Episode 3 Rip Off Britain


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Episode 3

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


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We asked you to tell us who has left you feeling ripped off?

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

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charges upon charpblgs upon charges. Legally it was right, morally, that

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is where the question of doubt comes. You contacted us in your

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thousands, by post, e-mail, even stopping us in the streets. The

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message could not be clearer. don't always get a straight answer,

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they try to to be you off. I'm not happy with them at all. It is the

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small print with the clause in you didn't realise. We are being ripped

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off, big time. Whether it is a deliberate rip off, a simple

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mistake or a catch in the small print, we will find out why you are

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out of pocket, and what you can do about it? Keep asking the questions,

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go to the stop if you have to. do get results, that is interesting

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thing. Your stories, your money, this is Rip-Off Britain. Welcome to

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Rip-Off Britain. The sums involved in some of the stories we are

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investigating today are eye nor mus, hundreds, thousands of pounds. That

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is why we are looking at a few of the unwelcome costs and the

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problems you face when you buy or own a home. The consequences when

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things don't go to plan. The results can be disastrous. Not

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least when it is all down to one of your biggest bug bears, an old

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problem that will simply not go away, builders leaving you with

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unfinished work and spiralling bills. We will have advice on that

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and a lot more. Also on today's show, one of the

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most shocking stories we have ever told. You won't believe the amount

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of money this man was forced to pay just for having his drain unblocked.

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He produced the invoice with the extra charges on it, this was of

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the order of �14,000. And you have been getting it off your chests in

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our gripe box. And now they are taking my conservatory down because

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it is falling down. Many of you are looking at

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extending your home, rather than facing the huge costs and time

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involved in moving, especially in the current economic climate, when

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house prices are so unpredictable. But finding a builder you can trust

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with the task of adapting your home, can be difficult and heart-breaking.

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Lee and Joe Anne own a three bedroom detatched house in east

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Yorkshire. Earlier this year, with their children growing up fast,

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they decided they needed more space. We decided to have a loft

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conversion done to create a fourth bedroom in the house, we felt

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Lucy's bedroom was fall. The aim was to move us up into the loft

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conversion where there would be master bedroom with an enswit.

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got a couple of quotes and accepted what would be the best one. There

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is the amount, total amount �25,240. Work was due to start in April 2011,

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and finish seven weeks later. Before the work started they said

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they needed a quota of the money up front. We were happy to do it at

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this time when it is difficult for builders, it might be as good with

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cashflow. Everything went according to plan at first. They paid the

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bulk of the bill up front, �22,000. At first we were happy with what we

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were doing, they ripped out the old loft up there, they started to form

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the dorm -- dormer, that seemed to go well, that took four or five

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weeks. They started to worry as progress on the project fell behind

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schedule. The work had started to slow down quite a bit. It took them

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a long time to get rid of the old roof joists that were in and start

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the internal work. The sub contractors that were coming were

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starting to not come every day. We were ringing the owner of the

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company quite a bit. He was not answering our answer phone messages,

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or very reluctant to get back to us. Then work stopped all together,

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leaving the family with this, in return for their �22,000.

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We are left with no windows in the dormer, it is boarded up. We have

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no staircase, and no access to it. They left the old Velux, and the

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old tank, which we will have to get someone to sort it out. We have got

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waste, rubble, just left on our driveway. We have wires poking out

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of my son's bedroom, as well as all the plumbing pipes sticking out as

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well. We're in a bit of a mess really. It is a bit of a

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construction site at the moment. Over this side we are supposed to

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have the sink and the basin, the towel, radiator. The light switches,

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obviously, and the lights, not got any of that. The only thing we have

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got is a very election window and pipes sticking out.

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All this adds up to a headache for Lee, who wants to get the work

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finished and get his family settled. It makes me angry they can leave

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the bedroom in that state, with wires and pipes happeninging down.

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The wires are connected, but, there is a possibility that the kids

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could tug around on them and play about on them. To be Hon west you,

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I'm not sure how they are attached upstairs and what damage that would

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cause. We need to get another builder in to do the work. It comes

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to the point you don't always trust what they are telling you. A recent

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survey by the consumer manage seen Which ?, shows in the past two

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years, 2.5 million of us have had complaints about builders and

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decorators. That adds up to an astonishing 2,300 complaints every

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day. In most cases the builder won't have set out to rip-off

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anyone, they will have overcommitted themselves or develop

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cashflow problems. For whatever the reason they don't finish the job,

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if you are the person who has paid out, like Lee, the results can be

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devastating. I must say, I never thought I would get in this

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situation. You hear about it from other people, you see it on TV, and

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I don't know whether I'm too trusting. I feel the amount of

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money that we spent, we have no way got the work that we have paid for

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done. Definitely feel ripped off. Lee and Joe Anne are still chasing

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the loft on version company, in the meantime they are looking for a new

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builder to put the work right and finish the job. That is likely to

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cost them upwards of another �12,000. We signed up for the

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contract, we passed over the money, they have signed their name on the

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contract. We expect them to actually deliver what was on there.

