Episode 13 Rip Off Britain

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Episode 13

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


this is very, very, very wrong for what they have done. The bank


passed charges upon charges, upon charges. Legally, it was right,


morally, that's where the question of doubt comes into my view. And


you contacted us in your thousands by post, e-mail, even stopping us


in the streets and the message couldn't be clearer. You don't


always get a straight answer, they just try and fob you off. I'm not


happy with them at all. It's always that very small print, that's got


the clause in, that you didn't realise. We're being ripped off,


big time. Whether it's a deliberate rip-off, a simple mistake or a


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


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


you know, go to the top if you have to. We do get results, that's the


interesting thing. Your stories, your money, this is Rip-off Britain.


Hello and welcome to Rip-off Britain, where WE are waging a war


against unfair charges, poor service and, of course,


straightforward rip-offs. If you've paid for something and not got what


you expected then we're here to help. It is often hard to know


where to turn for advice so we're here to fight your corner and make


sure you get the answers you deserve. And if we can help more of


you avoid being ripped off in the first place, then so much the


better. Now, today we'll be investigating situations where, as


far as you're concerned, the companies that you've done business


with have not lived up to their part of the bargain and quite


simply we'll be asking them why? Also coming up on today's show:


Looking to sell your car? Why using the company ByeBuyCar might also


mean bye-bye cash. I just didn't know what to feel, it was just a


mixture of anger...and upset. I'm probably never going to see the car


again, all I really want is to get the money that I am owed. Our pop-


up shop proved to be a huge success when you came to tell us your


issues and to meet our team of top experts. Actually, being organised,


booking things as much as a year in advance, going to the box office


and paying in cash, physically, is the way to keep those costs to a


minimum. A convenience that most of us just take for granted these days


is cash machines. Giving us access to our money 24/7, but if you need


cash urgently from one of them then paying for the privilege is


becoming increasingly hard to avoid. Many of us are using cash less and


less these days, but when we do need it, the easiest way to get it


is from the hole in the wall, or at least it is when that's free - but


around the country there are now more than 21,000 cash machines that


charge to withdraw our own money. Add together the amount made by all


of those charges and you're easily looking at at least �130 million a


year. In poorer areas of the UK, like Anfield and Toxteth, in


Liverpool, free-to-use bank cash machines have virtually disappeared,


leaving locals no choice but to use ones that charge. Figures worked


out by the Liverpool Echo showed just how bad things are. Nationally


34% of cash machines charge, but in Toxteth it's a staggering 81% and


in nearby Anfield it's not much better, 71%. City centres you get


free ones, but not around here. The more the deprived area it is, the


more they hike it up! I'd have to walk a good 15 to 20 minutes to get


to the nearest cash machine not to pay, it's frustrating and at times


I've had to pay. We sent one of our Rip-off Britain researchers to get


some cash in Anfield, starting at the stadium itself. The closest two


machines both charged �1.70 for the first and a minute down the road,


�1.75 for the second. The third machine she reached also charged,


but that one was out of order and though there were ATMs in shops and


bars along the route, none of them were free either. But wait, she


spotted one! More than 20 minutes high-speed walking later, she's


reached a junction with two free cash machines. Finally, she's got


her hands on some dosh! Local councillor Paula Keaveney knows all


about the issue. It's a tax on poverty and if you look at areas of


deprivation where people are on low incomes and they're having to pay


to get their own money out, all that is happening is that the


problems are being made worse, that they face.


So, we've talked to the banks, we've talked to government


ministers to try and get some recognition that this is a problem


that the banks need to solve. And it looks like more of us will soon


be paying to withdraw our cash. The Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds


TSB recently announced that customers with their basic bank


accounts will soon no longer be able to use cash points of other


banks for free because they make a loss from letting them do that.


They say almost all affected customers will still be able to


withdraw cash free within one mile of their home. But Consumer Focus


see it differently. What we're concerned about is that basic bank


account customers' are going to have to pay more money to access


their money because they won't be able to go to their local branch.


