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
 
Our latest advice columns:
I do most of my shopping online. I am always on the lookout for a bargain, especially with the festive season coming up but I’m worried about scammers. What should I look for, to avoid getting caught out? 
 
You’re not alone, lots of people do their shopping online these days, it’s convenient and can save you time. But as more and more of us move online, so are scammers, with their tactics becoming more sophisticated all the time. 
 
While scams can be tricky to recognise there are always things you can look out for and steps you can take to protect yourself from falling foul to a scammer. 
 
The golden rule to remember is that if it seems too good to be true then it probably is. This goes for products which are ‘must-haves’, are sold out at major retailers, or are heavily discounted. 
 
If you’re buying from a site you haven’t used before, do some research before hitting buy. Find the company’s return and refund policies so you know your rights if something goes wrong with your purchase. You should also look up the company’s address, this can normally be found in the website’s ‘contact us’ section and should have a street name, not just a post office box. 
 
Also take some time to see what other people have said about the website. Start with an internet search and look at different review websites, don’t rely on reviews the company has put on its own website. 
 
Be very wary of people contacting you out of the blue on social media or via text and email offering an item for sale or deal on something. And scammers will often ask you to pay in unusual ways, or put you under pressure to buy very quickly. For example, they’ll ask you to send money through a transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union or pay via vouchers. 
 
If you do fall victim to a scam, firstly don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed. Scammers are clever and regularly adapt their methods making them harder to spot. Anyone can get scammed. 
 
Secondly, do report it, this alerts authorities to scammers’ techniques and prevents others from being taken advantage of. You can report a scam to Citizens Advice or Action Fraud.
 
If you’ve transferred money in the last 24 hours contact the police via the non-emergency number 101, however if you feel unsafe use 999. Also contact your bank to let them know you’ve transferred money, you should still do this if 24 hours have passed.
 
You can find out more about your rights via the Citizens Advice consumer advice pages or by contacting our Consumer Helpline if you need more help.

October 2023
Halloween is coming up and my children are keen to dress up for trick-or-treat. I’ve read about accidents involving costumes catching fire and I’m worried about buying an outfit that could be highly flammable. I don’t want to spoil their fun but I do want to make sure everyone is safe. How can I check if the costumes would be safe for my children to wear? 
 
It’s not easy being the ‘safety police’ when everyone just wants to have fun - especially when that fun includes extravagant costumes. Children should always be kept away from naked flames, but Halloween costumes come with their own set of risks for which extra safety precautions are needed. 
 
They’re not always subject to the same fire safety checks as normal clothing as they can often be classed as toys. With Halloween being a time where lots of lit candles in pumpkins are on the same doorsteps that trick-or-treaters congregate on. As you rightly point out there have sadly been accidents associated with dressing-up outfits and so checking the garment complies with UK/EU safety standards should be a top priority. 
 
No one wants an unexpected horror story at Halloween so it’s always best to know what you’re looking for when buying any costume to make sure the risks are limited as much as they can be:
  • Always buy your Halloween costumes from reputable shops and online retailers. If you haven’t bought anything from the shop before make sure you check online reviews.
  • Make sure the costume comes with safety instructions, a UKCA or CE marking and the manufacturer’s name. The UKCA marking is the post-Brexit British equivalent of the CE mark which is also still valid.
  • Check for any product recalls online — searching for ‘product safety recalls’ will bring up the Office for Product Safety and Standards list.
And while you might like to let your creative streak run wild and attempt to make your own bespoke costume, it’s worth keeping in mind that homemade fancy dress costumes may also come with risks, especially if you use fabrics or decorations not designed to be worn.
 
If you’d like more advice, or to report something to Trading Standards, contact Citizens Advice consumer service by phone or online.
 

September 2023
I need a new car for work but I can’t afford to buy a new one so I’ve been looking at second-hand options. I’ve heard so many horror stories about people buying cars that turn out to be faulty. I’m worried that I won’t know what to check, especially as I know very little about cars. How can I make sure I don’t buy a dud car?
 
For many people, buying a car is a major purchase and whether it’s new or second-hand, the process can seem daunting and complicated. But don’t worry, there’s lots of information on the steps to take when buying a car and what you can do afterwards if something goes wrong on the Citizens Advice website.
 
First of all, where are you going to buy the car? If you’re buying from a trader, choose a trustworthy one with an established name with a good reputation. Ideally, they will be part of a trade association or follow the industry’s code of practice.
 
If you’re buying via an auction, this is much riskier as you’ll have fewer legal protections like the right to returns or refunds so carefully read the terms and conditions before you bid.
 
If you buy from a private seller, there’s a few extra steps to take. For instance, try to inspect the car at their home address so if something goes wrong later, you have a record of that.
 
Make sure the car’s details are correct by using the DVLA’s free online vehicle information checker. You’ll need the registration number, MOT test number, mileage and make/model of the car to do this check. Also, check the car’s MOT history for free on gov.uk
 
Keep a copy of both these results (take a screenshot or download the information) as well as the original advert or description of the car. You might also consider getting a private history check to see if the car’s been reported stolen, still has money owing on it, or has been in a serious crash. This will cost about £20.
 
Before buying a car, it’s good to check if it meets emissions standards as it could mean paying extra charges when driving through London’s ULEZ or clean air zones across the UK.
 
Inspecting the car is crucial before buying. Ideally, do this during the day when it’s not raining (scratches are harder to see on a wet car) and take it for a test drive for at least 15 minutes and on different types of road, if possible. Check you have the appropriate insurance for a test drive (either your own or the seller’s policy might cover you).
 
Once you’ve decided on a car, don’t be afraid to negotiate on the price. If you take out a loan or finance to buy it, make sure you can afford the repayments over the lifetime of the contract. If you pay with cash, you will have fewer protections than other options like debit.
 
Often, despite doing all these checks, you might find something wrong with the car after you’ve bought it. You may have a legal right to a repair, the cost of a repair or some money back but it’s on a case-by-case basis and some examples might be the car’s mileage is wrong or the car keeps breaking down.
 
For more information, check out the Citizens Advice website or call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.
 
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For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website

August 2023
My children are starting new schools in September, one is in primary school and the other secondary. Between uniforms, PE kit and knowing they’ll need to catch the bus each day the costs are adding up. I’m already pretty stretched, so I’m not sure how to cover these extra outgoings. Is there any help I can get?
 
A new school year can put pressure on lots of people’s budgets, so you’re not alone in your worries. But there is help available.
 
A good place to start is the Citizens Advice website where you’ll find lots of information on the support you might be entitled to for school-related costs.
 
The help you can get to cover school lunches will vary depending on how old your children are and if you claim benefits. Children in Reception, Year 1 and 2 automatically get free school meals. You can apply for free school meals for older children if you claim certain types of benefits, including Universal Credit, Child Tax Credit and Income Support. The full list is available on the Citizens Advice website.
 
You mentioned concerns about travel costs. If your child can't walk to school because of special educational needs or disabilities they should get free school transport. You may be able to get help with transport costs from your Local Education Authority if your children can’t walk because it's dangerous or too far. Your Local Education Authority is part of your local council that deals with education in your area, you can find yours on GOV.UK. Contact it directly to find out exactly what support it offers.
 
If you’re on a low income, your Local Education Authority may also be able to help you with activity and school uniform costs. You’re likely to be considered to be on a low income if you get means-tested benefits like Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. In some places there are also local charitable schemes that can help. A good place to find out about these is the school itself or Parent Teacher Association (PTA) both will usually know if these kinds of schemes exist.
 
A lot of people are feeling the squeeze at the moment, but it’s important to remember that help is available with starting school costs and you’re not alone. For more information visit the Citizens Advice website.
 
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For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website

July 2023
I bought a pram for £400 online, but it never arrived. At checkout it said delivery would take 3-5 working days, but I never received any tracking information. I chased the seller and they said they’d speak to the delivery company, but now when I try to phone them my call goes straight to voicemail. I’ve had no response to emails either. The website I bought it through looked legitimate but now I’ve seen people posting on review sites about products that never arrived and some are saying this is a bogus seller. Have I been scammed and if so, what can I do?
 
This sounds like a very frustrating situation, and unfortunately scammers are always finding more sophisticated ways to trick shoppers, including having very legitimate-looking websites.
 
From what you've said, there are signs it could be a scam. We’ve detailed information on our website about how to spot the signs of a scam that you might find useful to check.
 
As you’ve already parted with your money, the first step is to contact your bank immediately to let them know you think you’ve been scammed.
 
In terms of getting your money back, a lot depends on how you paid. We have full details on our website on the routes you can take. For example, if you paid by debit card, your card provider can ask the seller’s bank to refund the money. This is known as the ‘chargeback scheme’. If you paid by credit card and the item cost more than £100 but less than £30,000 you might be able to claim under the Consumer Credit Act. This is known as a ‘Section 75 claim’. Under £100 on credit card you can’t use Section 75, but you can use chargeback.
 
It’s always a good idea to report a scam, even if you haven’t got your money back yet. You can do this by contacting Action Fraud.
 
It’s also worth knowing your rights as a consumer in case the seller does get back in contact and turns out not to be a scammer. If something you ordered hasn’t arrived, it’s the seller’s responsibility to get the item to you. So if they say they don’t know where the pram is, you can ask for a redelivery or, depending on how long you’ve waited for a delivery, you may be able to get a refund from the seller. We have advice on our website about how to do this.
 
It’s also worth knowing that if a trader, having taken your money, refuses to deliver an item, Trading Standards may be able to investigate them.
 
For more advice on dealing with suspected scams or problems with traders, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline 0808 223 1133 or talk to an adviser online through the Citizens Advice website. Many people may need emotional support after falling victim to a scam, and we have advice on our website about how to get this too.
 
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For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website

June 2023
We’ve booked a package holiday to Spain. It’s our first time booking this sort of getaway, and a friend recently had a terrible experience when things went wrong on a similar trip. What sort of help is available if something does go wrong?
 
Hopefully you’ll have a lovely time but if something does go wrong with your package holiday, the Citizens Advice website has lots of information about what to do if something goes wrong with your holiday and what compensation you may be eligible for.
 
Firstly, tell the company or travel agent you booked with as soon as possible. This way you’re more likely to be able to get it sorted quicker. If you don’t say anything until you get home, you might get less or no compensation at all.
 
If the holiday you went on turned out to be lower in value than the one you originally booked you can make a claim for ‘loss of value’. For example you paid for a deluxe room but only got a standard one, if it wasn't sorted out at the time you can claim back the difference in value.
 
You can also claim compensation for any extra money you have to spend while away, for example the hotel was a bus ride away from the beach rather than across the road as advertised. This is called claiming for ‘out-of-pocket expenses’. If this does happen make sure you keep all your receipts for things like bus journeys.
 
If big parts of the trip you booked didn’t happen or services weren’t provided, for example a planned two-day excursion was cancelled and no alternative was organised, you can make a claim for ‘loss of enjoyment’. You can also make this claim if something happens that causes you distress or disappointment, such as the pool was closed for the whole trip.
 
