Most consumers probably woke up this morning with no idea of the momentous events of yesterday. Putting driving programme ex-presenters and boy band ex-members in the shade is the news that the new Consumer Rights Act received Royal Assent in Parliament yesterday. While you might not think it is exciting, the new rights will extend consumer rights to digital products and offer greater redress and clearer rules on faulty products. Thrilling stuff.
The Consumer Rights Act is described the biggest change to consumer legislation in “a generation” and replaces the Sale of Goods Act, and seven other pieces of consumer legislation. The Act is also predicted to boost the economy by £4 billion over the next decade.
When the new Act comes into force on 1 October 2015, consumer rights will now be extended to digital products for the first time, meaning that anyone buying a digital product that turns out to be faulty could be entitled to a refund or replacement.
The Consumer Rights Act gives consumers new rights to a repair, replacement and refund of faulty content such as online films, games, music downloads and e-books- even if you didn’t pay for the original platform.
Take the example cited by Which!!! of a free to download app that you have been playing for months and on which, you’ve spent an amount of money on in-app purchases to improve your game character. However, after your last character upgrade, the game stopped working. Under the new rules you’ll be entitled to a repair or a replacement (of all your added parts) and if a repair isn’t provided within a reasonable time or is impossible to replace then you’d be entitled to some money back.
But the new rules also offer clarity when dealing with faulty items. For example, if your kettle or toaster knackers up three weeks after purchase, are you entitled to a refund or not? The current law refers to a ‘reasonable time’ which is open to different interpretation from seller and purchaser. However, under the new law you will have a clear right to a full refund for up to 30 days after you buy your item.
Finally, there will also be clearer rules for shoddy services- those provided either without reasonable care and skill, or as agreed. For example, this could be a restaurant meal delivered lukewarm or painting and decorating that’s been completed in the wrong colour or to a poor standard. From 1 October, you will now have a legal right to ask for the service to be repeated or to get a full/partial refund.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “This is the biggest shake up of consumer law for a generation, bringing legislation in line with the fact many people now buy online.
“Consumers will now be much better informed and protected when buying goods or services on the internet. They will now be entitled to get for the first time a free repair or replacement for any faulty digital content.”
Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson said: “For too long consumers and businesses have struggled to understand the complicated rules that apply when buying goods and services.
“That is why the Consumer Rights Act is so important in setting out clear and updated consumer rights for goods, services and, for the first time, digital content.
Good news for consumers but bad news for insurance companies- the FCA has today announced plans to ban ‘opt-out selling’, which is where insurers handily pre-tick boxes offering you additional products and services, over concerns that customers were paying high prices for things they didn’t want or need. A triumph of common sense.
The FCA ran a study into the general insurance add-ons industry last year, which concluded that opt-out selling often results in “consumers purchasing products that were of poor value and not what they needed.” The FCA also found that the value of general insurance products “is not always clear,” with some consumers are not even aware they have bought an add-on.
The FCA is concerned that consumers “are not able to make an informed decision on whether they need or want” the extras being foisted on to insurance purchasers. As part of the review, the FCA also wants firms to provide consumers with “more appropriate and timely information” to help them identify if they even want an add-on at all, and if so, which is the most appropriate and most cost-effective option for them.
The FCA plans to introduce guidance encouraging insurers to raise the issue of the most common add-ons to consumers earlier in the sales process, while also making it easier to compare alternatives, specifically recommending that firms provide the annual price of add-ons rather than just giving the smaller monthly figures in a shameless attempt to make the overall cost look smaller.
Christopher Woolard, Director of Strategy and Competition said, categorically, “this is about ensuring consumers can make the right decision on what add-on insurance they do or don’t need. Forgetting to un-tick a box at the end of a purchase is not making an informed choice.”
“Our work shows that the opt-out model means too often consumers are buying a product when they have not been able to give any thought to whether or not they need it,” he continued, citing the familiar example of consumers having to double check whether or not they have accidentally agreed to buy an add-on insurance product when buying car insurance or tickets online, for example.
“These proposals will mean that consumers will be in a better position to decide what they want and consider the options available to them. Fewer consumers will end up with products they didn’t want or don’t even know they own,” he finished, with a flourish.