These are the consumers that, after all, have got basic bank accounts


cos they've got the least money, so why are the poorest consumers


paying more to access their money? It's compulsory for all fee-


charging cash machines to display an early warning to customers,


either an on-screen message or a sticker on the machine itself. If


you want to avoid paying fees, do keep in mind that a lot of banks,


including the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB, do allow


customers to take cash out over- the-counter at the Post Office for


free. Remember too that cashpoints outside banks or building societies


usually don't charge, while machines operated by companies such


as Cardpoint, YourCash, and NoteMachine normally will have a


fee and if you're stuck, try and get cash back in those shops or


bars that offer the service, or use a debit card instead of cash. Later


in the programme, you can see what happened when we quizzed the boss


of the company that runs the cash machine network about the charges.


Almost every transaction which is going on in the UK is cash and


almost all of that cash comes out of the ATM network, so as a citizen,


people like you and me need to have a really healthy, easy-to-access


ATM network or we're not going to be able to live our lives properly.


And it was a meeting that had quite a result. It is estimated that


every year we're now being asked to pay �250 million just for the


privilege of withdrawing our own cash and even though not all of


that money actually goes to the banks, the proportion that DOES is


still something that you've told us you would much rather keep in your


own pockets. The same is true for another charge to do with money and


that is the fees that you'll pay to buy or sell foreign currency. Now,


anyone who's been abroad will have been hit by these at some point,


whether it's at a travel agent, a bank or the place that is usually


the absolute worst for changing your cash - the airport. But you


may not have realised just how dramatically the fees can vary or


that a deal that says it's 0% commission may not be as good a bet


as they would have you believe. Duncan Fiskin is running his next


trip abroad. He's an executive with an IT company and a very frequent


flyer. In the last 12 months alone he's done 55 international trips.


Like the rest of us, he wants the best deal when it comes to buying


his foreign currency. Well, a lot of the trips that I do are actually


very short notice, so I don't have a great deal of time to plan, I'm


usually booking a ticket online at pretty short notice, packing very


quickly, typically I'm leaving a bag half-packed, rushed to the


airport. And I think I fall into the trap that a lot of people fall


into, is that the currency desks at the airport, right after security,


they're very convenient and, clearly, what I discovered was I'm


paying a premium for the convenience. Duncan decided to work


out exactly how much he was being charged for his foreign currency


and calculated that he was paying a staggering �400 annually in


exchange fees and poor buy-back rates. When I think that I'm paying


a �3 transaction fee every time I change money, and I don't think I'm


getting a really good rate. That was bothering me. The other side of


this is that if you have euros left over, and you change them when you


come back in, it's the double whammy. You've got another


basically disadvantageous exchange rate, so you're getting caught


twice and you're paying another �3 transaction fee.


Duncan is in good company. Consumer Focus has estimated that every year


in the UK, we spend about a billion pounds in charges to get our


foreign currency. The windows of foreign-exchange shops and travel


agents often boast that they offer 0% commission deals on foreign


currency. And though that might make you think you're getting a


bargain, anything saved is likely to be clawed back through their


exchange rates, which they set themselves. Of course, instead you


could do a buy-back deal, where any money you return is bought back at


the same rate you paid for it. But there's normally a fee for this, so


you end up losing out either way. So, what's the alternative? Well,


here's what Duncan does. The solution for me is a pre-paid


euro debit card, because so many of my trips are in the Euro-zone. I


load the card online - it's a hassle-free transaction, there's no


transaction fee associated with it. I can do it at my leisure and the


only cost for using the card is a 1.50 euro transaction fee when you


withdraw money using an ATM machine. Duncan reckons he'll save a


whopping �500 a year using these pre-paid cards. A saving he will


pocket...and the bureaux de change won't.


To help you stop feeling short- changed before you've even left the


country, here's Prashant Vaze from Consumer Focus with advice on how


to get the best deal on your holiday cash.


Try and arrange your money at least two or three weeks in advance.


That'll give you time to shop around for the best exchange rate.


Try and avoid the airport and the ferry as you get bad rates there.


If you are in a rush, you can purchase the currency over the


internet, then collect it at the airport and ferry port. That way,


you can take advantage of the more attractive internet rates. Some of


the bureaux de change offer very attractive exchange rates, but


there are a few steps to make sure you get the best deals. The first


thing is to use a price comparison site to shop around to get the best


bureaux de change. Try to avoid using your debit or credit card to


pay for it, because quite often your bank will charge for the


privilege. If you're going overseas for a long period of time, it's


quite good value to get a pre-paid card in the currency of the country


you're travelling to. If, for instance, you're travelling in


Europe, get a Euro Travellers pre- paid card. The advantages of this


is that they offer good exchange rates. You can top them up on the


internet and they are also more secure than taking lots of cash


with you. Most debit cards and credit cards charge you between �1-


4 every time you use a foreign ATM. That means if you are going to use


foreign ATMs, try not to take out small sums of money at the time.


