Tag Archives | Dermott Jewell

What are our consumer watchdogs saying on our behalf?

I’ve noticed in the past couple of weeks that some of our consumer watchdogs, or their spokespersons at least, have been a bit more vocal than normal.

There’s more soundbites being published, more pithy remarks in response to journalist questions, and the odd radio and tv appearance here and there.

All reactionary! Nothing pro-active at all.

When was the last time you were aware of a consumer campaign being launched in the interests of Irish consumers by either the Consumers Association of Ireland or the National Consumer Agency?

I thought I’d do a little to keep track of what our consumer watchdogs are saying – just in case they might come up with anything interesting. Below, from now on, I’ll update the listing of links with anything that they’re quoted saying in the media.

You never know, we might actually find that they’re looking after our interests, rather than just their own.

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What did you do for World Consumers Day?

Yesterday was World Consumers Day. Personally, I wouldn’t have known about it except for someone forwarded to me a Consumers Association of Ireland press release sent out last week marking the occasion. I didn’t get it as they seem to have removed me from their mailing list for some reason.

As an aside, from the release I see they’re starting to use the old “truly independent” tagline from ValueIreland.com as well – they used to be plain old independent. You’re hardly “truly independent” however if you’re depending on a Government subvention every year to survive, and where some of your board members rake in directors fees from many state and semi-state organisations and quangos.

This is the Press Release:

CAI mark Consumer Rights Day with re-launch of Website WWW. THECAI.IE

The Consumer’s Association of Ireland (CAI) re-launched its new look website today and in doing so set out its stall in celebration of World Consumer Rights Day 2010.

Dermott Jewell, CEO of the Association, said that “The CAI, as a truly independent consumer Association, struggles to survive at the best of times. In times of recession it becomes almost impossible. We are hoping that consumers, by visiting the site, will see what we are about and support us in supporting them and their families.

We know – and guarantee – that any one becoming a Member and supporter will save the cost of their subscription and more through our recommended independent product tests and money and lifestyle advice. That – what consumers need – all day every day! Jewell concluded.

World Consumer Rights Day has its origins in former US President John F. Kennedy’s declaration to US Congress on March 15th 1962 of the 4 basic consumer rights:

The right to safety;

The right to be informed;

The right to choose and

The right to be heard.

“Consumers by definition, include us all. They are the largest economic group, affecting and affected by almost every public and private economic decision. Yet they are the only important group… whose views are often not heard.”

The site is a definite improvement over the previous incarnation – much clearer and somewhat easier to navigate.

Head over there and check it out – they are now providing access online to their back catalogue of product testing reviews from their Consumer Choice magazine – available at €96 per year.

If you head over there now, you can get 12-hours free access to the membership areas of the site – get a look at some of those product testing articles maybe.

This new site, and the above press release, seems to indicate the renewal of the annual efforts to boost what is a consistently falling membership base (according to the most recent accounts lodged with the Companies Office).

Unfortunately for the Irish consumer, the CAI, despite it’s slogans and aims, is no longer a consumer advocacy organisation. Can anyone remember what their most recent “campaign” was? And I don’t mean a reactionary soundbite on the radio.

I believe it’s three years now since a significant chunk of work was done to identify campaign items that the Association would stand work on.  I have not seen a single proactive measure coming from the Association in that time – despite there being some pretty good ideas on that campaign items list.

As was raised at the last AGM I attended – 2008 – it’s clear that the CAI is now no more than a magazine publication organisation that charges a ridiculous €96 per year subscription  – exactly three times that of Eddie Hobbs Your and Your Money magazine.

It’s interesting then, that as per the press release above, they “guarantee” that you’ll save at least €96 per year by subscribing to their magazine. One wonders what the small print is on that guarantee – “or your money back?” I wonder?

I can guarantee you a €96 saving right here and now, but you already know what I’m going to say now.

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Consumers Association Chief Executive advocates buying British, not Irish

I had to read this recent story in the Evening Herald, Lidl bargain sets Irish stores meaty challenge, a few times before I could finally grasp what was going on.

First of all, I couldn’t understand how the Consumers Association of Ireland would be so desperate for newspaper coverage (measured monthly as a KPI for the organisation) that they’d be quoted welcoming the introduction of a new bargain price “roast dinner selection” to Lidl outlets throughout the country.

