Actual loss or penalty charge?

"Actual loss" is a gauge for determining whether or not the fees, charges, termination costs or administration fees (and many more charges dressed up with fancy names) are what your personal circumstances have done to cause a loss to a business where a contract exists.

This maybe your mobile phone contract, your bank account, your credit agreement, etc.

I don't think any person can deny that if you have gone over drawn by £3, you have cost the bank £3 plus an amount for recovering that £3. This is "Actual loss" and should be paid willingly.
Problems arise when a bank charge is levied against your account for say £25 for going overdrawn.
The bank wants its £3 plus cost for an automated letter, an envelope, a stamp. Being generous this [in the real world] would generate a charge to your account of around £6 in total. So why the £25 charge?

Banks *I'm using banks as an example, it could in theory be any other industry claim continuously that it lists the charges applicable in it's terms and conditions. This is completely irrelevant!
Continuing to repeat the same question, "Is this charge actual loss?" results in at best, some very bizarre and obscure attempts to justify it without giving you a straight answer. This is because in almost every case, the charge not only recovers money for the amount of actual cost to the bank, but an additional amount, that has nothing to do with how you manage your account whatsoever.
As the charge issued against your account is not entirely for the bank's actual loss, caused by your management of your account, under common law in England and Wales [legal precedent dates back to the early 1900s] this is deemed to be "a penalty."
"Penalty charges" are unenforceable under common law (in England and Wales) - it really is that simple!

If I had a pound for everytime a telephone advisor reels off how "charges are listed in their terms and conditions" and "our charges are very competitive compared to every other company in that partcular industry" I would be a very rich man indeed.

The simple test whenever you are faced with a charge/fee, etc, is to ask continuously, "Is this charge/fee actual loss?"
Nine times out of ten, you will not receive a straight answer.
Don't be bothered by this, most of the time the telephone operators have not been trained to answer this question, or have been trained to answer it in a manner that won't allow for any comebacks or claims.
Occasionally, you will get an advisor who will concede over the phone that a charge/fee does not recover actual loss. These are rare occasions indeed, but joyous ones. First declare that you wish for what was said to be confirmed in writing (don't panic, it will never happen) so write to them and demand a written transcript of the call.
Once they play it back and their admission is heard, a "goodwill gesture" of the charge/fee reversal, will often come about as if by magic!

Failing that, the scope for further action becomes available.
If you decide to go via the small claims route, (that's a big if) it would be one of your "3 strikes against them" in that, can they appear before a district judge and prove that their charge is "actual loss"?
Hopefully, it will rarely if ever, come to this.
Continuous questioning of "is this charge an actual loss?" - along with, "Please provide a breakdown of the charge/fee in writing" - usually gives you good grounds for senior people within the company to waiver the charge/fee.

Remember, this is not avoidance of paying charges/admin fees, etc.
If these fees are actual loss then fair enough. That they are listed in terms and conditions is irrelevant, they must, under common law in England and Wales, be ONLY for "actual loss."
If they are not, then they are a "Penalty charge" and you are within your rights to stand your ground and demand that they are reversed.

Be strong, stand up for yourself!

Energy saving fight back - Washing clothes

Saving money on doing the laundry every week in theory, should be easy.

As part of our home's energy saving fightback [in which we look at everything we do from week to week] applying the simple process of breaking down each cost the savings appear before my very eyes.

Not a lot we can do about the washing machine, as frugal as I am, even I would not advocate dragging the family washing to a stream and beating it on rocks. Nor would I go with throwing clothes in the bath and walking on them, etc.
I can however, monitor how much electricity, in money, we are using.

Since I started this action against energy companies, our home has completed seven loads of washing. I'm informed by our electricity provider that each washing cycle uses up between 43p and 47p. Already that's more than £3 used in electric, but that can't be helped.
What I can have an effect upon is washing powder, conditioner, drying clothes, etc.

