Posts Tagged ‘Consumer’

Which!!! are the best brands for 2015?

April 17th, 2015 No Comments By Thewlis

witch1 300x220 Which!!! are the best brands for 2015?We like brands. According to Which!!! more than half of people (53%) say brands can play a role in improving their quality of life and wellbeing, which is a bit weird in our opinion. However, Which!!! also found that people are twice as likely to choose brands that they trust. Every year Which!!! dish out awards to those brands they consider the most trusted, and this year’s shortlist is full, as you’d expect, of those brands we hear good things about, with dodgy delivery drivers, PPI-pushing bankers and famous coffee brands notably absent. And while some categories are stocked with market leading brands, like Apple and Ford, others have some more discerning brands, like Richer Sounds, which have made  it there, purely on the merits of their great customer experience.

The full shortlist is:

Best Car Manufacturer: BMW, Ford, Volkswagen

Best Banking Brand: First Direct, M&S Bank, Nationwide Building Society

Best Insurance Services Provider: John Lewis Financial Services, M&S Bank, NFU Mutual

Best Retailer: John Lewis, Lush, Richer Sounds, Screwfix, Wex Photographic

Best Supermarket: Aldi, Iceland, Lidl, Ocado, Waitrose

Best Computing Brand: Amazon, Apple, Samsung

Best Audio-Visual Brand: LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony

Best Home Appliance Brand: Bosch, Miele, Samsung, Siemens

Best Telecom Services Provider: giffgaff, Plusnet, Tesco Mobile, Utility Warehouse

Best Photography Brand: Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Sony

Best Travel Company: Audley Travel, HF Holidays, Riviera Travel, Trailfinders

This year does see a raft of new names, but also some repeat nominees, like Waitrose, First Direct, Bosch and John Lewis who are all looking to repeat last year’s success. So is this a good shortlist? Are there any companies you consider ought to have been included? Which!!! are keen to point out that these awards are completely independent- in that brands cannot nominate themselves for an award. Instead, the shortlist is chosen by Which!!! experts based on research, testing, and  endorsements, as well as feedback from Which!!! members and the general public throughout the year.

Which!!! group chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith said: “Over the last eight years, consumers have expected more from businesses and increasingly reward those that provide excellent service. Our awards recognise that what’s good for consumers is also good for business, and champions those who successfully set themselves apart by putting their customers at the heart of what they do.”

The winners will be announced on 17 June.

mobile phone 300x225 Mobile customers paying £92 extra for handsets youve already paid for?Mobile-havers in the UK are losing £92 each per year (that’s around £355million if you add everyone up) on handsets they’ve already bought, but carry on paying for through their bill.

A lot of contacts combine the tariff and the cost of the device over a period of time, however, the cost isn’t always split, which means many don’t know when they’ve paid off the cost of their phone. Those who are with EE, Vodafone, and Three will be charged under one bundled price, while O2, Virgin Media and Tesco Mobile have separate handset and other tariff costs.

This is all according to Which!!! who gave a couple of examples, which show how overcharging occurs. For example, a contract with O2 Refresh for an iPhone 6 costing £49 a month for 5GB of data and unlimited minutes and texts points out that the handset part of the bill is £25 and the deal price will drop to £24 once the device has been paid for. However, if you do a similar thing with Vodafone, costing £48.50 a month, the price doesn’t change once the contract period is up and the handset has already been paid in full.

According to the Which!!! survey, 60% of those polled think that there should be a clear separation of tariff and handset costs in their bills. Around 97% think that price is a crucial factor when deciding whether or not to switch and 74% reckon that it is paramount that providers inform customers when their contract is coming to an end.

Which!!! big cheese Richard Lloyd said: “Consumers are being misled and as a result are collectively paying millions of pounds each year for a phone they have paid off. All mobile phone operators should separate out the cost of the handset so people don’t continue to pay after the contract comes to an end.”