It’s worth noting that there’s no there’s no strict guidance on how much you can claim for loss of enjoyment but any claim you make must be reasonable. You can’t get compensation if you simply didn’t enjoy the holiday or if the problem was out of the holiday company’s control - like bad weather.
 
Check the information you received when you made the booking to see what you’re supposed to get. If you don’t get the service you’ve been promised, you may be entitled to compensation for breach of contract. You might also be able to claim from your travel insurance – check if your policy covers this.
 
If you’re still not sure what to do, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline 0808 223 1133 or talk to an adviser online through the Citizens Advice website.
 
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May 2023
I’ve just had my bathroom retiled, but I’m not happy with the work. 
 
At first, things seemed to be going well, but then the tradesperson left to do another job and I had to chase them for updates. They did eventually come back and finish the job, but the work was pretty rough around the edges. They also left all the old tiles and plaster for me to dispose of, which I wasn’t expecting. I’ve now got the invoice, but I don’t think the price reflects the work done or the service I got. Can I challenge this?
 
It’s always frustrating when you run into problems with home improvements.
 
You mention that the job looked “rough round the edges”, if this is to a degree you could consider the job unfinished or unsafe, you should be able to get the tiler to come back to fix it. You could also suggest removing the old tiles might be considered as part of finishing the job. 
 
If the tiler considers the work complete, it’s worth knowing you’re protected by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which says the tiler should have completed the work with ‘reasonable care and skill’. If they haven’t done this, they’ve broken the law. The Act means you’re legally entitled to ask the tiler to fix the problem (if they provided the tiles as well as the service) or get money refunded (if they just provided the service and you bought the tiles). They should fix the problem or refund you in a reasonable amount of time, without causing too much inconvenience. As you’ve received the invoice for the work but not paid yet, now would be a good time to ask them to fix the issue or you can negotiate a lower price for the work.
 
Let the tiler know you understand what you’re entitled to. Speak to them in person, or contact them in writing/over email, there are template letters on the Citizens Advice website, either way make sure you have a written copy of anything agreed. Before you contact them, it’s a good idea to take photographs to use as evidence of the problem. Make notes about what happened, including dates and times. You should also gather any paperwork and receipts - was there any prior written agreement about who would dispose of the old tiles? Was the final cost was in line with estimates or quotes given to you at the outset of the work? If not, there is advice on the Citizens Advice website about steps you can take. 
 
If you’re struggling to come to an agreement with the tiler, there are other steps you can take to solve your problem these include using ‘alternative dispute resolution’, which is a way of solving disagreements without going to court. There are full details about how to do this on the Citizens Advice website.
 
Contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 if you need more help - a trained adviser can give you advice over the phone. You can also use an online form.
 
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For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website

April 2023
 
I recently started a new job where my boss has told me I’ll have to work on bank holidays. This was never the case in my old job. Can my employer really make me work on a public holiday, and should I get paid extra if I do?
 
Congratulations on the new job and wonderful to hear you’re enjoying the work.
 
Unfortunately, when it comes to bank holidays, whether or not staff have to work is up to their employer, and you don’t have to be paid more if you do. The situation will vary from job to job and may depend on a number of factors such as whether your place of work is open on bank holidays, your hours of work and crucially, what your contract says.
 
Take a look at your contract, if you have one, to find out what your personal situation is. Your contract might say you will always get bank holidays off but it might say you may sometimes be required to work them or will always be required to work. If your place of work is normally open on a bank holiday you’ll probably be asked to work at least some. But if your contract says you get bank holidays off you shouldn’t be asked to work.
 
Your contract might say something like: “In addition to bank and public holidays, your annual entitlement to holidays is X days”. This means you get public holidays off in addition to your annual leave entitlement but it might not mean you’re entitled to take the specific days off. You may be required to work a bank holiday, in which case you should get another day off instead.
 
Alternatively, it might say something like: “Your annual holiday entitlement (inclusive of bank and public holidays) is X days” - this means you have to take bank holidays off as part of your annual leave entitlement. Bank holidays will either be deducted from your annual leave allowance (so you’ll have to book all bank holidays as paid time off) or counted as additional holiday days.
 
A common misunderstanding around bank holidays is that employers have to pay you extra for working them. This is not the case. Unless your contract says you’ll be paid extra you will just be paid your normal amount. If your contract says you are entitled to bank holidays but you’re asked to work, you should be able to take a different day off in lieu. Your employer has to follow what’s set out in your contract, if they don’t, you should raise this with them.
 
If you don’t have a contract, the legal default position is that your employer can tell you when you can or can’t take time off. If you’d like to request a bank holiday off, use the normal method for requesting time off.
 
If you find you need to resolve an issue with your employer, first ask for an informal chat, where you can raise your concerns. If this doesn’t get you anywhere, you may need to raise a formal grievance. If you need advice on this contact your local Citizens Advice.
 
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March 2023
I ordered a watch online with personalised engraving for my partner’s upcoming 40th birthday. The company has since gone out of business. I keep phoning and emailing them but can’t get through to anyone. I’m assuming they can’t fulfil my order, but I’d paid for the watch upfront and can’t afford to buy another gift until I get my money back, please help?
 
We understand the frustration you must be feeling - especially as you’ve already parted with your money and presumably spent time searching for a suitable gift for your partner’s special birthday. I assume you haven’t had a dispatch note yet, which suggests the order isn’t on its way.
 
If the company’s gone into administration, it may still be able to fulfil outstanding orders, but if the company is already in liquidation, you’ll need to try to get your money back. If you’re unsure about what state the company is in, the Citizens Advice website has information on how to find out.
 
As the company hasn’t responded to your calls or emails, is there a shop or office you can visit or write to, to get an update on your order, or request a refund? If that isn’t possible, the next steps depend on whether it’s a limited company (it will have ltd or plc after its title) or if it’s a sole trader (someone who runs their own business) or partnership.
 
If it’s a limited company, you’ll need to get details of the administrator or receiver - the person dealing with settling the trader’s debts. The names of those administrators will usually be on the website of the company that’s gone bust. You should register your claim as a creditor on the GOV.UK website. Fill out the form with details of what you’re owed and send it to the administrator dealing with the trader’s debts.
 
Unfortunately, there’s only a small chance you’ll receive any money back because you’ll be last in a long list of creditors who need to be paid.
 
As the order was online (and I’m therefore assuming you paid by debit or credit card) you could also try getting your money back with a Section 75 claim or a chargeback claim to your card provider or bank. Full details about both these types of claims can be found on the Citizens Advice website.
 
If the seller was a sole trader or partnership and not a limited company, pursuing a Section 75 or chargeback claim is your best option.
 
Every case is different when traders go under, but you can call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline to find out exactly what your rights are: 0808 223 1133 and visit https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/somethings-gone-wrong-with-a-purchase/if-a-company-stops-trading-or-goes-out-of-business/
 
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February 2023
 
I’ve been offered, and accepted a new job. The new company wants me to start as soon as possible but we’re really short-staffed where I am now and I don’t know how soon I’ll be allowed to leave. How should I bring all this up with my boss
 
Congratulations on your new role! It can feel awkward telling your employer you’re moving on but there are set processes in place. The time between telling your employer you’ve found a new position and you actually leaving is known as your notice period.

If you’ve been in your current job for less than one month, you won’t have to give any notice period (unless your contract says otherwise). If it’s more than a month though, you have to give at least one week’s notice. Check what your contract says to find out how much notice you’ll be expected to give.

If you don’t have a contract, and your employer has no written record of you agreeing to a notice period but you have been employed for more than a month you have to give at least one week’s notice.
 
Although it may be tempting to hand in your resignation as soon as possible, it’s worth waiting until your new employer has confirmed your new employment, for example by signing your contract or by giving you a start date.
 
It’s then best to give your resignation in writing (email is fine), so that you have a record of the date you told your employer. You can find guidance on how to do this on the Citizens Advice website, where we have a page on handing in your notice.
 
Fixed-term contracts are a bit different, as you won’t need to give notice if you intend to leave on the last day of your contract. Leaving before the end of a fixed-term contract usually means giving at least one week’s notice, but again check your contract to see if this is different.
 
Don’t forget about your holiday days during your notice period. If you have any unused annual leave, speak to your employer about either taking these during the notice period or being paid back for them in your final paycheque.

Finally, sometimes people can change their mind about moving jobs or find their circumstances alter. If this happens to you, you should speak to your current employer to see what your options are and if you can stay in your current role. 

Everyone’s situation is different, but if you face any challenges with an existing or potential employer, contact us, your Local Citizens Advice, for advice on: 0800 144 8848 Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (closed on bank holidays); or you can email usor visit our website pages about what to do when you’re leaving a job.
 
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 January 2023

As the weather has turned colder, I’ve noticed mould and damp in our flat. It’s mainly in our bedroom, including some black mould on the carpet. I’ve been chasing our letting agency, who say they’ll speak to our landlord. I’m really worried about how this might affect our health. Our tenancy agreement isn’t up for eight months, what can I do?

It’s good that you’ve already raised the issue with your letting agency. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to work out the cause of mould or damp. This can make it difficult to work out if your landlord is responsible, unless there’s an obvious cause, like a leaking roof.

There are many causes of damp that properties can get. The most common are rising, penetrating, construction and condensation damp. On our website there is information that may help you work out what type of damp you have, who is responsible and what you can do. Check your tenancy agreement too for mentions of repairs and damp, and reach out to Citizens Advice on anything you’re unsure about.

A landlord will have to act in relation to damp if it makes the property unsafe for someone to live in. This could be for example, if it is making the tenant or a member of their family ill. The landlord will also be responsible if the damp is related to repairs they should have carried out, like if heaters are broken. If the damp has damaged items that the landlord is responsible for, such as carpets and window frames, they’ll likely have to cover the cost of repairs.

One of the most common causes of damp is condensation. To prevent this, it’s important to keep homes well-heated and well-ventilated, but for a lot of people this will be trickier to do given the colder weather and higher heating costs. You may be eligible for help to insulate and heat your home, and should visit our website to find out more.

On our website we also have advice on things that can make damp worse and may impact the landlord taking responsibility for repairs. These include drying clothes on heaters or blocking air vents.

If your landlord is responsible for the damp in your property but doesn’t act, there are steps you can take, such as reporting them to the local authority. If you’re in social housing you might also be able to use the landlord’s formal complaints procedure. There is more information about this on our website. If it reaches the point where you want to get out of a fixed term tenancy agreement early, do speak to an adviser first, as there might be better ways to approach the issue.

Contact us, your local Citizens Advice on 0800 144 8848 for personalised support. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (closed on bank holidays); or you can email us

You may also find helpful information on: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/renting-privately/during-your-tenancy/dealing-with-repairs/

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Need advice about something else?
We're here to help: 
 
To speak to an adviser over the phone call us on freephone 0800 144 8848 
Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. Closed on bank holidays.

Or contact us directly for advice by email

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December 2022
This time of year is always so expensive, with presents to buy and heating bills going up. I’ve seen offers for ‘Buy Now Pay Later’ when I’m doing online shopping. It seems like a good way to spread the cost of some of the things I need to get for my family but how can I make sure I don’t get into debt?
 
