Blog DOB: 03 Aug, 2012
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All of the Irish Newspapers have visited the topic of Irish consumers being charged, in some cases up to 50% more, for same goods that are for sale in British multiples that operate here.Cries of Rip-off jump from the pages daily.
They have all being banging on about this outrageous practice, and asking questions like,why are the savings accruing from the weak sterling/euro exchange rate not being passed on by the likes of Tesco.
There has been so much written it has caused Brian Cowen, Taoiseach, to call members of the National Consumer Association "f*#kers", indeed this must be a serious issue.
As the newspapers ask the stores to explain, what are they doing?, exactly the same thing. I buy a newspaper almost everyday, and on Sunday this extends to 2 or 3. All these newspapers carry dual pricing in Euro and Stg£, and here are the prices being charged and what the should be charged if you use £.79 exchange rate.
|Newspaper||€ price||£ Stg Price||€.79p exchange|
|The Irish Times||1.80||1.00||1.26|
|Sunday Business Post||2.40||1.70||2.15|
I buy 5 Irish Times and 1 each of the Sunday Newspapers it would cost you €16.30 for the week, this would be £9.75 and this translated at .79p it should cost me an Euro equivalent of €12.32. The difference is €3.98 , which means that the above Irish Newspapers are, on average are 32.30% more expensive in Ireland than in the UK eventhough they are produced here.
So if the newspapers want to be the consumer advocate should'nt they get their own house in order first? and start explaining why they are'nt practising what they preach.
Reading Richard Currans excellent column "The Inquisitor" in yesterdays Sunday Business Post (www.sbpost.ie) got me really annoyed for two different reasons.
Firstly, I promised myself that I would investigate the credibilty of the 34% increase in early December after reading in the Financial Times (www.FT.com) that at one stage during trading on the commodity markets the wholesale price for Natural was actually trading in minus for a few milliseconds such was the lack of demand. I'm sure that there was a man somewhere in Russia with a big pipe behing him full of gas with no where for it to go, which can be a cause a concern.But I simply forgot.
Secondly was that fact that here was a semi-state company making easy profits from its 34% increase while the Government and so called independent watchdogs sit quietly afraid of rocking the collective boat.
Richard Curran gives a brilliant analysis on why was Bord Gais were granted a 34%increase on October 1 2006 and will be forced to give back 10% reduction on Feburary 1 2007. The increase will give Bord Gais 123 days at the higher price reaping some ﾃ｢つｬ55 million in additional revenue. All this is going on while the British Wholesale price for gas is 40% less than last March and International gas prices have fallen 30% since November, all due to the very mild weather both here and across Europe. He goes onto say that even with the 10% being passed on Bord Gais will have a healthy and wealthy 21% increase in a market where prices are coming down. Sure Bord Gais will argue that they entered in ACQ's(Actual Contracted Quantities) with suppliers, but it is also Industry practice to put in place Hedges in order to minimise risk.
What Richard Curran did'nt approach was how the utility companies will attempt to "pass on" this 10% decrease to your bill.
Heres how they will do it,
Consider a household where the gas bill covers the period Jan to Feb 07. This is a period of 59 days and the bill will be issued in the first week of Mar 07. So how will the gas company know when you consumed the gas? the simple answer is that they do'nt, so what they'll do is to apportion what you used over this period over your average usage over, usually, the previous 3 months, which by the way will contain Christmas and the extra usage that normally comes with this time of the year. So should you be the luckly one to spend 3 weeks in Janurary away in the sun and return to a severe cold snap in Feburary it w'ont matter that a majority of your usage will be in Feburary, when it should be cheaper, will be charged at the inflated price for 31days out of the 59.
This is how they have done it in the past and its how they will do it this time. But for heavens sake they only check your meter 3 times a year anyway, using estimates for the other bills, this would work fine in times of stable prices but alas I feel those days are gone.
So not only do they get a nice big cake they will ensure that they have cream and a cherry on top as well.Even if this works out at an average of say ﾃ｢つｬ5 per household this is a nice additional ﾃ｢つｬ2.7m of free money, that you and I will pay.
