Episode 8 Rip Off Britain


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Episode 8

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


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Transcript


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

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I think this is very, very, very wrong 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.

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Morally? That's where the question of doubt comes, in my view.

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And you contacted us in your thousands,

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by post, e-mail, even stopping us in the streets!

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And the message could not be clearer.

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You don't always get a straight answer. They fob you off.

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I'm not happy at all.

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It's always that very small print that's got the clause in

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that you didn't realise.

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We're being ripped off big-time.

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Whether it is a deliberate rip-off,

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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. 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. This is Rip Off Britain.

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Hello, and welcome to Rip Off Britain,

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the program that investigates

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your consumer complaints and battles on your behalf

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to get the answers that you've been fighting for.

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Throughout the series,

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we're shining a light on the companies you've told us about

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that have left you feeling short-changed,

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both big and small organisations.

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And today, well,

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some of the companies that you've contacted us about

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are very big indeed.

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Today we're tackling problems to do with your phone

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or your internet connection.

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Services provided by some of the country's best-known names.

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But are you always getting what you expect for your money?

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Also coming up on today's programme - we set up our very own pop-up shop

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where you came and told us your consumer concerns.

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The most upsetting thing is that we've lost our telephone number.

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Why is that number so important to you?

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We've had it for 35 years.

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And how frustrations at slow broadband connections

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can make you reach boiling point.

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At times I just feel as though

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I want to throw the PC out the window,

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and rip my hair out!

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Now, for many of us, whether it's at work or at home,

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the internet has become an essential part of everyday life.

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In fact, 19 million households are now online.

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But exactly how fast your internet connection will be

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still, I'm afraid, very much depends

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on which part of the country you live in.

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Now, in rural areas especially,

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trying to get online can be frustratingly slow.

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Martin and Diane Verlaine are amongst the people angry about that.

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They don't like the fact that they're paying the same

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as people who enjoy faster speeds.

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And they also reckon that their slow Internet connection

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is actually damaging their business.

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Two years ago, Martin and Diane Verlaine swapped this...

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for this.

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We're both workaholics and we were like ships that pass in the night.

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I was an IT project manager

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and quite often I would do a 48-hour stint.

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I said to Martin that we need to find something else,

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because otherwise we'll cark at our desks

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and the taxman will get all our money.

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We didn't want that,

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so we started looking around for something else we could do.

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And here is that "something" - a holiday cottage business

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tucked away in a beautiful corner of Devon.

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But there's a downside to living in such a remote area -

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the speed of their broadband internet connection,

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which is very slow indeed.

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They've got downloadable lessons now which they haven't had before.

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-That's good.

-Yeah, it's good,

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but it takes so long to download them

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and for them to play,

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that it's... It's virtually useless.

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Here we go, look.

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See? Goes slow.

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The most that we've ever got is one meg. 1.1, I think.

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1.2 at an absolute push,

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but that's when I'm using it at 6.30 in the morning

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and there's no other interference on the line, nobody else using it.

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Martin and Diane don't just need a faster connection for fun,

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they need it for their holiday cottage business,

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so that they can take bookings online.

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We'd like to be able to run the business ourselves,

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but we can't, because we have to rely on the booking agent

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to get the customers in.

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If I can have my own website and I can take my own bookings,

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I need to be able to take payments via the internet.

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I can't do any of that with this kind of broadband speed.

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The problem is that broadband is still a postcode lottery.

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If you live in a big city,

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chances are that you'll have a fast connection.

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In rural areas, where the infrastructure hasn't been upgraded,

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it's likely to be much slower.

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And though Martin and Diane's guests come to get away from it all,

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like the rest of us, they've learned to expect fast internet access

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wherever they are.

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They may be getting five or six-Meg broadband where they are

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and expecting, you know, to be able to have a very similar response

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when they come away.

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Unfortunately, you have to tell them, "It's very disappointing.

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"I'm sorry, this is all we can get."

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And what's especially galling for the couple is that

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they still have to pay the same amount to BT as everyone else!

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That's £19 a month for advertised speeds of up to 20 megabits.

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They knew they'd never achieve the highest speeds living here,

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but hadn't imagined it would be as slow and unpredictable as it is.

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Or that it would have such an impact.

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I don't think we thought,

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having lived in London and in major towns,

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that to have such a slow broadband connection

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was something that we needed to take into consideration.

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I don't think we believed that it was a situation

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that there wasn't a solution to.

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The couple say the reason BT have given them for the slow connection

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is that they're a long way from the exchange

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and the system uses the original copper wiring.

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And it's not like they can switch to another provider.

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Because we have copper wire and there is no fibre optics,

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some companies won't entertain us at all,

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other companies will offer us a service,

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but with no better speed, but costing us much more money -

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almost triple what we're paying now.

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And I can't afford that.

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Michael Phillips is the broadband expert

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for the price comparison site Consumer Choices.

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We've ended up in a situation

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where rural people have poor broadband speeds

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because there's never been the investment framework

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to support commercial organisations.

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Very few people live in rural communities,

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so there's never been the incentive

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for private companies to make the investment

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to bring those areas up to speed.

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Broadband is now one of life's essentials.

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It's like the fourth utility.

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So not having a useful broadband connection

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can be a massive inconvenience on people's lives.

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But that is magnified by an enormous extent for businesses.

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We are a technology economy, we're a service economy,

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so it's almost impossible to operate

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if you don't have a fast broadband connection.