With everything getting more expensive, this is a really difficult time for a lot of people, so it’s  sensible to be thinking about how you can manage. There are lots of things you can do to try and stay in control of your money.
 
Before you start spending, work out exactly what money you have coming in and going out each month. Be realistic about what you need for essentials like food and travel. Take a look at the budgeting tool on the Citizens Advice website. This can help you set a budget you can stick to.
 
You’ll also be able to find tips on how to reduce your regular living costs, which might be helpful if you’re struggling to keep within your budget.
 
While it can be tempting to split payments with schemes like Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL), you’ll need a plan to pay the money back. If you're using something like that repeatedly, you might be managing for now, but it could also be a sign that it's unaffordable in the long run. Keep a record of how much you owe in total.
 
Always make sure you understand what you’re signing up for, how you’ll make the repayments and what will happen if you can’t pay on time. It’s important to check the returns process for both the retailer and credit provider. Paying through BNPL may also affect the cost of postage returns if you’ve ordered online. The riskiest thing about it is that you’re not guaranteed to be protected if something goes wrong. For example, you can’t go to the Financial Ombudsman Service if you have a complaint.
 
If you find yourself turning to credit cards, your overdraft, or store cards for your spending, keep track of what you owe. You should prioritise paying your rent or mortgage, plus energy bills and Council Tax first, because not paying these has the most serious consequences. On the Citizens Advice website, you can find information on what bills to prioritise and how to manage debts. There’s also information on the support available for paying these and other bills.
 
If, like many during this crisis, you find you can't afford to reduce your debts after paying your priority bills and essentials, seek advice as soon as possible. If you need specific support or don’t feel able to manage your situation alone, call our debt helpline: 0800 240 4420.
 
Everyone’s circumstances are different, particularly when it comes to managing personal finances. Our advisers are here to help you find a way forward.
 
Contact your local Citizens Advice on freephone 0800 144 8848 
Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (closed on bank holidays and over the festive period); or you can email us
 
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November 2022 
Last year I fell for a scam when I was doing my Christmas shopping. The scam was clever. I thought I was getting a good deal but didn't realise I was being scammed until it was too late. How can I avoid the same thing happening again this year?
 
Scammers’ tactics become more sophisticated every year, making scams tricky to recognise, but there are things you can look out for.
 
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. For example, tickets to an event that are much cheaper than they’re being sold elsewhere, or a holiday that’s a lot less than you’d expect to pay.
 
Be wary of people contacting you out of the blue on social media sites or via text and email offering an item for sale or deal on something.
 
Do your research. If you’re buying from a website you haven’t used before, spend a few minutes researching it. A good place to start is finding a website’s terms and conditions. You should also look up the company’s address, this can normally be found in the website’s ‘contact us’ section and should have a street name, not just a post office box. If it’s a registered UK company you can check its details on the Companies House website.
 
Check to see what people have said about the company. It’s worth looking at different review websites to see other people’s feedback – don’t rely on reviews the company has put on its own website.
 
Scammers will often ask you to pay in an unusual way, or very quickly. For example, you’re asked to send money through a transfer service like MoneyGram or Western Union or pay via vouchers.
 
Remember never give away your personal information like a password or PIN and never click on or download anything you don't trust.
 
To find out about scams across the country, you can sign up to the Trading Standards email alert on their website.
 
If you've been scammed, there are organisations you should report the scam to. 
 
If you’ve transferred money in the last 24 hours, speak to your bank and the police. You should also contact the police if the scammer is in your area or you feel unsafe. You can also report the scam to Citizens Advice and Action Fraud.
 
Don't feel embarrassed about reporting a scam – scammers are clever and it can happen to anyone.
 
Reporting a scam helps track down and stop scammers, helping to prevent it from happening to others too. 
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website

October 2022
The cost of things just keeps going up. The food shop doesn’t stretch as far and my bills just keep getting higher. I’ve made cutbacks and, at the moment, I’m just about managing but I’m really worried about how I’ll cope as it starts getting colder. What should I do?
 
You’re not alone in struggling with rising costs, but it’s important to know there is support available.
 
If you’re finding it hard to stay on top of bills, make sure you know what money you’ve got coming in and out each month. Citizens Advice has an online budgeting tool that can help with this.
 
It’s also worth finding out if you’re eligible for any benefits or support with your energy and living costs. On the Citizens Advice website there’s a benefits calculator, advice on how to reduce living costs and information on other ways to increase your income.
 
The good news is there is help with rising energy bills. From October 1 2022, there’s a limit on gas and electricity prices for most households - this is called the Energy Price Guarantee and it is in place until April 2023. The Energy Price Guarantee limits the amount energy suppliers can charge per kilowatt of gas or electricity and the average energy bill shouldn't be more than £2,500 per year but your bill will be determined by how much energy you use. Your bill could be more than £2,500.
 
From October you’ll also get £400 off your electricity bill. This is called the Energy Bills Support Scheme. 
 
You don’t need to do anything to get the money and you won’t have to pay it back. The money will be paid in six instalments, you’ll get £66 in October and November followed by £67 in December, January, February and March.
 
You should automatically receive the energy discount if you pay by direct debit, standard credit or payment card.
 
If you have a prepayment meter that isn’t a smart meter, you’ll get the discount via vouchers or as an automatic credit when you top up at your usual top-up point. Your supplier will let you know how they will issue it.
 
If you have a smart prepayment meter, the credit should be automatically added to your meter.
 
If you can’t pay your bills, speak to your energy supplier as they have a responsibility to help you come up with a solution.
 
Remember, if you need personalised support, contact your local Citizens Advice on freephone 0800 144 8848 
Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (closed on bank holidays); or you can email us
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website
September 2022
My oldest child is starting school this month and, with uniforms and PE kits, the costs are already mounting. The school we got into isn’t within walking distance so I now need to budget for bus money five days a week too. We’re already pretty stretched, so I’m not sure how to cover these new costs. Is there any extra help I can get?
 
The start of a school year can be tough for many people’s budgets, so you’re not alone in your worries. But there is help available.
 
On the Citizens Advice website, we have lots of information on the support you might be entitled to for school-related costs. If you’re claiming benefits it’s worth checking if you can get extra help for things like school lunches, transport and uniforms.
 
Children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 automatically get free school meals. For older children, you can apply for free school meals if you claim certain types of benefits. The full list is available on the Citizens Advice website, and includes Universal Credit, Child Tax Credit and Income Support.

You’ve mentioned you’re worried about transport costs. For children aged five to 16, your local education authority might be able to offer free or discounted transport if you’re not able to walk to the school. Contact them directly to find out how they can support you.
 
Your local education authority might also help you with activity and school uniform costs, if you’re on a low income. You’re probably considered to be on a low income if you get means-tested benefits like Universal Credit or Housing Benefit. There are also some local charitable schemes that can help - check with your school, as they will usually know if these kinds of schemes are in your area. Schools can sometimes also advise on finding cheap or free secondhand uniforms.
 
If your child is disabled or has a health condition, you can also claim Disability Living Allowance (this isn’t means-tested).
 
A lot of peoples’ budgets are feeling the squeeze at the moment, but it’s important to remember that help is available with starting school costs.
If you need any further information or advice, contact us on freephone: 0800 144 8848.
Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (closed on bank holidays); or you can email us
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website

August 2022
The cost of energy and food is so high now. With the kids home from school for the summer, I’m having to pay more for lunches and snacks. I’m worried about how I’ll put food on the table. I’m on a prepayment meter and I’m really scared we’re going to be left without any gas or electric if I can’t top up. What can I do?
 
First of all, I’m really sorry to hear how tough things have been for you. You’re doing the right thing in reaching out for support and there are things you can get help with.
 
As a prepayment meter customer, your energy supplier will be able to give you temporary credit if you can’t afford to top up your meter. They might add this to your meter automatically, but if they don’t, you can call them and ask them to do this.
 
If you run out of temporary credit, speak to your supplier to explain your situation. They may give you extra temporary credit if you’re struggling with living costs. There are other reasons why they might give you extra credit too, including if you’re disabled, have a long-term health condition, or you have children under the age of 5. You’ll have to pay back anything extra you get, but you can agree how to do this in a way you can afford with your supplier.
 
As you say, the cost of living is really high but there is help available. If you pay council tax and you’re in bands A-D, you should get a payment of £150 automatically. It could take until the end of September, but if you've not had it already you might need to make a claim. You can check how to do this on your council's website.
 
You might also be able to get a fuel voucher, which you can use to add credit to your meter. Contact us or your local council about this.
 
There’s more government support coming from October, including a £400 payment to help you with your energy bills. If you have a prepayment meter, you’ll be given vouchers in the first week of each month from October, via SMS text, email or post. Make sure your energy company has your up-to-date details.
 
To help manage other costs, it’s also worth checking you’re getting all the benefits you’re entitled to. There are benefits calculators you can use online. On the Citizens Advice website, there’s advice on how to reduce living costs and information on other ways to increase your income.
 
The school holidays can be a really tough time and we know the food shop isn’t stretching as far. Contact Wiltshire Council to find out what extra support you can get over the holidays. If you can’t afford to buy food, we can help you get a referral for a food bank.
 
We know this is an extremely worrying time and everyone’s situation is different. Don’t struggle alone. If you need further support, contact us on freephone: 0800 144 8848.
Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (closed on bank holidays); or you can email us
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website

July 2022
I’m due to fly to Spain during the school summer holidays. After hearing about all the problems at airports, I’m really worried. My family have been looking forward to this and it’s cost us a lot of money. What do we do if our flight is cancelled or delayed?
 
A lot of people will be worried after seeing the recent news about flights. If you face issues, the Citizens Advice website has lots of information about what to do when your flight is delayed or cancelled.
 
If you’re already at the airport when they announce the delay, the airline should give you food and drink, access to phone calls and emails. You should also get accommodation if you’re delayed overnight (including journeys to and from the airport).
 
Your airline might offer you vouchers to pay for these or advise you to keep receipts to claim back expenses later. They will only refund ‘reasonable’ expenses, not expensive meals or luxury hotels.
 
What counts as a long enough delay to get this help depends on how long your flight is. A short flight only needs to be delayed two hours, whereas a flight of more than 3,500km needs to be more than four hours. Full details are on the Citizens Advice website.
 
It’s worth knowing that if your flight is delayed for more than five hours, you don’t have to take it. The airline legally has to give you a full refund for that flight (and any onward flights and return flights if you’re part-way through a connecting journey). Talk to someone from the airline as soon as you decide you don’t want to fly.
 
If your flight is cancelled altogether, you’ve a legal right to either a full refund or a replacement flight to get you to your destination. The refund includes any onward flights and money for a return flight if you’re part-way through a connecting journey. Ask about this at the airport if you can.
 
Don’t just rebook another flight yourself - check with the airline first because it’s their responsibility to sort out your replacement. If you do have to rebook it yourself, keep any receipts and evidence of why the airline couldn’t do this for you, for example screenshots of live chats. If the cancellation ends up delaying you getting to your holiday by two or more hours, you’re entitled to help with costs.
 