Often when you're in a country, an ATM or a hotel will offer the


option of either settling in the local currency or sterling. Always


go for the local currency, because you never know what exchange rates


the ATM or hotel will be using for its own conversion.


Still to come on Rip-Off Britain: The fees and charges that really


get you down. Credit brokers - they say they'll


find you a loan if you're desperate for cash, but beware, it may not


come cheap. That was the difference between us


having food on the table...decent food. I'm not talking about


luxuries, just normal food. And more advice from Rip-Off's one-stop


consumer advice stop. Because your household income is below �25,000 a


year, you could be entitled to the full grant, which is �3,250 a year.


Next, where do you go if you want to sell your car and get a fair


price for it? You could go to a garage, of course, but these days


many of you are turning to the growing number of firms springing


up online, offering to do all the legwork for you. Some of them say


that as well as getting you the best price, they'll even come and


collect your car from your house. So when our next viewer contacted a


company called ByeBuyCar.co.uk, he thought he'd soon be saying "bye-


bye" to his old wheels and a big "hello" to some cash. Things are


rarely that simple. When Adrian Andrews took out a loan to buy a


new car, he had no idea that before long he wouldn't be able to use it.


A couple of years ago, I started having problems with one of my legs,


which then progressed to my lower back. This means I'm now on long-


term sick leave from my work and there are quite a few limitations


to what I can and cannot do, be it walking, lifting and certainly


driving. Unable to work and with bills mounting, there seemed an


obvious solution. I took a loan out to buy a new car, essentially for


getting to and from work, um...but since, obviously, the problems with


my back, the driving has been limited, and I had - essentially -


a brand-new car sitting on the drive doing nothing...and obviously


still costing money, so we made the decision to sell the car. First,


Adrian tried to sell it privately. But when he had no luck, he decided


to try one of the growing number of online companies who offer to buy


your car. After hunting around on the web, he found one called


ByeBuyCar.com. Based in Wokingham and not to be confused with other


companies with similar names, for Adrian they seemed the perfect


solution. Not only would they buy his car, they'd come and collect it


too. I chose ByeBuyCar.com because the value they were offering were


one of the better I'd been given, and they were also offering a


collection service, which meant that I didn't have to sort of go


anywhere...basically go anywhere that I couldn't actually physically


do. A salesman from ByeBuyCar.com came round, gave Adrian's car the


once-over and promised that once it had been collected, he'd be paid


�3,875. Adrian was pleased with the deal and looking forward to turning


something he no longer used into something he really did need -


money. The guy came...checked the car over, went through all the


paperwork with me and everything seemed to be fine. They took the


car away and I was told... I got the email to confirm that I'd


receive payment within three to five working days. Adrian waited


for the money to come through. He waited. And he waited. And he


waited. When nothing came, he rang the company and he was in for a


shock. It seemed they'd gone out of business. When I phoned them up a


week later to chase up the payment for the car and received the


message saying that they had now ceased trading, I was just...I was


just gutted. I didn't know what to feel. It was a mixture of anger and


upset. I just felt like I'd been conned and...sick. Very sick. The


message suggested customers would be contacted by the insolvency team.


But there were no details of how to get in touch with them, leaving


Adrian confused and desperate. I now feel that I cannot contact the


company because there's no-one there. Basically, I've got no point


of contact to deal with this company whatsoever. I don't know


where to turn to get any further with addressing this matter. As it


stands now, I'm probably never going to see the car again. That's


been sold on by them. All I really want is two things - to get the


money that I'm owed and for the company to get addressed for the


actions they've taken. Although internet car buying may seem


convenient, John McIlroy from What Car? Says it's an area where you


need to choose your company carefully. The Sale Of Goods Act


will protect you when it comes to buying a car from a dealer, but


when it comes to selling, it's more of a grey area. Some of the online


buyers do offer a site where you can take your car, a physical


presence is a good thing. Others promise...the valuation guy will


wait with you while the funds are being cleared in your account. We


recommend you use one of those buyers. We managed to get in touch


with ByeBuyCar.com, who say: But that unfortunately they became


another small business to become a victim of the recession. They say


escalating costs and a downturn in the market meant the business was


no longer cost-effective, so there was no option but to shut down.


