Posts Tagged ‘Consumer’

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?

People are angry at sneaky insurance charges

July 24th, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

insurance 289x300 People are angry at sneaky insurance charges Two out of three people are incensed about paying the sneaky charges hidden in the small print of insurance policies. It’s becoming a thing now to insert charges for cancellations or amendments to your policy and consumers are NOT happy.

A Which!!! survey revealed that nearly half of insurance firms have increased admin fees in the last few years – fees that have no real basis in reality, like a £20 charge to set up a policy or get copies of documents.

So why all the secret fees and subterfuge? Well, it’s those goddamn comparison websites, innit?

Insurance companies want to keep those all important headline fees down, so they have to spread the actual cost somewhere else. It’s also happening with mortgages, credit cards and bank accounts. In fact, it’s like the whole world is turning into Ryanair.

And we’re getting wise to it, too. 68% of those surveyed said they were aware of the manipulative trickery that companies employ to keep headline costs down.

Hit it, Ricardo Lloyd-o! “Consumers are fed up with being hit with unexpected, additional costs for financial products that lead to them paying more than they bargained for. These fees can be hard to avoid, and people often don’t know what they’re really paying for.”

“We want the financial services industry to stop sneaky fees and charges, and put an end to excessive, unclear and hard to compare fees that do nothing to improve the low level of trust in these markets.”

You betcha.

pg tips tea bag1 287x300 Pyramid bags are officially better than round ones, says ASA Tea aficionados have argued the toss about different shaped tea bags since the dawn of time (well, ok, that’s not exactly true).

But hotheaded tea drinking chimps everywhere are now going to have to concede that PG Tips pyramid bags DO let out more flavour than Tetley’s round ones.

Tetley were furious when Johnny Vegas and that godforsaken monkey appeared to trash their round teabags in a recent advert. They sit at the kitchen table and do a test to see which teabags are best, with Monkey concluding that:

‘PG Tips uses pyramid bags, so if we test one against a regular tea bag … you’ll see the tea has got more room to move, freeing the great fresh taste for a perfect cuppa.’

Tetley said that although they weren’t mentioned in the ad, it was obvious that as they are purveyors of round teabags, they were being targeted and ‘denigrated’ by a knitted primate.

BUT the Advertising Standards Authority upheld PG Tips claims, and enraged the Tetley teafolk by saying that pyramid bags WERE better, and that their round ones basically suck.

‘Unilever provided test results which showed that the infusion of tea, at 40 seconds and two minutes into brewing, was greater when using a pyramid teabag than when using a round teabag. We therefore concluded that the ad did not exaggerate the capability and performance of the advertised product and was not misleading.’

FIGHT!

white ps4 playstation 300x168 Why are we paying more for computers and TVs than Americans? WAIT A MINUTE. We good citizens of Blighty are paying a ton more for electrical products like laptops, games consoles and tellies than Americans – sometimes up to £402.

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.”

Damn right.

Ditch the wheatgrass smoothies and save £440

July 21st, 2014 1 Comment By Lucy Sweet

Wheatgrass 250x250 Ditch the wheatgrass smoothies and save £440 Crazy people who believe in the healing power of superfoods are spending far too much on their health fix, says Which!!!

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.