“Mobile providers need to play fair and ensure their customers are not paying over the odds.”

 

Consumers are feeling confident!

March 31st, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers
dr manhattan ljpg 300x300 Consumers are feeling confident!

A consumer, this morning

Are you feeling confident? Do you have more purpose in your stride and feel like you could shove a mountain over? Well, it isn’t surprising seeing as consumer confidence in the UK is at its highest level for nearly 13 years, according to the stat crunchers at GfK.

Look at you spending money on onions and socks like you’re Rick James!

Gfk’s Consumer Confidence Index rose three points to +4 in March, and over the last three months, there’s been an eight point rise. Good eh? There’s been a nine point increase from March 2014. That’s livin’ alright.

All five of Gfk’s index’s key indicators saw monthly and yearly increases this month, with confidence over the general economic situation over the last 12 months being the strongest climber up the charts. It is now at +1 when, last year, it was at -15!

Sounds like we’re all getting our swagger back too, as the survey showed that consumers are more confident about the economy in the coming year, as well as getting rather cocky about our collective personal financial situation for the coming 12 months. Basically, that means people are starting to look at spending money on bigger purchases like sofas or new TVs.

Nick Moon, Managing Director of Social Research at GfK, says: “Reaction to the budget has thus far been muted, but if people warm to it over the next few weeks then we may well see a further increase in the Index next month. A consistently rising Index in the run-up to the election is likely to be good news for the government.”

Sky customers being targeted over piracy

March 11th, 2015 3 Comments By Mof Gimmers

music piracy Sky customers being targeted over piracyA while ago, the courts of Great Britain decided in their infinite wisdom that, should a Hollywood studio with a team of fantastically well-paid lawyers want to go after Joe Muggins for pirating some stuff, they were more than welcome.

So with that, an American company called TCYK LLC has applied for a court order that will see Sky having to hand over information on some of their subscribers to their broadband service.

If you didn’t know (and why would you?), TCYK are a production company and understandably, they don’t like people swiping their stuff. However, if you listen hard enough, you can already hear a bunch of tech-agitators firing up their keyboards in a bid to make TCYK’s life rather difficult over the coming months.

Mercifully, the production company have a problem – it is very difficult to determine exactly which IP addresses are downloading stuff, but that invariably won’t stop them from trying to frighten some people into throwing money their way.

The important thing to remember, should you receive a letter from TCYK, is that any action would be a civil case, which means you won’t end up in jail if you want to ignore them or if they try to take you to court.

If you are worried by any threatening letters or correspondence, then get in touch with your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau. The company may well try and retrieve some compensation from you, but they’ve got to actually prove it is you who downloaded their material (bear in mind that they can’t sue you for downloading someone else’s material) and indeed, they’ll have to go through so many hoops to get to you, that you shouldn’t concern yourself  too much.

Is your domestic appliance going to kill you?

January 16th, 2015 1 Comment By Thewlis

Old Fridge 300x200 Is your domestic appliance going to kill you?Of course, we’re (probably) not talking about demonic possession, more the chilling fact that thousands of fridge owners are putting themselves at risk of injury or even death from unsafe appliances, like fridges, freezers, ovens etc because they don’t register them, so potentially never know if they are subject to a recall.

New research from YouGov, on behalf of the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances (Amdea) suggests that only just over a third of consumers currently register all of their appliances with the manufacturer, which means thousands of owners are effectively untraceable if a safety repair is needed. The most recent example of a dangerous recall affecting thousands was the Russell Hobbs iron recall, which many people only found out about through social media, but three years ago the dangerous Beko freezer recall left 15 injured and one dead.

