Tag Archives | Leo Varadkar

Government proposal to have NCT checks catch clocked cars is a joke

Though published on April 1st by Fiach Kelly in the Irish Independent, his story under the headline “NCT check will uncover ‘clocked’ cars in new plan” doesn’t appear to be an April Fool. I do think, however, that the proposals from the Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar, will be about as useful as an April Fool prank.

According to Mr. Kelly, the Irish Independent has learned that 10% of cars checked by the NCTS have been clocked, and that the Department of Transport has helpfully “suggested there is a problem”. This means that their response will be that:

Under new plans, cars will have their mileage cross-referenced with their NCT history every time they go in for the test.

The aim is to have the system rolled out within around two years, and motorists would be able to check mileage history.

Effectively, they will check your mileage each time you send your car for its NCT, and if the mileage is less than the previous NCT check, you – the car owner – will be prosecuted. According to the article:

And it would become a crime to have your car clocked. At the moment, it is a crime only to sell a clocked car.

Bear with me here, but I don’t think that these proposals are going to have much effect at all. And worse, they have the potential of penalising consumers a whole lot more than garages who clock cars who may actually do the car clocking.

Won’t work in all instances (1)

Let’s take an example car, owned by Joe Bloggs, a travelling salesman, who does 100k miles every year selling widgets to €1 stores. Joe has the car for 2 ½ years and has put up 275k hard miles on the car. He trades it in for the newest model, and the car is taken in and tidied up by the dealer.

“Tidied up” just so happens to involved rolling back the mileage to somewhat more than the average annual mileage for a car in Ireland – 60k miles (2.5 times 10,837, plus change for good measure). That’s still a damn site less than the actual mileage, and something that the NCT won’t catch after the car was bought by Mick Smith, driven only 5k miles for 6 months, and subjected to the first NCT.

Won’t work in all instances (2)

If you're reading this, you're probably on a PC with internet filtering, or a poor connections, so you're missing a picture of the odometer in a carLet’s assume instead that Mike Smith buys the car first. He owns it for 3 ½ years, and does his usual circa 5k miles per year, and decides to upgrade after successfully passing the first NCT on the car. The car is sold with 20k miles on the clock to Joe Bloggs who drives the wheels off the thing for 2 more years, putting up his circa 100k average each year before deciding to upgrade the car before the next NCT is due after 6 years.

Now, the car has circa 220k on the clock, is 5 ½ years old, and in “tidying up” the car, the less than scrupulous garage owner decides that he could only ever sell the car and make money on it if there’s less than 100k miles on the clock, needing to wipe off over 120k miles.

And like magic, Mary Murphy who bought the car next, submits it innocently for NCT, and successfully passes the test with flying colours. There’s 95k miles on the clock, there was 20k on the clock at the last NCT, and no one is any the wiser.

Useless NCA must change approach too

Let’s now say that the car hadn’t passed the NCT, and Mary Murphy is told that the car she bought had been clocked. She’s now in possession of a clocked car, for which she’ll be liable for prosecution. By whom, we don’t know yet.

And for selling the car, the unscrupulous garage is also liable for prosecution. By the National Consumer Agency. Who rarely prosecute garages who clock cars, merely settling on “working with them” to make sure they don’t do it anymore.

So, there we have it. Yet another scenario in the making where big business, or any business for that matter, in Ireland will get away with anything, while it’s we, the ordinary punters, who always end up paying the price.



Ringing Government Departments on 1890 LOCALL numbers

This article from Mondays Pricewatch column in the Irish Times from Conor Pope highlights a reader, Mannix, who takes issue with the fact that many government departments provide 1890 contact numbers. While these numbers appear to be cheaper, given their LOCALL and CALLSAVE descriptions, for the reader who uses an O2 mobile, it actually costs significantly more.

This is an issue that I’m constantly highlighting on the SayNoTo1890.com website. In fact, a very committed reader has been chasing many of the regulatory organisations within the country to see if anything can be done about this issue, but without any success. ComReg, the National Consumer Agency, the Competition Authority, and the Minister at the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamonn Ryan, all say its not their problem. And obviously, the mobile companies who make a huge profit from these calls don’t want to know either.

The research, referred to in Conors article, carried out by Leo Varadkar and Fine Gael is available on their RipOff.ie website here.

