Dog Grooming

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 17:00 UK time, Monday, 26 March 2012

A third of Welsh families own a dog and a growing number of owners now take their pooches to be pampered at a dog grooming salon. There are three thousand grooming businesses in the UK, but it's an unregulated industry. Salons are not inspected and groomers aren't required to have any qualifications.

Rachel and Mark Bull with his dog Arthur

The Cutz for Mutz salon in Llanelli calls itself 'the most successful dog grooming academy in the UK' and charges students up to £3600 to train there. Last year, owner Mandy Miller won an award for new business of the year.

However, some customers aren't impressed. Clive Davies's dog Fat Boy went to Cutz 4 Mutz last September. He told X-Ray, "My daughter took him there on a student training day and it was free. He ended up being shaven and cut under the leg." Clive says that the salon didn't mention the cut when the dog was collected but when his daughter spotted it she phoned to complain. "The salon said it was because the dog wouldn't stay still and they forgot to mention it," Clive said.

Salon owner Mandy Miller says she has no record of the complaint and says Fat Boy was shaved because his fur was badly matted - something Clive denies.

Caroline Rees's Yorkshire Terrier Fizzy also visited Cutz 4 Mutz. Caroline explained, "Mandy Miller the owner said we've had a bit of an accident, we've nicked Fizzy's leg". After taking Fizzy home, Caroline says she noticed that the dog was uncomfortable. "She kept licking her leg," she explained. "And underneath it was like a hole had been gouged out of her leg. I took her down to the vet and she needed three stitches in her leg. I went back to the salon and asked if she was going to pay the vet's bill but she said no."

Mandy Miller claims Fizzy's coat was in a terrible state when she arrived at Cutz 4 Mutz and insists the dog wasn't cut but had a burst abscess. Caroline disputes this and there's no mention of an abscess on the vets record.

So how common are accidents in the dog grooming industry? Karen Wright runs a salon in Cardiff and explained, "Dogs move, they fidget, we use big sharp scissors, we use clippers, all these things have a potential to harm in theory."

As Cutz 4 Mutz is a training academy, some of the grooming is carried out by students. Karen Wright believes it is especially important for trainees to be well-supervised. "It's everything really," she said. "There is no such thing as anything being the trainees' fault, ultimately until they are qualified and you deem they are ready, the salon owner is always responsible for them."

In the last year, sixty one students have paid more than £150,000 to train at the Cutz 4 Mutz academy in Llanelli, some funded by the Welsh government. Trainees are told that the courses lead to a "recognised qualification". However, Lantra Awards, which accredits the courses, insist that's not true and they've told the salon to remove the claim from their website.

Mandy Miller also insists trainees are "constantly supervised" - but not all her customers are convinced. Mark Bull took his dog Arthur, a Bichon Frise, to the salon in January this year on a student training day. At first he thought everything was fine. "He had nice green bows in his fur and looked pretty, we were happy", he explained. But the following morning Mark had a shock.

"Arthur was wincing, whimpering and shaking his head", he told X-Ray. "I was horrified when I saw two bands with green bows were tied around his ears, instead of in the fur. I tried to cut the bows off but he was going for me, he was in pain, howling. I took him back to the salon and the manageress cut the bows out and said he'd be all right."

However, within a couple of days Arthur's ears swelled up and began to turn black. The vet then had to amputate three quarters of one ear. Mark says he complained to Cutz 4 Mutz and says the salon owner Mandy Miller asked him to keep quiet about the incident, which he wasn't prepared to do. He posted comments on Facebook and was then shocked by what happened next.

"The police have visited twice, saying I was threatening", said Mark. "I've had solicitor's letters too. I feel really angry and aggrieved that I put trust in having my dog groomed and he's had his ear amputated, it should never have happened."

Cutz 4 Mutz told us that they do not accept blame for Arthur's injury and say he should have been taken to the vets sooner. They insist that the student who groomed Arthur didn't tie bows around his ears and that someone else must have done it after the dog left the salon - something Arthur's owner Mark denies.

