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Ten Greatest Irish Consumer Rip-Offs

The Sunday World
Des Ekin – July 18th, 2004

Imagine a land where a pint can cost over a fiver, a cup of tea cost €3 and a plain unheated scone in a self-service cafe can set you back €4.50.

A crazy place where it’s cheaper to fly to Paris to do your gift shopping than it is to hop on the Luas and do it in Grafton Street.

A country where people suffering from toothache are forced to fly to Hungary to find realistic prices for dental work.

Welcome to Rip-Off Ireland, where true competition is virtually unknown and the fat, greedy millionaires of the business world are given free rein to rob the consumer blind.

Welcome to the only country in the civilised world where the Government actively pins the consumers arms behind their back while the robber barons beat them up.

This week, as yet another survey shows that Irish people are paying the highest prices in Europe, the SUNDAY WORLD identifies the Ten Greatest Consumer Rip-Offs in Ireland today.

1. Drink

You know the world has gone mad when you order two pints of lager in an ordinary Dublin bar and hand over a tenner – and you’re asked for more.

Throughout the country, horrified tipplers are reporting that bar prices have gone crazy. More than €7 for a vodka and mixer, a tenner for a rum and coke, €5.60 for a bottle of lager, and even €7 for a small bottle of Ballygowan are just some of the horror stories that are being logged by consumers.

One of the greatest rip-offs focuses on soft drinks. A Fine Gael survey reveals that pubs in the capital were charging up to €4.70 for a mineral water and lime – €2.70 for the water and €2 for the lime. (Other typical prices were €3.60, €3.45 and €3.40).

And the Director of Consumer Affairs has uncovered disturbing evidence that some publicans hike their prices by €1 for major sporting events.

Last month, a 15c price increase from Guinness pushed even the price of the humble pint of plain into the stratosphere.

(Note: Dublin pubs change hands for an average of €3.2m and the price is usually two to three times the annual turnover in sales).

2. Eating Out

These days, even the humbles caff or diner thinks it’s Patrick Guilbauds. A simple cup of tea or coffee costs 46% above the EU average.

A tenner for a pizza has become standard. One subscriber to the website ValueIreland.com reports being charged €4.50 for a plain, unheated scone in a hotel self-service bar.

Ripoff.ie, the Fine Gael website, records such jaw-dropping cases as a €7.75 slice of quiche (in Galway), the €3 cup of tea (Donegal) and the 30c dollop of ketchup (Dublin). One parent had to pay €6.25 for a kiddies meal of three sausages and chips.

A formal meal for two in a reasonable restaurant has leaped in price to the €70 mark…more than most couples can afford.

3. Shopping

It’s official. Ripped-off Irish consumers pay more for their trolley load of shopping than anyone else in Western Europe or the U.S.

A new survey from the European Commission shows that Irish shoppers pay €1.40 for every 80c paid by their counterparts in Spain or Germany. Pampers nappies cost a staggering 164% of the Euro average here, compared with 63% in the U.K. We pay FOUR TIMES as much for fresh, ground coffee than they do in in high-priced Finland.

Meanwhile, the ripoff.ie website reports that supermarkets are charging a mark-up of up to 300% on fresh foods. For instance a farmer will be paid 20c for a kilo of spuds that will cost 80c at the supermarket till.

4. Banks

Quite apart from the overcharging scandals, the big banks are ripping us off on a day to day basis. Even in this electronic age, some banks claim it takes five days for a lodgement to go into your account. Meanwhile, they enjoy the interest.

Last year, an Oireachtas committee heard consumers had to fork out €1bn extra interest charges because some banks had failed to pass on European rates cuts. Banking watchdog Mary O’Dea described the difference as “substantial” and was “certainly not good for customers”.

A typical punter will pay €70 a year to run a current account – that’s 17% higher than in the U.K. Although switching to a different account can save you up to €220 a year, the banks make it hard for you to change. The cost of setting up new direct debits – up to €30 for a simple six orders – can outweigh any savings you make. This hurdle is about to be removed but it’s too late to repay the moment we’ve lost over the years.

