Episode 10 Rip Off Britain


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Episode 10

Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville travel the country tackling sharp practices affecting consumers and investigating rip-offs and concerns both big and small.


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Transcript


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We asked you to tell us who's left you feeling ripped-off.

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I think this is very, very, very wrong.

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The bank passed charges upon charges upon charges.

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Legally, it was right. Morally? That's where the doubt comes.

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And you contacted us in your thousands, by post, email,

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even stopping us in the streets. And the message couldn't be clearer.

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You don't always get a straight answer.

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- I'm not happy at all. - It's always that small print.

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-We're being ripped off big time.

-Whether it's a deliberate rip off,

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a simple mistake or a catch in the small print, we'll find out why you're out of pocket

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and what you can do about it. Keep asking the questions.

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And we do get results.

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Your stories. Your money. This is Rip-Off Britain.

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Hello and welcome to Rip-Off Britain where whatever the size of the problem or the money you've lost,

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-if you think you've had a raw deal or feel short-changed, we're here to find out why.

-We certainly are!

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And guess what - we'll see if we can get some of your money back as well.

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-And, I'm pleased to say, in some cases we have.

-Well done.

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More detail on that later on.

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We'll also be looking at companies you may have seen ads for in the papers

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promising they could get you out of debt or claim back cash you didn't even know you were entitled to.

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-They make it sound like they're doing you a favour, but it can be completely the opposite.

-Too right.

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Also coming up: the cooling-off periods with a catch.

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-You'll be charged if you want to change your mind.

-Why have a cooling-off period if you're charged

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if you cancel within that period? There's no point in even putting it in your contract.

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Our pop-up shop was a huge success when you came along to tell us your issues

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and to meet our team of experts.

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With regards to your complaint about the PPI policy, we can take that up with the business that sold it.

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Or we might be able to help you.

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Payment Protection Insurance or PPI has been one of the big consumer scandals of recent years.

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It was supposed to cover repayments on credit cards and loans if you lost your job or were unable to pay,

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but it turns out almost 6.5 million policies were mis-sold to people who could never make a claim.

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As a result, there are no end of companies promising they can get you your PPI payments back,

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but, as ever, some are better than others.

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Norma Randall is a retired sales manager from North Yorkshire.

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She received a phone call out of the blue from a company telling her she could get compensation

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for mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance.

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I said, "That sounds very interesting, but I'm not aware that I made any PPI payments."

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And he said, "Lots of people aren't aware of it, but I can assure you

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"99% of people have paid PPI at some time, either on a loan or a credit card."

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PPI or Payment Protection Insurance was often added to loans or insurance

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by banks and other financial institutions. It was designed to pay out if the customer couldn't

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meet their payments due to illness or redundancy.

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He said, "Well, I think we could get you back £12,000."

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And I gulped and thought, "Wow!

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"I can go on holiday, I can do work in the house that I need to do."

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That would be great.

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The call was from We Fight Any Claim, a claims management company specialising in PPI.

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Their sales patter to Norma does make sense.

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An estimated 2.5 million people were mis-sold Payment Protection Insurance policies

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and £215 million was paid out in compensation in the first half of this year.

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So Norma was tempted by the idea that she might be entitled to some

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and that We Fight Any Claim could get it for her.

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And then he hit me with the bombshell of, "But that will cost you £3,414.89."

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And I sort of stopped in my tracks.

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They said, "Don't worry about any payments that you make to us

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"because when your claim has been successful, it will not cost you a penny

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"because we will take our fee

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"from the value of the money that we claim for you."

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Convinced by this reasoning and the reassurance of a money-back guarantee if they didn't succeed,

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Norma decided to go ahead.

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In total, I paid £3,659.89 on my credit card to this company.

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In their paperwork, We Fight Any Claim make clear that they charge upfront

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and include a success fee in that.

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But that's unusual. Most other claims management companies charge a smaller upfront fee,

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normally under £300, then take a percentage if the claim succeeds.

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But having paid out so much, Norma had no choice but to hope she'd made the right decision.

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I didn't have a word from them for three months.

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I then began to get worried.

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I decided to phone then and spoke to a young man who assured me

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that the situation was going forward,

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that they would be able to tell me a result within four weeks.

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But six weeks later Norma still hadn't heard anything.

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She decided to cancel her claim and get her money back.

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They said, "If you want to cancel, it will cost you £1,000."