Salon owner Mandy Miller also points out that she has hundreds of happy customers and makes every effort to follow health and safety standards. She also put X-Ray in touch with former students who said they were well-supervised during their training courses.

Meanwhile Lantra, the awarding body which approves the training courses at Cutz 4 Mutz, has temporarily suspended its links with Cutz for Mutz. They plan to carry out their own investigation and will visit the salon in April.

N.B. Cutz 4 Mutz in Llanelli is not connected with any other salon of the same name.

Too Good To Be True?

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 16:40 UK time, Monday, 26 March 2012

Karen Young from Cardiff 

When Karen Young from Cardiff saw an offer for free face cream when browsing on the internet she thought it was too good to miss, especially as she only needed to pay the postage. She said: “This advert popped up on the right hand side so I just clicked on it. It was for Revitaderm miracle wonder cream and it was a trial pack for £2.95 so I ordered it.”

All she needed to do was fill in a few details - including her credit card number. She thought it was low risk and that not receiving products would be the worst case scenario. But it wasn't just one payment. In less than two months a company called Revitaderm took eight payments from Karen’s card totalling £417. The company, also known as Perfect Radiance, has been in the headlines recently with the Guardian claiming they had around 1,000 complaints about them. The Advertising Standards Authority have upheld complaints about their marketing techniques.

But after dozens of phone calls Karen did manage to get her money back.

In Newport pensioner Georgina Gibbons - who signed with a different companies Pure Life and HCGUltraLean- hasn't been so lucky. Georgina said: “I was on Facebook and I sawn this advert stating that you could lose weight on a trial, £5.95 I thought right it's worth a try. I looked further and it had no obligations you know so I thought I'll try it, it's worth a try.”

Like Karen, Georgina handover over her bank details and while she received one bottle of capsules and one bottle of drops, the company emptied her bank account. She said: “They took £143.76 out and that was everything that we had, as we're on a pension credit and there was only like £16 left in the bank. That was supposed to last us from Saturday to Saturday, it made me really, really ill. Taking money like that they don't care who you are do they?”

These trials turn out to be a subscription service and when you give them your bank details you're  actually signing up to something that's called continuous payment authority. It's a common, and legitimate, form of regular payments set up between you and a business. But the power all lies with the company so it's like handing over your purse to a complete stranger and trusting them with the contents. These are often confused with direct debits, but do not offer the same guarantee if the amount or date of the payment changes.

The power all lies with the company, in most cases, regular payments can be cancelled by telling the company taking the payments. However, you do have the right to cancel them directly with your bank or card issuer by telling it that you have stopped permission for the payments. Your bank or card issuer must then stop them – it has no right to insist that you agree this first with the company taking the payments.

And it’s not just the issue of the continuous payment authority, both Karen and Georgina gave their details over to the companies because the adverts appeared on websites they trusted – they didn’t realise the way internet advertising works. Internet security expert Richard Cox explains: “Well on Facebook the adverts are quite frequently targeted as they are on other social media, by what you’re actually viewed in the past and what you've actually indicated that you liked. It forms a profile of you so that advert could be said to be targeted at you. This is the same with some search engines like Google.”

And when you click on these adverts you can often be taken to a specific section that the company wants you to see. Richard said: “ You're taken to the advertisers website but not necessarily to the same page on that website that you would be taken to if you just typed the site' name into your computer. This is a problem, a big problem, because what you see won't necessarily be the same as what an investigator would see if they go back to that site after you think you're been scammed."

According to Richard the use of words like “free trials” all make up an aggressive style of marketing.
He said: “They are setting up an environment where there is a mistake they want you to make and most people will make it.”

And when it comes to tracking down these companies, it's not easy. We've been investigating the website Georgina used.  The website only lists a PO Box in Scotland. But with a bit of digging we've found that banking is based in Malta, the website owner is in Germany, and if the customer service line in the Philippines is to be believed the actual company is based in Utah, America.

