tickets 300x225 CMA persuades ticket resellers to provide consumers with proper informationSecondary ticketing can be a minefield. If you aren’t lucky enough to get tickets first time round, from the official retailer, being able to find tickets that people can no longer use- or when people just want to make a profit on their tickets- is a valuable service to consumers. However, the whole secondary ticket market has been subject to a Competition and Markets Authority (CMA, the new OFT) as they were concerned that consumers were shopping without full information, preventing them from making an informed purchasing decision. Now, 4 of the largest UK secondary ticket platforms – GET ME IN!, Seatwave, StubHub and viagogo – have promised to pull their collective socks up and provide improved information to buyers about the tickets listed on their sites- including original face value.

While no-one is saying that ticket resellers can’t charge more than face value for tickets, particularly those hot tickets that sold out in nine seconds, the CMA want the face value to be clearly stated so that those buying them are explicitly aware of the premium they are paying. Other undertakings adopted by the resellers include information on restricted entry conditions (eg for children) and restricted view, whether or not multiple seats that are listed together are located together and whether there are any additional charges not included in the listed ticket price. They will also all provide a contact email address for buyers to use if something goes wrong.

But the CMA isn’t stopping there. They are also writing to other major ticket resellers and businesses to inform them of the CMA’s “expectations about their conduct and their obligations under consumer law”. They have also produced a handy guide for consumers so you know what to look for when buying tickets from a reseller.

Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director, said:

“A well-functioning secondary ticket market benefits fans by helping them to get tickets for events they want to see and by helping them when they can no longer make use of their tickets. As a result of the CMA’s action, and the constructive response of the major secondary ticket platforms, buyers will now have more of the key information they need before buying.”

“Businesses that do not provide secondary ticket consumers with information they need to help them know what they are buying may find themselves subject to action under consumer protection law, including possible financial penalties from Trading Standards Services to drive future compliance.”

Shahriar Coupal (Advertising Standards Authority) said:

“Hiding or omitting information about charges that consumers have to pay is not only misleading it’s simply unfair. In tandem with the CMA, we’ve been working closely with the secondary ticket sector to help make sure it’s clear and upfront about costs so that consumers get a fair deal and businesses play by the same rules.”

pothole 300x199 7 in 10 drivers hit potholes   and how to claim Potholes are the blight of anyone who uses the roads in the UK. According to a survey, 7 in 10 drivers have had problems with them, yet, only two-thirds of cars that have been damaged by them have successfully claimed some compensation.

Which!!! did some research and found that 4 out of every 10 drivers who had hit a pothole didn’t bother claiming because they didn’t know how to, while some said that they didn’t bother because it wasn’t worth the hassle.

However, 55% of satisfactorily resolved claims got some money, paying out an average of £188, which means drivers are missing out and should be submitting claims to the Highway Agency or local authority.

According to the research, successful claims usually depend on whether or not a pothole has already been reported. Local authorities have a statutory defence thanks to Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980, which basically says that, if an authority can show that reasonable care was taken to make the road safe and that it wasn’t dangerous to drivers, they’re covered. However, if a local authority knows about a pothole and hasn’t repaired it, drivers could put a claim in.

Which!!! big cheese Richard Lloyd, said: “With so many drivers hitting potholes and damaging their cars it’s important that people know their rights. Our research shows it’s worthwhile making a claim. If you do need to make a claim, our advice is to find out if the pothole has been reported, collect photographic evidence and get receipts of any work to fix the damage.”

If you want to put a claim in, then Which!!! have a step-by-step guide you can follow and guidance about the whole thing for both drivers and cyclists. Click here to have a look.

Good old Co-Operative Food. You know, the one founded on ethical principles? Well, it seems they are as ready to swindle consumers as any less ethical supermarket, by making false claims on their products, and then attempting to charge almost ten times as much for the hyped-up product.

