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Can’t get broadband in your area?
Don’t have it on your computer?
Or maybe you don’t have a computer to begin with. Don’t worry . . . with your mobile you can check your email, get stock quotes, read the news, or just kill some time flirting on Facebook.
Or at least that’s how mobile providers want you to think. The financial reality, however, can be a sobering, even nasty, experience. For not only is it expensive to surf the Net in this way, but there are a couple of financial booby-traps lying in wait for the less than vigilant.
ALL TALK, NO COST
THE immensely popular Skype allows you to make free phonecalls from your computer to just about anywhere in the world. All you need to do is download the software (at skype. com), which takes just a few seconds. Then pop along to your nearest electronic/computer store and buy a headset, which costs as little as 20.
Once you and the person you’re calling plug the headsets into your respective computers, you’re ready to talk.
Phone users are being ripped off when they make calls to government departments and large companies via 1850, 1890 and 0818 numbers. While mobile users who pay by bill have a block of “free” minutes credited to their phone each month, these minutes include standard land line and mobile numbers, but usually not other numbers.
WHEN you go north of the border, prices go south. This simple fact now has shoppers from the Republic regularly travelling in droves to towns such as Newry to do their shopping.
The difference in terms of hard cash is more glaring now than it has ever been, with stg£1 now worth around €1.26, compared with €1.50 or more just a few months ago. That dramatic drop in sterling’s value has led to a huge increase in purchasing power for buyers from the Republic. No additional duty or tax is payable on goods bought in shops and supermarkets in Northern Ireland once the duty and tax have already been paid there.
Tesco is fighting hard with its new Cash Savers campaign – a throwback to the yellow pack days of the 1980s – but it will find it hard to close the gap on German discounter LidlLast summer, a survey by Ireland’s new National Consumer Agency found only a €2 difference in the cost of 58 popular items bought in supermarkets. The survey was astonishingly blind to a new cultural phenomenon. It did not include German discount retailers Aldi and Lidl, two competing giants that have offered impressively good value to Irish shoppers since opening their first stores here in the 1990s.
THREE LEADING members of the Consumers’ Association of Ireland have resigned in a row over policy issues and internal operations.
The three, Diarmuid MacShane, Mel Gannon and Enid O’Dowd, were all members of the association’s council and had raised their concerns about the running of the organisation at recent meetings.
They had also called for fees payable to association representatives on other bodies to be passed to the organisation itself rather than the individuals themselves. However, they were outvoted by other council members.
THE YOUR Country, Your Call competition has a week to go before submissions close and the judges start to consider which of them will be awarded €100,000. The stated aim of the competition is far reaching and radical – nothing less than to “create prosperity and jobs at an entirely different level from what currently exists”, as Pádraig McKeon, Drury Communications managing director and Your Country steering group member, has said.
It has been supported by many of the pillars of the establishment. However, it is surprising given the scope of this ambition – and access to specialist knowledge – that there are still plenty of questions unanswered since the competition was launched.
In recent years, the internet has emerged as an expansive source of information for consumers, yet many of the grassroots sites that have sprung up have already disappeared.
It’s perhaps not surprising then that Irish prices are among the highest in Europe, with “Rip-off Ireland” as much a reality as when the term was coined a decade ago. Consumers’ concerns today are not very different from those expressed back in September 1966, when a large crowd gathered in Dublin for the inaugural meeting of the CAI. Speakers bewailed bad value and called for more reliable information on goods.
This certainly seems to be the logic behind The Ideas Campaign, a new website aiming to stimulate the economy with proposals from the public.
But be warned – if you really do have a brilliant brainwave, you might want to read the small print.
Because according to the terms and conditions of the campaign, set up by Aileen O’Toole, Sunday Business Post co-founder and managing director of an internet consultancy, you must “part company with your submitted idea without any compensation to you”.