Tag Archives | Supervalu

Consumers Need More Information During a Data Breach – Necessary Consumer Protection Legislation (5 of 5)

Consumers Need More Information During a Data Breach – Necessary Consumer Protection LegislationThis is the last in my series of 5 blog posts about some extensive changes proposed for consumer rights legislation announced by Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mr. Richard Bruton, TD back in May 2015. The 4 earlier posts were as follows:

This final post is slightly tangential to the proposed legislative changes, but is inspired by the consumer information gaps I highlighted in the most recent post, (title).

In that post, I highlighted that in the spirit of facilitating better purchasing decisions through the provision of better information, it is my view that any contract change notifications should tell customers not only what the new contract terms were, but also what the previous terms were as well.

By clearly and promptly providing giving this information to consumers, businesses would be giving enough information to allow consumers decide how they want to act in light of the new information – i.e. the amended contractual terms.

Extend to That Information Imperative

It’s my view that a similar change should be applied within data protection legislation in Ireland. It should be required of any organisation that is impacted by a data protection issue – a breach, a leak, any kind of data screw-up – should be mandated to contact ALL their customers after any incident. Currently, only those directly impacted (supposedly) by such a data protection issue could be contacted after a data protection breach.

I believe that a mandate on businesses and organisations to provide a wider communication should indicate to each customer whether they have been impacted, they definitely haven’t been impacted, or whether it’s not known yet one way or the other.

Assuming any current communications to impacted customers gives times and dates of any impact, and the data impacted, then this additional information would either put some customers on notice that they may still be impacted, or would provide ease of mind to customers who definitely weren’t interested.

Assumption Contact Would Be Made

I should add in here, the above paragraph assume that the impacted business or organisation would actually be making contact with any of their customers that are impacted by a data breach.

This is actually a big leap, since the Data Protection Commissioner, in their “Breach Notification Guide”, merely required:

that data controllers who have experienced an incident giving rise to a risk of unauthorised disclosure, loss, destruction or alteration of personal data must give immediate consideration to notifying the affected data subjects

Ridiculously, the business or organisation impacted could very well “consider” contacting the impacted customers, but actually decide not to bother contacting them at all.

Remove Uncertainty

So, mandating that contact be made – and to all customers, and not just those impacted – would certainly remove the unnecessary uncertainty the exists currently when a data protection breach is publicised. Frequently, when a data protection breach is identified by a company, where the breach becomes public, there is for a period of time an information vacuum where customers of the business don’t actually know what’s going on.

They’ll know there’s been a breach, but they won’t be told whether they HAVE or HAVE NOT been impacted, and in the absence of this confirmation, they can’t take any definitive action to protect themselves.

While I acknowledge that they can take certain protective, or preventative, measures – i.e. monitor their matters more closely, they don’t know whether they need to start cancelling cards, or closing accounts, or any other definitive protection measures.

Even the current requirement where impacted customers are mandated to be contacted can give rise to uncertainty. Imagine your bank is impacted by a data breach, it’s gone public, and they’ve confirmed they’ll contact impacted people as soon as possible.

You don’t hear from your back after a week. Does that mean you’re not impacted? Does that mean you are impacted but they just haven’t gotten around to contacting you? Or does it mean you’re not impacted at all?

A requirement to contact every customer of an impacted business or organisation would significantly improve the lot of consumers / customers.

Invidious Information Gap

The current solution to this information gap is where a special customer service helpline is provided by the impacted business or organisation where their customers can ring in to ask if they’re impacted by the incident.

This then crosses into a separate area of interest for me – the provision of 1890, 1850 and 0818 contact numbers by most businesses and organisations.

These contact numbers, for those who need to find out if they’re impacted it or not, and call from a mobile (let’s face it, pretty much everyone now) cost more than they should, and minutes on such calls are not deducted from mobile minute bundles.

So, not only might a customer be impacted by a data breach, or even if they’re not, they’re additionally impacted financially by having to pay out of pocket for the phone call made to try to find out if they’re actually impacted at all.

Profiting from a Breach?

This financial impact could be even more galling, if, like SuperValu did a number of years ago, the contact number provided is an 0818 phone number rather than an 1890 or 1850 number (they eventually provided a non-0818 number, but only after the initial panic died down).

It is possible that the business or organisation who is providing an 0818 number will actually earn money on the back of each call a customer would make to that number. So, the longer you’re on hold, or kept talking on a call to an 0818 number, the more money the organisation you’re calling is making.

(This is why, for example, most high profile organisations who provide 0818 contact numbers will make it difficult to find geographic alternative numbers. It would impact their earnings from their telephone calls).