If you have a headache, you might want to buy some painkillers. Ibuprofen is a popular choice. In Co-operative Food stores, you can find both standard ibuprofen tablets and ‘Long Lasting’ ibuprofen tablets side by side on the shelf. If you are a busy person, you might think you’d better purchase the ‘long lasting’ tablets to make sure your pain does not impinge on your day any more than absolutely necessary.

photo 3 500x375 Co op charge almost ten times as much for identical painkillers

As you can see, the standard and long-lasting tablets are in very similar packaging. So similar, and so closely nestled together that it almost might be possible to mistakenly pick up the wrong packet- which would be an expensive mistake to make given than the ‘Long Lasting’ ibuprofen tablets cost £1.95 for 8 tablets (24.4p each)and the standard ibuprofen tablets  cost 45p for 16 tablets (2.8p each). Now, almost ten times more expensive is a fairly hefty premium to pay for a  ‘long lasting’ effect so we checked the ingredients of the tablets to see what gave the long lasting tablets their endurance. Guess what we found? That’s right. Nothing.

You see the 2.8p tablets and the 24.4p tablets are identical in terms of active ingredients. Both contain 200mg ibuprofen.  So we were confused. Surely the Co-op with their “ethical values” that include “openness” and “honesty” were not merely trying to sell consumers ibuprofen with added snake oil just to make a hefty profit?

So we asked them. And they said “there is a difference,” but didn’t actually get round to explaining what the difference was, or responding to our query as to whether they thought they were deliberately misleading customers by selling products that are chemically identical under another name. Funny that. Looks like the “Co-operative value” of “self responsibility- we take responsibility for, and answer to our actions” might be something else that is actually a load of old codswallop…

UPDATE:

Co-op have now come back to tell us why the “Long Lasting” tablets are worth so much more. The answer is that “the Long Lasting ibuprofen are made up of beads which allow the ibuprofen to release slowly as opposed to  the tablet which is immediate.” They also feel that swindle is too strong a word.

So it’s up to you as to whether you would rather take two long lasting tablets, delivering you 400mg of pain relief over 12 hours for a total cost of 48.8p, or whether you’d rather take two tablets every four hours and get 1200mg of pain relief at a cost of 16.8p. A third of the pain relieving ingredient for (almost) three times the cost. Seems perfectly reasonable…

 

EU to keep mobile roaming charges

March 5th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Mobile phone holiday beach GUIDE 01 EU to keep mobile roaming chargesWe reported a while ago, that the EU was all set to abolish roaming charges. However, that may not be the case now, as they’re going to be here for another 3 years.

The pointless and outdated charges were to come into play this summer, but now, roaming charges are going to stay until the end of 2018. And only then, the situation will be reviewed. With the average Brit spending £120 on these charges, this is a bit of a kick in the pants.

The telecoms industry aren’t happy about this either, as they say that this will affect their revenues, presumably because holidaymakers will prefer to switch their phones off while abroad, rather than use them. That said, they’ll happily take the money of those who do use their phones, so they won’t be too annoyed at all this.

A number of consumer groups across Europe, who have joined forces at the BEUC, have called this u-turn ‘outrageous’ and that ‘roaming is not justifiable in a single market.’

Only last year, the UK was planning on getting together with other European countries to sort out a fairer system which would abolish roaming charges, whereas now, everyone’s going to have to work out a common position with the European Parliament and Commission before any changes come to the fore.

“EU member states should hang their heads in shame,” said Belgian MEP and Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group leader Guy Verhofstadt.

Scottish Power hit with sales ban

March 4th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

scottish power Scottish Power hit with sales banScottish Power have been slapped with a sales ban after they failed to meet Ofgem’s customer service targets. The energy provider was told to clear all their outstanding Energy Ombudsman decisions regarding customer complaints, but they didn’t.

They were asked to answer customers’ calls more quickly, reduce a backlog of bills and sort out outstanding ombudsman rulings. As such, the 12-day sales ban means the company can’t engage in “proactive sales” from today.

The energy company said that they are “committed to delivering the best service possible and treating our customers fairly”.

Sarah Harrison, Ofgem’s senior partner in charge of enforcement, said: “A sales ban illustrates the difficulties Scottish Power is having in delivering the levels of service customers deserve. While Ofgem’s targets have driven significant improvements in Scottish Power’s performance, we remain very concerned about how customers are being treated.”

Scottish Power say: ”We have successfully delivered two of the targets. In relation to the target of having zero ombudsman remedies over 28 days, we cleared 2,575 cases during November and, at 1 December, the Ombudsman confirmed that we have achieved the zero target.”