The proposed ban would apply to any add-on sales of regulated or unregulated products offered alongside financial primary products, which would include the almost industry-standard add ons of legal expenses sold with home or car insurance, breakdown or key cover sold alongside motor insurance, or protection cover when taking out a mortgage or credit card.
The consultation period ends on 25 June 2015.
Yodel’s boss – Dick Stead – is not happy with retailers who have been using them for deliveries. He wants to see them setting more realistic expectations for deliveries and that, if parcels are delivered late, then the retailer should take the blame, not the courier.
Of course, Royal Mail will be howling at this, as they’ve been complaining about companies muscling in on their turf, cherry picking the best delivery areas, when they don’t have a universal obligation.
Yodel themselves have been getting it in the neck, especially on Mother’s Day and Black Friday. Over Christmas, the company rejected the idea that late deliveries were their fault and had a big backlog after the crazy scenes on Black Friday.
Speaking to Retail Week, Dick Stead said: “You can’t ask parcel carriers to build up the capacity that’s only going to be used three times a year. Retailers haven’t quite grasped you can’t provide next day delivery at this rate, not this [Black Friday], next year or the year after.”
“We’re working really hard with retailers at the moment to say ‘come on guys, there’s a certain limit of capacity next day delivery’. Reserve it for people who really need it the next day, and for everyone else for goodness sake you’ve had the bargain of a lifetime, but it might take 3-5 days to deliver.”
“The difficulty is the people working in their supply chains understand it, but their marketeers don’t,” he added.
They compiled a report called ’Calling The Shots’ (nothing to do with the Girls Aloud track, sadly) and they found that consumers are facing charges of (up to) £800 to leave maximum two-year contracts that fail to live up to the promises they made.
CA looked at 21,500 mobile phone complaints, and found that the most common problems involved faulty phones (39%), bad service and leaving contracts (17%), misleading sales practices (16%) and disputes over their bills (12%).
The charity pointed out that most contracts don’t specify a reasonable minimum service one can expect from their phone, which means that people then don’t have the right to cancel contracts that haven’t delivered what has been advertised. The noted toward consumers who had paid for contracts that included 3G or 4G, but couldn’t get coverage for them, and if they wanted out, they were asked to pay-up the full contract or pay for the remainder of as much as £800 to end it prematurely.
It was also found that some have been charged the full amount of their contract to cancel it before they’d even got their hands on a phone.
Citizens Advice were also unimpressed that the Government and providers haven’t put a cap on bills that have been run-up by thieves, while also noting that a lot of customers don’t know who to go to if their phone is faulty (it is the retailer’s legal responsibility, if you didn’t know).
Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: “Consumers can be taken to the cleaners for ending a mobile phone contract that doesn’t deliver. Consumers should only be paying for the service they receive. For consumers to be guaranteed a good deal from their mobile phone providers, clear minimum standards of service and better contract exit rights are needed.”
“Nobody should be left to fall through gaps in regulation, so the Government should now look into simplifying how mobile phone users can get redress when they are treated badly.”
Aldi is considering giving all the other supermarkets more grief by not only spoiling things for them on the high street, but also, on the information superhighway. That’s right – Aldi have dusted down their router and are eyeing up the internet!
Internet orders have been helping the big supermarkets while Lidl and Aldi chip away at their in-store sales, but now, they’re all going to have to worry about the discounters having their way with them online too.
A spokesman for Aldi UK said: “It is not an immediate focus for Aldi, which currently has the best performing business model in the grocery sector. However, it is an area we monitor as part of our customer-focused approach.”
They’re right to weigh it up as 5% of all grocery sales in the UK are through the internet, which is ahead of most neighbouring countries. If Aldi are kicking it off anywhere, they’d be wise to do it here.
Aldi and Lidl are seeing a big growth (not the kind you need to see a doctor for) with Aldi’s sales rising by 19.3% over the three months to the end of February, while their pals Lidl saw theirs going up by 13.6%.
If they get online and start delivering weekly shops, they could clean up.