Mandating that impacted organisations contact all their customers would remove the need for these phone calls. I will come back to this topic later on on my SayNoTo1890.com website.

No big deal

As I said in my other post, it’s not like most organisations that we deal with today don’t already have our phone number, or our e-mail address, stored somewhere in their systems.

It is also quite likely that they have a comprehensive marketing platform in place, that assuming we let them, would pump out marketing blurb to us on a regular basis to try to get more and more of our business.

It would take very little for these organsiations then to arrange communications to all their clients to give them an update. They have to do It anyway for impacted customers, so it’s not a big leap to send a different message to the remaining customers to assure them there’s no impact.

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This Weeks Grocery Special Offers across Ireland

Every week you can access this weeks grocery special offers across Ireland from all of the main grocery chains from this single handy web page. On a weekly basis, sometimes monthly, all the Irish supermarket chains publish their special offers on their websites in various different formats.

You can use this webpage to click on any of the icons below to bring you directly to the this weeks grocery special offers across Ireland from the main supermarket chains.

This Weeks Grocery Special Offers across Ireland

These links are as up to date as I can make them. The supermarket chains, however, don’t make it easy to keep this listing up to date – they regularly change the links to their special offers pages for no apparent reason other than to make it hard to keep this webpage up to date.

If you notice any broken links, or have any suggestions on any other pages that should be added here, please let me know here.

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Some thoughts on the proposed Musgraves acquisition of Superquinn

Yesterday I wrote a follow up to some tweets on Tuesday morning regarding the proposed acquisition of Superquinn by Musgraves.

I think this is going to be an interesting proposition for the Competition Authority, and the government. It could also give us great insight into how the future super-quango combination of the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency will operate.

While the Competition Authority will make the decision on the acquisition, it’s the National Consumer Agency at the moment who have all the information on pricing across the grocery market.

I personally don’t think that allowing the acquisition to go ahead will be good for Irish consumers.

I tweeted a few times yesterday morning about how the Competition Authority might handle the competition issues arising from the proposed purchase by Musgraves of Superquinn. From an employment perspective, it’s obviously important that as many of the 2,800 jobs are saved. However, jobs are not the responsibility of The Competition Authority.

Purely within the remit of TCA is the fact that competition in the Irish grocery market would be seriously diminished if Musgraves was allowed become the number 1 player via this acquisition. On average, according to the NCA, Supervalu (owned by Musgraves) is €9 more expensive for a basket of groceries than Superquinn, which is €3 more expensive than Dunned and Tesco. Allowing for the fact that the Superquinn outlets under Musgraves are likely to be priced at least as expensive as Supervalu, this takeover will only be bad for consumers.

It is, however, quite likely that Musgraves will play up on the more upscale image that the Superquinn brand has. And with the fact that the group will be the leading market player now, it’s quite possible that the prices in Superquinn could be increased beyond the prices in Supervalu – potentially even worse for consumers.

I’m particularly interested in seeing how TCA will approach this takeover. In the UK, competition laws were set aside to save banks through takeovers. Given political pressure, this could be demanded here also. Alternatively, TCA could just ignore the whole issue as a tactic to allow the acquisition to happen by default – blissfully ignoring all competition laws and duties as the did with the Topaz takeover of Statoil in 2006.  This will be the more likely action – political pressures will be satisfied, jobs will be saved, and no one has to do anything. Except the Irish consumer, again, who’ll be left to foot the bill.

Here’s the start of the political pressure anyway, from Willie O’Dea in the Dail yesterday:

I seek the adjournment of the Dáil underStanding Order 32 to raise a matter of national importance, namely, the sale of Superquinn to the Musgrave retail group, the competition issues that may arise from this agreement, the potential impact on the grocery sector across the country, the potential impact on the 2,800 workers employed by Superquinn and the need for the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to make this a matter of priority.

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Grocery special offer web pages – hopefully grocers will do better

You’ll probably have seen on many consumer related websites recently the growing listing of the special offers web pages that are updated every week or month.

For the record, here are the special offer links for all the Irish based grocery chains that I can find at the moment. If I’ve missed any, please let me know.These web pages are obviously pretty useful. For me personally, I find the Eurospar and Centra special offers pretty useful as I get some of my regular shopping items from those chains in bulk depending on the offers they have at certain times.

Could Do Better

But I really think that these grocery chains could actually do a little better with their grocery special offers web pages.

The main issue I have with their web pages is that for some of them, the links could change from week to week. This means that the respective websites need to be checked each week to see where the special offers are, and subsequently any links provided one week on a website like done above could be out of date and become a broken link the next week when the link changes.

