Which!!! pitted US prices against UK prices on 13 products, including TVs, games consoles, headphones and even computer software, and found that UK customers are getting the less fragrant end of the stick.
One Samsung TV was £402 more expensive in Britain, while a Macbook Pro 13 inch laptop was £194 more. Meanwhile, Xbox Ones and Playstation 4 cost £57 more than in the US. Software is also astronomical – Adobe Creative Cloud costs £114, and Microsoft Office is £89 more. And the list goes on…
Why? Well it’s not particularly clear. Which! attempted to contact a variety of companies to ask why Britain was paying over the odds and got nothing but mumbles, bumbles and fumbles. Most didn’t bother to reply, and Amazon said something incoherent about ‘different operating costs in each country.’
WTF, Richard Lloyd from Which!!!: “UK consumers are getting a raw deal by paying up to hundreds of pounds more for the same tech products on sale in the US.’ Manufacturers should play fair and explain why consumers are paying more for buying in the UK.”
When you are selecting a product, what criteria do you use to choose one product over another? Leaving personal preference aside, things like price and quality are front runners. But then what? After sustained campaigns by organisations such as Tax Research UK or Ethical Consumer, the importance of corporate tax avoidance on purchasing decisions may just surprise you.
New research by YouGov for KPMG’s newly launched Consumer Insights Panel suggests that corporate tax avoidance is more important to consumers in their buying decisions than other ethical considerations, like treatment of suppliers and staff.
The survey of 2,000 people found that although price (52%) and quality (39%) were top determining factors, one in four (25%) cited corporate tax avoidance activities as something they would take into consideration when selecting brands and products. This means that a company’s attitude towards paying tax therefore holds greater sway than treating suppliers (18%) and staff (17%) fairly, environmental impact (15%) and charitable giving (2%) in the eyes of consumers.
While this is bad news for tax avoidance offenders- the most high profile of whom, such as Starbucks and Amazon, have suffered boycotting campaigns, others like John Lewis have been using their tax-paying status as a marketing tool. And it seems to be working. However, consumers sometimes feel their right to choose is being impeded by their lack of knowledge. Half of respondents said they wanted greater transparency over which multinational company owned which brand names, to help them choose the most tax-ethical brands.
Liz Claydon, head of consumer markets at KPMG said “In the past, one of the reasons that companies haven’t been transparent about corporate branding is that the link can potentially be seen to be damaging.” However, she added that “most big multinational companies now absolutely want to link their products to their corporate brand.” Presumably, however, she means the ones who aren’t avoiding all their UK corporation tax…
Instead of spunking all their hard earned wages on goji berries and wheatgrass and other dubious inedibles, our favourite consumer vanguards suggest that people should try cheaper alternatives, like kiwi fruit and sardines.
In what has to be their most niche report yet, Which!!! found that swapping blueberries for kiwis and salmon for sardines could help healthy types save £440 a year and still stay alive longer (while not having any fun.)
Lean, mean, tanned and toned Richard Lloyd from Which!!! paused his Tracy Anderson workout DVD and said:
‘You don’t need to break the bank to eat healthily. We’ve found you can swap some superfoods for cheaper alternatives and save a packet while still getting the vitamins you need.’
Thanks Richard! And now we can spend that lovely £440 on beer and pipes of Pringles.
Customers trying to make payments and do their banking both online and via their mobiles over the weekend were thwarted by error messages and frustration.
They took to Twitter on Sunday night with pitchforks and voiced their annoyance at the glitches, which took place between midnight and 7.30am this morning.
Nationwide said they were very sorry, but regular website maintenance had taken longer than expected.
‘Unfortunately our overnight planned maintenance has overrun and affected customers accessing our online bank and mobile banking app.’ Said a spokesperson. ‘We apologise for the inconvenience caused to our customers. The online bank and mobile banking app are now up and running.’
