Tag Archives | Dermott Jewell

Smart Shopper

The Irish Independent
Ciaran Brennan, April 8th, 2008

A recent survey revealed how you can cut your grocery bill in half by shopping in discount stores for a better bargain, writes Ciaran Brennan

AS surveys go, the recent one by the National Consumer Agency into the retail market shouldn’t have been a big surprise.

Taking a basket of goods, it compared them across the supermarkets and found that when it came to own-market brands, shopping in Aldi and Lidl could actually cut your bill in half.

A basket of 28 own-brand goods was more than 50pc cheaper in Lidl than in Dunnes Stores or Tesco, the National Consumer Agency (NCA) survey found.

However, the NCA’s survey comes a year after the ValueIreland.com website found that Irish consumers could save up to €1,800 a year by shopping in Aldi or Lidl.

People misguidedly seem to be willing to pay a premium for better known branded items when in a lot of cases, the lesser known brands, such as those stocked by Aldi and Lidl are just as good — and cheaper as well, ValueIreland.com said last year.

But given that Aldi and Lidl still command less than 10pc of the Irish retail market, it seems clear that Irish shoppers are still paying dearly for loyalty to traditional supermarket multiples.
“Clearly, we are so heavily brand driven and so heavily brand loyal that it is taking quite a significant amount of time to challenge us to try other makes of the same product and to actually have trust in that make,” says Dermott Jewell of Consumers’ Association of Ireland.

“It is understandable though — whether it is tea or bread or milk or ice-cream — all the way across all of the brands we have grown up with since we were children. It’s incredible the power of marketing and how successful it has been.”

Irish consumers can save a packet by weaning themselves off their blind loyalty to branded goods, he says. But can they still find deals in the major multiples? Every day, householders across Ireland find leaflets from retailers in their letterboxes offering deals — two for one offers and half price deals. “Of course, there are pluses to looking at offers,” says Mr Jewell.

“But it needs to be borne in mind that there are some expert people behind the marketing of the major supermarket chains. “Offers will appeal to certain specific consumers but it won’t appeal to every consumer. “Why? Because there are thousands of products in a supermarket and whilst you may purchase three or four or five of those on a special offer, you will still purchase 20 or 30 of the others that are not on a special offer. “In other words, you will save on one but spend heavily on another.”

Likewise, loyalty cards can be a double-edged sword, he says. While consumers can get deals and money back through loyalty cards, essentially they tie a consumer to a certain store and makes it more unlikely that they will shop around. “Of course, there are smart consumers who will have a card for every shop and they are benefiting in that area,” says Mr Jewell.

“The other side of that coin realistically is there will be offers made throughout the year to the supermarket loyalty card holder and they are geared no more than to bring you in to the shop.”
But it doesn’t matter how much you actually save on your grocery shopping if you return home and immediately dump one bag in every three in the bin.

According to the ‘Love Food Hate Waste campaign’ in the UK, around one third of all the food consumers buy ends up being thrown away and most of this could have been eaten — it’s not just peelings, cores and bones.

It found that 90pc of consumers just don’t realise how much good food they actually throw out. Some households in the UK are wasting up to £400 (€507) each year on perfectly good food which ends up being thrown away.

The campaign advises consumers to plan what they are eating, as well as planning when and how many people there will be to eat the meal — helping them to buy only what they will need.

  • Before you go to the supermarket, make a list to take with you — this can save you both time and money and in the long-run will help you to avoid buying foodstuffs that you don’t really need.
  • Make sure you store food correctly — keeping your fridge at between 1-5 degrees Celsius will help to get the best from your food.
  • Give your leftovers a new lease of life by turning them into something really tasty the next day and don’t forget you can compost all your vegetable and fruit peelings — turning rubbish into a resource for the garden and subsequently saving you from actually having to buy the compost at the garden centre.
‘I’m saving €40 by shopping weekly in a discount store’

JAMES O’Neill should know a thing or two about the savings to be made from shopping in discount stores such as Aldi and Lidl — he led a campaign to allow Lidl to build a store in his home town of Drogheda.