Then we discover that the welcomed new bargain meal is actually a product of the United Kingdom, and Mr. Jewell expects there to be queues of shoppers down the street waiting to buy a roast dinner for €1.99.

I can’t imagine the CAI deputy chairman, Michael Kilcoyne, would have been be too happy to hear about Mr. Jewells comments, particularly as only that week he had to deal with 140 of his union members in Galway losing their jobs at the Irish wholesaler Musgraves, suppliers to many competitors of Lidl.

I suppose it’s the perennial problem for Irish consumers. Do you buy Irish, frequently at a higher price, with the aim of supporting Irish businesses and industry, or do you follow the price and buy the cheapest products possible?

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What garages are doing to get customers in the door

Talking to a colleague of mine during the week, he had a story that made him pretty angry the previous weekend.  He’s in the market for a “people carrier” to cater for his expanding family so had been doing some internet searches around Dublin garages.

He found one in Sandyford, but since he lives on the north side, he rang first to make sure he wouldn’t be making a wasted trip. The salesman confirmed the asking price for the people carrier, as well as giving a provisional valuation on the car to be traded in – to be confirmed when he saw the car.

So, the trip was made, but when my colleague arrived, the salesman increased the cost of the people carrier by €3,000 saying that he’d made a mistake on the phone (and by extension on the internet).

On top of that, he dropped the trade-in price my colleagues own car by €3000 as well – saying that now that he saw the car, he would have to drop the offer.

The salesman tried to say that at least it wasn’t a wasted trip, but on seeing a €6,000 turnaound in expected costs my colleague obviously wasn’t convinced.

From the salesman perspective, I suppose he was somewhat happy to at least have had someone in the door given how tough their business is at the moment. You never know, someone less determined in their requirements could have been convinced to have made the purchase.

A similar scenario was covered by Dermott Jewell in his weekly article in the Irish News of the World recently as well. Mr. Jewell claimed that the salesman had done nothing wrong in this situation.

With regards to the trade-in price, that’s definitely the case. Whether or not my colleague was happy with the trade-in price, the salesman is entitled to offer whatever he wants when he sees it. It’s common practice for garages to offer derisory money for the trade-in of cars if they’re cars that they don’t want to have on their hands to resell.

However, with regards to the increase in the asking price for the people carrier, I think that the salesman is guilty of an offence under the Consumer Protection Act, 2007. Obviously, that would imply that the National Consumer Agency (NCA) would actually follow up on a complaint – but none the less, the complaint should be made.

This act prohibits misleading practices – as per the NCA website:

Misleading Practices prohibited by the Act
A misleading practice involves providing false misleading and deceptive information. Misleading advertising, misleading information and withholding material information are considered misleading practices. The main characteristics of a misleading action are false or inaccurate information on:

  • the existence or nature of the product/service,
  • the main characteristics, including its availability at a particular time, place, or at a particular price,
  • usage and prior history,
  • the price of the product/service, the manner in which the price was calculated or the existence and nature of a specific price advantage, and the legal right of a consumer (whether contractual or otherwise) or matters relating to when and how or in what circumstances those rights may be exercised.

In the example of my colleague, the price was advertised over the internet, and subsequently confirmed over the phone, so the salesman was clearly misleading my colleague with the intention of enticing hime into the garage on false pretences.

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Tips for Cheaper Home Insurance