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All the building work and what we paid the money for.

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I will be honest with you, it takes a lot to shock us at Rip-Off

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Britain, here is a story like nothing we have come across before.

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Of course we are used to hearing complaints about tradesmen, we all

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know sometimes their charges with seem over the top. Imagine calling

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out an emergency plumber, whose rate turned out to be an

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extraordinary �2,8,00 an hour. It happened to -- �2,8,00 an hour, it

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happened to Harold. Wait until you hear the blil. Harold is a

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pensioner from Ealing in London, few things he loves to do more than

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listening to classical music. Recently, his enjoyment has been

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interrupted by stress. That's all stemmed from an overflowing drain

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in his back garden. When he first spotted the problem, he thought he

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had found the right people for the job. I went to the yellow pages and

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found an advertisment that claimed to have local engineers in Ealing.

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They said they could get a guy out to fix the block drain, and there

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would be a callout fee of �59 an hour. Harold, who is disabled, was

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keen to get the problem sorted out quickly. He was relieved when

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Property Care Solutions sent one of their engineers straight away.

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deduced it was under the manhole in my background. Lifted the cover and

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saw the horrible sludge. He proceeded to pump water into it,

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and stir it up. With a view to clearing it. He was stirring up the

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sludge with his probe, I guess for four or five hours. He just wasn't

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clearing the blockage. After a few hours of unsuccessfully

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pumping water into the drain, Property Care Solution's plumber

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told Harry he needed to bring in more powerful equipment, but at a

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higher cost. He produced the invoice, with the extra charges on

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it. It wasn't an extra charge but a total charge, it was in the order

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of �14,000. Yes, you heard right, �14,000. In fact, �14,400, just to

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unblock a drain. I was shocked with the price, but I felt I had no

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alternative. The plumber convinced Harold if he didn't use the

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equipment. He would be forced out of his home,

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as the drains would neat excavating. The thought of having to leave

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horrifies me, my home is adapted to my needs. I'm severely

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incapacitated. I have a chairlift to go up and down the stairs. All

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that, of course, would be lift behind, if I had to move out.

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83-year-old Harold, afraid of leaving his home, he reluctantly

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agreed to hand over the money. didn't have the money to pay him,

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but I was going to pay with my credit card, and I got in touch

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with my credit card issuer and asked them to increase my credit

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limit. After I had agreed to pay, and signed on the dotted line, so

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to speak. He brought out from his truck some apparatus or other which

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he alleged was more powerful what he had been using to date. Within a

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relatively short time, I can't say exactly how long, but a relatively

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short time, the level of the sludge started to drop. Upon which I was

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pretty cheered. The equipment may have shifted the sludge, but for

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five hours work, the bill came to a staggering �2,880 an hour. Was

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Harold a victim of a rip-off trader. Let's just see if there's any

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possibility that Property Care Solutions could have charged a fair

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price, afterall, stranger things have happened.

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We asked Dave Taylor, from another local plumbing company, to look at

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Harold's drains, and give his assessment of the job. I probably

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carry everything on the market as regards to cameras, coring machines,

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drainage machines, high-pressure jet machines, rods down to a

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plunger. Nothing extra special that I wouldn't expect to have a

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drainage film carry. I charge �150 an hour, I turn up to do a job and

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it should be on the van. If he's charging �14,000, just for jetting,

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it is atrocious, isn't it. I would like to know what was going on for

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five hours. And where the hell the water was going, if it was

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continuously jetting for five hours. The yes that really needs to be

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asked, when the extra money was paid, isn't it amazing how all of a

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sudden it cleared. It is absolutely clear the company

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charged Harold way over the odds, we asked Property Care Solutions

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for an explanation. They standby their charge, which they accept

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seems high. But they also say that it reflects the fact that they work

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in an emergency market. They insist Harold agreed to the price without

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any pressure or duress, and that it was a fact, not a tactic, that if

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the drain wasn't fixed he might have to move out.

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They are furious at any suggestion that this was a rip-off. Saying

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they are very upfront about their prices and that every job is

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different. Even so, and here's the good news,

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since we got in touch, they have now agreed with Harold a revised

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and very different price for the work. �849. They still maintain the

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work was worth much more than that, but just want to see the matter

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concluded. I am 83 years old, and yes, I would have liked to have a

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nice peaceful enjoyable retirement. Certainly I don't want to waste

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time, as I am having to waste time fighting a plumber.

