Dad diary - Rip off Britain, holidays, petrol and juggling bills

As summer comes to a close, rip off Britain is alive and well, it's been one of the hardest that I can remember.

HOLIDAYS (Or lack of):
We are all so tired, now six years since we could afford a holiday, a week away that doesn't involve paying out hundreds of pounds for a hotel bedroom that has added a dado rail and has declared itself top rate, bumping up their prices in the process.
You can go to [insert european destination here] "from" £XX per person... Only it never is that price is it!

One late "deal" I checked out, at lastminute dot com, the headline price didn't include a case (who goes on holiday in just the clothes they are wearing?) and declared sprog2 [who is 2 years old] as a junior and almost full price for the flights, hotel, etc.
For mum & dad and a 2 year old sprog it was the best part of £1500 for a week self catering.

We could holiday in the UK?
Have you seen the prices for a bedroom in the UK, that was £200 for a week in early July, but now it's over £450 for the same room a week into the school holidays, this is without costing for petrol, meals, "Things to do" and relevant parking.
It's a joke.
I watched a few episodes of those B&Bs on channel 4 - where fellow B&B owners shove an asparagus stalk on a plate and dream about the public paying £100 for a room for the night as being "good value" - nonsense the lot of them.

We could go for a day out?
Paying top dollar for parking, petrol racing up in value, blatent profiteering by the petrol sellers, as I've caught out our nearest forecourt, putting up the price 3 times on the same delivery, then smiling when you chastise them for it... as if it's some kind of light hearted banter!
Resort tickets stretching the finances - tickets for mum & dad, granny and a sprog will set you back the best part of £100 for a few hours of being trapped inside blackpool pleasure beach, eating and drinking is out of the question as the prices are way above what's being charged outside their theme park... don't worry though, the same old rides painted in the style of their sponsors, nikelodeon, will ensure a wonderful day out... not.

Everywhere we go the parking is more than an hours wage, we are even charged for parking so we can walk around a reservoir!
There's only so many times you can go for a walk in the hills locally and see the wonderful views, many don't even have that option, what are they supposed to do?

PETROL
I swear if I hear "It's the government taxing it" being used as an excuse by an attendant for putting up pump prices one more time, I'll shove the pump handle where the sun don't shine!
I shouted down a shell forecourt attendant the other week, as I'd driven past not 30 minutes earlier and seen a price of £1.32 per litre. It was now mid afternoon and now was charged at £1.35 per litre, at the time more expensive than a motorway forecourt in a remote area in the lake district... the attendant thought it was funny as "it went up 15 minutes ago!"

Juggling bills:
I save in one area, I lose in two others, one step forward then three steps back.
We saved £200 on insurance for the year, then lost £240 a month in income.
We are budgeting just to break even.

Cannot afford to pay of a modest overdraft, then hit with £1 per day charges instead of % interest. Price per month increased from around £7 per month to £20, that's over £150 per year extra to find unless we can skint ourselves and pay it off.
All this while the weekly shop increases in cost.

There's only so much one can recycle in the garden and around the house to prepare for winter and do over the summer.
Summertime used to be a wonderful carefree time of year, some sunshine and a break for us all to have time to recharge the batteries.
We can tolerate the poor weather, that is, until the planned "day out next month" goes tits up when yet another bill lands on the doorstep and swallows up the money we'd have spent stretching to some fish and chips or travelling, or both!

We are exhausted here, I don't mind telling, something has got to give, it's not nice seeing the better half spend her entire two weeks off work, her main summer holiday, running around the place trying to chase her tail, making the best of things.

We tried a day out at the trafford centre, getting stung £10 for 5 "luxury ice creams" that weren't upto the standard or size of the poundshop's own brand ice cream.
We had to pay £3.50 an hour so the little 'un could be pushed around in a plastic car buggy for a bit of fun, I had to surrender all my details (information harvesting) and lay down a £20 deposit incase I went home with the thing... god knows how most people can afford to shop there?

The mother tells me it's all spent on credit cards then people take 2 months work paying it all off... so what happens to their monthly bills then?
I think she might be right.

