Ignored on twitter this week - ICO, Food standards agency, EDF energy, Caroline Flint MP, OFGEM and Persil.

Information Commissioners Office (ICO):
EDF were in the news this week, for failing to record accurately, customer's complaints.
OFGEM ruled against them, but EDF kept their "Compliant" status and licenses with the regulator by setting aside £3 Million for the Citizens Advice Bureau. (A "fine" of £3 million would be against the Hampton principles of light touch regulation and could have led to a court case had EDF chosen to defend it!)

I asked the ICO if they would be taking action against EDF, as by not recording customer complaints accurately, EDF was in breach of data protection law?
The ICO had no answer.

Caroline Flint MP (Shadow minister for Energy):
All over the news with the Labour party's latest gimmick - removing trading licenses for energy companies that flout the laws of the land. I also asked about Labour's "tough new regulator" they propose to bring in to replace OFGEM.
I asked the MP a number of questions, especially after the OFGEM - EDF story broke the next day.

* Would Labour's tough new regulator have removed EDF's licenses for breaking data protection laws?
* Would Labour's tough new regulator have deemed EDF to be "compliant" and let them keep their licenses and carry on trading?
* How many corporate businesses lost their trading "license" under Labour from 2005 (introduced Hampton principles of "light touch" regulation) - 2010?
Not a single answer came back.
It seems like the shadow minister (and her social media team) only want to promote her work, instead of answering in a public forum.

One final question for Caroline and the Labour party's twitter account, why, if they advocate tough regulation, do they not campaign against the trans atlantic trade agreement (TTIP), which is watering down regulator powers via the small print?
Again, they have nothing to say on another important issue.
(For the record, I advocate no political party, they are all as bad as each other. Kick out unelected civil servants who are pulling the strings behind successive governments!)

Why do EDF remain "compliant" with their regulator and keep their licenses to trade, after breaking data protection law?
Nothing, Nada, Nowt...

On to the Food Standards Agency (FSA):
Big twitter campaign, regarding barbeque weekend coming up and food safety on "not washing chicken as it spreads bacteria."
Does marinating not spread bacteria on chicken?
No reply, good to see they care!

Asda sold Persil washing powder for £11 (70 wash box) which weighed in at 5.9kg
Asda now sell Persil washing powder for £11 (70 wash box) weighing in at only 4.9kg
KatyGooner also spotted it.

Persil stepped in with a reply, saying that as the powder was "now more concentrated" they could offer the same number of washes in less powder.

I asked Persil to prove it!
Persil did not reply.
I asked Persil to send Katy a box of each and let her test it.
Persil again, chose to say nothing.

The great holiday rip off!

Anyone who has tried to book a holiday during the school holidays will know exactly what I am talking about here, rip off Britain at its finest!

Spent 3 hours last night finding a holiday location.
Then went around the various websites.

The smaller independants, just wanted to drop cookies on my computer so they could grab a commission for "selling" a holiday to the bigger companies, failed because I am wise to their game and always book over the phone.

The bigger companies, usually owned by one big corporate business behind the scenes, as I soon discovered First Choice and Thomas Cook are (owned by a corporate called TUI) making them all part of the same company, all of which was regardless, as they were asking ridiculous prices for what amounts to a bedsit for 7 days, all of a similar price, give or take ten quid or so. Rubbish.

In my anger, as it was after midnight, the better half was getting steadily drunk watching Ray Donovan, blurting out random thoughts/places/airports, then nothing for 15 minutes (usually while Mr Donovan was involved in a shower scene or something similar that involved him removing clothing) I was given a smaller travel agent's website to try.
Why not I thought, I was getting nowhere with my efforts.

A pleasant surprise greeted me as I went through the search process.
Selected flights - reasonable, selected hotel, again very reasonable, even the transfers were cheap... here we go... "Your deal reference number is..."

I hit the sack, relaxed in the knowledge that I could awake, book and let the holiday fairy paint pretty pictures in my swede.
I awoke, picked up the phone, all set to go with my deal reference number.
After the initial shock of a £44 charge for one suitcase (who goes on holiday with no clothing?) not to worry, I was in the game!
".... errrr hold on a moment please...."
"... errrr we can't get you on a return flight, can we change the dates please?"
Ok. Flexible I am.
"Almost a week later, but we've got the flights and the hotel you wanted, along with the transfers, it comes to a grand total of...."

Over £300 than the original "deal"
Nope, not having that, that just puts me back at the price of the corporate travel companies, which is taking the wass!
Then came the inevitable sales person bull...