Sometimes you’ll hear older people whining about things not being as big as they used to be. “Why, when I werra lad, a Wagon Wheel was the size of a small planet and would feed you for 38 years!” You might think ‘oh shut up – your hands and bellies are just bigger than they were when you were little’, but turns out, they might have a point.
See, loads of products have shrunk in size and, surprise surprise, the price hasn’t gone down with them.
Which!!! have been staring at shelves and found that items like Aunt Bessie’s Homestyle Chips have dropped from 750g to 700g, but stayed at £1.65 in price. If you buy Tetley’s Blend of Both bags, you’re five brews short yet charged 20p more. If you buy Philadelphia Light Soft Cheese, you’ll get 10% less, but in many shops, you’ll find the price went up.
Like Hovis Best of Both bread? Well, that isn’t 800g like it used to be, shrinking by 6%, but still costing the same price.
As for washing your clothes, Surf with Essential Oils powder used to be 2kg, but this year, for the same money, you’ll pay 1.61kg. Domestos Spray Bleach Multipurpose and Cif Actifizz Multi-Purpose Lemon Spray both offer less product for the same money.
Dreadful behaviour all round, and not at all surprising.
Which!!! honcho Richard Lloyd said: “Shrinking products can be a sneaky way of putting up costs for consumers because pack sizes shrink but the prices don’t. It’s now time for action on dodgy pricing practices that stops people from easily comparing products to find the cheapest.”
Of course, some of the companies making the products have dropped their RRP, but the supermarkets themselves haven’t passed on the savings to the customers. All in all, this is adding up and giving consumers less bang for their buck.
We’ve spoken about iFlorist on a number of occasions here at Bitterwallet. Quite like no other company, we’ve seen huge amounts of complaints about them.
And, just after Mother’s Day, it seems they haven’t learned their lessons, despite the fact we first wrote about the company’s shortcomings all the way back in 2010.
There’s been customer complaints about flowers being delivered that were half-dead and wilting, late and missing deliveries and hampers that were part of deal not showing up at all, even though the flowers to accompany them were delivered.
Let’s have a look at some of the complaints we’ve received.
Manue said: ”We ordered a lovely basket of flowers for my mother-in-law as we couldn’t be with her that day. While I do not expect the flowers to arrive at 8am as I know I am not the only customer, I was actually hoping for the flowers to arrive during the day. The link supposedy tracking the flowers was not working, there was no phone number to call. As we wanted to keep the surprise until the flowers arrived, we didn’t say anything (bad move). The flowers arrived at 8pm with the poor excuse that they had tried to deliver from the morning. Apparently, they didn’t find the house easily as the address wasn’t complete… it was complete on confirmation invoice sent to me by email!!! I can see when I read the other reviews that I should count my blessings as I least I received the flowers. Their respond to my email to them (just stating the obvious and being sarcastic) was: “don’t complain, at least you have got them on mother’s day”. I quote their unhelpful reply “Dear Customer, Thank you for contacting us, Your order was delivered on Mother’s day. Kindest Regards Iflorist”.that’s an apology??? Never mind!!!”
Not great customer service there. Ian Douthwaite told us: “”Ordered flowers for mothers day. Never arrived til monday! Emailed and got a reply saying that it was a 48hr window for delivery. In their own T&Cs it states that all mothers day flower deliveries are guaranteed in time for mothers day. My mother spoke to the delivery driver who told her that they do not deliver on Sundays so it was never really going to happen! Would rather swim across the Irish sea with the flowers in my mouth than use these cowboys again. You know what you can do with your £5 voucher as well!”
Patrick O’Neill told us: “Ordered flowers well in advance for Mother’s Day. Eventually a dead bunch of flowers were delivered a day late for £40. No phone number on website to phone. Note the number listed dosen’t work and they don’t answer emails. Awful awful awful” Meanwhile, Paul Archer said that “the flowers were in a terrible state looking half dead, l have been refused a refund, I am reporting iflorist to trading standards they are a joke of a business taking people’s money and not providing the service they were paid for.”
