Tag Archives | National Consumer Agency (NCA)

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?


Will Ryanair screw up their system changes?

Working in the technology area, a few people I work with have commented today on Ryanairs plans to completely shut down their reservations system on the weekend of February 22 to 25. For a company with the normally predatory instincts for making a buck, for them to be completely shutting down their whole income-generating platform they must be making some mighty big system changes.

By all accounts, they’re making changes to implement UK Office of Fair Trading requirements (which I believe originated from the European Union) to include all fixed, non-optional costs in headline ticket prices.

Its interesting to see how it’s actually a UK regulatory body who are enforcing these requirements on the Irish airline – where were the National Consumer Agency? And remember, it’s the same UK regulatory body, Office of Fair Trading, headed up by Irishman John Fingleton.

The Ryanair site will be back up and available at 11pm on Monday night, February 25th. I wonder would it be worthwhile logging on then just in case the changes didn’t work properly. Any chance that “human error” or “systems issues” might cause free flights to become available (including taxes and charges from then on if they’ve made the correct changes required)? Then again, they’ll probably be offering free flights that night anyway to get the punters back.

It’s a long shot, but worth a look I suppose!


NCA – can’t be arsed doing their jobs?

Back in July last year, we had some fun with the National Consumer Agency over their grocery price survey which excluded Aldi and Lidl. I was reminded this today by an article by Ian Kehoe in the Sunday Business Post, Focus on €14bn grocery trade.

A quote from the article goes as follows:

The National Consumer Agency (NCA) recently published a pilot study which found little difference in prices between the main supermarket chains. The agency described the similarity in prices as ‘‘worrying’’.

The NCA is currently carrying out a more comprehensive study on the issue, and is also investigating why customers pay more in supermarkets in the Republic than in the North or England. An NCA spokesman said the report would be published in the coming months.

Recently mind you is over 6 months ago. As far as I can tell from here, inflation in food prices is approaching 4% since then.

And when they originally did their survey, the comment at the time was as follows:

The survey is the first tranche of research into grocery prices carried out by the NCA and a further survey will take place towards the end of the year which will include non-branded goods available in multiple and symbol group retailers.

So, the NCA are using 6 month old research calling it “recent” and when they said they were going to do an updated survey, they still haven’t done it – over 2 months late as we stand now. In fairness, how hard can it be to go out and buy a few things in the supermarket?

What do these people do again? Look after the interests of Irish consumers? Exactly how?


NCA – Crowing over pointless Tesco prosecution

Our fantastically useless National Consumer Agency strikes again. Today, they told us how they’d secured a prosecution against Tesco Ireland (the Dundrum store).

Excellent, they’re looking after our interests. The very naughty “Tesco Ireland was convicted in respect of failing to display the selling price of two items: twin pack tissues and toilet tissues”.

Telling us how great they are, in response to the prosecution, the NCA Chief Executive Ann Fitzgerald told us:

“Retailers must recognise that they have a duty of care to their customers. Without consumers they would not be in business. It is incumbent on them, therefore, to ensure that customers should know the correct prices of all products before going to the checkout.

“Consumers have a legal right to this so they can make an informed choice on whether to buy in that particular store or go elsewhere.”

And to show how successful the prosecution will be in teaching the very bold Tesco their lesson, the fine imposed was €1500. Technically, this was for 1 offence, but the presiding judge took account of the other 26 counts before him.

So, in reality, Tesco Ireland was fined about €55 for each instance of non-display of prices. Last year, the Tesco Ireland group made €2.7bn in revenues in Ireland (sub needed). If Tesco Ireland has about 100 stores at present, then Dundrum could account for €27m of that, though it’s likely to be much larger.

The fine imposed could therefore be about 0.00556% of revenues for the Dundrum store – €1500 out of €27m is unlikely to make them think once, never mind twice.

Well done NCA, that’ll teach them!


Press Ombudsman & Council – just another useless Irish regulator?

As of January 1st, 2008 the Press Ombudsman and the Press Council of Ireland are no in place. According to the Press Council of Ireland website, everybody in Ireland now has access to an independent press complaints mechanism that is quick, fair and free. This is one of the most positive developments in the history of Ireland’s newspapers and periodicals.

The new complaints mechanism is designed to ensure that the freedom of the press is never abused, and that the public interest is always served. These are the main principles of independent press regulation all around the world.

The site itself is a bit confusing as there are separate links for the Press Council as opposed to the Press Ombudsman. Apparently, any complaints go to the Press Ombudsman first who will “attempt to resolve the matter by making direct contact with the editor of the publication concerned”. This sounds horribly like the way our useless NCA and ODCE try to “work with” offenders rather than actually enforce the law.

Any complaints where “conciliation” is not possible can either be determined by the Ombudsman, or escalated to the Press Council.

Obviously, given the activities of Charlie Weston and my interest in other newspaper stories in the past year, I was interested to see what, if anything, this further extra regulator would be useful for, or would actually be able to do.

In the case of Mr.Weston, it seems as he may possibly have contravened (though not specifically according to the letter of the text) Principle 3 of the Code of Practice.