The SayNoTo1890.com A-Z geographical alternative telephone number page on the site provides landline numbers for many government departments, including all but 2 of the 21 departments referenced on the Fine Gael website. Calling these numbers instead of the 1890 numbers means that people can call from their mobile without incurring the higher costs.

I’m constantly on the look out for more of these geographical alternative numbers, so if you know of any others, please let me know and I’ll add them to the list. The two from the Fine Gael listing that I don’t have are the National Treatment Purchase Fund and bizarrely given that it’s most likely to be called from a mobile, the Garda Traffic Watch hotline.


Click here for the SayNoTo1890.com Website.

Click here for the SayNoTo1890.com Website.


My name is not Dr. Florence Craven

While many people have alternative identities that they might use when online, I’d like to confirm that mine (if I have one at all) is not Dr. Florence Craven. Based on this recent letter in the Irish Independent, you might have thought that it was me writing the letter:

Like many others, I remember Leo Varadkar’s warnings about gym contracts in early 2008.

While running the risk of sounding like a broken record, people do need to be regularly warned about unfair contract terms imposed by gyms and other businesses.

The National Consumer Agency is not doing enough to eradicate underhanded practices.



Dr. Craven, welcome to my world!


Top Tips for Irish Consumers from Leo Varadkar

With many thanks and courtesy of Leo Varadkar, Fine Gael spokesman for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, here is the 9th in our series of Top Tips for Irish Consumers:

I’ll get the party political plug out of the way at the beginning – Vote Fine Gael, and you’ll get a party which doesn’t believe in stealth charges, VAT increases and other policies which have contributed massively to Rip-off Ireland.

  • Always Look For A Discount. While it won’t work in your high-street multinational shops, but if your buying from an independent retailers, it is always worth looking to see if they can do you a deal. You’ll be surprised how often they will do.
  • Never accept the first offer from Insurance Companies. They will always go lower, and you can always go elsewhere.
  • Be careful with vouchers – Always check the terms and conditions inside out – especially at this time of year. Last year, I carried out a survey on this which showed that over 2/3rds of them had an expiry date, and in some cases vouchers expired in as little as three months. In addition, more than three quarters had conditions which meant that customers would not get change on their purchase, even for sums below €1 left on the gift card, thus forcing them to make another purchase to get the full value of the card.
  • Be even more careful with gym membership. In a few weeks we’ll be all looking at our New Year’s Resolutions, and if you end up signing up for a gym you can be signing up to some onerous and largely hidden terms and conditions. Make sure you know what your signing up to, for how long, and what the story is with selling on your membership or cancelling it. You might be gung-ho for hitting the gym in January, but from bitter experience, that may not be the case six months later!
  • If your getting professional services – know before hand what your signing up for, and the cost. Be it solicitors, dentists, doctors or whatever, always ask what the cost will be before agreeing to it.
  • When buying products like home heating oil – shop around. No matter what you are buying, you should always shop around, but in particular for products like Home Heating Oil where such information isn’t too well known. Spending half an hour with the Golden Pages and on the phone and you’ll easily be able to get in touch with about a dozen suppliers. We did a survey over the summer of suppliers, which showed for a 1,000 litres of home heating oil there was almost €80 of a difference in the Dublin area. So it can certainly make a difference. Oh, and always ask for a reduction on their initial offer.
  • If you see a bank charge on your account – ring them, ask them to remove it. If they whinge about it, tell them you’ll move your account. While you might think it would be a load of hassle, switching accounts between banks is no longer that big a deal.
  • Keep an eye on what your mortgage provider is charging you, and keep an eye on what other providers are charging. You can make a fair old saving, even in the current banking climate, by switching your mortgage between banks.
  • If your buying a house or an apartment, and there is a management company, make sure to find out everything about it. Before buying, take a look at the National Consumer Agency’s information on Management Companies and make sure to question the Estate Agent, and your Solicitor in detail about the company before doing making any commitment.
  • Finally my American intern advises to always look for clothes which are missing a button or have a small blemish, and then demand a reduction. This strikes me as far too much hassle, but she tells me it is well worth it to save a few Euro. Being a student and the Dollar/Euro exchange, she probably knows what she’s at.

The complete series listing of Top Tips for Irish Consumers is now available here.