Perhaps the real reason that customers are so annoyed is that it’s a fairly regular occurrence with Nationwide. It ain’t the first time – and chances are it’s not going to be the last…
The main problem is with the headings. The FCA says that too much focus is put on the big splashy headline price and the brand itself, and not enough info is given about what you actually get for your money. If you’re looking for home insurance, for example, you don’t necessarily get a full outline of your cover or any indication of whether it’s right for you.
The FCA eyeballed 14 price comparison sites and found that the websites don’t make it clear that they just gather and show all the prices – and don’t necessarily tailor their suggestions to your specific needs.
However, some are very naughty indeed and break FCA rules because they don’t declare potential conflicts of interest – ie, some sites are owned by the very insurance companies they’re trying to
pimp ‘impartially’ suggest.
Clive Adamson from the FCA said: ‘Our research found that price comparison websites are not meeting our requirements in delivering fair and consistent outcomes for consumers. We also found that consumers had a number of misconceptions about the services they provided. It is important for consumers to understand that not all products are the same and the cheapest product may not always be the best for their needs.’
Companies like gocompare.com have said they would look carefully at the report’s findings, just as soon as the corrupt Go Compare man comes back from taking crack at the meerkat brothel.
Some people have just one job, and they can’t seem to get that right. Take babygro pattern designers- how hard can it be to draw pictures of rabbits in pink or blue? However, it seems this babygro designer for Next was “having a laugh” by putting x-rated content all over cute little babies. See for yourself:
No? Shane Gallivan, 23 from Notts, was feeding his twin daughters when something popped up in the ‘washing line’ design. Shane’s wife Carla, 24, said: “He was feeding my daughter when he suddenly said ‘oh my god’. He looked at the baby grow and noticed the trousers were covered in penises.
Try again with the close up. Now you see it?
The miniscule penises have caused great consternation in the Gallivan household. “It just looks like the designer was having a laugh and no one spotted it. I was angry because it’s not the kind of thing you should be dressing a baby in,” spat Carla, adding “I think what makes it all worse is that I have dressed two girls in it, not just that I put it on a baby.”
Clearly it’s OK to cover small boys with pictures that could possibly be mistaken for tiny willies, given they own one.
Nevertheless, the pornographic babywear has been withdrawn from the shelves by Next, who said in a statement:
“The offending part of the design started life as an upside down jumper with a neck binding and placket with buttons (hanging on the washing line), but unfortunately has been over simplified by the printer and has unintentionally become something else.”
“This is an innocent mistake that had not been picked up in the approval process. As it was inappropriate we made the decision to withdraw this item from sale as soon as it was bought to our attention earlier this year.”
Some people just have a dirty mind.
Pictures from the Plymouth Herald
This piece of ‘No shit, Sherlock’ news comes from economic research group Markit, who claim that the monthly Household Finance Index dropped to 42.1 in July from 42.6 in June as households voiced concerns about savings, debt levels and credit availability.
Those in the lowest income bracket (earning less than £15,000 a year) were the most downbeat about their financial situation, whereas – and this may come as something of a shock – those earning over £57,750 are quite upbeat.
The seasonally adjusted index measuring the outlook for financial well-being in the next 12 months was 47.7, down slightly from 47.8 in June.
Senior Economist Jack Kennedy said: ”The survey’s main barometer slipped to a six-month low, while the future expectations index also fell, perhaps reflecting caution regarding the possibility of an interest rate rise before the year’s end.”
“However, the survey continued to signal less severe financial pressures than at any time in the five years leading up to 2014. Moreover, easing inflation perceptions and strongly rising levels of workplace activity suggest certain pressures on households may be abating, which could help offset the impact of higher mortgage costs following any action by the Bank of England to hike rates.”
So to rub people’s noses in it – poor people aren’t happy.
More blindingly obvious news as and when the next pointless survey arrives.
Last July, we told you about Apple going to court for playing a central role in the price fixing of e-books.
