Which Are the Best Mobile Phone Companies for Customer Service and Coverage?

The latest generation of phones is causing customers to queue around the block. Tech programs are going into overdrive talking about features, edgeless screens, biometrics and front-facing cameras.

While the tech may be ticking boxes, what about the providers? Mobile phone service providers may offer you the latest handset upgrades and plenty of free texts, but if you have a problem then who answers the phone quickest, who has the best call centre and who gives you that extra special customer service experience? Time to find out.

Somethings really are too good to be true

Rule number one is to avoid tempting adverts. Every carrier is very good at promotion. It’s whether they’re any good at the aftercare and service that really matters. Those fantastic deals carriers offer in slick advertisements may look seriously tempting, but you’ll also notice a sea of small print at the bottom of the screen. That’s just the contractual obligations they’re required to tell you about up front (such as contract length, monthly fees and charges, roaming costs etc), and once you look at your contract you’ll see that it’s the tip of a very big iceberg floating on a sea of get-out clauses.

It’s important to do your homework thoroughly before you pick a carrier, not just with regard to the latest model of phone and how much data allowance you get every month, but to find out about how they look after their customers, whether that hefty allowance is rolled over, or if there’s a more suitable deal for your particular level of usage.

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The Market Players

Putting aside the handset issue for the moment (where carriers are pretty much on a level playing field), let’s have a quick look at the major players in the UK market.

1. O2

Probably the largest and best-known of the carriers, they have a good track record when it comes to customer service quality, and put loyalty rewards at the top of their list of customer perks. Inclusive roaming in 47 European destinations also makes them popular with travellers who don’t want to get stung with high roaming charges abroad.

2. Vodafone

The granddaddy of the bunch, Vodafone is still going strong and has excellent coverage in both the UK and Europe. They too have introduced inclusive roaming, and have a good choice of tariffs. Vodafone’s customer service number is good, but it can take a while to get through to a real person on their support lines.

3. EE

Slick, trendy, and with the emphasis on providing superfast 4G speeds up to five times faster than 3G, they’re let down a little bit by their patchy coverage, even in city centres.

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4. Plusnet

This popular provider piggybacks off the EE 4G network, so it’s technical specs are good. It’s also keen to emphasise that the company has UK-based customer care centres, and have really put the onus on providing a friendly, trustworthy service.

5. Giffgaff

Cheap, cheerful, and very popular among younger users, this contract-free service was recently voted uSwitch Network of the Year 2017. Its tagline – ‘The mobile network run by you’ – makes it feel friendly, with a real community spirit. Consequently, it has a very good reputation when it comes to their customer services. With no contractual obligations to tie customers to the brand, Giffgaff has to work harder to keep their customers from jumping to other providers.

6. BT Mobile

Mobile contracts are a very small part of the BT operation, despite being the main provider of communication infrastructure across the UK. BT still has a bit of a struggle when it comes to its customer care reputation, but does offer packages that bundle everything from mobile contracts through to TV and broadband into one easy-to-manage contract.

There are plenty of other providers such as Virgin Mobile, Three Mobile, and even Tesco, so the best option is to use a comparison site to get the lowdown on deals, offers, and rates.

Go for the smaller carriers for a personalised service

Picking the most popular carrier isn’t always the right decision, and you’ll need to think about what exactly you want from your provider. If you’re a frequent traveller then Three Mobile’s excellent overseas service would be a good choice. However, Lebara Mobile, a very small company that piggybacks off Vodafone’s network, delivers some of the cheapest international call rates on offer.

Smaller providers also have to work harder to build their customer base, so you’ll usually find that their customer service is far friendlier, more personal, and deliver a better customer experience.

Money-Saving Discounts Virgin Media Customers Need to Know About

Christmas is the most expensive time of year, so why not cut costs where you can? Find out whether you’re eligible for Virgin Media’s special broadband and telephone discounts…

Speedy Internet, Smaller Bills

You’re in for an early Christmas present if you’re a Virgin Broadband customer, because you could make similar savings to their Black Friday internet deals – by signing up to a discounted package by late December 2016. You’ll pay the cheaper price for an entire year, before it rises back to the standard cost.