Meanwhile, since we've filmed with Adrian, he's had some good news.


Though his car had been sold on, because he'd never had money from


the original sale, the police impounded it and he has now got it


back. If he tries to sell it again, it's unlikely he'll be doing it


online. Well, Adrian's not the only


motorist who this company has left wondering if they've said "bye-bye"


to their car for good. Later in the programme, we'll hear from another


unhappy customer, although his tale has quite a twist. Here at our pop-


up consumer advice shop, it's not just banks, bills and dodgy


dealings we're helping with. Margaret, you're the very proud


granny that wrote to us because you've obviously got a very bright


granddaughter. Tell us what the problem is. When she was in junior


school, she was moved up a year in class. Melissa left school last


year and started college and applied for the EMA grant. We


filled in a form, sent it off and got a reply that it had been


refused because of her age. It would seem as far as you're


concerned, she's being penalised for being bright which is why they


won't give her the allowance. It's really unfortunate because you did


really well at school, you moved up a year and for the sake of just


over a couple of weeks, you're missing out and as the Educational


Maintenance Allowance has been abolished, you couldn't apply this


year, either. The next thing to do is look at some of the universities


you're thinking of applying to for 2012, find out how much they are


charging and crucially look at any help, grants, bursaries that might


be available because with fees going up in 2012, many students are


going to need every penny they can get. We'll see if we can find that


out now. It looks as if we've got the website, you've got all the


information, I'm going to leave you to it, good luck. It's not only


Margaret and Melissa who are concerned about grants and fees.


Our gripe box has been very busy as well. Hi. I'm here today to have a


gripe about tuition fees. What I'm worried about really is the student


tuition fees for when my daughter goes to university. It seems to me


that we're not going to get past university and not get past college


and not get any further because of university fees. Sarah has helped


Margaret and Melissa research grants on the directgov website and


the news may help ease their financial worries.' So, because


your household income is below �25,000 a year, you could be


entitled to the full grant, which is �3,250 a year. And this is


designed to help with food, travel and accommodation and doesn't have


to be paid back. Sarah was very helpful. She showed us a lot of


websites we can go on to find out about grants and bursaries and


things for uni. We're glad we came along and listened to her advice.


Issues with fees aren't just affecting students, as theatre-


lover Paul explains. You can book online for theatre tickets and by


telephone, but there's always a booking fee added to them, which I


object to. How much do they actually charge you for booking? It


can be any amount from �1 to �3 per ticket. To �3 per ticket? That's a


lot. It is a lot. Paul, you obviously feel pretty incensed


about this. It's your passion, you love theatre. How do you get around


the issue? If I'm in London, I'll buy the tickets direct from the box


office for a future performance. Like, well in advance? Yes. How


long? Three months, four months, five months. James, what's your


assessment of this hideous booking fee we're talking about? I mean,


you know, I think everyone can agree these aren't fair and I think


the important thing to differentiate here is if you're


buying a ticket through a third- party ticket agency like See


Tickets, those kinds of ones, it's fine, but they're going to charge a


booking fee because that is their whole business. All they do is sell


tickets on behalf of theatres, so they have to take a cut somewhere.


But if you're going to the theatre, the actual theatre, they're not


selling it through a third party, so they can't really justify that.


I feel as if I'm paying their wages. So there's a bit of a Catch-22 in


this situation. What's your final word of advice for Paul? Ultimately


keep doing what you're doing. Being organised, booking things as much


as a year in advance, go into the box office and paying in cash


physically is the way to keep those costs to a minimum but


unfortunately, it doesn't seem like there's any way to avoid them.


