THE Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.
Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Jane Hamilton will give you the best advice for buying your dream home, and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.
Jane Hamilton, property expert
Go green and save money
MAKING eco-friendly changes around your home and garden does not have to cost the earth.
On World Environment Day, here are six simple and cheap ways to improve a property and cut household costs with planet-pleasing results.
1) Switch to LED lights: Lighting accounts for around five per cent of global carbon emissions. Not only are LED lights between 50 per cent to 70 per cent cheaper to run, they also help cut carbon emissions.
2) Install a water butt: Costing from just £25, these are large barrels that collect rainwater from your gutters. Use them for your garden – reducing water consumption and bills if on a meter.
3) Get a compost bin: Seeing what you are throwing away can make you more mindful about food waste. Composting also gives you free fertiliser for your garden.
4) Buy energy-efficient appliances: Look for household electrical goods that use less energy. The old rating scale which meant A and A+ appliances scored best is being replaced with A to G. Anything above C is considered eco-friendly.
5) Choose second-hand or renewable furniture: Seek out wood from a renewable source or pick bamboo, which is fast-growing and easily replaced.
6) Use eco paint: Redecorating? Select planet- friendly paints such as Earthborn or Lakeland, which are non-toxic and low allergy.
Buy of the week
GREEN homes can often reach the £500,000 mark or more.
But this two-bed end of terrace on an eco-development in Bicester, Oxon, boasts electric charging points, rainwater harvesting, triple glazing and solar panels for £337,500.
See zoopla.co.uk/new-homes/details/58707784 for details.
Head east to go eco
HEAD east to go eco. Norwich has the country’s most energy-efficient homes, says a new study.
Newcastle is the top city for biomass boilers that burn wood, with one in 20 homes already fitted with one.
Adrienne Minster of Rated People, which carried out the survey, said: “You don’t need a Grand Designs-style home to go eco.
“There are lots of easy ways to increase your home’s eco credentials without spending a fortune.”
Deal of the week
ECO website protecttheplanet.co.uk specialises in green homeware.
Light your living space with these recycled glass Bimala brass box lanterns for £14.99.
SAVE: £2 on similar items elsewhere
Judge Rinder, legal expert
‘My confused grandparents are trapped in a solar panel deal that will cost them £18k to escape’
Q) MY grandparents, in their nineties, are suffering with dementia and memory loss.
We got involved with their finances and found they signed a 25-year lease deal with a solar panel firm that came to their door.
Naively, they agreed to have the panels installed, with the firm insisting there were no hidden charges.
The firm is now listed on the Land Registry as holding the rights to the roof of the home on a 25-year deal. It appears they signed documents agreeing to this, which they believed was a formality to accept the installation. In truth, I don’t think they were really in a position to understand.
Was the firm acting lawfully when it signed them to a deal that would take them to almost their 110th birthdays? It seems selling the property will be difficult.
We have contacted the firm, which would want £18,000 to remove the panels to cover “loss of earnings” and have threatened to take legal action if they are turned off or removed by us.
A) Hard-selling high-value products on the doorsteps of elderly people is a disgusting practice that ought to be unlawful.
The problem is that your grandparents have signed a legally binding contract. So the issue here is whether or not your grandparents had the mental capacity to enter into this agreement, particularly when they consented for a charge on their property.
Given they have dementia, there may be a strong argument in court that the contract is not worth the paper it was written on. Proving this may be challenging and could cause distress to your grandparents. I am also concerned you do not appear to have legal power of attorney to act on their behalf. You must resolve this at once.
In the meantime, write to the managing director of this solar panel firm again, making clear that unless it removes the panels at no cost and takes the charge off the property, you will be taking this matter to court and publicising its appalling conduct.
If it refuses, I urge you to get legal advice. You must not let this company get away with it.
Q) MY brother and I inherited our parents’ property 18 months ago. During this time my brother’s son and girlfriend have been living in it and paying a minimal rent when they feel like it.
They are not looking after it to our liking, so we asked them to leave. They are not having any of it.
A) It was a very bad idea to let your nephew and his girlfriend move into the property without a written and signed agreement.
They may be able to argue that, rather than having an informal right to stay in the house, they have a lawful lease, which could make evicting them more legally challenging.
There is no reason why you won’t be able get possession of the property. Write to your nephew again asking them to vacate to avoid legal action, offering a reasonable amount of time for them to find other accommodation.
If that offer is refused, get a solicitor to ensure you make the correct legal applications
Sold a dud by dodgy dealer
Q) THREE months ago I bought a BMW from someone posing as a dealer. The car went OK on a test drive but the next day I picked it up and within seven miles, its traction control failed.
The dealer would not take my calls, answer messages or reply to a letter stating rejection of the vehicle under consumer rights. I had to spend £800 to make it driveable.
A) As you bought from someone who claimed to be a dealer, you are covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. It entitled you to a full refund within the first 30 days after buying or the £800 you spent on repairs.
Bring proceedings in the Small Claims Court against this “dealer” at once. This is quite straightforward and, by the sound of it, I doubt they will reply or even attend. With a court judgment at least you might be able to get some of your money back.
This might take some time and you may not recover your money. It is a powerful warning to everybody to do considerable research on car dealers.
Mel Hunter, reader’s champion
Sky’s wrong call on phone
Q) SKY emailed asking if I wanted to upgrade my mobile. I clicked on the “upgrade now” button and chose a new iPhone 11 Pro.
However, shortly after receiving it I realised it had been treated as a new contract and not an upgrade. Sky, admitting the mistake, said I should return the old and new phone in the packaging it would send.
But only one return package came.
I used it to send back the old phone and used my own packaging to return the iPhone 11 Pro. I quickly got a new phone and was assured it had gone on to the original contract as an upgrade.
I was astonished when my bill came for two iPhone 11 Pro contracts instead of one. After many twists and turns, Sky has told me I am liable to continue paying for two phones. I’m out of pocket by around £200.
A) Your case was tricky to unravel but Sky told me the iPhone you returned in your own packaging had not reached it.
It was fortunately sent back to you by whoever received it. But when returning it again, Sky says you mistakenly sent the wrong device.
That phone came back to you from the telecommunications firm with no explanation, adding to the confusion. Finally, more than six months after you’d tried to sort out that simple upgrade, we got the problem sorted and your money refunded.
A spokesman for Sky said: “After investigating the situation and speaking with Mrs Gibson we terminated the contract for the iPhone 11 Pro which was taken out by mistake. We’ve also given a full refund for any payments made since the contract was taken out. We’re sorry for any inconvenience.”
Q) I AM at my wits’ end with Virgin Media. We had our driveway block-paved and by accident the workmen cut our cable connection.
A Virgin engineer gave us a temporary repair from our neighbour’s box so we had wifi and TV but no telephone until the repair was finished.
It has been eight weeks since then and we still have no phone line even though we are paying for it. I have called Virgin around 25 times and every time I am told it will be repaired “tomorrow”, but it never is.
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A) The problem here was not what Virgin did but what the firm didn’t do. You had been waiting two months to get an engineer to sort things out.
The fault was caused by your driveway contractor, but needed to be fixed by Virgin and you seemed to be falling low on the company’s priority list.
I managed to get an engineer out to your house to fix the cable and get your phone line back up and running. Virgin finally fixed the problem free of charge and gave you back a month’s line rental as a goodwill gesture.
A Virgin Media spokesman said: “We apologise to Mrs Doran for the delay in restoring her telephone service following damage by a third party and are pleased to have now resolved the matter to her satisfaction.”