THERE are many ways you can claim cash back on bills and subscription services – but you might not know about them.
And, considering the cost of living crisis, there's no better time to find out what those are.
Energy bills are currently capped at £2,500 thanks to the Energy Price Guarantee.
That dictates the average household's yearly bill.
This cap will rise to £3,000 in April, but cancelling subscriptions and finding other ways to claim money back could help massively in the long run.
An expert told The Mirror the steps you should take to earn back some much-needed cash.
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Cancelling a contract
There are certain terms and conditions it's important to look out for when cancelling a contract.
You should consider first of all why you're cancelling it. Normally, it's either:
- To leave a contract early to avoid a penalty
- To receive a refund for a contract you paid for in advance but no longer want
For whatever reason you're cancelling, you'll only get money back if you clearly state why the firm hasn't met your expectations.
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Consumer expert Martyn James said: "There are lots of laws, regulations and rules that relate to the sale of goods and services, how they’re advertised, what both parties have 'contracted' to and whether you can get a refund or compensation."
But you might find, when reading the fine lines, that some rules and clauses on a few contracts seem unreasonable.
Know your rights
The Consumer Contract Regulations says that, if you take out a new subscription or annual contract online, you have 14 days to cancel thereafter.
You'll normally get a full refund within that time frame.
You can expect a refund back if:
- Goods aren't 'satisfactory' or as up to standard as you thought
- Something is faulty
- You don't think your purchase will last a reasonable length of time
You can read a full list of exemptions on MoneySavingExpert.
However, there is a catch – according to the Consumer Contract Regulations, you aren't guaranteed a refund if the subscription is "accommodation, transport and leisure services purchased for a specific timeframe".
That includes holidays and travel mainly.
Getting contracted by accident
Since 2014 it's been the law that all subscriptions must be actively signed up to – so if you think you were signed up by mistake, you could be owed money.
Firstly, always check your bank account to make sure there are no bills that you don't recognise.
This could even happen from a free trial which you forgot to cancel.
James said: "There is no definitive legal right to a refund on past payments, but in the absence of proof you can always ask and try to negotiate one.
"Remember if you were misled in to taking out a contract or you didn’t authorise it, you can indeed ask for a full or partial refund.
"The firm must be able to prove you agreed to the contract."
Again, this is where it's important to check any T&C's, especially to see if there's a notice period mentioned.
It can be quite hard to get out of a contract that has a defined time period, like six or 12 months, for example.
But they have to make that clear – and if you find the contract continues after you cancel it, you can ask your bank provider to block any future payments.
If what you paid for isn't what you got
There is a principle called Frustration of Contract which deals with contracts which couldn't be fulfilled properly for unprecedented reasons.
So if you've paid up front for a contract, but there were complications with delivery or unexpected service problems, you could be owed a refund.
This applies for singular contracts – like hiring a venue – or ongoing contracts like a gym membership.
James said: "If you have paid £600 for gym membership for a year (£50 a month) and the gym is closed for two months, you could be able to claim a £100.00 refund under Frustration of Contract."
If you go down the Frustration of Contract route, the company may be entitled to claiming a small fee to help with costs.
But if that's the case, it'll say so in the T&C's, so make sure you read those beforehand.
This could be to help fix maintenance or security issues, for example.
They can be entitled to do that because it's helping keep the facility maintained.
However, you can ask for a breakdown of what any costs are for.
More ways to claim money
There are plenty of ways to claim money for bill help in the meantime.
Jeremy Hunt recently extended the Household Support Fund to last through 2023 and into 2024.
The HSF is where councils are given a slice of government funding to reward hard-up residents to help pay for bills and essentials.
The government previously announced a £421million pot of cash at the end of September to be made available from October this year until March next year.
Struggling families are also eligible for the Warm House Discount to help them tackle the cost of living.
The scheme is where eligible households can get £150 off their electricity bill each winter – but you'll have to wait until the colder months to get the money off.
Households in England and Wales don't need to apply to get the cash and they'll automatically qualify if they are receiving certain benefits.
You can read more about who's eligible here.
There are plenty of energy grants and schemes open to help you out if you're struggling.
British Gas has recently confirmed that it'll pay its most vulnerable customers grants worth £750 to help with sky-high bills.
Ask your supplier what's on offer and how to apply, or check here:
- British Gas Energy Trust
- Bulb energy fund
- EDF's energy customer support fund
- E.on's energy fund
- Npower's energy fund
- Ovo's debt and energy assistance
- Scottish Power's hardship fund
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There's also a one-off fuel voucher from your energy supplier if you're on a prepayment metre.
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