Episode 6 Rip Off Britain


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Episode 6

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


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Transcript


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

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I think this is very, very wrong for what they have done.

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The bank piles charges upon charges upon charges...

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Legally, it was right. Morally, that's where the question and doubt comes, in my view.

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And you've contacted us in your thousands,

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by post, e-mail, even stopping us in the street.

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And the message could not be clearer.

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I doubt we'd get a straight answer, they'd just try and fob you off.

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I'm not happy with them.

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There's always that very small print that's got the clause in that you didn't realise.

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We're being ripped off big time.

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Whether it's a deliberate rip-off, a simple mistake or a catch in the small print,

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we'll find out why you're out of pocket and what you can do about it.

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Keep asking the questions, you know, go to the top if you have to.

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We do get results, that's the interesting thing.

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Your stories, your money!

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This is Rip-Off Britain.

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Hello and welcome to Rip-Off Britain,

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where amongst the topics we'll be tackling today is something that thousands of you

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have told us is right up there with your biggest bugbears.

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-It's known as small print.

-Oh, yes.

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When you feel ripped off, all too often it's actually the devil in the detail that's caught you out.

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In fact, the Office of Fair Trading has said that the overwhelming majority of their workload

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-is dealing with people's confusion over...

-Small print!

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Well, in fact, we're probably all guilty sometimes of not reading through those terms and conditions,

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so today we'll hear about what can happen if you don't know exactly what you're getting into

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when you sign on the dotted line,

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and offer some tips on how to stop the same thing happening to you.

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Also coming up on today's programme,

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the devastating consequences when a catch in the small print means your terminal-illness policy

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just won't pay out.

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I will fight them to the end, to the end, for my money that I've paid in.

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There's some fabulous advice on offer at Rip-Off Britain's Pop-Up Shop.

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The Office of Fair Trading have been looking into a lot of these competition companies,

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particularly prize-draw companies,

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and looking at their small print to see if the small print is fair

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and to see if they're omitting any information that they should give to consumers.

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If you've stayed with the same telephone company for years,

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it usually means that you're pretty happy with the service they provide,

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and you'd hope that they'd be delighted that you'd stuck with them as well.

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So if they are, does that mean they should let you know if you're paying them more than you need to?

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Well, here's a man who thinks that his loyalty has definitely not been returned.

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If you've had any of these BT telephones over the last few years,

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it's probably because you bought a new one or had an upgrade.

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That's a nice one of Charlotte and Chloe.

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John and Alice Darrell have a much more traditional phone,

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which they've been using for 17 years.

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In that time it's brought them some very good news.

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I have six grandchildren. I look forward to using the phone.

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The phone is most important for my son Russell in Thailand

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because it's the only way of communicating,

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and it's nice to hear from him from such a long way away.

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Hello, John. How are you?

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John is a retired betting-shop manager. He'd been with BT as long as it's been in existence,

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and he's been happy with his phone and line-rental package.

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But he contacted Rip-Off Britain about an unwelcome charge

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his faithful old phone has been adding to his bill,

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which he only fully appreciated after being offered a cheaper deal by a big utility company.

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And I found I can get it cheaper from them than I could from BT.

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I asked them also do I have to get a phone from them and they said no.

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John realised he's been paying BT money he simply didn't need to.

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He'd been paying BT £3 a quarter to rent the actual phone. That's £12 a year.

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He was fully aware of the charge, but assumed he had no choice but to pay it,

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and he certainly hadn't realised that he could avoid it by just buying a telephone himself.

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Nobody ever told me I could have changed my phone over.

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I always thought that this phone from BT was a prerequisite of using their landlines.

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That's why I never queried paying the fee.

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This is John and Alice's phone, the Relate 100.

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You can't buy them these days, but an equivalent model costs about £6.

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Over the years, John and Alice have paid more than £200 to rent theirs.

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For £200, I expect top of the range which does everything,

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even makes the tea for me. £200 is a lot of money,

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cos we can't afford £200, not to throw away.

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We didn't know how cheap the phones were, did we?

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Flicking through the phone section of a retail catalogue, John and Alice were flabbergasted

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to discover what £200 could buy them now.

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£6! Cor! That's cheap, that!

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We could have had 32 of those for what we paid BT!

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- 32... - 32 phones...

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It was clear on John's BT bills that he's been paying to rent his phone,

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but he thinks that phone providers should let customers know that there are alternatives to renting,

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especially if, like him, they've been a really loyal customer for years.

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I, myself, think that all companies do the best for everybody that uses their system,

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and that's why I never queried BT in the first place.

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How are the dogs getting on, Carol?

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BT has said that John and Alice can keep the phone they've been renting,

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and after their complaint about how much it's cost them,

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they were offered £15 as a gesture of goodwill,

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but they've turned that down and have now been in touch with the Ombudsman.