5. Credit Cards

A recent survey by Consumer Choice magazine found that the average interest rate of our flexible friends was nearly 40% higher than in other European countries. They found an average rate of 16.7% – nearly 2% higher than the U.K. rate.

We could always switch around to find the cheapest rate…except that Charlie McCreevys €40 levy prevents us from enjoying any competition.

6. CDs and DVDs

On the website CDwow.ie, you can buy chart albums by the Scissor Sisters, Franz Ferdinand and Damien Rice for €13.99 each, delivered to your door. Non-current albums by major stars can be €10.99. In Irish high street stores, the same albums could cost you €16 to €22.

A recent survey by the European Consumer Centre found that a batch of five top DVDs cost €50 more in Dublin than online from Amazon.co.uk.

So, buy online for the best prices. But hang on… we need plastic to do that. And, oh yes, there’s that small matter of Charlies €40 tax, which cancels out any savings.

7. Insurance

Whether it’s car insurance, home insurance or health insurance, you can count on being ripped off in Ireland. Despite promises, motor insurance premiums remain sky high. Fine Gael claims that it’s become THREE times as expensive to insure your car in the past three years.

These days, a 22-year old nurse will be asked to pay more than €3,400 to insure a Renault Clio.

Plus, VHI prices continue their inexorable rise, and homeowners seeking home insurance are often charged more by their mortgage provider than by competitors.

8. Medical

Doctors and dentists were identified in a Forfas survey as among those who took advantage of the euro changeover to seriously hike up their charges.

The cost of a typical visit to a GP shot up by nearly a fifth, to €38, and since then has risen to €40.

Meanwhile, a survey by the Director of Consumer Affairs has shown that customers can be ripped off by as much as €1.43 on a basic pack of Alka Seltzer (dearest €3.99, cheapest €2.56) and 81c on a pack of Disprin.

And Fine Gael reports that dental work costing €1,600 in the Republic was performed in Enniskillen for only €270. Others are forced to go as far as Hungary and Cape Town to get realistic dental prices.

9. Retail

Repeated surveys have shown that U.K. chain stores with outlets in Ireland are ripping off their Irish customers across a range of products.

One survey by the European Consumer Centre showed that Irish customers of Argos were paying from €3 to €25 more for identical goods than their counterparts in the U.K.

And another recent survey by Fine Gael showed that Irish prices were up to 87% more expensive. A basket of five goods in Tesco in Ireland was 43% dearer on average than in the U.K.

Habitat was 25% dearer and Dublin customers of Argos had to pay up to 18% more.

10. Phones

Regulatory body ComReg reports that Irish mobile phone rates are among the highest in the world and are more expensive than in Sweden, the U.K., the U.S. and France. One major gripe is the punitive cost of roaming abroad.

As for fixed lines, greater competition should theoretically bring lo
wer prices to home phone calls. But much of the savings have been snatched back by companies with a series of stiff increases in line rentals.

Long distance calls to Australia and the U.S. are dirt cheap now (as little as 5c or 3c a minute), but you won’t find this reflected in your phone bill.


The RIP-OFF Encyclopedia – Our A-Z guide on who is fleecing you and where

The Sunday World
Des Ekin, September 26th, 2004

Alcohol. You can’t argue with the statistics – since 2001, the average price of a pint of stout has risen by over a sixth (from €3.06 to €3.54) and the price of whiskey by a quarter.

Irish pubs are now the second most dearest in the Euro-Zone. A combination of grasping price hikes and increased Government taxes was already forcing punters away from the pubs long before the smoke ban hit.

Now that the €5 pint is a reality in some bars, business is plummeting. Wexford bar owner Francis Dooley has slashed his pint price by €1.50 in a bid to lure back his customers. He says he’s “reacting to market demands”. At long long last.

Banks. The overcharging scandals involving AIB (a mere €34m) and NIB (just €7.5m) were a drop in the ocean compared to the estimated €1,000m that the Irish banks ripped off from their Irish customers and the late 90’s and early 00’s when European interest rates plummeted.

