National Consumer Agency – need more staff, or just need a clue?

The Annual report of the National Consumer Agency for 2008 was release recently. To cover up the fact that they’re not actually doing much at all to enforce consumer legislation, the mantra now is that they need more staff.

Would these staff actually enforce consumer legislation and prosecute offending businesses, or will they be doing more pointless grocery shopping around the country and up north?

Maybe they could work to improve the quality of staff they have working for them at the moment. One staff member in the NCA actually told a ValueIreland.com reader that they were not responsible for enforcing European consumer legislation and that their regulatory framework was limited to the 1980 Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act.

Clueless muppets!

The role of the NCA is to enforce Irish consumer legislation (all of it, and not just the Sale of Goods act above) and any European consumer legislation transcribed into Irish law.

Maybe now we’ve actually found out why the fuckers* do nothing? They don’t actually know what they’re supposed to be doing in the first place.

Share with Others?Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someonePin on PinterestPrint this pageShare on StumbleUpon

Toolin Travel – what you’re not reading in the news coverage

I’m not sure if this is relevant with regards to Toolin Travel, but if you’ve booked a holiday with them but your departure is from outside of the Republic of Ireland, Belfast for example, then you may not get your money refunded.

That would depend on whether Toolin Travel were also registered with the Civil Aviation Authority in the UK (the equivalent to the Commission for Aviation Regulation here in Ireland).

Given that it’s a Dublin based travel agency, I guess that most people would be buying packages flying from Dublin, but given that some packages might be cheaper with a Belfast departure, there could be some people affected by this.

To read more about this type of scenario, read here – Beware when booking package holidays! Click here to read the official story from the Commission for Aviation Regulation website.

Share with Others?Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someonePin on PinterestPrint this pageShare on StumbleUpon

Customer reaction to poor customer service and mistakes

There’s a right way and a wrong way to react to poor customer service and mistakes, and this letter from a couple of weeks ago in the Irish Independent highlights a few things done the wrong way in the face of E-Flow toll problems.

Sir — Your eFlow letter, (Sunday Independent, May 24, 2009) prompts me to relate my experience. I drove Southbound on the M50 on Bank Holiday Monday, May 4.

I returned Northbound. that evening, and paid the €6.00 toll on the website. Payment Number 440269.

Some days later, I received a request for payment of €6.00., which I ignored. Two weeks later, I received Unpaid Toll Notice, requesting €47.50, and advising that if this was not paid within 56 days, an additional charge of €104.50. would apply. I phoned and eventually got talking to a human (Tony). I explained the situation. He was not interested, and said that failure to discharge the Toll Violation Notice, would result in prosecution. As far as I am concerned I have a receipt.

They can eFlow off.

Martin Dunne,

Malahide, Co Dublin

First things first, if you have a problem with customer service or any issue with a company, you should not ignore it. I realise we’re dealing with E-Flow here, but I would hope that a quick phone call on the day when the next bill was received could have sorted all out.

If you get a bill from anyone, whether it’s paid or unpaid, you should always follow up to confirm that you’re understanding of the current situation (i.e. bill is paid) is the same as the company itself – and therefore they can update their records accordingly.

On another note, despite any and all provocation, you should also be polite when you’re dealing with customer service people. In this particular situation, I can’t say how the interactions went, but I’m willing to guess that if the writer of the letter is willing to have their “e-flow off” statement attributed to themselves in a national newspaper, then things might not have gone swimmingly between himself and Tony over the phone.

Share with Others?Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someonePin on PinterestPrint this pageShare on StumbleUpon

Mortgage companies, Insurance companies and re-build costs – what’s going on?

You’ll have read three posts already today (here, here and here) about how insurance companies and mortgage providers are trying to force Irish consumers to overstate their rebuild costs for their home insurance policies.

For the insurance companies, I can see the motivation – if the rebuild costs are overstated, then the risk is higher, and therefore they can charge higher premiums at a time when they’re losing money elsewhere.