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You may be thinking that Howard's experience may be extreme, but

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sadly, it is not unique. So when choosing a tradesman what are the

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things you should be looking out for to be absolutely sure there is

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someone you can rely on. Consumer Direct has great advice. If you are

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thinking of having some work done at home. There are a few things to

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do before choosing the trader. Speak to friends and family and see

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if they are able to make any recommendation, or ask the traders

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you think you are going to use to provide references or ask to see

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work they have done before. Look to see whether the company you are

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thinking of using is a member of approved schemes, such as the

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Office of Fair Trading, or local authority Trading Standards

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approved schemes. They may offer you additional help if things go

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wrong. You shouldn't feel pressured into agreeing to a contract, a

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reputable trader will give you time to think about the decisions you

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are making. If you do have time, make sure you get detailed quotes

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in writing, so you can make an informed decision about the best

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trader. If you are spending more than �100 on the work, it is worth

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considering using a credit card to pay, it may give you additional

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protection if things go wrong. Don't pay up front, pacemaker

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staged payments instead when you are happy the work is progressing

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to the write standard, make sure you get everything in writing. Read

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terms and conditions carefully so you know what you are agreeing to,

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if in doubt, take independent legal advice on what they mean. If things

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do go wrong, speak to Consumer Direct or your local citizens

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advice bureau who can provide confidential information on your

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rights. Still to come on Rip-Off Britain, we have been inundated

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with your stories of how you feel you have been mistreated or ripped

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off. We will hear how this woman's property investment went

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disastrously wrong, costing her a fortune. I had lost all my father's

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inheritance, which was a lifetime of savings. I had lost all the

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equity from my home. It makes you feel awful, because I have nothing

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left at all. In a rip off first, our very own advice shop, where

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hundreds of you came along to tell us your stories face-to-face. Find

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out how we were able to sort things out. The Rip-Off Britain pop-up

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shop here in the Trafford Centre in Manchester, has been inundated with

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people all day. BBC Learning have been helping people with numeracy

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in their interactive area. Our experts have been on hand to help

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out. Sylvia from Trading Standards has been particularly busy, people

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clearly are very anxious about the problems they hope she can sort out,

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let's go and see some of the things she has been helping people with.

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The organisation who protect consumers rights, they are doing a

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lot of research on unfair practices in caravan parks, I wouldn't give

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up, obviously you have lost your caravan now, there may be

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opportunities, potentially, to get some of your money back.

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A lot of people that have been coming into our pop-up shop in

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Manchester, have been filling out these postcards. Quite a few have

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been about issues with home improvements. Sylvia, Gail and

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Craig seem to have been having a tough time of it, they have left us

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a card saying that bedroom fitters still haven't finished the job they

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started six months ago, and also they had work done by a builder, he

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has left and not finished the work. Where are their rights? It sounds

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like a pretty tough time of it. Their rights are, under the supply

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of goods and services act 1982, any work that is done on your home or

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anywhere else, should be done within a reasonable time. Six

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months is sounding a very long time to have your bedroom done. What

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they need to do is to put something in writing, to the company and say,

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that this has been going on for far too long, they can time the essence

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of the contract, and say they have to finish the job within a

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particular time frame. If the company doesn't finish it within

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that time frame, they can get another builder and kitchen fitter

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to finish the work and charge it to the company. Unfair fees, shoddy

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building work, rising property costs, they are all problems we

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have heard from people in the Gripe Box. I'm going to complain about

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maintenance charges in blocks of flats. And now they are taking my

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conservatory down because it is falling down. The council tax that

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we pay each year, obviously it seems to be increasing yearly.

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can't afford to put a deposit down on a house. Lots of people have

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aired their property cost concerns, if you would like any further

:18:36.:18:46.
:18:46.:18:47.

information, visit our website. It can be a big enough job looking

:18:47.:18:51.

after one home. But many people buy a number of properties in the

:18:51.:18:56.

belief that investing in bricks and mortar is the best way to secure

:18:56.:19:04.

their future. But for tam sin, it was the worst decision of her life.

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She joined hundreds of other people in putting her money into a

:19:07.:19:10.

business that sounded like it couldn't fail. Instead it has cost

:19:10.:19:18.

her hundreds of thousands of pounds. When she separated from her husband

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in 2003, Tamsin was facing an uncertain financial future. With

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two children to look after, she wanted work that she could do from

:19:26.:19:31.

home. So, when a letter arrived, out of the blue, from a businessman

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offering an intriguing opportunity, she was keen to learn more.