We told you about the daytime ITV drama scenario of book executives meeting up in the private dining rooms of upscale New York restaurants, where they bitched about Amazon’s low prices and asking Apple what they could do about it. Apple pulled their best innocent face, but are now coughing up money.
Apple have agreed to pay $450-million to resolve the US State and consumer claims that they conspired with five major publishers to fix e-book prices.
The settlement will provide $400-million for consumers, on the condition of the outcome of a pending appeal of a New York federal judge’s ruling.
Apple will be holding out for the second ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York going in their favour. If they reverse the liability finding, they could reduce the amount Apple pays to $70 million, with $50 million going to consumers.
Or they could eliminate payments altogether.
There could well be a lot of private dining rooms in New York getting booked, filled with executives and judges in the coming weeks, if you catch the drift?
Well, chances are, you’ve been eating pesticides.
Turns out that two in every three loaves of bread sold in the UK contain one pesticide residue. This is according to the government who have been doing analysis and wanted to share the data with us all. Tests on loaves showed that 25% of them contained residues of more than one pesticide.
Nick Mole, at Pesticide Action Network UK (Pan UK) and an author of the new report, said: “There is the possibility of harm from the repeated ingestion of low doses of pesticides and no one has done research on the impact of the cocktails of pesticides we are all exposed to. We are all being experimented on without our consent.”
Yet no-one has died or grown an extra eye.
The Guardian have been doing their own studies, looking at the differences between organic and conventional food and deduced that ”pesticides were found four times more often on conventional fruit, vegetables and cereals.” Funny that. The Guardian being hippies about food.
Mole accused the pesticide companies, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the National Farmers’ Union of having a “cosy” relationship. “The UK’s pesticide action plan was particularly weak,” he said. “Pesticides need to be used last, if at all, at the moment they are the first choice.”
How on Earth are we going to cope? And will Guardian readers stop baking their own loaves for long enough to show patronising concern for the poor people eating factory produced bread?
More on this when we get it.
Sometimes, you have to ride out the spiel that people in call centres are paid to dish out. Their bosses make them do it and it can often be quicker to simply let them blurt it out as fast as they can, so you can give an answer and move on.
However, customer retention teams are a different breed altogether. They want to keep you on the phone and seduce you.
They’re the pick-up artists of the business world, all needy and determined like that Ted fella from How I Met Your Mother.
When Ryan Block, co-founder of Engadget, wanted to cancel his Comcast contract, he was met with a member of staff who is absolute agony to listen to. That’s right! There’s a recording! And now Comcast has issued an apology after their representative kept Block on the line for around 18 minutes.
Have a listen to the call here (and don’t worry, it isn’t 18 minutes long).
Block said that him and his wife wanted to switch provider, however, when Block’s wife was transferred to Comcast’s customer retention guy, the employee wouldn’t accept anything for an answer. The Block got involved and more of the same occurred.
“I started the call by (very nicely) saying that we were moving, and that we needed to cancel our service,” Block’s wife, Veronica Belmont, wrote in the description of the recording on SoundCloud. “He asked if we wanted to move our current service. I said no, thank you, but we’ve already signed up for Astound.”
“The representative continued aggressively repeating his questions, despite the answers given, to the point where my wife became so visibly upset she handed me the phone,” Block wrote in the audio description. “Overhearing the conversation, I knew this would not be very fun.”
A Comcast spokeswoman provided the following statement to ABC News today about the recording: “We are very embarrassed by the way our employee spoke with Mr. Block and are contacting him to personally apologize. The way in which our representative communicated with him is unacceptable and not consistent with how we train our customer service representatives. We are investigating this situation and will take quick action. While the overwhelming majority of our employees work very hard to do the right thing every day, we are using this very unfortunate experience to reinforce how important it is to always treat our customers with the utmost respect.”
With so many lovely designs around – ‘the green one with the lid’, ‘the brown one with the hole in the top’ etc. – councils simply can’t make their mind up, and that means that each bin costs us £5 more than it would in other countries where all bins are a standard type.