Dublin’s Q102 launches ‘Ignore That Store’ campaign

We received this press release earlier this week – a campaign by the Dublin station Q102 against the dual pricing and exaggerated sterling to euro price conversion rates.

We in ValueIreland.com have always advocated that consumers should always vote with their wallets when it comes to where to spend their money. While it’s great to see a campaign of any kind to raise awareness of consumers, ignoring a store completely might not be completely in the interests of consumers.

As an example, what if a particular store that is “named and shamed” actually provides the best value going on a particular item – cheapest in the country. There’s no reason why consumers should ignore the whole store. Ignore the expensive items by all means, but take advantage of the value – wherever it’s available.

Dublin’s Q102 launches ‘Ignore That Store’ campaign to name and shame retail outlets who mark up prices when converting from sterling to euro

‘Ignore That Store’ initiative launched in conjunction with The Consumers’ Association of Ireland

Free Christmas advertising campaign on Dublin’s Q102 promised to first store which undertakes to convert sterling to euro accurately

Tuesday, 25 November 2008                For immediate release

‘On The QT’, the flagship current affairs programme on radio station Dublin’s Q102, in conjunction with The Consumers’ Association of Ireland, has launched a new innovative on-air campaign called ‘Ignore that Store’. The campaign is naming and shaming the many retail outlets that are ripping off consumers by marking up prices when converting sterling to euro on labels.

‘On the QT’, which is presented by Scott Williams, has discovered that certain stores are overcharging consumers by astronomical mark up’s when it comes to converting sterling prices to euro prices, in some cases by as much as 45%. In addition, some stores are going as far as blacking out the original sterling prices or ripping the sterling tag off in a bid to cover up the incorrect conversion rates.

Since announcing the campaign, ‘On the QT’ on Dublin’s Q102 has been inundated with texts, e-mails and calls from concerned listeners naming shops who are exploiting customers with unfair prices. Dublin’s Q102 has also visited some of the shops repeatedly mentioned by listeners to check their conversion rate, and found that many items were marked considerably higher than the actual sterling price shown.

Below are samples of the e-mails sent by listeners to ‘On the QT’ offering their support for ‘Ignore That Store’:

  • “My partner went to Claires Accessories to buy 2 baby headbands at 2 pounds sterling, and was asked for 7.60. I brought them back. Total rip off. Thanks for highlighting this.”
  • “I saw a dress in M&S for 105 euro, it was however only 55 sterling. That’s a huge mark up.”
  • “I was in Monsoon in Liffey Valley last night and was bowled over to see that a dress, marked £180 sterling was being sold here for 280 euro – disgraceful, Name & Shame!”

The ‘Ignore That Store’ project has already garned support from politicians across all parties including:

  • Chris Andrews TD, Member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
  • Dr. Leo Varadkar, Fine Gael’s Spokesperson for Enterprise, Trade & Employment
  • Senator Brendan Ryan, Consumer Affairs Spokesperson for the Labour Party
  • Mary White, Green Party Deputy Leader and Spokesperson on Enterprise

The ‘Ignore That Store’ initiative follows hot on the heels of the extremely successful ‘Make small Print BIG Print’ campaign run by Dublin’s Q102 earlier this year. That project was focused on not only abolishing small print but making it BIG print, clearly highlighted, easy to read and in plain English to ensure consumers avoid getting trapped into agreements through the use of obscure and unwelcome terms and conditions. Furthermore, Scott Williams, CEO of Dublin’s Q102, was called to make a presentation about the ‘Make small Print BIG Print’ campaign to the Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment sitting at the Oireachtas.

Scott Williams, CEO of Dublin’s Q102 and presenter of ‘On the QT’, believes that the ‘Ignore That Store’ endeavour will be as successful as the ‘Make small Print BIG Print’ campaign and he has promised free Christmas publicity to the first store which stops inaccurately marking up their prices.

“After the recent success of the ‘Make small Print BIG Print’ campaign we believe that we can do more for the Irish consumer and stop stores marking up their prices. The response from our listeners to the ‘Ignore that Store’ project has been astounding. We have received a flood of calls, texts and e-mails on this topic confirming that this is a huge problem for consumers. We hope that our offer of free advertising in the run up to Christmas to the first store which undertakes to use accurate prices will encourage the stores to do so!”