Dom, meanwhile, said; “this company is clearly a scam” while Marc wrote: “Wish I read reviews before ordering, ordered and paid for flowers and a hamper to be sent for mothers day, the flowers arrived on time, however, still no sign of the Hamper (£50). I have sent an email first thing this morning but as yet no reply.”
Suffice to say, again, we advise that you might want to weigh-up your options before using iFlorist.
The airline we all love to hate, Ryanair, could be set to take over (part of) the world sooner than you’d think, with the Board of the airline approving outline plans to fly between 12-14 European and US cities, on a transatlantic service at rock bottom prices, starting from £10. However, don’t get too excited, as none of this will come to fruition for at least four or five years, not least because Ryanair don’t have any transatlantic planes yet.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that O’Leary has offered the public a vision of a no-frills transatlantic airline offering cheap fares, with some skeptics suggesting that he has never really meant it and was just looking to secure fee advertising with headlines screaming about £10 transatlantic fares. However the disclosure that the board has approved outline plans suggests the company is now serious about proceeding. Which could be very exciting indeed.
Ryanair said: “The board of Ryanair, like any plc, has approved the business plans for future growth, including transatlantic. We are talking to manufacturers about long-haul aircraft but cannot comment further on this. European consumers want lower cost travel to the USA and the same for Americans coming to Europe. We see it as a logical development in the European market.”
But others suggest that Ryanair’s American dream has always been genuine, it’s just that they want someone else to have a go first, so they can learn from others’ mistakes. No airline has yet managed to run a profitable transatlantic service offering cheap as chip fares- Sir Freddie Laker’s Skytrain went bust trying during the 1980s. However, in 2013, Norwegian Air Shuttle, the Oslo-based low-cost airline, expanded from short to long-haul flying, with example prices of a one-way ticket from London Gatwick airport to New York of £149. While the company made a loss last year, and only flies to a handful of standard locations in the US, if Norwegian can make a go of it, you can bet your bottom dollar Ryanair will be all over it before you can bat an eyelid.
Norwegian’s prices are currently pitched at around half of rival airline prices, but Ryanair are still talking about £10/€10 flights, although they concede that there will only be a limited number of flights at this price. Other one-way tickets would be priced at £99 or more, and the airline would fill up to half of its seats with more expensive premium spaces, according to Ryanair’s head of marketing, Kenny Jacobs.
And people think Ryanair could actually make a go of it. Analyst John Strickland told the FT that “Ryanair is well equipped to do this, in the sense that it has the pan-European market presence and critical mass needed. The key issues will be to obtain the right aircraft at the right cost and in sufficient numbers, along with offering some type of premium product.”
And the planes are currently the sticking point, with waiting lists and long lead times on both the Airbus 350 and the Boeing Dreamliner planes Ryanair would have to invest in. Which means £10 flights to the States are still a way off.
But the final interesting nugget spilled by Ryanair was that its new transatlantic service would not fly under the Ryanair brand. We do hope O’Leary asks us, its travelling public, to help come up with a suitable name for the new venture…
If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t see the point of Easter Eggs and would rather buy a large bar of chocolate for less money, you know what you can do instead of reading this article about Easters Eggs? Go and buy a massive bar of chocolate and quit your whining.
For you chocolate egg devourers and religious people who know the story about Jesus laying giant eggs in Spring (or whatever it is), you’ll be glad to know that the supermarkets are going toe-to-toe.
The Grocer has been looking at things and found that the average price across the big four supermarkets (Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons) has dropped by 9.7%, from £4.40 last year to £3.97 this year.
Leading the way is Morrisons who have cut the price of Easter Eggs to as little as £1. If you’re into branded eggs, then they’ve dropped by as much as 7.3%.
The Grocer said: “Britons are paying less than last year for some of the most popular Easter eggs as the industry ramps up promotional activity.” They noted that retailers have done away with money-off deals and the like: ”Half price deals have been virtually abandoned, accounting for just 2% of all deals compared with 13% a year ago.”
It’s almost Spring, and actually things are looking good. Interest rates are still low, as is inflation, fuelled by lower petrol prices as well as supermarket price wars, meaning that many of us are enjoying greater spending power than we are used to. However, that doesn’t mean that thrifty habits learned during the leaner times can’t set us in good stead and keep us saving money. In fact, those who switched to supermarket own-brand products could be saving over £1,200 a year.