“However, subsequently it was identified that 30 cases had been closed incorrectly. We sincerely apologise to these customers for these errors. The cases were immediately fixed on discovery. In line with our original voluntary commitment and with the agreement of Ofgem, we will now stop outbound selling from 4 March until 15 March.”

Amazon Prime ‘free trial’ advert, banned

March 4th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

amazoninstant Amazon Prime free trial advert, bannedThere was a fair bit of hubbub surrounding Amazon’s Prime and how it changed from a free trial to a paid-for service.

The Advertising Standards Authority have banned one of Amazon’s adverts, which was a direct mailing advert, which offered a “free trial” of the Prime delivery service, saying that it misled consumers on the now infamous subscription fees.

So what’s the beef?

Well, the ASA’s ruling came about after their were complaints about a card that crowed about a “30-day free trial”, which wasn’t prominent or clear enough when pointing out that a paid subscription would kick-in automatically if the service wasn’t cancelled during the trial period.

In addition to that, the regulator noted that the ad for the instant video element of Prime also didn’t point out the cost of a subscription.

The letter itself said: “Dear [name], I’m sending you this letter because I want you to know that you are eligible for a free trial of Amazon Prime … Start your 30-day free trial today and watch as much as you want … That’s all there is to it …”

It did say; “Paid subscription starts automatically after free trial unless cancelled,” in the small print, and Amazon pointed out that the advert repeatedly said the “free” element was time-limited. The company also pointed out that in all occasions bar one, the word “free” was preceded by “30-day”.

The ASA weren’t having it and said: ”We did not consider that it was sufficient to include the information about the automatic paid subscription in the small print of the ad only and therefore did not consider that that information was sufficiently prominent to make clear the extent of the commitment consumers must make to take advantage of the offer.”

“We concluded the ad was likely to mislead.”

The Advertising Standards Authority concluded that this particular advert for Amazon Prime was misleading and it mustn’t appear again in its current form.

There’s a restaurant in Manchester called ’47 King Street’ and, like most places, reviews are mixed. On the eaterie’s TripAdvisor, some say it is wonderful, while others hate it. One customers says that the staff pretended to phone the police on them.

Well, there’s another complaint doing the rounds and the restaurants itself has made it a million times worse by getting shirty on social media with a hen party. Pick your side now.

Melissa Grogan-Morgan left a negative review on 47 King Street’s Facebook page, saying that she wasn’t too impressed with the staff (something that has been levelled at the business on a few occasions online). She soon found that the restaurant was volleying insults her way, calling her and her friends things like “peasants” and “chav cheap trash”.

The PR nightmare continued with comments like “vile people” and that they were from the “bottom of the barrell”. Of course, someone quickly deleted their Facebook page and screamed in frustration at the whole thing.

 

JS58211277 500x332 Restaurant calls customers peasants and more!

Other comments said that they “wouldn’t know fine dining if it slapped them in their ugly faces!” as well as referring to them: “What absolute trash they were. We pity the groom!”

So, who is laughing at all this and who is outraged?

hen 2 Restaurant calls customers peasants and more!

Obviously, someone’s going to get their knuckles rapped over this as, either way you look at it, someone’s been a dick to a bunch of people who put £600 in their till.

47 King Street itself, is hardly fine dining and doesn’t have the exclusivity of Studio 54 or something, so this is all a huge pig’s ear and… it’ll blow over by the end of the week.

Old Fridge 300x200 Are retailers going to have to tell you where to buy your products cheaper?How much easier would it be if, whichever retailer you were shopping with, shops actually had to tell you  if a competitor was offering an identical product at a better price? Well that is actually what happened in a civil Court of Appeal case last week, the decision in which has had retailers scrambling to determine if the ruling is binding on them, and would cause them to fall foul of EU consumer protection laws.

The case in question concerned whether a company was required to notify consumers that the services it offered for a charge could be obtained by the consumers acting directly for free. PLT Anti-Marketing Limited (PLT) offered to register consumers’ names and contact details with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) and the Mail Preference Service (MPS) in return for £4 monthly subscription, but neglected to tell consumers that they can register with the TPS and MPS for free.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeal considered to what extent businesses would need to disclose information about the availability, quality and price of rival products and services to consumers to comply with EU consumer protection laws, saying that the disclosure of such information “will be necessary in some situations” to ensure businesses are not considered to be making  ‘misleading omissions’ when selling their own goods or services to consumers.

