Mail columnist Sarah Vine complained about the inability of British Gas to repair her washer machine. Gareth Griffith, a reader offered some helpful suggestions.

He refuses to be bailed out and is an accomplished former Currys bank branch manager and financial advisor.

Sarah wrote in last Wednesday’s column of how she could not get an engineer to repair her machine despite paying a ‘small fortune’ for a British Gas HomeCare policy.

Taking on the big firms: Former Currys branch manager Gareth Griffith (pictured) has won thousands of pounds in compensation

The big guys are being taken on: Gareth Griffith, an ex-Churchs Branch Manager (pictured) has been awarded thousands of pounds in compensatory compensation

Gareth is now a retired man who lives in Loughborough, Leicestershire. He tells Money Mail that he doesn’t need to pay out unnecessary money and always upholds his consumer rights.

A warranty should not be purchased.

You should never sign up for a service contract like HomeCare, or an extended warranty.

These people have no real incentive to come and do any work — they’ve already had your money. Call a local engineer to have it fixed. 

They will be around straight away because it’s money in their pocket and they’re not going to get paid until it’s fixed.

Google any firm you use to make sure they’ve got genuine good reviews.

Most appliances are now far more reliable than they were a few years ago, so you shouldn’t shell out every year just in case they break down.

The chances are you won’t need an extended warranty. These were once a huge selling point for staff.

It is reasonable to expect that a brand new appliance will last for at least a few years. If it breaks down in four years that’s unacceptable.

Sarah should terminate her HomeCare contract, and get her money back. HomeCare broke the contract when she didn’t repair her machine within reasonable timeframes.

They should be reminded by her that they have the right under the Sale of Goods Act of 1978 and the Consumer Rights Act of 2015 to receive goods of acceptable quality and in good condition. 

The washer should be able to last between 10 and 12 years. If you’ve only had four years’ use, you should demand two-thirds off the price of a similar replacement.

Paper trail: If you¿ve had to phone to complain, ask for the person¿s email address and follow up the call with an email confirming your discussions and what they¿ve agreed to do

Paper trail: If you’ve had to phone to complain, ask for the person’s email address and follow up the call with an email confirming your discussions and what they’ve agreed to do

You must get it written

If you aren’t getting anywhere with a company, forget calling up for help — send them a strongly-worded email instead.

You’ll find their email address somewhere on their website.

It’s brilliant because it gives you time to think that you do not get on a call with them, it is less time-consuming than hanging on the phone and you don’t even have to buy a stamp, put pen to paper or trek to the post box. 

Making a complaint has never been simpler. If you threaten to sue, email your complaints.

If you’ve had to phone to complain, ask for the person’s email address and follow up the call with an email confirming your discussions and what they’ve agreed to do for you and the timescale they’ve agreed to do it. If they fail to respond, you may send them another stroppy email.

Tell them you aren’t going to be mucked about. Ask for their line manager’s email address too.

Your MP can be copied in along with your newspaper journalist, and the local Trading Standards office to move you up the hierarchy. Try to find the company chief executive’s email address online too.

Gareth’s triumphant victories 

Teethache at Tesco

Gareth says that when he broke his tooth from an olive-stone in a Tesco bun, the supermarket offered only a partial refund. However, he insists that Tesco paid his dental care, as well the parking fee, lost wages, and cost of driving to the dentist. In total, he received around £400.

Failed freezer

Garteth’s £631 fridge-freezer stopped working after four years, so he complained to retailer AO. 

Gareth was informed that his guarantee had ended. Gareth requested redress because his guarantee had expired. The firm offered £100 as a goodwill gesture and £25 to cover an engineer’s report. He demanded more and AO paid him £325.

Unfair fees

When sorting out his late father’s estate, Gareth found his dad had been paying Barclays monthly charges for two years on an investment account he had never used. 

At first, the bank refused to refund Gareth but then reversed its position when Gareth threatened a complaint to Ombudsman regarding how it had failed to treat a vulnerable customer fair. 

Barclays eventually refunded the fees of around £450. It also provided £200 compensation and a hamper.

Problem with pensions

Gareth lost his pension benefits without any obvious cause. However, when Gareth called Willis Towers Watson as administrator, he was informed that payments would resume soon and that his money would arrive in about ten days. 

He sent an email charging a penalty for each missed payment totalling £220. The firm offered £150 as a goodwill gesture, but Gareth was insistent and got the full £220.  

Charge for your time

If I have been mucked about by a firm I ask for £50 compensation to cover the hassle and upset they’ve caused me — and most of them pay it.

If I have to write to them again I ask for a further £50. If a bank or building society can satisfy a complaint in one day it’s not counted as a complaint in their statistics. It’s in their interests to say, ‘Here’s £50 — go away’.

If the complaint is regarding financial service and I don’t get a satisfactory result, I tell them I am going to take them to the Financial Ombudsman’s complaints resolution service. 

The Ombudsman charges companies £750 for every complaint it has to investigate so often they will pay out to avoid the hassle.

You also don’t pay anything. Some larger businesses pay an annual, one-time fee that doesn’t matter how many complaints they have. However, it still looks bad if they’re near the top of the table for complaints.

Be wise in choosing your battles

I am a reasonable person. It is okay for people to make mistakes. Sometimes things happen that are unavoidable —you have to take the rough with the smooth. 

Sometimes I just get distracted. They tell me I’m busy and that I can do it all. My wife claims I don’t have enough time, but I really enjoy working with these businesses.

These firms are likely to try and avoid honesty, treating customers fairly, if it is possible. However, they are required by law to respect their customers’ rights.

There is so much information online to help you — don’t be afraid to stand your ground.

Don’t accept any offer. You can tell the person you’re interested that more is possible.

Good service deserves to be rewarded. I’ve never had any trouble getting an appointment at my doctor’s surgery after I bought all the staff cream cakes.

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