Archive | Watch Out

Unregulated Dublin Bus gets away with not refunding overcharged customers

dublin_bus_logo_imageDid you know that if you make a complaint to Dublin Bus about any part of their service that your final line of escalation is to their Operations Manager? As an unregulated entity, they literally are a law unto themselves.

That is why they get away with overcharging some of their customers who use Leap Card, but ARE NOT obliged to repay them the amount overcharged unless the customer themselves discover the overcharge themselves – and then, only if the customer calls into the Dublin Bus offices on O’Connell Street.

It’s not likely that many consumers who are using the Leap Card will be aware even of this overcharging – I haven’t seen any media coverage. There is this notification on the Dublin Bus website, and NOTHING on the Leap Card website.

So, as a Dublin Bus user using a Leap Card – you may have been overcharged, but we’re not telling you, and if you do happen to find out, and you discover that you were, you’ll have to come in and see us on O’Connell Street.

I’m sometimes dubious about the benefits of regulation as implemented here in Ireland, but can you imagine the uproar if a bank, or a mobile phone company, or an energy company, overcharged their customers and tried to get away with the same thing?

leap_card_logo_imageIt’s not like it’s all that hard for Dublin Bus to find out who they’ve overcharged in order to automatically refund them. This is what I’ve asked Dublin Bus:

I would like to follow up on the charging revealed recently on your website – . Could you please review this and pass on to whomever is best placed to follow up and respond?

I would like to inquire whether it would be possible for you to automatically refund your customers using Leap Cards rather than leaving it up to them to check through their own accounts and requesting a refund from you by having to call into your office on O’Connell Street.

While I appreciate that it’s the responsibility of the customer to check their own accounts and bills, that I can see you have not publicised this overcharging issue in any way other than on your website, so it’s likely that many Leap Card users won’t have seen the notification of the overcharging.

I understand that the overcharging was resolved through a software update. May I suggest that it’s a similarly easy matter to use some software queries within your computer applications to identify which fares were overcharged to customers, and then refund them automatically?

If I log on to my account on the Leap Card website, I can view all of the transactional information that you have provided that website for my Dublin Bus usage on my card. So, I can see that on one morning I was charged €1.70 for one journey (instead of the €1.90 fare) and on the way home that evening I was charged the €1.25 fare (rather than the €1.65 normal fare).

It is convenient that the prices charged as so easily identifiable as being either a normal rate charged (€1.90/€1.65) or a Leap Card rate charged (€1.70/€1.25). As you request of your customers, they will see this information when they review their transactions on the Leap Card website.

However, I also presume therefore, that since all this data is available in your system to provide to the Leap Card website (and therefore without any data protection considerations), it wouldn’t take too much effort on the part of Dublin Bus to analyse this information separately to identify which customers have been charged €1.90, or €1.65 instead of €1.70 or €1.25.

Surely it would be a very easy effort on your part to provide an improved customer service experience by compiling this information on their behalf, and automatically repaying the overcharging amount rather than keeping their money until they come looking for it.

In any regulated business where a similar matter of overcharging is discovered, as we’ve seen in telecoms, energy providers or financial providers, this suggested automated refunding would be the minimum expected.

Could you please investigate the possibility of making this automated refund to your customers, and let me know the results of this investigation?

Let’s see what they say.

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Something to watch out for – if you are ever applying for a mortgage

Over the weekend just passed, during an evening out with some old friends, we were sharing some experiences of day to day financial matters in Ireland at the moment.
Based on the experience of three of us there, it seems that it’s pretty safe to say that the Irish banks are looking for any reason whatsoever to not provide mortgages for any type of home purchase – no matter how qualified the applicants might be.

As far as I’ve been told, the main Irish banks are still, even now, not carrying out the required checks to determine whether or not an applicant is qualified.

Previously, to the detriment of the whole country, banks pretty much said yes to anyone who came to them looking for money – without doing any proper checking.

And today, I’m told, they’re not doing any checking on applications either – though this time they’re saying no to pretty much any applicant – still to the detriment of the country.

I have been told of one mortgage applicant who has thousands of euros in savings available for a deposit to purchase a house that they won’t be getting a mortgage because they have “no savings history”.

It seems, at least according to one Irish banking “pillar” that even though having significant savings isn’t proof enough of a savings history – evidence is required of those savings being accumulated.

So, if you’ve been diligently saving for 10 years with a particular financial institution, built yourself up a nice nest egg, and then decide to transfer that balance to another institution to avail of a better interest rate, this banking pillar won’t accept proof of lodgement and a current statement from that new institution as proof of a history of savings.

It’s a ridiculous no-win situation when dealing with banks in Ireland at the moment. It’s almost as ridiculous as the the banks universal desire to move clients onto paperless banking, but then not accepting online banking printouts and statements as documentary evidence when processing any credit applications.