Check if you’re entitled to compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight. Again, this will depend on how long the delay was, the distance, and whether it’s the airline’s fault.
The Citizens Advice website has details on claiming compensation for delays or cancellations from the airline. You might also be able to claim from your travel insurance – check if your policy covers this.
 
If you have a problem with an airline and you’re not sure what to do, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline 0808 223 1133 or talk to an adviser online through the Citizens Advice website.
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website

June 2022

I’ve got loads of problems with my house that I’ve been putting off fixing - a faulty boiler, a window that won’t shut properly, broken light fittings. The list goes on! I want to sort it out but I’ve had bad experiences with dodgy builders in the past. How do I find someone I can trust?

Making home improvements can be stressful, but there are a few steps you can follow to help it go smoothly.

First, find a Trading Standards ‘approved trader’. You can look for one in your area online or use the Government’s approved trader scheme TrustMark.

It’s also worth checking if they’re a current member of a trade body. Trade bodies have codes of practice and can help resolve problems if things go wrong. Ask who they’re registered with and then check the trade body’s website.

For any gas and electric fixes, only use certified traders - it’s dangerous to use someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. You can check the Gas Safe Register for a list of traders and use a registered electrician who can certify their own work.

It’s always helpful to get references or recommendations where possible. Ask your friends, family or neighbours if they know of anyone they’d recommend. You can also ask the person you hire for examples of work they’ve carried out in the past. Try to avoid contractors who won’t give references - it’s a sign they could be dishonest.

When you find someone, ask for a written quote - this is different to an estimate. A quote is legally binding and the tradesperson can’t change it without a good reason - for example, if you ask for extra work to be done. It’s worth comparing quotes from several contractors to make sure you’re getting a fair price.

Next, get a written contract. This should cover exactly what you’re paying for and everything you’ve agreed on, including timings, payments, who will pay for materials and any subcontractors if needed. When it comes to payment, it’s best to opt to pay in stages rather than upfront. Try to pay by card if you can - this can give you extra safeguards if something goes wrong.

Finally, make sure your trader is fully insured. Keep copies of receipts and your written contract. These will be important as evidence if things go wrong. It’s also helpful to take photos of any problems if they arise.

If you have a problem with a contractor and you’re not sure what to do, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline 0808 223 1133 or talk to an adviser online through the Citizens Advice website.

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


May 2022

I recently applied for a job at a local pub which offered National Minimum Wage. I did a short interview and at the end the manager asked me for some documents and also how old I was. After telling her I was 25 she told me she would be in touch, but it would be unlikely I’d get the job because they wouldn’t be able to afford to pay me the required wage. She said she would prefer to hire someone younger. Is this legal?

Nobody should be asking you how old you are in a job interview. Being 25, you’re entitled to the National Living Wage. On the Citizens Advice website there are full details of the wages people are entitled to by law. But these rules shouldn’t mean employers avoid hiring people because of how old they are. That’s known as ‘direct age discrimination’ in the Equality Act 2010. You’re also protected by the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, which says employers can’t not hire you (and they can’t fire you) because your age means you’re entitled to a higher rate.

We have a lot of information on our website about what to do if you’re being treated unfairly when applying for a job. If you’ve been discriminated against, there are steps you can take to either get compensation or convince the person to give you a job.

Make a note of what happened as soon as you can - noting down exactly what you were asked and any other remarks the interviewer made. This will be useful as evidence later.

Next, you should write a letter of complaint to the employer. Keep a copy of this letter for your own records. There’s advice on the Citizens Advice website on what this letter should include and you can also speak to an adviser at your local Citizens Advice to get help writing it.

If the letter doesn’t get an outcome you’re happy with, you could take the employer to an employment tribunal. You’ll need as much evidence of discrimination as possible. Evidence should include the job advert, the job description, your notes about what was said at the interview and any contact you’ve had with the employer since - like your complaint letter.

Remember that you only have three months minus one day from the date that the ‘discriminatory act’ (in this case, the comments in your interview) happened to start tribunal proceedings. You do this by contacting the government organisation Acas and telling them that you intend to bring a claim.

Nobody should have to worry about being discriminated against when job hunting. For more advice on your rights when searching for work, visit citizensadvice.org.uk/work or call us on 0800 144 8848.

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


April 2022

I am a single parent, with two young children. I am already struggling to stay on top of my household bills; my weekly food shop isn’t stretching as far anymore and now my energy bill is going up too. I don’t know how I’m going to afford all of these price rises. What can I do to stop my finances spiralling out of control?

First of all, you are not alone in this and there’s support to help you.

It’s always worth checking if there are benefits you don’t know about that you’re eligible for, including support with your energy costs and living costs. On the Citizens Advice website there’s a benefits calculator, advice on how to reduce living costs and information on other ways to increase your income.

There’s also emergency support that you may have access to, such as food bank vouchers or fuel vouchers. You could contact your local council to see if they could also offer support. You can find more details about some of the local Wiltshire support here.

If you’re struggling to stay on top of bills, it’s really important to understand what money you have coming in and going out each month. Citizens Advice has a budgeting tool on its website that can help with this.

And if you’re already behind on bills, prioritise paying your rent or mortgage, plus energy bills and Council Tax first. Not paying these bills has the most serious consequences. You should speak to the person or company you owe money to, to see if they can help you repay your bills sustainably.

We know that times are incredibly tough but please remember, you don’t have to face this alone, do contact your local Citizens Advice, to help you find a way forward.

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


March 2022

I love live music and now that restrictions have lifted, I’m keen to start going to events again. I’ve booked tickets for some gigs over the next few months, but I’m still a little worried. I can’t quite believe things are fully back to normal. What will happen if restrictions come back in?

It’s understandable to be feeling apprehensive when there’s been so much change, and knowing your rights will help you deal with anything unexpected.

If you’ve got tickets to an event which goes ahead, but you change your mind about going or realise you’re no longer able to go, you have no legal right to a refund. However, if the event is cancelled, your right to a refund will depend on how you bought the ticket.

If you booked through an official seller and the organiser cancels, moves, reschedules, or makes the event behind closed doors, you should get a refund. This is true even if it’s cancelled due to a government ban on large events. If this happens, contact the official seller to find out how you can get a refund.

If you bought your ticket from a ticket-reselling website, your refund will depend on the site's terms and conditions. If you’re worried about the event being cancelled, it’s a good idea to look at the terms and conditions before booking.

If you bought from a private seller, unfortunately it’s unlikely you’ll be able to recover your money, even if the event is cancelled or rescheduled. We recommend contacting the seller to see what they can do.

Ahead of any events you’ve booked, keep checking the information from the official seller or organiser to make sure you know straight away about any updates, like changes to the date or cancellations.

Another thing to be aware of is that scammers exploit these situations for their own benefit. If your event is cancelled and anyone - whether it’s a person or a company - offers their services to try to recover money on your behalf, be suspicious. Make sure that you're aware of the signs of a potential scam and always be on the lookout.

If you need more information on how to get a refund, take a look at the Citizens Advice website.

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


February 2022

I’ve just been offered a new job and now I need to tell my current employer. The new company wants me to start as soon as possible. The problem is, we’re already a bit short-staffed where I am now and I don’t know how soon I’ll be allowed to leave. How should I bring all this up with my boss?

Congratulations on your new role. It can feel awkward telling your current employer you’re moving on. The time between telling your employer you’ve found a new position and you actually leaving is known as your notice period.

If you’ve been in your current job for less than a month, you won’t have to give any notice period (unless your contract says otherwise). If it’s more than a month, you’ll have to give at least one week’s notice. Your contract should make it clear exactly how long is expected.

If you don’t have a contract, and your employer has no written record of you agreeing to a notice period, you should give at least one week’s notice.

It’s worth waiting until your new employer has confirmed your employment, for example by giving you a start date before handing in your resignation. It’s then best to resign in writing (email is fine), so that you have a record of the date you told your employer. On the Citizens Advice website we have a page on handing in your notice with tips on how to write this letter.

You can work a longer notice than the one in your contract, if you agree it with your employer. If you’re keen to move on sooner rather than later, it may also be possible to negotiate a shorter notice period than your contract says. If you want to go down this route, it can be useful to reassure your current employer that you will tackle any urgent work before finishing.

Fixed-term contracts are a bit different, as you won’t need to give notice if you intend to leave on the last day of contract. Leaving early would usually mean giving at least one week’s notice, unless your contract says otherwise.

Don’t forget about your holiday days during your notice period. If you have unused paid holiday you should speak to your employer about either taking these during the notice period or being paid for them.

Finally, sometimes people can change their mind about moving jobs or find their circumstances alter. If this happens to you, you should speak to your current employer to see what the options are and if you can stay in your current role.

Everyone’s situation is different, but if you face any challenges with an existing or potential employer, contact Citizens Advice for advice: 0800 144 8848 or visit our website pages about what to do when you’re leaving a job.

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


January 2022
I keep seeing on the news that my bills could be going up soon. It’s making me really worried, especially as I spent more on Christmas than I should have done. How can I get my spending habits back on track in 2022?
 
A lot of people will be asking themselves this question right now. The good news is there are lots of things you can do to be more in control of your money and better prepared for the future.
 
Firstly, find out exactly what money you have coming in and going out each month. Be realistic about what you need for essentials like food and travel. Then you can set yourself a budget that you can stick to - take a look at the budgeting tool on the Citizens Advice website to help you do this.
 
If any of your bills do go up in the coming year, you can go back to our budgeting tool anytime to create a new plan and stay in control. Our website tips on how to reduce your regular living costs may be helpful if you find you have more money going out than coming in at any point.
 
You should also make sure you’re getting all the income you’re entitled to. Use the income checker on the Citizens Advice website to see if you could be getting more support, such as benefits or government grants. You can also use this to make sure you’re being paid the right wage.
 
If you’ve been using credit cards, your overdraft or store cards for your spending, it’s understandable if these debts are causing you worry. It’s important to prioritise paying your rent or mortgage, plus energy bills and Council Tax first though. Not paying these has the most serious consequences. On the Citizens Advice website, we have advice about which bills you need to prioritise and the support available for paying these and other bills.
 
Once you have planned how to pay your priority bills, the budgeting tool can help you plan how to repay credit cards, overdraft charges and store cards.
 
Need advice on managing personal finances or debt?
Everyone’s circumstances are different, particularly when it comes to managing personal finances. If you need more specific support or don’t feel able to manage your situation alone, call our debt helpline: 0800 240 4420. You’re not on your own.
 
Need advice about something else?
We're here to help: 
 
To speak to an adviser over the phone call us on freephone 0800 144 88 48 
Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Or contact us directly for advice by email
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 


This page is no longer updated, for the most up-to-date advice, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk
 
December 2021
I’m a bit anxious about going out into shops at the moment so I want to do more shopping online, but there’s been things in the news about delivery problems. I'm worried about not receiving things on time or packages being lost. What should I do if my parcel goes missing?
 
When you’re online shopping, it’s not always clear whom to contact if things go wrong.

