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Seven steps - How to solve an everyday legal problem

Download our problem-solving guide as an easy-to-print leaflet Seven steps to solving a problem (1.3 MB)

There are laws to protect us from being treated unfairly, but it still happens. When it does we have to stand up for ourselves – but it isn't always easy. It's often hard to know who is in the right, where to start, or what to do. That is, until you know how.

This guide:

  • is for you if you have an everyday legal problem; like a problem with your boss, benefits or landlord; or an argument about a bill or something you’ve bought;
  • will guide you through the seven steps you can take to solve your problem; and
  • will lift the lid on the tricks of the trade which advisers (problem solving experts) use to solve problems as quickly and effectively as possible.

Below you can read what happened to Sean when he had a problem with his gas bill, or you can get straight down to business and start solving your problem by going to step 1.

Sean's problem

Sean's gas bill
"I got a massive gas bill just before Christmas. It's never that high, so I checked the meter reading myself. It was completely different to what it said on the bill. I called customer services and tried to explain, but the woman I spoke to didn't believe me. To be honest I lost my rag a bit. I ended up shouting at her that it was their mistake, and they should sort it out.

A few weeks later, I came home to find a red bill from them for the same amount. When I phoned up to complain, they said I should have contacted them if I had a problem with my bill! It was so infuriating. I tried to explain that I had, but the woman said there was no record of it. I had to go through the whole thing again. She said she'd put a note on the system so someone would come round and ‘verify’ what I said about the meter.

Over the next few weeks, I got more letters talking about ‘pre-payment meters’ and even telling me they'd get a warrant to come and cut me off. I assumed that somebody was on their way round which would sort it all out. I wasn't going to waste any more of my time phoning them up!

I didn't hear anything more for a few weeks, and to be honest, I forgot about it. That is, until I got home one day to find my gas had been cut off!"

What went wrong for Sean?

In this guide we will outline the seven steps you can take to solve your everyday legal problem:

At the top we will explain what to do.

At the bottom we will give an example of how somebody else handled the situation. If you are in a rush you can just read what to do at the top.

We've all been in situations we could have handled better. This wasn’t Sean’s fault but in an ideal world Sean could have:

  • Tried not to lose his temper
  • Made a note of who he spoke to and when, and what they’d agreed
  • Followed up the other letters, even though he’d already explained the situation
  • When he wasn't getting anywhere, he should have got some advice.

If he had, it would probably have been a very different story. (See Sean sorts it to find out how Sean sorted it the ‘seven steps’ way.)

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January 2014

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