From our original ValueIreland.com Tips pages, here are some top tips which should help you get cheaper home insurance compared to what you’re paying at the moment. These tips are items that you should consider when either renewing your insurance policy (every year) or when purchasing new insurance for your new home purchase.
  • Shop Around – As with all other purchases that you make, shop around. There are numerous insurance companies providing home insurance on the Irish market. You should take the time to contact most, if not all of them, to get a quote. Provided you have no tie in to your mortgage lender, you can go directly to an insurance company or via an insurance broker.
  • Someone you can trust – You should always go with a reputable and established company. There’s no point in taking risks. Check if they have industry accreditation. If necessary, ask around amongst colleagues and friends to see if they’ve heard of a particular company. And remember, no matter how good a website is, the company should have a call centre, sales staff, and a proper postal address for their office – if none of these exist, be careful.
  • Multiple policies with same company – Some companies provide discounts if you hold more than one insurance policy with them. So if you already have car or life insurance with a single company, ask for a quote for your home insurance, and ask if they can offer you any discount seeing as you’re providing them with all of your insurance business.
  • Special Offers – Always keep an eye out for special offers that may be offered at various times by different insurance companies. For example, look out for money back guarantees such as “If you find a cheaper deal elsewhere, we’ll refund the difference”. This can assure you that you’re not being stung. Another promotion may be something like “one month’s insurance free if you pay monthly by direct debit”. These can give good value.
  • Only buy cover you need – As with car insurance, only buy the cover you need. Make sure that you need all the cover that you are getting. There is no point paying for cover of the shed or garage contents if you do not have a shed or garage. Asking for this cover to be removed should reduce your premium.
  • Have your policy to hand – When ringing around looking for quotes, have your existing policy with you so you can answer the relevant questions, and ask important questions of your own. If you’re sure your existing policy meets your requirements, use this as the basis for requesting a quotation from a potential new insurer.
  • Check the small print – Remember, sometimes just because an insurance company has sold you a policy this does not mean you’re eligible to claim on it. If you have any concerns, get them to confirm to you that you are covered in particular situations – in writing if possible.
  • No Claims Discount – Ensure that the insurance company knows if you have not claimed on your home insurance in the past. As with car insurance, no claims discounts increase with time. This could save you up to 20-30% after five years without a claim.
  • Payment Options – If you are able, it is an idea to pay your full insurance premium in one lump sum rather than through monthly repayments. This can save you money as some companies may charge you a rate of interest for the privilege of paying monthly, on top of your premium.
  • Security Benefits – Remember that having security systems fitted (security locks and alarms) will have the effect of decreasing your premium. It is also possible that if there is a local Neighbourhood Watch scheme, by joining it, you could cut up to 10-15% off your premium also.
  • Larger Excess – You could bring down your premium costs by volunteering to pay more of an excess towards the cost of each claim. Only do this if you can afford to do so however.
Other points to remember that may increase your premium costs –
  • Bear in mind that not all security discounts mentioned above will necessarily be offered by an insurer. If you live in what they consider to be a really high-risk area, it may be a requirement for you to have security systems fitted and be part of a neighbourhood watch scheme just to get any insurance at all, let alone a discount.
  • Cover for portable items to be included on your home insurance can increase your premium. For example, a bicycle or a laptop computer if included on your home insurance policy is likely to increase your premium.
  • If you wish to cover your jewellery on your home insurance policy, it may actually be worth an amount over the limit for individual items. It is also portable, as above, and may then add further to your premium.
  • Do you live in an area that is liable to flooding? With flooding becoming more prevalent in Ireland (particularly Dublin) over the past number of years, your insurance company may be keeping this in mind when quoting you higher home insurance premiums.
  • Do you carry out a business from your home? Does this involve having valuable equipment in the home for the purpose of carrying out that business? This is likely to increase your premium. You could investigate insuring such equipment separately, as a business expense, rather than on your home insurance.
  • Be careful also about ‘absence clauses’ Many of the companies have quite specific time limits on how long the premises can be ‘un-occupied’ and quite interesting rules about what ‘un-occupied’ actually means. They alter the terms for this regularly, I found that from one renewal to another they had halved the unoccupied period.
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More on the fixed rate mortgage holders bail-out proposals

I wrote about this last week, here, and it got a great response with some detailed and thought out comments. Liam Ferguson, who I mentioned in my original post, directed me towards a discussion that was ongoing at the time on the AskAboutMoney.com website on the same topic.

Two comments struck me from what was being said there (one also referred to by a comment on my post):

I was however, shocked and disappointed to read some of the comments from those that feel that I should not get out of my fixed rate mortgage. You are all certainly entitled to your opinion but sadly there was a nasty whiff of Irish begrudgery laced through many of those posts. There is even a smugness about many of the comments suggesting that I deserve the pain that my fixed rate mortgage brings upon me. Some even boast about the prized position of their own mortgage arrangement. Enough said.

And the response:

What pain? Your repayments are the same as they were when you took out the mortgage. Are you telling us that you took out a mortgage you couldn’t actually afford to pay???

Stop whinging. If you want a variable rate, go refinance and fulfil any financial obligations you have to extrecate yourself from yor fixed rate.

There are too many people suffering genuine distress at the moment to worry about your simple case of regret.

There seems, however, to be a growing campaign to do something for these people who took out fixed rate mortgages in the last couple of years. I’m told that the Ray D’Arcy Show on TodayFM is covering this, though I haven’t heard any of it.