As a customer, your contract is with the seller that you bought the item from. It’s the seller’s responsibility to make sure the item is delivered to you. They should chase the courier to find out what happened to your order if there’s a problem.
 
If your parcel hasn’t arrived:
  • Check the delivery address you gave the seller, to make sure it’s correct.
  • Then contact the seller and ask where your order is.
  • If the seller claims they've delivered it or doesn'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 seller know ahead of time.
Under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, you can ask the seller to deliver the item to you again if the item wasn’t delivered either by an agreed date, or within a reasonable time - usually within 30 days.
 
If the new delivery fails to come within a reasonable time, you can ask the seller for a refund.
 
If your parcel was left somewhere:
Another problem people face is when parcels get left in different places, for example outside or with a neighbour.
 
If your item was delivered by Royal Mail:
If Royal Mail left your package with a neighbour or in a certain place because you told them to, it’s not the seller or Royal Mail’s responsibility if it gets lost.
 
If they leave it somewhere you hadn’t instructed, it’s the seller’s responsibility if it gets lost. You should contact the seller to ask for a redelivery or a refund.

If the item was delivered by a courier:
Check your terms and conditions or account details - they might include other places for delivery, like your porch or a neighbour’s house. If you agreed to them, it’s not the seller’s or courier’s responsibility if your order has gone missing. However if you did not agree to this, then it’s the sellers responsibility if your order goes missing.

If you ordered something from a private seller or you’re still having trouble after trying the tips above, 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. 

November 2021
It feels like everything is getting more and more expensive and with Christmas coming up, I'm really worried about how I'll manage. My partner and I would love to treat our kids but we’re keen to avoid huge debts. Do you have any advice?
 
Christmas can be costly for many of us and we know lots of people are struggling already this year. There can be a lot of pressure to spend more than you can afford, so here are a few key things to remember as we head into 2022.
 
Be realistic and budget accordingly
Work out how much you can afford to spend – and stick to it. There’s nothing wrong with managing expectations, and suggesting things such as spending limits, secret Santas or maybe even that you don’t need to swap gifts.
 
Don’t forget the everyday bills
Remember that the rent or mortgage, utility bills, food bills and other existing debts still have to be paid – the consequences can be severe if they’re not. Even though it’s Christmas, it’s not worth starting the New Year being behind on your bills.
 
Tempted by Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL)?
While it can be tempting to split payments, make sure you have a plan for how to pay the money back - particularly if your circumstances or income were to change. If you're using BNPL repeatedly or using multiple BNPL options, make sure you know how much you owe in total. Make sure you understand what you’re signing up for, how you’ll make the repayments and what will happen if you can’t pay on time.
 
Buy safe to be safe
Whatever the deal, whatever the temptation, don’t buy from unauthorised traders and don’t borrow from unauthorised lenders. These could put you at risk of unscrupulous collection methods  – including threats and harm, unsafe products and unexpectedly high interest rates. You may also not be protected by Financial Conduct Authority rules.
 
Shop around
Try as many different places as possible to find the best price. Buy what you want and not what other people say you need. Be wary of extended warranties; the cost of a repair could be less than the cost of the warranty.
 
Get help if you’re struggling
If you’re worried about paying the bills, get free, independent advice as soon as possible. There’s lots of information on the Citizens Advice website, or you can call us on freephone: 0800 144 8848 and an adviser will be able to help you understand your options and come up with a plan, or you can email us
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 

October 2021
My energy supplier recently went under and the new tariff I’ve been put on is far more than I used to pay. I’ve heard energy prices are set to rise further and I’m just not sure I can afford it. What help can I get or small changes can I make around my house to help save some money this winter?
 
The cost of energy is very high at the moment and it's causing many people to worry. Normally we would suggest switching to a better deal, but the situation is very difficult at the moment and there aren’t a lot of good deals out there. However, there are still other small ways you can keep your bills down.
 
Little everyday things can help, such as making sure televisions and other electronic devices are switched off and not left on standby; washing clothes on a lower temperature; and only filling the kettle with the water you need.
 
Turning down your main thermostat by 1 degree can save you around £60 on your energy bill. And by spending one minute less in the shower each day, a family of four could save £75 a year on energy and water bills. The Government’s Simple Energy Advice website has more tips like this.
 
You’re right in another way about bills going through the roof - and the walls. One way of cutting costs in the long-run is to invest in good insulation if you can afford to. If you’re renting, ask your landlord to do this.
 
You may be able to get financial support to help insulate your home under the Energy Company Obligation scheme. Contact your energy supplier for more information. If you’re in a household that’s not connected to the gas grid you may also be able to receive help under the Home Upgrade Grant scheme through your local authority.
 
There’s some financial support available for paying your energy bills, depending on your situation. For example, if you’re a pensioner with a low income or receive Universal Credit or other means-tested benefits, you may be entitled to the Warm Home Discount. This gives you £140 a year to go towards your bills. Check the Government website to find out if you can claim it.
 
The Government recently announced a £500m fund to support households this winter so keep a look out for announcements about how this could help you. In England, it will be distributed by Local Authorities. In Wales, it will be decided by the Government.
 
Remember you can always call our consumer helpline on 0808 2231133 for free advice about your energy costs and staying warm this winter.
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 

September 2021 
 
Renting for the first time
 
I’m going back to university and moving into a shared house with friends for the first time. Although I’m excited, I’m also a bit nervous as I’ve never rented from a private landlord before. The house looked fine when we viewed it, but that was months ago now and I’ve heard horror stories about dodgy landlords for student houses. What should I look out for when I move in?
 
Renting a house with friends is usually an exciting time. Most landlords are reasonable people who look after their properties and tenants well, but it’s always a good idea to know your rights.
 
Here’s a checklist of things to do when you first move in:
  • Make sure you have your landlord’s contact details. Your landlord is responsible for keeping your home in good condition and arranging repairs when they’re needed. They should be your first point of contact if anything goes wrong.
  • Make sure your deposit is protected. Check that your landlord has given you information about the scheme used to protect your deposit.
  • Take photos on the day you move in. It’s also worth asking your landlord or letting agent for an inventory, to check everything is in order. Use this to note down any problems and the condition of the furniture, kitchen, carpets, bathroom etc.
  • Check if you’re in a ‘house in multiple occupation’. If you’re living with two or more people who aren’t part of your family, and share a toilet, bathroom or kitchen with you, this is considered an HMO. This means your landlord must make sure your home meets certain safety standards. This includes making sure smoke alarms are installed and there’s a safe fire exit. The landlord must also ensure shared areas such as staircases and corridors are clean and in good repair. Some HMOs need to be licensed by the council - if you’re unsure whether this applies to your home, check with your local council.
  • Make sure your landlord gives you: a copy of the Gas Safety Certificate, an Energy Performance Certificate and a How to Rent leaflet.
  • Understand your tenancy agreement. It’s important to know who’s responsible for paying bills and what to do if there are any changes, like if someone wants to move out. The Citizens Advice website explains the different ways shared accommodation can be organised.
If you encounter a problem with the property, contact your landlord. They might not already be aware as they shouldn’t come in without your permission. If it relates to disrepair, for example if your heating system fails or there’s damp in the property, it’s best to put this in writing so that you have evidence if you need it later.
 
If your landlord is unresponsive or refuses to help, contact your student services or local Citizens Advice service for support. In serious cases, for example if your health or safety is at risk, you may be advised to contact the council.
 
The advice above applies to England only. Please visit the Citizens Advice website for advice for renting in Wales. 
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 
 

August 2021
 
Worries about affording school uniforms
 
I’m a single parent and lost my job during the pandemic. My local Citizens Advice helped me apply for Universal Credit which has been really helpful to cover some of the income I’ve lost. But I’m very worried about the upcoming £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit - I don't know how I'll be able to pay for the school uniforms and shoes, especially as they grow so fast! Is there any other support out there to help plug the gap?
 
If you're on a low income, you might be able to get help with some of the costs of sending your child to school, including school meals, transport and uniform. It’s always worth talking to your local education authority to see what support is available as some of their resources and offerings can differ. 
 
The following information is for England, and the local authority information is for Wiltshire Council.
 
Free school meals
Children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 automatically get free school meals. If you have older children you can apply for free school meals if you get certain benefits. In your case as you’re on Universal Credit and you applied after 1 April 2018 you would be eligible if you earn less than £7,400 a year without benefits. You can see the full list of eligibility requirements on the Citizens Advice website.
 
To apply for free school meals you need to contact your local authority. Here's how to apply in Wiltshire UA: Free school meals - Wiltshire Council.
If you live in another local authority area you can check the details at Gov.uk by typing your postcode in. 
 
Transport
If your children are aged between five to 16, your local education authority might offer free or lower cost transport if you don't live near school or your child's unable to walk there. You need to apply to your local education authority for help. Here's all the information, including how to apply in Wiltshire UA: Transport eligibility - Wiltshire Council
 
Uniforms and other costs
Your local education authority might also be able to help with some other costs, like uniforms, music lessons or trips and activities. There may also be local charitable schemes to help with these costs, it’s worth checking with the school to see if it knows of any. Schools can also sometimes also advise on finding secondhand uniforms.
 
What’s next
If your child is staying in education after year 11, you must tell HMRC’s Child Benefit Office if you want to continue receiving child benefit and any extra support for children within means-tested benefits. When your child turns 16, HMRC will send you a letter asking whether your child will stay in education or training. You must reply to this letter to keep getting Child Benefit.
 
We've more information about the impending cut to Universal Credit cut, including what other help and support there is available in our Universal Credit cut: Everything you need to know section.
 
Need advice?
Everyone’s circumstances are different, so if you'd like advice based on your situation, or you have any questions please do get in touch:
 
To speak to an adviser over the phone call us on freephone 0800 144 88 48 
Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
 
Or contact us directly for advice by email
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 
 

July 2021
 
Worries about paying your bills 
 
I’ve heard that Universal Credit is going to be cut from September. I struggle to get by as it is and I’m really worried that if I lose £20 a week, I’ll get into serious debt. I’m already behind on some of my bills. What can I do to avoid things getting worse? 
 
You’re not alone in this - there is support available.
 
Firstly, depending on your situation, you might be able to ask to have your Universal Credit paid differently - these are called ‘alternative payment arrangements’. This might be an option if you’re in debt or rent arrears, among other reasons. To apply for an alternative payment arrangement, call the Universal Credit helpline on: 0800 328 5644
 
If you’re behind on some of your bills, the first step is to make a list of how much you owe and add up how much you need to pay each month. 
 
You now need to prioritise your debts. We have advice on our website to help you do this. Some bills can cause you more problems than others if you don’t pay them. Rent or mortgage arrears, energy bills and council tax are your priority debts as there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay them.
 
Be sure to get in touch with the organisations you owe money to. Not everyone feels confident to do this, but they might be able to help by letting you pay smaller amounts or taking a break from payments. Many organisations have put in place protections for people who’ve struggled to pay their bills during the pandemic.
 
The government-backed Breathing Space scheme could also give you extra time. If you’re eligible, you could get 60 days where your creditors can’t contact you, take action to make you pay, or add interest and charges to your debt. You'll need to get advice from a debt adviser first - they’ll check all your debts to see if they’re covered by the scheme.
 