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So I decided not to cancel because I did not want them to have my £1,000.

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I wanted all my money back, not just minus £1,000. So I agreed to let them carry on.

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Even so, because she'd paid the fee on her credit card, Norma decided to ask the credit card company

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for their take on the situation.

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I then rang my credit card company who informed me

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that they had, in fact, sent a letter to the claims company in the January

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stating that there was no PPI on the accounts.

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Not what she'd wanted to hear.

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Norma then called the company she had a loan with as their product was the only other one

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that could possibly have PPI attached, but again she was told it hadn't.

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So, armed with that knowledge, that - as she initially thought - she'd never been sold PPI,

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let alone mis-sold it, Norma went back to the claims company, who had a very convincing response.

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He said, "This is a usual tactic that banks and credit card companies adopt

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"to try to avoid the refund of any monies to their customers.

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"But we are going to take this further."

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Norma's credit card and loan providers were adamant that no PPI was ever paid

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or sold to her. But We Fight Any Claim continued to insist there was a claim to be fought for.

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By now, Norma simply didn't believe them, but they still had over £3,000 of her money.

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They're in denial about the fact that I haven't got PPI.

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We Fight Any Claim could go on with this for years and in the meantime they're holding my money.

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They've no right to it because they haven't done what they promised.

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Emma Parker from the Financial Ombudsman Service says the claims management industry is growing fast

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but for reclaiming Payment Protection Insurance, their services may not even be needed.

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There's been a recent report on this by Money Saving Expert and Which which highlighted

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a number of misleading claims made by claims management companies.

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They've suggested that consumers' chances of success are higher with them.

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Or haven't highlighted the role of the free Financial Ombudsman.

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These are misleading

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and companies that are regulated with the Ministry of Justice, it can take action.

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Well, Norma contacted the Ministry of Justice, too, and after they wrote to the company

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she did finally get all of her money back, plus the interest she'd paid while the balance was on her card.

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We Fight Any Claim told us they don't fully agree with what Norma's told us, but concede there were

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portions of their service that could have been completed more efficiently.

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They say their claims process can be complex and time-consuming when it may appear nothing is happening,

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but they blame that on banks who can be "less than co-operative".

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They apologised to Norma that their service fell short, but still don't seem to accept

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that she didn't have any PPI.

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Although it's all now resolved, Norma's annoyed at being put through so much unnecessary worry.

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I'm cross. I'm angry. I'm angry with myself, but also with the people who persuaded me

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to part with all that money.

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If you're contacted by a company that says it can claim back money in the same way Norma was promised,

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however persuasive they are, don't sign up until you've checked with your lender whether you had any PPI.

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Only then can you decide whether you have a claim to make.

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Big companies don't always make things easy to understand

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and it can be confusing trying to work out why you haven't ended up with what you expected.

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So if you feel bogged down, we've put together a booklet of tips and advice.

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You can find a link to the free guide on our website.

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Or to receive a copy in the post, send an A5 self-addressed envelope to the address we give at the end.

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It's something most of us don't like to think about,

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but writing a will can make life for those we leave behind less painful.

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When you write a will, you also have to appoint an executor, someone to carry out your wishes.

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There are companies who can do all this work for you, but it's an unregulated industry

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and the fees these companies charge vary enormously, which can really eat into the estate left to you.

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Linda Neuwenhuis remembers good times with her feisty Aunt May.

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Aunt May was quite independent. And she was before her time.

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Quite a feminist. She didn't tolerate any messing about.

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When May died in the summer of 2008, Linda contacted the company her aunt had used to write her will, ITC.

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The biggest in the business, they told Linda she'd been left virtually everything

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and sorting things out should only take a few months.

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He confirmed that it was a quite straightforward will, just concerning my husband and myself,

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and it should be over by Christmas.

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As well as writing her will, Aunt May had also appointed ITC as executors,

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so when their representative came to see Linda, she asked him what the company would charge for that.

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He said it's all been taken care of.

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In my naivete, I thought maybe the will process had been prepaid.

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So I assumed that there would be no cost for them actually administrating the affairs.

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And I felt quite happy, initially.

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For the rest of the year, Linda supplied ITC with any information they requested,

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but although she'd been left confident that the will would be settled by Christmas,

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it came and went with no news.

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Linda also began to doubt what she'd understood about the cost,

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so she wrote to ITC and was shocked by their reply.