Is it so wrong to want to take the two year old out once in a while and be able to afford to not skip a monthly payment so we can pay for travelling and eat when we get there?

Businesses overcharging for everything, whilst customer service goes down the pan. Promised call backs that never come.
Saving money with the left hand and a week later watching the family finances pot get lighter as some business raises their charges.
"Admin fees" that are just a way of making yet more profit, does it really cost £25 to change an address or some other minor detail? 

Where will it all end? There's only so much people can take, something has GOT to give and soon...

Which? conversation "Fixed means fixed" campaign comment, that they don't want you to see!

Which? conversation's "Fixed means fixed" campaign is, we are told, supported by over 20,000 people.
It comes about on the back of their most popular "conversation" regarding complaints about Three mobile raising prices by less than the retail price index (RPI) mid contract.

As I posted earlier, Which? conversation are hiding posts/comments, that do not support their campaign.
http://www.frugalways.co.uk/life.php/consumers-association-which-manipulating-their-conversations-campaigns
This post can be seen only by my account, when visiting the Which? conversation website as a visitor (ie, not logged in) the post is hidden from view.
When logged into an account other than mine, the post is hidden from view.
This post has not been deleted, no explanation given from Which?
Which? conversation think it is acceptable to hide posts from view that do not agree with their view.

UPDATE:
After a week long wait and postings to twitter highlighting this, the comment below has finally been published.
Of course, it was just an oversight as the comment was in a "moderation queue" and was not picked up on.
It is now not the latest comment, instead it can be seen before several other comments made over the past week.
Let's see how long it will take to get some answers to the points raised....

Here's the comment.

"Which? has some serious questions to answer about this campaign, their official complaint to OFCOM and their conduct on this issue before they get my support on this.
 
“Fixed means fixed” campaign alongside the official complaint to OFCOM has INCREASED the detriment of consumers, both in time and money.
 OFCOM’s review was due to be completed in late July 2012.
 Which? after negotiations with OFCOM and Three, submitted a formal complaint instead of “a super complaint”
 As a result of the actions of Which? there will now be no review findings or action until January 2013 – conveniently fitting in nicely with OFCOM’s 2013 general aims.
 
Had Which? not made an official complaint to OFCOM, then there would have been a response from OFCOM in July 2012
 Had Which? used its powers and issued a “super complaint” then OFCOM would have had to respond to it within 90 days. An OFCOM response would have come by late October 2012, at the latest.
 Now that Which? have lodged an official complaint, as a direct result of, there will now be no response/resolution until at the earliest, January 2013.
 OFCOM have extended their review by a further 6 months.
 (source: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/enforcement/competition-bulletins/open-cases/all-open-cases/cw_01082/)
 
In light of Which? being in discussions with both Three and OFCOM prior to their complaint it is difficult to see any other reason why Which? have acted in this way, other than to assist Three and OFCOM to manage this issue. This is not the way I would expect an “independant” consumer watchdog to operate!
 
There was no mention of OFCOM’s own review (started in January 2012) by any Which? staff on the posts concerning price rises until the same day Which? submitted the formal complaint, in a this is money article dated July 16th, that Which? responded to.
 This includes the T-Mobile price rises thread in March 2012 and both Three price rises threads (from May 2012) and in their responses to consumer’s posts.
 The first time Which? have mentioned OFCOM’s review on their own conversation boards, was the 18th July in response to being asked why they hadn’t mentioned it at all.
 This wasn’t on the Three price rises posts, it was on this thread “fixed means fixed”
 
21st and 22nd June 2012, Which? staff were still posting the official OFCOM line that it was down to individual cases on Three conversations.
 22nd June, poster “Simon” posted his official reply from OFCOM which highlighted the January 2012 review.
 Despite this change of response from OFCOM it wasn’t until 18th July that Which? staff mentioned the review at all, almost a month later and after the formal complaint was submitted.
 