“I’m a loan parent. I am on a low income and when I was going to the local supermarket I was hoping I would have enough money to pay for groceries and was constantly worrying and constantly trying to juggle costs,” he says.

Mr O’Neill heard about the savings to be made in the Lidl in the neighbouring town of Balbriggan. “I got to the stage where I would get a taxi from Drogheda to Balbriggan, do my shop and get a taxi home and still save money,” he says.

That prompted him to start a campaign to allow Lidl to build a store in Drogheda. He collected more than 17,000 signatures which helped pave the way for the discounter to set up in the town.
Mr O’Neill says he is now saving on average around €40 every week on his grocery shopping.
He says he is often asked by locals how Lidl can sell food so cheaply.

“My answer to that is you’re asking the wrong question. The question you should be asking is how can the others justify the prices they are charging?”


Many Happy Returns – Return to Sender

The Evening Herald
Linda Higgins, January 5th, 2005

So Christmas has come and gone and you’re left with loads of pressies you already have, don’t like, or just can’t fit into. But don’t despair, writes Consumer Affairs Editor LINDA HIGGINS – you’ve got rights and we know how to use them.

Now that the holidays are over, you may just find yourself left with piles of unwanted gifts. It’s sweet of auntie Mabel to think that you’re still the size 10 you were in your teenage years, but there’s no way that you’re going to fit into the pretty cardigan that she bought you.

Meanwhile, your brother has given you a DVD that you already have, while you purchased a pair of expensive designer high heel shoes…only for a heel to fall off at your New Years party!

So, what can you do? You can make use of your consumer rights and return the above products to the outlets in which they were purchased.

As a nation, the Irish have long been ridiculously reluctant to complain about shoddy goods or bad service, but that is changing rapidly.

We’re now becoming far more aware of our power as consumers … and our rights when things go wrong.

Under the law, the consumer is entitled to expect that the goods are of merchantable quality, fit for their purpose, reasonable durable, and as described. If the goods do not meet these requirements, then it is up to the seller to put matters right.

You don’t have to accept a credit note if your complaint is covered by the Sale of Goods Act – you can insist on a refund, a replacement or a repair. If you have a genuine complaint about faulty goods, then ignore shop notices such as “No Exchanges” or “No Refunds”, as these cannot take away your statutory rights.

As the consumer, you have rights regarding the seller, and the seller has the duty to rectify the matter. You can pursue this, if necessary, through the courts.


“I can personally confirm that it pays to complain and demand the rights to which you are entitled,” says Dermott Jewell, Chief Executive of the Consumer Association of Ireland.

“The only point that I would like to see clarified is that any sign that suggests the consumer is not entitled to a refund is illegal – especially if it also suggests that this is the case during a sale.

“You will always be entitled to a refund if the goods you bought are not fit for purpose which they were bought, are of poor quality, damaged or, finally, are not as they were described and which prompted you to buy them in the first place.”

You are not in as strong a position if you are trying to return a gift rather than something that you purchased, particularly if you don’t have a receipt.

When goods are bought, the consumer has a contract with the seller. A person who receives goods as a gift is not considered to be a consumer.

That said, many retailers operate a goodwill policy, and will exchange unwanted gifts that are in pristine condition. Bring the receipt, if you have it, or you may have received a “gift receipt” (which gives product details and name of shop, but not the price).

However, the law doesn’t allow for a change of heart. You may have decided that you don’t like the colour of the dress you bought before Christmas, but that doesn’t mean you’re entitled to exchange it. The shop where you purchased it has no legal obligation in these circumstances.

“I would say that we receive good reports of co-operation from retainers, particularly if consumers explain their case politely,” says Carmel Foley, Director of Consumer Affairs.

Make sure that you know your rights, and the policy of the shop, before you charge in to complain.

The Office of Director of Consumer Affairs (ODCA) is an independent body that provides advice and information to consumers on their statutory rights. If does not intervene in individual disputes.