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I would never have known that I would be able to get a phone on my own,

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and I would still have been paying £3 a quarter to BT for the rest of my life.

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But BT told Rip-Off Britain that they were...

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They say...

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..because it offers more choice, regular upgrades and benefits,

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such as...

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..if the phone becomes faulty.

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They also stress that they explain

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to everyone who becomes a BT customer that they...

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..and that they've done that for the last 30 years.

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But maybe that's the point.

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John never switched to BT, and he maintains that in all the years he was with them

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nobody flagged up that choice.

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In the meantime, although Alice would appreciate a cordless phone...

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John! Phone!

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..which of course would make things easier for John who's hard of hearing,

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they're going to take BT up on their offer to keep the tried and tested phone they've been renting.

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I don't want a phone that lights up and tells me who's calling.

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All I want is to be able to answer my phone, take a message, speak to my grandchildren,

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and that's all I need.

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So John's case highlights the need to have a good look at your bills

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to make sure that you're happy with the amount you're being charged,

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and, indeed, that you know exactly what they're all for.

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Lynn Parker from the phone regulator Ofcom

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has some more advice on how not to get caught out by those unexpected charges.

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Two of the types of charges that consumers may not be aware of

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are, for example, caller-line identification

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where your phone displays the number of the person that's calling you.

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If you don't have a phone that actually displays the number,

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then you're not going to want to be paying this charge.

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You can be charged, for example, for not paying by direct debit.

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So consumers should see whether they can pay by direct debit

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because that might make their bills cheaper

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or they might be charged for receiving a paper bill,

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so if you have access to the internet it may be better to see your bills online and not receive a paper bill.

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You will be charged a fee if you pay your bill late,

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so consumers should clearly try to avoid that by paying on time.

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It's important that when signing up to a contract

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consumers are aware of how much it's going to cost them

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if they want to get out of the contract early.

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If consumers see a charge on their bill that they don't understand

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or they think it's for a service they haven't received...

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and go through the complaints procedure.

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If, after eight weeks, the matter hasn't been resolved,

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then the consumer has a right to go to alternative dispute resolution

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where an Ombudsman will independently decide their case.

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At a time when money is tighter than ever,

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

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avoiding rip-offs and sharp practice along the way,

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so we've put together a booklet of tips and advice to help safeguard your hard-earned money.

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

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..or, if you want to receive a copy in the post,

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send an A5 self-addressed envelope to the address we'll give you right at the end of the programme.

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Now, we've all heard stories of insurers not paying out

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because of something in your policy's small print.

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But it's especially distressing if that happens when you're desperately ill.

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Policies covering critical or terminal illness

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are something that you would hope would be clear cut.

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But in fact the terms are often much harder to satisfy than you might have realised.

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Sometimes, whatever your illness, as far as your insurance company is concerned

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it may not be critical or even terminal enough.

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Geoff and Jackie Churches' plans for their retirement were abruptly halted

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when Jackie went for a routine medical visit.

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I went to my GP's surgery for a normal diabetic check-up.

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During the course of my check-up I asked the nurse whether she could have a look at my right breast,

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as it was very uncomfortable. She called in my GP, he had a look,

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and he found an extremely large lump.

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The lump was diagnosed as cancer and further tests revealed that it was already at an advanced stage.

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I'm quite a private person. I burst into tears,

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and was carted off somewhere to have a good cry,

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and, "That's it, girl! Get it out your system!"

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And we actually went out for a meal that lunchtime,

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because my daughter said, "I don't want to remember this day as the day I was told my mother had cancer."

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The cancer was so advanced that the family was told to prepare for the fact that Jackie was dying.

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Any treatment she would receive would only be palliative.

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Being told you're terminally ill

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is...I think...the most frightening thing anyone has ever said to me.

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Your mind goes blank to start off with,

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and you think, "One in three people have been told they've got cancer, you're now becoming a statistic...

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"What the hell am I going to do about it?" You know, there's things we've got to do.

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"How can I live without her?

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"How am I going to finance myself, etc...?"

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But most of all, "I'm going to live without her, I'm going to be on my own."

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When the doctor told me I was terminally ill, it literally was, "I'm going to die..."

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You know, do I arrange a funeral, do I...?

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There's just so much that went through your mind,

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but each time interspersing all of that is, "I'm going to die."

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And that's about all I can say is, yeah, you do feel very self-centred,

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you want to be private, you want to sneak off somewhere...

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Can we stop now?

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After the terrible news had sunk in,

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the family turned their attention to planning how to make the most of the time they had left together.

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And you put L above it.

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My youngest son, Stephen, who's very practical, asked whether we had any insurance cover.

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And we dug out the old policy, had a look at it,

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and, yes, we were covered for terminal illness.

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In that sense, we were quite relieved that we could sort some of their debts out and bills,

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and there'd be money left over for them to do those little small things they always wanted to do.

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But their hopes of a little financial help to ease the situation were soon dashed.