This all makes a mockery of Which?’s reply to why a super complaint wasn’t submitted,
 “…it can take a long time for us to put a super complaint together given the duty on regulators to respond. In the case of Fixed Means Fixed, there was clearly a huge call for us to act quickly, which is why we have promptly submitted a formal complaint on this occasion”
 
When did Three’s RPI price rises come into effect?
 16th July, the exact same day as the notification period of price rises ran out for Three customers, the same day as Which? submitted their official complaint to OFCOM!
 

Three’s RPI price rises do not affect customers that signed their contracts AFTER 8th March 2012
 Why would Which? omit this information from their two “Three price rises” conversation posts and not mention it in their “fixed means fixed” campaign?
 Why have Which? staff not posted this in their responses to worried consumers posting on their boards, instead advising people to “keep paying monthly under protest”?
 (Source: http://www.which.co.uk/documents/pdf/the-marketing-of-mobile-phone-fixed-term-offers-which-complaint-290997.pdf – see section 17)
 
Why have Which? omitted to include a link to the details of their formal complaint to OFCOM from their “Fixed means fixed” campaign for people to see?
 You can read the full official complaint here – http://www.which.co.uk/documents/pdf/the-marketing-of-mobile-phone-fixed-term-offers-which-complaint-290997.pdf
 With over 19,000 sign ups to the campaign as I post, I am surprised nobody has asked where they can find the details of the complaint… or perhaps people are too trusting of a consumer watchdog?
 
The official complaint states “Which? and Three have entered into a dialogue on this issue. These documents may be disclosed to Ofcom in confidence”
 Why are documents listing dialogue between Three and Which? to remain confidential?
 If consumers are not being managed by Which? Three and OFCOM, why are these not made available for us to see?
 Open and transparent, independant, etc, are words bandied about, but when it might benefit the public they are kept confidential?
 I can’t see how any dialogue between Three and Which? could be “commercially sensitive” – it’s a simple case of Three haven’t pointed out the RPI clause at the point of sale, preventing customers from making an informed buying decision, so they are within their rights to terminate their contracts without penalty.
 
Which? are advocating that it is acceptable for customers to pay early termination fees where a mobile phone company has done nothing wrong, in their offical complaint to OFCOM
 In response to my questioning of this on which? conversation boards, Which? replied,
 
“If the company has stuck to the terms then yes, an early termination fee is acceptable.
 Why? Well, most contracts these days come with a free phone, so to allow people to cancel with no penalty one month in would have us all walking around with free phones or (more likely) no opportunity for a company to offer this sort of contract to those who want it.
 Also, most early termination charges will relate to revenues foregone from a mutually agreed contract, rather than an actual ‘penalty.’”
 
* Handsets – If the contract is sold with “a free handset” or the handset price is presented as “no charge” then there can be no instance of that handset ever becoming chargeable to the customer in any case where early termination fees are sought.
 “…so to allow people to cancel with no penalty one month in would have us all walking around with free phones or (more likely) no opportunity for a company to offer this sort of contract to those who want it.” – completely irrelevant business spin in the case of early termination fees.
 If a handset is given away “free” with a contract, then it cannot be charged for at a later date.
 To charge in any way for the “free” handset would be a penalty charge as it does not recover “actual loss” and as such is unenforceable under common law in England and Wales.
 Over 100 years of legal precedent exists to back up my point.
 
Also, most early termination charges will relate to revenues foregone from a mutually agreed contract, rather than an actual ‘penalty.’
 * Furture revenues of the contract – The case of Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co. Ltd. v New Garage & Motor Co. Ltd. [1915] A.C. 79 at 86., it was noted by the judge, that a clause is penal if it provides for “a payment of money stipulated as in terrorem of the offending party”, (i.e. a payment of a sum of money intended to frighten or intimidate the offending party).
 
By definition, a “deterrent” is a way of intimidating someone from performing an action.
 Early termination fees in a mobile phone contract act as a “deterrent” to the other party, to prevent them cancelling mid term to obtain a better deal elsewhere or to stop paying their contract should their financial circumstances worsen, for example.
 This view is further supported under OFCOM’s own General condition 9, which states, “contract termination conditions and procedures for termination must not act as a disincentive to end-users from switching their providers”
 If Which? can think of a bigger “disincentive” to an end user from switching their service provider, than imposing early termination fees which often run to more than £100, then I’m sure we would all like to hear it!
 