New research from vouchercodespro found that switching from branded goods to supermarket own-brand goods delivered weekly savings of £23.45 on average, which adds up to a not-to-be-sniffed at annual saving of £1,219.40. In fact, over 60% of the 1,782 UK adults surveyed had decided to make the switch supermarkets’ own-brand products, while 28% stuck with their branded goods. A savvy 11% of respondents said they had always bought the retailer’s own-brand products, and have therefore been saving since day 1.
But remember, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Despite claims that branded essentials are now “few and far between”, almost half of people who made the switch often still buy a good number of branded products. Around a third (34%) of own-brand shoppers said that they buy five branded products each week, with another 14% chucking more than 10 branded goods in their trollies each week. Only 9 per cent said they do not buy any branded products.
So if you want to switch, but haven’t dared take the plunge, or if you want to know where else to trim your shopping budget, where can you make the biggest savings by turning to own brands? According to the research, shoppers said that they saved most money on frozen food (19%) canned goods(16%), dairy products (13%), cleaning products (11%) and cereal (8%).
Well, that’s been questioned after one PS4 owner had some problems.
A Reddit user named Kadjer had their account hacked, with $600 worth of content bought through his account. In addition to all that, their console had been unlinked from their PSN account and replaced with a different one.
What was PlayStation’s solution? Well, depressingly, they apparently have a maximum refund policy of a paltry $150, which is offered as PSN credit, rather than cash in the bank.
Have you spotted the problem with this? Seeing as the customer is locked out of their account, they can’t even use the PSN credit. It doesn’t stop there either – if they decide to challenge the illicit purchases with his bank, Sony has stated that they will ban his PSN account and erase his licenses, which means he’ll lose everything, forever.
“As the transactions came in, one-by-one, it became immediately clear that my account had been hacked. I immediately logged into PSN and removed my card from the account, changed my email and password, and simultaneously launched support chats with both Sony and my bank,” Kadjer explains.
“My account will not be able to activate a new system for six months, per Sony policy. I’m completely locked out of my own account until that date. I then asked about what would happen if I got my bank to reverse the charges, and he informed me that it would result in a banned account. I asked if there would be any way to restore my purchases, and he told me that there would not be.”
“Absolutely furious. Change your passwords, everyone. Better yet, don’t have your credit card on file with Sony – if something were to happen, you won’t be taken care of.”
Sony, dropping the ball again.
We all have to eat. And while it is heating costs, rather than culinary charges that make the headlines when energy bills soar, the appliances you use in your kitchen also contribute to your energy use, and, for example, selecting an AAA rated appliance over a G rated appliance for energy consumption could make a dent in your annual bill. But what about the appliances you already have? Could you just use them more effectively? It seems that, for the best energy report, microwaves and slow cookers are the way to eat hot food, for less.
Jennipher Marshall-Jenkinson, president of the Microwave Association, recently spoke on BBC Radio 4 about her love of the device that is totally unrelated to her current job, but instead of just banging on about speed and efficiency, she claimed that using a microwave can actually be cheaper than cooking on a hob to the tune of £5 a month. For the 83% of us who own a microwave, that adds up to a tidy saving.
She calculated that having four saucepans on a stove cooking broccoli, cabbage, carrots and any other vegetable will cost 28p. The vegetables will take 15-20 minutes to cook and will “lose 85% of their nutrients while cooking”, she said. By comparison, cooking the same vegetables in one dish in the microwave will cost 7p, and the food will retain its nutrients because the vegetables cook in their own steam.
But can her claims be substantiated? The Telegraph asked some experts what they thought of the numbers. According to the Energy Saving Trust, it’s not easy to directly compare the cost of using a microwave or a hob for cooking, but five minutes usage of a typical microwave (800W, category E) will use about 0.09kWh of electricity, which costs around 1.3p, compared with the typical gas consumption each time a gas hob is used of 0.9kWh, costing around 3.8p.