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The insurance policy had very specific terms and conditions

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relating to terminal illness.

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For Scottish Widows to deem that I am actually terminally ill,

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they have to write to your oncologist and get proof of your illness.

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This is the letter that my oncologist wrote back to Scottish Widows.

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I'll read you the relevant paragraph.

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"The critical point from your letter of 25 November 2010

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"was whether I could confirm life expectancy of no greater than 12 months.

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"The median survival of clients with breast cancer metastatic to the viscera is less than 12 months.

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"Therefore, although some patients can survive long-term,

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"there is a greater than 50% risk of death in the 12 months from the time of diagnosis of metastatic disease."

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To me, that paragraph is straightforward.

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To Scottish Widows, it wasn't enough.

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The sticking point was that Jackie's consultant would not say 100% that she would die within one year,

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and as their insurance policy defined terminal illness as "death within a 12-month period",

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Scottish Widows refused to pay out.

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Jackie and Geoff were left devastated.

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I mean, she is terminal, I'm going to lose her eventually,

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but they seem to be giving us both a hard time for existing.

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I've lost count of the number of times that I've apologised directly speaking to Scottish Widows advisors

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for living. It's the biggest mistake of my life is to actually have ended up living,

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as opposed to dying to their timetable.

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Jackie has already lived longer than the 12-month definition of terminal,

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but because that figure is pretty much industry standard, used by all the big insurance companies,

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when she appealed to the Financial Ombudsman service, she lost.

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Scottish Widows told us that while Jackie is suffering a serious illness,

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a specialist medical assessment said that her life expectancy can be...

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They say they go beyond the industry's best-practice guidelines when assessing claims,

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and use an independent panel to take a second look at any that aren't clear cut.

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And they've advised Jackie that "only in the unfortunate event"

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that her condition deteriorates to the point where her life expectancy is...

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..will they be in a position to pay out.

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But Jackie feels that terminal illness should not have a timetable,

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and she's been left feeling very bitter.

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I will fight them to the end, to the end, for my money that I've paid in.

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So if you've got a policy that you are relying on to offer cover if the worst happens,

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it is absolutely vital that you understand exactly what the terms and conditions mean,

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and that you are covered in the way that you believe.

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Our postbag is absolutely full of stories about things

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that are just tucked away in the small print of contracts,

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so Sarah Pennells from Savvywoman has some really good advice for you.

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If you have to make a claim on terminal illness insurance,

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it will be down to the insurer's own medical officer to decide whether or not you meet the criteria.

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If you make a claim on a policy that includes terminal illness cover

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and your insurer won't pay out,

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your first thing to do is get in touch with the insurer and complain to them.

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They've then got eight weeks to either look at your complaint and tell you they'll pay out,

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or to reject or to ask for more time.

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If you're not happy with the response...

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and it's free.

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They'll look at your case and decide.

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And if they find in your favour, they can make the insurance company pay you compensation.

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It is worth bearing in mind

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that different insurers have different approaches

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when they assess claims,

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and some may ask for different levels of evidence about how ill you are and your prognosis.

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It's another reason why it's a really good idea to buy these kind of policies

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through a good insurance broker.

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Because they'll be able to help you fight your corner

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if there's a problem and the insurer doesn't want to pay.

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Still to come on Rip-Off Britain, when not reading the small print goes more than skin deep.

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Well, the advertisement looked so good, because it said "massive fat removal and skin tightening".

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What I underlined was the results are seen immediately.

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And more of your questions answered at the Rip-Off Pop-Up Shop.

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It's a real irritation to me

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that the whole country, commerce, banks, councils, anyone,

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seems to tolerate fine print.

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As you might imagine there are many things we don't like here at Rip-Off Britain,

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but poor customer service and shoddy workmanship are right up at the top of the list.

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Pam and Russell Polloway have encountered both at the same time.

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They ordered what should have been their dream kitchen,

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but, six months on, wait till you see what they've ended up with.

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A shiny new kitchen from a company advertising online as one that cannot be beaten on price.

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The Polloways from North London thought they'd got a real bargain when they bought their kitchen

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from the website kitchensuber.co.uk back in June.

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But what exactly did they get for their money?

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This is the door which is supposed to fit the whole length of this cabinet.

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As you can see, it just about goes halfway.

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We ordered this kitchen back in June for a nice family Christmas, I thought!

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It is now November and we are still without our doors.

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Not unreasonably, Pamela and Russell expected complete units to be delivered.

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But these are not the doors and drawers they ordered from kitchensuber.co.uk.

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Because those didn't arrive, they've been forced to buy extras from their DIY store.

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My wife, looking over the internet, found this firm kitchensuber,

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who promised top quality goods for little money.

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And within a few days they sent somebody down who was supposed to be a designer-surveyor

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who measured up and showed us samples which looked very, very good, and gave us a quote.