There are too many coincidences and unanswered questions for me to support this campaign and the official complaint with OFCOM."

It's ironic, that Which? conversation's campaign "Fixed means fixed" is about businesses misleading customers, how is hiding legitimate questions from supporters and website visitors (without providing any answers) not misleading?
How many more posts/comments with questions are you hiding Which?

Are Consumers Association Which? manipulating their own conversations and campaigns?

The editorial team over at Which? conversation think that it is appropriate and proper, to mislead individual posters and readers on their "conversations" web boards.
Which? are happy to have a post appear on their web boards when it is sent from and then viewed by a logged in user, while at the same time, hide it from the view of all users whom are not signed up members and also those that are logged in members, as well as those subscribing to email updates of the particular thread (in other words, everyone elses view).

It must be stuck in their spam filter?
A few weeks ago, a post of mine on a Which? conversation was said to be stuck in their spam filter. The post was sent and immediately disappeared from my view and everyone elses. After repeating the post, again it simply did not show to anyone, my own account included.

On this occasion, my post can be seen, voted upon, etc, by myself. When I visit the "conversation" not logged into the website, (ie, as unregistered user) my post is not shown.
When friends have logged in with their accounts, again, my post is not shown.
The only time I can see the post is when I am logged in under my account.

The technique being used by Which? editorial staff, misleads me to believe that my post is part of the "conversation" and open to voting, questioning, etc.
Of course this is false - as no other visitor to the website can see it, they don't even know it exists!

Perhaps your post had been "reported" to the website moderators and held in a queue, then not picked up on?
A couple of days later I was "warned" by the editorial team on a different "conversation" that my posts may have to be deleted if they were "harassing" other people responding to the topic.

I replied asking about how it could be deemed "harassment" when in fact I was asking questions requested by Which?'s own staff?
Within seconds of posting my reply it was marked as "disagreed with" [perhaps a post cannot be removed once it's been voted upon? this argument is for another time]
I logged out, cleared cookies, visited the conversation again, it was displayed no problem.

This shows that my posts were not automatically being held back, as a result of my other post being "reported" to the Which? moderators.

However, later that evening I was reading online as I do, when I came across an article which was relevant to the same "conversation" - I posted a link and a comment. I logged out, cleared cookies and revisited the "conversation" - my post, that was displayed fine when I was logged in and viewing it, was not there.
Friends logged in and checked, they too could not see the post.
This proves that my Which? account had restrictions placed upon it by their editorial staff and my post hidden from view to everyone. I was not told of this, I was given no explanation, etc.
The following morning, the post suddenly appeared on the "conversation" viewable by everyone.

It has been more than 2 days now since my comment on the "conversation" in question, nobody else has posted a comment since my comment went missing from anyone's view. I've had no messages about it, no answers to the questions I asked in it, nothing, not a peep from Which?

The post/comment itself was about how I could not support the Which? campaign "fixed means fixed" that is being promoted all over the media and questioned Which?'s actions on the issue in only submitting a formal complaint, timings, failing to post relevant details to worried people posting on the Three "conversations," how their official complaint had delayed the process with OFCOM, why information on discussions between Three and Which? were being kept confidential, etc. (I shall post my comment - that Which? do not want anyone to see - on here shortly)

Further proof comes when I "reported" a comment to test the procedure. The comment remained displayed to everyone, when I was logged in and when I wasn't logged in. My friends could also see the comment I reported when they logged in.
This shows that "reported" comments are not automatically removed from the Which? conversation boards, they have to be manually removed by the editorial staff, which also proves that they are not automatically held in any queing system, where it could be said that restoring the comment to being visible to all "was not picked up on"

It's normal to delete forum posts that do not meet the website's guidelines
When logged in, my post is still there, can still be seen on the "conversation" as normal along with other people's comments.

The post has not been deleted, Which? are happy for me to be given the impression that my post is there for all to see, when only I can see it when logged in. This is misleading.
Which? have not contacted me to say it breaches any guidelines.