“These figures aren’t directly comparable, since the ‘typical use’ of a gas hob isn’t necessarily equivalent to five minutes’ microwave use, but it does provide a basic comparison,” a spokesman said. “Obviously, energy usage varies depending on different factors, such as whether you have the lids on each pan, an individual’s cooking style, and so on.”
Comparison site uSwitch said that a microwave is the most energy-efficient way to cook food, followed by a hob and then an oven. “To keep your energy bills down, it’s a good idea to buy a microwave oven if you don’t already have one, and to use it for as much cooking as possible,” a spokesman said. “But remember to switch off your microwave at the wall when you’re not using it, so it isn’t left using electricity to power its clock.
However, uSwitch threw another contender into the ring- slow cookers. “Slow cookers can also be an energy-efficient option – they use just a little more energy than a traditional light bulb, and you can leave your food to cook slowly while you get on with other things.”
Sales of slow cookers have boomed over the past two years, and are very practical for busy workers, but is it worth the average £20 outlay in savings on oven use?
The answer is most likely, yes. Most sources agree that electric ovens are the least energy efficient way to cook. The Centre for Sustainable Energy estimates the average electricity usage of an electric oven between 2-2.2kWh, while a microwave uses between 0.6-1.5kWh. A slow cooker uses approximately 0.7kWh over the eight hours. Money-saving website goodtoknow.co.uk calculated that using an electric oven for an hour each day will cost £2.46 a week, or £127.92 over a year.
So there you have it. You don’t need a cooker, just a microwave and slow cooker. With spare cash saved on your energy bills left over for takeaways…
Good news bargain hunters! The price war between the supermarkets is getting really intense, which means that grocery costs are dropping at a record rate/faster than a flasher’s trousers. Have you noticed?
According to the latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel, annual prices fell to a new low of -1.6% for the 12 weeks to 1st March. This new low has been down to a “combination of lower general inflation and the grocery price war” which means that “shoppers had saved a combined £400m over the 12 weeks.”
Inflation has dipped too, thanks to the drop in oil prices. And of course, with Aldi and Lidl frightening the bejesus out of the big guns, they’re also duking it out on price, which means we all benefit.
That said, the supermarkets themselves won’t quite know what to think about it all. While Tesco had a small improvement in sales (up 1.1%), Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons saw sales fall by 2.1%, 0.5% and 0.4% respectively.
Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, said: “All of the major supermarkets are cutting prices to win shoppers, especially within everyday staples such as eggs, vegetables and milk. Retailers are focusing their efforts on simple price cuts rather than complicated ‘multibuy’ deals.”
“Among the big four supermarkets Tesco has been the standout retailer …increasing sales have helped Tesco arrest its falling market share, which is down just 0.1 percentage point compared with last year. This resurgence has impacted Asda which competes for many of the same shoppers as Tesco.”
“Asda’s sales are down by 2.1%, taking its market share to 17.0%. Morrisons and Sainsbury’s both grew behind the market average with sales falling by 0.4% and 0.5% respectively.”
Richard Bootman, 25, thought he was about to have a lovely time horsing crisps into his mouth after he’d been shopping in the Brandon store of Aldi.
Presumably, he was thinking of all that lovely, delicious grease going into his face and patting his stomach in glee when it was all done… however, something odd happened.
He said: “I opened the packet of crisps and noticed there wasn’t the usual crunchy sound you get. I tipped the packet upside-down and this oily potato just fell out onto my desk.”
We would have been livid because this is tantamount to getting sabotaged with something healthy when you thought you were about to have a gloriously disgusting party in your mouth. It feels like someone ‘surprising’ you with alcohol-free beer.
However, Richard Bootman is twice the person we are and he thought it was funny: “We all just laughed when we saw it, then I said to a friend, “Maybe you are expected to cook your own crisps these days?”
The ultimate in artisan, DIY, next-level Salt ‘n’ Shake crisps. These would be a perfect blag for a crisps company wanting to sell to health conscious hipsters with loads of money and free time.
Anyway, Richard showed his pictures to Aldi via Twitter and they offered him a refund. An Aldi spokesperson said: “Aldi is aware of this incident and is happy to offer the customer a full refund.”