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I was absolutely horrified

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when I got a letter back to say that their fees would be

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in the region of £15,500 plus VAT.

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The initial remarks, the gentleman told me, "It's all been taken care of,"

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when I specifically asked for how much it would cost.

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He didn't give me any indication at all.

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Despite suggesting that they'd provide a swift service, it took nearly two years of chasing

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before ITC finally settled the will.

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The Legal Services Board is carrying out an investigation into whether the industry needs regulating

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after a survey showed that the way wills are written and administered isn't always good enough.

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Wills are such important documents. It's the only way to make sure those you leave behind get your wealth

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in the way that you intended. If a will goes wrong, it can have huge financial implications

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so it's really vital that everyone who sells wills to the public demonstrates their competence,

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follows a code of conduct, is insured and consumers can complain to the Legal Ombudsman.

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Come on, then, Cracker.

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There have been a number of changes at ITC since they wrote May's will.

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They no longer provide that service, for the last six years only dealing in probate,

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and they've also changed their fee structure. They eventually reduced Linda's bill from £16,000 to £5,000,

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in line with their new prices and what independent solicitors told us was a reasonable price.

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ITC told us they sincerely regret any distress Linda felt.

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They administer a large number of estates every year, the vast majority having a positive outcome,

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and pride themselves on delivering the highest levels of service and value at what is a difficult time.

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They dispute some of Linda's allegations, but say they acknowledged at the time

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that there were issues with this case, apologised and reduced their fees accordingly.

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As far as they're concerned, this was all satisfactorily resolved over a year ago.

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But despite their efforts to make amends, Linda still feels aggrieved.

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I'm so angry on her behalf.

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I don't think they deserved a penny because of all the work I had to do myself. I think it was outrageous.

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Writing a will can be a minefield for all sorts of reasons,

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so with more information of what to think about, here's Gary Rycroft from the Law Society.

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If you've never made a will before or it's a long time since you did,

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do some research first. Telephone some local firms of solicitors

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and find out how much it's going to be to make a will. Then you'll know the market rate.

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Don't feel pressurised into other legal services or products.

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Some things offered may be Powers of Attorney or trusts. They may be good ideas for you,

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but never feel pressurised to sign up there and then. Always take it away with you and think it through

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with a trusted family friend.

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Never, ever pay for will storage.

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Most firms of solicitors will be pleased to store it for free.

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If you do decide to store your will, find out where it will be stored.

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It mustn't be in an attic or garage. Make sure it's in a fire-proof safe.

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At this stage, I would say never sign up for probate and estate administration services.

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You don't know what the value of your estate will be at your death.

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Let your executors sign up for the best deal at the relevant time.

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There's no point in paying now for services that may not be required from a company which may not exist

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at the time of your death.

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We teamed up with BBC Learning to open a pop-up consumer advice shop

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at the Trafford Centre, Manchester.

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We've had a fantastic response from members of the public.

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It's been a great opportunity for us to meet you and hear your problems

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and BBC Learning have been very busy encouraging people to improve their maths

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in their interactive area.

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Our experts are helping lots of people, too, and Martyn James from the Financial Ombudsman Service

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is helping out with a common rip-off: Payment Protection Insurance.

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Alison and her friend tried to claim back mis-sold PPI through a claims management company.

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They said they could get us back in the region of £780.

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But they expected us to pay £280 upfront.

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-Upfront?

-Upfront.

-Before you even got any claim.

-In order for them to do the research.

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They guaranteed that we would get that money, otherwise we would at least get the £280 back.

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So we waited for the forms, we filled them in, like a letter of authority, and sent them off

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and to this day, over a year ago now, despite numerous letters, I've heard nothing.

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-It's been a year?

-Far too long.

-And she's paid out money.

-They are regulated by the Dept of Justice.

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That's the good news. However, unfortunately,

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there isn't an ombudsman scheme or other organisation you can turn to to get the money back from them.

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All that you can continue to do is put pressure on them.

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With your complaint about the PPI policy, we can take that up with the business that sold it,

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and we might be able to help you. That you can do for free.

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Unfortunately, once you've paid them, you may need legal action.

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Knowing the next step to take can make the difference and if you need any further advice, visit:

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We are a nation in debt.

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Between us, we owe a staggering £1.5 trillion.

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Now that is not an easy figure for any of us to get our heads around,

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but that really is the total level of personal debt that's owed

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by the 50 million or so adults in Britain today.