It's just a website...
Normally I would agree, but this is the Consumers Association trading as Which? Only four consumer bodies have the power to issue "Super complaints" in England, Which? is one of these and as such must meet certain criteria set down by government/legislation.

* Which? regularly lobby MPs on behalf of all consumers - regardless of whether their viewpoint agrees with Which?
* Which? advise MPs of all parties on many areas of business on behalf of consumers.
* Which? must remain independent, my post questioned this and provided a breakdown of what has happened during the course of the Which? conversations with Three on their price rises issue, the advice Which? have given to people and asked questions of Which? - to which they have responded by misleading myself giving the impression I was involved in their "conversation" when in fact I am excluded from it.

To sum up...
Which? conversation editorial staff should be answering questions posted to their website, by acting in the way they have chosen, suggests that my reasons for not supporting their "fixed means fixed" campaign may be correct.

IF my opposition is accurate, then this raises serious questions about the integrity of Which?

I was of the impression that being the consumers association, Which? were open to views from all sides on any given question that THEY ask and promote, by hiding my post to all but my logged in account, they have shown that Which? "conversations" and "campaigns" cannot be trusted to be accurate.

How many more Which? members have posted comments that have been hidden from view in this way?

Satellite system care - 0844 8000 405 - BEWARE!

Beware of Satellite system care ltd (SSC) cold calling homes with Sky tv equipment, trying a very clever sales technique, to persuade you to change over your sky insurance to their own insurance cover.

A very distraught elderly neighbour came to me today, distraught that this "company" had cold called her.
They insinuated that they worked alongside Sky TV and were able to offer her a lower price per month for her equipment insurance.
SSC then claimed this would include "6 months free insurance cover"

The satellite System care sales person then gained her confidence by asking her which bank she was with, then quoted the first four digits of her bank card number.
My neighbour was then asked for the remainder of her long card number and the 3 digit security number on the back of her card, to "set up the direct debit"
She was given a new number to call and told her new documents would arrive in the post within the week.

Nothing wrong there then?

24 hours later, my neighbour went to her bank to withdraw some money out, to find that her account was almost empty!
After enquiring if payments had gone in, she found that she had no money because Satellite system care ltd had taken £170 from her account!
As a direct result of being misled, my elderly neighbour will now be billed for bank charges totalling over £100 as well.

* Satellite System Care Ltd are nothing to do with Sky TV, Sky TV have never heard of them.
SSC sales staff, when questioned, deny that they say anything about having something to do with Sky TV.
They admit that their information comes from a data marketing company - the name of which they refused to give me (which is illegal) - which pass on details of customers with official Sky equipment.

* Satellite system care sales staff promise they can offer a lower monthly price of insurance because the price of insurance with Sky TV is fixed.
At no point in the sales pitch/call did they inform my neighbour that the price was £170 for a three year policy. There was no mention of this being paid in full, instead, a monthly amount was quoted, lower than that of the official Sky TV insurance price.

* Satellite system care sales staff offer "6 months free equipment insurance"
What SSC staff don't tell customers is that this "6 months free" is at no point is it included within their "three year cover" policy!
Sales staff have admitted that this "6 months free" is additional at the end of a three year policy.
When I asked their sales staff, "At what point during the three year period of insurance cover is there 6 months free cover?" SSC sales staff replied, "None, there isn't a 6 months free period within the three year cover!"

* Satellite system care sales staff/cold callers, gain trust by finding out which bank their sales target is with, then quote them the first four digits of their card number.
Each bank has the same first four digits on all current account "long card numbers" - their sales office admitted they have a list at the side of them, of each bank's first four digits included on current account long card numbers!
This backs up their sales pitch, that they are in some way working with the official Sky TV. Again their sales staff deny this is the case when I questioned them on it.

* Satellite system care sales staff asked for the three digit security number on the back of the card.
This is not required to set up a direct debit with any bank!
When I asked why them why they were setting up a direct debit, when they were taking the full three year price out of her account, they replied, "You are just asking awkward questions now!"
I pushed this further, "When you send out the insurance paperwork, why do you not include direct debit guarantee information?" - No reply.