Can you believe that some people use conditioner in their washer, then take clothes out, put them into a tumble dryer and add more conditioner?
Why not just use conditioner when drying?
Washing powder is an easy one, catering packs from the cash & carry, contain much more powder than the supermarket branded/own brand boxes. *If you could only see, 7KG-8KG of powder in catering packs, that do the same "amount" of washes as supermarket boxes, which have less powder in them and claim to do the same number of washes!

Fabric conditioner is again an easy one to save on. A concentrated 5 litre tub of branded conditioner, for around £8 lasts well over a month.
Another habit I've gotten out of, is filling the conditioner compartment in the washer drawer. Simple trick: Buy a concentrated 1 litre bottle of branded conditioner - use it - wash bottle out and refill it from 5 litre catering size tub. Not only is it easier to use, but it's also saving me money because the lid capacity is 1 measure for a wash!
It doesn't fill the conditioner section in the washer tray as it doesn't need to.
How many times have you filled the tray up with conditioner instead of just using the lid of the bottle? We've all done it at some point.

Next savings come from drying.
Tumble dryers are wonderful things, especially in emergencies. With a little bit of planning ahead, they can become redundant.
Using in excess of 50p per load, already I have saved over £3.50 from my electricity.
Sounds petty I know, but consider this...
£3.50 per week saved is equal to £182.00 electricity per year!

Yes, we use two washing lines, but what about the winter months? What about when it's chucking it down?
Going back to my childhood helps. We have an old wooden framed wardrobe in the spare room, I hang the t-shirts in there, I can only wear one t-shirt at a time, etc.
A cheap clothes horse looks after the smaller stuff and two radiator hangers are more than enough for the socks etc.
Dry by the next day, costing not a penny piece. Using just the heat from the burner and air from the windows blowing through the house, I can dry all the clothes at a saving of 50p per load.
Even if I only save on 4 loads of drying per week, that would be £104.00 per year, in the family's pocket.
Little victories.....

How do you justify this - British Gas, Energy saving trust, DECC and OFGEM?

I'll keep it simple, so that staff from the aforementioned companies and state bodies can understand it.

  • We installed complete double glazing, including all our doors - we used more units of gas
  • We fitted cavity wall insulation - we used more units of gas
  • We fitted more loft insulation - we used more units of gas
  • We applied a double render to the exterior walls - we used more units of gas
  • We removed the gas fire - we used more units of gas
  • We removed a G rated (30 year old) back boiler heating system (without thermostatic controls) and fitted an A rated "energy efficient" boiler - we used more units of gas
  • We fitted thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) - we used more units of gas
  • We replaced all our old pipework - we used more units of gas
  • We had our meter, pipework, cooker and boiler checked by both an independant engineer and British gas' own engineer, finding no faults - we continued to use more units of gas
  • We had one adult less, living in the house for four months (less baths, cooking, heating, etc) - we used more units of gas
  • We installed and fired up a multi fuel burner, which has been used instead of central heating for the past 7 days - STILL we have used more units of gas!

For three years now, for the winter 6 months - October to March, our monthly costs for gas shoot up from £45 for the April - September period, to anything from £85 to £120 per calendar month. Here are some of the things we have been told, when questioning about why our usage increases;

  • "Just think how much more your energy bills would have been had you not fitted all those energy saving measures!"
  • "I don't know!"
  • "All you can do is wait until you get next year's gas statement"
  • "New boilers don't use any less gas than old boilers!"
  • "I don't have an answer for you!"
  • "Is your thermostat set at more than 30 degrees?"
  • "I'll just put you through to pre payment now" Phone goes dead
  • "I'll just put you through to pre payment now" Call is answered by another member of staff from the same department
  • "I'll get a senior manager to ring you back, they can go through things in more detail" No phone call came
  • "You have to be referred to our energy saving team for some energy saving advice!"
  • "It will even itself up when you get your statement next year"
  • "I don't know what else to say!"
  • "It's colder between October and March so takes more gas to heat up your water" After being told that September was actually a colder month, but used less units of gas, they retracted their opinion
  • "The gas supply to your boiler will be too high, read your instructions and turn the gas supply to it down!"

So come on British Gas, energy saving trust, DECC and OFGEM, what have you got to say for yourselves regarding your false claims of "energy saving," and the benefits of, and in our case, what has happened?

