Newsletter

Jersey Consumer Council

Author: ConsumerCouncil

Number Portability

April 10, 2018 Telecommunications No Comments

2018 marks 10 years since mobile number portability was introduced in the Channel Islands. It means that both Pay As You Go and Pay Monthly customers choosing to move between operators (Sure, JT and Airtel) can keep the exact same telephone number, including the prefix (e.g. 07797). It’s incredibly easy to do, there’s no loss of service and it’s totally free of charge. Plus, unlike in the UK, you don’t need to contact the operator you are leaving or give any notice period (provided you are outside of the term of your initial contract which is usually 12 or 24 months).

Thousands of customers in the Channel Islands move between operators each year, and the majority keep their number when they do. Both CICRA and the JCC have recommended customers shop around and local providers fully support this, whether you are looking to move for superior customer service, a better network experience or simply because you can save money with a new deal.

To take advantage of the competitive telecoms environment we have locally, simply visit your new operator and they will do it all for you.

Visit http://jerseytelcowatch.com to compare prices.

Check with your existing provider if you are in or out of contract.  There may be early termination fees to pay if you are still in a contract. If the account is in debt, barred or suspended, the port is not possible.

Can I change landline operator and keep my number?

The answer in simple terms is yes & no.

Two providers in Jersey offer traditional landline services using Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) and thus, if you are switching between Sure & JT, for example, you can keep your landline number. This is because the underlying wholesale product with the number ‘attached’ is still being provided by JT in Jersey, however the retail service being offered by the alternative operator may be different. Again, you will need to check the status of your existing contract.

For other local operators, not offering services based on the same underlying wholesale product this portability is not yet possible. However, it is still under consideration by Channel Islands Competition Regulator.


What is Bitcoin?

March 7, 2018 Money Matters No Comments

Simply put, it’s a type of digital currency, called a cryptocurrency. No notes to print or coins to mint. It’s decentralized — there’s no government, institution (like a bank) or other authority that controls it, but instead is controlled by the software itself.

By using blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies are not subject to any central controls. A blockchain is a global network of computers which can be used to maintain a digital ledger of every owner of a cryptocurrency and the transactions they make. When, for example, a Bitcoin transaction is made (buying, selling, transferring or creating Bitcoin), the record of that transaction is securely encrypted, time-stamped and updated into a block which is added onto the historical record of all Bitcoin transactions. Each block in the chain is unique and it is virtually impossible to remove or change data which has been added to the chain. This means that transactions are verifiable without the need for a central authority, such a bank, to oversee that process. In theory, Blockchain technology allows us to securely transact with one another via a peer-to-peer network without a middleman, such as a bank, charging us for the privilege of doing so.

It isn’t issued from the top down like traditional currency; rather, bitcoin is ‘mined’ by powerful computers connected to the internet, by slowly releasing a predetermined set amount, randomly as a reward to those helping secure the network.

Bitcoin was invented in 2009 by a person (or group) who called himself Satoshi Nakamoto. The stated goal was to create “a new electronic cash system” that was “completely decentralized with no server or central authority.”

Looking back, we began using money as the tool used to exchange value; historically this was gold as it is rare, tangible and worked very well. Although gold is heavy, so then came paper money which originally was ‘gold certificate’ being a piece of paper saying you own some gold sitting in a vault. Trusting in paper was not easy at first.

Nowadays we use what is termed flat money which means that it can’t be exchanged for just a single item. People accept this money in return for goods or services because they know that they themselves will be able to use it at a later date. Money now has no link at all with precious metals. Now we have cryptocurrencies of which Bitcoin was the first, and currently the largest.

What determines the value of a bitcoin?

Ultimately, the value of a bitcoin is determined by what people will pay for it. value of a bitcoin is based on its properties (digitally rare, trustless, secure and predictable issuance), and how much people will pay for it.