Finally, it’s always a good idea to have a budget - take a look at the budgeting tool on our website and make sure you’re getting all the income you’re entitled to.
 
Everyone’s circumstances are different, particularly when it comes to managing personal finances. If you need more specific support or don’t feel able to manage your situation alone, call our debt helpline: 0800 240 4420 or you can email us
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 

June 2021
 
Ticket refunds
 
I’ve got tickets to an event at the end of June, but given the recent government announcements on delays to the rules relaxing I don’t think it can go ahead. The organiser hasn’t reached out yet to explain next steps. What can I do?

Ticket holders who change their mind about going to see an event, like a concert that is still going ahead, have no legal right to a refund.

If, however, the event is cancelled, your refund rights will depend on how you bought the ticket. Email the organiser or check their website or social media profiles to see if there’s an update about the event.

If you bought your ticket from an official seller and the organiser cancels, moves, reschedules, or makes the event behind closed doors, you should get a refund. This is the case even if it is cancelled due to a government ban on large events. The official seller is the best person to ask about how to get a refund.

If you’re having no luck getting a refund check to see if the seller is a member of the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR). If they are, you can use STAR’s complaints procedure. STAR members should receive a refund at face value if the event is cancelled and the organiser has agreed to refunds.

If you bought your ticket from a ticket-reselling website, refunds will depend on the site's terms and conditions.

If you bought from a private seller and the event is cancelled or rescheduled then it is unlikely you will be able to recover your money. We still recommend you contact the seller.

If you're due to go to an event, keep checking the information from the official seller or organiser to ensure you're up to date.

Unfortunately, we’ve found that in these situations scammers prey on those who are affected.

If your event is cancelled and people or companies offer their services to try to recover money on your behalf, make sure that you're looking out for the signs of signs of a potential scam.
 
If you need further information or advice about what to do, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline 0808 223 1133.
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 

May 2021
 
Rental repairs
 
I’ve been living in my privately rented flat for years. I generally have a good relationship with my landlord but I just can’t get them to carry out various repairs that have built up. How can I get them to act - and what exactly do they have to do?
 
This must be a very frustrating situation. The law states that your landlord must provide accommodation that is safe, healthy and free from things that could cause serious harm. (This is for England - housing is devolved in Wales.)
 
You don’t say exactly what repairs are needed. If you have problems such as electrical wiring that you think might be faulty, or there’s damp, or an infestation by pests, the landlord has a legal obligation to put things right.
 
Landlords are also responsible for the maintenance of the general structure, and fittings such as boilers and radiators; basins, baths and toilets; and the drains. 
 
The first step is to contact your landlord again, in writing. Include photographs of the problems. Keep a record of all communications and evidence relating to the disrepair. 
 
If that doesn’t prompt any action, advisors at Citizens Advice Wiltshire can help with next steps. These could include contacting your local council (who will have dedicated officers for dealing with disrepair in private rented properties) or asking for a visit by the environmental health team.
 
Tenants can take their landlords to court to force them to carry out repairs. However, it’s worth getting some advice and thinking carefully before embarking on this route.
 
If you would like free, confidential advice or support to resolve a housing issue, please get in touch
 
You can call us for free on 0800 144 88 48 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, excluding bank holidays); or you can email us
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 

April 2021
 
Building complaints problems
 
I’ve been saving up to have my kitchen redone, but I’m a bit worried about it. Last time I had any work done on the house, it took more than double the time I thought it would and ended up costing me a fortune. I’m looking for a different builder this time, but how will I know I can trust them?
 
Many of us will take advantage of the warmer weather and bank holiday weekends coming up to improve our homes, and it’s important to make sure the job goes well. Here are some steps you should take when choosing a trader:
  • Find a Trading Standards ‘approved trader’ - use the internet to search for one in your area or the Government’s approved trader scheme TrustMark.
  • Get references or recommendations - ask people you know or ask the person you hire for examples of work they’ve carried out in the past. Try to avoid contractors who won’t give references - it’s a sign they could be dishonest.
  • Find out if they are a current member of a trade body - trade bodies have codes of practice and can help resolve problems if things go wrong, so check your trader is a member. Ask who they’re registered with and then check the trade body’s website.
  • Only use certified traders for gas and electrics - it’s dangerous to use someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Check the Gas Safe Register for a list of traders and use a registered electrician who can certify their own work. When you’re having a kitchen fitted, it’s worth checking whether the person you’ve hired will be doing the electrical or gas work themselves. If not, check who they will be using and whether they’re registered.
  • Get a written quote - this is different to an estimate. A quote is legally binding and the builder can’t change it without a good reason - for example, if you ask for extra work to be done. Try to compare quotes from a number of contractors to make sure you’re getting a fair price.
  • Get a written contract - this should cover exactly what you’re paying for and everything you’ve agreed on, like timings, payments, who will pay for materials and subcontractors.
  • Think carefully about payment - opt to pay in stages rather than upfront. Where possible, try to pay by card as this can afford you extra safeguards if something goes wrong.
  • Keep copies of receipts - also keep your written contract as evidence, as well as photos of any problems if they arise.

If you have a problem with a contractor, and you’re not sure what to do or where to go, call the Citizens Advice consumer helpline 0808 223 1133.

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


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. 


 
This page is no longer updated, for the most up-to-date advice, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk
 
December 2020
 
I’ve fallen behind on my bills and the debts are building up, and there’s Christmas on top of this. I don’t know where to start?
 
You’ve already taken a great first step by asking for help, and it’s important to know you don’t need to face this alone. You can contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help.
 
In the meantime here are four steps you can take to get started:
  1. Work out how much you owe - Make a list of whom you owe money to and add up how much you need to pay each month. If you don’t have your most recent statements, contact your creditor to find out what you owe. Some creditors will have special arrangements for people with Covid-related arrears.
  2. Prioritise your debts - Your rent or mortgage, energy and council tax are called priority debts as there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay them. Separate these and work out how much you owe. Again, you can ask the companies or council what support might be available during the pandemic.
  3. Work out how much you can pay - Create a budget by adding up your essential living costs, such as food and housing, and taking these away from your income. The Citizens Advice budgeting tool can help.
    Any money you have spare can be put towards your debts, starting with the priority debts first. If you have any money left after paying priority debts, but not enough to make your usual payments on other debts, consider getting advice on the best way for you to start getting on top of them. Or contact your creditors and offer them what you can afford to pay. 
  4. If you can’t pay your debts - If you’ve got little or no money spare to pay your priority debts seek advice from Citizens Advice straight away. If you’re struggling to pay for basics like food, seek help immediately to see what support might be available to you. If you can’t pay off other debts, such as credit cards and loans, it would also be worth contacting your nearest Citizens Advice. 
We know it can feel very daunting to deal with debt, but having a plan really helps and our team will be here to help you each step of the way.
 
If you are worried about debt, here at Citizens Advice we have specially trained advisors available to help, so please do get in touch
 
You can call us for free on 0800 144 88 48 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, excluding bank holidays); or you can email us
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 


 November 2020
 
I've had my hours cut at work. I'd like to take on a second job, but there's nothing around. I'm already worrying! I usually start buying the kids a few presents really early to spread the cost - but that's been impossible this year. How can I make less go further, without going into debt?
 
I'm sorry to hear about the cut in your hours, and what it means for you.
 
One way to stretch household finances is to shop around for the best deals on your mobile phone and broadband (depending on the details of your price plan), and on utilities, such as electricity (also see last month's column, below, for how to keep your energy bills down and our price comparison tool) . Installing a water meter can also sometimes bring savings.
 
It’s worth checking your insurances and subscriptions - cancel any you don’t need and shop around for the others. It’s normally cheaper if you don’t leave it until just before the renewal date.
 
If your children are school age there may be help available with uniforms, technology and free school meals. Citizens Advice websitehas more details.
 
A fall in income may mean you’re eligible for benefits, especially if you’re a parent or carer. The Turn 2 Us benefits checker is very useful.
 
It sounds like you’re normally very organised, and I’m sure this will stand you in good stead.
 
Make a list of the cost of your priority outgoings - such as housekeeping and essential travel - against your new income.
 
It’s easy to slip into overdraft, or miss a payment, and it can then become more and more expensive - and stressful - to get on the right track and out of debt. Likewise, think carefully about any ‘buy now pay later’ deals - they’re not always the best option long term.
 
If you are worried about debt, here at Citizens Advice we have specially trained advisors available to help, so please do get in touch
 
You can call us for free on 0800 144 88 48 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm); or you can email us
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 


October 2020
How to keep your energy bills down
 
I’d like some advice on keeping my energy bills down please. I work in admin for a big company. We’ve been working from home since lockdown, and have been told we’ll not be back in the office before January at the earliest. Now the weather has turned, I’m freezing sitting here all day in front of my computer! I’m worried if I turn the heating up my bills are going to go through the roof!
 
I’m sorry this is causing you to worry. However, fortunately, there’s lots you can do to keep bills down.
 
Firstly, see if you can get a better deal by changing your energy supplier. However, as well as comparing prices, it’s a good idea to check the customer service record of a company before switching. Citizens Advice has a price comparison tool on our website, and our star rating assesses the customer service records of the 40 biggest companies.
 
There are also little, everyday things that can help, such as making sure televisions and other devices are switched off and not left on standby; washing clothes on a lower temperature; and only filling the kettle with the water you need.
 
You’re right in another way about bills going through the roof - and the walls. One way of cutting costs in the long term is to invest in good insulation - or ask your landlord to do so.
 
If your pay is close to the national minimum wage, the extra costs of working from home could be counted as a pay cut and bring you below the legal level. Talk to your manager or HR department, or your union rep if that feels more comfortable.
 
Finally, your employer should pay for any costs connected to your health and safety - such as a suitable chair for work at a computer. It’s also worth taking a look at your employer’s expenses policy, you may be able to claim for a number of other things, such as printer ink or telephone line rental.
 
If you need advice or have any questions about anything faeture here, you can call us for free on 0800 144 88 48 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm); or you can email us
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 

Special redundancy edition 
 
I’ve worked at the same company for many years but I’ve been told I’m being made redundant. What redundancy pay am I entitled to? 
 
If you’re being made redundant, there are two types of redundancy pay you could get. ‘Statutory’ redundancy pay is the minimum that the law says you’re entitled to, or ‘contractual’ redundancy pay, which is extra money your contract says you can get on top of the statutory amount.
 
You’re usually only entitled to statutory redundancy pay if you’ve been an employee for at least two years. It’s worth asking your employer or checking your contract to see if you’re entitled to more than the statutory redundancy rules allow.
 
Statutory redundancy pay is based on age, weekly pay and number of years in the job, up to a max of £538 a week. The Citizens Advice and Gov.uk websites have calculators to help work out how much you’ll get. For example, if you’re aged 41 and over, you’ll get 1.5 week’s statutory redundancy pay for each full year you’ve worked, up to a maximum of 20 years’ service.
 
If your employer offers a suitable alternative job, but you refuse to take it without good reasons, they can refuse to pay your redundancy.
 