Overall, their disjointed and quite frankly RUBBISH approach to bin selection and recycling in general is costing the UK £1.7billion.
The report from the Circular Economy Task Force suggests that the UK could actually generate £2billion in private investment in recycling plants. But because the UK recycling market stinks, not enough produce is collected to make private investment in new recycling plants profitable.
At the moment only 30% of plastic is recycled in the UK – two thirds of it goes to companies abroad, losing the UK more money. And so it goes. The circle of crap, as they sang in the Lion King.
‘Local authorities spend more on waste management than housing or planning. Valuable raw materials are lost while businesses are frustrated by a lack of usable recycled materials.’ Says Dustin Benton, who compiled the report (known as ‘Dusty Binton’ to his mates).
‘The system both stymies demand for recycled materials and prevents businesses investing. The problem is structural. The Government could easily turn this around by reforming the system to help businesses get the UK moving toward a circular economy.’
We’d all like an extra 20% discount on our car insurance, right? Well it seems that some insurers are offering up to a fifth off car insurance premiums for ‘prudent’ people.
Some insurance firms claim that they have found a strong link between people who are prudent with their spending and those less likely to take risks while driving. If you’re careful with your money, you’ll be careful on the road. This means that Lloyds insurance arm Scottish Widows is apparently offering up to 20% off to certain customers who, for example, stay within their overdraft limits, or never need an overdraft, or who never miss a credit card payment.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that renewing car insurance becomes a more labour-intensive process, requiring drivers to detail their financial histories in order to try and get a discount. Instead, this is just part of the ‘big data revolution’ which sees businesses using consumers’ personal information in new and exciting ways. And Scottish Widows aren’t alone.
We’ve known for years that Tesco monitors the shopping habits of Clubcard holders, and Tesco insurance reportedly offers discounts of up to 40% on home and car insurance to those whose shopping habits indicate they would be a careful driver. However, they are not forthcoming on which products are so indicative. Aviva changes house insurance premiums depending on the exact location of properties on a street.
But while no one is going to be miffed at being offered an un-requested 20% discount, as with everything else in life, the fear is that this is, in fact, a double edged sword. While those with ‘good’ financial habits are offered money off, are those struggling to make ends meet going to be penalised even further by higher premiums? Apparently not.
A spokesman for Scottish Widows told the Telegraph that “this use of the data we hold is allowing us to offer discounts on motor insurance to customers who tend to show care in areas like personal finances. But we will not be using this information to increase premiums.” Sounds pretty categoric. For now anyway.
However, privacy groups remain unconvinced, and consider this alternate use of data to be a breach of trust by holders of super-sensitive data.
Emma Carr, acting director of Big Brother Watch, said: “Despite this being within the law, the way many companies go about doing this is underhand and goes far beyond what customers would expect them to do with their data.” She called on insurers to give customers the option of explicitly opting-in to the use of big data rather than just allowing them to opt out, if consumers are even aware of how businesses are using their data.
So what do you think? Is it OK so long as it only confers positive benefits, or will the sharp side of the deal inevitably turn up before long?
It’s almost the end of term. Unless you are in Scotland in which case that is old news. Some parents may be looking forward to having their offspring around 24-7, others may be experiencing a growing sense of dread. But some parents will have been rubbing their hands with glee as more than a third of parents (36%) take their children out of school during term time. And this risk to their child’s education is all in the name of saving money.
New research by Nationwide Building Society shows that, despite increased attention and new £60 penalties for unauthorised absences, the proportion of parents angling for a cheap getaway has remained largely unchanged since last year’s research, where 37% admitted taking a hooky holiday. Out of those parents who did opt for term-time holidays, almost one in five (19 per cent) further compounded their children’s moral slide by lying about it and telling the school their child was sick rather than admit they were off on holiday.
However, given the fact that the premium for a typical holiday in Spain for a family of four has been calculated as amounting to as much as an extra £1,347 during school holidays compared with term-time, £60 seems a fair price to pay for the discount.