In this way, there’s a similarity to how stocks are priced.  The protocol established by Satoshi Nakamoto dictates that only 21 million bitcoins can ever be mined — about 12 million have been mined so far; but as it’s digital, each coin can be divided down to 8 decimal places. Even so there is a limited supply like with gold and other precious metals, but no real intrinsic value. This makes bitcoin different from stocks, which usually have some relationship to a company’s actual or potential earnings.

Without a government or central authority at the helm, controlling supply, ‘value’ is totally open to interpretation. This process of ‘price discovery,’ the primary driver of volatility in bitcoin’s price, also invites speculation and manipulation.

Because bitcoin is so new and decentralized, there is plenty of unknowns. Even the technical rules for mining are still evolving and up for debate.

 

 


Complaining or Complimenting?

March 6, 2018 Consumer Skills, Home life No Comments

We all enjoy a spot of praise now and again, and remember to praise where praise is due. Express your thanks when something goes well. BUT if you find yourself in a position of being dissatisfied with a product or service, follow our simple guide to making an effective complaint.

  1. In the first instance, give the business an opportunity to put things right. We all make mistakes, and a good business can be judged on successful complaints handling.
  2. Find out if the business has a complaints procedure and promptly follow it. If they don’t, ask. If the business is a member of a trade association or signed up to a code of conduct, that body may have a separate complaint handling procedure.
  3. It may be helpful to make it clear that you are making a formal complaint and then go on to:

* Identify yourself, quoting your customer number or any other references.

* Tell them briefly why you are unhappy/dissatisfied and what the problem is in   chronological order.

*Include supporting evidence: photographs, surveys, independent test reports, invoices, screen shots. Copies will do. Keep the originals.

*Set out what the impact of the problem on you has been e.g. any financial loss, inconvenience or distress.

*Say how the issue made you feel and what you want done to either put matters right or compensate you for their failings.

*If you are suggesting a monetary figure, you may want to explain how you came by that figure.

*If you are filling in an online complaints form and you have to categorise your submission, make sure you select complaint rather than comment. Complaints should be taken seriously and require action; comments can be ignored!

*Keep good records. Don’t assume you will be sent a copy of your online submission via e-mail when you press send or submit. Be prepared to take a screen shot and note down any reference numbers.

Monitor the businesses actions against those in their complaints handling procedures, remembering to keep copies of all documentation, emails, key actions, notes of conversations, and dates.

If the business fails to resolve the complaint to your satisfaction, there may be other sources of help or avenues for progressing the complaint. For example, the Channel Islands Financial Ombudsman is an independent body that resolves complaints about financial services provided from Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney and Sark. It has powers to investigate complaints and can compel financial services providers to pay compensation if it upholds a complaint.

progress your complaint and advise on your rights and all complaints relating to consumer goods and services.

The Channel Islands Financial Ombudsman is a free alternative
to taking a dispute with a financial products and services to court. They are independent, informal and confidential.

The Channel Islands Financial Ombudsman,

PO Box 114,

JE4 9QG

 

Tel: 01534 748610

Email: enquiries@ci-fo.org

https://www.ci-fo.org

 

Additional information:

https://www.jerseyfsc.org/pdf/The-Ombudsman-and-how-to-make-Consumer-Complaints-Nov-2015.pdf

For all other complaints relating to consumer goods or services contact Trading Standards.

Trading Standards,

9-13 Central Market,

St Helier,

JE2 4WL

 

Tel: 01534 448160

Email: tradingstandards@gov.je

www.gov.je/tradingstandards

 


We are looking for new members to be more reflective of ‘everyday islanders’

March 6, 2018 Uncategorized No Comments

Are you passionate about consumer affairs in Jersey? If so, the Jersey Consumer Council wants to hear from you.

Perhaps you’ve got experience working 
in a customer-focused profession, or you are a busy parent juggling the household budget, or maybe you are a pensioner who appreciates how even the smallest of price changes can make a big difference?

The Consumer Council is about to start searching for new members and we want to hear from islanders of all ages who think they have something to offer.