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Internet cookies on your computer will cost you money

This tweet recently, from @sampsonian, was very popular with more than 100 retweets. It’s from someone highlighting how the Ryanair website recognises when you’re back visiting them more than once, and tries to charge you more the second time around.

Ryanair exhibit A. Looked up fare yesterday, total £123.00. Returned today and fare is £237.oo. Flushed cookies. Fare is back to £123.00.

It’s a sneaky trick, but it’s nothing new. Your can read an article here on how cookies can cost you money that I wrote back in 2009.

If you’re not sure on how to clear the cookies from your computer if you think you’re losing out because of this, just search Google for the browser that you’re using with the words “clear my cookies” to find instructions. Some browsers will allow you set this automatically as well so that the cookies are cleared each time you close down your browser – but that’s maybe a bit extreme.

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Irish bank pulls fast one on client to try to lodge money to their current account

Do you have both a current account and a savings account (a demand or term deposit savings account) with one of the main Irish banks? If you do, read on. 

A ValueIreland reader write in earlier this week to share their experience of just how desperate the Irish banks (or one of them at least) are to get money locked away on long term deposit.

Our reader went into a branch recently to lodge a decent sized cheque to their current account in order to pay some bills.

They went in with their cash card and presented the cheque to be lodged as one would normally do. The reader thought it was strange that the receipt provided was manually made out rather than printed, but confirmed with the teller that the money was available immediately (both accounts were with the same bank).

Given assurances from the teller that the money was immediately available, further cheques were written and posted out.

And all of the cheques bounced.

When checked with AIB, the reader found that instead of lodging the money into their current account, the money was actually lodged into a term deposit account, locking the money away for months.

As the reader says:

I had a feeling something was up when they gave me a written receipt rather than a printed one, but  suppose I shouldn’t have been so trusting when they told me the money was definitely available in my current account immediately.

I had no inkling that they would even be able to lodge the money to another account since I provided them with my cash card linked to my current account.

It just shows the efforts they’d have gone to to use that information to track down if I had any other accounts and then lodge the money to an almost dormant term deposit account rather than to my current account.

When confronted, a different teller in the bank concerned denied any possibility of any wrong doing – insisting instead that the VI reader must have asked to lodge the money to the term deposit account rather than their current account.
However, in a damning indication that the bank knew their own wrong doing, they immediately took the money out of the term deposit account and put it back into the current account, refunded the bounced cheque fees, and tried to close off the matter.

 

For anyone familiar with term deposits nowadays, it’s nigh on impossible to get money out before the term ends, so in doing this immediately without any fuss, to me it just shows that the bank knew well they’d been caught out pulling a fast one on one of their clients.

Moral of the story – as usual, never trust your bank, particularly an Irish one. And secondly, when lodging money in the bank, make sure you check your receipt – printed or written – and make sure the money has ended up resting in the account that you expect.

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Swiss Air – as bad as Ryanair in getting you to your destination?

And everyone thinks that Ryanair is bad when it comes to flying you to different cities in Europe. The “Frankfurt” airport is miles from the centre of Frankfurt as an example with numerous other examples across Europe.

This example from the Swiss Air website over the weekend show you something to be very watchful for. If you search Google for flights from Dublin to Basel, Swiss Air are top of the list with an advert claiming flights from €171.

Only problem is, as you can see from the image below, you’re actually flying to Zurich with a train connection being sold as part of the package to get you the rest of the way to Basel.

Flying from Dublin to Basel (sort of)

At least Ryanair are somewhat up front with where they fly you to – this from Swiss Air completely takes the biscuit though.

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Whatever happened to “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is”?

I’m torn about how to comment on this story from the Irish Times a few weeks ago, “Buyer, and Gmailer, Beware”. It did take guts for the author to put their name to an article clearly explaining how they’d been duped out of €2,500 in an online transaction.

But on the other hand, the story has a distinctly whining tone to it in the way they complain how no one helped him after he’d been duped.

To be fair, it’s an impressive listing of agencies they went to looking for some comeback for being taken for €2,500.

And to a certain extent, this is something that I’ve been a constant critic of in our Irish regulatory environment at the moment – we have so many regulators and enforcers for almost anything – except until you’re actually in a scenario where you need some help. It’s then that you find that very few of them can help when you expect them to.

However, for all of the above, I can only ever come back to a single statement in the story.

And instead of the €5,000 or so I had expected to pay, the asking price was less than €2,500. How could I not be tempted?

Whatever else comes before or after, the old adage still applies now matter the situation – “if an offer seems too good to be true, it most probably is”.

Simples!

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Beware bogus calls coming from 042 939 4599 – it’s NOT legit

A ValueIreland.com reader alerted me to some dodgy goings ons regarding the phone number 042 939 4599. They had received a missed call on their mobile from the number, and not knowing anyone in the Dundalk / Monaghan area, they googled the number.

