Should you meet Rosalinde Bond at her local bridge club, you probably wouldn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.
But this elegantly dressed, 5ft 3in great-grandmother from Fenny Drayton, Leicestershire, is far from your average 77-year-old.
For over the past year, Rosalinde has taken some of Britain’s biggest companies as well as her local council to court… and she has won every time.
Victory: Rosalinde Bond (pictured with husband David) has taken some of Britain’s biggest companies as well as her local council to court… and she has won every time
First, she secured £203 in compensation from BT after it mistakenly cut off her household landline.
Then, she gained £658 from Warwickshire County Council after her husband, David, 79, was handed a £30 fine for parking in a restricted area that had not been properly signposted.
And now, in her proudest achievement yet, she has netted £883 from British Gas’s HomeCare boiler repair scheme for shoddy service.
‘When I first complained, I felt like British Gas just thought I was a little old lady they could squash into the ground,’ says the grandmother of eight.
‘But I won, and I felt like the scales of justice had been balanced.’
Of course, British Gas HomeCare, BT and Warwickshire County Council may not have been aware that Rosalinde was a solicitor before she retired in 2011.
Even so, her victories are a remarkable testament to the power of complaining and fighting your corner when you know a big company is in the wrong.
Rosalinde’s battle with British Gas started last winter.
When the couple’s gas boiler unexpectedly turned itself off overnight on November 22, 2021, Rosalinde and David were relieved that they had the energy firm’s HomeCare cover in place.
The couple, who live in a three-bedroom bungalow, were paying £235 a year for a plan that entitled them to an annual boiler service — and the cost of any emergency repairs.
However, when they needed the policy most, it failed to deliver. It took HomeCare eight days to send out an engineer.
When the man eventually arrived, he was late and driving an unmarked van, which left Rosalinde wary.
She later learned that he was a freelance engineer who had been subcontracted by HomeCare.
The engineer fixed the problem temporarily — but by the following morning the heating was off again, leaving the couple in the cold for a further ten days while they waited for a follow-up appointment.
On some days, the temperature outside dropped to just a few degrees centigrade, and it fell to freezing at night.
Peace of mind: More than seven million households have cover with British Gas HomeCare, which offers four types of package at varying levels of cost
The delays were particularly stressful because David has terminal bowel cancer and relies on hot water to keep his medical equipment sterile.
Anxious about her husband’s welfare, Rosalinde eventually decided to fork out for an independent gas engineer.
During his visit, he noticed a crack in the heat shield — a vital safety feature on boilers that stops other parts becoming damaged. The engineer told Rosalinde the boiler was so dangerous it could have set their house on fire.
She immediately agreed to have a new one installed, at her own expense. But the endless delays, poor communication and shoddy service from HomeCare left Rosalinde ready to fight British Gas for compensation.
‘I had tried to contact it several times, but it did everything it could to avoid the situation,’ she says.
The couple raised a complaint, but were unhappy when they were offered a £324 goodwill payment.
That’s when Rosalinde’s fighting spirit really took over. ‘No business or individual will ever intimidate us,’ she says. As a former solicitor, she is well aware of her consumer rights.
She worked in law for 40 years, specialising in contract law and consumer affairs, and ran her own firm of solicitors.
So she took the company to court for her troubles.
Even before the boiler had broken, the couple were feeling they were getting poor value for money from HomeCare.
Their annual service was often delayed and Rosalinde says they once waited 15 months for an appointment.
After taking the case to Nuneaton County Court in Warwickshire, a judge agreed that there had been a breach of contract.
Protection: Anybody who chooses to sue a company, regardless of income, will not have to pay the defendants’ legal fees, even if they lose the case
On September 9, Rosalinde won back the cost of around two years’ worth of their HomeCare cover fees, along with the couple’s legal costs — a total of £883.
But Rosalinde accepts that battling big firms is not for the faint-hearted. In all, the process took just under nine months and involved using her legal knowledge to prepare all her own evidence.
Had the couple lost, they would have been forced to pay their own court fees of £290. But Rosalinde insists it was worth it.
‘These big companies should not be allowed to get away with such poor service,’ she says. ‘The only reason they do is because 99 per cent of their customers don’t know how to complain effectively.’
Consumer champion Martyn James agrees: ‘Rosalinde and David’s story is a great reminder of what can happen when customers put up a fight.
‘Often when you complain to companies, they reach out with token gestures which are not reflective of the actual damage caused.
‘But even just the threat of legal action can cause companies to offer better compensation.’
For most customers, the first port of call should be raising an official complaint with your service provider.
If you get an unsatis- factory response, you can pursue companies via an independent ombudsman such as the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Most complaints are resolved by the Financial Ombudsman within 90 days.
However, Rosalinde says payouts tend to be more lucrative through the courts.
Her golden rules for complaining include: always keep receipts, write to companies straight away when something goes wrong, and familiarise yourself with consumer laws — which she says are, on the whole, easy to understand.
She also insists that anyone can represent themselves in court, so don’t be put off thinking you need to employ expensive solicitors.
People on low incomes — such as those living on only a state pension — are also exempt from paying court fees. Anyone who chooses to sue a company, regardless of income, will not have to pay the defendants’ legal fees, even if they lose the case.
This applies to all court cases where the value of the payout is less than £10,000 — or £5,000 in Scotland.
More than seven million households have cover with HomeCare, which offers four types of package at varying levels of cost.
It is currently involved in an advertising blitz as the colder weather bites.
Money Mail has previously reported on customers being forced to wait for months for emergency repairs.
A British Gas spokesman says: ‘We accept the court’s ruling, which was clear that this wasn’t a case of negligence. However, we understand there were some shortfalls in our service, and have apologised to Mrs Bond.’
How to complain: Rosalinde’s five golden rules
- Always keep your receipts. These are essential evidence and it can be difficult to substantiate a claim without one.
- Write to a company straight away if you are unhappy. It’s important to have a clear record of your complaint and it gives them a chance to offer a solution.
- Familiarise yourself with consumer laws so that you know your rights. Rosalinde says the Consumer Rights Act 2015 can be researched online or found in libraries if you do not have access to the internet.
- Don’t be worried about representing yourself in court. Rosalinde insists there is no need to fork out for expensive solicitors’ fees, as even a base-level understanding of consumer law is enough to get you through a court case.
- Alternatively, consider taking out legal expenses insurance. This can cover your legal costs if you need to pursue disputes. You cannot generally buy this directly, but it is typically an ‘add-on’ option to other types of insurance, such as home or motor.
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