Our role is to be the consumers’ champion; we investigate and publicise anomalies in consumer affairs and provide Islanders with accurate and timely information to help make #InformedDecisions. We also want to make sure that consumers’ voices are heard by the decision makers in our island as well as promoting a culture of transparency so that Islanders understand consumer issues better.

If you can help us strengthen our activities and voice by sharing consumer perceptions, contributing to projects, and have a ‘passion’ for consumer issues, please drop us a line by email or post, as soon as possible. We are looking to go through a simple recruitment process over the next few weeks.

We welcome applications from all members of Jersey’s community.

 

Further Information

Executive Officer

Jersey Consumer Council,

9-13 Central Market,

St Helier,
JE2 4WL

 

Tel: 01534 611161

jcc@jerseyconsumercouncil.org.je


Who’s Who in Jersey’s Judiciary System?

February 15, 2018 Home life No Comments

Jersey’s judicial system is composed of various persons with diverse roles who are there to administer justice, help or represent individuals, or to assist in the general functioning of the system. Here we consider the main players in the civil justice system, where generally, consumers interact with the judiciary system in Jersey.

The Bailiff

The civic head of the Bailiwick of Jersey is the Bailiff, currently Sir William Bailhache, who serves as both head of the Island’s judiciary (the Island’s court and justice system) and also as President of the States Assembly (the legislative assembly; although he typically has a non-voting role in the Assembly more akin to the role of a Parliament Speaker, this is the area of the role currently under review).

There is a Deputy Bailiff who assists the Bailiff in his various functions, and Commissioners who are additional judges who sit in our Royal Court (and are sometimes themselves former Bailiffs).

Judges

Judges (Bailiff, Deputy Bailiff or Commissioners) will often sit alongside Jurats. Jurats are lay members of the Court elected by the Members of the States Assembly and the Island’s lawyers, and who act as judges of fact.  Their role is to evaluate the truth of a matter from the evidence put before them, and to determine the sentence in criminal matters.

Attorney General & Solicitor General

Jersey has both an Attorney General and a Solicitor General.  They act essentially as lawyers for the State, representing the Island in international affairs, bringing public prosecutions of alleged criminals, and advising the Island’s government on anything including property matters, employment matters and anything else which such advice may be required for.

Judicial Greffe

The Court system is administered by the Judicial Greffier as head of the Judicial Greffe.  This is the arm of the Court system which deals with the filing of papers for court cases, the issuing of Acts of Court, the maintenance of the Island’s Public Registry, and dealing with matters of probate and wills.  The Judicial Greffier also undertakes a judicial role in the form of the Master of the Royal Court, who will issue procedural orders and hear various preliminary matters in cases before they reach the full sitting of the Royal Court.

Viscount’s Department

Finally, the Viscount’s Department is the executive arm of the Royal Court, it will serve Court documents on individuals or companies in the Island, effect wage arrests on those made the subject of such orders, and otherwise carry out Court enforcement duties.  The Viscount also fulfils the role of the Island’s coroner, and administers bankruptcies.


What is Franchising?

February 15, 2018 Consumer Skills No Comments

Franchising, broadly speaking, is a means of running a commercial operation using some or all aspects of another business, including its name, brand and products.

How franchises work

Companies use franchising to widen the reach of their brands, usually into geographical areas that they don’t wish to trade themselves. As the franchisee pays all of the capital costs of setting up the shop and is responsible for the lease and employing the staff, it’s also a very effective and low-cost way for brands to widen their consumer offer at minimal cost to themselves.

The company who grants the licence is called a franchisor. The person who gets the licence to run a business is called the franchisee. The agreement means that the franchisee gets all the elements of the successful franchised business necessary to succeed. This includes everything from branding, products, supplies, designs and even marketing and advertising support.

The support runs for the length of the franchise agreement, which is included in the initial agreement.