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What’s On Offer Until Late December 2016?

  • Save £108 on Virgin’s SuperFibre 50 mbps package in 2017, now £18 per month
  • Save £108 on Virgin’s VIVID 100 mbps broadband in 2017, now £23 per month
  • Save £108 on Virgin’s 200 mbps service in 2017, now £31 per month

Want to take your online gaming to the next level?

Take advantage of Virgin’s special 200 mbps ‘Gamer’ package before the end of December 2016 – with a 20 mbps upload speed, for £45 per month.

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But that’s not all. You’ll also have free access to Virgin’s Wi-Fi hotspots while you’re out and about, including those on London’s tube service. On top of which, you’re treated to free internet security, parental controls and email.

Sound good to you? Call Virgin Media to speak to their customer service team.

But don’t despair, non-Virgin customers, you could challenge your utility bills and haggle your provider down to a lower price – using our guide. If you’re with EE or BT, who are the most complained about broadband providers according to Ofcom, what do you have to lose?

Telephone Line Rental Frozen at £17.99 from January 2017

This December deal, ‘Talk Protected’ is well worth telling your parents about, if you’re not eligible yourself.

From New Year’s Day, Virgin Media are capping telephone line rental at £17.99, indefinitely – for elderly customers over the age of 65 and for those of you with accessibility needs, spanning a range of hearing, sight, speech and mobility impediments.

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So, what does your money get you?

  • All evening and weekend calls to UK landlines and mobiles are covered, even calls to 0845, 0870 and directory numbers
  • Your caller display and voicemail comes completely free
  • You’ll also get £5 off other Virgin Phone plans, including Talk More Anytime and Talk More International, saving you money in more ways than one

“For some people their landline is their lifeline, it’s important that those who rely on this service the most are not left behind,” Gregor McNeil, Managing Director of Consumer at Virgin Media explained.

Elderly customers and those with accessibility don’t often benefit from the cheaper bundles which include broadband or TV, so this is a deserved special discount that’s trying to right that wrong.

How to get what’s yours

If you’re already a Virgin customer, you’ll soon be contacted if you’re eligible – although you could register your interest by phoning Virgin Media’s customer service team directly. You should automatically be upgraded in January 2017.

Those of you with disabilities, who aren’t yet Virgin Media customers can join ‘Talk Protected’ on New Year’s Day – again, you could call their customer service team today, to check that you’re eligible.

Black Friday Regrets? Perhaps You Can Return Them…

Were some of your Black Friday bargains too good to be true? You still have consumer rights, even during sales season, so find out whether you can return a few things…

Hold onto your receipts and packaging, if you splurged on Black Friday impulse buys and lived to regret it you’ll need both to get your refund – together with the bank card you paid with, perhaps. UK shoppers spent over £3.3billion on Black Friday weekend in 2015, but returned £180million of it within days, according to Clear Returns. Here’s what to do next, if you want your money back…

Online vs. Offline Black Friday Shopping

Did you know that you have different rights, depending on whether you shopped online or in a bricks-and-mortar store?

You Shopped Online?

You beat the queues on Black Friday and now you have more consumer rights to boot. You have 14 days from the time of delivery to return your Black Friday bargains for a full refund – whether their faulty or you simply changed your mind, according to the Consumer Contracts Regulations. That’s because you didn’t see the product in the flesh before buying it – descriptions and photographs can be deceptive.

You Shopped on the High Street?

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Faulty Black Friday Goods:

Yes, even your Black Friday bargains are covered by the 2015 Consumer Rights Act. So if it’s faulty, you’re entitled to a full refund within the first 30 days – if your purchase isn’t as described, of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose, and it doesn’t last a reasonable amount of time.

Giving a Black Friday bargain as a Christmas present? When they open it on the big day, you’ll still be within the 30 day deadline to get a full cash refund if it’s faulty. After 30 days, you won’t get your money back, but you can ask the shop to repair or replace your Black Friday Bargain for up to six months after you’ve bought it. After six months, it’s much harder, but not impossible, to prove that it was faulty when you originally bought it.

Unless you were warned about the faults when you bought it on Black Friday, the retailer has a legal obligation to fix it for you.

