Sterling to euro conversion ripoffs – other costs to be aware of

This e-mail came through from a reader recently – something to be careful of. Remember though, if you’re going to be subjected to such a charge, you need to be told about it up front. If it’s something that you’re credit card company is going to charge you, it should be in your terms and conditions.

                    There is another side to conversion problems i.e. euro to sterling conversion.

I had to book up a hotel in Cork for several people using the Aer Ligus hotel booking site.

First booking was made in the morning and the second in the evening both using the same Aer Lingus site, both with the same card, both for the same date and both for the same hotel.

    When I received my card statement it included a commission charge of £10 for conversion from euros to pounds sterling for the first booking but nothing for the second booking (sterling to sterling). 

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Don’t buy Aer Lingus vouchers this Christmas

The image below shows the contents of a recent Aer Lingus marketing e-mail. They’re advertising their vouchers as a perfect Christmas gift, but as per my advice last year, you should avoid buying vouchers at all, from anyone, this Christmas.

To refresh your memory, check out this post – Reasons Not to Buy Vouchers – to see the multitude of reasons to stay well away from vouchers this Christmas, or any other time.

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Blast from the Past – Anyone remember “Young Ireland”?

No, I’m not referring to the Irish Nationalist movement from the 1830’s leading up to the Young Irelanders Rebellion in 1848. I’m referring to the Young Ireland “Buy Irish” campaign from the 1980’s.

I’ve written a fair bit here in the past about buying Irish – I grew up in the west where my parents ran their own manufacturing business where we depended on people buying Irish.

Does anyone remember the “Young Ireland” Buy Irish campaign from the 1980’s? As I remember it, it was a buy Irish campaign focused on school children. If you’re around about my vintage, you’ll might remember the advertising for the campaign on your homework copybooks.

The memories of the campaign came to me recently, and I have vague memories of being deeply involved and committed to whatever it was the campaign entailed – though the precise details escape me now.

The only thing I can find anywhere about this campaign is this entry on Wikipedia which primarily refers to a renewal of the campaign (which passed me by) in 1992.

Does anyone remember the Young Ireland campaign? Post your memories in the comments below – maybe we can document the campaign a bit better. Given that Nintendos and Playstations aren’t made in Ireland, I guess there’s no point trying to bring it back these days.

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New Price Comparison Website: Health Insurance

This press release came through recently from the Health Insurance Authority:

The Health Insurance Authority just launched a new website with in-depth consumer information pages and a new product comparison tool.

The product comparison allows consumers to compare benefits and prices of health insurance products, enabling them to choose the most appropriate product when buying health insurance and saving money in the process.

The Health Insurance Authority Product Comparison is available here.

I had a quick look at the site and first thing I noticed was that I was offered a health insurance product that seemed to be only available for credit union members – which I’m not.

Given that the myriad of health insurance products that are being made available by the three competitors in the Irish health insurance market, more information can only be better for consumers.

There are, however, a couple of points to note.

Firstly, this wide range of products and different price levels is purely intended to confuse the consumer and to make it hard to make a full price comparison between health insurance products.

Secondly, if this price comparison website is anything like the telecoms site, CallCosts.ie, you should be aware that the service providers could very likely find a way to “game” the website to find a way to always have their own products show at the top of any search that a consumer might make.

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What’s the “Consumer Consultative Panel” doing these days?

Short answer – not a whole lot.

During the course of the meltdown in the Irish banking system last year and the revelations regarding the actions (or inactions) of the Financial Regulator, the supposed consumer representatives within the “system” went AWOL.

And now again in 2009, according to this page of meeting minutes, this panel has not met since July of this year.

So, with massive structural changes (supposedly) being undertaken in how our financial regulatory regime will operate in order to better monitor our financial system, not to mention the huge implications of the adoption of NAMA, the Consumer Consultative Panel at the Financial Regulators has again gone missing – their names are here.

In case you’re not familiar with what this consumer panel are responsible for, here are some details from their own section of the Financial Regulator website:

The functions of the Consumer Panel…. and may be summarised as follows:

  • monitoring the performance by the Financial Regulator of its functions and responsibilities under this Act
  • providing the Financial Regulator with comments with respect to the performance of its functions and responsibilities
  • providing the Financial Regulator with comments and suggestions with respect to the performance of the financial services industry
  • when requested to comment on policy and regulatory documents issued, or to be issued, by the Financial Regulator
  • to comment on the Financial Regulator’s draft estimate of income and expenditure and consult with the Minister for Finance before he approves the draft estimate of income and expenditure
  • providing the Financial Regulator with suggestions for initiatives that, in the Panel’s opinion, the Financial Regulator should take with respect to the performance of its functions and responsibilities.

The industry equivalent, the Industry Consultative Panel, has been even more remiss – they haven’t met since June 2009 according to these meeting minutes.

So, with all the supposed changes that are going to be incorporated into the financial regulatory system in order to make sure that the events of recent years do not happen again, it looks like this is all being done without any input from either the consumer, nor even the market participants (through the official channels anyway).

I did contact the people concerned via their website, but as you’d expect, they haven’t bothered to answer.

Update: December 21st, 2009 – I take it all back – I see that the website has been updated since this post was originally published. There are now meeting minutes from September, October and November 2009. You can see what they were actually doing in those meetings here.

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Press Release: The Real Irish Deal at Easons this Christmas

This came through to me here at ValueIreland.com in the past few days. You can’t go wrong with a book as a gift for Christmas – no matter young or old.

30th November 2009: The theme this Christmas is value and with this in mind, books are a fantastic value gift with something personal for everyone! At Easons, it’s the best value Christmas ever with amazing prices on books and gifts offering the real Irish deal for consumers this holiday season!