(You can have your say on twitter, email, comments on this post, etc.)

We now have confirmation back that the pre payment meter that was replaced, despite being told by previous engineer that there was no fault with it, was not faulty.

The fee/charge for having the meter tested was £33 and has been waived (How much have you been charged for a meter being tested?)

A "Deadlock letter" and complaint reference number have been issued at my second request and a complaint to the energy ombudsman will be made (for all the good it will do).
I have to say, I do not find British gas' questioning of what will be reported to the ombudsman very professional.
More effort should be made to establish how a household can use more units of gas despite extensive "energy saving" measures being put in place, at considerable cost to the household, and on the advice of and marketing by British gas.

In our experience, all the energy saving advice given has proven to be false when the units of gas used are presented in a statement.
"It is not our responsibility" is not an acceptable stand to take when British gas are charging record prices for supplying what is a basic human right into our homes.

The energy saving trust (which are not impartial as they have centrica/british gas staff sat on their board and receive funding from them) have absolutely no comment to make.
All they will say is "If you have a complaint or query, please send it via our form so it can be dealt with via proper channels."

They will not comment on the issues raised here, nor will they comment on record price rises by the energy companies in any public forum.
They won't condemn any of the energy companies that provide half their funding. I think this speaks volumes.
All we get from them are guest posts on so called impartial blogs and switching websites, nothing but marketing bumph.
So here we have an open invite for you, the energy saving trust.

Frugal ways will give you an open spot, here on this website, to voice your views/opinions (for free) on so called energy saving measures and how they have failed to save any units of gas in our example.
I would also welcome any comments you have to make about the conduct of British gas in this matter and what plans your marketing organisation for the energy industry have to call energy companies to account for the way in which they are ignoring customers up and down the land.
Simply email or message myself and your response will be published word for word here for all our visitors to read for themselves.

The energy saving fight back has started...

multi fuel burner
Saving on energy bills with a multi fuel burner

For the draining of household finances, there is no bigger burden [that I am aware of] than that of the energy companies.
The examples of mis-selling, mis representation and often blatant untruths are out there for all to see.
Is there any other industry in Britain today that has been fined more than energy companies for their failings?

Years of ineffectual "regulation" (use that term loosely) - a complete lack of reality or understanding of the financial damage that the energy companies are inflicting on the people from successive governments via the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) - an Energy Saving Trust (EST) body that publishes all over the media and internet about the so called saving money, energy saving features of everything from new boilers to lamp bulbs, which, on their own figures and percentages, a maximum "bill saving per year" will not cover the costs of having the energy saving measures put in.
The EST are funded by both the taxpayer and private sector companies [which conveniently provide not only the percentages for the "efficiency" of their goods, but also pay money to the EST!] to the tune of Millions of pounds a year.

For years now, my own home has been subjected to increases in prices, standing charges, lies, mis representations and, in the case of British gas and Eon, billing and statements that even their own staff have not the foggiest idea how to work out.

Well just two words for British gas and Eon * No not those two words! - NO MORE!

This winter, some of our friends and neighbours will have to decide something I didn't think could happen in my lifetime, they have to decide whether to heat or eat.
Back in March 2011, I decided that it was time to give our family something we have not had or needed for more than 20 years, a choice.
Unbeknown to myself, price rises would come soon after followed by an enormous price rise at the beginning of August.

In June 2011, I sourced us a 16KW log/peat/coal burner and had it delivered, where it has sat in the hallway until last Friday. The old back boiler ripped out, the brickwork repaired to a safe standard, rendering of sand, cement and lime has been applied, a metal shelf for the flue to sit in has been bent, cut and fitted, a stone hearth has been created out of a large stone flag and a huge piece of stone that took four people to lift into place. The area around the burner has been finished with two coats of sandtex and the flue pipe bought, sealed with fire cement and fitted.
The chimney has had a new pot put on and a cowl inserted to stop rainfall down the chimney.