"It's because everybody wants to go to [insert your location here] because it's good value!" - Not at that price it isn't!
"Schools go back a week later that's why the same flight 3 days later costs £150 per person, less!" - Nonsense! The flights were £120 last night, now this morning they are £240 per person, for the same flight!
"I will try and get you with another budget airline, hold on a mo..."

Everyone who has tried to book a holiday without being ripped off knows where this is going...
"The cheapest flights with other airlines are £760!" - Yet my deal, the flights were only £360 for all of us?
The fact is that other airlines have higher prices, then when the cheapo airline is full, they bump up the prices (even more) of their flights going on the same day! (Theory being that you miss the flight you lose your holiday, so you will pay it to keep your family sweet)

I'm not against making profits but a 50% rise in prices because another airline the same day has sold out, smells to me like collusion!
Yet another regulator failing.
Factor in when a price for the same flight and the same hotel is only about £10 difference from two supposedly different companies (but owned by the same corporate behind the scenes) you feel my pain.

Holiday in the UK some say, not much better I'm afraid.
Those hoping to rent their 2nd property located in a beautiful scenic area of the UK, check what prices are being charged for abroad and tailor their prices to a few quid below.
No sun and fewer things to do for almost the same price? Don't think so!

It's time this great British holiday rip off was sorted out once and for all, it's a hard enough life as it is, without making it damned near impossible to find a cheap break in the sun to recover.

Epson SCSI scanner GT7000 driver and twain problem solved in XP

First of all you need to know that Epson sold this scanner in some countries as the Perfection 636U - so grab those drivers for your operating system on Epson's website.

* WATCH OUT what bit your set up is, 32 or 64!

Twain 5 will not work with a 32-bit set up

Go to device manager, find the scanner or question mark there and click on update driver, then point it at where you have saved the perfection 636U drivers on your computer.
Install the twain (version 3.42 that comes with it) and set up a shortcut on your desktop to it.

Twain 3.42 that comes with the Epson perfection 636U drivers, does work.
I am not able to "Get from scanner" in programs, but I can get into twain 3.42 with a desktop shortcut and scan and save from there, in bitmap format.
This of course, allows me to open the saved scans in other programs to change file type and edit.

I know the GT-7000 Epson scanner is an old piece of kit, but it's a great scanner, especially if you want to scan and adjust negatives.
I now have an old (ish) computer set up with windows XP  via the SCSI cable, that can scan, save and send my old pictures.

I hope it doesn't take you two days of testing and messing about, like it did for me!

Hotpoint washers - into battle with Indesit!

In the last 19 months I have had two brand new hotpoint washers.
As of yesterday, both hotpoint washers have now failed.

Into battle with Indesit - the corporate business that owns hotpoint - I go.

The first hotpoint was a "new" model, this turned out to be false, it was a clearance line and a replacement machine was unavailable.
This hotpoint first went faulty after just 3 months.
Four engineer visits later (4 days of waiting in and having time off work) the machine still continued to fail and we were offered a comparison replacement after informing Indesit of our intention to take them to small claims.

The comparison, was no comparison at all. Several standard features of the original machine were missing from their replacement.
Eventually, after many phone calls back and forth, they stood down and matched the features of the machine we had originally bought, with a new machine.

Within six months, this "new" washer started to sound like a jumbo jet landing when it started to spin.
It leaks water from the bottom at random.
But it did wash clothes so on we went.
Now aged just thirteen months old, a small pole type piece was found in the drum after a wash.
Now it is staining all the clothes being washed and leaving oil residue in the drum after each wash.
It is kaput, broken, unusable.

Of course this new hotpoint washing machine is less than one month out of it's basic 12 month warranty, so there's nothing that can be done and we will have to empty our emergency reserve and borrow some money to buy a replacement.
Or will we?

Under the sale of goods act, items must be "fit for purpose" of which they were bought.
They must also last for a reasonable timescale, before needing replacement.
I don't believe 13 months is an acceptable age for a brand new washing machine to last.
Starting from Monday, I will go to Indesit directly to see how we get on. I'll post updates here as I get them.

Good news... the washer was fixed by Indesit, an entire new drum assembly was fitted, after the inspection. It took two weeks to come back into stock, but the washing machine is now working better than it's ever done.

Well done to Indesit service, for a quick and hassle free repair, all done without any cost to us, as they honoured the machine being fixed outside of it's standard 12 month warranty. So credit where it's due, a pleasant surprise Indesit, long may it continue!

Frugal food shopping - local market greengrocers

A visit to my local market greengrocer, every Saturday morning offers a fantastic frugal way of keeping food costs down and allows my family to eat "fresh" every week.