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He said if we paid £100 deposit now, there and then,

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that we could have it for this very, very good figure.

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Encouraged to sign up on the spot to get the best deal,

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the couple agreed to pay £2,400 for their kitchen.

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We thought it would be a good idea to have it done while we go on holiday,

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so we can come back and we have a nice new kitchen.

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You can imagine our frustration when we walked through the door

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and we saw that the kitchen was half-completed,

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the doors were different colours and it was just a shambles, really.

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PHONE RINGS

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# I'm in the phone booth It's the one across the hall... #

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The Polloways called the company to complain and eventually, after clocking up many hours on the phone,

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kitchensuber.co.uk did send round some new doors,

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but...

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The replacements were just as bad as the ones they sent originally.

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So it was back to the telephone.

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I've been on the phone incessantly...

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I'm number 4 in the queue.

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..Virtually on a daily basis.

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I'm on hold. They're playing that stupid music again.

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I've been promised next week, next week, next week,

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but next week never comes.

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It has already been over ten minutes and my arm's starting to ache now.

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The Polloways decided to do some research on the company.

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My wife looked up on the computer regarding complaints about various companies,

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and found just sheets of complaints about kitchensuber,

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all with the same problem as we have had.

0:21:050:21:08

Can't believe how many complaints there is! Look at them all!

0:21:090:21:12

One after the other!

0:21:120:21:15

So when you're making a big purchase like a kitchen, what's the best way to find a reliable company?

0:21:150:21:22

I'd be suspicious of a company that was offering something

0:21:220:21:26

at a very low price.

0:21:260:21:29

You need to ensure that perhaps then you do some further checks to make sure you are getting a good deal.

0:21:290:21:34

Look at forums on the internet

0:21:340:21:35

to see whether or not there's any information about that particular company.

0:21:350:21:40

Always get three quotes, I would suggest,

0:21:400:21:42

and also don't be afraid to negotiate with those three companies to get the best deal.

0:21:420:21:47

It's important not to be swayed by the salespeople that come to visit you,

0:21:470:21:51

or in a showroom, because they're going to try and get you to perhaps spend more than you can afford.

0:21:510:21:56

Having lost faith in the company and taking Trading Standards advice,

0:21:560:22:00

the Polloways are going to get the doors and drawers they bought from another supplier

0:22:000:22:05

fitted by a trusted builder,

0:22:050:22:06

and he's asked kitchensuber.co.uk to refund him the cost of these new doors,

0:22:060:22:11

and all those phone calls, of course, that he made.

0:22:110:22:14

I feel that I've had no other alternative, but to go the way of the law,

0:22:140:22:20

and do it that way through the small claims court.

0:22:200:22:24

Because of all the frustration it's caused me

0:22:240:22:26

there's just got to be an end to it one way or the other.

0:22:260:22:30

And luckily now there is. When we took the Polloways' case to kitchensuber.co.uk,

0:22:300:22:36

they told us that the refund Russell asked for is on its way.

0:22:360:22:39

The company also told us that the problems were caused by their supplier

0:22:390:22:43

giving them shades of high-gloss doors.

0:22:430:22:47

The whole thing has made me feel so angry.

0:22:470:22:50

It's really out me off ordering anything off the internet again,

0:22:500:22:53

because, well... Just look at it! You know, it's dreadful, dreadful.

0:22:530:22:59

We're at the Trafford Centre in Manchester,

0:23:000:23:03

and for the first time Rip-Off Britain has opened its very first Pop-Up Shop.

0:23:030:23:08

We've teamed up with BBC Learning to transform this shop unit into a one-stop consumer-advice shop,

0:23:080:23:15

just for the weekend. And that's because here at Rip-Off Britain we think it's really important

0:23:150:23:19

for us to meet people face to face and hear your problems.

0:23:190:23:23

And this is the perfect opportunity to do exactly that.

0:23:230:23:27

We've got a fantastic team of experts here to help you with your problems.

0:23:290:23:33

So with a bit of luck we'll put you in touch with the right person to give you the right advice

0:23:350:23:39

and send you away feeling happier.

0:23:390:23:41

It's amazing to hear all the different stories that people have been telling us...

0:23:410:23:46

much about energy prices, travel, insurance, and particularly the small print.

0:23:460:23:52

A lot of us miss out by not reading the small print correctly,

0:23:520:23:55

and I guess a lot of people want to know just where do you go to get help.

0:23:550:24:00

The first stop is at Rip-Off Britain but after that many experts to tell you exactly how to do it.

0:24:000:24:05

Dennis Warren came along with an all-too-common complaint.

0:24:070:24:10

-This is Sylvia Rook.

-Good morning.

0:24:100:24:13

-Hello.

-Now, you have a problem which is very close to my heart, I believe,

0:24:130:24:17

because I can't read without my specs,

0:24:170:24:19

and I think your problem is all about small print, is that right?