Thanks for coming to see us. I hope you've enjoyed the day. Now here at


Rip-Off Britain, we're getting used to hearing from people who say


they've been short-changed by credit brokers. But this next tale


has an extra twist. Credit brokers of course are the companies that


act as middlemen if you're looking for a loan. They usually charge a


one-off fee for their trouble but a lot of you feel you haven't got


what you expected in return. It's often the up-front fee that's the


bone of contention, so imagine how annoying it would be to end up


paying it more than once. 'Meet Alison Handley from Hailsham in


East Sussex and her daughter Jacqueline. 'When Alison needed to


take time off work to have an operation, 'she decided she needed


a bit of financial help to see her through the month.' It was for �100


and it was just a payday loan just to get me through to buy food, just


to tide us over until I could get back to work again. I looked at


options of credit cards but I don't want one because I think it's too


easy to fall into the trap of just spending. And then you're out of


control. So in March, Alison applied online with a company


called Ezeloans.net who she hoped would find her a quick,


straightforward loan. Not to be confused with other companies with


similar names and with a registered address in London, it looked as


though Ezeloans.net charged a one- off fee of �75 to join. Alison


signed up and the same day they came back to her with a number of


options. They offered me a guarantor loan, but the guarantor I


had didn't meet the criteria for the amount of income you had to


have for a month. Also, they offered me a pawnbroker site. Yet,


I didn't really want to go with them. I didn't get anything on the


site for a payday loan. It was all loans for �5,000 or more which was


not what I wanted. OK, well, the first and most important one is


council tax. That's �100. With nothing quite right for her needs,


Alison cancelled her contract, accepting that she'd still have to


pay the initial joining fee. But a few days later, when she tried to


pay her TV licence, there was a problem. According to her bank, she


didn't have enough money in her account. I thought, "Hang on, I had


plenty in there." So I phoned my bank. And asked them what was going


on. The wages had just gone in, but there's all this money missing.


They checked for me and this company had actually asked for the


payment six times. This left a �450 dent in her bank account and with


no overdraft facility, it put her in a financial mess. She was unable


to pay bills that were due so, through no fault of her own, found


herself hit with bank charges for unpaid direct debits and going into


the red. I went from furious to crying to then thinking, "What am I


going to do?" That was the difference between having food on


the table... Decent food, I'm not taking about luxuries, just normal


standard food. Alison contacted her bank to query the extra payments.


After all, no-one should pay a one- off fee six times. The bank agreed


and refunded her the money while they investigated. But Alison's


relief was short-lived. Ezeloans.net told the bank the


payments they'd received were valid so the bank said she'd have to pay


and took the money back. Let me just go in there and I'll show you.


Incensed, Alison kept pursuing the loan company, hoping they'd soon


realise they'd made a mistake. Eventually, she got an e-mail


asking for more details and promising a response. I want that


money back. That's my money. That's money that I've had to work hard to


get. And my husband's had to work hard to get. And I don't see why


they should have that money. Ezeloans.net told Rip-Off Britain


that they no longer trade in the UK and when they did, all their


collections and admin were outsourced to another company,


although they accept that's no excuse for the poor service Alison


received. They blame all this on an IT error and say it didn't show up


later because the payment was only entered on their own systems once.


They claim the company they use didn't make them aware of Alison's


request for a refund, but they promise she'll now get back the


five incorrect payments and the first correct one, along with an


apology. But, for Alison, that doesn't make up for the problems


and hardship she's been caused. I was hoping to plan to have a family


meal out because it was my 40th wedding anniversary. I couldn't go.


I could not afford to celebrate my Since filming, Alison's confirmed


that she's received all her money back from Ezeloans.net - a total of


�448.50. The number of complaints to Consumer Direct about credit


brokers more than doubled in the years between 2008-10, so if you've


ever had trouble with one or want to know how they work, Rafat Nasda


from the Money Advice Trust has some tips. A credit broker, put


simply, is the person who'll put you in touch with organisations


that'll lend you money. Essentially, they're the middle man. A credit


broker will quite often charge you a fee which will not be explained


up front and sometimes you can be charged that fee even when you


don't get the credit so it might not be clear that you are paying


for a service from the onset. If you are thinking about using a


credit broker, you need to think about these three things first.


Number one - do you need further credit? Is that really your best


option? Number two - is there a way of you getting that credit yourself


without using the middle man and getting a fee? And lastly - is


there a better source of credit out there for you? You can get


affordable credit from places such as credit unions. We would


generally recommend that you don't use a credit broker unless you're


looking at a large amount of credit, for example, a mortgage. From my


experience in National Debtline, we often speak to people who are


trying to apply for credit when in fact they actually need advice.


