Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.
Q Can you advise me about a problem with Talk Talk please? I accidentally duplicated a payment by cheque of £35.12 because I forgot my daughter had set up a direct debit. They have had all the information they requested, including a copy of my bank statement showing the cheque was paid, but all I get is a string of promises and excuses but no refund.
A The way you’ve been treated I’m not surprised Talk Talk is at the top of the regulator’s bad boy’s list for failing to take their customers complaints seriously.
Ofcom outed Talk Talk as being top of their infamous complaints data for the reporting period ending February 2011, but some improvement has been made since then.
The first step in getting your money back is to write to the head of complaints, CEO’s Office, Talk Talk Group, PO Box 344, Unit 19, Southampton, SO 30 2NP.
If that doesn’t do the trick, you need to complain to the telecommunications Ombudsman at Ombudsman Services Communications, PO Box 730 Warrington, WA4 6WU.
It’s quicker to file complaints online using the following link: ombudsman-services.org/complain-now-communications.html but you can also phone for help and advice on 0330 440 1614. The service is completely free to anyone with a genuine gripe about telephone and e-mail service providers.
Q My partner didn’t have sufficient loose change to pay for parking at the Havant Meridian Centre centre, so she complied with the instructions at the pay machine to pay by debit card. To my surprise, as the named owner I was subsequently served with an £80 charge for not paying the parking fee. I feel I’ve been deceived into paying this extortionate charge and other people should be warned about this practice.
A You received a parking charge contravention notice for £80 with a black-and-white chequered border, making it look suspiciously like a penalty charge notice issued by the police.
Basically you took umbrage at what you considered a deception, and the fee which appeared excessive for a 37-minute stay in the car park. You resolved not to pay.
Just to put your mind at rest, private car parking control is a completely unregulated business. Private parking firms have no authority within the criminal justice system to compel you to pay the charge.
The charge is basically for breaching the terms of a contract between you and the owner of the land for permission to park your car.
Contracts do not have to be in writing. You can agree to a parking contract’s terms by simply signifying your acceptance through the action of leaving your car on private land. But any parking charge has to be fair, and in contract law cannot generally amount to a penalty.
I completely agree with your response amounting to a refusal to pay the charge. In extremis, all the parking operator can do is to sue you in the civil courts for non-payment. In this highly unlikely event, should you decide to defend the action on the grounds the charge amounts to a penalty, it’s inconceivable the court would order you pay it in full.
You’d simply be required to pay a fee in line with the minor breach of contract, likely to be a few pounds.
Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. If you have a question, e-mail him at email@example.com and wherever possible he will try to provide practical assistance. Unfortunately he cannot guarantee to respond to every letter or e-mail. Richard Thomson welcomes letters from readers on consumer issues. Replies are intended to give general help or advice, not a complete statement of law.