A damning report by the financial services watchdog IFSRA roasted the banks for failing to pass on these cuts to their customers. The charge is repeated in the latest report from the National Competitiveness Council (NCC).

The ripoffs continue on a daily basis. Charges for a current account are 17% higher than in the UK and, although shopping around could save an average user €220 a year, crippling penalties have (up until now) prevented us from switching accounts for the best deal.

CDs. I’ve just bought two top chart CDs (The Thrills and The Streets) and a classic album (Nirvana’s Nevermind) from the website cdwow for a total of €38, or less than €13 each, including delivery to my door. The same three albums would have cost €48-€66 in the High Street.

A recent survey by the European Consumer Centre in Dublin showed that buying 10 albums online could save €85 – the price of a budget CD player! It’s the same story with DVD’s: another survey showed that a DVD costing almost €30 in Galway cost €24.99 in Dublin and €22.99 on cdwow. In New York it was €16.40.

Doctors and Dentists. When the euro came in, doctors and dentists hiked their prices way beyond levels that could be explained by inflation and higher costs. (Forfas Report, 2002).

A GP consultation that used to cost £25 (€31.75), suddenly became €35 or even €38. Now the norm is €40, but according to the Health Department, some GP’s charge up to €50 and private patients restrict their visits to less than three a year instead of nearly five.

Meanwhile, the cost of a dental filling can vary from €60 up to an aching €200, forcing “dental tourists” to travel to Belfast, Budapest and even South Africa to save money on complex work.

Electricity. This may shock you, but by January, you’ll be paying an extra euro for every €8 you’re paying now. There’ll be a 9% rise next month followed by a probably 3.5% in the New Year. This means that the monopoly ESB has hiked its prices by a staggering FORTY per cent since 2001.

All due to the oil shocks? No, according to the NCC report, which says oil rises “do not justify the high level of price levels for electricity in Ireland” which have always been out of line with the rest of Europe.

Fuel. The entry of Tesco into the petrol market forced pump prices down and showed what true competition could do. Yet some stations are still ripping off their customers to the tune of €250 a year, according to a survey by the Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs (ODCA).

This survey showed that some stations charged 15c a litre more than others nearby. For instance, in one area of north Dublin, the price varied from less than 95c to nearly 109c a litre.

ODCA also uncovered a flagrant practice in which customers were enticed into forecourts by low-price notices, only to be charged 4c more at the pump.

Garbage. Charges for disposing of household waste have soared all across the country. In Cork, charges have risen 380% in the last four years, and in Fingal by 264% (compared with just 9% in Kildare and 45% in South Dublin), giving rise to suspicions that some councils are using it as a smokescreen for general fundraising.

Hotels. In the past year alone, the cost of tourist accommodation has shot up by 10%, nearly four times the rate of inflation. Now, nearly 2 out of 3 visitors feel ripped off in Ireland (compared to just over half in the previous year) and a high-powered tourism action group blames the industry’s “opportunistic price increases” for driving visitors away.

Insurance. Where to begin? With the fact that insurance cover costing €1000 six years ago is now costing €2200 (compared to €1380 in the USA, and €1220 in Finland).

With the fact that only Poland has had larger increases? With the sky-high premiums charged for car insurance (example:€3,419 fully comp for a 22-year-old nurse to drive a Renault Clio)?

With the fact that Irish motor insurance companies have been raking in ten times the profit of their UK counterparts? With the practice of some mortgage providers charging €100 more for home insurance to their own customers, then cynically agreeing to match a lower rate when the customer finds out?

The message from IFSRA is: shop around. It can save you up to 50%.

Jacking Up Prices. Three publicans were left red-faced when an ODCA survey discovered they were jacking up prices for big sporting events. One pub near Croker increased its pint by 20c for a semi-final and two pubs in Galway hiked their prices by 10% for the Races.

Kwik-E Mart. Apu’s famous convenience store in The Simpsons may be fictional, but the real convenience stores in Ireland are charging up to 47% above supermarket prices for some branded items, according to the website www.shoppingbill.com. “If you spend €50 a week in convenience stores, you could be saving anywhere between €1,222 and €1,733 a year by making a trip to the supermarket”, the website advises.

