Well, 2021 has been quite a year! My profile shot through the roof overnight when I was featured in the Daily Mail as 1 of 5 of the top consumer champions in the UK. I am seen as a go-to expert now for many journalists, local and national radio stations and the media for a wide range of consumer issues and motoring disputes.
The coverage I have had this year has exceeded any expectations I may have had, and being featured on the BBC Breakfast sofa has to be the icing on the cake.
I could never have predicted the outcomes and opportunities that I have had this year. It goes without saying that I appreciate the support and kindness shown to me from so many of my followers. I couldn’t do all of this alone, and it’s fair to say that this is a rollercoaster with many highs and lows.
I have met a few of you and most I haven’t, although I enjoy engaging with you and you showcase the very best of Twitter and social media.
Some of the results I have achieved have been life-changing, with five figure amounts involved on many complaints. Educating and inspiring consumers to seek redress based on consumer rights is the cornerstone of what I do.
I have had to deal with Long Covid as well and try and rebuild my fitness and strength, which hasn’t been a linear recovery. I was one of the first in Scotland to fall ill with Covid when it began in March 2020. I was looking at disability benefits in September 2020 and now I can walk about 50 miles a month. I am pleased with the progress I have made personally and professionally, although I still have a long way to go.
The year began with being featured in The Daily Mirror with Consumer Lawyer and LBC Presenter Dean Dunham giving advice on how to make a pothole claim against local authorities. This coincided with National Pothole Day, which is on the 15th January each year.
Covid had shelved my work as a resident writer for two travel guides who host bespoke private tours in Edinburgh, so I was able to focus solely on consumer issues and motoring disputes.
I took part in a podcast with Lady Janey for BBC Radio Scotland’s Clever About Cash series with Eileen Adamson and Kim McAllister on how to complain effectively.
I was invited on to Lady Janey’s Consumer Show on Dean Radio in Gloucestershire to give advice on how to make a pothole claim. Local authorities rely on claims stoppers who use default paragraphs to decline all claims. This is proven by figures from FOI requests where 98% of all claims are declined in Gloucester and 99% of all claims are rejected in Fife.
The Daily Mail discovered a legal gaffe where local authorities in England did not have the powers to tow vehicles away for various parking infringements. I was asked as a consumer expert to give advice to motorists on how to seek redress. The Road Traffic Act cuts both ways and local authorities cannot have it all ways.
I gave advice on a popular banking scam in the Daily Mirror which nearly caught out my elderly parents. This was a popular feature that coincided with Siobhan McNally (columnist) being hit with the same scam. Luckily, Siobhan was aware of it and was able to avoid being scammed by fraudsters.
I spoke on BBC Radio 5 Live about concert tickets, cancelled gigs and your consumer rights. This resonated with many people who had tickets for gigs that were postponed in the summer of 2020 and didn’t know their rights and options.
I was in The Times speaking about Covid inflation in light of the hospitality industry reopening and seeking to recoup their losses from numerous lockdowns.
The Daily Mail asked me to speak about my own experiences with GP surgeries and face-to-face appointment issues. I know this is an emotive topic, although I elaborated on how telephone consultations were being trialled pre-Covid in Scotland and how Covid was seen as a once in a lifetime opportunity to roll it out under the illusion of protecting the NHS.
I began working with Radio Saltire (a local community radio station) which covers East Lothian, Edinburgh and Fife). I spoke about potholes and claims with Stu Gibb. I now have a regular slot on their Community Matters series where I chat about consumer rights along with a few classic 70s and 80s songs.
I also spoke with Lady Janey on her Consumer Show about concert tickets and refunds. Consumer laws were never designed for these sorts of scenarios, although Covid has not affected your consumer rights.
The Hexham Courant featured the success I have had over the past 5 years with my blog. What began as a project has turned into a passion on consumer rights. My book has been bought and read all over the world, with the biggest claim being £23,000 from someone who followed my advice.
I was asked by the I Paper to speak about Covid jabs and dating apps. Who would have thought that this would be a clincher in the world of dating?
I took part in the Which? Guest Conversation series on how to gather your evidence on pothole claims.
I spoke with BBC Radio Scotland on their Clever About Cash series about car warranties and your consumer rights with car dealerships. You never need to pay for a warranty as the Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives you better cover for free.
I spoke with Stu Gibb at Radio Saltire on their Community Matters programme about concert tickets and refunds around consumer rights.
The Money Edit asked me for advice on how to buy car insurance and what to look out for if you are over 70.
ITV West Country and Gloucestershire Live featured the results from a Freedom of Information request I submitted to Gloucestershire County Council which revealed that only 2% of all pothole claims were settled.
I spoke with Lady Janey afterwards on her Dean Radio Consumer Show about the same topic with advice on what motorists need to do to uphold a pothole claim.
The Daily Telegraph featured phishing scams where I spoke about my own experience with PayPal.
I was asked to speak about Covid and poor customer service on BBC 3 Home Counties. Covid is the catch all excuse for everything now and it’s worn out. Firms have had plenty of time to adapt and many have, while others who were dire before Covid remain so.
The Daily Mirror featured an exclusive feature with me on pothole claims and what you need to if you need to claim compensation from a local authority.