:19:37.:19:40.

claimed he was a property expert, and he claimed that he would teach

:19:40.:19:45.

people the successes that had made him a very wealthy man indeed.

:19:45.:19:51.

man was from a buy-to-let firm called Inside Track. They organised

:19:51.:19:57.

free sessions to share their expertise. So Tamsin went along.

:19:57.:20:01.

There was a lot of elderly people there, pensioners, they were

:20:01.:20:04.

actually saying that pensions weren't going to perform properly,

:20:04.:20:08.

and the best way, the best thing for people to do was to put money

:20:08.:20:11.

into property. They actually had an old couple there, who were supposed

:20:11.:20:16.

to be members, they were claiming they were members, they were

:20:16.:20:20.

claiming that they were investigating flu -- investing

:20:21.:20:24.

through Inside Track and making money out of this. Encouraged by

:20:24.:20:30.

what she heard, Tamsin signed up for a more he detailed two-day

:20:30.:20:35.

seminar, it cost her �2,500, but Inside Track encouraged her that

:20:35.:20:39.

there was big money to be made. You can understand how. This footage is

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from another of their seminars. They certainly do like to stress

:20:42.:20:47.

the potential profits. Nice chunky lumps every time you do a deal,

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nice big piece, nice big piece. her seminar, Tamsin was told she

:20:53.:20:56.

could get a discounted price on investment properties, by buying

:20:56.:21:03.

through their sister company, Instant Access Prorpbts, they told

:21:03.:21:07.

her not only would she cover her costs and make money by renting

:21:07.:21:11.

them out, but the properties themselves would grow in value.

:21:11.:21:13.

Even better, professional and legal support would be part of the

:21:13.:21:18.

package. In fact, they promised they would carefully nurse her

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through the whole process. In return, she would pay them charges,

:21:24.:21:30.

membership fees and finders fees for properties she bought through

:21:30.:21:40.

the company. They referred to us as "armchair" investors, they claimed

:21:40.:21:45.

to be property experts and people with business degrees, with

:21:45.:21:49.

backgrounds in accountany and estate agencies, they said they had

:21:49.:21:52.

many years in the game and personally made money through t and

:21:52.:21:56.

they would hold our hands through the whole investing process. They

:21:56.:22:01.

said they had experts on the ground in Spain, that we would be assigned

:22:01.:22:04.

a property portfolio consultant, they called them, and everyone

:22:04.:22:09.

would look at our particular needs. Reassured by the level of support

:22:09.:22:13.

offered, Tamsin bought seven properties in all. Three in Florida,

:22:13.:22:17.

two in Spain, and two in the UK. She got free membership, because

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she had bought so many. But she handed over �185,000 in deposits

:22:25.:22:29.

alone. I think the first time that I started to be a little bit wary

:22:29.:22:34.

of them is when I had decided I had bought enough properties, and I

:22:34.:22:38.

knew I personally had reached my limit, but they kept on trying to

:22:38.:22:42.

ring me up and sell me more properties. And there were other

:22:42.:22:48.

things making her wary. The company had promised thorough, independent

:22:48.:22:52.

valuations for their properties, which Tamsin says, she never got.

:22:52.:22:56.

On top of that, the rental income was nowhere near what she had been

:22:56.:23:01.

led to believe. So very quickly instead of making money on her

:23:01.:23:05.

Florida investments, she realised she was losing it. Some months it

:23:05.:23:14.

was so bad that I was actually lose ing $00 a month income. I was on my

:23:14.:23:21.

own -- losing $900 a month income. I was on my own, and there was no

:23:21.:23:25.

way I could afford that. Her other investments were failing too?

:23:25.:23:29.

knew that certainly as far as I was concerned, that I had made a loss

:23:29.:23:32.

on all seven properties. I thought this is not just chance, one

:23:32.:23:38.

property maybe not working, but all seven, it was just too much. Tamsin

:23:38.:23:44.

wondered if she should sell, but Instant Access insisted, long-term

:23:44.:23:48.

her investments should still be successful, as they said whatever

:23:48.:23:54.

the wider economic climate. But Tamsin, was now seriously worried.

:23:54.:23:59.

What I started to do was go on the Internet and get in contact with

:23:59.:24:02.

other members, little by little I heard all these other stories. I

:24:02.:24:06.

knew then it wasn't just me. Every member I was speaking to was saying

:24:06.:24:10.

the same. I searched on forums and other people who had lost money.

:24:10.:24:13.

Some people had tried to get some compensation or some money back and

:24:13.:24:20.

they had a very, very difficult time. But it was too late. In 2008,

:24:20.:24:27.

Inside Track and Instant Access properties went into administration,

:24:27.:24:30.

