Consumer Central, from the London Times

Another Blog I’ve discovered recently is the Consumer Central blog from the London Times, available here. While there are a lot of UK specific topics covered, there are some items general and interesting enough to have an appeal to Irish readers.

One of their contributors is Martin Lewis, the moneysavingexpert. Martin’s site is a great resource, with the same proviso as the Blog above – some UK specific items, but mostly interesting content.

I can highly recommend both these sites as worthy of bookmarks and regular reading.

Pricewatch in the Irish Times

I’ve mentioned the great work by Conor Pope in the Irish Times a couple of times here already, but had lamented that they had made the Pricewatch section part of their premium section in the Ireland.com site.

Now however, the Pricewatch has started a blog. So, you can get a look at some of the topics from the Pricewatch articles every Monday as well as getting the chance to submit your own comments.

If you’ve any consumer affairs issues you want covered, you can try submitting your comments 0n the blog and seeing if they make it through to the paper itself.

The Irish Scam Awareness Month… Finally!

As per the “anonymous” poster in response to my comments previously about the National Consumer Agency failing to follow the rest of Europe by not having a scam awareness month last February, I had an e-mail notification from them this week.

The National Consumer Agency has launched a major scams awareness campaign. Find out about the top ten common scams, how to spot the tricksters and who to contact. Tell us about scams you have experienced and listen to our new
podcast about how to avoid being conned out of your money.All at http://www.consumerconnect.ie

Better late than never I suppose! I’m only back from holidays, so I’ll have a look through the stuff and make more comment as necessary.

Good News – The end of “rip off Ireland” is nigh!!!

Phil Hogan, the Fine Gael Enterprise spokesperson has promised to end “rip off Ireland” – as per reports of the Ard Fheis last weekend – article here. We can only but wait in hope.

“Value Packs” – not always the best value

I was sent an e-mail recently from someone highlighting how people should be careful in shows when they’re looking at “value pack” deals. The person gave an example showing that you might not always be getting good value with these supposed offers.

I was a Dunnes Stores recently looking at bottles of still mineral water which had a “value pack” offer running, with bright stickers and posters advertising the deal. There were two bottles stuck together in this “value pack”.
Yet, a few feet down the aisle, I could have bought 2 individual bottles of exactly the same water for less than the price of the “value pack”.

Obviously it’s important that consumers keep an eye open, and don’t always believe that things do exactly what they say on the tin/labeling.

What’s the actual cost of the M50 Toll?

For the most of 2004 to 2006, I travelled twice a day through the M5o toll bridge, paying my €1.80. It was a great way to get rid of beer change, albeit that it took a split second more to put in 9 20cent pieces.

It was very funny how some people in the traffic mayhem of the M50 would beep if you took more than 2 seconds putting the money in the hopper. Like it made a difference.

Last weekend and this weekend has been the first time for a long time that I used the M50 Toll bridge, and therefore noticed that it had increased from €1.80 to €1.90.

Which got me thinking? For people who’s time in their minds is so valuable that need to get through the toll bridge in rush hour traffic 2 seconds quicker, how much do they care about the difference between getting the right change, and just putting in €2 and moving on?

How many people, I wonder, just fire in a €2 coin into the toll hopper and drive on, instead of putting in the correct change? This is giving free money to the NTR company given that they won’t give you change.

NTR could probably tell you how much of this free money they’re getting as presumably their cash handling procedures would indicate how many €2 coins go through the hoppers on a daily or weekly basis?

And NTR doesn’t even have to make an effort to get this money back to customers, or even make donations of this money to charity (which I believe Dublin Bus do).

Lidl, Podge & Rodge, and the “horsey set”

Last week, Podge & Rodge made great fun of the “horsey set” going to Lidl to buy horse riding gear – though some of the stuff mentioned wouldn’t necessarily have been used by them for riding horses.

I’ve been quoted previously in newspapers saying that there’s a certain level of snobbery involved in some Irish people rarely availing of the cheaper prices available in Lidl and Aldi, all the time preferring to spend higher prices in Superquinn, Marks & Spencers and the likes.

But who buys the horse riding stuff in Lidl then, as went on sale last week? Obviously, people who are too proud/snobby for it to be known that they were shopping in Lidl in Finglas. I can say this given the amount of packaging strewn around the Lidl car-park last week, and all of it packaging for horse riding gear.

No shame at all in chasing the best value for money and saving a few bob, whether it be buying the food essentials for the weekly shop, or for horse riding gear.

30 Things Not to Do with Your SSIA

Back in January, I posted about an article we’d put together on the ValueIreland website entitled 30 Things Not to Do with Your SSIA.

There was a follow up post by a reader mentioning an Irish Independent article which he described as an “absolute disgrace”.

The article was written by Donal Buckley and you can read it here. To be fair to Mr.Buckley, the gist of the article is actually based on banks suggesting that people borrow to buy cars rather than using their SSIA.

And why wouldn’t they suggest that – it’d make them even more money. They’ll make money on having your funds saved with them and on the interest you’ll be paying on your car loan.

Don’t do it!!!

Irelands Consumer Website

This how Fine Gael are describing their ripoff website. But this is what “the paper of record” the Irish Times said about their site in the PriceWatch column last Monday.

Perhaps the most well-publicised consumer awareness site was Fine Gael’s
Ripoff.ie. Despite the publicity, it never really captured the public’s
imagination, and is now populated by little more than self-serving press
releases. It is not updated frequently, so it is increasingly irrelevant and its
close association with a political party makes it look like it is trying to
exploit people’s outrage over overcharging to win votes.

Consumer Power At Work in the UK

Following on from the PriceWatch article in yesterdays Irish Times asking why there’s never any large consumer campaigns in Ireland, there was a short example in todays Irish Daily Star as to why such campaigns do work in the UK but will rarely have hope in Ireland.

The article mentioned how British Gas were forced to cancel plans to enforce a £5 fine on late paying customers by the size of the consumer backlash against the plan. The BBC can tell you more here.

So what of the plans by NTL in Ireland to charge customers €2 for not paying by direct debit and the late payment fee of €7.68? Was there a consumer backlash? Boycotts of NTL services?

Well, there were a few newspaper articles, a couple of discussions on a radio phone-in and TD Marin Brady calling for people not to pay their bills. I seem to remember our new consumer champion from the National Consumer Agency Ann Fitzgerald making a few comments about how

The National Consumer Agency then came out and said “they were in discussions” with NTL about these new charges. The outcome? You’ll get an extra warning letter that you’ll be charged the late payment fee. Oh, and they’ll ask NTL to review the €2 charge for the elderly and those with special needs.

Big deal!!! The fees are still there and will be levied on most consumers. No “British Gas” type climb down for NTL. And no help at all from the National Consumer Agency at all.

So what’s the difference? Simple.

First, click on this link to search for options on changing gas suppliers in the UK . A total of 133 possible results – including 3 paid adverts of companies who’ll help you swith your gas supplier.

Now, click on this link to search for options on changing your cable tv provider in Ireland. Unfortunately, Your search – “change cable tv provider” – did not match any documents.

No competion. No alternatives. No choice. No options.