The research also showed that:
57% took their kids out of school for holiday at the end of term, compared with 18% who chose the start of term and 17% who went for a mid-term break
72% of parents went for a foreign holiday during time term, which would result in greater savings compared with school holidays
62% of children on term-time holidays were from primary school, but the figure almost halved for older children, with only 32% of secondary pupils being taken out of school for holiday
But while over a third of parents sounds a lot, is this news so surprising? Alternative research by Yorkshire Bank suggested that almost a quarter (24%) of people base their choice of holiday primarily on price, while a further 27% would book somewhere unusual if it would save them money. The average spend of a summer holiday is estimated at £1,027.72 per person per year.
So would you do it? Is a week’s education worth over a grand to you? Or do you live in Scotland and have already enjoyed a lovely family holiday abroad, cheaper and without a resort full of screaming English children…
We all know that inflation has been outpacing earnings increases for years, and is only now getting back to levels targeted by the Bank of England. This means that the pressure on cost of living has been immense for many people, many of whom may have turned to discount supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi in order to make ends meet. And this has had a knock on effect of driving down food prices across the supermarket sector, which is almost certainly A Good Thing.
But does discount shopping come at a price?
New figures released today show that suggest that food price inflation is standing at record low levels. But some are suggesting that, like Amazon, the way discounters are managing to undercut the market starts with tax avoidance, potentially adding a moral cost to the discount
George Bull from accountants Baker Tilly cites Lidl as an example. Most of Lidl UK’s stock, management and administrative support arises from its German parent which means that Lidl’s UK tax liability is low owing to all the costs being sent back over to Germany. While Lidl is providing jobs and cheap food in the UK, it is therefore contributing little to the UK tax pot. More worryingly, Bull suggests that the big UK retailers might be eyeing up the smaller discounters – for example, Sainsbury’s is reported to be taking to take a half share in a new Netto chain with the Danish parent – meaning more money is diverted away from the UK treasury.
But does that matter so long as the cash is, instead, staying in UK consumers’ pockets? After all, we will eventually spend that money and boost the UK economy further. Or is corporate tax avoidance always wrong, even if, as in the case of Lidl, it was a legitimate foreign company long before it ever landed here.
Or does anyone even care anymore so long as prices are kept low? Is anyone still boycotting Amazon and Starbucks now they are no longer in the news?
Everyone knows that if you constantly eat crap, you end up a pale and unhealthy glutinous mass. Of course, everyone is free to choose what they eat, but as part of a drive to help people make informed choices, UK food retailers largely conform to the voluntary traffic light food labelling system, which tells you whether the amount of fat and sugar you are about to cram in your gob is good (green) or less good (red).
Now, however, some of our European chums have decided that, far from being helpful and informative, this traffic light labelling is in fact discriminatory and rude, and have run off to the European Commission to tell tales. The group, led by Italy, is concerned that, as their national produce such as prosciutto and Parmesan might end up with red labels, we are clearly trying to stealthily stop all UK people eating foreign muck.
Italy accused the UK’s labelling system of ‘clearly influencing customer choice’ and got its mates, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Slovenia, Romania, Portugal together with France just for good measure, to back it up. They all stood around huffily in the EC until the Commission agreed to investigate. Their challenge is supported by UK local retailer the Co-operative who undertook a survey which found that 40% of women and 30% of men had decided against buying a product owing to its red traffic light labelling.
The Commission’s findings are expected in a few weeks, but its investigation will consider whether the labelling infringes basic EU tenets of the free market within Europe.
However, Glenis Willmott, UK MEP Health Spokesperson condemned the challenge, describing the case as “spurious” and claiming EU legislation was clear in permitting voluntary informational labelling on products. If the EU finds against the UK, and the UK refuses to withdraw the labelling, we could be landed with a heavy fine.
It seems the irony of us pasty Britishers hankering after a more Mediterranean diet is lost on our near neighbours.