Dermott Jewell, CEO of the Consumers’ Association of Ireland, has expressed his committed support for the ‘Ignore That Store’ campaign:

“The actions and attitude adopted by many retailers in adding exorbitant, unrealistic and undeserved profit margins to Irish consumers needs to be highlighted. But – more importantly – consumers must acknowledge that this is unacceptable, that they are being fleeced and that they do have the power to do something about it and that they must do something about it.”

“The Consumers’ Association of Ireland, together with Q102, wants every consumer who sees anything more than 10% added to the euro exchange value of a £ sterling price to leave the goods there, to walk away and to tell their friends and family to Ignore That Store. Then, they should take their money to a retailer who values their custom with reasonable prices.”

“This is the one simple way we, as consumers, can send the message that until we see fair pricing we will not spend and we will leave products on the racks and shelves of the profiteers.”

And no, the irony of the CAI launching a campaign this week isn’t lost on me either.


Fine Gael – Streamlining Goverment

I’ve had a couple of e-mails from people drawing my attention to the publication of the Fine Gael policy document, Streamlining Government. All of which is extremely noble and much needed given my constant problem with the number of useless regulators we have that do absolutely nothing for Irish consumers.

It’s worth having a look at the document (available here). It’s a hardly streamlined 83 pages, but it’s very interesting reading – particularly the appendices showing the details of our nearly 1000 useless regulators.


Fine Gael Declares War on Useless Regulators

Eventually Fine Gael were going to come up with a decent idea – and yesterday it was announced that “Kenny declares €50m war against quangos“.

I’ve been pretty critical over the past couple of years about the dozens (and increasing number) of useless government created organisations which are effectively sub-contracted to do the job of the government itself.

According to this article:

OPPOSITION leader Enda Kenny has pledged to cull the huge numbers of Government-created agencies and other bodies, claiming it would save €50m a year.

The Fine Gael leader says there are now 1,000 of these bodies — known as quangos — and says he will abolish dozens of them if his party gets into power.

Our friend, Leo Varadker is apparently going to be publishing a document which will detail the plans, which will include a single Fair Trade Agency for the consumer which would take in both the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority. They are also proposing a consolidation of the many useless transport regulators – the agencies for taxis, aviation, Dublin and regional transport would all be amalgamated into a single national transport agency.

Of course, we should remember that Mr.Varadkers predecessor, the Fine Gael “minister for Rip-off Ireland”, Phil Hogan, called for the creation of a “Consumer Rights Enforcer” – effectively the National Consumer Agency, which they’re now going to get rid of. Are we just playing politics here?


Leo Varadkar advocates consumers giving interest free 3 year loans to retailers

I was interested to read the results of a Fine Gael survey on gift vouchers. Leo Varadkar estimates that “€40 million worth of vouchers are never redeemed, representing a huge windfall for retailers”.

Seriously though – who’s fault is that? It’s hardly retailers fault that consumers don’t use gift vouchers presented to them? Or is it the retailers fault that a consumer gets a voucher and doesn’t bother making an effort to use it in the time period stated on the voucher?

Leo – cop yourself on! If I get a voucher that says I have three months to spend the cash, it’s my fault if I try to spend it in 4 months time, not the retailers.

If the terms and conditions on the vouchers are “unfair” or have the potential of “callously ripping off consumers” then isn’t it up to the consumers who purchase the vouchers to not actually buy them in the first place?

And as for your suggestion that there be a three year time expiry on vouchers, that’s nearly just as much of a gift to retailers as not using the vouchers at all.

In your proposed NCA supported fantasy world, giving a retailer €100 for a voucher now and allowing someone 3 years to spend it is the same as a 3 year interest free loan from the consumer to said retailer. And then take into account 5% inflation per year, the retailer only then has to hand over €85 worth of goods at the end of the loan period.

Shouldn’t you instead be encouraging consumers to use their vouchers as quickly as possible? It’s hardly good “enterprise or trade” to be encouraging consumers to be providing interest free loans to retailers with discounted repayment amounts?

Now, we know you’re only bringing this up because it was on Joe Duffy last week. He was talking about Muslims in Ireland today – when can we expect your press release on this?

Don’t you have anything better to be doing – like “marking” your counterpart who’s in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment at a time when we’re losing hundreds of jobs per week?


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