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And that's something the industry regulator, Ofcom, has recognised.

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It's ruled that BT should cut what it charges

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to other suppliers who used its network in rural areas.

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It remains to be seen if this is going to bring more choice

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to people like Martin and Diane,

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but in the meantime, they know what they'd like to see.

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If you're providing a service that's vastly inferior

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than someone in the middle of London can get to people,

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then you have to charge less.

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And until Ofcom, or someone,

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has the power to force British Telecom to do that,

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there will be no movement from where we are.

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BT told Rip Off Britain that their policy has always been

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to give customers an...

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..before they sign up.

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And they say that their pricing is based on...

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Including usage limits and security features.

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They've confirmed that Martin and Diane currently receive the...

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But there is another glimmer of hope on the horizon.

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The government has invested £530 million

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to increase broadband speed.

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Martin and Diane's area is set for improvements next summer.

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The couple hope that that's not too late

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for them to realise their dreams

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and make a success of their business.

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I'm incredibly frustrated by it.

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I can't grow my business

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because I can't offer the services to my customers and my guests

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that they feel - and I feel - they should have.

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I just can't grow my business.

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At a time when money's 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 along the way.

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So we've put together a booklet of tips and advice

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to help safeguard your money.

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

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Or, to receive a copy in the post, send an A5 self-addressed envelope

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to the address that we'll be giving at the end of the programme.

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The mobile phone - over 30 million are sold in the UK every year.

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The question is, how did we cope without them?

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But what happens if you lose yours?

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Well, the latest Home Office figures show that,

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in a 12-month period, 850,000 people have had their mobile phone stolen,

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leaving them not only incommunicado but also out of pocket.

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Sam Arnold is a student and he relies heavily on his phone.

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But the 21-year-old doesn't make any calls -

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he only uses it for text messages, because he's severely deaf.

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I constantly use mobile phones, every day,

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and I constantly have them with me all the time,

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because it's very important for me to contact people

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and I can't live without my phone.

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But while studying for his final exams at university,

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Sam lost his telephone after a night out with pals.

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The next day, I just noticed

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that I haven't got my phone with me.

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So I contact my mates to say, "Have I left my phone in your house?"

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But the house was a bit messy, so they said they'll find it.

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When the phone wasn't found, his dad, Paul,

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called the mobile provider -

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in this case, Orange - to cancel the contract.

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I asked in that normal, casual way, "Has the phone been used?"

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They say, "Yes, the phone has been used."

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They start to reel off the countries -

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Somalia, UAE,

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Nigeria, Netherlands...

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I'm sitting there, thinking, "My gosh.

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"This bill is getting bigger every time they say another name."

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So I said, "What's the total bill?"

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They said, "Well, right now, it's up to about £1,450."

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So, of course, I just felt that real knot in my stomach.

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No wonder, because Sam and his dad

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were told it was them that had to foot the bill.

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And that's not unusual.

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If your mobile is lost or stolen,

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it's generally YOU who will be liable

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for the cost of calls made on it up to when you reported the loss.

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Even though, in this case, clearly Sam had not made them.

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When Orange told us to pay £1,452,

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I was a bit, like, in shock,

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because I never make phone calls because I'm deaf.

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He never makes a phone call.

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He just used it for text.

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So surely when a phone moves

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from being text-only to being mainly phone calls,

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surely something should be triggered there?

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So you went to Brussels, Belarus, Greece...

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Paul wonders why the phone company didn't spot the unusual calls

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straight away and let them know about the situation.

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I was actually quite disgusted,

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because how could a bill that is normally about £30, £35,

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jump to £1,500 and there's no communication back?

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They're a communications company!

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Why are they not talking to me?

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You'd think they'd do something. Particularly if it goes from

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just texting to voicing, then wouldn't you do something about that?

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And actually, therefore,

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when it goes from £30 to £60 to £90 to £120, £150, up to £1,500,

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surely you own some responsibility for doing something.

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Where are you protecting our rights?

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Orange told us that when unusual usage is flagged up by the system,

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they take appropriate action as and when required.

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But they stress that it's the customer's responsibility

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to tell them as soon as the phone goes missing,

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as only then can they stop calls being charged to an account.

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In this case,

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they say it was two days before they were notified of the phone's loss.

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They recommend their customers use the security PIN on their phones

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to prevent unauthorised loss.

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And they say that situations like this

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could be avoided by requesting a bar on international calls.

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Even so, the company did eventually agree

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to cancel the outstanding bill of £1,452.94.

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But Sam and Paul still feel that the calls

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should never have been allowed to get so high.

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It was stressful,

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money was hard to come by,

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to then suddenly have to find £1,500 out of nowhere

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to pay this bill was horrible.

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And I just felt that it just didn't seem right that this should happen.

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If you've had a similar problem

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and you're stuck about what to do next, then worry not.

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We've found an expert to guide you through those choppy waters.

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Most mobile phones now give you the functionality

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to set up a PIN to protect it,

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so you've got to key your PIN in before it can be used.

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It's well worth taking advantage and making use of that,

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because if somebody gets hold of your phone,

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it makes it much harder for them to get into it to use it.

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Unfortunately, lots of people get shock bills on their mobile -

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they don't realise how it's being used until the bill arrives.