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Among them is pensioner Geoff Burgess. For him, things were a bit tight. He had some debts,

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but he felt he was managing them OK.

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That is until he was cold called by a company called Beneficial Claims.

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Now they seemed to be offering him a solution that might mean

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he didn't have to pay back his loans at all. Sounds too good to be true?

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Unfortunately for Geoff, it was.

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Geoff and May Burgess thought they were doing fine with their money.

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77-year-old Geoff was paying off a loan, but had no problems meeting the repayments,

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until in January of 2010 he got a call out of the blue from a company called Beneficial Claims.

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They told him his loan may not be enforceable under new legislation,

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meaning he may not have to pay it back.

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Beneficial Claims phoned me up and said we'd got this loan and they'd look into it.

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And then I wanted to know what was this going to cost me.

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And they said,

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"Well, the fee will be £360,

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"but if we win your case and get your money wrote off,"

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then the fee would be a percentage of the money we got wrote off.

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But things took an unexpected turn when Geoff received his next credit card bill.

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And my credit card bill came

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and I nearly went mental.

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I couldn't believe... I had to look at it two or three times to see.

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I said, "Who the hell's taken this amount of money off me?!"

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A hefty £5,518 had been taken from Geoff's credit card

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by, you've guessed it, Beneficial Claims,

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so when he got in touch to ask why, how did they explain it?

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That money was being used as a down payment more or less to work on my case for me.

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Then I tried to get through to them

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that the fee was agreed of £360.

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Not nearly 6,000!

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We've looked at Geoff's paperwork

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and it does seem that all he initially agreed to

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was £360 for them to review his loan and credit card agreements.

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It's just unbelievable.

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It really is unbelievable, how they wouldn't explain why.

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I'm still no wiser now over why they did it.

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I just don't know. Nobody has explained why they took that much money.

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Despite Geoff's efforts, his demands for a clear explanation and a refund

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did not get the response that he'd hoped for.

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His case was simply passed to a sister company called Money Worries.

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They said they've transferred it to another company

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who is better equipped and have more knowledge of dealing with it.

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I said, "I don't want this really. I want my money back."

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He said, "We can't do anything about it now. We've passed it all over to them.

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"You'll have to deal with them."

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What Geoff didn't realise is that Money Worries is a debt management company,

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a service he had absolutely no need for because he has been meeting all of his repayments.

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I've never missed a payment on my loan because it goes out on a standing order.

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He didn't need his payment plan being tinkered with

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and he was particularly infuriated when they said they would work on his credit card bill.

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I said, "What do you mean, my credit card?

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"Your company has put this money on my credit card, not me.

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"I had only 260 quid on my credit card.

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"You've put the rest on and I want it back."

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By now, Geoff's repeated complaints had produced a partial victory.

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Beneficial Claims, who by now had changed their name to We Fight Any Claim,

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gave him £4,000 back,

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but the rest was still passed over to Money Worries.

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I was transferred to Money Worries

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without my consent.

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I didn't know what they were going to do,

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how they were going to do it, nothing was explained to me.

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And I didn't want them to do it,

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which I told them on numerous occasions, when I've been on the phone,

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"I want it closed down and I want nothing to do with you."

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But they didn't want to know. It just fell on dead ears.

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Geoff tried complaining to Money Worries too,

0:24:340:24:38

but they told him he wasn't entitled to any refund, so Geoff wrote to us.

0:24:380:24:44

When Rip-Off Britain contacted Money Worries in August,

0:24:440:24:47

the company reinvestigated the case.

0:24:470:24:50

They said it had come to light

0:24:500:24:53

that there was still £1,365.14 of his money lodged with them,

0:24:530:24:58

money that was passed over from Beneficial Claims.

0:24:580:25:01

This money has now been refunded to Geoff.

0:25:010:25:05

The company also told us that they did not agree with Geoff's version of events

0:25:050:25:10

and that the £5,518 originally taken from his credit card

0:25:100:25:15

constituted "agreed review and legal fees".

0:25:150:25:19

They say the transfer of some of those funds to Money Worries was partly...

0:25:190:25:24

Although they're sorry for any misunderstanding, they point out Geoff signed a letter of authority

0:25:340:25:40

and a standing order mandate for them to work on his behalf, which is true,

0:25:400:25:45

but it doesn't mean that he understood exactly what he had been persuaded to sign up to

0:25:450:25:51

and he is adamant that he didn't.