While the Small Claims Court is a useful resource for dissatisfied consumers, many people find their complaint is solved to their satisfaction after a discussion with the retailer.

For a start, make sure that you direct your complaint to the appropriate individual or body.


The information agency Comhairle recently published a useful free book called Where to Complain.

It’s a comprehensive guide to organisations that deal with citizen and consumer rights enforcements, and includes contact details for 150 organisations at Irish and EU levels.

“There has been an increase in the number of enquiries from the public to the national network of Citizens Information Centres (CICs), says Leonie Lunny, Chief Executive of Comhairle. Indeed, over 600,000 enquiries on all aspects of rights and entitlements were processed by CICs last year.”

Around 32,000 people phoned the consumer helpline last year and there were 3,223 contacts by email, post and personal callers, on a wide range of consumer issues.

Over half of all contacts were from consumers enquiring about their rights under the Sale of Goods Act.


Courtesy of www.valueireland.com, here are some handy tips on making your voice heard if you’re unhappy with a product…

Act Quickly – As soon as you realise you have a problem, either with a product or service you are paying for, bring it to the attention of the seller as soon as possible. Do not delay. This is particularly important if you are in a restaurant – there is no point in complaining at the end as you haven’t given them an opportunity to rectify the situation.

Always be polite – There is no point in “attacking first”. Calmly and politely explaining the situation is the best way to get a good reaction from those you are complaining to.

Be clear/precise in your complaint and what you expect to resolve the situation – Vague and generic complaints are of no use to those you are complaining to as they cannot properly respond to such complaints. When you are making a complaint, you must have an idea of what it is that you want to achieve. Decide what you want if you are entitled to a full refund, a replacement or a repair. Are you prepared to accept a credit note or an exchange? You should however also be aware of what the consequences may be if you do complain.

Allow the retailer/seller an opportunity to explain the situation, and hopefully suggest a solution – Listen to what they are saying in response to your complaint in order to avoid misunderstandings. This may save time, aggravation and money.

Complain to the right person – If you return to a shop with a faulty or unsatisfactory product, ask for the manager. In a large store, restaurant, or supermarket, ask for the department manager or customer services desk. Shop assistants and waiters are not always authorised to deal with complaints, especially if you want a refund. If the manager is not available, insist that someone else must have been left in charge and ask to see that person instead. If this fails, make an appointment to call back and see the manager.

If you are dissatisfied with the response to your complaint, put it in writing – Put your complaint in writing, following all of the tips above, to the person in the shop, business or organisation that is responsible for dealing with complaints. If possible, find out also the person they report to so you can follow up with them also, if necessary. Where necessary, don’t forget to send copies of receipts, documentation and anything else relevant. Again, be clear on what resolution you expect to your complaint, and in your letter you should provide a reasonable deadline for action, and what subsequent actions you will be taking then.

What to do if no response to a written compla
int – Firstly, being the reasonable person that you are, send a second letter, only this time send it registered, and send a copy to the persons manager, or other senior people within the organisation. If you still receive no satisfactory responses, you should follow up with the relevant consumers organisations who will help you, and be better able to advise you on next possible steps – they may follow up for you, or provide assistance on whether you should pursue any legal actions. The Irish Consumer Organisations are listed here.

Finally, know your rights – You should be aware of what your consumer rights are, and clear on how they have been infringed in any situation where you are complaining. Click here for a summary of your basic consumer rights. Or else click here for full details of your consumer rights under the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act 1980.


Aer Lingus cancels €5 flights – Go to the Small Claims Court

First things first – if you’re one of the people who purchased the Aer Lingus €5 business class flights, go straight to the Small Claims Court.
Last Tuesday in the Irish Independent where some Value Ireland research was mentioned by Ciaran Brennan in an article called “Check Please”.
A sidebar to that article was called “Undercharging just never seems to happen” and referred to my amazement that companies who make billing errors rarely make the errors in favour of the customer, but nearly always in favour of themselves.
But only two days later, we now hear of the Aer Lingus billing mistake that allowed about 100 customers buy €1775 business class tickets to the US for only €5.
Unfortunately, in the same way that if we’re overcharged for something and we expect to get our money back, Aer Lingus have cancelled all these tickets once the error was found. Their communication to customers who booked the tickets was as follows:

Due to a technical error in our reservation system for a brief period a small number of bookings were priced incorrectly. This email is to notify you of cancellation of your booking and to advise no funds will be deducted from your account.