Line Rental. There was public fury this year when Eircom, which has a monopoly on phone lines, increased its line rental to €48 every two months – the third hike in a year, bring us €10 higher than the Euro-average. “The public are angry because the price rise is well ahead of inflation”, said Dermot Ahern. And HE’s the Minister in charge.

Mobiles. Irish mobile phone rates cost more than the EU average on a range of call types, according to the latest NCC survey. This follows an earlier report by Comreg that we are among the highest in the world. Yet the two main networks make huge profits. Other complaints concern the punitive price of roaming abroad and a cost structure nobody can understand.

Nannies. With creche cost running at between €600 and €900 a month, a survey last month revealed that one in every three worker-parents now pay more for childcare than they pay for mortgage or rent. The poll by www.recruitireland.com said parents would be prepared to take wage cuts of up to 30% if they had free childcare. The Central Statistics Office reckons childcare prices have risen by 8.4% in the last year, more than three times inflation.

Overcharging. Not the blatant ripoffs, but secret overcharging. How many times have you checked your checkout receipt to find that the prices are higher than the labels? Since January, ODCA has prosecuted 14 trades. Examples: Jaffa cakes, display price €1.80, charged at €2.89., McVities biscuits, display €1.00, charged at €1.59.

Plastic Money. A report earlier this year showed that some credit card companies borrowed money at 2% and then lent it to their indebted cardholders at up to 18.9%. Nice work if you can get it.

Another survey by Consumer Choice magazine found that the average interest rate of our flexible friends was nearly 40% higher than
in other European countries. They found an average rate of 16.7%, nearly 2% higher than the UK rate.

And that’s before the crippling charges for cash advances and late payments. Then, as we lie bruised and battered on the ground, the Government puts the boot in further with its €40 tax.

Queasy? You may feel even worse when you buy pills and tablets. An ODCA survey showed that a pack of Alka Seltzer costing €2.56 in a chemist was being sold for €3.99 in a convenience store… a head-wrecking €1.43 extra. Last week, another survey by www.shoppingbill.com showed that headache tablets can cost up to 62% more in certain outlets.

Restaurants. Even the Restaurants Association of Ireland admits now that there are a “few unscrupulous players” who overcharge and give the industry a bad name. The fact is that Irish eateries are now the second most expensive in the Euro-Zone, with prices at restaurants, cafes and canteens having shot up by between 3.5% and 8% in the last year alone.

The Fine Gael website www.ripoff.ie has logged such cases as the €7.75 slice of quiche, the €4.50 scone and the €3 cup of tea.

Soft Drinks. We’re No.1 in the Hall of Shame – the most expensive country in the Euro-Zone for non-alcoholic drinks, with mark-ups ranging from 300% to 1000% over off-licence prices.

In Drogheda, a Sunday World reader was recently charged €1.15 for a glass of TAPWATER with a dash of cordial. In Dublin, a Fine Gael survey recorded prices of between €3.40 and €4.70 for a mineral water and lime.

Now one Cork pub, The Bodega, has shouted stop. The pub has cut its price for minerals like Coke and 7Up from €2 to €1.50 and slashed its mixers from €1.90 to €1.45. Will other pubs follow?

Trolley Traumas. We are now top of the Euro-Zone league for food. Our milk, cheese, eggs, fruit, vegetables and potatoes are now the most expensive in Europe. So no wonder many customers are redirecting their grocery trolleys to cheaper stores. There are huge savings to be made from shopping around. Let’s take just one example – bread. www.shoppingbill.com has discovered differences of 350%. “Man shall not live by bread alone – but could save €300 a year to be going on with”, says the website.

UK Stores. Repeated surveys have shown that some UK chain stores are charging their Irish customers more than they charge at home.

Earlier this year, Fine Gael accused these stores of “blatant ripoff” when its survey revealed that a random selection of five products in Tesco was 43% dearer on average than in Britain. There was a 25% mark-up at Habitat and 18% at Argos.