Non-Faulty Black Friday Bargains:

Changed your mind on something? High street shops don’t legally have to refund your non-faulty Black Friday bargains, but most will have a ‘goodwill returns’ policy, giving you an exchange, refund or credit note in most cases – so long as you return it with 28 days. But it depends on what you’ve bought, from where.

Look online, on receipts and on signs in-store or phone the retailer’s customer services to find out about their specific ‘return policy’ – you’ll find all the numbers you need in our directory. Their policy is binding, so they have to follow through on the promises they’ve made. And typically, you can only return non-faulty goods for an exchange or refund, not for cash.

Don’t despair, some retailers extend their returns deadlines around Christmas so you may have time to sneak it back later than usual.

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Broken Black Friday Digital Content

Guess what, the apps, music, movies, games or ebooks you bought on Black Friday are also covered by the 2015 Consumer Rights Act – whether you download of stream them. If they don’t work, your retailer has one chance to fix the problem, but if that fails, you can demand a refund.

Know Your Limits

Black Friday sale season or not, you probably won’t get your cash back on…

  • DVDs, music and computer software if the seal or packaging is broken
  • Perishable goods like food or flowers
  • Personalised products, made just for you

Black Friday Delivery Problems

Did you specify a date to have your Black Friday bargains delivered? If they’re late, go missing or are stolen from your doorstep, the shop must fix the problem – not the courier or delivery company. If you want to cancel your order for a refund and make a complaint, search our directory of numbers and call the appropriate customer service team.

Reluctant Retailer?

If they refuse to refund, repair or replace your Black Friday goods, then they could be breaching your statutory rights. Tell them you’ll report them to your local Trading Standards department, which may spur them into action.

Otherwise, you may actually have to take your complaint to the Consumer Ombudsman if they keep fobbing you off. Remember, you can also rely on your guarantee or warranty.

Can’t Return Your Unwanted Black Friday Goods?

Lost your receipt? Chance your luck and return your non-faulty items anyway, as you could win yourself an exchange or a credit note. Call the appropriate customer service team.

If you decide to re-sell your faulty Black Friday bargain, give full disclosure and make your buyer aware of all the problems. Alternatively, give your unwanted (but otherwise fine) Black Friday deals as Christmas presents – at least then it won’t go to waste.

Why Film Fans Are Excited About Sky Cinema…

Exciting news for the film buffs among you, as Sky launches Sky Cinema in UK & Ireland, the biggest dedicated movie subscription service in Europe.

Sky Movies has been reincarnated as Sky Cinema, and it’s far more than just a name change, as you can see more major films, closer to their cinema release date here than on other movie subscription service. For the same £38 per month fee as before. Creating the blockbuster cinema experience in your own home has never been easier…

See The Biggest Releases Fast

Just 8 months after they’re released in the cinema, you’ll have box office smashes on your TV – 45 of the UK’s top 50 films of 2015 are exclusive to Sky Cinema, giving you more choice than anywhere else, so you’ll soon see what all the fuss was about.

Work Your Way Through 1,200 Films…

This is Sky’s biggest ever line-up of blockbuster and classic films, with 20% more flicks available on demand than on the old Sky Movies. And they’re all split across 12 dedicated film channels, keeping you entertained every minute of the day with everything from classic black and white movies, to explosive action adventures and more.

… With New & Improved Cinema Quality

While Sky Q customers can look forward to Ultra HD films by the end of the year, even us mere mortals will get better HD visuals and sound quality as standard, closer to the cinema experience for on demand films. The pictures are more detailed and vibrant, the sound is more dynamic, dropping you in the middle of the action.

Have A Movie Premiere Every Single Day

Sky Movies customers had four premieres a week, but this new Sky Cinema will spoil you with one every single day – showing blockbusters from Spectre to The Danish Girl before the end of October 2016, with Jungle Book, Zootopia and Captain America: Civil War yet to come.

Have they gone for quantity over quality here? Perhaps, but at least you have the chance to catch more movies than ever and see something new and exciting. Perhaps it’ll help the smaller movies to get a showing.

