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Customer service from FBD, Sky and Aer Lingus fails to make the grade

Pricewatch: Readers are not impressed by companies as they recount their experiences

Customer left with little option but to renew his car insurance with FBD/No Nonsense

FBD/No Nonsense: Price hike due to unsettled claim
In the course of renewing his car insurance policy at the end of February last year, a reader called David from Galway spoke by telephone to a representative of FBD/No Nonsense Insurance.

“At the time of the conversation there was an unsettled insurance claim against me which I was told led to my renewal price being so costly,” he says.

“I was also told by the representative that no other insurance company would insure my car while there was an open claim against me. This left me with little option but to renew my policy,” he continues.

“The representative told me that when the claim against me was closed, I would receive a letter informing me of this and that if I forwarded this letter to them that there may be a refund due on my policy.”

Then, towards the end of March last year he received the good word from FBD that the claim had been settled.

“On Monday 26th March, 2018 I contacted FBD/No Nonsense Insurance again, by phone, and I explained that I had received a letter informing me that the claim had been closed and other relevant details.

“My intention was to inquire as to whom should I forward the letter to get a refund. Their representative told me that FBD/No Nonsense Insurance never refunded money paid for a policy but that my premium would be reduced when I renewed my policy in March 2019.”

David says he has emailed the company on four occasions seeking clarification and possibly a refund but he has got neither. “They did reply to me by letter on July 2nd apologising for the delay in sorting it out,” he says.

“In the letter they promised that within 20 working days they would have supplied me with an update on the progress on the investigation and that they would endeavour to have reached a conclusion to the investigation within 40 working days and advise me of the outcome.”

He says he is pretty sure the amount of money involved is small but he is “very annoyed by the disastrous customer service and lack of respect offered by their complaints department”.

We contacted the company and received the following statement:

“We regret that in this particular instance we did not meet this customer’s expectations. We have since been in further contact and are working amicably with them to resolve this issue. FBD takes great pride in its customer service and it is disappointing that on this particular occasion we appear to have failed to meet these high standards. As is standard practice in the insurance sector, while an open claim exists with another insurance provider, FBD does not provide quotations for new business motor insurance. For existing customers where a reduced “No Claims Discount” has been applied and subsequently, the claim is closed and settled for “Nil” or there is a full recovery of outlay, it is FBD’s policy to provide a rebate to the customer of the difference in premium levied for the period in which a reduced no claims bonus applied and also to fully reinstate the individual’s “No Claims Discount”.

Sky: Poor reception over free TV offer and an unwanted contract

Good news for Sky customers after Pricewatch intervenes

Readers with good memories may recall that we have in the past featured stories from people who experienced problems getting free televisions that were part of a Sky promotion. We have another one.

Colin Whiteley signed up for Sky and there was a free TV offered as part of the deal. “When I signed up over the phone I didn’t understand or I wasn’t told I’d have to send off an email to claim the TV so I never got it,” he writes.

“But I rang back and someone in Sky told me I would get it as I explained it wasn’t made clear what I needed to do. The person told me it would be out soon but it never came,” he says.

Colin rang the company again only to be told that he was not getting it . “After some back and forth the lady I was talking to said she’d listen back to the calls and if someone had told me I’d get the TV then I would. She said she would get back to me,” he says.

“Months went by and I heard nothing so I rang back and a gentleman told me that girl had left the job but he said that it was sorted and the TV would be out soon. But two months later there was still no TV so I rang back and another girl told me I’m not getting it and she wouldn’t let me speak to a supervisor.”

Colin admits he got very angry “which I’m not proud of. I hung up and rang back and got another girl and asked for the recordings of our conversations and she said she would get them sent out. I haven’t received them yet but it’s only been three days. I’m just wondering can you help me at all?

We contacted Sky and received the following statement: “We understand that a small number of customers experienced difficulties in the process for claiming their free TV during this offer period (March 2018). This appears to be the case for Mr Whiteley, who was incorrectly advised, resulting in an unsatisfactory customer journey. We have been in touch with Mr Whiteley to apologise for the inconvenience caused and have resolved the matter.

“We have since introduced several steps to eliminate similar issues arising with promotional TV offers. These include extra signposting on the website, clearer advice from the service agents and additional communications, in the form of extra emails and SMS notifications to advise customers on how to retrieve the offer.”

Another complaint
In another Sky-related complaint, a reader called Gary from Wicklow got in touch with a story of poor customer service at the broadcaster. “It seems the customer has very much been taken out of ‘customer’ service as far as these organisations are concerned,” his mail starts.

“Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba, recently said we should be teaching our children skills that artificial intelligence can never learn. He focused on the soft skills as being essential to ensure we as humans are differentiated from robots and AI. I should not be surprised by the poor customer service afforded me this week by Sky Ireland but it was still alarming in its complete lack of human soft skills,” he says.

“Between the jigs and the reels my pregnant wife [the couple are expecting twins] ‘inadvertently’ agreed to a new one-year contract for both TV and broadband recently on a call where she was inquiring about the price and options for moving house.

“She was trying to be productive while on the Dart in to a hospital appointment. A bit on her human mind at the time you see, imagine that! And well, those sales agents have the gift of leading on such conversations. Before you know it you are bamboozled.”

He says they do not need the Sky and broadband package as the new rental property has it included already along with more space for their new arrivals.