Based on numerous testimonies on various different websites, any calls coming from this number are a scam.

According to this website, the callers are saying their from the ESB, Eircom and sometimes from AIB. More worryingly, when calling for AIB they’re asking for personal banking information.

An easy way to avoid these kinds of calls in future is to actually store this number in your phone now, and given it the name “scam” or “do not answer”. That should prevent you from mistakenly answering any calls from that number in future.

I’ve written before also about how to handle calls that you receive from your bank, or any company that you do actually deal with. Because you can never be too careful these days, if you ever do receive a call from one of your service providers (particularly an unexpected one), ask them for their name, what the call is in connection with, and if they wouldn’t mind if you called them back.

Since most companies now will show on your phone as a private, or blocked, number you can’t always be sure that the call you’re receiving is from who they say they are.

Therefore, it’s always better to call them back on a number that you know is theirs, and ask to speak to the person who originally called you.

Finally, never give any details to someone who calls you saying they’re from your bank or mobile company or any other service provider.

Normally, the call might go something like this:

Them: Hi, this is Derek from XYZ company. I’m calling you today about some irregularities on your account.
You: Okay, what can I do for you.
Them: First, I need to confirm that I’m speaking to the right person. Can you please give me your name, date of birth, and mothers maiden name.

I can tell you from experience that no company representative will accept the “well, you called me, so you must know who I am – my details are right there beside the phone number you just used” response.

As I said above, in these situations, better to take the persons name, any reference number they may have, and call them back on a number you know to be linked to the company concerned.

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The National Consumer Agency don’t do rogue trader prosecutions…

That might sound like the start of a Carlsberg themed advert, but there is no punch line. The National Consumer Agency don’t. If I’m to read things correctly from a recent court case, only the Gardai do, properly at least.

I was particularly interested to read this story recently in the Irish Independent, Car dealer is jailed for ‘clocking’ UK imports.

Regular readers will be familiar with how the National Consumer Agency deals with those who sell clocked cars – they “work” with them, slap them on the wrists, and politely asks them not to do it again.

This story then, where someone is jailed looked like it was the first time, in any way, that the National Consumer Agency was getting tough on behalf of hard pressed consumers.

But I think, unfortunately, we don’t have the NCA to thank for this prosecution.

At least, after reading the story and checking the news section of the NCA website, it looks like our consumer protection agency had nothing to do with this prosecution, and that it was all down to the Gardai.

This version of the story seems to support my theory also – no mention of the NCA.

Interestingly, according to that article, the accused brought out this peach of a defense:

caveat emptor [let the buyer beware]

It looks like, then, that our statutory consumer protection organisation is seriously shown up by the Gardai and the courts on how to treat businesses that take advantage of Irish consumers. Obviously, if the NCA can claim a part in this action, I’m open to correction.

So why then do we need them?

If all they’re doing now is publishing “top tips” on the internet any more (a role I’m happy to take from them for free – they are using this site for inspiration already anyway) rather than prosecuting rogue traders (which the Gardai are having much more success at) then maybe they can be disbanded straight away for being a pointless, useless waste of money.

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Businesses with websites misleading visitors about costs of calling

Over the past couple of days, I’ve noticed two websites where the businesses behind them are misleading their customers, or potential customers, about the costs of calling to make inquiries.

Misleading 0818 Numbers | TreesOnWheels.ie

The first I noticed is the TreesOnWheels.ie website. This business publishes an 0818 number on their website, but describes it as a “lo-call” number.

When you call an 0818 number from a landline, it can cost 8-9c per minute, while a “lo-call” number should only cost about 4-5c.

If you’re calling from a mobile, that same call can cost you up to 35c per minute depending on which mobile company you’re with.

Worst of all, with an 0818 number, you’re actually contributing directly to the pockets of the company themselves – an 0818 number allows the company to share part of the revenue of the call with the telecoms company.

Misleading 1890 Numbers | Rentokill

Rentokill have taken a different approach on their site. They’re providing two different 1890 numbers for visitors to their website – one business and one consumer. Their website invites visitors to call “for free” on either number.

As above, calling a 1890 number from a landline will cost you 4-5c per minute. But calling from a mobile phone will cost you up to 35c per minute depending on your mobile provider.

Yesterday evening, I e-mailed Rentokill to let them know the issue with their Contact Page, and suggested they either provide alternative numbers, or confirm the costs to people calling the numbers provided.

With regards to whomever is behind TreesOnWheels.ie, I can only surmise that those behind the website are intent on misleading anyone visiting their website and deciding to call.

Even after being informed of the issue with describing an 0818 number as “lo-call” over the weekend, they have kept the 0818 number there, and have kept the “lo-call” description also.

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