Last Friday we fired it up for the first time, small fire at first to help the cast iron burner's paint to seal itself.
By Saturday we started cranking it up to see how warm we could get the house. WOW!
Sunday it was on since teatime as it was tonight. Our open plan front room is reaching 2 degrees higher that our gas central heating was when on full.
The chimney stack running up through our bedroom is heating it so much so, we have to sleep with a window open.
The heat from the burner is going through into the kitchen and up our open plan stairway, heating landing, bathroom and other bedrooms.

Now the beauty of it so far...

* Where you see a pile of newspapers to recycle, I see free fire lighters. Collected twice a week from family, at a cost to us of NIL.
* Where you see old white pallets, I hope to secure a regular supply of smashed up old pallets to use as kindling, at a cost to us of NIL.
* Where you see a tree chopped down where you may walk or pass on the way to work, I see, with a bit of application, 2-3 months energy to heat our home, at a cost to us of NIL!

For 7 small logs, I can heat our home for around 9 hours.
If there is a really cold spell this winter, as some of our neighbours found to their cost last winter, the breather pipes on their "energy efficient boilers" froze, leaving them without heating or hot water, we will not be effected too much as our burner is big enough to hold a large kettle and three large pans.
If there is a power cut, our boiler won't be able to fire up (most have electronic ignitions now instead of a pilot light) yet we can continue to have hot water and heat via our burner.

There is some initial outlay for the burner and fitting it, but nothing like the cheapest quote I got for "fitting" it, £650 was the cheapest fitting price, we have prepared the area where it is for around £240 (only because the old back boiler left such a mess after removal that it had to be bricked back up again) that is including materials.
There is also a bit of work in cutting the logs and driving out to get them, but I'd rather do a bit of work than pay way over the odds for heating/cooking etc.

Over the coming 6 months I will be monitoring the amount of gas we are using, as well as comparing what we are spending each month to what we have spent over the last 2 winters.
If comparison goes well, it is currently 4 days since we had to use the gas central heating, the burner should have paid for itself by February 2012.
Including the installation costs and a chain saw to chop up the logs, by September 2012, gas savings should have paid for those as well.

All this has been possible because the family have dug in and helped in some way, whether it's cutting logs, very heavy lifting, working long hours of overtime. Our neighbours have helped by giving up their time and advice.

I shall keep this post updated with falling gas use and real energy/money saving progress.
The message for British gas and Eon is simple, you have held our family to ransom for far too long... NO MORE!

Dad diary: Baby routines, british traditions and a pile of other stuff...

It has been quite a while since I posted my stuff, but I have been very very busy and nipping on to the site every other day to check that it is still here.

Baby routines?
Sprog2 is no longer a baby really, at just over two years old, she's growing in every way and pushing boundaries, etc.
I only wish I could remember the bloke's article, I read when just after sprog2 was born. I was sceptical in that here was a bloke telling newborn parents how they should manage their babies into their infant stages.
His theory was that it was a waste of time and energy to get babies into a routine, he claims that they will develop their own routines and slowly cotton on to what's what, by the age of around 3 years old.
This way they will accept the routine for stability and come to enjoy it.

I have to say, he was on the whole, absolutely spot on.
There have been numerous calls from all directions, mostly from the women in my world, to get sprog2 into a routine at a far younger age than my reading and theory advised me to do. I have for the most part, resisted and been mocked for doing so.

Baby sleeping routine is a shining example.
Since she went on the bottle, she has almost always slept in the afternoon for an hour or so, we haven't been quiet around her so noise doesn't wake her up.
At night, she plays and runs around, then a late change and wash between 9-10pm, then it's a cup of tea in a bottle and chilling out in her chair watching television until she nods off. Then I cover her up with a huge thermal blanket and there she stays until I go up to bed.
Very rarely does she wake up when I put her down in our cot, which is at the foot of our bed, deliberately facing away from us so we cannot be seen.