One bit of good news. www.shoppingbill.com, which exposed huge disparities in Tesco’s prices north and south last month, reports that the store has since slashed prices on some of those items.

Vehicle Registration Tax. Not just a rip-off, this is a cause for barricades in the street! A car dealer imports a small car for €9000; the Revenue adds 21% VAT to make it €10,900.

Wash and Blow Up. Customers at hairdressing salons are being clipped in more ways than one. Hair salons were identified as one of the worst culprits who hiked up their prices during the euro changeover (prices rose by a fifth within a few months) and they’ve kept going up. Charges have soared 5.3% in the last 12months alone.

A wash, cut and blow dry that cost €23.51 in 2001 is now €30.40, a rise of 29% in three years, and prices in some Dublin salons are much higher.

X-Box and other games consoles. Like many electronic devices, they cost a lot more in Ireland. A survey by the European Consumer Centre calculated that savings of almost a sixth could be made by buying abroad, even taking delivery charges into account.

Young Voters. Voters in their late teens and 20’s could hold the key to the future of the next government. They may not forgive such price rises as the increase in college registration fees (up 15% to €750 this year, following following a 70% increase two years ago), the rip-off in cinema tickets (up 4.3% in the last year alone), and entry charges to a nightclub-disco (up by a mind-numbing 27% since the euro).

Zero Tolerance. Have customers decided they’ve had enough? More and more customers are voting with their feed, abandoning pubs that charge ripoff prices and boycotting ripoff restaurants. Meanwhile, hundreds of disgruntled customers are making their voices heard through websites like www.valueireland.com, www.ripoffireland.org and Fine Gael’s www.ripoff.ie, and seeking better value with the help of price survey websites like www.shoppingbill.com. It may not be the end of Ripoff Ireland…but it could be the beginning of the end.


The A-Z of Avoiding Rip-off Ireland

The Sunday World
Diarmuid MacShane, November 21st, 2004

In a recent article in the Sunday World, Des Ekin excellently portrayed a “Rip-off Encyclopaedia – An A-Z guide on who is fleecing you and where”. He described many of the day to day activities where Irish consumers are being ripped off. Included were businesses such as pubs, doctors and dentists, banks, and insurance companies.

With that in mind, www.valueireland.com, believing in “better purchasing decisions through better information”, presents an A-Z of Avoiding Rip-Off Ireland – a guide for Irish consumers on how best to protect themselves against rip-off Ireland.

Act in your own best interests – It’s a big bad rip-off world out there. Businesses are out to rip us off. Some organisations exist that can help us as consumers (Consumers Association, Director of Consumer Affairs, etc.).

However, we have to act in our own best interests. If you do feel ripped off, don’t go back and always tell others. Poor word of mouth is a great fear for businesses which can dramatically impact profits. Use www.valueireland.com to communicate to others your purchasing experiences.

Budget –No matter what you’re buying, always have a budget, and keep in your mind how much something is worth to you. Know the price before buying, or else ask immediately while you still have a chance to back out.

If you find it’s more than you budgeted for, just say “no thanks”. Don’t feel pressurised – just because you’re at the counter doesn’t mean you have to buy.

Check your bills – Whenever you receive a bill – in the post, in a restaurant or garage, always check it thoroughly. Recently on www.valueireland.com, 42% of visitors surveyed admitted to not checking all their bills.

Ensure that only items you expect are included – make sure of the numbers.

If a service charge is added, ensure that the amount is correct. Finally, always calculate the total yourself to ensure that you’re being charged the right amount.

Driving on empty – Be aware of petrol prices on your regular driving routes. Don’t wait until your tank is empty to buy petrol. This reduces your ability to shop around, or to make it to a cheaper petrol station. If you see a cheaper price than you’re used to, fill your tank.

Electricity Reserves – Given the relentless increase in electricity costs in Ireland, and the lack of competition in the electricity market, the best way of reducing your electricity costs is to reduce consumption. Use long-life fluorescent bulbs wherever possible. Check your temperature settings to see if they can be reduced a degree or two. If you normally use a dryer, can you hang your clothes to dry and only use the dryer for heavier or “urgent” drying?