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If this happens, the first thing to say is, don't panic,

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but you do need to dig out the terms of your contract,

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dig out the deal and the tariff that you're on,

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find out exactly what you're being charged for

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and try and identify where the cost has been incurred.

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Then you're armed with all the information you need

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and you can then contact your mobile network provider

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and see if they'll refund you the money.

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If you lose your mobile or have it stolen,

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you've got to act quickly,

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because your mobile provider's under no obligation

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to refund any money that's spent on it.

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So as soon as you know that your phone's missing,

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contact your mobile provider.

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It can put a block on it so you don't have to cancel the phone,

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in case you find it again, but that will just protect it

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in case it has fallen into the wrong hands.

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Even if you have mobile phone insurance,

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you've still got to notify your mobile provider

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if your phone goes missing or it's stolen.

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So you've got 12 hours from noticing that you've lost your phone

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within which you can contact your network provider.

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You then need to report it to the police

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and get a crime or lost property reference number.

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Once you've got those pieces of information

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and you've done that, then's the time to contact the insurer

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and it can start processing the claim.

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Now, earlier in the programme, we met Martin and Diane,

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who were having their patience really tested

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by slow internet speeds.

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Well, Michael McCue has contacted us with a similar problem.

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He lives in a small village in the northeast of England

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and relies very heavily on the internet

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to keep him in touch with the rest of the world.

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But the time it takes him to get online is driving him mad!

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In the village of Medomsley

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lives a man named Mike McCue.

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Mike's village has just 300 houses and the nearest big city, Durham,

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is ten miles away, which, most of the time,

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is just the way Mike likes it.

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I prefer living in a rural area, because it's quiet.

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And there's no rush. You've got...

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all the time in the world. Even more so now we're retired.

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But I lived in town. Didn't like it.

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Because Mike and his wife have health problems,

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they don't venture out of the house a lot.

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The wife, being an invalid, she can't get about much.

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I get very breathless if I try and do anything.

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Walking up to the shop to get the paper,

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I've got to stand there for a couple of minutes,

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getting my breath back before I go in the shop!

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Mike's health problems don't stop him leading a full life

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and these days, the retired bus driver

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uses the internet as his window on the world.

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I think the internet is a marvellous thing.

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It helps you keep in contact with people.

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I'm waiting at the moment to be able to pass on news

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to a lot of my relatives that I've become a great-grandad again.

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Shopping - I find I can get things that I can't normally get locally.

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Such as an old-fashioned shaving stick.

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I can get that on the internet.

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I would like to watch films on the internet

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when the wife is down here watching soaps.

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But there's a major snag whenever Mike goes online.

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Like Martin and Diane, whom we met earlier,

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Mike gets very frustrated at how slow his internet connection is.

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He pays £17 a month for broadband with BT,

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on a package that promises speeds of up to 20 megabits a second.

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But Mike says his connection falls far short of that figure.

0:18:030:18:07

The trouble with my internet is that it is that slow,

0:18:070:18:12

I cannot watch a lot of the videos.

0:18:120:18:16

And, of course, it keeps on stopping.

0:18:160:18:19

You just give up. You watch a couple of seconds and then it's blank

0:18:190:18:23

for a while, then you watch another couple of seconds.

0:18:230:18:25

So exactly how fast - or slow - is Mike's broadband?

0:18:250:18:31

This is a speed test that I did earlier.

0:18:310:18:33

It says the download speed is just under half a megabit

0:18:330:18:38

on a 20 megabit line.

0:18:380:18:42

Although that was 40 times slower

0:18:420:18:45

than the most he could apparently hope for,

0:18:450:18:47

the website told Mike

0:18:470:18:49

THAT speed was normal for his area.

0:18:490:18:52

In fact, anything between 0.04 megabits

0:18:520:18:55

and 0.5 megabits,

0:18:550:18:58

is classed as acceptable where he lives.

0:18:580:19:01

And when he complained to BT,

0:19:010:19:03

they pointed out that the terms and conditions did say

0:19:030:19:07

he would only get, "up to 20 megabits".

0:19:070:19:11

I felt cheated.

0:19:110:19:12

That they couldn't give me the speed that I wanted.

0:19:120:19:15

They say one thing, then give you another

0:19:150:19:18

and say, "Ah, but it says on the small print."

0:19:180:19:21

But you go onto the BT helpdesk, as they call it,

0:19:210:19:28

you check the speed through them,

0:19:280:19:31

and it says this is acceptable.

0:19:310:19:33

Unlike Martin and Diane in Devon,

0:19:330:19:36

Mike is unlikely to benefit from the government's £530-million pledge

0:19:360:19:40

to improve broadband speeds.

0:19:400:19:42

His area is too far away from the nearest exchange.

0:19:420:19:48

The government's planning to ensure that 90% of homes

0:19:480:19:52

will be able to access a speed of 25 meg across the UK.

0:19:520:19:58

It does mean, though, that 10% of households

0:19:580:20:00

are only going to be working to a promise of 2 meg.

0:20:000:20:04

2Mb is a significant improvement on nothing,

0:20:040:20:08

but in terms of being able to watch a video online,

0:20:080:20:11

it's barely able to support something like BBC iPlayer.

0:20:110:20:16

So customers, in 2015, when things will have moved on,

0:20:160:20:19

will still be lagging behind.

0:20:190:20:21

That's bad news for Mike, who hasn't even the option of leaving BT

0:20:210:20:26

and trying another supplier.