0:24:190:24:23

It's a real irritation to me

0:24:230:24:25

that the whole country, commerce, banks, councils, anyone,

0:24:250:24:31

seems to tolerate fine print.

0:24:310:24:34

Small print is a way of companies getting a lot of information to you in a small space.

0:24:340:24:38

The argument is it shouldn't be

0:24:380:24:40

so small that you can't read it.

0:24:400:24:42

The law says that any information that you need to know

0:24:420:24:46

should be intelligible, so you should be able to read it,

0:24:460:24:48

and if it isn't it actually could be an unfair term.

0:24:480:24:51

- So it's illegal? - It could potentially be.

0:24:510:24:53

It very much depends on what we're looking at.

0:24:530:24:56

If you're given a contract to sign and it's got terms and conditions on the back,

0:24:560:24:59

there's a piece of legislation called the Unfair Terms In Consumer Contracts Regulations

0:24:590:25:04

that says that every term should be in clear, intelligible language,

0:25:040:25:08

so not only should it be big enough to read,

0:25:080:25:10

but it should also be in wording that you can actually understand.

0:25:100:25:13

And if you can't read it, then the law says you're not bound by that term.

0:25:130:25:18

You've raised an issue that an awful lot of people are going to agree with,

0:25:180:25:22

-and thank you very much for doing that. All the best.

-Thank you very much.

-Bye-bye.

0:25:220:25:25

- Goodbye. - Thank you.

0:25:250:25:27

Thousands of people write in to Rip-Off Britain each year,

0:25:270:25:31

and it seems that problems with small print can crop up in all sorts of places

0:25:310:25:35

as we found out with our next letter.

0:25:350:25:37

We've got a card from Keith Tebbit who says a friend of his won a prize in a word-search competition.

0:25:370:25:44

They were asked to send a cheque for £6.50, we don't know what that was for,

0:25:440:25:48

but apparently, although the cheque was cashed, the friend has never, never got the prize.

0:25:480:25:53

-That's fraud, isn't it?

-Well, there could be lots of reasons why he hasn't received the prize,

0:25:530:25:58

but certainly I'd always say be very wary of a competition where you have to pay to get a prize,

0:25:580:26:02

because quite often it means it's not actually a prize.

0:26:020:26:04

Is there anything that can be done through Trading Standards?

0:26:040:26:07

Well, the Office of Fair Trading has been looking into a lot of these competition companies,

0:26:070:26:11

particularly prize-draw companies,

0:26:110:26:13

and looking at their small print to see if the small print is fair

0:26:130:26:16

and to see if they're omitting any information that they should give to consumers.

0:26:160:26:20

That's currently ongoing, but certainly a lot of these competitions aren't quite what they seem,

0:26:200:26:25

so we would say to people always be a bit careful.

0:26:250:26:27

With something like this, any competition will have an address.

0:26:270:26:30

If they've been trying to phone, then I would suggest that they should write to the address and say,

0:26:300:26:34

"I haven't received my prize. Please either send me my prize or send me back my £6.50."

0:26:340:26:39

More good advice from our experts today.

0:26:390:26:42

And it just goes to show that you have to really make sure you read through everything,

0:26:420:26:46

especially before sending any money in the post.

0:26:460:26:48

Now, with money so tight these days, discovering that your cash hasn't bought quite what you thought it had

0:26:530:26:59

can be incredibly frustrating.

0:26:590:27:01

And it's especially galling if that turns out to be because of something

0:27:010:27:05

that was buried away in the small print,

0:27:050:27:07

or a clause that you'd just overlooked,

0:27:070:27:09

which, unfortunately, is what our next case found out to their cost.

0:27:090:27:14

It's two years since this became the home of Adrian and Debby Morris.

0:27:170:27:22

It's a great house, but there's just one problem...

0:27:240:27:27

their five growing kids.

0:27:270:27:29

We started sort of late last year looking for another house with an extra downstairs room,

0:27:310:27:38

preferably a separate dining room, just to make life a bit easier at meal times.

0:27:380:27:44

They put their house on the market, but there wasn't a lot of interest.

0:27:440:27:48

And then Debby spotted an offer from Persimmon Homes that looked like it could be the perfect solution.

0:27:480:27:56

I saw a banner outside one of the show homes basically stating that they were doing a part-exchange deal,

0:27:560:28:00

which sounded ideal. Obviously, we'd done the part-exchange here and we knew how easy they go through.

0:28:000:28:05

And basically it was saying that obviously they were giving 105% full market value for your house,

0:28:050:28:11

and obviously throwing in the carpets as well, so it was an offer really too good to miss.

0:28:110:28:16

Part-exchange deals are an effective sales technique used by some of the bigger developers

0:28:160:28:22

if you're thinking of buying a brand-new home.

0:28:220:28:25

But it only works if you're after somewhere bigger,

0:28:250:28:27

and the idea is that it lets you move chain- and hassle-free.