Expand Your Horizons with Stories from Across the Globe

Wednesday nights from 10pm are now your ‘World Cinema’ nights, so settle in for multi-award winning film festival movies, indie and local films that span the globe. From Argentina’s Al Ardor and United Arab Republic’s Theeb to Estonia’s Tangerines, films from oversees tend to be eye-opening, mind-expanding entertainment.

It’s Easier to Binge On Your Favourites Than Ever Before

While Sky Movies gave you dedicated pop-up channels for your favourite films a few times a year, from 007 to Harry Potter, Sky Cinema gives you at least one pop-up channel every month, alongside new interviews, film documentaries and also movie events coverage.

Get Your Star Wars & Superhero Fix

Good news for you Star Wars fans, the force is strong here, as not only did Star Wars Episode VIII: The Force Awakens premiere on Sky Cinema this month, but you can also watch the franchise’s entire back catalogue of movies at a push of a button, over on their dedicated Star Wars pop-up channel this September. That’s not something the cinema’s going to do any time soon. And come August 2017, you’ll see Rogue One on your TV, with Episode VIII arriving on your box set precisely one year later.

More into your superheroes than your sci-fi? DC Comics and the Marvel universes are also well represented, you can catch everything from Captain America Civil War and Suicide Squad, to Batman vs Superman and the latest films from the X-Men and Spiderman.

That’s your rainy days covered for many moons to come, though Sky Cinema seems to have made it harder for film fanatics to leave the house.

When you need help with anything Sky, call their direct dial number.

Is Your Area Set to Have an Internet Upgrade?

As part of their ‘Supercharging Local Communities’ initiative, Virgin Media unveiled the next thirty communities to benefit from their ultrafast fibre broadband by spring 2017. You may be one of the lucky ones…

Over 5,000 votes were cast between 29 February and 30 June via Cable My Street as communities fought to bring Virgin’s ultra-fast broadband to their area. Residents in the top thirty towns and villages will get Virgin’s Vivid 200 broadband by next year, which is two and a half times faster than available speeds from BT, TalkTalk and Sky – perfect for streaming music and movies. Local businesses are set to receive 300Mbps, almost four times faster than Virgin’s main competitors.

Paul Buttery, Chief Operating Officer at Virgin Media, said: “We have been overwhelmed by the response from the local communities and as a result we have decided to speed up our network expansion plans, to connect the next 30 villages by spring 2017. But we won’t stop there – we urge more people to come forward and tell us where we should expand to next.”

By bringing fibre broadband to the parishes and smaller communities up and down the country, Virgin Media show that ultrafast broadband and TV isn’t just for the big cities. So go ahead and take a look to see whether your home is one of the thirty lucky thirty places set to benefit from the scheme…

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  1. Windlesham (Surrey)
  2. Sutton Courtenay (Oxfordshire)
  3. Balsall Common (West Midlands)
  4. Old Basing (Hampshire)
  5. Oakley (Hampshire)
  6. Farnham Common (Buckinghamshire)
  7. Wargrave (Berkshire)
  8. Lickey, Catshill, Marlbrook & Barnt Green (Worcestershire)
  9. Cullingworth (West Yorkshire)
  10. Shrivenham (Oxfordshire)
  11. Baddesley Ensor (Warwickshire)
  12. Harden (West Yorkshire)
  13. Broughton Astley (Leicestershire)
  14. Grimethorpe (South Yorkshire)
  15. Wigginton & Haxby (North Yorkshire)
  16. Copmanthorpe (North Yorkshire)
  17. Grassmoor (Derbyshire)
  18. Pontyclun (Rhondda)
  19. Darfield (South Yorkshire)
  20. Talke & Talke Pits (Staffordshire)
  21. Cudworth (South Yorkshire)
  22. Duffield (Derbyshire)
  23. Shafton (South Yorkshire)
  24. Denham (Buckinghamshire)
  25. Llanharry (Rhondda)
  26. Marcham (Oxfordshire)
  27. North Leigh (Oxfordshire)
  28. Repton (Derbyshire)
  29. North Cornelly (Bridgend)
  30. Watchfield (Oxfordshire)

How to improve your broadband speed

Not living in one of those places? Don’t fret if you forgot to vote for your street as there are things you can do to improve your internet speed without switching internet provider…

1. Move your router away from electrical devices

Everything from computer speakers, fairy lights and TVs to AC power cords interfere with broadband routers.