However, Lord Justice Briggs did refer to the need to recognise the ‘average consumer’ and whether or not the average consumer can be relied upon to “shop around” for such information, therefore removing the disclosure obligations from traders. In his decision, the judge found that a reasonable consumer would indeed shop around, so that this was an acceptable starting point for retailers.

“Generally, inward-facing information is likely to be available only from the trader in question, because it is information about that trader, or its goods or services. By contrast, information about alternative or competing products may generally be supposed to be available in the marketplace, to the extent that a particular consumer wishes to obtain it before deciding whether to make a purchase from the trader in question. In short, shopping around for information about alternative products (whether goods or services) is characteristic of the reasonably well-informed, observant and circumspect consumer,”  said LJ Briggs in making his decision.

So will this decision have any effect when you next visit an electrical retailer to buy a new fridge, for example? Commercial contracts expert Rami Labib of Pinsent Masons thinks not.

“Although it remains to be seen how the principles established by the Court of Appeal will be applied in future cases, our interpretation is that businesses will only need to notify consumers about the availability of alternative products and services on the market in exceptional cases,” Labib said. “For most businesses, the ruling will not demand a change to marketing materials or business practices.”

So while this ruling might be a further way to clamp down on so-called ‘copycat’ websites, where websites pop up to charge consumers for a service that is normally available for free or at a nominal charge, it seems Currys don’t have to tell you if your fridge would be cheaper if you bought it from Apollo2000. Never mind.

john lewis Look at the newest Superbrands! Which ones do you hate?There’s a new list of the UK’s consumer superbrands, with John Lewis, Lego and Virgin Atlantic gatecrashing the top 20!

For the second year on the bounce, British Airways have come out on top and falling out of the chart are Heinz, Cadbury, Amazon.co.uk, Sony, Shell and Marks & Spencer. Looks like we don’t love them like we used to.

Stephen Cheliotis, Superbrands’ council chairman, said: “Younger brands, such as the social media giants, are sitting on the sidelines making little impact as a huge battle takes place among trusted, traditional brands seeking to remain relevant and retain their positions among the brand elite.”

This ranking is calculated from a shortlist of over 1,500 brands and scored by the Superbrands council of 33 people from the marketing industry and an online panel of 2,500 British adults. Makes it all sound a bit arbitrary doesn’t it?

Either way, British Airways will be pleased, while Facebook, who were in the top 20 in 2013, will be wondering what they’ve done wrong (ahem, personal privacy, ahem) and Twitter will be thinking about what they have to do to feature at all!

Superbrands Top 20 UK consumer brand rankings 2015

1 British Airways
2 Rolex
3 BBC
4 Microsoft
5 Nike
6 John Lewis
7 Gillette
8 Mercedes-Benz
9 Kellogg’s
10 Apple
11 Lego
12 Andrex
13 Boots
14 Dyson
15 Coca-Cola
16 Fairy
17 BMW
18 Google
19 Haagen-Dazs
20 Virgin Atlantic

TalkTalk customer data stolen in hack

February 27th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

TalkTalk 300x225 TalkTalk customer data stolen in hackAnother day, another hack and this time, customers of TalkTalk are being warned after a load of account numbers, names and personal details were stolen from them. Be on the lookout for people trying to scam you, basically.

In an email sent to all TalkTalk customers, the company said that ne’er-do-wells were using the swiped details to try and trick people into handing over their bank details. If you received the email, you’ll find a special phone line to call if you’ve been targeted.

The number is 0800 083 2710.

This scam was discovered after TalkTalk found that there was a very sudden spike in people complaining to them about scam calls at the end of last year. A spokesperson said: ”We have now concluded a thorough investigation working with an external security company, and we have become aware that some limited non-sensitive information may have been illegally accessed in violation of our security procedure.”

It seems that the hack came about via a third-party who also had access to TalkTalk’s network and, as a result, the company will be taking legal action against the aforementioned third-party.