Although major safety recalls are usually communicated via advertisements and press publicity, there is currently no single authority to oversee recalls, nor to judge whether those affected are likely to have seen the relevant recall. The new portal aims to help the industry to act swiftly and contact owners when a fault is discovered in a batch of products. It is no way just another way for companies to get hold  of your contact details…

More than half of purchasers only register appliances sporadically and,because of the genuine, if small, safety risk, the government is now backing a new Amdea website, which provides easy access to the registration pages of 47 leading brands of domestic appliances in a one-stop-shop. According to Amdea, there are between six and 10 recalls of large appliances a year, but, “unlike cars, if manufacturers need to make a safety adjustment they have no way of tracing the majority of affected models”, said Chief Exec Douglas Herbison.

Consumer affairs minister Jo Swinson said: “It is so important that we make sure that we register new appliances and don’t risk missing out on key information that could save lives.”

“This initiative will make it easier for consumers to register appliances both new and old, and will help to ensure that relevant owners get vital information on product recalls and safety notices.”

So do you register your appliances? Will you, now it’s theoretically easier to do on the Amdea website? Or do you only register something if it comes with a free guarantee…?

John Lewis: Click & Collect is the future!

January 5th, 2015 No Comments By Ian Wade

john lewis John Lewis: Click & Collect is the future!Click & Collect overtook home deliveries this Christmas at John Lewis, which tells us one thing – people would like to spend as little time as humanly possible inside actual shops filled with other humans.

The never knowingly undersold mothership saw online taking rise by 19%, which represented 36% of the trade. The Click & Collect side accounted for 56% of online orders too. Fancy that!

Despite counter sales falling by around 1%, like-for-like sales across the retailer grew by 4.8% for the five weeks to 27 December. Total sales were a moistening £777 million.

Managing director Andy Street said sales performance from its outlets was ahead of rivals: ”I am utterly confident that our shop result will beat the market.”

This is all good news for John Lewis, as they essentially ran tings in the Christmas adverts with Monty The Penguin (although when we looked in on him at his Wonderland on New Years Eve, he looked a bit tipsy and kept swearing). Also  John Lewis is planning to grow its store numbers from 42 currently to 65, with a focus on locations such as Birmingham, Leeds and Oxford.

Despite their online triumphing, Mr Street is still clear about the need for the shop: “The role of the shop is absolutely critical in providing the online sales.”

Yeah. No-one likes being in shops though.

Father Christmas 300x187 Sainsbury’s and Waitrose cancel hundreds of Christmas ordersThe customers of Sainsbury’s and Waitrose will be having a nice time, as the supermarkets have cancelled hundreds of Christmas shopping deliveries thanks to their websites having a nervous breakdown in the run-up to the festives.

Sainsbury’s cancelled a load of orders by accident thanks to a stuttering computer system, with customers being offered new delivery dates which came after Christmas Day. Waitrose saw their site having kittens with a host of failed deliveries last night and today.

A customer with a very Sainsbury’s name, Jenny Grasham-Whalley, was offered a new delivery date for her order, of 27 December. She told the BBC that she was offered a £50 voucher as apology but added: “That date is as much use as a chocolate teapot.”

You could eat a chocolate teapot though, so not entirely useless. We’d be more impressed if she said it was as much use as a house made from steam or as much use as a dildo made from a vague sense of remorse.

Waitrose said all the Christmas orders will be fulfilled and that there’ll be some cases where customers will pick their orders up from their local shop, rather than getting it delivered. ”The temporary IT problem yesterday was swiftly and successfully fixed,” said a spokesperson. “We have been in touch with any customers who might have a slight delay to their order to apologise and to arrange a delivery time to suit them.”

Sainsbury’s said: “We experienced a brief technical issue with our website last night, which has now been fixed. Some customers experienced difficulties with booking or amending their delivery slot. We’re very sorry for the inconvenience caused. We would like to reassure customers who did not experience issues on the website last night that their confirmed orders will be delivered as expected.”

Both mouthed the words: ‘please, for the love of god, don’t desert us for Marks & Spencers…’.

amazoninstant Being chased for full payment after 1p Amazon cock up?You heard about the 1p cock-up at Amazon? Well, some people got themselves a bargain before Amazon corrected the glitch.

