Brighton author helps consumers fight the high street cowboys

Posted On 11 Feb 2014 at 9:47 am

A Brighton author and a fellow former financial journalist have written a book to help consumers dodge dubious deals, save money and win compensation.

Anne Caborn, 59, of Robertson Road, Brighton, and Lindsay Cook, 62, of Haywards Heath, have written Money Fight Club.

Details of the book appear in the current issue of the Brighton and Hove Independent.

Anne Caborn and Lindsay Cook

Anne Caborn and Lindsay Cook

The newspaper said: “Two women, sick of the way banks, supermarkets, energy and other companies operate, have written a book on how to fight back.”

Ms Caborn, a director of Brighton Housing Trust (BHT), and Miss Cook were described in another newspaper, The Sunday Times, as “two militants in the martial arts of money”.

The Brighton and Hove Independent said: “Most of us would be on our guard if somebody sidled up to us in the pub and offered to sell us a brand new television cheap or started selling frozen chickens out of the boot of their car.

“But when it comes to high street names and people sitting behind desks in smart offices, we tend to take what they say at face value.

“Stop. Glove up. And follow our top tips!”

Among the tips are the following.

Avoiding dubious deals

  • Loads of well-known financial institutions have been criticised for mis-selling products and services, so do not assume that what you are being told is right when you go into your bank or building society. Gas, electric, telephone, credit and loan companies are also guilty of confusing consumers and hitting us where it hurts – in the pocket.
  • Read any paperwork, particularly small print. Twice.
  • If there is anything you do not understand, ask loads of questions. There is no such thing as a stupid question.
  • If something is not clear, ask for it to be explained in writing.
  • Do not get panicked into accepting a deal because it is for a limited time only. The next good deal is just around the corner.
  • If something seems too good to be true, it is.

Saving money

  • Regular bills, such as the supermarket shop and monthly direct debits for insurance policies and other household bills, gouge big holes in our finances. But you can save hundreds of pounds by making some small changes.
  • Make a shopping list and only buy what is on it.
  • Use up what is in the refrigerator before you buy more.
  • Store things in “use by” date order so the things that will go off first are at the front.
  • Always check your till receipt before leaving the store. Discounts offered on the big posters by the shelves may not come off at the till.
  • Do not use a money-off voucher just because you have one. Often, vouchers trick us into to buying a new more expensive version of an existing product.
  • Never assume a multi-buy will be cheaper. Find different sizes and different brands and work out the best deal using the calculator on your mobile phone.
  • Make a note in your diary four weeks before an annual insurance policy, such as car insurance, or any other contract, such as your phone, is due for renewal. This gives you plenty of time to shop around for cheaper alternatives using price comparison sites. Always check out more than one price comparison site.

Getting compensation

  • Often we get all fired up when something goes wrong or we are overcharged. But we never quite get round to doing anything about it.
  • Or we accept the often-pathetic first offer of compensation we get. Don’t get angry. Get even.
  • Whether you are going back into a store or speaking to the company on the telephone, be cool and calm and be very clear about your complaint and what you want to happen next. Never be rude or abusive. It just gives your opponent an excuse to walk away or put down the phone. Instead, go for a tone of what we like to call polite menace.
  • It is very useful to know what your rights are under the law and what your next step will be if you don’t get satisfaction. For example, are you making a complaint under the Sale of Goods Act because what you bought was not “fit for purpose” and what is the name of the company’s chief executive who will be getting a letter if things are not put right? We have lots of downloadable letters on our website – www.moneyfightclub.com.
  • Take a note of what you are told and who you speak to, including their name and job title. Make a note of the date and set deadlines even if they do not: “I expect to have a response from you by this date.”
  • Never assume that your first contact will score a direct hit. You may well have to follow up with a second call or visit, maybe even an email or a letter. But it is your money they’re messing with. Fight to get it back. Even big businesses can be worn down by a consumer prepared to stand up for their rights.

Remember: companies need us. If you don’t get satisfaction and the right deal, go elsewhere.

Money Fight Club: The Smart Way to Save Money One Punch at a Time is published by Harriman House and costs £11.99.

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