2. Put it in a different part of your home

Keep your router in a central place, on a table or shelf rather than the floor. Walls and furniture interfere with Wi-Fi radio frequencies.

3. Restart it

The old switch it off and on again trick may improve your Wi-Fi speed, since the router should select a less busy radio frequency.

4. Use an Ethernet cable to connect directly to your router

This will give you the fastest and most reliable internet connection.

Vodafone, EE & BT Customers Receive the Worst Service

EE and BT are the most complained about broadband providers according to telecoms regulator Ofcom, so you’re far from alone if you’ve had a hard time dealing with them.

Between January and March 2016, 34 of every 100,000 EE broadband customers and 31 of every 100,000 BT broadband customers complained about the service they’d received. Compared to just 6 of every 100,000 Sky customers, that’s a stark difference in the quality of service, which may just affect who you chose to go with in the future.

The statistics may not sound too bad, but remember that EE and BT merged in a landmark £12.5bn deal in January this year – making them Britain’s largest landline and broadband provider with over 10 million customers. And that these complaints were made within three months alone.

Everything from poor customer service and unresolved complaints handling, to issues with billing and being overcharged has outraged their customers. And since this specific survey, a BT broadband outage left thousands struggling for internet access in July – from London and the South East, to Manchester, Liverpool, Leicester and Sheffield. In spite of which, millions of BT customers are facing a price hike for the second time this year.

Ofcom publish data like this every three months as an incentive for companies to improve their performance. But they also clamp down on providers who don’t meet their standards, by issuing a total of £1.25 million in fines in the last two years.

An Ofcom spokeswoman said: “We’re committed to providing consumers with valuable information to help them choose a provider that best suits their needs.”

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It’s quite likely that customer satisfaction statistics like these will play a part in who you chose to give your hard earned cash to.

But Ofcom don’t only expose underperforming broadband companies. In fact, BT has also held onto its crown as the most complained about pay-TV provider for the second year running, while Vodafone was far and away the most complained about mobile phone service provider – with 29 complaints made per 100,000 Vodaphone customers. Although that’s an improvement, down from 34 the previous quarter, Vodaphone received more complaints in these three months than their six rivals combined.

The vast majority of grievances stem from their new billing system which has overcharged hordes of customers, it’s well worth checking your bill. Yet Vodaphone is still under investigation for mishandling complaints and for failing to tell customers that they can go to an ombudsman for further help if they’re unsatisfied.

However, the mobile giant seems desperate to rectify its mistakes –  spending £15 million on improvements, from launching a new call centre in Glasgow to hiring a further 600 new customer service advisors and funding an extra 72,000 hours of customer service training for its staff. Hopefully you’ll soon reap the benefits when you call to speak with them.

At the other extreme, Tesco Mobile have received the least complaints for the last eight years – with just one customer taking issue in every 100,000.

If anything, Ofcom’s results offer food for thought when hand-picking your broadband or mobile phone provider. You can read the full report here.

How to Transform Any Garden into an Oasis

Long nights, drawing late into the evening, are one of summer’s many perks. It’d be a crying shame to not take full advantage of them, especially if you have a garden…

Whether it’s a small, but perfectly formed concrete plot or a hedge-lined affair, a neglected garden is a wasted opportunity. You needn’t be Alan Titchmarsh with oodles of time and money to whip it into shape. Pay attention. Here’s how to get yours ready for garden parties with friends, family barbecues, or an evening alone unwinding with vino in the sun.

Give Your Fence a Facelift

A lick of paint will protect your wooden fences from the elements, but don’t reach for any old colour. Dip your brush into pots of vivid purple or blue for a pleasing contrast with the plant life in your garden. Or go for a bright pink or red for a brighter in-your-face statement.
If that sounds too much, you can always go with understated natural tones, from Earthy hues of chocolatey brown to deep greens. Just step away from white, pastel and light shades, which will quickly get grubby.