For Georgina it's been a costly lesson. The company are refusing to answer her emails and her bank has told her there is no chance of getting the money back via chargeback. We’ve tried to contact all the companies involved but they have not responded to our letters and emails, and it seems Karen and Georgina are not alone in falling for these offers. These types of trials are a multi-billion dollar industry.
Just last week the authorities in America ordered one man to repay six hundred and fifty MILLION dollars to customers who'd lost out in cases like these.

Staying Safe Online
How can you avoid the costs that might be hiding in free trials?
*Research the company online. Before you sign up/purchase investigate the company, see what others are saying about these trials or their service.
*Don’t necessarily believe what is on the advert – Images, quotes, customer reviews and even locations might not be true.
*Find the terms and conditions for the offer. That includes offers online, on TV, in the newspaper, or on the radio. They might be hidden on the page and if you can't find them or can't understand exactly what you're agreeing to, don't sign up.
*Look for who's behind the offer. Just because you're buying something online from one company doesn't mean the offer or pop-up isn't from someone else.
*Watch out for pre-checked boxes. If you sign up for a free trial online, look for already-checked tick boxes. That box might give the company the green light to continue the offer past the free trial or sign you up for more products — only this time you have to pay.      
*Mark your calendar. Your free trial probably has a time limit. Once it passes without you telling the company to cancel your "order," you may be on the hook for more products.
*Look for info on how you can cancel future shipments or services. If you don't want them, do you have to pay? Do you have a limited time to respond?
*Look for address and phone numbers – Where would you go if something went wrong?
*Read your credit and debit card statements. That way you'll know right away if you're being charged for something you didn't order.
*Think before entering your credit/debit card – If someone is offering something for “free” or a “trial” and you need to enter you details for postage and packaging think twice. They might be signing you up to something more long-term.
*Cancel with your bank – You have the right to cancel a recurring payment with your bank. They have no right to insist you cancel with the company first.

More information from the FSA.

On The Case

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 16:30 UK time, Monday, 26 March 2012

Lucy in the leaky bathroom


Barclay Samson thought buying a new-build house in Newport would mean low maintenance, until waste water started leaking from his toilet. Barclay and his wife Claire bought their three bedroom townhouse from Bellway Homes in 2006 . But they say that, they rarely used the bathroom on the middle floor until recently.When they did, they say  the toilet started to leak.

“We had sewage water all over the bathroom floor so a bit of a panic,” said Barclay.“Towels on the floor trying mop that water up and trying to contend with the smell as well.”

Water also got into the space between the kitchen ceiling and the floor. An engineer took a look at the bathroom and found a problem with the pipework.

Barclay said: “Basically the leak itself came out the back of the waste pipe, literally just behind the toilet. The plumber came to repair that and that's when it became pretty obvious that there's a problem with the slope of the wastepipe itself. It's got a pretty obvious slope up hill. “Unless I was taught wrong at school on the laws of physics, that's clearly the wrong direction for water to flow.”

Barclay got in touch with Bellway Homes, who disputed they were at fault. “Their view was a bit of a surprise really because they felt that there was no come back on them,” he said. “Main reason being that they thought it couldn't be a major issue as it had taken so long to show itself, but as we talked about that bathroom has only really been started to be used over the last few months or so.”

Barclay felt Bellway Homes should repair the pipework. “It's pretty clear that there is an issue caused by their original work when the property was built.”

Lucy got on the case for Barclay and found that the Supply of Goods & Services Act covers work done by tradespeople. It means that you should expect that a service is carried out with reasonable care and skill. In Barclay’s case, Bellway Homes pointed out that the house is six years old and as there hasn't been a leak in the bathroom until February of this year, they disputed any fault. They believe the leak is down to general wear and tear.

However, as a gesture of goodwill, they agreed to repair the bathroom free-of-charge.

If you have a story you'd like X-Ray to investigate, we'd love to hear from you.

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