Tamsin lost all the money she had invested. The prorpbts she had

:24:30.:24:35.

bought, and her home. She's -- the properties she had bought and her

:24:36.:24:39.

home, she's now facing bankruptcy. I realised I had lost �350,000, I

:24:39.:24:43.

had lost all my father's inheritance, a lifetimes of his

:24:43.:24:47.

savings, I had lost all the equity from my home, and I have always

:24:47.:24:53.

worked, all my life, and I had lost the opportunity to support my

:24:53.:24:56.

children through university. I can't afford things I would have

:24:56.:24:59.

been able to afford, taking them on holiday, going on really nice

:24:59.:25:03.

holidays with my kids. Really I had worked hard all my life and got

:25:03.:25:08.

really nice standard of living, and always very careful, it just makes

:25:08.:25:15.

you feel awful. I mean times even now I worry about my future,

:25:15.:25:25.
:25:25.:25:28.

because I have nothing left at all. With Instant Access properties in

:25:28.:25:34.

liquidtation and Inside Track disappearing, Tamsin is fighting

:25:34.:25:39.

with other people to get back their money. We're fighting together,

:25:39.:25:42.

collectively to hold these people accountable for what went on in

:25:42.:25:46.

this company, and send out a very, very clear message to stop any copy

:25:46.:25:56.
:25:56.:25:59.

cats, anyone who might like to copy this company. Inside Track, and

:25:59.:26:03.

Instant Access Properties deny any wrongdoing, and describe Tamsin's

:26:03.:26:07.

allegations as groundless, she says she and the company themselves were

:26:07.:26:10.

victims of the global financial collapse. But Tamsin is battling on.

:26:10.:26:15.

Although it will be a long and expensive process. If you are

:26:15.:26:19.

trying to sort out a new mortgage, you will obviously want to get a

:26:19.:26:23.

deal on the best possible terms. That is what Steve and Debbie

:26:23.:26:27.

Matthews thought when they signed up with the Halifax. They agreed a

:26:27.:26:30.

deal supposed to give them for more their money, a lower rate on the

:26:30.:26:36.

mortgage, plus some additional cash, that would cover the cost of a few

:26:36.:26:40.

home improvements. Unfortunately that little extra led to big bills

:26:40.:26:48.

they didn't expect and couldn't afford.

:26:48.:26:53.

Ex-military commander, Steve Matthews, runs the volunteer cadet

:26:53.:26:57.

training at his local base. He's used to putting people through

:26:58.:27:01.

their paces, and he expects the highest of standards. That applies

:27:01.:27:11.
:27:11.:27:16.

to the companies he deals with as well. The mortgage on his sem y --

:27:16.:27:23.

semi in Halifax was due to be renewed. We wanted a new mortgage

:27:23.:27:26.

because it was coming to the end of its term. We got a really good deal,

:27:26.:27:30.

we were paying less than we did before, because of the interest

:27:30.:27:34.

rates coming all the way down. the end of the meeting, the

:27:34.:27:38.

Matthews were also given the opportunity to borrow some extra

:27:38.:27:41.

money to use on their house. Because the mortgage rates are so

:27:41.:27:45.

good, you could get a really good deal, and you would still pay less

:27:45.:27:50.

than what you were paying before. That would be to borrow about

:27:50.:27:56.

�6,500. So the deal was, a better mortgage rate, and a �6,500 loan,

:27:56.:28:00.

and their total monthly repayments would still be less than they had

:28:00.:28:05.

been paying before. Just too good to turn down, they decided to go

:28:05.:28:10.

for it. For once, we had a good deal and we were happy to pay

:28:10.:28:13.

slightly less, than they were originally paying for over three

:28:13.:28:17.

years, but we had some money, we had something in our pocket to look

:28:17.:28:23.

forward to, so we could treat ourselves.

:28:23.:28:27.

The �6,500 arrived into the bank account, and the math enthuse said

:28:27.:28:30.

about doing up their house, starting with the bathroom. It is

:28:30.:28:33.

nice to walk in the morning, and have a nice shower and everything

:28:33.:28:40.

is new and gleaming. And you know, things were good, everything was

:28:41.:28:45.

rosy and everybody was happy. least they were, until shortly

:28:45.:28:47.

afterwards the couple were puzzled to get a letter from the Halifax

:28:47.:28:50.

telling them their mortgage deal was coming to an end, and they

:28:51.:28:54.

needed to get a new one. We were like, no, we have just done this.

:28:54.:29:00.