Grow Up

Those aforementioned fences shouldn’t stay bare, and nor should your walls. Pop trellis up, and convince a mishmash of climbing plants, from ivy to Hydrangeas to grow up them and inject some much needed colour. If your back garden sits in shade for most of the day, opt for ferns, geraniums, or tiarellas.

Light up the Sky

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Strings of solar fairy lights spun around a tree, solar lanterns or pathfinders twinkling on your turf, and ornamental tea-lights on your table will take your garden from day to night in spectacular fashion. You don’t need them on all the time, but they can make occasions that bit more special. Not only are they inexpensive, available in a host of colours and styles, but they’re often eco-friendly.

Take a Pew

From four seat furniture sets, strewn with cushions, to natural-looking oak benches, cozy wicker sofas and rattan chairs, comfortable alfresco dining is easy to master. Patio furniture such as dining-tables and chairs, must feel as good as they look, so try before you buy. Multi-functional ottoman furniture can help you to get more out of your back yard.

Fertilize the Grass

A basic chore that can make the world of difference. To maximise your efforts, if you have the time, do a little weeding, mowing or jet-wash your patio.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Any style, shape or size, as few or as many as you fancy. Hanging mirrors on your fence or garden walls can make your backyard feel bigger than it really is. It’s a neat trick for those of you with smaller spaces and can brighten the place up, by bouncing natural light.

Branch Out

Even small gardens can typically accommodate a young crab tree, maple or cherry tree, so don’t feel restricted by the space you have. Lots of little plants will make the space feel more enclosed.

That said, don’t fight nature. Take a look at what your neighbours are growing, and plant things suited to your soil type and sunlight. Summer is the perfect time for perennials, like yellow Jacob’s rod, Bear’s Breaches and flowering chives.

If you’re reluctant to plant directly into the ground, or even into terracotta pots make novel hanging baskets from whatever you can get your hands on, from tins, to glass lanterns, and colanders. It’s a matter of preference and style.

Next, IKEA, and John Lewis, all have some fabulous garden accessories and furniture to help with your green-fingered endeavors. Don’t be shy to call.

7 Music Festivals You Can Still Make it To 2016

You can’t waste another minute if you’re to end up in a muddy field with your favourite tunes ringing in your ears this summer. It’s time to grab your mates, pick a music festival and finalise your plans, before you miss out altogether!

Unlike Glastonbury not all music festivals sell out in seconds. You can still find some festivals which promise cracking tunes, fun and mud galore, away from Somerset’s hallowed fields. From the country’s biggest gatherings to quirky events that fly under the radar, it’s not too late to grab genuine tickets and dance in the rain.

Latitude Festival 2016, 14th – 17th July 2016

Now this line-up has certainly delivered the goods! With The Maccabees, British Sea Power and The National on the bill, among heavy weight comedians like Al Murray and Josh Widdicome, it’s a mighty surprise that you can still grab weekend passed on See Tickets.

This year, the magical little corner of Suffolk boasts a sit-down restaurant, yoga and whirlpool baths. Or take a shower-beating dip in Henham Park’s lake for the first time in its 11 years.

Secret Garden Party, 21st – 24th July 2016

There are better kept ‘secrets’, but you won’t hear 32,000 music fans complaining! Pick up a weekend ticket for less than £200, descend on the landscaped gardens in Cambridge’s Mill Hill Field, and you’ll soon see why.

It’s a crazy quirky garden party on steroids, next to a river and a lake, with a ‘Gardener’s Guide to The Galaxy’ theme. Enrol at the Astronaut’s Survival School, before losing your mind to Primal Scream, Submotion Orchestra and The Temper Trap, among others.

Wildnerness Festival, 4th – 7th August 2016

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Another event that does precisely what it says on the tin. Wilderness prides itself on combining art with nature. You won’t find another festival on a private nature reserve, with camping spots still available by the spring-fed lake! That’s for sure.

However, you will spot the likes of Robert Plant, and Glass Animals on the Main Stage, live theatre in deep in the oak forest, and debates on topics like ‘Has Boris Broken London?’ among yoga classes. If you’re after a purist music festival with a social conscience, you’ve found it.

