Best man secures stag do refund with help of UK International Consumer Centre
Best man Andrew Nuvoletta planned a stag go for a party of 13 ‘stags’ in the Netherlands, with an itinerary which was designed to make a real occasion of the event.
But then COVID-19 struck and it seemed as though he would have to say ‘tot ziens’ or ‘goodbye’ to his £1,055 [€1207], as the party company cancelled the booking due to pandemic restrictions.
Andrew, a UK consumer, was offered a voucher instead under the Netherlands’ Save Your Ticket scheme, introduced by the Dutch Government so that traders could offer vouchers initially on cancellation in place of monetary refunds.
The consumer did not accept a voucher and made numerous attempts to contact the trader to ask for a refund, but the company largely ignored him, occasionally offering empty promises of a payment that never materialised.
Andrew said: “The problem was that the booking was for 13 people who were coming from different countries. It was impossible to coordinate a future trip, besides which some pals were unwilling to rebook.
“I’d arranged a bunch of activities with the party company, including laser tagging and beer-biking, and it would have been a real fun time, something exceptional to remember the stag do by.”
In desperation, he asked the UK International Consumer Centre for help, who in turn contacted colleagues at ECC Netherlands to liaise with the trader.
UKICC Service Director, Andy Allen, said: “Under the Netherlands Government scheme, vouchers would be valid for 18 months. At the end of this time, if the voucher remained unused, the consumer could insist on a refund.
“The scheme was set up to avoid businesses failing during the COVID-19 times of low revenue, leaving many consumers without any form of remedy. But vouchers really weren’t suitable for this stag do and this consumer, so he understandably wanted his money back.
“After we became involved in the case, the trader told us that they would give Andrew a refund but added that they had a backlog of refunds and couldn’t give any idea of when he could expect his money back.”
The UKICC carried on pressing the trader, with the help of colleagues at ECC Netherlands, and Andrew received a full refund (subject to a slight exchange rate adjustment).
Andrew was one of the first consumers the UKICC got their money back for in 2022. He said: “We finally got there - I’m so pleased!. Thanks to my case handlers, my pals have all got their money back. The whole team at the UK International Consumer Centre have been brilliant – I can’t praise them enough.”
UKICC Service Director, Andy Allen, said: “We are glad to have been able to help Andrew. He’s an example of somebody who would have been unlikely to have got his money back without us.
“The UKICC is just entering its 15th year of operation and as our outlook is currently unsure beyond the end of March this year, success stories such as this are hopefully good news for our potential future as well as for the consumer. We know that the UK Government has committed to continue to fund us at least until the end of March 2022 and we hope that will continue.
“The aim in all of the consumer advice organisation’s interventions and mediation is always the same: to act in the best interests of the consumer, work towards the best result we can for them and put them in a better position than before they contacted us.”
To celebrate the more than 150,000 cases of UK consumer problem purchases which have been handled by the UKICC in the past 14 years, the centre’s host body – the Chartered Trading Standards Institute – has released a new microsite charting its first 14 years of operation.
The consumer service was relaunched in 2021 with an international focus. It has been funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), since the UK’s departure from the EU.
Some of the UKICC’s more bizarre cases – such as human fingers in dog food or a damaged horse – are revisited as the microsite focuses on a different element each year, including a service being under threat and its rebirth with an international focus.
UKICC Service Director, Andy Allen, said: ““The only thing that’s really changed for UK consumers since the UK left the EU is that we can now help them with disputes over purchases made in more and more non-European countries, as we grow our partnerships with consumer organisations all over the world. Our aim, as always, is still to provide free advice and support to consumers in dispute with traders based in countries outside the UK.
“We don’t know what the future holds for us, but are hopeful that the UK Government continues to understand the critical role the UKICC performs in the UK consumer protection landscape. For 14 years, we have helped hundreds of thousands of consumers and hope we can continue assisting them throughout 2022 and beyond. Our aim is to continue to help consumers in their efforts to either get a refund, replacement, repair or cancellation of their contract in their disputes with traders outside the UK.”
The message from the UK International Consumer Centre as it looks forward to the future is: ‘We’re still here, we’re still helping and we’re still free’.
Lord Lindsay, President of host body the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said that the UK International Consumer Centre plays a vital role in empowering consumers, helping them to gain a better awareness of their rights and providing them with support in resolving their problem purchases.
He said: “Andrew’s case shows that the UKICC still plays a valuable role in helping UK consumers who have problems with traders outside the UK, even though the UK has left the EU.
“With the challenges after Brexit, COVID-19 recovery and new markets being explored, it’s imperative that Her Majesty’s Government takes steps to ensure that UK consumers can be confident and feel protected in taking the opportunities created by trade with the EU and non-EU consumer markets as they open up.
“The UK International Consumer Centre’s growing partnerships – and reciprocal arrangements - with consumer organisations all over the world aim to support the resolution of disputes between UK consumers and traders based abroad. The availability of such support results in more confident and empowered UK consumers, making use of global markets.
“With possible divergence from EU consumer law and new global markets becoming accessible, the UK Government needs to ensure it retains such an important service as the UKICC.”
Consumers can make contact with the UK International Consumer Centre via the website – www.ukecc.net – or by phone on 01268 886690 Monday-Friday between 10am and 4pm.
Notes to Editors
For further information or a media interview, please contact UK International Consumer Centre’s press office on 01268 582206 or the CTSI press office on firstname.lastname@example.org, 01268 582240.
The UK International Consumer Centre (UKICC) works with the European Consumer Centre Network (ECC-Net). There are 29 centres in the EU, including Iceland and Norway.
The aim of the UKICC is to provide free advice and support to consumers who have a dispute with a trader based in a European country outside the UK as well as an increasing number of non-European countries. Our advisors will assist consumers in the attempt to resolve the complaint.
The UKICC can provide advice in the following main areas: buying goods and services, online shopping, internet auctions, holidays, timeshare and holiday clubs, air travel. Contact the UKICC’s press office on 01268 582206 for media enquiries.