Favour the brave! Be confident in situations where you may have to register a complaint or an issue when out shopping and don’t let yourself be bullied.

Irish consumers have rights and entitlements, and just because you may be an inconvenience to someone doesn’t mean that these rights and entitlements matter any less.

Be familiar with your consumer rights and what you should expect from retailers under current legislation.

Many sites, www.valueireland.com included, provide an explanation of the main consumer impacting legislation – the Sale of Goods and Supply of Service Act, 1980.

Give alternatives – When in a situation where you have to complain about price, quality or service, be as positive as possible.

Explain what your issue is; detail what your expectations were prior to coming into that particular establishment; explain why the reality differed from expectations, and what you would reasonably expect from them to rectify the situation.

For example, in a restaurant where your starter was unsatisfactory you could ask for another, ask for a desert at the end instead, at no extra cost. And remember, complain as early as possible – no point finishing the starter, and then complaining.

Home Improvements and Repairs – If bringing workmen into your home, rather than randomly picking from the telephone directory, it’s always best to follow recommendations from friends and colleagues.

Always get written quotations rather than verbal estimates, and get these from at least 3 different tradesmen to allow you make an informed choice. When dealing with someone new, ask to see trade certifications or references from past customers.

Be careful of tradesmen who only accept cash, who aren’t listed in the telephone directory, or ask you to pay up front.

Insurance Renewals – Don’t automatically renew any of your insurance policies. Ring 5 or 6 different other companies requesting quotations. Ask for exactly the same coverage as you have already. Ask if there are discounts available, or if any extras are included that you may like, or may wish to have removed to reduce the quote even further.

And then go back to your existing insurer and see how much they value your business.

Job. When you’re unhappy with the prices, or service or quality, of a product or service you’ve bought, remember that it may not ultimately be the fault of the person that you’re dealing with – they’re only doing their job.

There’s no point taking out your frustrations on them. Patiently explain your problem, and then if necessary, ask for the Manager. And remember, there’s always someone in charge.

Keep Your Receipts – No matter what you buy, or no matter how confident you are in your purchase, always keep receipts for your purchases. You never know when you may need them to go back to the place of purchase. And always now ask for a receipt in a taxi as well.

Letter Box Scams – Unsolicited mail in your letter box promising unbelievable riches or holidays away, or a brand new car, should most likely always be characterised as “if it sounds too good to be true, then it most likely is”. Unfortunately!

This is especially true if you have to hand over your hard-earned cash to handle “administration”. Don’t you think that if someone is “giving” you thousands of euros, that they could afford a couple of hundred euros for administration?

Mobile Aware – 2 out of the 3 mobile phone providers in Ireland have admitted overcharging customers. Therefore, shouldn’t we all ensure that we know what we’re paying them and what we should be getting for our money?

Always check your monthly bills. If you pay upfront for your calls, the networks still allow you check your usage through their websites.

Once you understand your mobile usage (texts, on-net, off-net, land-lines, peak, off-peak) you can then see how best you can take advantage of the different package plans offered by the networks.

Never impulse buy. Buy now, regret later? If you’re strolling around the shops on a Saturday afternoon, with nothing better to do, be careful of impulse buying. Never buy something you don’t need, could do without, or haven’t researched properly. If you see something you’d like, make a note, think about it, and if you still need/want it next week, go right ahead.

Online Credit Card Security – These simple points can help the nervous among you. Only use credit cards on reputable, well known, sites. Always ensure you’re using a secure internet connection (padlock on bottom right of browser window). Ensure that the site you use has a telephone helpdesk and a postal address so that you can follow up on any problems. It may be advantageous to have an “online only” credit card with a lower limit in case details are stolen. Never save your credit card details on any website if you’re the ultra-cautious type.

Promotion too good to miss? Don’t let “sales”, “special offers” or “promotions” cloud your judgm
ent when making purchases. Remember to resist any sales pressure tactics. Don’t let anyone talk you into purchasing something you’re not sure about, especially under the guise of beating an offer deadline or closing date. If you do buy something you actually do want or need, ensure you understand the terms and conditions, and make yourself happy that there is value on offer.