I also spoke with the Daily Mirror on MOT failures and how to avoid them in light of MOTs resuming post-lockdown.
I spoke with Lady Janey on her Consumer Show with Dean Radio about summer driving tips with advice that nobody would consider, particularly around hay fever tablets potentially leading to drug driving convictions.
The Courier in Fife shone a spotlight on pothole claims and repairs based on FOI requests where Fife Council blamed Covid for their pothole woes. Good old Covid!
BBC Radio Scotland invited me to speak live on their Clever About Cash series at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival about concert tickets and refunds. This was the first time I spoke at a live event and I really enjoyed the experience.
The Hexham Courant shone a spotlight on a FOI request I received from Northumberland County Council on pothole claims where over £1m was paid out in compensation to motorists over the past 5 years.
BBC Radio York asked me to speak about parking problems around the seaside resorts and outside homes and the nuances around parking tickets. This coincided with the unwinding of lockdown restrictions and the height of the summer season. Residents were frustrated with visitors simply parking anywhere they wanted and the Council not providing enough parking spaces in the area.
I was asked by BBC Radio London to speak about parking fines and how to appeal unfair tickets in view of record numbers of motorists being hit with fines by local authorities.
The Daily Mirror also asked me to give 5 tips on how to contest unfair parking fines.
I gave advice in the Metro on how to make your money last when you are abroad.
I had my first by-line in Newsweek on the ‘My Turn’ series on how I teach people to complain and save them thousands. This feature proved to be really popular and I was delighted to be asked to be a part of it. Another ‘made-it’ moment!
BBC Radio Essex asked me to speak about parking fines with advice for motorists on how to appeal any unfair tickets.
BBC Radio London asked for contributions for their 9/11 memories which they presented as a moving montage. I was in Cyprus at the time, which was surreal knowing that families were celebrating 80 miles away in Lebanon handing out sweets to children. I remember it so well.
The Daily Telegraph asked me to give advice on how to complain effectively against chatbots. Consumers are finding it more difficult to resolve any complaints, with firms deliberately removing contact details from their websites and deploying chatbots that rely on Artificial Intelligence to provide standard answers to queries.
I spoke with BBC Hereford and Worcester about airport parking charges and how to appeal unfair parking fines. This story came in light of £105m being spent by motorists each year on dropping off passengers.
The Daily Express wrote about soaring energy costs putting 5.5m homes in fuel poverty. I spoke about the impact on the poorest in society, particularly those on Universal Credit as it coincided with a £20 weekly cut at the start of winter.
The Sun on Sunday asked me for fuel motoring money saving tips as a result of the fuel crisis facing motorists with pumps running dry across the UK.
I was asked by the Daily Express to comment about the big 6 energy providers forecasting prices to rise as rivals fall.
The Dunfermline Press asked me to comment about a pothole claim being rejected despite three previous reports about the defect. The claims stoppers relied on a standard rejection fob off that they use for virtually all pothole claims.
The Daily Express asked me to give consumer advice on how to avoid being a victim of contactless card fraud, which was forecast to rise with the limit being raised to £100.
The Fife Courier and Dunfermline Press wrote about me winning an eight-month battle over Freedom of Information requests with Fife Council. Covid and bad weather were used as default excuses to fob me off with delays and misleading information being given in relation to a pothole claim. The Scottish Information Commissioner ruled in my favour.
The Daily Express wrote about banks pre-empting the expected Bank of England interest rate rises which never materialised by raising mortgage interest rates. I was asked to comment on this, with savers losing out at the expense of those with mortgages which coincided with soaring energy bills, fuel and food prices.
The Daily Mail shone a spotlight on the pothole potluck lottery where motorists face a 1% chance of winning a pothole claim against some local authorities. Local authorities work in cahoots with claims stoppers who decline all claims based on three default excuses. If a motorist tries to pursue it through the Small Claims Court, they are faced with solicitors who are blind copied in on all emails and go to extraordinary lengths to deny liability.
I spoke with Stu Gibb at Radio Saltire about Christmas shopping online safely and consumer rights.
The Daily Express wrote about the post-lockdown Christmas boom on the high street, where I spoke about the pent-up demand and why consumers don’t want to do all of their shopping online.
The highlight of all highlights this year was being invited to appear on the BBC Breakfast sofa to speak about the record number of private parking tickets being issued to motorists, with advice on how to appeal unfair tickets. It was a real privilege and one of many great experiences I have enjoyed since I began my journey as a consumer champion in 2015.
I spoke with BBC Hereford and Worcester afterwards about the same topic.
I also spoke with Lady Janey on her Dean Radio Consumer Show about parking fines with local authorities and private parking firms and what to look out for.
The Daily Mail featured parcel porch thefts where I gave consumer advice to victims so they are not left out of pocket through no fault of their own.
I was featured in The Sun as the UK’s biggest complainer based on so many consumer issues and motoring disputes I have resolved over the years.
I remain grateful for the help, kindness and support from so many people. Being able to make a significant difference to society in my own way is something that I am proud of.
I still have a long way to go, and I look forward to 2022 and seeing what comes next with various media opportunities.