The franchisee agrees to pay the franchisor for this privilege. This is usually in one of either two forms. As well as assuming all the set up the costs, the franchisee also pays, either a weekly commission to the franchisor on its sales or alternatively the cost of goods supplied are marked up to provide a higher profit margin for the franchisor (a cost-plus model). The agreements also contain very strict guidelines relating to the operation of the brand which must be adhered to. Failure to achieve brand standards (usually monitored by regular mystery shopper visits), can mean that the franchise is withdrawn.

Pros and cons – a general outline

The most attractive aspect of franchising is that the risk is limited. The business is not a new one but a tried and tested venture that has succeeded elsewhere. This means you do not have to spend a lot of time telling people what the business does because they already know.

The downside is that the franchisor will want to protect his brand and therefore places very strict guidelines on how the brand must to be operated to ensure it conforms to their brand standards.  Obviously, franchisors carry out a very detailed vetting process on any potential new franchise partner. It is also a relatively expensive way of starting in business because you are buying into a proven concept.

If you fancy being your own boss and taking a lot of decisions about how to manage things, you might find you have less freedom than you anticipate because the legal agreement spells out what you can and can’t do.

For the relative safety and protection of a trusted brand, there are certain sacrifices that you have to make.

Franchising is now a flourishing industry boasts nearly 1,000 brands in a multitude of different sectors. Nowadays it is an eclectic mix of businesses encompassing everything from hairdressing to photography, pet care to children’s sports coaching.

In Jersey, we have several franchises in operation offering us well known UK high street brands; the model of franchising gives Jersey business & consumers the opportunity to access brands and products which may not otherwise be available in Jersey.


Holiday Booking Check list

December 19, 2017 Insurances, Travel and Transport No Comments

We all look forward to our holidays, and often they can cost a considerable amount of money; the Consumer Council has compiled a holiday booking check list, to keep you and your holiday booking safe;

 

Financial Protection for your Holiday

Before booking you should check whether your flight or holiday package is ATOL protected and don’t leave home without your ATOL Certificate

  • ATOL (the Air Travel Organisers Licence) is a financial protection scheme for air passengers. If you book an ATOL protected holiday or charter flight and your tour operator, airline or accommodation provider goes out of business before you travel you can claim a full refund.
  • If a service provider goes out of business while you are abroad, you will be able to continue your holiday and arrangements will be made for you to fly home once the holiday is over.
  • Jersey residents must be aware that ATOL only protects packages or flights, which originate in the UK ñ always check with your tour company/travel agent regarding ATOL protection and eligibility.

 

Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) Protection

  • Many Jersey residents will enjoy the FlyDirect options (and ferry packages) now available from Jersey; it should be noted that these are not eligible for ATOL protection (as described above).
  • However, such packages and flights would be financially protected as long as the company with whom you make your travel contract in Jersey is bonded with ABTA (and they are current members).
  • ABTA includes protection both in the event of failure of the tour operator prior to departure, in which case deposit/balances paid would be refunded, and for repatriation in the event of tour operator failure whilst clients are abroad.

 

Financial protection if you are not covered by ATOL

 

o    If your flight is not ATOL protected, you should ensure your travel insurance policy provides cover in the event that the airline goes out of business. Take out travel insurance adequate for your destination, activities and everyone in your party.

o    If you buy a ticket using a credit card and the airline goes out of business, you may be able to claim a refund from your credit card company under the Consumer Credit Act. The cost of a single (i.e. one leg) ticket must be at least £100.

 

 Other Holiday booking pointers;

  • Double check all details such as travel dates, itineraries, destinations and travellers before confirming payment, as you may be charged for amendments
  • Do not reply to unsolicited emails from companies you don’t recognise.
  • If renting a private apartment or villa, call the owner/agent directly to ensure that it is legitimate. If the number is not provided, email and request it. Check reviews on TripAdvisor or similar site. Get the full address of the property and find it on Google maps to check its location and legitimacy.
  • Ensure that any holiday or travel company unfamiliar to you is reputable by researching them online. Ensure that they are a member of a recognised travel authority which offers financial protection and a complaints service.
  • When making a payment to an individual, never transfer the money directly into their bank account but use a secure payment site such as PayPal, where money is transferred between two electronic accounts.