Boardmasters 2016, 10th – 14th August 2016

Chase & Status, Catfish & The Bottlemen, and Deadmau5 are bringing the beats to Cornwall this year. But they’re not the main draw for Boardmasters. That’ll be the BMX and skating, or the local and professional surfers battling at sea for a hotly contested spot on the World Surf League tour.

The UK’s biggest surf extravaganza comes complete with intimate gigs on Fistral Beach and photography classes. Children under seven can go for free, but you grown-ups can still pick up day passes.

V Festival 2016, 20th – 21st August 2016

You can hear the fangirls crying for Justin Beiber already! If you’re a pop fan worth your salt, or partial to a little Kaiser Chiefs, Rita Ora, or Years & Years, then you’ll make your way to Chelmsford’s Hylands Park or Weston Park in South Staffordshire.

V Festival runs simultaneously at both places. So there are plenty of tickets left, just waiting to be snapped up by last-minute musos, like you. Grab two of your mates, and go VIP – bell tents are still going for a cool £2,100.

Leeds Festival & Reading Festival, 25th – 28th August 2016

Finished your exams? Time for your final rite of passage. Leeds Festival and Reading Festival mean double trouble for your August bank holiday. With Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fall Out Boy and other hard-core rock acts waiting to burst your ear drums, they’re pulling no punches.

Whatever you do, make your way to the smaller stages. Leeds lads Eagulls and Pulled Apart By Horses are on the up-and-up, so catch them before they’re big. It’s easy. See Tickets have Sunday passes and weekend tickets for the festival up north, and plenty of passes for Reading as well.

Creamfields 2016, 26th – 28th August 2016

Spend your Friday and Saturday nights in clubs, losing it to Calvin Harris, Martin Garrix or Fat Boy Slim? See them in the flesh while you still can! Creamfields is a mecca for fans like you, and it isn’t too late to pick up standard weekend passes, with or without camping.

A ‘vanity van’ is on hand to help you get dolled up, before you get down to DJ’s earth-shattering beats with 70,000 like-minded souls… or go crazy in the infamous fancy dress tent.

Once you’ve booked, run your eyes over this fool-proof festival survival guide, while your tickets wing their way over to you.

Cover photograph of Secret Garden Party copyright Angel Ganev licensed for use under Creative Commons. Wilderness Festival image copyright Gunter Creasey licensed for use under Creative Commons.

Flight Compensation & Rewards Few People Claim

You’re so close to your holiday, you can practically feel the sand between your toes and the bounce of your hotel bed already. Then disaster strikes, your plane is delayed or cancelled altogether and you’ve missed the first day of your holiday. It’s hellish.

You’re not alone – Which? reports that 37 million journeys, to or from the UK, were delayed by 15 minutes or more last year, which is an inconvenience at best. Good luck if you’re leaving from Gatwick Airport this summer, the biggest offender in the country. Or using airlines like Thomas Cook, EasyJet and Ryanair, who can struggle to get their short-haul flights into the sky on schedule.

900,000 people are eligible to claim for compensation, but only 38 per cent bother to claim.

Perhaps travellers don’t fully understand their rights or they hold such little faith in the system and don’t bother exercising them – bailiffs threatened to impound a Thomas Cook Boeing 747 in Salzburg, Austria, over unpaid compensation claims last month. You’re actually entitled to your legal rights as early as check-in.

When you’re entitled to compensation, you can lodge a claim for anything that the airline could have foreseen and prevented on the day, but didn’t. Anything from airline strikes when notice was given, to poor flight turn-around times and overbooking.

The European Court of Justice ruled that delays caused by technical problems are no longer ‘extraordinary circumstances’ either – because airlines ought to inform you of air carrier problems 24 hours before you’re due to take off.

This new addition bolsters your chances of a fair settlement, of up to £437 per head if you were delayed up to three hours. Sometimes compensation can exceed the cost of your fare, depending on the length of the delay and how late you reach your final destination.

Delay on the Day

If your short-haul flight is delayed by two hours, your mid-haul by three hours, or your long-haul by four hours – you’re entitled to a minimum of £190 cash compensation when the airline is at fault. Don’t feel pressured to accept vouchers.