You won’t get statutory redundancy pay if you’ve been employed for less than two years, are self-employed or are in certain jobs like the armed forces or police (though you may be entitled to contractual pay).
 
If you’ve been furloughed, the law now says that your redundancy pay should be worked out using your usual wages, even if you were paid 80% while you were furloughed. However, statutory redundancy pay still limits a weeks’ pay to £538.
 
If your employer has told you that your redundancy pay will be based on your furlough rate of pay, you could explain to the employer that isn’t what the Gov.uk website says about redundancy pay, or contact your nearest Citizens Advice:
You can call us on freephone 0800 144 88 48 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm); or you can email us
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 

Summer 2020
 
What do I need to do to ensure I keep getting Universal Credit?
 
Last month I signed up to Universal Credit for the first time, after I was made redundant. I am looking for a new job but I’m not sure if there’s anything more I need to do to ensure I keep getting Universal Credit?
 
When you apply for Universal Credit you’ll agree a Claimant Commitment with your work coach. A Claimant Commitment is a record of the responsibilities that you have accepted to receive Universal Credit payments. Your claimant commitment will be updated each time you see your work coach.
 
When you agree to your Claimant Commitment you will be put into one of four work-related activity groups (sometimes called “conditionality” groups). These set out the tasks you’re expected to complete in order to receive your full benefit payment. You can check which group you’re in by logging into your Universal Credit account online and checking your Claimant Commitment. If you’re not online, you will have been provided with a paper copy of your Claimant Commitment.
 
This will tell you which group you’re in and what tasks you'll have to do regularly to get Universal Credit. These tasks could include writing your CV, signing up for job alerts or applying for vacancies.
 
In order to show how you have completed the to-do list set out in your Claimant Commitment, you should keep a record of the tasks you’ve completed and how long they took in your Universal Credit online journal, or in a diary if you’re not online. 
 
Some claimants, mainly those who have applied for Universal Credit for the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19, may not have a Claimant Commitment yet. Those who claimed before the outbreak, will have had their Claimant Commitment suspended during the outbreak and had no work-related requirements imposed. 
 
From 1 July The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said it will be calling all claimants to help them to prepare for work, so people should expect to be contacted to set up the Claimant Commitment. They do not need to contact the Department for Work and Pensions in the meantime. 
 
The DWP has said that they will take a common-sense approach to work-related requirements and that those who are shielding, have childcare responsibilities because of COVID restrictions, etc. will have their Claimant Commitment tailored to reflect their circumstances.
 
You can find more detailed information and answers to some frequently asked questions in our article Universal Credit: What you need to know as job-hunting rules restart

If have further questions, we're here to help. 
You can call us for advice on 03444 111 444 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm); or you can email us
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 

July 2020
 
What are my rights if my employer makes me redundant?
 
It’s possible that some employers will not be able to continue to operate, or will need less employees, as the furlough scheme comes to an end, in which case they may decide to make redundancies.
 
When employers are making decisions about redundancies and who to make redundant, they must not discriminate and should follow a fair procedure. Even in a genuine redundancy dismissal, the employer may have unfairly dismissed you or acted in a discriminatory way.
 
Employees with 2 or more years’ service are entitled to statutory redundancy payments, and up to 12 weeks statutory notice of the redundancy. Contracts of employment may give higher redundancy payments and longer notice entitlements. Payment in lieu of untaken statutory paid holiday is also payable. 
 
‘Workers’ are not entitled to statutory redundancy payments or notice of dismissal, and employees with less than 2 years’ service cannot claim unfair dismissal, but they are protected by discrimination law and are entitled to pay in lieu of holiday.
 
For more information about leaving a job, including dismissal and redundancy go to: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/leaving-a-job/
 
If have further questions, we're here to help. 
You can call us for advice on 03444 111 444 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm); or you can email us
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 

May 2020
 
Do I have to go back to work? 
 
I work in retail and my company says it's starting to look at how we might reopen later in the summer. This is making me so anxious, even though I don't have any special health issues. I'm going to wear a mask, but not all the customers may do so. I used to take the bus to work, I don't have a car and I think it's too far to cycle. And I'm not even sure if my kids will be back at school by then! The thought of returning to work is keeping me awake at night. Do I have to go back to work?
 
The key here is “reasonable.” The government has published specific guidance for different businesses on the steps they can take to minimise coronavirus transmission. If you don’t think they’re complying, or are putting your health at risk, you should talk to them about this.
 
Similarly, they should listen to your concerns about using public transport. You could, for instance, ask to travel at a quieter time of day.
 
And the government has said that if you’re unable to work because of childcare issues your employer can continue to furlough you.
 
We would suggest approaching this as a problem that you and your boss can solve together. But if you do get a bad reaction, you could report your employer to the Health and Safety Executive. You should also get advice about your legal rights in this situation.
 
If have further questions, you can call us for advice on 03444 111 444 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm); or you can email us
 
Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit the Citizens Advice website. 

April 2020

Struggling to keep up with the bills following a drop in income due to coronavirus

My income has dropped due to coronavirus and I’m struggling to keep up with all of my bills. I rent my house from a private landlord and pay all the usual bills - electricity, water, and Council Tax. How best can I juggle them, and is there any help I can get from the government?

If your income is reduced because of coronavirus, you should check whether you’re entitled to sick pay or to claim benefits. You can check your eligibility for both sick pay and benefits on the Citizens Advice website.  If you’re already on existing benefits, these might also increase.

If you’re struggling to pay rent, talk to your landlord straight away. You should explain the situation and could ask for more time to pay, a temporary reduction in rent, or ask to catch up any missed payments by instalments. If you contact your nearest Citizens Advice an adviser can help you explain things to your landlord. If you can’t come to an agreement with your landlord, it’s a good idea to pay what you can afford and keep a record of what you offered.

The government passed an emergency law which means landlords have to give you three months notice to end certain tenancy types from 26 March. The court service has suspended all possession action for 90 days from 27 March. This means that even if you have been served a notice for eviction it’s unlikely it can be enforced during this time. You can find out more about what to do if you’re being evicted for rent arrears on the Citizens Advice website.

If you already claim Housing Benefit, you should tell the council your income has reduced. If you don’t claim it already, you might be entitled to help with housing costs from the government.

When it comes to your utilities, you should contact the provider as soon as possible. Depending on the type of bill, they may be able to arrange a payment plan, or have schemes in place for people in financial hardship. You should also talk to your local council, as your income has changed you might be entitled to a council tax reduction.

If you’re struggling to pay multiple bills, it’s important to sort out what’s known as ‘priority bills’ like energy bills or council tax over credit card bills. This is because the immediate consequences of not paying these things are much more serious. Information on the Citizens Advice website can help you with this. 

If have other questions, you can call us for advice on 03444 111 444 (lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm); or you can email us

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


March 2020

Tickets for events

I’ve got tickets to an event next month and I’m not sure what will happen in light of coronavirus. I bought the tickets for myself and a few friends, one of them is worried about attending. What can I do?

Ticket holders who change their mind about going to see an event, such as a concert that is still going ahead, have no legal right to a refund.

If, however, the event is cancelled, your refund rights will depend on how you bought the ticket.

If you bought your ticket from an official seller and the organiser cancels, moves, reschedules, or makes the event behind closed doors, you should get a refund. This is the case even if it is cancelled due to a government ban on large events. The official seller is the best person to ask about how to get a refund.

If you bought your ticket from a ticket-reselling website, refunds will depend on the site's terms and conditions.

If you bought from a private seller and the event is cancelled or rescheduled then it is unlikely you will be able to recover your money. We recommend you contact the seller.

If you're due to go to an event, keep checking the information from the official seller or organiser to ensure you're up to date.

Unfortunately we’ve found that in these situations scammers prey on those who are affected.

If your event is cancelled and people or companies offer their services to try to recover money on your behalf, make sure that you're looking out for the signs of a potential scam.

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


February 2020

Small business money worries

I run a small business. It’s been a very difficult six months for us, we lost a contract with one of our major clients and I just haven’t been able to replace it with new business. Now I’ve just received a huge energy bill. It feels like the last straw and I'm really stressed.  

I’m sorry to hear about your problems. The first thing to do is to call the Citizens Advice consumer service on 0808 223 1133. They can often help to resolve problems with energy suppliers.

It’s particularly important to do this quickly if you’re on a business contract and you’ve been told you’re going to be disconnected. If this happens an extra fee can be added to your bill, and then there’ll be another charge for being reconnected.

If you think the bill is wrong, get in touch with your energy company. If you are a microbusiness you can only be charged for gas or electricity you’ve used in the last 12 months - they can’t send you a new bill dating back longer than a year.

If the bill is correct, but you just can’t afford it, your energy supplier might agree to a payment plan. Work out a realistic budget so you know you’ll be able to afford the payments. Here at Citizens Advice we can help sole traders and individuals, but for other businesses there’s the Business Debtline on 0800 197 6026.

Moving forward, if your bills are being estimated you might be paying more than you need to. Set up a reminder on your phone to send monthly meter readings to your supplier or see if you can get a smart meter installed.

You may also find switching energy companies will save you money. You could also try energy efficiency measures such as switching off computers and other equipment overnight, using energy efficient light bulbs or making sure your premises are insulated.

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


January 2020

Applying for Settled Status

I’m from Poland and I know I need to apply for Settled Status as the UK leaves the European Union. But I’m really confused about what documents I need in order to apply for me and my children. We’ve lived in England for six years and I’m worried that if we don’t apply before the end of the month, we might have to leave.

You don’t need to apply by the end of the month - your rights won’t change until 31 December 2020. However, you should apply as soon as you can in case of any delays. After the transition period ends on 31 December you might be asked to prove your right to do things like get a job or use a service like the NHS. Having your status sorted will make this more straightforward.

To get settled status, you need evidence that you’ve lived in the UK for 6 months out of every 12 months for 5 years in a row. As you say you and your children have lived in the UK for six years, you should be eligible for this.

In order to apply, you’ll need to have a few things. These include a passport or national ID card, a digital photo, your National Insurance number or proof of how long you've lived in the UK, a mobile number and an email address.

If you’ve been working, you can find your National Insurance number on your pay slip. If not you can contact HM Revenue and Customs National Insurance Helpline on 0300 200 3500 to help find it.

It may be easier to make your children’s application after you’ve made your own. This way you’ll be able to ‘link’ your child’s application to yours, using the application number you got when you applied for yourself.

You can do this at any time after you’ve applied - you do not need to wait for a decision. And if your own application is successful, your child will get the same status as you.

In order to apply on behalf of your children, you will need to have proof of your relationship - for example a birth certificate.

If you need any extra help with your application, your local Citizens Advice is on hand to help.

You can also find more information about what Brexit means for you on the Citizens Advice website

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


This page is no longer updated, for the most up-to-date advice, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

December 2019

Parcel delivery problems

I bought my mum a Christmas present from an online store. I paid extra for next day delivery but it hasn't arrived. I tried to contact the delivery company but wasn't able to speak with anyone. The online store has said my parcel is with the delivery company and should arrive soon.  If it doesn't arrive soon, I won't be able to give it to my mum for Christmas. What can I do?