0:25:510:25:54

I feel so disgusted and this company should feel ashamed of themselves.

0:25:550:26:00

I'm a 77-year-old pensioner...

0:26:000:26:03

..and my brain is not working as quick as it used to do and I thin they took advantage of it.

0:26:060:26:12

Still to come on Rip-Off Britain, we'll investigate another company making bold claims

0:26:150:26:21

about reclaiming mis-sold payment protection insurance.

0:26:210:26:25

They were very persistent in their methods of saying that I was entitled to this money

0:26:250:26:30

and that I should proceed.

0:26:300:26:32

In our financial situation, I felt we had to go for it.

0:26:320:26:36

Still on the subject of the dreaded cold call,

0:26:380:26:41

you may have been contacted yourself by companies promising anything

0:26:410:26:45

from cheaper energy bills to a better deal on your insurance.

0:26:450:26:49

That's exactly what happened to Eileen Mason from Lincolnshire.

0:26:490:26:53

She decided to switch her car insurance

0:26:530:26:56

after being cold-called with a better deal from a rival firm,

0:26:560:27:00

a decision she very quickly came to regret.

0:27:000:27:04

Countless consumers have benefited from a cooling-off period,

0:27:070:27:11

the right to cancel a contract within a certain period of time.

0:27:110:27:15

And it's what Eileen Mason was relying on when she changed her mind about an insurance policy.

0:27:150:27:21

I am a pensioner. I live on my own.

0:27:240:27:26

I've worked all my life from the age of 16

0:27:260:27:30

and at my age, I am very careful with how I spend my money.

0:27:300:27:35

In August, the 73-year-old was cold-called by Swinton Insurance

0:27:370:27:42

who said that they could get her a better deal on her house and car insurance.

0:27:420:27:47

Keen to save money, Eileen decided to take them up on their offer,

0:27:470:27:51

not least because they said she had a 14-day cooling-off period,

0:27:510:27:55

which she thought gave her a bit of breathing space if she changed her mind.

0:27:550:28:00

I understood the 14-day cooling-off period meant there wouldn't be any charges,

0:28:000:28:06

so I was quite happy to go ahead.

0:28:060:28:09

But when Eileen called her current insurers to cancel her existing policy,

0:28:090:28:14

they offered to better Swinton's quote by over £100.

0:28:140:28:18

So she gave me the quote which was a standard cover,

0:28:180:28:22

basically the same as Swinton,

0:28:220:28:25

which I thought was a better deal, obviously, because it was over £100 cheaper.

0:28:250:28:30

What fool wouldn't go for that?

0:28:300:28:33

Confident that she'd get her money back because she was cancelling within that cooling-off period,

0:28:330:28:40

Eileen then called Swinton to say that she didn't need their new policy after all.

0:28:400:28:45

They said she could cancel, but she'd be charged for the privilege.

0:28:450:28:51

The young lady said, "You do realise you have to pay a £50 cancellation fee

0:28:510:28:56

"for both home and the car insurance?"

0:28:560:28:59

I said, "What, £100?!" She said, "Yes, I'm afraid that is what we do. That's our policy."

0:28:590:29:05

But it's a policy that Eileen considers outrageous.

0:29:070:29:11

Why have a cooling-off period if you're charged if you cancel within that period or after that period?

0:29:110:29:17

There's no point in even putting it in your contract.

0:29:170:29:21

The Financial Services Authority rules state that companies cannot penalise customers

0:29:210:29:27

for cancelling within 14 days,

0:29:270:29:30

but they can charge a reasonable administration fee.

0:29:300:29:33

I don't mind having to pay an administration charge,

0:29:350:29:39

but not to pay £50. What was the £50 for?

0:29:390:29:42

All they sent to me was copies that they'd printed off

0:29:420:29:46

from obviously their glossy brochure.

0:29:460:29:51

The FSA also says customers should be told about fees like this before taking out the policy.

0:29:520:29:58

Eileen says that did not happen when Swinton contacted her,

0:29:580:30:03

but when she tried to get hold of a copy of the call to prove it,

0:30:030:30:06

she was told that only those from call centres are recorded.

0:30:060:30:10

Eileen's call was from the Grimsby branch, so it's her word against theirs

0:30:100:30:15

that they didn't mention the charge.

0:30:150:30:19

If she had told me at the time that I would be charged,

0:30:190:30:22

I would have said to her, "Cancel those quotes now because I'm not going ahead."