But even during exceptional circumstances, such as extreme weather conditions beyond their control, your airline must provide two free phone calls, free meals and refreshments when your flight is delayed by three hours. If you’re kept overnight, because of technical problems for example, you should receive free hotel accommodation and hotel transfers as well.

When your flight is delayed for 5 hours or more, you don’t have to take the flight, regardless of what’s to blame. By law, you can request a full refund on this flight and your return journey with the same airline. And you’re entitled to a flight back to the airport you originally departed from. Fly anyway, and you can still claim up to £470 if there was a technical fault.

Cancelled flight? Your airline must legally provide a full refund, including the fare value, taxes, surcharges and optional extras, as well as a replacement flight to get your destination.

Back to 2010

You have six years to lodge a claim for flight delays to or from the UK, and five years to or from Scotland. So if your case was put on hold, don’t panic, there’s plenty of time to rectify it. You simply need to demonstrate that the airline company didn’t do all that it could to prevent a delay.

The final amount depends on when the flight was cancelled, the distance of the flight, and the departure or arrival times of the rescheduled flight.

Write to the airline Chief Executive, quoting the EC regulation 261/2004 and request your compensation or full refund. You’ll find some cracking templates to help you online – on Which? and Money Saving Expert. While Virgin Atlantic have forms on their website.

Fobbed off?

If you’re at logger heads with the airline, you can escalate it. The Civil Aviation Authority can take your case after eight weeks of launching your claim. Or else you can contact the small claims court – who will take commission from your reward.

To speak directly with a customer service professional, call EasyJet, Emirates Airways or Thomson Holidays.

Happy holidays and safe travels!

How to bid like a boss on eBay

How many times has an evil shopaholic pipped you to the post on eBay? You thought that vintage t-shirt or car of your dreams was as good as yours and alas, it would have been, if they hadn’t stuck their oar in. Over 25 million sellers list more 800 million items on eBay. The average shopper spends 150 minutes on the eBay app determined to snag a deal – so there’s often tough competition for popular items.

Before you start bidding again follow these top tips to becoming a savvy eBay bidder…

Place your bid in the last few seconds of the auction

Firing a bid in the last ten seconds of the auction is called ‘sniping’, because it leaves no time for legitimate rival bidders (or unscrupulous folk who want to run the price up) to react. Open two windows, refresh one to check the status of the auction, and have your bid ready to place in the other. Then click ‘bid’ in the nick of time. We’re talking seconds, literally, not minutes.

Or use free UK apps, like Goofbid or Auction Stealer to do your bidding for you… so to speak.

Watch your feedback and bidding history

When you bid, the owner can see your history. So if you leave unfairly and consistently negative feedback on other sellers or if you appear to be a problem buyer – beware! They’re perfectly within their rights to block or cancel your bid if they think you’re untrustworthy or fake.

Only bid early in exceptional circumstances…

If you’ve found similar versions of the same thing, and aren’t too bothered which you end up with, so long as it’s as cheap as chips – you might try the ‘scatter-gun’ approach. Bid low on everything and keep your fingers crossed. That’s not very wise. Only place the opening bid if you’ve found a valuable item that’s been miscategorised or under-priced.

Don’t bid too often…

Buyers swarm items which have several bids. After all, popularity means it’s good, right? Maybe the seller’s more trustworthy too? Crowds are bad news on eBay – they push the price up, and slash your chances of getting a bargain. So play it cool and never show that you’re sweating with excitement – wait as long as possible before you cave in and bid.

But do leave automatic bids

Got things to do and places to be when the sale ends? Don’t panic. Tell eBay your highest price, and leave it to bid on your behalf whenever someone tries to steal it. You may well get it cheaper than your upper limit. But it’s not fool-proof. Someone can easily outdo your best effort.

Buy it now

If you could avoid the perils of bidding altogether, you would, wouldn’t you? If you have a price in mind, get in there early and try your luck by emailing the owner with your best effort. Charm them into selling to you direct. Or plump for an item that’s listed as ‘buy it now’, then rest assured that it’s definitely winging its way to you.