Well, turns out some companies aren’t happy about this and have sent messages to customers, saying they want the rest of the money.

One avid BW reader told us that they were sent an email by a company called PremiumBrands4Less. The order has been fulfilled by Amazon and dispatched.

The email reads: “Dear Customer, firstly, I’d like to apologise for the disruption this email may cause. We experienced a problem with Amazon UK yesterday at about 18:00GMT and worked to fix the original issue by 20:00GMT.”

“We continued to work over the following few hours in conjunction with Amazon to revert any incorrect prices to their original prices, caused via the Amazon system. We have received communication that Amazon will not penalise sellers for this error, but have requested we contact buyers and ask them to create a return request to return the stock back to amazon.”

“We are continuing to work to identify how this problem occurred and to put measures in place to ensure that it does not happen again. We’ve been in business for over 4 years and we’ve always taken pride in the levels of service we provide, so everyone here is devastated and disappointed we experienced this problem. Unfortunately, our inventory lost over 10000 units within a space of 2 hours, which couldn’t be prevented. This will result in PremiumBrands4Less entering liquidation as a result of this pricing error by amazon.”

“We understand that you think you may have grabbed a great bargain, but we have instructed amazon to revert the prices to our usual prices and recharge your card with the correct amount owed. We would like to offer customers a grace period of 7 days to create a return request and return any stock incorrect priced and dispatched. If this action isn’t carried out, we will seek to recover sums owed”

“1. By recharging your credit/debit card
2. If funds are not available, passing to a debt collection agency
3. Informing experian and getting your address added to the mail order black list”

“We would like to urge customers to be honourable and honest during this Christmas period and not take advantage of a small business, who cannot afford to give away its £100,000 inventory for under £100. This will create a number of job losses in the run up to Christmas, due to the behaviour of a select number of customer.”

“I again reiterate, the products were not Amazon Inc, products, but were PremiumBrands4Less owned products dispatched on our behalf by Amazon Inc.

Yours sincerely

PremiumBrands4Less”

What do you make of that then? Would you laugh at them and think ‘hard cheese! I’ve done nothing wrong and you can whistle!’ or would you be guilt-tripped into helping out a small business?

**UPDATE** When queried, Amazon responded. Have a look in the comments.

What drives you mad about packaging?

November 14th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Bitterwallet Amazon packaging 300x225 What drives you mad about packaging?There’s a lot of snide packaging out there, trying to tempt you into parting with your money for something that is, basically, a load of crap.

Which!!! have been looking at some of the sneaky-ass tricks that retailers have been doing and they’re most irked by ‘Poor-value gift sets’, which means getting a bundle of toiletry items that cost most than buying them separate.  You’re actually paying for some lousy box that you’ll just throw in the bin.

They found that a £6.50 Dove gift set can be bought separately for £4.40. That’s £2.10 for some poxy packaging.

The consumer rights mag also has the hump about ‘tiny portion sizes that make products look healthier’ and ‘Light’ products that aren’t actually healthy. Which!!! looked squarely as Flora Buttery Light (for some inexplicable reason) which “contains high amounts of both fat (45g per 100g) and saturated fat (10g per 100g)” to which Unilever replied with the fact that their product “complies with labelling regulations.”

Which!!! have missed the worst of them all – crisps. Ever bought a packet of crisps, where the packing is larger than your head, yet when you open it, there’s only about 10 crisps inside? It is enough to make you stab. Or wolf down 37 packets of crisps in one go while you’re watching How I Met Your Mother for the millionth time.

There’s also got to be a shout-out to cereal boxes, which give the impression of loads of food inside, when in actual fact, the bugger’s half empty when you buy it.

Anyway, feel free to shout at us about the packaging that gets your goat.