It's best to start at a neutral point and get some advice if you're


struggling with finances to ensure there aren't other options


available to you first. As there's so many complaints around this area


of practice, the Office Of Fair Trading has produced some new


guidance for credit brokerage. This guidance states that a credit


broker should be clear with you about any fees they will charge and


that, if you've been using a credit broker for six months and not been


able to get the credit you've been promised, you should be able to get


your fees back. At a time when money is tighter


than ever, you need to know that your cash is working hard for you,


avoiding rip-offs and sharp practice along the way. So, we've


put together a booklet of tips and advice to help safeguard your hard-


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


Or, if you want to receive a copy in the post, send an A5 self-


addressed envelope to the address we'll give you at the end of the


Earlier in the programme, we heard from Adrian Andrews who wanted to


sell his car really quickly. But when he contacted a company called


ByeBuyCar to sell it for him he ended up with no cash and no car,


either. We also heard from another Rip-Off viewer who ran into


problems with the same company. His story had a very different outcome,


but only after an extraordinary Buying a new car has always been a


purchase that needs to be thought about very carefully, but that's


especially the case these days, with higher costs for petrol and,


of course, insurance. So, when Sean Thomas decided to buy a family car,


it may not have been a decision that he took lightly, but it was


certainly one he was thrilled to have made. I had my wife and


daughter in it, I felt like the chauffeur. All I needed was a


peaked cap. People would look at it, and I was proud because I was


driving an '05-plate BMW. To me it was a bargain. But his dream didn't


last long. A few months down the line, with money increasingly tight


and his family to support, he realised that he'd no option but to


sell his pride and joy. I was gutted, my daughter was upset, my


wife was upset, but at the end of the day, priority, needs must. Sean


tried to sell his car privately, but with no luck. And so he turned


to the internet. He found a company that promised selling would be a


pleasant, stress-free experience. I have to tell you, that was exactly


what he needed. That company was ByeBuyCar.com, and, just as we


heard earlier in the programme, the Wokingham-based firm - not to be


confused with others of similar names, even offered to collect the


car. Sean was promised �3,700 for it. But when a man from


ByeBuyCar.com came to pick it up, the price had dropped. He knocked


it down to 3,500, because he said it costs �400 to get new tyres and


the wheels done and a bit of spraying done. So they said, he'd


go 200 if I went 200, so I agreed to that price, and the deal was


done. I looked out of my lounge window and watched it drive away.


ByeBuyCar.com promised to pay within a few days, but after five


days and no sign of any money, Sean rang the company. He was told they


had problems with his bank details and it would go through very


shortly. Several more days passed until, exasperated, he rang again,


and this time he got a recorded message saying the company was no


longer trading. I was really, really frustrated, really angry


with myself knowing I'd been suckered into something. With no


car, no payment and a company that seemed to be out of business, you


can imagine that Sean was very worried indeed. But he'd been told


ByeBuyCar.com usually sold vehicles to the trade, so he did some


research online, where he found something very familiar. I went on


to local websites, and, believe it or not, I found my car at a garage


near them looking... Basically, it upset me because it was looking


brand-spanking-new, wheels had all been buffed up, a bit of paint work


done to it, nice, shiny, gleaming car, and the price choked me, it


was near enough double for what I'd sold it for. Pretty upsetting.


Sean hoped that the garage advertising his car would be able


to give him some answers. They offered to contact ByeBuyCar.com on


his behalf, and, later that day, he had a call from a man claiming to


be a director of the online car company.


I was basically telling them I wanted the car back or the funds


put into my account, and he said he'd have to speak to an insolvency


team and he would come back to me. And that seemed to do the trick,


because later that day Sean was surprised and very relieved to


discover the money had now suddenly appeared in his account - more than


four weeks after the deal had been done. When I saw the money had gone


into the count, basically I jumped up and "Yippeed!" And I phoned up


my wife and told her, and she was over the moon.


As we heard before, ByeBuyCar.com say there was no intention to rip


anyone off and that they were a small business that simply fell


victim to the recession. The company says it's now in the hands


of an insolvency practitioner, and planning to register as insolvent.


But, as yet, the insolvency service has no knowledge of them. The


company stresses the price Sean saw on his car for sale is down to the


garage they sold it to, and nothing to do with them. And they claim


that, prior to the two incidents we've heard about, they've had many


satisfied customers. Although, during his internet research, Sean


did come across a number of other customers who seemed to have had a


similar experience. At the moment I am one of the lucky


ones, but maybe that's because I did a lot of my own detective work


and tracing back, and I found my car. I do worry buying anything on


the internet now, unless it's a well, well-known company.