0:30:220:30:28

Swinton aren't the only insurers to charge a fee if you cancel within the cooling-off period.

0:30:280:30:34

Others we contacted charge anything from £5 to £55.

0:30:340:30:39

When we asked about their fee, Swinton told us

0:30:390:30:42

it doesn't exceed the administration costs of setting up a new policy.

0:30:420:30:46

They sent us a list of the 40 tasks and costs

0:30:460:30:50

that they say are part of the market analysis used to calculate the price.

0:30:500:30:55

And they insist that customers would be aware of the fee

0:30:550:30:58

because all Swinton sales staff are required to follow a script that mentions it,

0:30:580:31:04

plus it's in the terms and conditions.

0:31:040:31:07

Even so, they did offer Eileen £50 as a goodwill gesture,

0:31:080:31:12

but determined to get a full refund, she rejected their offer

0:31:120:31:16

and put in a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service

0:31:160:31:20

and the company has now refunded the whole £100.

0:31:200:31:24

Eileen says the experience has made her wary of relying on cooling-off periods in the future.

0:31:240:31:29

I have lost confidence with switching from anyone.

0:31:290:31:34

Whoever I'm with now, I will be with till the day I die.

0:31:340:31:39

Earlier in the programme, we heard about just one of the companies

0:31:390:31:43

who claim they'll get back money that you've paid out for mis-sold payment protection insurance,

0:31:430:31:50

or PPI as we call it, but there are lots of those companies around.

0:31:500:31:54

In fact, every week, about 2,500 people use one of them.

0:31:540:31:57

Unfortunately, some of those people never see a penny

0:31:570:32:01

and probably didn't even need the company's help in the first place.

0:32:010:32:05

Come on, boys.

0:32:050:32:07

John and Carol Henry have had a really tough time over the last couple of years.

0:32:070:32:13

Carol was made redundant and John had to leave his job for health reasons.

0:32:130:32:18

With neither of them working, their finances were put under huge pressure.

0:32:180:32:22

We couldn't pay our bills or our mortgage.

0:32:220:32:26

We couldn't pay the loans that we had, we couldn't pay our credit cards. We were in a real mess.

0:32:260:32:33

While he had still been working, John had taken out three loans.

0:32:330:32:37

Each time, he bought payment protection insurance to go with them

0:32:370:32:41

to cover his repayments if he became unable to pay.

0:32:410:32:44

-How much was it on this one?

-On this loan alone, it's £2,420.

-Yeah.

0:32:440:32:49

The cost of that wasn't small change.

0:32:490:32:52

In total, I have paid over £5,000 in PPI insurance,

0:32:520:32:57

which, if I hadn't done, could have paid off one of my loans.

0:32:570:33:02

After paying out so much, you can see why in autumn 2010,

0:33:030:33:08

when they became aware of the PPI mis-selling scandal,

0:33:080:33:12

John and Carol started to wonder if they had been mis-sold their insurance as well

0:33:120:33:17

and if perhaps they'd be entitled to some of that money back?

0:33:170:33:21

It dawned on me that John hadn't been asked enough questions about him taking out the PPI.

0:33:210:33:27

I think at the time he did take it out with the loans,

0:33:270:33:31

he felt very pressured into signing the forms

0:33:310:33:34

because he needed this insurance,

0:33:340:33:37

but I really don't believe, when we've discussed it,

0:33:370:33:41

that he had actually been truly informed as to what it really meant.

0:33:410:33:46

John contacted his creditors who assured him that he had not been mis-sold his PPI,

0:33:460:33:51

but a few weeks later, he received a call right out of the blue

0:33:510:33:55

from a company called Claims Management Bureau who said the opposite.

0:33:550:34:00

They insisted that he was entitled to compensation

0:34:000:34:03

and made some bold claims about just how much.

0:34:030:34:07

They informed him that he was actually entitled to a minimum of £1,500 rebate

0:34:080:34:13

on the PPI insurance that he had paid. That was the minimum he could expect.

0:34:130:34:18

I informed them that I had already contacted my creditors

0:34:180:34:22

and they told me that I hadn't been mis-sold it

0:34:220:34:26

and he insisted.

0:34:260:34:28

He said, "Yes, you are entitled to this. It's in the government guidelines."

0:34:280:34:33

They were very persistent in their methods of saying that I was entitled to this money

0:34:330:34:40

and that I should proceed.