Travel Insurance:

Put your travel insurance in place sufficiently ahead of your trip to make sure that you benefit from all of the cover. Channel Islanders are advised to make sure that the element covering missed flights and missed connections includes the flights to and from home.

The medical cover needs to be adequate to help pay medical bills; £2 million medical cover is advised by Which for just Europe and £5 million for worldwide. but do check what counts as Europe or Worldwide by your insurance company.

We usually travel with many of our gadgets and you should consider cover for these too whilst traveling, you may need to extend your home insurance to cover as single items on your travel policy may only be covered for £250.

A good travel insurance policy should provide cover for Illness, injury or death while you are away,  to allow you to be repatriated. Illness or the unexpected can interrupt travel plans therefore it is advisable to check the cancellation provisions – how much are you covered for in the event of the holiday being cancelled by unexpected events e.g. illness. You must declare pre-existing medical conditions – as otherwise your cover will be voided.

Check that the policy covers

  • Liability for accidents involving others;
  • The airline going out of business;
  • Natural disasters, natural events e.g. volcanic ash cloud and severe weather;
  • Political instability;
  • Security risks.

If you plan to enjoy risky activities whilst away you should say so to make sure that you are covered for risky activities, for example skiing, scuba diving or climbing.

And finally you may be better to buy an annual policy rather than single trip cover plus READ THE SMALL PRINT…always check what isn’t covered.

Happy  Holiday

 

 

 

 

 

 


Your rights in a Sale!

December 18, 2017 Consumer Skills, Money Matters No Comments
One of the biggest myths is that you can’t return faulty goods in a sale. This is simply untrue. Your statutory rights still apply so if your sale goods are faulty or not as described, you are entitled to your money back. There is an exception to this rule. If goods are ‘shop soiled’ and the damage is clearly visible or brought to your attention, you don’t then have a right to return them for that particular fault.
If you want to return sale goods because you have changed your mind, if you bought them on the high street you have no statutory rights therefore have to rely on the shop policy. This may mean they won’t accept sale returns or they may restrict you to exchanges or credit notes.
The situation is different if you purchased sale goods online. In most cases you have cancellation rights, but you will have to be quick as time limits apply. You usually have to pay the postage and packaging for   return. There are some exceptions including perishable or personalised goods. If you are unsure, give Trading Standards a call on 448160.
Finally, sales should be genuine. Traders should not make false claims about savings, have permanent sales or make comparisons to prices that weren’t the last price the goods were on offer at. Whilst there are currently no regulations in Jersey to investigate these sorts of unfair practices, this situation is likely to change. Our advice is follow Martin Lewis’s mantra. Do I need it, can I afford it, will I use it, is it worth it?

Who is CICRA and what does it do?

October 27, 2017 Home life, Money Matters, Telecommunications No Comments

CICRA (the Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authorities) is the independent organisation working on your behalf to ensure you receive the best value, choice and access to high quality services but what does that mean in practice for you, the consumer?

Over a series of articles, we will explain a bit more about CICRA’s role across the Channel Islands and particularly here in Jersey.

CICRA is one of several local organisations, including Trading Standards, Citizens Advice and the Jersey Consumer Council, that work to inform and protect the rights of islanders. As individual organisations we are relatively small but in partnership we support each other to ensure the best outcomes for you.

CICRA regulates the telecoms sector, Jersey Post and Ports of Jersey (the airport, harbour and marinas) and is responsible for administering and enforcing the local competition law

CICRA informs–

CICRA provides the information you need to make important purchasing decisions.

We publish telecoms customer satisfaction ratings and undertake independent mystery shopping surveys on the different telecoms providers. We’ll shortly be publishing the results of the first ever check on local mobile coverage as well as the results of the latest mobile mast emissions audit. We’re looking at quality of service delivered by Ports of Jersey at the airport, harbour and marinas and will be reporting on that later this year.

