talk to an adviser if you have experienced problems with trader using unfair or dangerous practices.
We recommend that you take out insurance when you are renting a private house in town as unexpected accidents or events can quickly leave you large sums of money out of pocket!! Insurance is often the item that most people skimp on, then regret it later.
Home Contents Insurance (including personal liability insurance)
Home contents insurance covers your possessions against damage and theft, personal liability, which is intended for those unexpected incidents where you might be held financially responsible for damages you cause to another person or their property, and accidental damage to your (rental) property.
If you are living in Loughborough University student accommodation, insurance is included in the price. But check the small print to see what is covered and note that cover is different for Unite halls (iv). Cover can be extended, at your expense, if required.
Personal liability is often included on these policies; this is very important as it covers you if you do damage to someone else or their property e.g. if you hit a car when cycling.
Other private halls may provide insurance; you need to check with them to see if they do.
If you are living in private rented accommodation you should take out this type of insurance to cover your possessions but also to cover you for accidental damage to the property that they landlord may be able to claim from you. For example, if the bath floods because you left it running, and the ceiling collapses!
Home contents insurance for a student house isn’t always easy to get. This is often because most policies like to cover the house, not the person, making it tricky if you've got flatmates.
Bikes are often not covered under insurance policies so check the small print.
It is illegal in the UK to drive a vehicle on a road or in a public place without valid insurance, a valid driving licence or road tax and there are severe penalties for non-compliance. This is because if you cause injury to another person or damage to their vehicle/property and it is your fault, you may be held legally (and financially) responsible (iii).
There are three different types of vehicle insurance policies:
Third party only
This is the minimum level of cover you can have and is therefore the cheapest option. It only protects others on the roads and property. If you have an accident that is your fault, the policy will cover the damage you cause to another vehicle, but not the damage to your own vehicle, so you will have to pay this cost yourself.
Third party, fire and theft
As third party only, but also includes cover if your car is stolen or catches fire.
This is the widest cover available. If you have an accident that was your fault, you can claim the cost of repairing your car in addition to any damage caused to another vehicle or property. You are usually also covered for accidental damage, vandalism and windscreen repair- but check the cover before you buy.
The cost of insurance will vary depending on your personal circumstances and on the amount of excess (the amount you pay towards any claim) you agree to pay. Insurers will also take into account the age of the car, your age, whether you have had any claims in the past etc.
Where to buy insurance in the UK
If you are looking to buy insurance in the UK you can do this via insurance company websites, the phone or in person in an insurance broker’s office.
- Insurance brokers use a wide range of insurance companies and will work on your behalf to get the best deal for your needs. Brokers can be beneficial as they will talk to you in person and take the time to understand your needs. The British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) can help you find a local broker (v). Brokers can also help you if you have to make a claim on the policy.
- Insurance company- you can get a direct quote from them but you will still have to shop around to get other quotes.
- Insurance comparison sites can be helpful to give you an idea of the cost of the insurance you want. No single comparison site captures all the companies, so again it is best to use more than one to find the best quote.
Moneysavingexpert.com (vi) offers various ways to find the best deal including using comparison websites.
Whatever insurance you are looking for it is always best to shop around. Don’t be misled into thinking that the cheapest is the best. You need to read what is actually covered (and not covered) in the policy before buying. Ask yourself if it meets your needs. If not then keep looking around.
Where not to buy
Whatever you do, DO NOT buy insurance from a ‘friend’ or a person you have met in a chat room, even if the insurance they are offering appears to be genuine. Use only the options mentioned above. Only use Brokers who are listed in the BIBA website (v).
Policy - A document detailing the terms and conditions of your insurance contract.
Cover- The amount of risk or liability included under your policy.
Excess- The first portion of a claim that will be paid by you (the policy holder).
Premium- The amount paid for the insurance cover.
Insurance Premium Tax- Added to most insurance premiums issued in the UK.
Claim- Request made by you (the insured) to the insurance company asking for a payment under the policy e.g. if you have a car accident etc.