0:28:270:28:32

To find out more, Debby and Adrian paid a visit to Persimmon's sales office.

0:28:330:28:37

They saw the plans for the new house that they'd be part-exchanging their old property for,

0:28:370:28:41

and it was love at first sight.

0:28:410:28:45

It was going to be our dream house because it had got all the rooms that we wanted,

0:28:450:28:50

it had got four bedrooms, and it had got two extra downstairs rooms,

0:28:500:28:54

and the kids could even have a playroom downstairs.

0:28:540:28:57

It had got a garage which was detached as well.

0:28:570:29:01

A nice driveway which was all gated off at the end.

0:29:010:29:05

It was a nice corner plot...

0:29:050:29:07

it just looked just what we wanted.

0:29:070:29:11

It wasn't built yet, so the Morrises went ahead and bought on spec.

0:29:110:29:15

Not only did the house promise everything that they wanted,

0:29:150:29:18

but as they'd done a part-exchange before, they thought they knew exactly what they were getting into.

0:29:180:29:24

Well, obviously, with them buying the house from us,

0:29:260:29:28

we haven't got to worry about waiting to find a buyer, for anyone to come along and buy this house off us.

0:29:280:29:34

And that was brilliant.

0:29:340:29:36

The brochure boasted, "Things couldn't be simpler!

0:29:360:29:39

"We will arrange for at least...

0:29:390:29:41

"agree a...

0:29:410:29:43

"and...

0:29:430:29:46

Not everything went smoothly along the way.

0:29:530:29:57

There had been some problems finalising the mortgage which caused a delay in signing the contracts,

0:29:570:30:02

but as far as the Morrises were concerned everything was back on track.

0:30:020:30:06

We had a phone call from the salesperson down at Persimmon

0:30:060:30:10

obviously to say that we were due to go in to choose our finishing touches for the house,

0:30:100:30:13

that obviously it was at that stage, we were getting excited, the children were really excited,

0:30:130:30:18

obviously seeing it go up week by week,

0:30:180:30:20

and obviously when it got to a substantial size

0:30:200:30:23

obviously we would point out to the children obviously where rooms were

0:30:230:30:27

and obviously where their bedrooms were going to be, where their playroom was going to be...

0:30:270:30:30

and they just couldn't wait to move, really.

0:30:300:30:33

But then four months down the line the Morrises received a very unwelcome phone call from Persimmon.

0:30:330:30:39

The company had not found a buyer for the house,

0:30:390:30:43

so they wouldn't now be going ahead with the part-exchange in the way that the couple expected.

0:30:430:30:48

Well, the deal we initially signed up for was part-exchange, "hassle-free" they actually advertise it as.

0:30:480:30:54

Well, this is one great big hassle, one great big headache that we had obviously from Persimmon Homes.

0:30:540:30:59

ADRIAN: We were nearly in tears, weren't we, both of us.

0:30:590:31:02

We just couldn't believe it. Things were starting to fall apart around our ears,

0:31:020:31:07

and this was looking like it was going to be the end.

0:31:070:31:11

We couldn't see, really, a way round it.

0:31:110:31:14

Persimmon offered to renegotiate the terms of the deal,

0:31:140:31:17

but it now seemed that only way forward would be if the couple was able to help find a buyer

0:31:170:31:22

for their home themselves, and at a lower price.

0:31:220:31:26

Already borrowing to their maximum limit, they felt they couldn't afford to do that,

0:31:260:31:32

so the sale fell through.

0:31:320:31:34

We were devastated. Our dream house was gone... well, disappearing before our eyes.

0:31:350:31:41

All the promises that we were made not to worry about any deadlines or things like that

0:31:410:31:47

just didn't seem to matter any more.

0:31:470:31:49

The collapse of the move affected the whole family.

0:31:490:31:51

The Morrises' six-year-old daughter Rebecca was that upset that she even wrote to Persimmon Homes herself.

0:31:510:31:59

"Dear Mr Wrigley,

0:31:590:32:01

"please, can we have our house, please?"

0:32:010:32:07

We asked Persimmon Homes what had happened,

0:32:070:32:10

and they said the early delays in sorting the finance

0:32:100:32:13

had meant that the contract had changed to one with slightly different terms,

0:32:130:32:17

with the key one being...

0:32:170:32:20

That didn't happen...

0:32:230:32:24

And they say when the Morrises were unable to reduce the price to generate interest, they...

0:32:270:32:32

..but to cancel the sale.

0:32:340:32:36

They're...

0:32:360:32:38

..and...

0:32:390:32:41

They've also now refunded Adrian and Debby their original reservation fee, deposit,

0:32:450:32:52

and a contribution towards legal costs, a sum of around £1,500,

0:32:520:32:56

but say they've done that as "a gesture of goodwill" and there was no legal obligation to do so.

