On his PriceWatch article a couple of weeks ago, Conor Pope wrote about online consumer advocacy and activity. The article can be read on his blog here.
My take on the whole thing was that the internet is not yet an effective way to force Irish businesses treat their consumers better. Businesses are bigger and more powerful and able to overcome any negative comment on the internet. As I mentioned in my blog post referred to above, think of all the companies who have received so much bad press for overcharging customers over the years – they’re all still going strong.
On the other hand, check out this graveyard of Irish consumer websites:
2006 – Giveoutabout.com was launched to be an interesting new website that allows people to vent their spleen on various topics. There was a significant amount of coverage launching the site in the early days, but nothing now. The site is now just a placeholder for whomever owns the domain name.
2004 – shoppingbill.com – Was a website which aimed to save you time and money when you do your supermarket shopping. It was said to be a professionally run, independent and free internet service. Advertising and sponsorship covered all running costs. ShoppingBill was a fairplay environment where everybody – shoppers, retailers and manufacturers – can come together and have their say . The site is currently for sale for approximately €25,000 and hasn’t been updated since 2006.
2003 – ripoffireland.org – Site was set as a “Guide to Rip Off Ireland”, the site had a very active forum for some time. The site also had some very useful sections with links to cheap websites but inside and outside of Ireland. The site is no longer operational – it has been saying that it is being redeveloped for some time now. The forum is no longer available either.
2005 – ripoffrepublic.com – This site was set up (presumably by whomever was associated with the tv show of the same name) as a “call to arms against the exorbitant prices that we are subjected to at all levels within the Celtic Tiger, as a place to ‘out’ the most blatant rip-offs, as a point of contact for same minded citizens determined to fight back against the blatant profiteering we tolerate in the private and public sectors, as an opportunity to remind the government that we are the people!” The last publication on the site was September 2005 calling on readers to send the famous nappies to Minister Martin.
2004 – ripoff-ireland.net – This was a website set up with the aim of creating a club of Irish consumers which would band together to buy things in bulk and therefore get items cheaper. The site described itself as “irisrh motor insurance a rip off. stand up and have a say”. The group also planned on using the power of numbers to force insurers provide cheaper car insurance.
2004 – irishshopper.com – This website was set up as a forum where Irish shoppers could use “the tools of their modern age to their advantage”. They could “Learn how to get value. Learn where to get good prices. Learn where to avoid being ripped-off and where to avoid bad service” According to the blurb “For long enough the humble shopper in Ireland has paid over their hard earned money without thinking about the price they were paying”. The website is now held by a Carribean holding company, and the forum hasn’t been updated since 2006, though it’s still accessible here.
2005 – ripoffcard.com – This site was set up to sell a card to let business know that you weren’t happy with their service. According to the site “”Next time you buy a product or service and feel you were ripped off, simply hand the Rip Off Card to whoever you are dealing with and ask them to pass it along to the owner or manager.” The site claimed that it was a “fuss free way of registering your complaint about rip off prices”.
2004 – soapbox.ie – This website was set up as a “discussion forum dedicated to the Irish consumer”. It would help Irish consumers who “need to be alert and questioning about the price and quality of goods and services they use”. The website is no longer live, and the website is available to register again now.
2005 – RipOffIreland Blog – A blog with one post – “Are you fed up being ripped off ? ESB Prices going up again. West Link Toll Road Rip Off. TV Licence going up. The price of a bag of chips ?” and 3 spam responses and that’s it. Nothing since.
2004 – bankwatch.ie – As per the website, “The idea of this site is to provide a forum where members of the Public in Ireland can have their say in their dealings with Irish Financial Institutions”. The site had a forum which allowed consumer make their comments about Irish banks. It attempted to be as open and transparant as possible and had no vested interest in any financial institution in Ireland. The site went for maybe 2 years, but with very few comments and it doesn’t appear to have been updated for some time now.