My wife actually rang them up, and said there has been a mistake, we

:29:00.:29:04.

have one. To their horror, the Halifax advised them the new

:29:04.:29:09.

mortgage offer they had been so pleased with was null and void,

:29:09.:29:16.

because an additional loan meant they weren't entitled to was no

:29:16.:29:21.

longer valid. They were now tied to a three-year deal where the rate

:29:21.:29:25.

was higher, so there would be an awful lot more to pay. We are out

:29:25.:29:30.

of pocket for �40 a month over three years, that is �1400, that is

:29:30.:29:34.

wrong, we shouldn't be having to pay that out when they have made

:29:34.:29:41.

the errors. Don't forget Steve and his wife never asked for the loan,

:29:41.:29:45.

the bank offered it to them when they agreed to renew their mortgage.

:29:45.:29:48.

They agreed because it seemed they would be saving money, not paying

:29:48.:29:55.

�1400 more. Unhappy, Steve marched down to the

:29:55.:29:58.

Halifax to complain. They said it was their fault, we wouldn't have

:29:58.:30:02.

to pay extra. They said they would look into it. This went on for

:30:02.:30:06.

weeks and weeks and weeks, me phoning up saying we haven't heard

:30:06.:30:10.

nothing. Eventually the Halifax agreed to

:30:10.:30:15.

give the Matthews some of the money back. But only �590, although that

:30:15.:30:20.

meant they would still be left with a shortfall of �850. But they felt

:30:20.:30:26.

they had no choice but to accept. In the end we said, OK, that's only

:30:26.:30:31.

because my wife, Debbie, was actually getting ill over this, and

:30:31.:30:39.

stressed, and each day I could see her actual ly -- actually see her

:30:39.:30:42.

waking up earlier and earlier and in the middle of the night. She was

:30:42.:30:46.

saying it was getting too much for her, it wasn't fair on her, we said

:30:46.:30:54.

we would have it. He may have felt like he was in the

:30:54.:30:59.

firing line, but Steve absolutely refused to admit Ade feet. He

:30:59.:31:06.

contacted rip -- admit defeat. He contacted Rip-Off Britain to see if

:31:06.:31:10.

we could help. We got in touch with the Halifax. We are happy to report

:31:10.:31:14.

that the company has gone back to the couple with an about turn. They

:31:15.:31:19.

have agreed to pay the amount they would have been out of pocket, plus

:31:19.:31:23.

an extra �200 to compensate the distress and inconvience caused a

:31:23.:31:33.
:31:33.:31:40.

Steve is very glad he persevered and got the Halifax to stand to

:31:40.:31:44.

attention! When you have had a set- to with a bank, and you are in the

:31:44.:31:49.

right, keep on going, especially if you know that you are right. Don't

:31:49.:31:57.

give up, don't shrivel and die, stand up, be a man, and try to get

:31:57.:32:04.

what you are entitled to. Big companies don't always make

:32:04.:32:08.

things easy to understand. It can be confusing trying to work out

:32:08.:32:14.

just why you haven't ended up with what you expected. So if you feel

:32:14.:32:17.

bogged down, we have put together a booklet of tips and advice. You can

:32:17.:32:27.
:32:27.:32:37.

find a link to the free guide on We all know that buying a home is

:32:37.:32:40.

expensive, but how many of you are prepared for the hidden costs. You

:32:40.:32:44.

have been telling us how surprised you are at the amount of fees

:32:44.:32:48.

involved with your mortgages, so we decided to investigate, and

:32:48.:32:56.

uncovered some interesting findings. This is Chris and his partner Sue,

:32:56.:32:59.

and Chris's children, Callum and Luke.

:32:59.:33:03.

Three months ago they moved into their new house in Greater

:33:03.:33:06.

Manchester. I was looking for about 12 months before I eventually found

:33:06.:33:10.

the house that suited me. I was really excited about that, because

:33:10.:33:14.

it is literally right in the heart of where I wanted to be again. I

:33:14.:33:18.

jumped at the opportunity to buy it. I put in an offer for the house, it

:33:18.:33:23.

was accepted. I then contacted the building society, and spoke with a

:33:23.:33:26.

lady there who offered me advice on the mortgage, I went through bits

:33:26.:33:34.

and pieces and I was told what I would and wouldn't need. Happy with

:33:34.:33:37.

what he heard, and receiving a very competitive mortgage offer, Chris

:33:37.:33:42.

decided to go ahead. I made the application, and the application

:33:42.:33:46.

was processed. During that time I was told I would need to pay a

:33:46.:33:51.

valuation fee, and was told how much that fee would be, I duly paid

:33:51.:33:56.

that. Chris paid �380 to get the house valued and initially didn't

:33:56.:34:00.

think too much about it, when received a breakdown of the costs,

:34:00.:34:05.

he couldn't believe what he saw. This is the key facts that I was

:34:05.:34:11.

sent about two weeks later. A standard valuation fee, non-

:34:11.:34:21.

refundable was �155, the valuers administration fee was �16.50, the

:34:21.:34:28.

lenders' valuation administration fee, �208.50, that is when my jaw

:34:28.:34:34.

dropped. What was so surprising was that 60% of the bill was made up of

:34:34.:34:38.

administration charges. That is not uncommon. James from Which?