BrightHouse to be investigated

September 9th, 2014 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

brighthouse BrightHouse to be investigated BrightHouse – the company that allow you to ‘rent to own’ tellies, furniture and other stuff – have been flogging their wares to low income households for a while now. However, all is not rosy and they’re about to be investigated by an all-party parliamentary group.

The investigation is badly timed for the company as they only just appointed some advisers to prepare for a stock market float.

So what’s the problem? Well, the inquiry will look at the huge costs for people on low incomes who use the business to get sofas and other electrical goods. The feeling is that there could be better protection for consumers.

BrightHouse have been making a pretty penny too, with underlying profits of £52m on turnover of £333m in 2013.

The all-party parliamentary group on debt and personal finance is chaired by Labour MP, Yvonne Fovargue who said: “Rent to own outlets have become an increasingly common sight on our high streets in recent years. But despite this, there is little general understanding of how they operate and how they differ from conventional shops. Our inquiry will look in detail at the products and services they offer and will ask whether customers are getting a good deal.”

It isn’t just BrightHouse – companies like PerfectHome and Buy As You View will also be looked at.

The parliamentary group said: “Consumer groups have pointed out that the overall costs for the customer are very high. This is partly because the price of the products themselves can be high, but also because customers can be obliged to take on a ‘bundle’ of services at the time of the initial credit agreement, including delivery and insurance cover.”

“It has been questioned whether this amounts to good value for money for the customer, with some consumer groups arguing that the consumer should be protected from such contracts. The inquiry will look at a number of issues around how the market is working … and will ask whether more needs to be done, from a regulatory point of view, to ensure that customers get a good deal.”

broadband slow 319970 Cancel your lousy broadband contract at your peril Is your broadband slow? Have you tried to cancel it and switch to something better?

Well, many broadband customers are being hit with punishing and cruel fees of up to £625 for cancelling contracts – and it’s not clear what these fees are actually for.

Citizens Advice have said that customers have complained of being charged cancellation fees which average at around £190, and if they don’t pay up, they get debt collecting agencies on their tails.

Some people have complained of broadband so slow that they’ve had to use internet cafes instead, and some customers have connections that have stopped working completely.

Faulty wifi, bad customer service and glacially slow loading speeds are legitimate reasons to cancel, but try to get out early, and you get penalised. According to Citizen’s Advice, one woman was charged an unbelievable £625 when she tried to leave.

CA has called for Internet providers to stop putting people in broadband jail and let people escape a lousy service mid contract. CEO Gillian Guy said:

‘Internet service providers must not shackle customers seeking a better service with unreasonable fees that can turn into shock debt. All internet users need to be able to easily have a way out of inadequate contracts and broadband speeds that only give them daily frustration.’

Until, then, though – unless you’ve got a few hundred quid handy, it looks like you’re locked into your poor service until the end of your contract.

*Mournful sounds of a dial up modem*

ofgem logo1 Energy bills to fall by £12 a year – maybe Rejoice, rejoice! It looks like we’re set to save…er…£12 a year on our energy bills thanks to new Ofgem rules to cap spending on British power networks. We’re rich! Rich beyond our wildest dreams!

Ofcom has approved a £17bn upgrade for the UK’s electricity networks over the next eight years – but customers will save because the budget is lower than the energy companies have previously been allowed to spend.

£111 of our annual fuel bill is currently set aside to pay for network upgrading and maintenance. Ofgem say this will drop to £99 under the new cap.

But not everybody will save the same amount. It depends on what company runs the power network in your area. In the North West you could be getting a saving of £26, while customers in the South East might only get a piddling £5.

And also there’s no actual guarantee we’ll see this mythical £12 saving at all, as apparently private companies are quibbling with Ofgem about other aspects of the bill.

But, you know, we’ll take what we can get. Now all we have to do is find something to spend this imaginary £5-26 (or maybe £12 on). But don’t go mad at the shops, because you might not get it at all.

Ain’t life grand?