Certain other pages provide non-standard presentations of the special offers such as Flash images or PDF files. These have the problem that not all web users (and particularly those doing the shopping and potentially visiting these pages) will have the software necessary on their machines to see the actual offers.

Yet another issue is where a couple of the offers pages open up in new windows. These pop up windows aren’t ideal in getting the message across to the widest possible audience as they could be blocked by some peoples internet settings.

RSS Offers Are the Future

Finally, I think these grocers are missing a trick by only publishing static web pages with their weekly or monthly special offers.

I reckon they’d get a much larger audience if they provided their grocery special offers via an RSS feed.

This would directly benefit any consumers who want to subscribe to these special offers where the update each week or month would be pushed out rather than depending on people visiting the website each week. Even coming back each week to check out the special offers might not be so straight forward if the consumers can’t bookmark the special offers pages if their web address changes each time.

I also think that if these grocery chains were to provide their grocery special offers via an RSS feed, it would given them greater flexibility in how to broadcast their message (via anywhere such as Twitter, Facebook, and so on that can publish such a feed).

It would also make it easier for publishers of consumer websites such as this one to promote the special offers to our readers on a weekly or monthly basis and to ensure the information is as up to date and as accurate as possible all the time.

Will the Grocers follow Up?

With all this in mind, last night I contacted most of the above grocery chains providing this feedback and the RSS publication suggestion. Hopefully they’ll all follow up.

I’ll let you know how things progress.

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Positive steps towards a national grocery price comparison website?

According to this article in this mornings Irish Times, the National Consumer Agency are in the process of trying to put together “a grocery database containing real-time price information which consumers could use to make accurate comparisons on the cost of a basket of goods”.

According to Conor Pope, the NCA have contacted Tesco, Spar, Dunnes Stores, Superquinn, Supervalu, Aldi and Lidl with a view to getting access to their prices on a more realtime basis rather than the current 6 monthly grocery price survey. The article mentions that Tesco are apparently in favour of such an independent grocery price comparison site.

I referred last week to the issues in Australia with their plans for a grocery price comparison site. At the moment, it seems that a “social media” campaign is being started to get consumers to submit prices of grocery items in order to build up an independent database of prices.

Such a campaign is, unfortunately (in my opinion), doomed to failure as the quality of the data is dependent on consumers submitting the pricing information – we can see this difficulty with the petrol price comparison sites in Ireland (despite the excellent work of Pumps.ie). Sometimes, there’ll be good information, but at other times, information will be incomplete, out of date, or not available in a particular area. This will only be compounded hundreds if not thousands of times across the many many grocery items available across all the Irish grocery retailers.

The government sponsored Australian price comparison site was pulled, allegedly, because of a reluctance on the part of the Australian grocers to make their pricing inforamtion available for comparison purposes.

It’ll be interesting to see how successful the National Consumer Agency are in getting pricing information from all of the Irish grocery chains.

However, this plan from the NCA is the only way to go when it comes to a grocery price comparison site. From a technical perspective, a grocery price comparison site is quite simple to set up and maintain – provided it gets a consistent and accurate daily feed of prices from the respective grocery chains.

And it’s not like they don’t have the necessary information easily to hand – a simple extract of their grocery products stocked and the price charged could in theory be achieved in minutes every morning.

There are a couple of potential sticking points though. One mentioned in the article is how to compare across “own brand” items – a growing part of all grocery retailers stock portfolio these days.

Other potential issues would be:

  • How would one determine what stores should be taking part in the website comparison – do you include only multiples and thereby give them de-facto free advertising at the expense of independent grocery stores?
  • How do you manage price differences across the country – we’re told Dublin is 4.4% more expensive than Dublin. Do you therefore need a set of “Dublin prices” and a “country price” as well – doubling up on the data requirements for the project?
  • What about Northern Ireland stores? These grocery chains have growing chunk of the Irish grocery market, so to get a valid comparison, they would also need to be included.
  • What value would there be in the price comparison site if, for example, Dunnes Stores decided not to allow their pricing data be used? The exclusion of such a big player in the market would negate the value of the project as a whole.
  • The ComReg CallCosts.ie website is referred to in the article as an example of a similar popular service. While CallCosts.ie provides a certain amount of useful information, it is open to manipulation by the telecoms companies who always want their offerings showing at the top of any listing. This will need to be avoided for any grocery comparison site.
  • Also, with regards to CallCosts.ie, it hasn’t developed with the market which has moved on since it was originally set up – it doesn’t provide a mobile broadband comparison yet. Any grocery price comparison site will need to be developed in such a way that it can quickly adapt to grocery market changes.

