For a couple of years now, Value Ireland has been trying to keep track of all the incidences where Irish consumers have been overcharged. In my mind, this overcharging is the true face of “Rip Off Ireland”. Consumers are being charged more than they’re supposed to be for services they’re receiving. You’ll see some excellent discussions on this aspect of “Rip Off Ireland” on the AskAboutMoney forum – for example, here’s a recent thread.
To date, by our count in our article published here, 1.2million Irish consumers have been overcharged by over €100million. And these incidences of overcharging have been carried out by some of our best known companies – Bank Of Ireland, AXA Insurance, Meteor, AIB, VHI, Irish Life, Vodafone, permanent TSB, Eircom, O2, the ESB, (ESAT)BT, and NTL.
Another aspect that has come up on AskAboutMoney recently as regarding solicitors and how or if they are overcharging their own customers. Given some coverage regarding how it was alleged that some solicitors were double charging people who had received compensation from the Residential Institutions Redress Board, we tried to quantify this for our report above, but were unable.
A recent article in the Sunday Business Post, Complaints about Solicitors Rise has shown that since the allegations above, complaints regarding solicitors overcharging numbered 600 in 2005, 30% of the total of all complaints.
Of the total number of complaints made however, only 3% actually resulted in disciplinary action being taken, and as far as we read the article, only 1 of these complaints was as a result of solicitor overcharging (dishonesty). 1 complaint out of 600.
Having been in a situation where a solicitor appeared to be overcharging me for a particular service in my home town in Mayo, in response to a polite enquiry, my learned friend boldly told me that if I didn’t like it, I could “complain to the Law Society, but that won’t get you anywhere, and you’ll still have to pay me upfront anyway and get the money back from them”.
Hardly a model of customer service, and the prospect for people having to complain to a body of the apparent might of the Law Society doesn’t ease the process of making a complaint about your solicitor at all.
If we’re going to make the National Consumer Agency the saviour of the Irish consumer, then this agency should be looking at taking on and resolving complaints for all manner of consumer complaints, including the ridiculous situation where professions regulate themselves without any manner of independence at all.