:34:39.:34:44.

Magazine, says most banks, not just Chris's, have wildly different

:34:44.:34:50.

charges linked to the valuation fee. There is an enormous varying amount

:34:50.:34:54.

in valuations, you can't escape getting a valuation, your lender

:34:54.:34:57.

needs to know how much the property is worth. Valuations are standard

:34:57.:35:02.

procedures, the cost of a valuation is fairly similar, whoever you go

:35:02.:35:09.

to to have it done. Not happy with what he has been charged, Chris

:35:09.:35:16.

spoke to his bank to question the fees, in particular the biggest the

:35:16.:35:21.

�208 for admin. I was told that whilst they might not agree with

:35:21.:35:24.

the fees, they were the same, nationwide, but they couldn't do

:35:24.:35:30.

anything about it, if I didn't pay it I couldn't have the mortgage.

:35:30.:35:34.

one end of the scale you have people charging the bare minimum

:35:34.:35:37.

for valuation, at the other end you have lenders taking a massive take

:35:37.:35:43.

for themselves. You can pay anything between �200-�450 for an

:35:43.:35:46.

valuation, which is, in essence, the same thing, just different

:35:46.:35:50.

lenders charging different amounts to different borrowers. As a result

:35:50.:35:52.

you can't easily compare total mortgage costs between banks,

:35:52.:35:58.

making it harder to know if you are getting the best deal. Chris has no

:35:58.:36:01.

problem with the valuation fee itself, but why the administration

:36:01.:36:06.

charge for that fee had to be so high, he finds harder to understand.

:36:06.:36:12.

Leaving him, with a simple question. For me, if they are instructing

:36:12.:36:16.

somebody to come and value a house, it is an e-mail, a telephone call,

:36:16.:36:19.

or perhaps a letter to the company that is going to do the valuation.

:36:19.:36:24.

So why then does it cost so much money just to pick a phone up or

:36:24.:36:29.

just to push a button. So, with some mortgage lenders charging more

:36:29.:36:36.

than 0 different fees and in a market where customers can switch

:36:36.:36:43.

their mortgages every few years, the costs can mount up. To help you

:36:43.:36:47.

navigate you through this, we explain what fees you can and

:36:47.:36:52.

cannot a void when buying a house. Buying a house, there are lots of

:36:52.:36:55.

fees to pavement the mortgage arrangement fee is the most

:36:55.:37:02.

important. A few years ago you would pay �100 for the fee and

:37:02.:37:07.

covering the admin costs of the lender. Now lenders are charging up

:37:07.:37:10.

to �1,000, they use the extra revenue to charge a lower interest

:37:10.:37:16.

rate for the mortgage and get to the top of the comparison tables.

:37:16.:37:21.

Two more fees you can't really avoid are the valuation fee and the

:37:21.:37:24.

solicitors' fee. The lender needs to know the house is worth what you

:37:24.:37:28.

are paying for it, they need a valuation, that will cost about

:37:28.:37:35.

�200 or more, then obviously you need to get a solicitor or a

:37:35.:37:40.

conveycy to do the legal work, that is �1,000 and is unavoidable. You

:37:40.:37:45.

don't just pay fees when you take out the mortgage, you can also be

:37:45.:37:49.

charged a fee web the mortgage comes to an end or -- when the

:37:49.:37:54.

mortgage comes to an end or an exit fee, it is worth checking the

:37:54.:37:58.

original mortgage contract, make sure the fees are in there, they

:37:58.:38:05.

are not trying to charge a fee you are not legally required to pay.

:38:05.:38:09.

The next thing is an early repayment charge, when you take out

:38:09.:38:13.

the more, you may have taken on the special deal for the first up to

:38:13.:38:16.

five years where you are paying a low interest rate, if you try to

:38:16.:38:19.

end the mortgage during that introductor period, you could end

:38:19.:38:27.

up paying an early repayment charge of up to 4%.

:38:27.:38:31.

