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advice column
Our advice column features common queries along with advice and information about what you can do to resolve them. 
 
If you have an issue that you are trying to resolve and it is not covered below you can call us for advice on freephone 0800 144 88 48 (lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm), or you can email us
 

Spring 2021

Energy bill problems

My energy bill really shot up last month. I don’t feel like I’ve been using any more heating or electricity than usual, so I’m worried I’m being overcharged. I’ve tried to contact my energy supplier for support, but no one ever seems to answer the phone or respond to my emails. I’ve waited on hold for nearly an hour several times before giving up. What should I do?

It’s normal for your energy bills to change depending on the time of year and how much gas and electricity you’re using. But if your bills seem strangely high, then it’s important to investigate why.

Firstly, check your meter is working properly and your usage has definitely not gone up, even accidently. Also check what heaters you have and whether you’re using them correctly. Night storage radiators and immersion heaters in particular can cause very high bills if used incorrectly.

There are a few things worth looking into. It could be that your bill is an estimate, in which case you need to give your supplier a new meter reading. If it’s not an estimate, check your last meter reading to see if it matches the one on your bill. If you still don’t have an answer, your supplier might have raised their prices. In any case, you’re doing the right thing to contact them.

Customer service varies between suppliers and unfortunately we hear of many bad experiences similar to yours. We also know the problem has worsened during the pandemic. If you’re struggling to get through to them, you could make a formal complaint. We offer advice on how to do this and things to consider first.

We publish a comparison table every three months which rates suppliers’ customer service, based on things like telephone wait time, email response time and the accuracy of their bills. Have a look for yours to see how they fare against others. If they’re low on the list, consider switching to a different one.

If you’d like to talk it through with someone, get in touch with your nearest Citizens Advice for support or contact the consumer helpline.

Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 


February 2021
 
Post and delivery problems

We’ve had a lot of issues receiving our post recently and haven’t seen our usual postie around in a little while. I know that a couple of Christmas cards I sent in December still haven’t been received. And some of my neighbours who are shielding, and completely reliant on shopping online, have had some of their deliveries delayed too. Is there anything I can do?

You’re not alone, we know posties are currently working very hard, but we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of people coming to us for advice about post and parcel issues.

Letters

If you haven’t received any letters in your post, think about if there’s anything you were expecting like bills that might be due soon.  If you’re missing a bill you could check your account online to see how else you could pay. Lots of businesses offer online chat, email and phone as a way to contact them.

If you’re worried about missing letters about any benefits you receive you can contact the Department for Work and Pensions on the number given on any previous letters you’ve had. If you have questions about Universal Credit and don’t have a digital account, you can call the Universal Credit helpline on 0800 328 5644

You can check Royal Mail’s website for updates on areas which may be experiencing delays.

Parcels

If you bought something from a business to be delivered, it’s the seller’s responsibility to make sure the item is delivered to you.

If the seller used a courier, they should chase the courier to find out what’s happened to your order - it’s not your responsibility.

Check the delivery address you gave the seller. Then contact them and ask where your order is.

If the seller claims they've delivered it or don't know where it is, you can ask for a redelivery. You might be able to get a refund in some circumstances where the delivery time was essential and you let the trader know ahead of time. 

Under the Consumer Rights Act, you can ask the seller to deliver the item again if the item wasn’t delivered either:

  • by an agreed date
  • within a reasonable time - usually within 30 days.

If the new delivery fails to come within a reasonable time you can ask the trader for a refund.

If you ordered something from a private seller or if you think a seller had broken the law by refusing to deliver an item, you can contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline for help.

Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 


January 2021
 
Coronavirus Scams
 
“I’m really worried about my elderly relatives being targeted by coronavirus scams - are there any warning signs that I can tell them to look out for? What should they do if they think that something is a scam?”
 
Unfortunately, we’ve seen an increase in scams since the beginning of the pandemic, so it’s good to be thinking about the steps you can take to help protect friends and family.
 
Common scams we’re seeing are about bogus testing kits, coronavirus vaccinations and government refunds or fines. You should watch out for messages about coronavirus from unusual email addresses or phone numbers, and shouldn’t click on any links. Be aware that you won’t be asked to pay for coronavirus vaccinations - they are provided for free by the NHS.
 
Here are some general warning signs to look out for:
  • You suspect you’re not dealing with a real company – for example, if there’s no postal address
  • You’ve been asked to transfer money quickly or to pay in an unusual way – for example, by iTunes vouchers or through a transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union
  • You’ve been asked to give away personal information like passwords or PINs
  • You haven't had written confirmation of what's been agreed
If you think something is a scam you should hang up the phone, close the website, or shut the front door. Never feel pressured to make a decision straight away, and don’t give out personal details or money unless you’re certain that they can trust the person. If you feel threatened or unsafe you can ring 999.
 
For help with online scams, contact a Citizens Advice Scams Action adviser by calling 0808 250 5050. For more information about other types of scams, visit the Citizens Advice website.
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 

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