0:20:260:20:28

I've looked at the other ones

0:20:280:20:29

and they're all more or less the same.

0:20:290:20:34

It doesn't care what internet service that's in this area,

0:20:340:20:40

there's no other internet service can give you much faster speeds.

0:20:400:20:47

It all comes through BT telephone exchange.

0:20:470:20:50

So what I get, they get.

0:20:500:20:52

BT say they have NOT misled Mike over his speed

0:20:520:20:57

and would never have promised he'd get the full 20 megabits.

0:20:570:21:01

Their pricing isn't just based on speed,

0:21:010:21:05

but they have made some adjustments to make his connection a bit faster.

0:21:050:21:09

He can now receive close to 2 megabits -

0:21:090:21:13

a fastest possible for his area.

0:21:130:21:17

Even so, Mike's still left feeling frustrated every time he logs on.

0:21:170:21:23

At times, I just feel as though I want to throw the PC out the window

0:21:230:21:30

and rip my hair out.

0:21:300:21:33

Especially when I'm sat there watching it.

0:21:330:21:35

Oh!

0:21:350:21:37

It can be very bad.

0:21:370:21:39

BT says it is committed to expanding its super-fast broadband

0:21:430:21:48

to 90% of the UK by 2015,

0:21:480:21:50

and they're testing new technologies to fill in the final 10%.

0:21:500:21:56

So there is hope for faster connection for Mike -

0:21:560:21:59

but not straight away.

0:21:590:22:01

In the meantime, his speed is now slightly up,

0:22:010:22:03

but as far as he's concerned,

0:22:030:22:05

until he can get the same fast service as everyone else,

0:22:050:22:09

he really doesn't see why he should pay the same price.

0:22:090:22:12

We're here at the Trafford Centre in Manchester where,

0:22:150:22:18

for one weekend, we've opened Rip Off Britain's first pop-up shop.

0:22:180:22:23

We've teamed up with BBC Learning

0:22:240:22:26

who are on hand with numeracy advice.

0:22:260:22:29

And we've a great selection of experts here

0:22:290:22:31

to point people in the right direction.

0:22:310:22:34

Mobile and broadband specialist Mike Wilson is expecting a busy desk

0:22:340:22:38

and there's one rip-off he sees quite regularly.

0:22:380:22:42

Typically, it's customers who've been put on to packages

0:22:420:22:45

that probably aren't really suitable for them.

0:22:450:22:48

Often they pay over the odds, both for broadband and for mobiles.

0:22:480:22:51

It's not long before Mike starts meeting his first customers.

0:22:530:22:57

The most upsetting thing is that we've lost our telephone number.

0:22:570:23:02

As soon as the first provider knocked off our line,

0:23:020:23:06

we've lost the provider.

0:23:060:23:07

Why is that telephone number so important to you?

0:23:070:23:10

We've had it for 35 years.

0:23:100:23:12

-I'm complaining about my mobile phone company.

-Yeah.

0:23:120:23:16

Basically, I've been paying two lots of line rentals since '99.

0:23:160:23:19

On one phone? 'Communications are clearly letting people down,

0:23:190:23:23

as our next case shows.'

0:23:230:23:26

Larry, you're talking to Mike here,

0:23:260:23:28

who's our broadband and telephone expert.

0:23:280:23:30

-What's your problem?

-The problem is,

0:23:300:23:32

I received a letter through the post

0:23:320:23:35

offering me a service with television, broadband and telephone

0:23:350:23:40

at a much cheaper rate than I was getting from another company.

0:23:400:23:44

-How much was that going to cost?

-£30 a month, according to the blurb I got through the post.

0:23:440:23:48

How much did it end up costing you?

0:23:480:23:51

I began to notice that the bills were saying £57 a month

0:23:510:23:55

before I started paying for anything else.

0:23:550:23:58

What was going on here, Mike?

0:23:580:24:00

What it looks like, is that when Larry signed up for the products,

0:24:000:24:03

they put him on a really expensive package,

0:24:030:24:05

one of the top packages you can get,

0:24:050:24:07

probably more suited to a family of five than Larry and his son.

0:24:070:24:11

-Larry, you're 82 now?

-I wish!

0:24:110:24:13

-Add another four and count.

-You're 86?

-I am, plus.

-Right.

0:24:130:24:19

So clearly he didn't need the package

0:24:190:24:21

that was suitable for a family of five.

0:24:210:24:23

I think we'd all hope that the provider would recognise

0:24:230:24:26

if you're on the wrong tariff and get in touch with you.

0:24:260:24:29

But have a look at the bill at the end of the month and say,

0:24:290:24:32

realistically, what am I using?

0:24:320:24:34

A lot of people sign up for TV packages, all singing,

0:24:340:24:37

all dancing, all 900 channels when they don't need half of them.

0:24:370:24:40

Check if you're getting charged over your standard package

0:24:400:24:43

and make sure you ask them for an itemised bill

0:24:430:24:46

and where these costs are coming from.

0:24:460:24:49

-Mike, is there anything else we can do for Larry?

-Absolutely.

0:24:490:24:52

I'll look at the itemised bills for the telephone package

0:24:520:24:55

and make sure you're on the best deal for you.

0:24:550:24:58

-A result.

-Very much, yes.

-Nice to meet you, Larry.

0:24:580:25:01

-It's been very nice.

-Arrivederci!

-Arrivederci.