Dodgy builders, poor workmanship, escalating costs, from really

:38:31.:38:34.

aggressive trades people, they are all things we have dealt with on

:38:34.:38:38.

the programme today. They lead to a staggering 2,000 complaints a day,

:38:38.:38:43.

landing on the desks of Trading Standards officers. So how can we

:38:43.:38:49.

protect ourselves as consumers, and how can we fight back against those

:38:49.:38:54.

rip-off merchants. Let's ask Trading Standards. Our research has

:38:54.:38:58.

shown that over the last three years, more than two million

:38:58.:39:00.

complaints have been made to Trading Standards about people who

:39:00.:39:06.

are involved in some way or another with building. That's what 2,000

:39:06.:39:10.

complaints a day. How concerned are you by what appears to be an

:39:10.:39:14.

escalating problem? I think it is about Trading Standards doing their

:39:14.:39:16.

bit, by investigating these complaints and where traders are

:39:16.:39:20.

found to be breaching the law, taking robust action. It is also

:39:20.:39:23.

about educating consumers to minimise the risk of a problem

:39:23.:39:26.

occurring. One of my great concerns is there shutd be more consumer

:39:26.:39:30.

education, people -- should be more consumer education, and people

:39:30.:39:34.

should be more educated about how to choose trader and not someone

:39:34.:39:38.

like a cold caller. You say you are concerned and prepared to

:39:38.:39:40.

investigate, the fact that practices are continuing, it means

:39:40.:39:43.

that Trading Standards are powerless? We are not powerless,

:39:43.:39:47.

there is no magic wand, but Trading Standards cannot provide the whole

:39:48.:39:51.

answer. Which is why I'm saying, it is important n my view, that people

:39:51.:39:56.

are better aware of how to choose a trader. Simple things like choosing

:39:56.:40:00.

a trader approval scheme, getting several written quotes, knowing

:40:00.:40:04.

that the law entitles them to expect goods of satisfactory

:40:04.:40:08.

quality, workmanship done with reasonable skill and care, and

:40:08.:40:12.

knowing how to get redress for themselves. Trading Standards don't

:40:12.:40:14.

have to investigate then, prevention is better than cure, it

:40:14.:40:17.

is that simple. What happens if someone is in the middle of a job,

:40:17.:40:21.

who has quoted you one figure for it, who says this is more

:40:21.:40:23.

complicated than I thought, I need more expensive equipment to

:40:23.:40:28.

complete the job? If you are in that dreadful position where trader

:40:28.:40:32.

gets the Ghostbusters equipment out,, saying you need the equipment

:40:32.:40:38.

of �1,000 every five minutes, put a stop on it, say thank you, we will

:40:38.:40:42.

stop it here, let me pay you for the work you have done I don't want

:40:42.:40:45.

any more, choose trader in the reliable way I have told you. If

:40:45.:40:50.

you think the trader has tried to rip you off for might have,

:40:50.:40:56.

complain to Trading Standards, let them look into it.

:40:56.:40:58.

Here at Rip-Off Britain we are always ready to investigate more of

:40:58.:41:03.

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

:41:03.:41:06.

neverending small print that leaves you totally confused? I might have

:41:06.:41:10.

been stupid for not reading it. Or I have read it and not taken it in.

:41:10.:41:15.

I could kick myself. I really could. Unsure what to do when you discover

:41:15.:41:19.

you have lost out, and that great deal has ended up costing you

:41:19.:41:24.

money? I thought, this cannot be true. It is totally unacceptable, I

:41:24.:41:28.

was so angry. You might have a cautionary tale of your own, and

:41:28.:41:31.

would be happy to share the mistakes you have made with us, so

:41:31.:41:36.

others don't do the same. No-one knows about this, this is very,

:41:36.:41:41.

very strange to me, I would really like to get this much clearer.

:41:41.:41:51.
:41:51.:41:59.

You can write to us on the above The Rip-Off team is ready and

:41:59.:42:04.

waiting to investigate your stories. That's all we have time for today.

:42:04.:42:08.

But do make sure when spending any of your money on bricks and mortar,

:42:08.:42:12.

that you do your homework, and watch out for the pitfalls before

:42:12.:42:16.

signing any paperwork. Julia is right, homework is the key,

:42:16.:42:19.

always check before you sign for anything, now hopefully today you

:42:19.:42:23.

will have picked up some tips that can stop you finding yourself in

:42:23.:42:26.

the sort of situations that we have been hearing about on the programme.

:42:26.:42:29.

Thank you very much for joining us today, and hopefully we will see

:42:29.:42:32.

The series exposing rip-offs, raw deals and poor service returns for a new run, with Julia Somerville joining Gloria Hunniford and Angela Rippon to investigate why viewers have been left out of pocket - and trying to get their problems resolved. Whether it's rocketing energy prices, unexpected bank charges, or a catch in the small print that's had devastating consequences, they'll get answers from the companies responsible - as well as giving invaluable tips and advice on how to get the best deals, and avoid costly rip offs! Plus, the team have been on the road, tackling consumer complaints face to face at the Rip Off Britain Pop-Up shop.