COMPANIES are ripping students off to the tune of £335 million a year because they are either too afraid to complain or do not know their rights, Ombudsman Services has warned.
The mediator’s research found that almost eight in ten (78 per cent) students have encountered a problem with a company and lost money as a result, with energy, property and telecoms firms among the most likely culprits.
Of all students living away from home, around one in five (19 per cent) has been overcharged for their gas or electricity bills, one in seven has paid bills from previous tenants and one in six has paid for damage they or their housemates did not cause.
A further one in ten forgot to reclaim their tenancy deposit and one in 16 paid twice for the same service.
Such actions leave almost 1.4 million students around £240 worse off each year, the research claimed.
Yet despite being entitled to a refund, only one in four students actually bothered to complain. Many said they remained silent for fear of intimidation (28 per cent), while others were too embarrassed (26 per cent) or simply could not be bothered (21 per cent).
Chief Ombudsman Lewis Shand Smith called on more students to challenge unfair charges from companies.
“We want to ensure that all students are able to stand up for their rights and speak out when things go wrong – whether that is being asked to pay for a bill from a previous tenant or paying for damage they did not do,” he said.