Special offers include:
– The “Bestseller Price Blitz” offers up to 50% off the best books of the season.
– Free postage for orders over €25 on www.easons.ie
– The biggest ever 3 for 2 promotion with hundreds of new and bestselling books and cards to mix and match
– Christmas Gift superdeals on gadgets, giftbooks and board games offering seriously low prices until the products sell out.

Choices range from fiction titles which include the bestselling books from the queens of popular Irish fiction to the big guns of crime and suspense writing to non-fiction titles, many of which are focusing on Ireland’s changed economic fortunes, not to mention biography; food and drink, sport, entertainment, spirituality and, of course, a fantastic range of fabulous children and teen books.

As well as books Eason stores are also stocking a massive range of gifts and gadgets – from E-Readers to cameras, DVD box sets to board-games, arts and crafts sets, diaries and calendars. Easons Card Departments also stock hundreds of greeting cards, gift wrap and gift accessories making it a one stop shop for Christmas!

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NAMA in a nutshell?

This e-mail went around last week, so some of you may have seen it already. It’s being described as “NAMA in a Nutshell”:

It is the month of August, on the shores of the Black Sea. It is raining, and the little town looks totally deserted. It is tough times, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit. Suddenly, a rich tourist comes to town.

He enters the only hotel, lays a 100 Euro note on the reception counter, and goes to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one.

The hotel proprietor takes the 100 Euro note and runs to pay his debt to the butcher.

The Butcher takes the 100 Euro note, and runs to pay his debt to the pig grower.

The pig grower takes the 100 Euro note, and runs to pay his debt to the supplier of his feed and fuel.

The supplier of feed and fuel takes the 100 Euro note and runs to pay his debt to the town’s prostitute that in these hard times, gave her “services” on credit.

The hooker runs to the hotel, and pays off her debt with the 100 Euro note to the hotel proprietor to pay for the rooms that she rented when she brought her clients there.

The hotel proprietor then lays the 100 Euro note back on the counter so that the rich tourist will not suspect anything.

At that moment, the rich tourist comes down after inspecting the rooms, and takes his 100 Euro note, after saying that he did not like any of the rooms, and leaves town.

No one earned anything. However, the whole town is now without debt, and looks to the future with a lot of optimism.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how the Government is stimulating the economy.

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Weekly Grocery Special Offers – Gala added to the listing

Last week I noticed that the Gala chain of stores now make available their weekly special offers on their website. The page is available here.

I have also added that Gala page to the full listing of grocery store special offers available here.

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Price Comparison (comparative advertising) is in the interests of consumers

This interesting e-mail came through recently to ValueIreland.com from a business person who is investigating providing price comparison in their particular market to try to show consumers that they actually do provide better value for money than their competitors.

I read, with interest, your article regarding a possible grocery price comparison site. It started me thinking about the legality of doing something similar in my own industry, on my own site.

I checked recently my pricing in comparison with my competitors and the so called discounters to discover that when all is said and done my prices are as good or better than the vast majority out there.

With every consumer now almost solely interested in price I think this would be worth shouting about.

My company enjoyed a reputation of having top quality products and service over the past couple of years but unfortunately, in a recession, people now associate this with being expensive which is simply not the case.

Obviously I will take legal advice about how I could show that my pricing is better than named competitors but I was wondering if you had any off hand info on the legality of showing price comparisons of similar or the same products on my website.

I would appreciate any assistance you may be able to provide me with, with the aim of offering savings to consumers.

I don’t have the legal specific expertise on this kind of thing, but I don’t believe there can be any problem if you were to report the prices of your competitors on your website.

I believe in advertising terminology this would be known as “comparative advertising”.

As far as I know, there was some recent EC regulations enacted in Ireland to cover “comparative advertising” – the EUROPEAN COMMUNITIES (MISLEADING AND COMPARATIVE MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS) REGULATIONS 2007 – details here.

This regulation is intended to prevent any comparative marketing communications which is misleading or confusing.

For this reason, I believe, if you were to gather your comparative pricing information and ensure that you present it accurately on your website, you shouldn’t have any problem. It might be a good idea to provide the time and date of the prices you’re using from your competitors as well – just in case they try to question where you got your information from. Even better, if you have photographs of the prices you’re using, there can be no misunderstandings (even if you just keep the photos in case any problems arise).

As you’ll probably have read in my comments regarding grocery price comparisons, the problem is to always make sure that the price information displayed is accurate and as up to date as possible.

I’m personally in favour of this kind of advertising but this isn’t something that’s been all that popular historically in Ireland, but is a whole lot more common in the United States. Maybe, if business people are starting to think like this one, we hopefully might see a bit more of it.

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Cutting costs and saving money – there is an important difference

There’s a huge amount of information out there (newspapers, blogs, magazines and on radio and tv) giving you advice on how to cut your costs and save yourself some money.

You’ll read a lot of similar advice here on ValueIreland.com as well.

However, something I’ve written about here before is that just because you’re not spending money doesn’t mean you’re saving money.

So, if you switch your mobile phone or your electricity provider or move your insurance to a cheaper company, what do you do with the money that you save yourself?

If you’ve reduced your outgoings by €100 per month by shopping around for your groceries, what do you do with the money you’ve saved?

Will your savings account have increased by €1200 for the year? Or will you have paid off €1200 extra off your credit card bill or your mortgage?

I appreciate that in some cases, you may have had to make cutbacks in one place in order to be able to pay increased costs elsewhere.

However, as much as possible, if you’re successful in cutting your costs you should really try as much as possible to put even a little bit of those savings away rather than letting it be spent elsewhere.

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