Principle 3 − Fairness and Honesty

3.1 Newspapers and periodicals shall strive at all times for fairness and honesty in the procuring and publishing of news and information.

3.2 Publications shall not obtain information, photographs or other material through misrepresentation or subterfuge, unless justified by the public interest.

In the case of the Richard Delevan article (which may or may not have gotten him fired), I don’t believe there is anything within the Code of Practice under which Mr.Ken McDonald could legitimately have complained. Possibly, Principle 5 – Privacy could have been used, however, subsection 5.2 states that:

Readers are entitled to have news and comment presented with respect for the privacy and sensibilities of individuals. However, the right to privacy should not prevent publication of matters of public record or in the public interest.

As far as I know, everything reported by Mr.Delevan had already been reported in the “press” previously, and there had been no previous complaints about this.

However, the sacking of Mr.Delevan, and the Irish Times articles referred to in my most recent “press” post, would both possibly fall foul of Princile 2 – Distinguishing Fact and Comment. Under subsection2.2, it states that:

Readers are entitled to expect that the content of a publication reflects the best judgement of editors and writers and has not been inappropriately influenced by undisclosed interests. Where relevant, any significant financial interest of an organisation should be disclosed. Writers should disclose significant potential conflicts of interest to their editor. (My bolded italics).

Finally, there are a number of journalists who’s work I’m familiar with who appear to make up unattributed quotes (“We spoke to one mother of six children”) and comments in order to justify an angle they’re trying to personally take in articles. It will be interesting to see if these journalists to continue to do so – especially as this activity would appear to contravene Principle 2 also, subsection 2.1

Comment, conjecture, rumour and unconfirmed reports shall not be reported as if they were fact, but newspapers and periodicals are entitled to advocate strongly their own views on topics.

As time goes on, it will be interesting if journalist behaviour changes, and if it doesn’t, what the Press Ombudsman and the Press Council will do about any complaints submitted to them. If you have a complaint to make, you should go here. Oh, sorry, you should go here actually.

Remember, this doesn’t work retrospectively – only for articles published after January 1, 2008.


Canny Cash Tips – from the Irish Independent

I’m linking to this article, Canny Cash Tips, in todays Irish Independent because Ciaran Brennan has actually used and quoted Value Ireland. As we always say in Value Ireland, don’t just complain because something bad has happened, always make sure to give praise when it’s due too.

Mr. Brennan makes mention of the research Value Ireland did back in July, where we found you could make significant savings be shopping for certain items in Lidl and Aldi, and we wondered why the National Consumer Agency weren’t telling consumers that fact.

There are two paragraphs in the article about saving money. I’d like to expand on those by proposing again the Value Ireland Savings Plan. Check out how it works here.


Spreading the consumer love – some recent press releases

I thought I might pass on some of the press release information that comes to my attention as part of my consumer research and news reviews. In the past couple of weeks, the following two pieces of news were released by the Financial Regulator and the National Consumer Agency.

  • Save hundreds on your home and life insurance premiums – The Financial Regulator has updated their Cost Surveys for buying home insurance and life insurance. Check out the news here and follow the links to their surveys.
  • Online ‘shopping assistant’ helps EU consumers – The National Consumer Agency provides news of the new Howard – The Shopping Assistant. This is an EU initiative which is designed to help online shoppers determine whether or not they can trust shops they might want to purchase from.

The Howard tool seems interesting – I must check it out. I do remember the Which? organisation in the UK providing a similar type tool in the past. More to follow on this once I get a chance to check Howard out.


Why don’t Irish businesses try to keep their customers?

For years now it’s been my belief that Irish businesses treat all their customers on a “once 0ff” basis. Customers are screwed for as much as possible on initial dealings with a businesses, and after that, the businesses don’t really care what happens.

As an example, a colleague of mine has had an interesting experience with BT Ireland in the past week. He was a broadband customer of theirs in his house for a number of years before moving and passing on the contract to his tenants. He then rented accommodation and because a customer again of their broadband package.

So, in the space of a few years, he had given BT Ireland two customers each of whom was paying at least €56 per month.

Then, in the last couple of weeks, he canceled his contract in rented accommodation, moved back to his original house, and asked BT Ireland to be reconnected to his original connection. The connection was already still live in the house, but he just wanted his name on the bills again.

BT Ireland ignored him for a few months, then discovered that the connection and was still live, and disconnected it.

They then claimed they had no request for reconnection, but that they would gladly reconnect him at a cost of €121. Even though new customers can get connected for €45 (or free if they’re moving from another broadband provider).

What a crazy way to treat someone who had been a loyal customer of the company for a number of years. Unfortunately, there was nothing that BT Ireland were doing wrong legally since he didn’t have a current contract – he was just a prospective customer – but they knew he was a previous customer.

So, there was no one to complain to. COMREG will not get involved in customer-provider contract issues as I’ve found out in the past, and we’ve already seen here how useless the NCA can be – a pre-written PFO saying that they’d “work with the company” rather than do anything isn’t going to get broadband connected.

The final outcome – my colleague has found an alternative supplier for his broadband and will be getting connected to them later this week. Lost custom for BT Ireland, and he’s telling anyone who’s in the market for broadband about how they’ve treated him.


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