0:25:010:25:05

Coming up - want to make some money from your old mobile phone?

0:25:110:25:15

Lots of people do, but here's one Rip-Off viewer who's been

0:25:150:25:18

left hanging on by one particular phone recycling company.

0:25:180:25:22

I'm pretty disgusted. I think I've been ripped off.

0:25:230:25:26

Today, we've been hearing from people

0:25:290:25:31

who feel they've been slightly left behind

0:25:310:25:34

by the phone and broadband companies,

0:25:340:25:36

not able to communicate as fast as they'd like to.

0:25:360:25:38

And that's how things used to be

0:25:380:25:40

for the residents of the small fishing village of Robin Hood's Bay

0:25:400:25:44

on the Yorkshire coast.

0:25:440:25:45

But not any more.

0:25:450:25:46

They got so fed up of being told they couldn't get broadband,

0:25:460:25:49

they decided to do something about it.

0:25:490:25:52

This is Robin Hood's Bay on the North Yorkshire coast.

0:25:520:25:56

For years, this seaside village

0:25:560:25:59

simply had no access to a broadband internet connection -

0:25:590:26:04

until the residents took matters into their own hands.

0:26:040:26:07

A local businessman, Cliff Southcombe, kicked things off

0:26:070:26:11

after realising his old-school dial-up connection

0:26:110:26:14

just wasn't coping with his business needs.

0:26:140:26:17

People were using the internet more,

0:26:170:26:19

businesses were using email, Skype, those sort of things.

0:26:190:26:23

So if things didn't change quickly,

0:26:230:26:25

we would be in trouble.

0:26:250:26:27

Worried that without broadband, his business could suffer,

0:26:270:26:31

Cliff began looking for a solution.

0:26:310:26:35

I spotted that there was a government-run scheme

0:26:350:26:38

to try and encourage broadband in the region

0:26:380:26:42

and a number of businesses were being offered free broadband

0:26:420:26:46

through a satellite dish for a year.

0:26:460:26:49

I applied and was fortunate enough

0:26:490:26:51

to be one of the ones lucky enough to get it.

0:26:510:26:53

And he loved having it.

0:26:530:26:55

But, as the end of that free year approached,

0:26:550:26:57

Cliff was left with two big problems.

0:26:570:27:01

One was that, at the end of the year,

0:27:010:27:03

I - or our business - was going to have to pay for that.

0:27:030:27:07

And even at a cut rate, it was about £260 a month

0:27:070:27:11

for the broadband.

0:27:110:27:13

And secondly, it wasn't a good position

0:27:130:27:16

to be the only one in the village with broadband.

0:27:160:27:18

That was something that didn't seem fair.

0:27:180:27:21

Cliff got together with some of the other locals

0:27:210:27:24

and together they came up with the answer.

0:27:240:27:27

They formed a cooperative company and used the technical know-how of a couple of residents

0:27:270:27:32

to build their own broadband network

0:27:320:27:34

using a system of boxes and aerials

0:27:340:27:37

that could bounce the signal

0:27:370:27:38

from one central point to everyone in the village.

0:27:380:27:41

Their ramshackle system worked a treat.

0:27:410:27:44

When, a few years later, BT installed an advanced telephone line,

0:27:440:27:48

they were able to use that

0:27:480:27:50

to iron out the final few problems.

0:27:500:27:53

Another plus point was that, having Wi-Fi round the village,

0:27:530:27:56

we have a lot of visitors coming to Robin Hood's Bay,

0:27:560:27:59

so they could pick up broadband as well.

0:27:590:28:01

And it provides a nice income for the cooperative as well

0:28:010:28:04

to help us keep the prices down for those people who live here.

0:28:040:28:07

In fact, the cooperative charges users

0:28:070:28:10

just £5 a month for the service

0:28:100:28:12

and it seems to be going from strength to strength.

0:28:120:28:15

Other broadband services have since become available in the area,

0:28:150:28:18

but many prefer to stick with the home-grown provider.

0:28:180:28:22

It's cheap, reliable,

0:28:220:28:24

always looking to extend and improve.

0:28:240:28:26

The next thing we're looking at

0:28:260:28:28

is the link to the fibre-optic cable in Whitby.

0:28:280:28:31

We need to do that via a relay over the hill at High Normanby.

0:28:310:28:36

And any customer service issues

0:28:360:28:39

can easily be dealt with over a pint at the pub.

0:28:390:28:41

Internet just didn't exist before we all got together.

0:28:410:28:46

Downloading a web page and you could go and have a cup of coffee

0:28:460:28:50

and read the newspaper.

0:28:500:28:51

Uploading web pages was a terrible business.

0:28:510:28:54

You hardly ever did it because it took so long.

0:28:540:28:59

Having broadband installed,

0:28:590:29:02

it's a lot easier.

0:29:020:29:03

You can go onto different information sites, er, even news,

0:29:030:29:08

you can get up-to-date news instantly, it's there.

0:29:080:29:11

What the locals have achieved here

0:29:110:29:14

is something they think could easily be copied elsewhere.

0:29:140:29:17

With a bit of determination and know-how,

0:29:170:29:20

they've shown that, even if you have to do it yourself,

0:29:200:29:24

it is possible to get online, even in the unlikeliest of places.

0:29:240:29:29

Now, what happens to your old mobile phone

0:29:330:29:36

when you abandon them for a newer, smarter, cleverer model?