£10 charge for London diesel drivers

July 29th, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

pollution £10 charge for London diesel drivers Boris Johnson – Foursquare Mayor of the Bullingdon Club chophouse – is considering charging £10 for each diesel vehicle to enter London from 2020, in a bid to tackle the city’s monstrous pollution levels.

Low emission zones might become widespread in major cities as efforts increase to oust clapped out old diesel vehicles, which are responsible for the majority of stinking local air pollution.

Boris would pile the £10 charge on top of the existing Congestion charge, meaning that lorry and van drivers would be forking out £20 minimum to enter Central London. And if you’re in a diesel car made before 2006, you’ll also have to raid your wallet.

However, if your white van or lorry meets Euro 6 emission standards, you won’t have to pay.

It comes as Labour proposes plans to introduce a network of UK-wide low emission zones. If not, most British cities will be choked up with dangerous levels of pollution by 2030, and we’ll all probably choke to death.

Boris’ environment lackey, Matthew Penchartz, said: ‘We want to see an unwinding of incentives that have driven people to diesel. Euro engine standards on emissions have not delivered the savings expected, meaning we now have a legacy of a generation of dirty diesels.’

However, for years, everybody was happy to push diesel as a ‘clean’ alternative to petrol. In fact, ministers encouraged people to buy into it to fight climate change.

Well, you live and learn, eh? *coughs*

Homebuyers’ confidence is down

July 28th, 2014 1 Comment By Lucy Sweet

 Homebuyers confidence is down Consumer confidence is a funny, fragile thing. Sometimes it’s riding higher than Prince on a purple motorbike, the next it’s like a teenage girl in the Top Shop changing room worrying about the size of her thighs.

This time, homebuyers’ confidence has taken a blow – it’s dropped by 35% and is now at its lowest level for three years, thanks to fears about inflated prices and increased interest rates. That’s according to the Halifax quarterly Housing Market Confidence Tracker.

And it’s not surprising that the most tentative homebuyers are in London and the South East, while the ones with the most devil-may-care attitude are from Scotland and the North East.

Their survey found that there was a recent sharp rise in people who say that they can’t afford to buy because of prices going up. (from 20% last year to 35% this year).

However, people are still confident that they will manage to SELL their homes, even though they might not be able to afford their next one. A quarter of people surveyed said that this year was a good time to sell up and get out.

Craig McKinlay from the Halifax said:

‘Over the past two years consumer confidence has continued to grow, however it appears that we’ve reached a tipping point, with the equilibrium between buyers and sellers much more out of sync.’

Bitterwallet appeal parking tickets1 Have you been stung by cowboy parking fines? You might have seen the signs in supermarket car parks, or outside McDonalds. Or maybe you didn’t, and you were unexpectedly hit with an entirely random charge for overstaying.

Well, so called ‘cowboy’ private parking firms are springing up everywhere – employed by high street companies to limit the time you can loiter in the car park eating a Filet-O-Fish and stinking up the place.

Charges of up to £100 are being doled out to unsuspecting shoppers who return to their cars a few minutes late. If you ignore the charges, you’ll probably get a scary letter from a bailiff ordering you to pay up.

But these companies are what’s known in Consumer Land as WELL DODGY, and they have no legal standing. They can’t come in and take your possessions, or take you to court – in fact, they have no legal powers whatsoever. They’re just at it.

Companies like McDonalds use the shady MET Parking Services, which has links to an ‘unfit’ debt collection agency and a solicitors firm which has been shut down. And critics say that high street companies are tarnishing their reputation by being involved with these private parking crooks.

Marc Gander of the Consumer Action Group said: “Private parking companies are part of a bounty hunting fad which has risen up over the past few years and is making an industry of penalising people without good reason or for their simple human mistakes.”

“Big brands like McDonald’s don’t seem to appreciate how this new industry operates or the sense of anger and injustice that it produces in its victims and who are also their own customers.”

Have you ever been stung with a £100 parking fine? If so, did you pay it?