0:32:560:33:03

It just goes to show, even when an offer looks very straightforward,

0:33:030:33:07

the terms and conditions may mean it's not quite as simple as you'd hoped.

0:33:070:33:12

And as a result, for a while at least, the Morrises are going to be staying put in their current home.

0:33:120:33:19

We're going to stay here, aren't we, for the foreseeable future.

0:33:190:33:23

It has put us off obviously moving. It's put us off obviously new builds completely.

0:33:230:33:28

Next, a Rip-Off viewer very unhappy about what's happened to them.

0:33:290:33:34

We'll see if we can get them some answers too.

0:33:340:33:36

Botox, peels, nips and tucks are more available and affordable than ever before.

0:33:400:33:45

Thanks to technological advances what was once a painful, expensive procedure

0:33:450:33:50

can now be achieved without anaesthetic during a lunch break.

0:33:500:33:53

Carol Long from Kent had thought about having a neck and chin procedure for a while,

0:33:560:34:01

but had always been put off by the thought of surgery.

0:34:010:34:04

Well, the advertisement looked so good, because it said "massive fat removal and skin tightening".

0:34:040:34:11

What I underlined was the results are seen immediately.

0:34:110:34:15

And no overnight stay which I thought would be ideal,

0:34:150:34:21

because I didn't really want to go under the knife as such.

0:34:210:34:24

The newspaper ad that caught Carol's eye was from the Northern Clinic

0:34:250:34:29

who promised minimally invasive procedures leading to immediate results for everybody.

0:34:290:34:34

They use what they describe as a pioneering keyhole technique called BodyTite,

0:34:340:34:39

which claims to remove fat and tighten loose skin by using controlled heat

0:34:390:34:44

to melt unwanted fat.

0:34:440:34:47

I really wanted it done because I've been a little bit conscious of the fatty pad underneath my chin

0:34:480:34:55

for quite some time,

0:34:550:34:57

and I just thought this would be ideal.

0:34:570:35:01

My tummy was an extra

0:35:010:35:05

and they were only charging a minimal amount for that,

0:35:050:35:12

so I thought, "Oh, I'll go ahead and have the lot done!"

0:35:120:35:16

After a 30-minute consultation, Carol signed up to £3,500 worth of treatment.

0:35:160:35:22

She was then told to spend the next six weeks sticking to a strict diet plan

0:35:230:35:27

and to wear a special Velcro garment round her neck to ensure the maximum benefit.

0:35:270:35:33

I thought, when this does work,

0:35:340:35:38

people are going to say, "Wow! You look good!"

0:35:380:35:41

Not necessarily that I'm going to look wonderful,

0:35:410:35:45

but they were going to look at me and think, "Mmm...something different. I wonder what it is."

0:35:450:35:50

It's almost a year since she had the procedure,

0:35:500:35:54

but Carol and her mother feel that her appearance has barely changed.

0:35:540:35:59

She wrote to Northern Clinic, but their response was to arrange a follow-up consultation.

0:35:590:36:03

Trading Standards advised her to pursue both the clinic and her credit-card company

0:36:030:36:08

to get a refund, but so far she's had no luck.

0:36:080:36:11

Will a second opinion help to strengthen her case?

0:36:110:36:15

We've booked her in with an independent cosmetic surgeon John Davison

0:36:150:36:18

at his clinic in Canterbury.

0:36:180:36:21

-You have a fair amount of fatty tissue inside your neck.

-Yes.

0:36:220:36:26

-It's fatty tissue that you could have removed with liposuction.

-Yes.

0:36:260:36:31

Conventional liposuction, but it's not going to give you a tightness under your neck.

0:36:310:36:37

I'm sorry to need to point out to you,

0:36:380:36:40

but I know a lot of plastic surgeons, as you would expect,

0:36:400:36:44

I don't know any of us who use

0:36:440:36:46

any of these sorts of new products and that should be kind of almost saying something to you.

0:36:460:36:51

John's not convinced by the Northern Clinic's claims.

0:36:510:36:54

The website, when it's got before and after pictures,

0:36:570:36:59

it doesn't specify that they haven't had some form of other cosmetic operation as well.

0:36:590:37:05

And there's one lady in particular that I was looking at earlier on...

0:37:050:37:09

the after picture you can actually see the scar from where she's had her tummy tuck,

0:37:090:37:15

and that is the only way they could achieve that sort of change in appearance.

0:37:150:37:19

We looked at the online forums dedicated to BodyTite,

0:37:190:37:23

and found similar stories of disappointment.

0:37:230:37:25

People have to research things. They really have to look into them in detail beforehand.

0:37:250:37:32

Patients, I find, are often embarrassed to say to me,

0:37:320:37:35

what are my, you know, qualifications, how many times have I done these operations,

0:37:350:37:41

but we're very happy to give that sort of information.