Dermott Jewell of the Consumer Association made the following comments:’Customers had a binding contract with Aer Lingus. They booked and paid to bind the contract. Realistically Aer Lingus is going to have to do something to abide by the bookings and to help the customers.’
This got me thinking! If an item is incorrectly priced in a shop, the price is considered an “invitation to treat” which means that when as a customer, if we offer to buy at that price, the shop may or may not accept the offer. If the shop in this case notices the mistake, they can then remove the item from sale at the incorrect price. If they don’t notice the mistake and process the sale, then the customer purchases the item at the incorrect price and goes home happy.
In such situations, if the shop discovers after the fact that they sold some items at an incorrect price, they’re not going to follow the customer home and take the item back. Just like Arnotts aren’t going to be able to take my new jacket off me because they got their 40% off signs positioned in the wrong place and their staff didn’t notice.
So, with this Aer Lingus situation, where do customers stand? It would appear to me that Aer Lingus made an offer via their website of business class flights for €5. 100 customers saw the “invitation to treat” and offered €5 for those flights. At the time of confirming their acceptance of the customers offer, Aer Lingus (through their automated booking system) didn’t notice the
incorrect price, and confirmed the offer. And because Aer Lingus confirmed the reservations at that price, presumably a contract was entered into.
From this solicitor’s website, you can see the following is the definition of a “contract offer”:

An offer is essentially an expression of willingness to contract made with the intention that it shall become binding on the person making it as soon as it is accepted by the person to whom it is addressed. It will usually be a matter of construction as to whether or not the offer was made in the first place and whether or not it was intended to create a legally binding agreement. When considering such issues the court will distinguish between an offer and an invitation to treat that is not enforceable. An invitation to treat requires further confirmation by the invitor.

Therefore, in the Aer Lingus situation, there was further confirmation from Aer Lingus since they confirmed the flights at €5. Furthermore, also from the same website, a confirmation or acceptance is described as:

An acceptance is a final and unqualified expression of assent to the terms of an offer. It may sometimes be difficult especially in business to determine when the negotiations have ended and the offer has been accepted. The court will look at the entire negotiation to ascertain whether or not final acceptance had taken place. Acceptance can be deemed to have taken place through the conduct of the parties. The general rule is that acceptance must be communicated to the person who makes the offer, although there are exceptions to this rule, for example where the offer expressly waives the requirement. One of the main exceptions is where acceptance is made by post. In this situation acceptance happens upon the posting of the acceptance. In practice, most contracts in today’s business world will lay down very specific methods of acceptance.