“We are aware of a small, but nonetheless significant, number of customers who have been directly targeted by these criminals and we have been supporting them directly,” said a statement from TalkTalk.

The scam in question involves customers getting called up and, with the stolen details, the scammers are trying to convince you that they’re a legitimate TalkTalk representative who tries to sell them security software. So, if you’re a customer and someone from TalkTalk rings you up and asks for your bank details, tell ‘em where to sling it.

TripAdvisor 300x176 CMA to investigate review sites to see if they are misleading consumersEver used TripAdvisor to check a hotel or restaurant? Checked out your plumber on Checkatrade? Read a blog that reviewed the latest gizmo? All of the above are the subject of a new consultation by the Competition and Markets Authority on how information in online reviews and endorsements is used.

The CMA (which took over the things previously looked at by the Office of Fair Trading) is asking consumers, businesses and other interested parties to come forward with their views. In simple terms, the CMA, which is “committed to looking at evolving online markets”, has realised that “large numbers” of consumers read and rely upon online reviews when making purchasing decisions. These include sites like TripAdvisor and Checkatrade which do so formally, and blogs that have less formal reviews.

Both TripAdvisor and Checkatrade have been accused of having misleading or downright fake reviews, with stories of hotels offering sweeteners to guests who offer good reviews on the site-as well as tales of customers trying to hold hoteliers over a barrel with the threat of a poor review. The CMA is “aware of a number of potential concerns about the trustworthiness or impartiality of information in some reviews and endorsements that is being provided to consumers” and wants to investigate if there is anything it ought to be doing something about. It is also mindful of the effect negative reviews can have on businesses, and that is why those affected by review sites are also being asked to comment.

To be honest, the CMA isn’t sure what exactly it will do if it finds Things To Be Concerned About, but possible action includes: launching a market study covering this sector, or a part of it; initiating consumer enforcement action; advocating legislative change to government; providing guidance to industry or consumers, or both; and /or seeking voluntary action from the industry. Or doing absolutely nothing.

Nisha Arora, CMA Senior Director, Consumer, said:

The information contained in online reviews and endorsements can be a powerful force in the hands of consumers. Informed consumers make better decisions, driving competition on price and quality. Businesses have always known that ‘word of mouth’ is one of the most important factors for potential customers; what online reviews and blogs do is to provide a greatly amplified version of this. However, for this sector to work well it is important that this information is genuine, relevant and trustworthy.”

More detail is available on the call for information page, and the deadline for responses to the call for information is 25 March 2015.

Lenovo attacked by Lizard Squad

February 26th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Lenovo ThinkPad driver 300x300 Lenovo attacked by Lizard SquadLenovo annoyed everyone when it turned out that they’d put Superfish in a load of their laptops. The company said that it was supposed to enhance the user’s experience, but any fool could’ve told them that this was never going to be the case.

No-one wants a program that offers you shopping tips, as most people already know what they’re shopping for, or indeed, are hit with enough adverts while online, that there’s buyers fatigue while on the computer.

As such, Lenovo have been hit with a cyber-attack and, again, those cute Lizard Squad guys were behind it, turning their attention away from games consoles long enough to cause the laptop vendor some grief.

“One effect of this attack was to redirect traffic from the Lenovo website,” Lenovo said in a statement. “We are also actively investigating other aspects. We are responding and have already restored certain functionality to our public-facing website.”

The company is also “actively reviewing” their network security and will be taking steps “to protect the integrity of our users’ information and experience”. They’re bloody obsessed with ‘user experience’ aren’t they?

If you missed the news, Lenovo are no longer dealing with Superfish software after a huge amount of complaints.

loadsamoney 300x187 People think businesses put profits ahead of consumer needsDo you believe businesses have your best interests as a consumer at heart? If you don’t, you’re not alone, as a new CBI poll has found than more than seven in ten of us believe businesses abuse our trust and sacrifice loyalty for a quick return. ‘Profit’ is, apparently, being used “like a dirty word” by the majority of consumers.

The YouGov poll of more than 2,000 UK adults for the CBI’s trust-in-business campaign found that 72% of respondents believed businesses put profit before the needs of consumers, and 66% said that “businesses put profit before the wellbeing of their workforces”.