For months now it has been expressed to me that she should be in her own room and be sleeping in her own bed. I disagree. Obviously happy with her routine, I would prefer to let it ride until such time when her attitude towards bedtime changes on its own.
Last night I think one of the gear cogs in her swede clicked.
Waking up at 3am (I'd been out driving) in her chair about to go up to bed, she was wide awake. Oh no I thought, I'm going to be up for the rest of the night as she won't like going in her cot.
I explained that it was dark and that we were going to snuggle in, in bed. I placed her in her cot and asked her to lay down, which our wide awake little girl did no problem at all, laying there for about 30 minutes before nodding back off again.

To me this is a sign that her natural routine is now ready for going in a bed, in place of her cot in our room at first I think, before moving into her own room in a couple of months. I know from experience that all babies are different, some cry for England others are sedate and more composed (for want of a better word) time will tell, but I think that she is better suited to doing things in her own time. Famous last words and all that.

British traditions:
On the way home today, the radio tells me that the halloween industry is now worth more than £300 Million to businesses in the UK. After nipping to the supermarket for my bread for the week (buying six loaves and then freezing them means I never have to go there midweek and spend more than I want to) sprog2 and I had a quick look around the last two aisles, the sheer panic buying of joe public never fails to amaze me.
Rushing around, fighting over a child's witches hat. Banging bags of over priced sweet mixed bags into their trolleys like we used to throw hay bails around on the farm.

I am the first to uphold traditions that I was brought up with, sprog1 was always involved in halloween and bonfire night, but the sheer expense of the absolute pap that people buy, they need to stop and ask is it worth it?
Paying £9.99 for half baked costume, many of which are not even remotely scarey or in the spirit of halloween [no puns intended] that will last just as long as yesterday's newspapers or end up for sale on ebay for a buy it now price of £7, but will eventually be dropped to £3 after no one buys it, and the postage will cost more.

You've got an old sheet? Why not show your child some real worth and encourage tradition at the same time?
Halloween tradition won't be passed on to children who are shoved into a trolley or dragged around a supermarket on a Sunday afternoon, think about it, every halloween they'll think back to their childhood and dread taking the occasion for their own family.
What exactly has the trick or treat tradition got to do with giving money?
Some of the early door knockers costumes have been very poor.
Spend some time with your children making a costume, they will thank you for it plus it's cheaper. Even if you turn your child's face into a mush, think of the fun you'll have. Is this not the duty of a parent?

Ever tried ducking for apples?
Here's a crazy idea, if you knock on my door saying "trick or treat" I often say trick...... SO HAVE ONE READY!
Don't just stand there with your gob open, catching flies, put some effort in.
One final thing before my swede pops, for the past two years I've had people knocking on my door, whom I have never seen before let alone want to hand out sweets to. One woman has brought her toddler two years running, standing at the gate whilst her little angel walks down the path and knocks on a stranger's front door * which I sometimes dive out of wearing a mask and frighten kids as its halloween and they are fair game! What is that all about?

Other stuff:
Whilst you were sunning yourself back in July/August on some luxurious isle or after paying way over the odds for a caravan in Hebden Bridge, bad old me decided to spend the family's half holiday money on rendering and a wood/coal/peat burner. Well at long last, everything has been finished and it's finally in. More on the burner laters.
The culmination (ooooo a big word!) of all that meant a very busy summer holiday/early autumn period for me.

Will have the van out, pallet hunting next week ready for our bonfire, you can't miss it, it's in the front garden (read: drive) and fireworks will be going off in the street, whilst we have a few beers and enjoy baked potatoes, with cheese and butter on them * with the added bonus of friends and neighbours coming round to incinerate their burn bins - bags of bills and official stuff that needs getting rid of. I'm thinking of making some parkin and if we are really lucky, our neighbour Bel will do us one of her gorgeous broths.
As it stands, nothing is in place yet, hopefully by Thursday we will be almost there...

Finally, of this dad diary entry, a request.
If you are in to computing, please try to learn plain English!
Switching over from windows xp (which started suspiciously needing browser refreshing on popular websites) to windows 7 was hard work getting all the settings simlar to what they used to be. Would it be too difficult to develop an operating system that can save to a folder somewhere, the set up for folders, browser, etc, instead of leaving the end user starting from scratch?