We are " a small open economy on the peripheral of Europe" thats how some economists describe Ireland and they are not wrong. Competition has an important place in this economy and being a "small open" economy, competition is seen as being an important factor in maintaining our competitive advantage on the Global Economic stage.
Why then have the Government decided to allow the elimination of competition in the Health Insurance Market?.Yesterday BUPA announced that it will be pulling out of the Irish Market due to a ruling in the courts that it will need to transfer nearly all its profits to its main competitor VHI (which is a Government owned company), a wonderful way to attract new companiesand increase competition into the Irish Market. The details of this decision will bore you so I will not go into the detail here, but there are some questions that as consumers and citizens of this country need to be pondered.
By eliminating one company from the market place the Government is essentially handing over today control to one company, thus creating a monopoly. The only winner in any monopolistic market is the company who owns the monoply they can charge what they like and we as consumers have no choice in the matter. You are essentially told that if you do not pay what we say,go without.This is one of the arguments that the Government put foward to reject the offer that Ryanair made for control of Aer Lingus, can I hear the whispers of double standard?.
Pages and pages of newsprint have been allocated to the theme of "rip of republic" and we as consumers have been told by the Government to "shop around" for value when we are spending our money, to assist you the Government eliminates competition in one area of the market that most people would view as being an essential as opposed to a luxury.
An additional point to consider is the cost to business. Many large employers in Ireland pay private medical insurance for its employees and their families as part of pay. This ensures that the company attracts and retains key people. If business now essentially only has one company to choose from how will this effect that companies cost base? for example a large company of say 3000 full time employees may cost a company somewhere around ﾃ｢つｬ3,600,000 to provide medical insurance for the year a 5% increase would increase this bill by ﾃ｢つｬ180,000 pa, with the average industrial wage at approx ﾃ｢つｬ30k per year this equates to 6 jobs. I have a feeling that business will not accept this and if they were either expanding or indeed setting up I feel that countries with a lower cost base will be chosen before Ireland, so well done again Government.
What about the human cost of this decision? There are almost 300 people working for BUPA in its call center in Fermoy Co Cork,not to mention the other employees scattered around the Country, the Christmas present from the Govenment to these people is an uncertain future and a loss of spend to the local economy.It is estimated that BUPA contributes over ﾃ｢つｬ15million to the local economy,and with the Government taking VAT on goods and services and payroll taxes how much will the true cost of this decision be to all of us?
What will the European Commission make of this decision? Charlie Mc Creevy will not be happy with this, and knowing our luck we will probably be fined for breach of competition rules again adding more expense to you and me as taxpayers.
Now that the Government has removed competition (they may argue that it was the courts and not them, they should be reminded that they own the VHI) in the health insurance market, what next, will they start telling successful businesses up and down the country to hand over profits to the business next door who is making a loss. Stalin would be proud of us.
Ah yes, the Irish version of competition unique and in-describable.
Don't you just love it when you buy a product and, having struggled to get it out of the packaging, you find it's incomplete. There's a part missing. You can't use it or you can't assemble it.
I was surprised to find this happen with a software installation disc. A copy of TAS Books Basic, purchased from Amazon, contained no serial number card. You can't install the software without the serial number, or maybe you can, but there's not much point as you won't be able to use it for long.
When I call the TAS customer care team an automated voice asks me to choose an option. Being fairly typical of automated phone filter systems, or offshore call centres, there is no natural option for my query.
When I do speak to someone the solution is to fax my invoice from Amazon, plus a letter containing details of who the software will be registered to, off to the anonymous Customer Care team.
Customer Care? I might agree if someone had actually apologised for the inconvenience, had said this very rarely occurs, perhaps thanked me for buying the product, and, more importantly, were actually able to sort it out over the phone. Afterall, the company promises their customers to "deliver services so good that you, our customers, recommend it to your friends and colleagues".
This is another call where I'm advised it may be recorded for training purposes.
Now I need to decide. I can either take the time out to fax the details off or I can return the software and get something else from a different supplier. The latter is my preferred option. I don't actually feel valued as a new customer, and if I settle for the product I'm basically saying "ok" to low standards. Why do we do this in the UK? We can be eating the most horrific meal and when the waiter asks us if everything is ok, we respond with "mmmm, delicious, thank you."
I defer the decision to make a coffee.