0:34:400:34:42

In our financial situation, I felt we had to go for it.

0:34:420:34:45

Persuaded they were due some cash after all, John signed up,

0:34:450:34:49

agreeing to pay Claims Management Bureau an initial up-front fee of £234,

0:34:490:34:56

so that they could process his claim.

0:34:560:34:59

They said they were a time-effective, honest and reliable service.

0:34:590:35:04

That was music to your ears and you felt you could go along with that, you could trust them.

0:35:040:35:09

The couple didn't have the money straight away and told the company

0:35:090:35:13

it would take seven days to transfer it to them.

0:35:130:35:17

Every day without fail they rang. "Is the money in the account yet? Is the money in the account yet?"

0:35:170:35:24

I said to John, "There's something wrong. They shouldn't be panicking for this money."

0:35:240:35:30

But the couple paid up and signed all the forms at which point things went rather quiet.

0:35:300:35:35

After two months had gone by and they'd heard nothing, John called the Claims Management Bureau

0:35:350:35:41

to find out what was going on.

0:35:410:35:44

He got somebody on the phone who said to him, "Don't worry, it's all being dealt with.

0:35:440:35:49

"It's all being processed."

0:35:490:35:51

We got Christmas over, then I said, "John, you still haven't heard anything from these people.

0:35:510:35:57

"There's something not right here."

0:35:570:36:00

So he rang them.

0:36:000:36:02

The phone rang out and rang out - no answer.

0:36:020:36:06

-The phone's dead.

-Yeah.

0:36:060:36:08

In February 2011 with still no word, John contacted Trading Standards.

0:36:080:36:14

On their advice, he wrote to the company and sent the letter by recorded delivery.

0:36:140:36:19

It was signed for, but he heard nothing back.

0:36:190:36:22

Two weeks later, he sent another letter which was returned.

0:36:220:36:26

It had been opened by the post office, sent back to us,

0:36:260:36:30

informing us that the company was no longer at that address.

0:36:300:36:34

I then decided to contact the Police Fraud Squad and gave them all the details of the company.

0:36:340:36:40

The police said that they couldn't really help without more complaints,

0:36:400:36:45

but we've done some investigations of our own.

0:36:450:36:48

We got in touch with the Ministry of Justice who regulate claims companies of this type.

0:36:480:36:53

They told us that the Claims Management Bureau is not authorised by them

0:36:530:36:58

which means the company was trading illegally.

0:36:580:37:01

What that means for the £234 that John and Carol have paid is unclear.

0:37:010:37:07

Come on, boys.

0:37:070:37:09

They're hoping to get it back from their credit card company

0:37:090:37:13

and to determine once and for all whether they were mis-sold PPI,

0:37:130:37:17

they've contacted the Financial Ombudsman Service, by far the best way of finding that out

0:37:170:37:22

and one that won't cost you a penny.

0:37:220:37:24

We tried to get hold of the Claims Management Bureau for an explanation.

0:37:240:37:29

So far, we've had no response.

0:37:290:37:31

Now here's a fact.

0:37:310:37:34

Last year, seven out of ten complaints to the Financial Ombudsman

0:37:340:37:38

all related to Personal Protection Insurance or PPI, as we call them.

0:37:380:37:42

So today I've come to the Ministry of Justice to talk to Kevin Roussell who is Head of Claims Regulation

0:37:420:37:48

to ask him exactly what they're doing about this enormous problem.

0:37:480:37:53

Kevin, we're really glad that you've joined us.

0:37:530:37:56

This issue of PPI is really causing a lot of disturbance

0:37:560:38:00

and frustration to many of our viewers who have cited the case.

0:38:000:38:05

You are the regulator, so there's something adrift. You're not regulating enough.

0:38:050:38:10

We have about 900 businesses in this area which we're trying to regulate.

0:38:100:38:14

The majority are providing a reasonably good service.

0:38:140:38:18

There's a few bad eggs in that. We're chasing all those to make sure they do comply.

0:38:180:38:23

If they don't, we will close them down.

0:38:230:38:26

Do you feel you're acting quickly enough and punishing these claims management companies sufficiently?

0:38:260:38:32

Yes, I do. We can put conditions on people's licences. That means the businesses can't do certain things.

0:38:320:38:38

We don't have to shut them down. We can restrict their activities, focus on where things are going wrong.