0:29:360:29:39

Well, sadly, not much at all.

0:29:390:29:42

There's thought to be a staggering 80 million old handsets

0:29:420:29:45

lying forgotten in our homes,

0:29:450:29:47

and if that seems a complete waste,

0:29:470:29:50

you can understand why companies offering

0:29:500:29:52

to recycle your old mobile have become so very popular.

0:29:520:29:56

You can get rid of your old handset and earn cashback at the same time.

0:29:560:30:00

But when Mark Colby chose a company called Skyphones

0:30:000:30:04

to recycle his phone,

0:30:040:30:05

things did not go according to plan.

0:30:050:30:08

H's Cafe in Kent is a favourite with bikers.

0:30:090:30:13

We asked some of them what they do with their old mobile phones.

0:30:130:30:17

I put them in a drawer, forget about them,

0:30:190:30:21

or pass them on to family, friends, or the kids.

0:30:210:30:23

If not, they stay in there until they get thrown away.

0:30:230:30:26

I do have a couple of mobile phones at home,

0:30:260:30:28

just on the side, just in case I need them again.

0:30:280:30:31

I've got lots of mobile phones at home, just keep them in a drawer.

0:30:310:30:35

Don't ever recycle them.

0:30:350:30:36

Our bikers could be missing out on some cash

0:30:380:30:40

by NOT selling their handsets

0:30:400:30:42

to a mobile phone recycling company.

0:30:420:30:44

A growing number of people do

0:30:440:30:46

via websites that offer to buy your old phone

0:30:460:30:49

for sometimes very tempting prices.

0:30:490:30:53

But Rip Off Britain has had complaints

0:30:530:30:56

that some of these companies don't pay as much as they promise,

0:30:560:30:59

and one name in particular, Skyphones, came up again and again.

0:30:590:31:03

Mark Colby is one of the people who has contacted us about them.

0:31:060:31:09

Father of two, and seriously addicted to biking,

0:31:090:31:13

Mark spends lots of time and money on Baby,

0:31:130:31:17

his pride and joy.

0:31:170:31:18

And he likes nothing better

0:31:180:31:20

than to be taken for a ride, but NOT when it comes to his cash!

0:31:200:31:23

Mark uses his phone a lot, and when he decided

0:31:290:31:32

that it was time for an upgrade,

0:31:320:31:34

he wanted to recycle his old phone.

0:31:340:31:36

I looked on a compare website and that's where I found Skyphones.

0:31:360:31:40

They had the best price for my phone, about £30,

0:31:400:31:44

which sounded good to me.

0:31:440:31:46

So Mark packed his old phone off,

0:31:470:31:49

eagerly awaiting the £30 that would soon come his way.

0:31:490:31:53

He waited, but nothing happened.

0:31:530:31:55

And then he received an e-mail.

0:31:550:31:58

The e-mail just said it had a few scratches on the screen

0:31:580:32:01

and on the...casing

0:32:010:32:05

and that they were going to send me an undisclosed reduced amount

0:32:050:32:10

for the phone.

0:32:100:32:13

And if I wanted the phone to come back to me, I'd have to pay £12

0:32:130:32:16

for them to send it back.

0:32:160:32:18

Like most phone recycling companies, Skyphones reduces its payments

0:32:200:32:24

for phones that it claims have scratches or other damage,

0:32:240:32:27

which surprised Mark, who says that when he sent his phone off,

0:32:270:32:31

it was fine. But what really made him mad

0:32:310:32:34

was that they didn't say how much they'd now be paying,

0:32:340:32:37

and if he wasn't happy, he'd have to pay to get the phone back!

0:32:370:32:42

I e-mailed them again, stressing my unhappiness

0:32:420:32:44

and disgust in the way they were handling it,

0:32:440:32:48

and the amount of time it took for them to respond,

0:32:480:32:52

and also why they would have to charge me this £12

0:32:520:32:56

for me to get my phone back if I wanted it back.

0:32:560:32:59

From that point onwards, alarm bells started to ring.

0:32:590:33:03

They sent me an e-mail back, not addressing any issues at all,

0:33:030:33:06

just telling me they would be sending me out

0:33:060:33:09

an undisclosed amount within 14-21 days.

0:33:090:33:12

It seemed like an automated e-mail to me.

0:33:120:33:14

But the 21 days came and went, and Mark had heard nothing.

0:33:160:33:21

I e-mailed again, basically asking where the cheque was,

0:33:210:33:25

I hadn't received it and I said that I may take this further

0:33:250:33:31

if I don't hear anything within the next 14 days.

0:33:310:33:35

I didn't hear anything from there onwards.

0:33:350:33:39

-About 12 weeks now and I still haven't received anything.

-And he probably never will.

0:33:390:33:43

Because, it seems, Skyphones, and its sister company Fone Craze,

0:33:430:33:47

have ceased trading.

0:33:470:33:49

After receiving almost 240 complaints,

0:33:490:33:53

Trading Standards is now investigating the companies.

0:33:530:33:56

But it's little consolation to Mark - he didn't get any cash

0:33:560:34:01

and THEY still have his phone.

0:34:010:34:03

I'm pretty disgusted. I think I've been ripped off.

0:34:030:34:06

We tried to contact Skyphones for an explanation, but our letters

0:34:100:34:14

were returned and they didn't answer any calls or e-mails.