I’m kind of at a lost as to why mortgage providers are insisting that rebuild costs are boosted over and above the values they should actually be according to the Society of Chartered Surveyors (SCS) rebuild costs documentation.

In the mean time, there are a few questions that I have on this whole thing (but remember, I love a conspiracy, so none of these might have any relationship to reality):

  1. Cross selling – if the mortgage provider and the home insurance provider are the same company, then you could understand that one division of the organisation that is unlikely to be making much money these days (mortgages) is doing its best to boost revenue for other divisions (insurance).
  2. Past profits – The focus these days has been for people to find out the rebuild cost rather than the actual value. I wonder in the past how many people insured their homes at the market value – and therefore provide an overstated windfall for insurance companies. So, not only are the losing money now on the premium difference between rebuild costs in the past, and rebuild costs now – but they’re actually losing on the difference between rebuild costs today and the market value at the height of the property boom.
  3. What happens when there’s a claim – If my mortgage company insists on a rebuild cost of €400,000 for my house, but the actual cost is only €290,000, and my house burns down. If the insurance company pays out €400,000, and my house is rebuilt for €290,000 – who gets the €110,000?

If anyone has any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear from you.

Share with Others?Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someonePin on PinterestPrint this pageShare on StumbleUpon

Another mortgage company looking to overstate re-build costs for insurance

Here’s a comment posted recently by a ValueIreland.com reader which is linked to todays topic – rebuild costs for the purposes of insurance policies:

I recently renewed my home insurance with a different provider and amended the building sum insured in accordance with the Society of Chartered Surveyors (SCS) Guide to House Rebuilding Costs published.

I forwarded details to my mortgage provider of the renewed policy and received a response suggesting I reassess the current building sum insured.

I responded and advised that I had used the SCS’s Guide.

I received a further response from the mortgage provider advising that in order to change the building sum insured for your property, the mortgage provider will require a current valuation report drawn up and sent to us by your Valuer/Estate Agent.

The Financial Regulators – Guide Home Insurance Made Easy,on Page 4 advises:

“You should insure your home for the amount it would cost to rebuild it. This is called the reinstatement value. It is different to the market value of your home, which is the amount you could get if you sold it. The market value includes the value of the land your home is built on and the location it is in, but the reinstatement value of your home only covers the cost of rebuilding it. To get a rough estimate of the cost of rebuilding your home, use the home-building cost figures in the ‘Guide to House Rebuilding Insurance’ available from the Society of Chartered Surveyors”

Requiring a valuation report to amend the reistatement value of a property is an onerous and costly requirement.

I have lodged a formal complaint with the mortgage provider and I am still awaiting a response.

So basically I am required to over insure my property or get a valuation report which would cancel the savings I have made on updating my insurance policy!!

The requirement above to get an actual market valuation rather than using the SCS rebuild costs valuations is particularly strange.

Share with Others?Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someonePin on PinterestPrint this pageShare on StumbleUpon

Rebuild costs – mortgage company overstating rebuild costs

Following on from this mornings post about home insurance premiums and re-build costs, here’s one e-mail that I received from a ValueIreland.com reader:

I have a query regarding re-building costs and hope you may be able to offer some advice.

We have a 4 bedroom bungalow, approximately 3,200 sq ft, in Connemara, Co. Galway.  We have a mortgage of €220,000 and our now 5   year old home was valued at €290,000 roughly 3 years ago.

We  recently re-insured with a re-building cost of €350,000.  However, our mortgage providers will not accept this and want us to up this to €400,715.00 when I queried this they came back with 423,000?!

In the current climate we feel that this is way to much as we feel building costs have gone down not up as they have suggested!

This will up our insurance and unfortunately as with most of the country we’re doing our very best to keep head above water and every penny is needed and we don’t feel we should have to back down on this matter.

This kind of behaviour by mortgage companies is unforgivable. In very few scenarios will the rebuild costs of a house increase by such a margin in the current property climate.

