New research claims that students are losing cash to landlords and utility companies because they don’t understand what their rights are or are afraid to make complaints.
The study says that students are ending each year around £240 out of pocket because of this lack of knowledge or unwillingness to complain, according to the Ombudsman Services consumer mediator. This equates, it claims, to a total of £335 million lost by students every year.
Over three quarters, a total of 78 per cent, of the 1,500 students questioned as part of the Ombudsman Services research claimed to have lost money as a result of unfair charges placed on them by either utility companies or landlords.
Unveiling the study’s findings, Lewis Shand Smith, the chief ombudsman, said that students should not feel unable to stand up for themselves and their rights.
The research suggests that the telecoms, energy, and property industries are most likely to treat students unfairly.
Students reported being charged too much for electricity and gas, as well as being forced to pay bills left unpaid by former tenants. Students also complained about being made to fork out for damage to property, despite them saying that neither themselves nor their housemates were responsible.
Other respondents involved in the survey said that they simply forgot to claim back their tenancy deposit, whilst others ended up paying out twice for exactly the same service.
The survey claims to have found that only a quarter of the students who were questioned and said they had encountered a problem had actually complained. Some admitted that this was due to not wanting the hassle, whilst others said they were afraid they would be embarrassed or intimidated.
The Ombudsman Service has now released a new guide, which is says will help to prevent students being overcharged. The guide features tips on how to shop around in order to obtain the best deals on utilities and how they should be taking meter readings.
It also gives advice on querying high bills, how they should report faults, how to complain, and the importance of keeping good records of conversations.
The guide also explores the minefield that it says surround broadband packages, advising students to check package details carefully.
In the case of renting property, the guide advises students to prevent having to pay for damage they did not cause by ensuring that they check their tenancy agreements, as well as ensuring that an adequate and correct inventory has been provided, accompanied by photographs, as soon as they move in.