0:34:140:34:19

If you're interested in recycling your phone,

0:34:190:34:21

here's Dominic Balachevsky from Mobile Choices with some advice.

0:34:210:34:24

Mobile phone recycling is a growing market place

0:34:260:34:28

with lots of companies offering the service.

0:34:280:34:31

It's an environmentally friendly way

0:34:310:34:33

to get rid of your old, unwanted phone

0:34:330:34:35

and it's also a way to pocket a few extra pounds as well.

0:34:350:34:38

When recycling your phone, it's important to shop around

0:34:380:34:41

because prices vary substantially between one site and the next.

0:34:410:34:44

It's also useful to use a comparison site,

0:34:440:34:46

as that will help you do your homework in finding the best deal.

0:34:460:34:51

But make sure to check with the site directly

0:34:510:34:53

as you'll find the latest price,

0:34:530:34:55

and also details and terms and conditions

0:34:550:34:58

as to how much they'll pay or what they'll knock off if your phone is damaged

0:34:580:35:01

or if there's something slightly wrong with it.

0:35:010:35:05

A reputable company will be a member of the CheckMEND Service.

0:35:050:35:08

This is designed to prevent phones

0:35:080:35:09

being sold to the second-hand markets

0:35:090:35:11

if they are declared as stolen

0:35:110:35:13

or have been claimed on insurance beforehand.

0:35:130:35:15

Before sending your phone off,

0:35:180:35:20

it's always worth taking a picture of it.

0:35:200:35:22

That way you'll have proof

0:35:220:35:23

as to exactly what condition it was in before sending.

0:35:230:35:26

Take a picture of the front and the back

0:35:260:35:28

to show what the surround is like,

0:35:280:35:30

and also with the phone on to prove that it works.

0:35:300:35:32

Most sites will offer you a pre-paid postal envelope, although a lot of times these aren't padded.

0:35:360:35:41

It's always worth popping to your local stationer's

0:35:410:35:44

to pick up some bubble wrap

0:35:440:35:45

to make sure that you can wrap your phone safely and securely.

0:35:450:35:48

Also, wrap it with plenty of Sellotape

0:35:480:35:50

and mark "Fragile" on the packaging

0:35:500:35:52

to ensure that it gets a smooth ride in the postal system.

0:35:520:35:56

When it comes to actually posting the phone, I would recommend opting

0:35:560:36:00

for next-day or special delivery

0:36:000:36:02

because that way you can track your parcel

0:36:020:36:04

and it's insured should it get lost in the postal system.

0:36:040:36:07

If you are offered a reduced price

0:36:070:36:09

because your handset is slightly damaged, it's worth making sure

0:36:090:36:13

that you decline the offer if you're not happy with it immediately,

0:36:130:36:16

as some sites will assume

0:36:160:36:18

that if they haven't heard from you within two to three days

0:36:180:36:21

that you're happy to go ahead.

0:36:210:36:22

In today's programme, we've been hearing from people

0:36:250:36:27

who feel really frustrated with their broadband services,

0:36:270:36:31

and in some cases feel totally ripped off.

0:36:310:36:34

Well, I've come to Ofcom in London to meet Stuart McIntosh

0:36:340:36:37

to see if he's got any encouraging solutions.

0:36:370:36:40

Stuart, I'm very glad you could join us on the programme.

0:36:410:36:44

Obviously, most of us depend on the internet these days

0:36:440:36:47

for business, for pleasure.

0:36:470:36:49

And yet, we've been looking at the rural side of it and I think

0:36:490:36:52

that a lot of the rural customers

0:36:520:36:54

are really left out in the cold a bit with very slow broadband.

0:36:540:36:57

So it seems a bit unfair, really, doesn't it?

0:36:570:37:01

Well, there are technical constraints

0:37:010:37:03

on what you can deliver over telecommunications networks.

0:37:030:37:06

And in most rural locations,

0:37:060:37:07

people tend to live quite far from the telephone exchange.

0:37:070:37:11

That really is the determining factor.

0:37:110:37:13

If you live more than say, two, or two and a half miles away

0:37:130:37:16

from the telephone exchange,

0:37:160:37:18

you will see a degradation in your service.

0:37:180:37:20

Many people have been in touch to say that they go along,

0:37:200:37:23

they get a package to say, for X number of pounds,

0:37:230:37:26

you will get 20 megabits and yet there they are, with maybe only 2 megabits.

0:37:260:37:32

That seems grossly unfair.

0:37:320:37:33

Yes, I can well understand consumers' frustration over that.

0:37:330:37:36

And it is partly a reflection, unfortunately,

0:37:360:37:39

of the underlying economics.

0:37:390:37:40

Communications networks depend on scale.

0:37:400:37:43

If you have a very large number of customers and density,

0:37:430:37:47

if you have them all together in the one place,

0:37:470:37:49

you can build a network which is relatively low-cost.

0:37:490:37:53

So that's what large towns and cities are like.

0:37:530:37:55

If you look at rural locations, however,

0:37:550:37:58

people do tend to be spread out

0:37:580:37:59

and they do tend to be smaller in number.

0:37:590:38:01

What that unfortunately means

0:38:010:38:03

is that the average cost of providing the service

0:38:030:38:06

is actually higher.

0:38:060:38:07

It is a bit like buying a first-class ticket and having to go steerage.

0:38:070:38:11

It doesn't work, in a way.

0:38:110:38:13

It goes back a little bit

0:38:130:38:14

to the actual cost of upgrading those networks, which is very high.