This article from the Irish Examiner on Thursday refers to that, and also support for the relief of fixed rate mortgage holders expressed by Dermott Jewell of the Consumers Association of Ireland:

However, calling for the policy to be scrapped in light of serious financial difficulties being felt by bank customers, the Consumers’ Association of Ireland and opposition politicians have called for the banking sector to introduce “some leeway” for customers struggling to cut back on their mortgage expenses.

“We acknowledge that contracts are contracts and that terms and conditions apply, but what we are saying is that these are trying times and the one people who have been helped during this period are the banks,” said association chief executive Dermott Jewell.

“Those penalties — that’s what they are — are very high, they are significant and they need to be acknowledged as such,” he said.

I appreciate that these are “extraordinary times”, but I also have difficulties with these proposals to let people off with their financial commitments – I think the second quoted comment above just about says it all – people on fixed rate mortgages are paying the same as a couple of years ago in a time when other costs of living are falling.

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Cutting Insurance costs in a rising market

Irish News of the World

Sunday March 8th, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane

Cutting Insurance costs in a rising market

After a number of years of falling insurance costs, we’ve been told during the past couple of weeks that our main insurance companies need to hike up their premiums in 2009.

Axa, Hibernian Aviva and Quinn Direct have all said recently that they’ll be adding their own extra costs to our already under pressure wallets. They’re telling us that it’s because claims have increased and that they need to cover increased risks – yet for car insurance, 2008 was the safest year ever on our roads.

It’s more likely that the real reason the these insurers want to dip into our pockets even more is because they’re losing bucket loads of money on the stock market – causing their corporate profits to fall. And like the Anglo Irish Bank disaster, it’s left to the Irish consumers, yet again, to pick up the tab.

The Chief Executive of the Consumers’ Association of Ireland, Dermott Jewell, recently told us that we should resist and outrageous or unacceptable insurance price rises.

This week, I’ll give you a few top tips on how to get yourself the best value in all kinds of insurance. Following these tips, you may not just be able to resist any price rises, but you could even save yourself a few quid.

The standard advice you’ll hear everywhere when it comes to getting cheaper insurance is to shop around. The Financial Regulator regularly publishes insurance comparison surveys on www.ItsYourMoney.ie where the result is always “shop around”.

Don’t get me wrong – shopping around for insurance can sometimes be very worthwhile – particularly in the Irish market which is fairly competitive at the moment. In December, they told us shopping around for home and buildings insurance could save you up to €400, while last month you could have saved €300 on life insurance. Finally, NoNonsense.ie told us in January that shopping around for car insurance could save you up to €200.

And don’t just limit yourself to dealing directly with insurance companies assuming that brokers might make things more expensive. A recent study conducted by the Irish Brokers Association found that thousands of Irish consumers who deal direct with insurance companies could save themselves up to €1000 on their insurance costs.

According to Ciaran Phelan, Director of Financial Services at the Irish Brokers Association, “With many families now spending in excess of €4,000-€5,000 per annum on a variety of insurance cover, the study found that a review and re-price of their policies could result in considerable cost savings”.

All fine and good, but what else can you do to save money on your insurance costs.

In some cases, staying with the same company might actually save you money on your insurance. When you’re renewing, ask them for a discount just because you’re staying with them, and not shopping around. In this competitive market, it’s cheaper for them to keep a customer than get a new one, so there might be a discount in it for you if you’re willing to stay.

Many insurance companies will now give you discounts on different policies if you have more than one with them – say you and your partner both have car insurance with the same company. In some cases this discount can be from 5-10%.

Always keep an eye out for special offers like those that offer you free home or travel insurance if you have health and car insurance with the same company. Quinn Direct is currently offering this deal until 2010. That could save you up to €200. Hibernian Aviva have offered similar deals where you could get up to €400 cash back depending on the policies you have with them.

Do you have breakdown assist included in your car insurance policy but are you also a member of the AA? Cancel one or other of those – you could save up to €140 per year.

Speaking of extras, do you know what extras are included in your different insurance policies now? Trying to get our business, many companies have added in these extras to attract our business, but they ultimately cost us. Check what extras are included and you could save up to €50 by dumping them.

We all know the property market is suffering badly now, so with cheaper costs for labour and materials, it could be worthwhile getting your rebuild cost for your hose re-estimated in case it could reduce your home and buildings insurance premium.

