Ombudsman Guide Welcomed by University of Worcester

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A new guide to help students avoid being overcharged has been welcomed by the University of Worcester today.

The Ombudsman Services guide provides tips for students on such things as taking a meter reading, shopping around to get the best utility deals, querying high bills and how to report faults, keep records of conversations and complain.

It comes after research founding students were left an average of £240 a year out of pocket because they were too afraid to complain or didn’t know their rights.

Ross Renton, Pro Vice Chancellor Students at the University of Worcester, said: “The University of Worcester welcomes the new Ombudsman Services guide, highlighting key consumer rights for students. We have long been committed to ensuring our students are treated fairly and that they know how to access the right support to address any problems.

“We provide a range of consumer advice to students on campus, at our one-stop-shop, Firstpoint, and within our Students’ Union. We also work hard to ensure students receive fair and reasonable tenancy terms, on and off campus, compared to many other UK universities.”

Worcester students living in halls of residence and university managed accommodation only pay for a standard term of 44 weeks, rather than a full year. In addition, the University works closely with private landlords and Worcester City Council to ensure all student shared houses are accredited and meet with current legislation and offers advice to students on tenancy agreements and questions to ask landlords with regard to safety and fire precautions.

Mr Renton continued: “We are also pleased to announce that, from next year, students and members of the public will be able to access free consumer advice from our new Legal Advice Centre, established as part of our School of Law. This new service will enable our law students to gain invaluable employability skills and highlights our commitment to the wider Worcester community.”

The research by the Ombudsman Services found that, of the 1,500 students questioned, more than three-quarters had lost money through unfair charges by landlords or utility companies.

Energy, property and telecoms are the most likely culprits, suggests the research, with students reporting being overcharged for gas and electricity, made to pay bills from previous tenants or for damage they or their housemates did not cause.

Only a quarter of students who encountered a problem actually complained, according to the survey. Some said they could not be bothered, while others were afraid of intimidation or embarrassed.

Wesley Hudson, President of Worcester Students’ Union, said: “It’s imperative that students know their consumer rights not just at university but in the outside world. The Students’ Union and the University work together on a number of different initiatives to ensure that students do not get ripped off by anyone, including landlords, energy and bill companies.

“The Students’ Union offers free, confidential and impartial advice should you need it. Our two student advisors can also check over any contracts before you sign them so please make use of that too.”