Given the difficulties people may have in meeting current mortgage commitments and possibly not getting mortgages elsewhere in the current economic climate, these people are essentially putting a gun to the head of the home owner.

They won’t want to <!– /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:””; margin:0cm; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-ansi-language:EN-GB;} @page Section1 {size:612.0pt 792.0pt; margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt; mso-header-margin:36.0pt; mso-footer-margin:36.0pt; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} –>

jeopardise their current mortgage arrangement and many are likely to comply rather than kick up a fuss.

What odds that this mortgage provider also provides the home insurance for this particular consumer?

Share with Others?Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someonePin on PinterestPrint this pageShare on StumbleUpon

More on home insurance re-building costs

I’ve written in the past about the re-building costs of houses in 2009 and the impact that it should have on home insurance premium quotes.

The essential premise is that with the fall in the property market, the actual cost to rebuild your house should have fallen, and since that is part of what your home insurance premium is based on, your premium costs should actually be falling.

The Financial Regulator states that:

You should insure your home for the amount it would cost to rebuild it, or the reinstatement value. This is different to the market value of your home, which is what you would get if you sold it. You can get details of current rebuilding costs from the Society of Chartered Surveyors.

Yet, I have recently received three different complaints from people where their insurance company (or their mortgage company who requires the insurance as part of their T’s & C’s) have actually insisted that the person INCREASE the value of the property for insurance purposes.

I’m struggling to work out why mortgage providers would want to have these values overstated. Obviously they’d want to make sure they’re covered themselves, but if standard practice in the past was to accept the SCS rebuild cost values in the past, what’s changed now?

I know probably why are insurance companies doing this? They’re doing it so that they can charge higher premiums to bolster their profits (or reduce their losses).

What can you do?

  1. First of all, ask your insurance company for a written confirmation of their justification for seeking an increase in the value of the property being insured. You may need this later.
  2. Now check the updated Society of Chartered Surveyors Guide to House Rebuilding Costs for 2009. Work out the rebuild costs for your house, and ask the insurance company to insure your house on the basis of that value – explain where you got this value from, and confirm that this is what the Financial Regulator says that home insurance costs should be based on.
  3. If the insurance company still won’t insure for that value, then ask them again in writing to confirm why they won’t insure the house at that particular value.
  4. Submit an official complaint to your insurance provider along the lines of the fact that they’re going against the recommendations of the Financial Regulator with regards to how they should be valuing the house for rebuild cost purposes.
  5. If you don’t get anywhere with your complaint with your insurance provider, they you should raise a complaint with the Financial Services Ombudsman office.

Of course, you could just find the rebuild cost from the SCS documentation linked above and just go to a few other different insurance companies with the new numbers and get quotes from them. You’re likely to get a better quote from at least one of them, and you won’t have to deal with the crap above.

Share with Others?Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someonePin on PinterestPrint this pageShare on StumbleUpon

Dublin Airport Authority plastic bag charges – there’s no reason to pay

Irish News of the World

May, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane

Question

Can the Dublin Airport Authority really get away with charging us €1 for those little plastic bags at their security checks? It’s them who make us use them in the first place so surely they should provide them?

Answer

Unfortunately, as the saying goes, “it’s their game so their rules apply”. When you think of it, €1 for a clear plastic bag is a bit steep – when bigger plastic bags only cost 22c in the supermarket thanks to the bag tax.

The trick is to be prepared. From here on in now, as part of your packing preparations, just get a freezer bag to put your toiletries in. For up to €3 in your local supermarket you can buy anything from 20 to 40 of these freezer bags which would be perfectly acceptable.

But make sure they’re completely clear – I’ve seen reports where any type of sticker or greyed out area used to write a description on is deemed unacceptable by some airports.

If you want the fancy resealable Ziploc clear bags, Ebay.ie have loads of options to buy these for as little as 1c each depending on the size.