But are most of us living in some kind of cloud cuckoo land? Far from being a dirty word, profits are essential to the successful and continued running of a business. Interestingly, 70% of those surveyed also said profits were a “good thing”. It seems businesses are stuck between a rock and a hard place of making profits while also taking excellent care of consumers, even if this would adversely affect profits. But perhaps this is not an impossible dream- some of the most successful UK brands at the moment are those, like John Lewis, who are recognised as ‘consumer-friendly’ brands. However, it seems much of the issue surrounds trust- we don’t mind businesses making profits so long as they do it in the right way (with boycott favourites Starbucks and Amazon clearly not doing things the ‘right’ way), with more than three quarters of survey respondents saying they want businesses to “be more transparent” about how they earn their profits.

Katja Hall, the CBI’s deputy director-general, said: “Despite support for profits as a ‘good thing’, they continue to be demonised widely. We need to recalibrate this debate.”

Which!!! executive director, Richard Lloyd, said, insightfully: “Successful businesses know that by giving people the products and service they want, at a fair price, they’ll have happy customers who are more likely to stay loyal. But firms harm their own reputation and damage trust in their industry when they neglect the basics and fail to put the customer first.”

Nuisance calls and texts to be met with massive fines

February 25th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

telesales telephone Nuisance calls and texts to be met with massive finesThose irritating gits who run companies that mither everyone with nuisance calls and texts are looking at some new regulations that will slap them with huge fines. We’re talking penalties of (up to, of course) £500,000.

The current laws don’t do much to discourage these spam merchants, but that’s apparently going to change, as new rules will make it much easier to penalise them.

They come into play from April 6th and they mean that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) won’t have to prove that unwanted messages are causing a “substantial damage or substantial distress” any more.

In addition to that, the Government are also looking at bringing in new rules which will see that executives on the board of these businesses will also be held responsible for these calls and messages.

“For far too long companies have bombarded people with unwanted marketing calls and texts, and escaped punishment because they did not cause enough harm,” said digital economy minister Ed Vaizey. “This change will make it easier for the Information Commissioner’s Office to take action against offenders and send a clear message to others that harassing consumers with nuisance calls or texts is just not on.”

We all know how slippery these cold-callers are, so it would be wise to avoid holding your breath until we actually see someone getting a massive fine. Still, this is, initially, very good news for everyone.

Parking ticket data breach for tens of thousands

February 24th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

eating in the car Parking ticket data breach for tens of thousandsA database full of around 10,000 people’s parking ticket details isn’t as secure as previously thought as somehow, it has ended up being published online.

According to Sky News, the company called PaymyPCN.net, which has collected penalty charges for two decades has a direct link to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) database, which means people who shouldn’t be looking, can see drivers’ names and addresses.

Not only that, there’s public access to the content of emails that are appealing charges and photos of drivers and the cars. In addition to all that, this database allows the aforementioned photos to be uploaded and deleted, which is just magic.

How did this all come about? Well, a link to all that lovely data was published on Twitter by Michael Green after a private parking firm sent it to someone in error.

Green said: “I am not surprised by this. The DVLA claims to have safeguards in place to ensure drivers’ details are safe but these only exist as media soundbites. Our campaign challengethefine.com aims to get people compensated for parking data breaches. Despite the RAC Foundation questioning the legality of these charges the DVLA still passes millions of details on to private firms.”

database 1 1 480x360 Parking ticket data breach for tens of thousands

Of course, this is the DVLA that have come under heavy fire for their collective failure to vet and audit the companies in which they are prepared to sell the names and addresses of motorists, so this latest news isn’t a shock at all. This is also the same DVLA who have been acting unlawfully when it comes to losing your letters that you’ve sent them (and here’s what you can do if the DVLA say they’ve lost your letter).

A DVLA spokeswoman said: “This is not a DVLA error. We take our duty to safeguard data very seriously and we will not compromise data security. DVLA does not hold or provide data such as photographs, emails and phone numbers to private parking companies.”

As for PayMyPCN – if you want to get in touch with them to see about data breaches, here’s the number to call and their email: Tel: 03450 737 209, enquiry@paymypcn.net.