To me, an e-mail confirmation of flight details from Aer Lingus would seem to be a satisfactory exhibition of acceptance on their part – they would use that as an indication of contract if you tried to back out of buying a ticket.
So really, when Enda Corneille, Director of Corporate Affairs at Aer Lingus, comes on the radio and said “anyone who booked a business class ticket, which usually retails at about €1,775, and got it so cheaply should know there was a mistake”, he’s really just saying “wah wah wah, it’s not fair. We screwed up, and got caught out. It’s not fair!” Yet they’ve taken their flights back, cancelled the contract between them and their customers, returned the money, and picked up their ball and scuttled away home.
Now, you can accept his point when he says ‘When you are selling seats on the front of the site quite openly for €249, to sell a business class seat for a fiver is a genuine mistake. People are going to know there’s something up.’
But doesn’t the same thing apply if Munster supporters are trying to book flights to somewhere there’s a game and a normal €5 flight when there’s no game on suddenly becomes €250 on the weekend when there’s a game. There’s definitely “something up” in those situations!
I’m definitely not an expert here, but I presume the defence of Enda Corneile and Aer Lingus is that the consumers didn’t enter into the contract to purchase the €5 ticket “in good faith”. Based on his comment above, there could be seen to have been no good faith on the part of the consumer when they would have known that there’s no way a normally cheap ticket of €249 which could cost €1775 could cost €5.
Unfortunately I can’t find anything on the websites of the Consumer Association or the National Consumer Agency to explain how to handle this kind of situation. That I can find out through a very quick Google search, the “in good faith” principle technically may apply to protecting the consumer rather than the business concerned – it’s intended to prevent any unfair terms being added into contracts which would lessen consumer rights.
If I were one of the people who purchased one of these flights, I’d definitely fight it. They made a contract with Aer Lingus, who’ve now broken it. This is a definite case for the National Consumer Agency (the former Office of Director of Consumer Affairs) – though that would then mean you’d have one state organisation going up against another state organisation, and that’s never really going to happen, is it.
It could also potentially be one for the Small Claims Court though. According to their website:
The small claims procedure is limited to: a claim in respect of goods or services bought for private use from someone selling them in the course of a business (consumer claim). This is provided that the claim does not exceed €2000.00 in each case.
In this situation, consumers have purchased an airline flight for €5 for private from use from Aer Lingus who’s business it is to sell flights. The claim will actually cost more than the flight. A no brainer really!

iPhone comes to Ireland

Apart from my frustration about how the arrival of the iPhone to Ireland caused Vodafone to drop their Nokia N95 prices, I don’t think I can add a whole lot to the discussion that’s been published already:
It is interesting though, that the phone is only available on 18 month contracts – O2 are basically cutting themselves off from a fairly big prospective market. Though, I’m guessing there’ll be many Mums and Dads who’ll be under pressure to cough up.

However, to see how exactly O2 are going to do off the back of screwing Irish consumers, you just have to see this quote from Dermott Jewell of the Consumer Association of Ireland from The Daily Mail (no link unfortunately):

However, Jewell feels that Irish consumers, in their rush to get hold of their shiny new iPhones, will ignore the anti-competitive charges from O2.

“In this market economy, and with healthy waiting lists for the phone, its almost a self-fulfilling prophecy and there won’t be any complaints about the prices.

“Unfortunately, we won’t see the levels of consumer agitation that could deter this,” Jewell added.

Essentially, since the country’s still relatively speaking awash with cash (or easy credit), anyone who’s blinded by the iPhone bling will be splashing the cash on March 14th.


Where does “supply and demand” end and “rip off prices” begin?

Our esteemed Minister for Trade, Enterprise and (rising un)Employment has promised to get to the bottom of our high prices being suffered by Irish consumers. I thought this was the reason he set up the National Consumer Agency a number of years ago. Are they unsuccessful at what they’re supposed to be doing, or as suggested by our friend Leo, is he stalling for time? But why would he be stalling for time? Waiting for prices to fall on their own?

According to this breakingnews.ie item:

Minister for Enterprise Micheál Martin is promising further investigation into why Irish consumers continue to pay higher prices for essential goods and services than their EU counterparts.

Mr Martin was speaking about a new Forfas report on the effects of the EU single market.

The report says that, while the single market has benefited business and trade, Irish consumers have been left with some of the highest prices in the EU.

Maybe he could listen to Dermott Jewell, Chief Executive of the Consumer Association of Ireland. Mr. Jewell was today quoted in an Irish Independent article referring to the cost of roses for Valentines Day – reported doubling in price compared to every other day.

Faced with the issue of retailers increasing their prices, Mr.Jewell responded “The distributors put it back to the growers and there is a bit of truth in that but, let’s be honest, every single person on that chain is trying to make as much money as they can.”

And more crucially, “It’s seen as an opportunity to extract as much money from the Irish consumer as possible,” he added.

And why do retailers do that? Because they can maybe? Because no matter what the price charged, Irish consumers will unquestioningly hand over the cash? The Indo article above is a good example.