The old addage should apply, regardless of your age, if you are cold called, DO NOT enter into any conversation with them, simply put the phone down on them.
Cold callers on your doorstep or via the telephone cannot be trusted!

My neighbour has reported this to their bank and have been told that it's now being dealt with by the bank's fraud department with an eventual full refund in the coming weeks.
This will not help my neighbour in the short term, no money for food and bank charges to be fought against because of direct debits coming out this week. They have also had to have all their cards changed and issued with new numbers.

I asked Satellite system care's sales staff, "Why would my neighbour agree to paying out £170 for three years cover, when that is the only money they had in their account for the next two weeks?" SSC sales staff just denied they had misled anyone.

SSC sales staff say that their customer service can issue a cheque for a full refund as well as pay to cover bank charges.
I'm sure they could, but I doubt it.
I quoted posts from the "Who calls me" website, where posters claim to have been left waiting for refund cheques for months in some case and have also been miss sold this insurance, SSC sales staff had no answer to their claims.
http://whocallsme.com/Phone-Number.aspx/08448000405/3

Do yourself a favour if satellite system care ring you up, put the phone down on them, give them a wide berth!

UPDATE:
Not only is bad enough that Satellite System Care (SSC) are misleading and making false representations about "monthly" protection payments, then taking 3 years worth out of bank accounts in one lump sum without any notification, but to add insult to injury, Natwest are now complicit in their fobbing off by their "fraud investigation team" 

After being assured that this company was "under investigation" by the Natwest fraud team, passing details on to them would allow a short investigation to take place, so that my elderly neighbour could have her money refunded back into her account.
Four phone calls over two weeks were made, to attempt to get a form sent out from Natwest to fill out so they could look at it.
When it finally landed, it was swiftly filled in and sent back recorded delivery.
My elderly neighbour has just phoned me, absolutely distraught!

Natwest have told her she cannot have her money back as she gave card details to the company.
It's fine for SSC to mislead on cold calls, it's fine to then state they would take a monthly payment, it's fine for SSC to then remove 3 years worth of monthly payments from her account without any notification what-so-ever.

The company SSC obviously know that this is a standard response from banks as they themselves will not refund neither now, will Natwest, even though they have already instructed my neighbour that this company is being investigated by them, for fraud and given assurances she would be refunded under the visa chargeback system.

Another shining example of obligations being dumped in a shameless attempt to save Natwest money.
Other options still open to us are a small claims court case or a financial ombudsman complaint - which would take anything up to 2 years.

UPDATE:
Satellite System Care Ltd do not appear on the Financial Services Authority register, as they must do by law, before they can sell insurance products. This also applies to their director, which I can find no trace of.
Their website has now mysteriously vanished... AVOID!

 

See how we won my friend's money back:

Satellite-system-care-0844-8000-405-refunded

Original documents only?

With an ever widening range of new technologies and the perceived "benefits" of being able to use them, why are we constantly faced with companies and government bodies demanding "original documents only?"
We are sold technology en-masse yet cannot escape that when we - the people - want to use it to make our lives a little bit easier, it remains unacceptable and original documents must be used.
What is the point of us all paying for this?

I can send an email anywhere in the world within seconds (at a line and service monthly cost).
I can scan a document/certificate for the price of a scanner and attach it to an email or post to a designated website (again at a cost to me for the technology).
I can send a fax from home of the document/certificate to any designated number around the world (using a fax/scanner).

When I have to prove who I am to a company or government department, only the original documents are accepted.
This costs me in special recorded delivery payments, takes days before they are returned, with me running the risk of whether or not my documents are lost or stolen.
Of course, these same companies/government depts claim it is to prevent fraud, but do nothing when any form of new helpful technology is brought out and sold to us, proclaiming it will save us all time and because of this, money.

Ridiculous in this day and age that I continue to have to pay out over inflated prices to send original documents through the post, when the technology to send pictures, emails, faxes of said documents is sitting in my living room, doing nothing and never getting used.