Share with Others?Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someonePin on PinterestPrint this pageShare on StumbleUpon

Le Tire Bouchon – offers for eating out in Wexford

I received this e-mail last week from Kevin Carley who is behind Le Tire Bouchon, a French restaurant based in Wexford. I’m going to be calling in in the next couple of weeks, but for the moment, I only have Paolo Tullio to go on, who says of the restaurant:

Le Tire Bouchon is an excellent restaurant run by two young men with passion and energy. I expect it to continue to improve, but make no mistake, it really is very good now. One to try as soon as you can, and almost certainly a star of the future.

Le Tire Bouchon are currently offering some special deals, as told by Kevin in his e-mail:

Hello, my name is Kevin Carley, and along with my business partner Arnaud Clement, we own Le Tire Bouchon restaurant in Wexford town. The restaurant is situated above the Sky and The Ground Pub. It’s not, just, another restaurant, it’s a high class French style fine dining experience not to be matched anywhere else in Wexford. Taste of Ireland with Paolo Tulio says we are one of the best in the country, never mind just Wexford.

Briefly, Arnaud who is the maitre’ d, is from Brittany in France, where he trained for years in 1 and 3 michellin star restaurants. He’s been in Ireland for over 10 years and before moving to Wexford, he was the restaurant manager in The Merrion Hotel in Dublin. Arnauds brother, Laurent has his own Michelin star restaurant in France. I have been working in kitchens since I was 15 and I have almost 18 years experience.

I’ve worked in to many places to mention, but before Arnaud and I opened Le Tire Bouchon, I was celebrity chef Kevin Dundons sous chef in Dunbrody Country House for almost 2 years. It was at Dunbrody where I met Arnaud as he was the restaurant manager there.

The purpose of this e-mail is to let you know about the amazing value to be had at our restaurant that we believe wont be beat anywhere in Wexford and it would probably be hard to find many restaurants in Ireland that could match us. Our deal is a traditional 5 course French meal, Plus a glass of wine for an amazing price of just  23.95.

So if you want to include the wine as a course, it’s actually a 6 course meal for 23.95. This deal is available all evening from Sun to Thurs.

I’ll let you know my thoughts on Le Tire Bouchon once I’ve had a chance to sample their delights.

Share with Others?Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someonePin on PinterestPrint this pageShare on StumbleUpon

Businesses giving smaller portions, but charging the same

It was back in August last year that I contributed to an article by Linda Higgins in The Irish Independent – Good Buys: Products hit by ’shrink ray’.

The gist of that story was that businesses were starting to try to make extra money for themselves by providing smaller portions and measures while charging the same price as the original bigger portion cost.

I thought about this when I read this recent “Bad Value of the Week” story from Gareth Naughton in the Sunday Tribune:

The demise of Breakfast Roll Man has been much heralded in this recession, but then who can blame him if he’s decided to forgo his daily shop-bought roll when retailers have so blatantly begun skimping on fillings? These are tough times, fair enough, and cost-cutting is necessary, but if you are willing for fork out for a sandwich at a deli counter, you expect something more than a lonely slice of ham and some lettuce to bulk it up. Do not be afraid to ask for more if you come across mean behaviour.

Another place to watch out for this is Costa Coffee and their breakfast sandwich offering. This sandwich, enjoyed on many a recent Sunday over the Sunday papers, used to comprise a “club sandwich” 3 slices of bread with lots of filling. However, in the past couple of weeks, they’ve now started to make the sandwich with only two slices of bread and half the amount of filling. But all for the same price.

It frustrates me that businesses would do this. Its basically sticking up their two fingers to their customers. I suppose some people won’t notice, but I have, and I’m outta there.

(And yes, I know I’m getting what I deserve by going to an impersonal foreign chain like Costa Coffee, but up until recently, it was the only place I knew local to me that I could go to on a Sunday morning. But more on the replacement I’ve found soon).

Share with Others?Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Email this to someonePin on PinterestPrint this pageShare on StumbleUpon