“Upon trying to cancel our packages on Thursday last [Feb 14th] we were told it was, in fact, day 15 of our 14-day cooling-off period. Sky could not, nor would not, cancel our package for the sake of being late in our call by 24 hours! Roll call for any human decency in the call centre or supervisor? I am reminded of that famous movie scene . . . ‘Bueller... Bueller . . . ’ Silence! Talk about hiding behind their legal contracts. Do they truly think they have kept me as a customer now for life?”

He says they will now have to pay €865 across the next year for a service they will not turn on. How many packs of nappies would that have bought? When did customer service lose all human emotion, empathy or basic decency? It seems in Sky Ireland the robots have already taken over customer service, they just masquerade as humans.

That does seem extraordinarily inflexible, so we got in touch with Sky. This time it said: “Having listened back to the call, it is clear that the customer was informed that the cooling off date was February 13th. The 14-day cooling-off period is the industry standard and is a measure in place to protect customers. However, we do appreciate the exceptional circumstances presented by Mr Brady and his wife on this occasion and we are happy to use our discretion in this particular instance. We have been in touch with them to resolve the matter.” Sky also wished them all the best with their new babies.

Hats of to the broadcaster, then, you can’t say fairer that that.


Aer Lingus: Vouchers not fit for purpose

Aer Lingus vouchers fail to fly with our reader. Photograph: Brian Lawless/ PA Wire

Anne McDonald got in touch with a complaint about Aer Lingus gift vouchers. 
“I have received two Aer Lingus gift vouchers for €300 and one for €100 for Christmas,” she says. “My father also received a voucher to the value of €100. My sister has recently moved to Ottawa in Canada and these vouchers were given to enable us to visit her.”
The family will not, however, be able to use the vouchers for their intended purpose. “There are no direct flights to Ottawa,” she says. “I usually travel with Aer Lingus to either Toronto or Boston and get a further flight with a partner airline through the Aer Lingus website – usually Air Canada – on to Ottawa,” she says. 
When she tried to use the vouchers to do just this she was told “that they cannot be used as the overall trip contains a partner airline. I find this very unfair as the cost of the transatlantic flight with Aer Lingus would be more than the value of the vouchers. On a second note, only one voucher may be used per transaction which I also feel is unfair.”
We contacted Aer Lingus but we are not sure its response will offer any comfort to our reader, not least because the company does appear to be hiding behind terms and conditions which it is entirely responsible for.
Its statement said: “We appreciate the reader’s predicament, however the terms and conditions relating to Aer Lingus gift vouchers are outlined on aerlingus.com. As stated on our website vouchers can only be redeemed against Aer Lingus operated flights and not via our partner airlines. Equally a maximum of one voucher is permitted per transaction.” 
Sadly the statement does not give us any clues as to why this might be the case or what the airline would consider doing to change its own terms and conditions to make them better for the customers it is supposed to care about. 

Eir: Complaints resonate with reader
Ursula Mangan sent us a complaint of an unusually general nature but it resonated with us all the same.

“I am appalled to hear of such non-existent customer service at eir,” her mail starts. “I am with another network provider. I firmly believe and have witnessed that customer service in general is shoddy, unprofessional and almost non-existent in some cases when dealing with many places. There are some wonderful people who are like gold dust when you are fortunate enough to deal with them. This should not be a rare occurrence but it sadly is,” she continues.

She says customer service in Ireland “[and there are exceptions] depends on who you are dealing with [if you’re even lucky to speak to a live human being], how much knowledge they have, who to believe and trust. This dial 1 for this and 8 for that is the most frustrating scenic route ever. Sometimes the choice given doesn’t cover your particular query,” she says.

There is more. “You are pushed from pillar to post and are expected to hold indefinitely. I have often chosen the ‘sales’ option and you’ll never guess but would you believe it’s answered promptly by a live human being? I wonder why?!! Also this business of having the foot soldier deal with the phone queries, often not sufficiently trained – limited info – has to check with next in line and the senior staff, ie managers who very conveniently have the luxury of not having to come to the phone.

“This makes the whole process into a three-way elongated conversation. If a customer rings my phone in work, I answer it. These call centres drive me nuts. I rang a Government number which was a number in Donegal and the first salute I got was to expect to wait half an hour – first thing in the morning!! This really translates to ‘please don’t ring us’. It didn’t even say leave a message.”

She suggests that we are now “a society where interpersonal skills, customer service and even to get eye contact is nearly non-existent. We need customer service of a high calibre to be rolled out. Lack of respect for the customer is what prevails today.”

Cereal: Is Brexit biting into our breakfasts?
Damian Coughlan got in touch to highlight a recent price increase which has affected his favourite cereal. It is Jordan’s Simply Granola.

“This product is delicious with banana, strawberries and blueberries and yoghurt,” he says. “I normally purchase it at €3.89 from Tesco or Dunnes Stores and, if I am lucky, it is on offer for €3.”

Recently he has seen a price increase and Tesco is now charging €4.69 per packet. “This is an increase of €0.80 which is 20 per cent hike in price. I know it’s small change but I think it’s important to highlight these price hikes. I would love to know why this product has increased so much. Did Tesco initiate it as Dunnes has it on offer for €3? Should I stockpile? Is this Brexit related?”

We got in touch with Tesco who sent us an entirely unilluminating response. It said that the price of Jordan’s Simply Granola is €4.39 in its stores. “We do our best to minimise cost fluctuations on products where possible. We work hard to offer great value for our customers and while we can’t comment on future retail prices, customers can frequently avail of promotional offers on this product.”