A slightly controversial topic on the ValueIreland.com website in the past has been my suggestion that there are many kinds of insurance that you don’t actually need at all, depending on your circumstances. If you examine the risk that you’re insuring against (losing your mobile for example) and the cost of replacement versus the cost of insurance, is it all really worth while? If you look at all your areas of non-essential insurance, it might make more sense for you to cancel your policy and save your premiums instead. If you need the money when the risky thing comes to pass, they you’re covered. If it doesn’t, then you’ve a nice bundle of cash to spend elsewhere.

In a previous article I spoke about how people were holding on to their cars longer now that we’re in a recession. Are you driving a driving an older car now? Do you really mind if it gets a little nick here and there? Sometimes, we get to a point where it’s just not worth getting those little bangs fixed up. If that’s the case, you could save yourself up to €200 on your car insurance by changing from a fully comprehensive to a third party, fire and theft policy instead.

One final tip to save you a few euros is to wherever possible pay your full insurance premium up front rather than in installments. Paying by installments is really just getting a loan from the insurance company for the year that you repay each month. The interest that insurance companies will charge you for this loan will range from 5-15% so you could save yourself between €10 and €50.

For more information on saving money on all types of insurance, please check out here.

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Revenge of the Consumers Association of Ireland?

I thought, when I was reading Dermott Jewells news section of the March Consumer Choice published by the CAI, that they were laughing at me 🙁

Maybe they haven’t been too happy with the way I’ve been commenting on their activities recently. But when you read the full story, the headline makes a whole lot more sense. I think!

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Insurance costs to rise? What you can do?

I got a great chuckle last week from the quotes in this article attributed to Dermott Jewell of the Consumers Association of Ireland.

People have been warned by the Consumers’ Association of Ireland (CAI) to resist any “outrageous” and “unacceptable” price increases from home and motor insurance companies in the coming months.

I’m not sure of the technicalities involved in resisting a higher insurance quotation from your insurance company – I can’t find any further details as to what the Association suggests consumers should do.

Consumer: Hi – can you please quote me for insurance for my car?

Insurance Company Staffer: Certainly. For your car, that’ll be €400.

Consumer: Hang on, that’s higher than last year. What’s going on?

Insurance Company Staffer:Yes, unfortunately our prices have had to go up because of the current economic climate.

Consumer: That’s as may be, but I shall resist your outrageous and unacceptable price increase.

Insurance Company Staffer: Excuse me?

Consumer: You heard me, I resist and reject your outrageous and unacceptable price increases.

Insurance Company Staffer: That’s fine. Thank you for your call today.

How can someone reasonably think that they’re helping consumers by coming out in public with useless advice like that?

The reason for the comments has been the recent comments from Quinn Direct, Hibernian Aviva and Axa that insurance, and particular car insurance, premiums would have to increase in 2009.

It’s particularly frustrating for consumers to see car insurance costs rising when 2008 proved to be one of the safest years on our roads ever.

On the positive side, my car insurance for 2009 went from over €400 to less than €300. So, even with everything that’s being said, there are many things that you can do to keep your insurance costs down – no matter what the insurance.

Here’s the ValueIreland.com Top Tips for cutting the cost of all your insurance needs:

And remember, our Top Tips on insurance are so brilliant and so useful, everyone wants to copy them.

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Are you in the Consumers’ Association of Ireland target audience?

At the CAI annual general meeting last November/October, the Chief Executive Dermott Jewell announced that part of their marketing plan for 2009 to increase their circa 4,000 membership was to use some of their €68,000 government grant to give out free Consumer Choice magazines.

These magazines were to have a “wrap around”. This was a form that recipients of these free magazines could fill in and return to get 3 months free membership.

Strangely though, Mr. Jewell also confirmed that there was no way the Association could prevent someone applying for 3 months free membership, cancelling, and then reapplying for 3 more months free membership.

Have you received your free magazine delivered through your door yet?

If the target audiences of the Consumers Association of Ireland are anything like that of the National Consumer Agency when they sent out the Consumer Rights cards soon after they were set up, then amongst other areas, if you live in Dublin 11, Dublin 13, Wexford, Mayo and Donegal, then you’re unlikely to get one.

That I’m aware of, the chosen lucky few so far live in Dublin 6, Dublin 6w and Ashbourne. If you live elsewhere and have received you’re free Consumer Choice magazine, let us know.

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