Alan Titchmarsh Show / In the News / Legal Topics

Consumer clinic – update and Q&A

On The Alan Titchmarsh Show this week, we invited viewers to contact us with questions and comments arising from what we have discussed over the past couple of months, or something we haven’t covered yet.  We received a whole variety of questions, but here are just a few that we had time for.

551909_14310641Parking tickets and the Blue Badge scheme

After last week’s parking fines feature, we were contacted with the following query:

“I have been given four parking tickets, ALL while displaying a Blue Badge. I appealed two of them and won, but just couldn’t be bothered to appeal the others as my mum was really ill. Now I don’t use the Blue Badge unless it’s in a disabled parking bay as I can’t trust the parking attendants.”

The Blue Badge Scheme is operated throughout the UK for people with severe mobility problems and enables badge holders to park close to where they need to go.   It applies to holders travelling as either passenger or driver, and is intended for on-street parking only.

If you’re a Blue badge holder, and outside certain areas of central London, you can park:

  • on a  single or double yellow line for a maximum of three hours, unless there is no loading or unloading;
  • at parking meters on the street and at pay and display machines for free as long as you want to;
  • in parking bays reserved for blue badge holders – although some councils impose a time-limit;
  • on a dotted yellow line for as long as you want to when other drivers are time-limited.

Even if  you  park in one of these areas, you may still be asked to move your vehicle by a police officer or traffic warden. If this happens, you must comply with the request.  If you are parking in Central London you should check the special conditions detailed on the Blue Badge London website.

If you’re unsure about what parking restrictions apply in a certain area,  check before using the badge. You may be penalised for misusing your badge, even if you do so accidentally.  Of course, for the special parking permissions to apply, the disabled badge holder must be in the vehicle.

You might get a parking ticket (Penalty Charge Notice) if you do not satisfy the conditions:

  • if you park on yellow lines for more than three hours;
  • if your badge isn’t displayed correctly;
  • if you don’t intend to leave the vehicle, for example,  while someone else goes shopping;
  • if you misuse your badge in some other way or break any other parking rule where you don’t get special permission.

If you do receive a Penalty Charge Notice you can appeal. Having a Blue badge is not a reason in itself for appealing against a Penalty Charge Notice.

Off-street car parks such as those provided by the local authority, hospital or supermarket car parks are governed by separate rules and you will have to check any separate conditions of parking.

48526_6952Energy bills

Since we last discussed energy prices there has been more bad news for consumers.  It has been revealed that across Europe, the UK is only second to Estonia for the number of people who are struggling to pay their bills and of the big 6 UK energy providers, 4 have already announced price increases of up to 11%.

One viewer wrote in with one tip that might assist some people.  “If you have been given an estimated bill that you think is an underestimate, then make sure you call the company with the correct readings and pay for what you have used. You don’t want to have to pay for it on your next bill once tariffs have gone up!”

Recently, Public Health England has warned that people should keep their homes warm, with living room temperatures of 21C and bedrooms and the rest of the house heated to 18C. It says temperatures above this ‘may waste money’ but below this ‘may risk your health’, particularly amongst the elderly.

So, remember our tips from last time:

  • consider switching to a cheaper provider;
  • check with your energy provider if you are entitled to any additional help;
  • change the way you pay – there’s often a discount if you pay by direct debit;
  • don’t struggle in silence – inform friends and family if you have any concerns about heating your home.

1209718_84380950Complaining and faulty products

Prompted by our show about complaining, one viewer wrote in with to say: “I purchased a £600 washing machine and after 2 years I had to have it repaired, which cost nearly £200. Now it has gone faulty again.”

Once again, this boils down (no pun intended) to what is contained in The Sales of Goods Act 1979, which says that any item you buy from a trader must be ‘of satisfactory quality’, ‘fit for purpose’ and ‘match any description given’. If it isn’t then you can usually have it repaired, replaced, or a full or partial refund.

However, there are circumstances where you won’t be entitled to claim such rights, such as if you have damaged the goods yourself, if the problem is the result of normal wear and tear or if the goods have lasted for as long as could be reasonably expected. It’s also unlikely that you’ll be able to get all you money back if you have waited too long before informing the trader.

If you have any legal or consumer comments, queries, or tips, please contact The Alan Titchmarsh Show by emailing us at and we’ll try and include them in the show.

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