Posts Tagged ‘Consumer’
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.”
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*
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?
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*
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?
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.”
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.’
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.”
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.
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.’
Savvy web users might be able to spot a rubbish fake crown logo or a web address called ‘giveusyourdetails.gov.passport.’ But others are regularly being led down the garden path, according to research by the Advertising Standards Authority.
The ASA is so concerned about this that it’s launching a new awareness campaign, which will lead people to official government web pages and away from the dodgy ones.
It’s also considering tougher enforcement of fake sites and advertisers, pledging to work with Google and Bing to weed out the infiltrators.
Although 8 out of 10 people surveyed could spot the official passport application site, some of the other sites posing as government sites are quite convincing. Only half guessed that a site replacing Births, Deaths and Marriage certificates was actually a commercial website.
‘We’re focused on tackling any sites that continue to mislead, in support of other enforcement activity.’ Said Miles Lockwood from the ASA. ‘We’re also working with search engines and government to ensure the public are protected. In the meantime, always start at gov.uk to access a government service.’