I flatly refuse to buy fruit and veg from a supermarket, have done for around 7 years now.
Saves time - the convenience claims of supermarkets are nonsense.
I can shop far quicker around my local market, for most of my shopping, in half the time it takes to trawl around a supermarket.

Fresher produce - Market greengrocers have less storage space, little access to refridgeration, so the produce they sell moves quickly from wholesaler to business to me.
No "up to a year" shelf life for their fruit and vegetables, as is the case with supermarkets, so it is rare that their produce goes off and starts to turn within days of putting it in the fruit bowl/veg rack.
Onions are a great example, my local market greengrocer's "English onions" can last up to a month and still be fit for eating, without any refridgeration.

Better quality produce - an apple today is not the same as apples sold years ago, before supermarket dominance of our shopping bills.
Why do you think many supermarket apples (for example) are grown as far away as China?
Countries outside of the EU do not have our strict food regulations, so anything can be added to the produce in it's growing stage, to increase size, texture, appearance (gas waxes), etc.
Shopping at local markets doesn't eliminate this process, but you are less likely to come across it and more local produce is more often available.

More seasonal produce - do you know the season for raspberries off the top of your head? (Raspberries are an early summer fruit traditionally - June to early August - there are some varieties that are late summer - August to late October)
Supermarkets sell raspberries almost all year round, for really high prices.

Saving me money - I've saved the best for last.
The whole point of being frugal, saving your hard earned money.
Potatoes, a complete no brainer and on it's own, worth shopping at my local market greengrocers.
A quick look at Asda's website, shows me the per kilogram price of what they charge.
I am buying king edward potatoes at the moment and can tell you I am not paying more than 40p per kilogram for them.
Asda's maris pipers (a water holding, budget potato), are currently 90p per kilogram!

I can buy my king edwards in half or a full sack amounts from the market greengrocers. (£10 divided by 25kg = 40p per kilogram)
They are fresher, do not turn for weeks, they stay the same price and don't fluctuate week to week, I only have to buy them once every month, so I am not repeat visiting a supermarket, less temptation to buy other things, saving yet more money.

If I bought 2kg of maris pipers from the supermarket each week, compared to how I buy my king edwards or similar from my market greengrocers, just look at the saving;
Supermarket - 104kg per year at 90p per kg = £93.60
Market greengrocers - 104kg per year at 40p per kg = £41.60
A saving on one product line alone, of £52.
Factor in, that there are just 12 visits to my market greengrocer needed to get them, against 26 visits to the supermarket (buying a 2kg bag each week) a reduction in carrying, buying, temptation of buying other things and saving money.
How can this not be better for you?

Flexibility - how many times have you had some fruit or veg from a supermarket and it's gone off or been damaged so it's beyond edible, told them a week later on your return and been given some more for free?
Never? Once?
Market greengrocer's business depends on local custom.
They are more felixible, more reliable sellers of fruit and vegetables than any supermarket can come anywhere close to.

Better service - I know most of the staff and the owners of my local market greengrocer by name and they know mine.
What's your supermarket fruit and vegetable department, shelf stacker's name?
How long have they been in the business of fruit and veg?
Do they know recipes? Do they know what's in season? Do they know where their produce comes from, how it got to the shelf, how old it is? Do they even care?
I TRUST them.
Can you taste produce from a supermarket?

Profits, waste, moral arguments - I use a local market greengrocer business, there is less waste produce because it doesn't go off anywhere near as fast as supermarket's produce.
Less packaging, less distance from grower to shelf (less CO2) so better for the environment. Most produce is grown in the UK and what isn't is clearly marked. None of the supermarket repackaging in the UK so it can be labelled as from the UK nonsense.
I understand that my greengrocer is a business, but where do their profits go?
Supermarket profits go towards a total profit line that disappears abroad, into money markets, shareholders etc.
My local market greengrocers live around the area I live, they buy products and services in the local economy. This is better for me in the long run as it helps to keep other local businesses open and trading, which increases local competition which in turn, keeps prices of other goods and services down and gives me more choice.
My greengrocers pays the set levels of tax, they don't move or exploite tax loopholes, so services benefit also.

Bonus savings - I've saved this one until last as it's a cracking way to be frugal!
Look for a market greengrocer that supplies restaurants, bakers, hotels etc.
They do not only sell fruit and vegetables!
Ask them about eggs.
When was the last time you paid 88p for half a dozen medium to large eggs?
For the last year I have been paying £3.50 for a tray of 24 (2 dozen) medium to large eggs from my market greengrocers.
They buy trays of eggs direct from the auctions and savings are passed on to their customers.

I hope I have given you enough reasons to shop at your local market greengrocers, I do, my family and my local community benefits from it.
So why don't you give it a try?
How can you afford not to?