You paid for next day delivery so your goods should be delivered on the agreed date.

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

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

If you want the item:

Under the Consumer Rights Act, you can ask the seller to deliver the item again if the item wasn’t delivered by the agreed date.

Other steps to take if you want the item could be:

●     Cancel your original order and reorder it again from the same or a new online store

●     Check if a local store stocks the item(s)

●     Keep trying to contact the delivery company via tracking tools/phone/email

If you want to cancel your order:

You can cancel and ask for your money back because you haven't received your goods on the agreed date. Tell the seller that what has happened to your order is "a breach of contract under the Consumer Rights Act 2015" - as the delivery date was essential and they didn’t meet it.

You can find useful template letters and your rights on the Citizens Advice website.

Alternatively you can call our consumer service on 0808 223 1133. It’s open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, and provides advice on consumer issues.

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


November 2019

Keeping the cost of your bills energy down

I live with my two children and partner in a small semi-detached house. During the winter we use more heating and electricity as we’re home more. Do you have any tips on how I can keep the cost of my energy down during the winter?

There are a few things you can do to save some money during the winter period. Check when your energy contract is due to expire. If you're at the end of your contract use energy compare by Citizens Advice to see if you could save money by switching supplier or tariff.

If you're on a prepayment meter you could save money by replacing your meter with one that lets you pay after using energy rather than in advance. Most suppliers won’t charge you for removing a prepayment meter, though many will run a credit check or ask you for a deposit.

You may also be eligible for certain grants and benefits, these could include Warm Home discount or help with energy debt. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you need help with the application.

Here's a few practical tips to help keep costs down:

  1. Using a timer for your heating, lowering your thermostat and using radiator valve controls could save you over £100 per year
  2. Changing light bulbs to an energy-efficient one could save £50 over the lifetime of the bulb
  3. Turn appliances off standby mode to save around £30 a year
  4. Seal cracks in floors, skirting boards and add draft excluders to letterboxes, doors and windows.

Some energy suppliers also offer grants to allow improvements to your home, like insulation or a new boiler. What help you can get depends on your circumstances and what would help your home. You don’t need to be a customer of one of these suppliers to apply but you’ll need to check your eligibility.

More information about scams and what you can do can be found on the Citizens Advice website.

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

October 2019

Blue Badge scheme 

My mum has a non-visible disability, which causes her walking difficulties. I heard something on the news about how she may now be eligible for a blue badge. How can I find out about this and help her apply? 

On 30 August, the Blue Badge scheme was extended to people who live in England and have non-visible disabilities or conditions which affect their ability to walk. As a result, your mother may now qualify for a badge.

Your mother will be automatically eligible if she gets certain types of benefits. These include some categories of Personal Independence Payment and the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance.

If she’s not automatically eligible she can still apply for a badge. Her local authority will use evidence from doctors and other healthcare professionals to determine whether she qualifies or not.

Your mother can check her eligibility and apply for a local authority-issued Blue Badge at gov.uk/apply-blue-badge. If she can’t do this herself, you can apply on her behalf.

You’ll need a recent digital passport-style photo, proof of her identity, address, details of any benefits she receives, her National Insurance number, and evidence of how her non-visible disability or condition affects her mobility.

More information about whether you're eligible for a blue badge to help you park more easily, how to apply for and use a blue badge, and what to do if you're refused one can be found on the Citizens Advice website.

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

June 2019

Scams

About five years ago my father-in-law was the victim of a scam artist who fleeced him out of £5,000. Once he realised, he was devastated and we were able to work with his bank to get some of the money back. We thought it was all in the past but in the last six months he’s received numerous calls, letters and texts from what look like other scammers. We want to try and keep him safe as his memory isn’t the best, what can we do?

Unfortunately, falling victim to a scam once can increase exposure to further scams. Citizens Advice has found that, once someone has responded to a scam, their personal details can sometimes be sold onto other criminals. This then opens the door to more scam mail, emails, phone calls or home visits.

If you recognise a pattern of unsolicited calls, talk to your father-in-law’s telephone provider and see if you can get these numbers blocked or if you can get something called a ‘standalone call blocker.’ If not, register your father-in-law’s number with the Telephone Preference Service who can help you to handle unwanted marketing calls.

If your father-in-law is receiving texts it’s important that he never replies, as sometimes there can be costly hidden charges. He can report the texts to his mobile phone provider who will be able to block the number. If he’s already been stung and call cost information wasn’t given, he should report it to Phone-pay Plus.

Mail scammers can often impersonate banks, the local council, or other established and legitimate organisations. You should advise your father-in-law against responding unless he’s sure it’s legitimate and was expecting a letter. If in doubt he should contact the organisation directly to check the letter’s legitimacy. He should be careful to not just ring up the number on the letter as it could be a bogus call centre.

In addition, to safeguard your father-on-law from unwanted marketing material or junk mail, register his name and address for free with the Mailing Preference Service which will take his name off some mailing lists.

Doorstep scammers can often be intimidating, and unfortunately they commonly target older and more vulnerable people. Your father shouldn’t be embarrassed turning people away and shouldn’t let them in unless he’s expecting them. If someone comes to the door saying they are from one of his utility companies for example, he should ask to check their credentials. If in doubt, he should phone the company they represent or check online, but once again make sure to not just use the contact details they provide.

More information about scams and what you can do can be found on the Citizens Advice website.

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

April 2019

Council tax arrears

My first council tax bill of the year has come through and I know I’m not going to be able to afford it with so many other important bills to pay, let alone food. What should I do?

Council tax arrears is a “priority debt”, which means you need to address it before paying off other non-priority loans like credit cards.

Once you’ve missed a council tax payment, you’re in “arrears” and so owe money to your council. You should receive a letter from your council - it’s important not to ignore this as after 14 days your council can take you to court and request you pay your entire year’s bill at once.

It’s important you speak to the council straight away if you don’t think you can pay. Ask to speak to someone in the council tax office and tell them about your situation.

You’ll probably be asked to commit to paying a regular amount each month. If you're not sure how much you can afford, use the Citizen Advice budgeting tool or talk to one of our advisers.

If you're on a low income, you might be able to get a reduction on your council tax bill. You might also be able to qualify for your council’s Hardship Scheme. You can read more about getting help with your council tax on the Citizens Advice website.

If you fail to pay your council tax arrears you’ll have to pay court costs and possibly bailiff fees as well as your debt, which can add hundreds of pounds to your bill.

If you’re struggling with multiple debts you can contact your local Citizens Advice

Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk


December 2018 advice column

Money worries

I’ve got three kids, and as usual, my finances are not in good shape ahead of Christmas. I’m on a low income so had to put some purchases on a credit card. I have been trying to pay it off but I’m already behind on other bills. I haven’t been able to pay my council tax in three months and received payment reminders from my energy provider. What should I do?

First things first, work out how much you owe - make a list of who you need to pay each month and how much. If you don’t have your most recent statements, you can contact your creditors to find out.

Make sure you are getting all the income that you are entitled to. For example, you may be entitled to tax credits to top up your income or help with child care, housing costs or school meals.

Create a budget by adding up essential living costs, such as food and housing, and take these away from your income. Any money you have spare can be put towards your debts. Citizens Advice’s budgeting tool, found on its website, can help.

Your council tax, rent or mortgage, and energy are priority debts as there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay them. These must be paid first. Separate these and work out how much you owe.

As you’re already in arrears with your council tax, you must act quickly and contact your council to arrange an affordable payment plan. You can also contact your energy supplier to help you sort out a payment plan that works for you. They must help you do this and you can get help from your local Citizens Advice if they don't. To cut your future bills you should make sure you're on the best deal you can get. Use a price comparison tool to check.

For further help working out your budget, negotiating with creditors or checking which benefits you’re entitled to, contact your nearest Citizens Advice by phone, online or face-to-face.

Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk


November 2018 advice column

Problems when buying from an online marketplace

'I bought a pair of trainers from a private seller on an online marketplace. The advert said they were Asics but when they arrived the branding said Basics. They are clearly not what was advertised, are terrible quality and not fit for purpose. Do I have any rights? What can I do?'

 If you’re shopping online from an individual seller, the principle of “buyer beware” applies - which means you are purchasing subject to all defects, and the seller does not have to declare problems.  

However, the seller must not misrepresent the goods, for example, by claiming they’re a certain popular brand when they are not.

Because your trainers are not as described in the advert, you may have grounds to ask for your money back.

First, try to fix the issue by contacting the seller to explain the problem, let them know your rights and that you would like your money back.

Should this get you nowhere, check to see if the online marketplace has its own protection and disputes resolution system.

Finally, if neither of these work for you, consider making a claim to the court, known as a small claim. There is guidance on how to do this on the Citizens Advice website at www.citizensadvice.org.uk.

 


Autumn advice column:

What to do if you're falling behind on your bills

I recently become a carer for my partner who I live with and can no longer work. We’ve started falling behind on our bills and I’m worried our debts are only going to get worse. I’m on Carer’s Allowance but what else can I do to turn things around?

A change in circumstances can often trigger financial problems. It’s good to see you taking action now as this will stop you from sliding into further debt.

See if you can make any savings on your household bills by switching suppliers, or changing deals. You may be able to get a reduction on your council tax bill - speak to your local authority directly.

Try to boost your income too. You may be able to apply for benefits jointly with your partner to be paid alongside Carers Allowance. 

You should contact your creditors and ask if you can reduce your repayments until you’re back in work. They can also freeze any interest and charges so your debts don’t go up while you pay less. Check to see if you have payment protection insurance to cover giving up work to become a carer as well.

If you’re still struggling to cover your outgoings, it’s important to prioritise paying your household bills like your council tax and rent or mortgage.

For further help working out your budget, negotiating with creditors or checking which benefits you’re entitled to, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

 


September 2018 

Problem neighbours

A family has moved in to the house next door and is being a nuisance, yelling late at night over a loud television and leaving bin bags strewn over the front of the house. I don’t want to antagonise them in case they become threatening. What can I do?

 

It’s best to try to resolve problems by speaking with your neighbour, if it’s safe to do so. Explain the effect their behaviour is having and ask them to stop. If the problem continues, keep a record of incidents, which will come in handy if you decide to take the matter further.

A mediator may help you and your neighbour find a solution. If you’re a council or housing association tenant, they may have their own mediator you can use. If not, you’ll need to find one yourself and pay a fee.

Ask your neighbour’s landlord to speak to them on your behalf. If your neighbour lives in social housing, their landlord should have a policy for dealing with antisocial behaviour.

If the landlord can’t help, or you don’t know who it is, your council might be able to. Visit its website for information on the types of complaint it deals with.

If you’ve tried everything but the problem persists, ask for a Community Trigger. The council might work with the police and others to create an action plan. As a last resort, you can go to an ombudsman if you’re unhappy with how your council or social landlord has handled it.

If your neighbour becomes threatening or violent, you should tell the police.

Copyright Citizens Advice. For the most up-to-date advice, please visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

 

 

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