For what has to be the first time ever, I’m positive about something being done by the National Consumer Agency. If this is properly investigated, analysed and planned, a grocery price comparison website could be an excellent addition for Irish consumers.

And just think – once all the information is stored centrally, who know’s where this could end? Online shopping lists? I-Phone or mobile phone applications? Links with cooking and recipe websites to automatically create your shopping list?

Think Amazon.com, but for grocery shopping.

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Price Cuts from SuperValue. Big deal?

We received this e-mail from a ValueIreland.com reader about the “special offers” currently being promoted in store by SuperValu:

I think this is a shocking ploy by Super Valu to fool parents into buying babyfood products from them. The biggest discount they offer in their display is 10 cent on €4.39 – about 2%

The smalllest discount is 2 cent on €0.811. The mean, devious, rotten shower, fumbling in the greasy till and adding the half cent to the cent…
Check it all out here: http://choosepurple.com/supervalu/
Just goes to show you – just because someone tells us that there’s a special offer, or that something is on sale, doesn’t always mean  that we’re getting something cheaper or that we’re getting value for money.
Check the small print if you’re not familiar with the prices to make sure that you’re actually getting a bargain.
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Can we expect Tesco special offers in Ireland shortly?

Sky News Online yesterday reported that “Tesco is launching a £100m price cutting campaign as the supermarket pricing war hots up”. According to the story:

The store giant also said it was launching an advertising campaign comparing the cost of customers’ baskets of shopping against the prices of its competitors. The move comes after Asda announced a wave of discounts on thousands of items. And now Tesco says the prices of a range of staple goods will be cut this month.

The whole grocery pricing issue here in Ireland seems to have died a death – or has everyone just shut up and gone to Newry.

It’s September since the last National Consumer Agency grocery survey, which told us nothing since the previous survey in February. So I suppose that means we’re due another survey from them to tell us that, AGAIN, Dunnes Stores, Superquinn and Tesco are all priced within 7c of each other on a basket of goods, and that Aldi and Lidl are cheaper, and Centra and Supervalue are more expensive.

Given that inflation has dropped recently, overall prices may have dropped since the last survey, but will we see any change in the supermarket faux-competitive status quo?

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More on Buying Irish

My post last Friday, Buying Irish requires a bit of work, generated a few comments on the merits or otherwise of focusing our purchasing considerations on only buying from Irish retailers and service providers.

I had wondered if it it could be possible for Irish consumers to support the country in its time of need by re-starting a Buy Irish campaign again by frequenting Irish retailers and service providers. I asked what the problems might be if we were to do that – questions brilliantly answered by the commenters.

One reader sent an e-mail over the weekend which showed exactly why we, as consumers, couldn’t possibly do ourselves justice by going hell for leather on such a Buy (from) Irish campaign.

What would you pay for 1.75l of Tropicana Smooth Orange Juice?

  • UK Retail Chain – Tesco Ireland Navan = €4.99
  • Irish Retail Chain – SuperValu Trim = €5.19
  • Local Corner Store – Gillan’s Summerhill = €6.75
  • Irish Retail Chain – Eurospar, Meakstown Dublin 11 = €7.99

As pointed out in a comment over the weekend, why would Irish consumer reward the uncompetitive Irish retailers when they could save up to €3 by going to a non-Irish retailer.

We in ValueIreland.com have always advocated that consumers must look after themselves by going after price and service. If an Irish retailer or service provider manages to beat the foreign competition on those aspects, then all the better. If not, they’ll at some point in time either wake up to the competition or close down for lack of business.

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ALDI and LIDL stand out in new value survey

You and Your Money Magazine
September 2007

A recent survey of grocery prices nationwide by the National Consumer Agency found only a €2.20 difference in the cost of a basket of 58 of the most popular items bought in Irish supermarkets. The outlets surveyed were Dunnes, Tesco, Spar, Eurospar, Centra, Supervalu and Superquinn.

On one level, the survey was comprehensive – but if failed to include Aldi and Lidl, two chains offering value to shoppers. Consumer website valueireland.com was quick off the mark, point out the absence of the two German chains from the survey. It did the shopping the NCA didn’t do: it compared 43 items, with interesting results.

For a weekly shop of almost exact matches (albeit with less well-known brands available in Aldi and Lidl) the survey showed Irish consumers can save €30 by shopping in the German stores – a difference of nearly 25%. Tesco was the most expensive (€121) while Aldi and Lidl totals were €88.98 and €88.68 respectively.

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