Question everything – Always ask as many questions necessary to satisfy yourself that you’re making a correct purchasing decision. That’s what shop assistants are there for – people in shops to assist us make purchases. Many get commission on your purchase – make them earn it.

Your questions should include asking about special offers, money-off deals, and anything else they may be able to do for you to entice you to make your purchase in their shop and not down the street. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Research your purchases – If planning to make a large purchase, don’t just go into the first shop you find and splash out. Do a little shopping around.

Check alternative stores in your local area, and even outside if you’re able to travel. Keep an eye on the media for any advertising that may be relevant for your purchase.

Use the telephone – ring up shops, explain what you’re looking for, ask about alternatives, ask about prices, and special offers.

You could also check speciality magazines. These can provide reviews and price comparisons for many different products.

Supermarket Savvy!!! Firstly, when going shopping, make a list, and stick to those items only.

Secondly, remember that buying “store” or “own” brand can save a bundle. In many instances, the store brand is actually a name brand with a store label. The container or packaging may not be beautiful, but does that really matter?

Finally, don’t automatically throw out the vouchers that get posted in your door, or are included in magazines and newspaper advertising – they may actually save you money on items that you normally buy anyway.

Telephone Buzz! Before changing call providers, you should first review your bills for a number of months and work out your telephone usage. Maybe even ask yourself if you really need a fixed line phone if you already have a mobile phone as well.

By better understanding your phone usage, you’ll be in a better position to find the best deal from the many alternatives that are out there today. It may also put you in a position to take advantage of the new trend of selling “bundling” minutes of telephone calls (e.g. peak, off-peak or weekend) on top of your basic line rental cost.

Used Cars – Buying a used car can be one of our biggest purchases, and can sometimes be one of the riskiest, if you’re not careful.

Always make sure you know what you’re buying – check the relevant documentation. Have an independent person (such as the AA) check out the car for you if you’ve decided you like what you see.

A simple thing such as checking out a car at the sellers residence, and getting their landline phone number as opposed to mobile, can give you an extra level of confidence in what you’re getting yourself into.

Vocalise your opinions – As a nation, we find it very hard to complain to businesses or service providers if we have a problem. We need to change our ways, and can do this by starting small, and gaining confidence in letting people know our views.

A particular www.valueireland.com tip is that if you’ve had an enjoyable experience, why not let the people who’ve served you know? Practicing by giving good feedback to businesses can help us gain confidence when we have to eventually give someone some less than positive feedback.

WWW – There are many national and international sites that provide reviews and information on many of the goods, services, and hospitality businesses in Ireland, and allow us purchase them online.

The key is to build up as much information as possible in advance so that you can make an informed decision in your own best interests.

X for your candidate of choice – If you’re blaming the Government for “Rip-Off Ireland” – make sure you let them know in any forthcoming elections. If you don’t agree with the policies of your Government or the results of their policies on prices, then change your Government. Go out and vote for change, instead of just complaining about it.

Your Money – Your Choice. In most things, it’s down to your own personal choice where you spend your money. If you decide to pay a certain amount for a pint, and you enjoy it in pleasant surroundings, with good service, then don’t complain afterwards about the price of the drink.

If you don’t want to pay the price, go somewhere else. If you do pay the price (as it’s obviously acceptable to you when you hand over your money), what’s the point in complaining after the fact?

Zealous – Defined as “active interest and enthusiasm”. Do we mostly “put up AND shut up” in the face of rip-off tactics by Irish businesses? Should Irish consumers not take more of an “active interest” in their day-to-day shopping experiences in order to avoid these rip-off businesses and to reward those alternative businesses offering value, quality and service?

Eventually, though word of mouth, and the use of forum such as www.valueireland.com, the rip-off businesses will lose their customers in droves, and will suddenly realise that they need to something to keep their customers, or else go out of business.

Eventually, as Irish consumers, we have to realise that we have that power to have such an impact on businesses in our own hands, or wallets and purses at least.


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