0:37:410:37:44

We contacted the Northern Clinic

0:37:450:37:47

who told that the...

0:37:470:37:50

..but there is a...

0:37:520:37:53

..that in certain cases the treatment may not always be entirely successful.

0:37:550:37:58

They say that's...

0:37:580:38:00

..which must be read and signed

0:38:040:38:06

before treatment is carried out.

0:38:060:38:08

They stress that all doctors who do it are...

0:38:080:38:11

..and that Carol has so far not taken up their invitation

0:38:150:38:18

to return to the clinic for a full review,

0:38:180:38:21

which they say is the only way to properly address any concerns.

0:38:210:38:25

Meanwhile, Carol won't be rushing into this sort of thing again.

0:38:270:38:31

I shan't ever be thinking of any more procedures,

0:38:320:38:36

and if I do they certainly won't be in any of these sort of clinics.

0:38:360:38:41

Lots of you have been telling us about that dreadful moment

0:38:430:38:46

when you realise that something you'd signed for wasn't what you thought it was,

0:38:460:38:50

either because you hadn't read the small print or you didn't realise what it meant.

0:38:500:38:54

So what do you do if you get caught out in that way?

0:38:540:38:57

Well, I'm at the Office of Fair Trading and I'm going to see Colin Brown to talk about it.

0:38:570:39:01

Now, I know that a very high proportion of your cases

0:39:040:39:07

are to do with the issue of small print.

0:39:070:39:10

Is it always a clear-cut case between "Yes, the thing was not explained properly",

0:39:100:39:15

or "Actually, you just didn't understand what you read"?

0:39:150:39:18

Well, essentially the law says

0:39:180:39:22

that if there is...

0:39:220:39:24

if a consumer and a supplier enter into a bargain,

0:39:240:39:28

then the main parts of that bargain should be upfront.

0:39:280:39:32

If there's something really important about the deal

0:39:320:39:35

that's squirreled away in the small print, something really significant,

0:39:350:39:38

then, that could be an unfair term in law and we would want to look at that.

0:39:380:39:43

Has the issue of small print got worse over the years?

0:39:430:39:47

Er... that's a really hard one to answer, but I think there's just more of it.

0:39:480:39:53

It's not that it's got worse as a problem, it's just there is more of it around in our lives.

0:39:530:39:58

Do you think that companies do actually set out to pull the wool over people's eyes?

0:39:580:40:02

That does happen. I would say that a large number of the problems that we find

0:40:020:40:08

are in fact companies not thinking, not knowing how to do things properly,

0:40:080:40:14

and they just need pushing back on to the straight and narrow.

0:40:140:40:17

There are undoubtedly some business models that do rely on having small print

0:40:170:40:22

which consumers don't notice.

0:40:220:40:24

And if people do feel they've fallen for a trick, if you like,

0:40:240:40:29

or not noticed something that they should have had brought to their attention,

0:40:290:40:32

how should they set about getting redress?

0:40:320:40:35

The first thing they should so is contact Consumer Direct.

0:40:350:40:39

It's a service that gives advice to consumers when they've got a problem.

0:40:390:40:44

The best place to get to it is on the directgov website.

0:40:440:40:48

Now, they may refer you to other services such as the Financial Ombudsman

0:40:480:40:53

or one of the other Ombudsmen, but start with Consumer Direct. That's your best bet.

0:40:530:40:57

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

0:41:000:41:05

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

0:41:050:41:13

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

0:41:130:41:18

I could kick myself. I really could.

0:41:180:41:20

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

0:41:200:41:23

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

0:41:230:41:27

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

0:41:270:41:33

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

0:41:340:41:39

so others don't do the same.

0:41:390:41:41

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

0:41:410:41:44

and I really would like to get this much clearer.

0:41:440:41:47

You can write to us at...

0:41:480:41:49

..or send us an e-mail...

0:41:580:42:00

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

0:42:050:42:10

So the moral of this story is, and you've heard it plenty of times here before,

0:42:120:42:16

-do read the...

-Small print!

0:42:160:42:18

And if something's not clear, of course, get a second opinion.

0:42:180:42:21

That is so true, and we certainly hope that before signing anything in the future,

0:42:210:42:25

you're going to hear our voices ringing in your ears on this.

0:42:250:42:28

I admit it really isn't the most gripping of reading,

0:42:280:42:31

but do take your time going through the paperwork,

0:42:310:42:34

so that you can make a considered decision before you commit to signing anything.

0:42:340:42:38

Wise words. Well, that's it for today.

0:42:380:42:40

Thanks for joining us and for sending in all your letters and e-mails.

0:42:400:42:44

We'll see you again soon when we'll be doing our best to protect you from being ripped off.

0:42:440:42:47

-Till then, from all of us, goodbye.

-Bye-bye.

-Bye.

0:42:470:42:50

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:42:530:42:57

E-mail [email protected]

0:42:570:43:01

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.