Some might say that cash machines are fantastic. They allow you, of


course, the convenience of getting money out as and when you want.


However, the downside is that in some cases you have to pay to get


access to your own money. Now, a lot of you just don't like it, so


John Howells from Link might have some of the reasons why.


I thought for the benefit of our viewers, and even myself, maybe we


should talk first about the infrastructure of ATM machines. How


does it work? Some you have to pay for your money to get it out, some


you don't, so what is the structure like?


We have a fabulous structure in the UK of ATMs. We've got 64,000, and


that is really, really good compared to much of the rest of the


world, and also we have a really high number of free-to-use ATMs,


which is absolutely critical, because at the moment almost every


transaction in the UK is cash, and almost all of that cash comes out


of the ATM network. So, as a citizen, people like you and me


need to have a really healthy, easy-to-access ATM network or we


won't to be able to live our lives properly.


What's the criteria as to what is free and what's not? We have a


scheme called Link in the UK, which is what joins up all the ATMs. It's


up to the members of Link - and those are the banks and companies


who put ATMs in - about whether they want to have charges or not.


At the moment, 40,000 of those ATMs - which is at an all-time high -


are free to the consumer. We do allow, under the Link rules,


machines which you pay for, as well, where there is demand.


Yet, in some areas, those free machines are disappearing. For


example, the banks are diminishing, they're centralising and so the


free machine goes. In an area that's really deprived, there are


practically no free machines, everybody has to pay for it. We


actually have a scheme which Link runs on behalf of the industry to


make sure that we look at where are the most deprived areas, is there a


free-to-use cash machine there? And if there's not, the industry puts


the subsidy in to get one in there, so, of the various areas across the


UK - and there are thousands which we've identified - I think we've


only got 300 left. What do you say to the people, though, who simply


say you are cashing in? Whatever way you want to look at it, you're


just cashing in on people running out of money or being in an


inconvenient spot - how do you address that?


We try hard to make sure we do not have that situation, so we've got a


very broad and large, free-to-use ATM network in the UK. We do think


there's a case for allowing pay-to- use machines where there's consumer


demand and it's a matter of convenience.


So what can people do, then, if they feel, "I don't want to walk 45


minutes to a free machine," or, "This is ridiculous, we're on the


breadline, "yet we've got to go somewhere else to get a free


machine on principle?" There should not be any deprived areas in the UK


which do not have a free-to-use ATM. If there are, then we're working


with consumer organisations to identify those. Can the individual


write and say, "In my community there's no free machine. What will


you do about it?" The Link website is there asking for that


information with our address on and absolutely we would welcome it and


look at it. Thank you very much indeed for


explaining all of that. My pleasure. 'Following that


interview, John went away to look more closely 'into the issue of


free cash machines around Liverpool 'and came back with a great result.


'He says Link and its members have a programme 'to subsidise free cash


machines in deprived areas 'and since his discussions with Rip-Off


Britain, 'they're going to be contacting the local councillors,


'MPs and media in Liverpool to help them work out where to put more.'.


Here at Rip-Off Britain, we're always ready to investigate more of


your stories. Confused over your bills? Trying to wade your way


through never-ending small print that leaves you totally confused? I


might have been stupid for not reading it, or I've read it and not


took it in. I could kick myself. I really could.


Unsure what to do when you discovered you've lost... I thought,


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


You might have a cautionary tale of your own and want to share the


mistakes you've made with us so that other people don't do the same


thing. No-one knows about this, so this is very, very strange to me


and I would really like to get this much clearer. Don't forget, you can


always write to us at: Or you can always get in touch by sending us


an email. Don't forget, the Rip-Off Team is ready and waiting to


investigate your stories. I'm afraid that's all we've got time


for in Rip-Off Britain, but I do hope after joining us you are going


to be just that little bit wiser about the things that you can do to


avoid being taken advantage of and losing out as a result.


Whether it's pounds or pennies, there's nothing worse than knowing


you've had a raw deal, so keep the stories coming in and we'll see if


we can put it right. We'd certainly like to live up to


that reputation, so if you feel like you've been had, left short-


changed or are out of pocket, I hope you'll get in touch. We'll see


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.