0:38:380:38:45

I have to take into account how many consumers are with that business

0:38:450:38:49

because if it's got thousands of claims which are live,

0:38:490:38:53

it could be detrimental to close the business down, rather than trying some other means to improve things.

0:38:530:38:59

But then the other reason that people give,

0:38:590:39:02

they say that sometimes these companies just go into liquidation, not traceable,

0:39:020:39:07

so in fact the money they've paid up front that you talked about has gone. What redress is there there?

0:39:070:39:14

We track very closely where the individuals go.

0:39:140:39:17

If they try and get involved with another business, we will stop them.

0:39:170:39:21

As for consumers who have paid up-front fees, the majority have paid on credit cards

0:39:210:39:26

and they can claim back via their credit card company who shares liability for it.

0:39:260:39:31

It's not ideal, but in most cases, people get their money back that way

0:39:310:39:35

You did intervene in the case of Norma. She'd been a widow for 17 years.

0:39:350:39:40

So what were your investigations in that case?

0:39:400:39:44

In that case, the company called We Fight Any Claim, we had concerns about their activities in selling,

0:39:440:39:50

so we put some restrictions on their licence to stop them confusing consumers in what they were doing.

0:39:500:39:56

Is your advice not to pay up-front fees or in some cases are they justified?

0:39:560:40:01

There is no reason in PPI claims why you need to pay an up-front fee.

0:40:010:40:05

Sometimes if you make a request for data from a bank, there's a £10 fee,

0:40:050:40:10

but anything else shouldn't be necessary.

0:40:100:40:13

Most companies don't charge up-front fees and provide a reasonable service.

0:40:130:40:18

Your organisation has been accused of not regulating enough. It's too slow, it's not efficient enough.

0:40:180:40:24

In future, how are you going to speed that up and enforce the laws you have more quickly?

0:40:240:40:29

We're putting additional resources particularly into the PPI area

0:40:290:40:33

because it's clear from all the reports we've seen, the mystery shopping that's been done,

0:40:330:40:39

that more businesses need to comply with our regulations.

0:40:390:40:43

So Rip-Off Britain will be still knocking on your door?

0:40:430:40:47

-In a nice way, hopefully.

-Thank you very much.

-Thank you.

0:40:470:40:51

At Rip-Off Britain, we're always ready to investigate more of your stories.

0:40:530:40:58

Confused over your bills, trying to wade through endless small print that leaves you none the wiser?

0:40:580:41:05

I might have been stupid for not reading it or I've read it and not taken it in.

0:41:050:41:10

I could kick myself. I really could.

0:41:100:41:12

Unsure what to do when you discover you've lost out

0:41:120:41:16

and that so-called great deal has ended up costing you money?

0:41:160:41:20

I thought, "This cannot be true. It's totally unacceptable." I was so angry.

0:41:200:41:25

You might have a cautionary tale of your own and want to share the mistakes you made with us,

0:41:250:41:31

so others don't do the same.

0:41:310:41:33

No-one knows about this, so this is very strange. I really would like to get this much clearer.

0:41:330:41:39

You can write to us at...

0:41:390:41:41

Or send us an email to...

0:41:500:41:53

The Rip-Off team is ready and waiting to investigate your stories.

0:41:570:42:02

It's clear from today's stories that before you agree to anyone offering to claim back money on your behalf,

0:42:040:42:10

check that you do need their services and it isn't something you could do yourself.

0:42:100:42:16

The chances are that you could save yourself not just a lot of money, but also an awful lot of hassle.

0:42:160:42:22

And at a time when money is tighter than ever,

0:42:220:42:25

you want to be confident that you are getting the best value from every pound you spend.

0:42:250:42:31

This programme is all about trying to look after your money at all times.

0:42:310:42:35

That's where we've got to leave it for today,

0:42:350:42:38

but we hope you'll join us again when we'll investigate more of your stories,

0:42:380:42:43

-showing you how to avoid being ripped off. Until then, from the three of us, bye-bye.

-Bye-bye.

-Bye.

0:42:430:42:49

Subtitles by Subtext for Red Bee Media Ltd 2011

0:43:060:43:10

Email [email protected]

0:43:100:43:13

Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville investigate why viewers have been left out of pocket. Whether it is rocketing energy prices, unexpected bank charges, or a catch in the small print that has had devastating consequences, they will get answers from the companies responsible. Plus, the team have been on the road, tackling consumer complaints face to face at the Rip Off Britain pop-up shop.