0:38:140:38:18

Let me give you some illustrative numbers.

0:38:180:38:22

To provide higher speed services in most of the urban locations,

0:38:220:38:25

BT is spending somewhere in the region of £2.5 billion,

0:38:250:38:29

-that is what they're spending.

-Billion?

-Billion, yes.

0:38:290:38:32

Virgin Media have also spent quite considerable amounts

0:38:320:38:35

in order to upgrade their networks.

0:38:350:38:38

To achieve similar speeds in the rural parts of the UK,

0:38:380:38:42

will take multiples of that,

0:38:420:38:44

simply because the costs are quite a bit higher.

0:38:440:38:47

So what you are saying is, you have to bite the bullet

0:38:470:38:50

and wait until all these improvements happen.

0:38:500:38:52

Bite the bullet a little, but hopefully, it will not be too long.

0:38:520:38:56

The other factor is

0:38:560:38:57

that because government is putting up some quite significant money,

0:38:570:39:01

the government has already committed over half a billion pounds

0:39:010:39:05

to a programme to promote the development

0:39:050:39:07

of much higher speed broadband services in rural locations -

0:39:070:39:12

that will help keep the prices down

0:39:120:39:14

so they are more comparable

0:39:140:39:15

with the prices which apply in urban locations.

0:39:150:39:18

Just to sum it all up,

0:39:180:39:19

what would you say to our viewers who are very frustrated, very angry,

0:39:190:39:23

if they are not getting their service,

0:39:230:39:25

what hope would you give them for the future?

0:39:250:39:27

If you're unhappy with the service today,

0:39:270:39:29

do not assume that that's the best you can get.

0:39:290:39:32

There may be some technical things in relation to -

0:39:320:39:34

you may be able to buy a small £5 filter, for example,

0:39:340:39:37

which will improve things. Secondly,

0:39:370:39:40

it could well be that there is something specific to your line.

0:39:400:39:43

So you need to check that.

0:39:430:39:45

The third thing is, make sure that you are up-to-date

0:39:450:39:48

with all the options available to you.

0:39:480:39:50

There are a number of sites which we have accredited

0:39:500:39:53

where consumers can go and check the services

0:39:530:39:56

which are available in their location,

0:39:560:39:59

check the prices, the speed.

0:39:590:40:01

So if you do all those things,

0:40:010:40:02

it may well be that you can get a better service at a better price.

0:40:020:40:06

And in the long run, be assured that a lot of billions

0:40:060:40:09

-are going into improving the service.

-Absolutely.

0:40:090:40:12

And we can expect within relatively short order,

0:40:120:40:15

within 2 to 3 years' time, to see a further revolution

0:40:150:40:18

in the provision of broadband services in the UK.

0:40:180:40:20

-And if all else fails, I'm going to ring you!

-Please do.

0:40:200:40:23

Here at Rip Off Britain,

0:40:270:40:29

we're always ready to investigate more of your stories.

0:40:290:40:32

Confused over your bills?

0:40:320:40:35

Trying to wade through endless small print

0:40:350:40:38

that leaves you none the wiser?

0:40:380:40:39

I might have been stupid for not reading it,

0:40:390:40:41

or I've read it and not took it in.

0:40:410:40:44

I could kick myself. I really could.

0:40:440:40:46

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

0:40:460:40:50

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

0:40:500:40:54

I thought, "This cannot be true."

0:40:540:40:56

It's totally unacceptable. I was so angry.

0:40:560:40:59

You might have a cautionary tale of your own,

0:40:590:41:02

and want to share the mistakes you made with us,

0:41:020:41:04

so others don't do the same.

0:41:040:41:06

No-one knows about this

0:41:060:41:09

so this is very, very strange to me

0:41:090:41:10

and I really would like to get this much clearer.

0:41:100:41:13

You can write to us at -

0:41:130:41:15

Or send us an e-mail to -

0:41:250:41:27

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

0:41:310:41:36

And that is it for today.

0:41:390:41:40

But we can all learn something

0:41:400:41:42

from the locals we saw earlier in Robin Hood's Bay.

0:41:420:41:45

Didn't they do very well?

0:41:450:41:46

If you are unhappy with service,

0:41:460:41:48

not just from your broadband supplier,

0:41:480:41:50

but anyone you do business with,

0:41:500:41:52

then for goodness sake, do something about it.

0:41:520:41:55

At the very least, speak up and complain, is what we always say.

0:41:550:41:58

Absolutely. Make your voices heard.

0:41:580:42:00

Meanwhile, we are rather hoping

0:42:000:42:01

that the government's plans to upgrade most of us

0:42:010:42:04

to the fastest broadband system in Europe,

0:42:040:42:07

is going to signal an end to the sort of problems

0:42:070:42:09

that you've been telling us about today.

0:42:090:42:11

But do let us know how things pan out in your area.

0:42:110:42:14

And also, if it looks like the communications revolution

0:42:140:42:17

is leaving you behind.

0:42:170:42:19

In the meantime, do join us again

0:42:190:42:20

when we will be investigating more of your stories

0:42:200:42:23

and showing you how to avoid being ripped off. Till next time, goodbye.

0:42:230:42:27

-Bye-bye.

-From all of us, bye-bye.

0:42:270:42:29

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:42:480:42:51

E-mail: [email protected]

0:42:510:42:54

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.