Without seeing the direct comparison myself, how many people could really tell the difference between 12 €120 roses from a specialist florist in a vase compared to 12 €30 roses from Dunnes? So why spend the extra €90? Convenience? Snobbery? Or do some people show their love purely through monetary expenditure? Any way you look at it, it’s the consumers choice to pay that extra €90, so they’re not really in a strong position to complain – especially when there are valid and cheaper alternatives available.

If consumers don’t pay the specialist florist €120 for 12 roses, they won’t sell them. If a florist isn’t selling roses, they’ll have to do something – stop selling roses, or drop the prices to attract customers. As the Indo article says, it’s simple supply and demand.

We shouldn’t be only slagging off Irish retailers for the high prices they’re charging. We should also be slagging off all the Irish consumers who are stupid enough to spend such high prices and create demand at these high prices – thereby causing the rest of us to have to pay these prices as well.


Mixed Responses to “just and no more” MCD Compensation

I wondered here last week what MCD might come up with as a response to the report into the Barbara Streisand concert fiasco.

The responses that I’ve seen have been 50/50. Dermott Jewell of the Consumer Association of Ireland said it was a “poor deal” for consumers.

In what I think is a disgraceful “archers salute” type response to Mr. Jewell and consumers, the acting chief executive of the National Consumer Agency, Ms.Ann Fitzgerald disagreed, said it was a good deal and said “if people were unhappy they could take a case to the Small Claims Court”. This is a shocking response from the organisation that claims to be “Putting Consumers First”.

If consumers are unhappy, they should be able to go to the NCA, based on the way the portray themselves, not be fobbed off onto another agency instead.

Personally, I think this mention of the Small Claims Court is a complete red herring. Based on my reading of the situation, in this case, what MCD have offered consumers is pretty much the minimum they would have to had to pay had things gone to the SCC.


Should credit card surcharges be banned?

This article in the Irish Times today (sub required) pits Dermott Jewell of the Consumer Association of Ireland (in favour) against Brendan Burgess of www.askaboutmoney.com (against).

Personally, I’m in favour of the removal of credit card surcharges, but that’s just me. I was interested however in reading the reasoning behind Mr.Burgess’ argument in favour of keeping credit card surcharges.

He argues that as an empowered consumer, he will shop around. And if spending more than €100 he will ask for a discount. Which is all fine and well, but how can you ask for a discount or shop around when you’re buying a flight or concert tickets online.

I was particularly intrigued as to how he brought in twice the example of credit card surcharges when it came to buying art. Which is probably relevant to some of the readers of the Irish Times, but is hardly relevant to the majority of Irish consumers.


Inflation running at 50%

Well, it is if you’re selling your house through Sherry Fitzgerald according to this report on Ireland.com earlier today. They’re increasing their commission when selling a house from 1% to 1.5%, a 50% increase.

The useful intervention from the National Consumer Agency was “”estate agents had had ten years of a “gravy train” and were looking for an increase that amounted to 50 per cent after just six months of a downturn in the housing market”.

And that’s it. Not even a “shop around” quoted there anyway, but I haven’t heard the full text of the interview on RTE.

Hooke & McDonald have said they won’t be increasing their commissions – though I don’t know what their rates are to say whether or not people should use them instead of Sherry Fitzgerald.
Chances are most people using Sherry Fitzgerald know that they’ve a big name, see lots of “for sale” signs around with their name on it, and assume that that high profile will get their house sold. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee – though, if the 0.5% increase in fees gave that guarantee, then it might be worth while.

People selling their houses should speak to several estate agents, and should more particularly ask for recommendations from other people they know, before selecting an estate agent. Word of mouth, combined with full information, should dictate who to use – and if it can be done better than at 1.5% commission, then avoid Sherry Fitzgerald.

Or, as per Dermott Jewell of the Consumer Association of Ireland on the radio this evening, people could take advantage of the growing trend here in Ireland of people selling their own homes, saving themselves the full commission altogether.


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