We involve government and local interest groups when changes to policy or law should be considered; for example our work on reviewing the supply of road fuel in Jersey led to a change in the law to require prices to be visibly displayed from the roadside at all outlets ensuring you are in a position to be fully informed and to shop around.

CICRA protects–

CICRA protects local business and consumers from anticompetitive behaviour by enforcing competition law.

We watch out for any businesses potentially causing consumer harm. This may be price fixing between competitors or   unfairly obstructing other providers from serving you. The competition law spans all business sectors and not just those we regulate.

For the telecoms sector, Jersey Post and Ports of Jersey, we have a more active role in setting ‘the rules’ by which the businesses operate as we licence these businesses. We can set prices, quality of service targets and hold these businesses to account when things go wrong – all to ensure that the interests of fair dealing businesses and local consumers are protected. For example, we’ve recently required JT to reduce its landline prices by 13% over the next two years and we’re keeping a closer watch on Jersey Post quality of service after it experienced a dip in performance.

We can prevent or amend proposed mergers and acquisitions where there would be a detrimental impact on choice locally. Recently we made sure Sandpiper’s acquisition of the Costcutter shops was modified to protect consumer choice in St Ouen, St John and Green Island.

While we are able to resolve most issues informally sometimes this is not possible; we have the power to mandate changes and to issue fines. This is very much a last resort. We’ve fined the States of Jersey for breaching the law after it created a monopoly for itself in the emptying of septic and tight tanks by restricting access to another business, Bellozane from operating in the same sector. We’ve also fined JT when it tried to fix the minimum selling price of its pay-as-you-go SIM packs.

CICRA needs to ensure it continues to focus on what is important to you as a local consumer. We’re very grateful for the help provided by islanders recently, through participation in our annual telecoms satisfaction surveys and our focus groups discussing the quality of service provided by Ports of Jersey.

In the next article we will explain in more detail CICRA’s role with the harbour, airport and marinas in Jersey.


Competition Regulation & the Consumer

September 20, 2017 Consumer Skills No Comments

Competition in any market place is all about providing greater choice for consumers.  It generates innovation, efficiency and enterprise amongst businesses, which means that consumers inherently get to enjoy more competitive pricing and improved quality.  And it’s protecting and promoting the interests of consumers that the Jersey Consumer Council is concerned with.

Competition, by its very nature, puts businesses under constant pressure to offer the best possible range of goods, at the best possible prices.  If they don’t, consumers have the option to buy elsewhere.  However, in Jersey, as with many other small Island communities, competition can sometimes be lacking.  This means that consumers have limited opportunities to buy elsewhere, which can be extremely frustrating.

Our pivotal role at the Consumer Council is to help minimize these frustrations and boost competition on the Island, by giving consumers a voice and businesses a greater understanding of what consumers need.  We do this through ongoing consumer research and collaborative ventures, with our contemporaries at CICRA (Channel Island Competition Regulatory Authority) and Trading Standards; businesses; industry bodies and other community groups and charities.

Regulation seeks to apply rules to make sure that businesses and companies compete fairly with each other and, in Jersey, this is overseen by the CICRA.  But somebody needs to be looking out for the little guy and that’s where agencies like the Consumer Council and Trading Standards come in.

The Jersey Consumer Council is a unique body, in that it is independent from government and can act freely as the consumers’ champion.  Our role is to encourage businesses to give themselves a competitive edge by putting consumers’ interests first.  We investigate and publicise anomalies in consumer affairs. We provide consumers with accurate and timely information, to help them make informed purchasing decisions. And we are dedicated to creating greater transparency amongst businesses competing in the market place.

Transparency can be difficult in a market which lacks competition, but it is essential for giving consumers the opportunity to genuinely compare services and prices.  Cast your minds back to petrol stations where, only a few years ago, you were unaware of the price of fuel per litre until you had actually arrived at the pump!

Effective collaboration between the regulatory authorities, the Consumer Council and the fuel providers, there is clear signage, displaying pump prices at the road.  Jersey Consumer Council also hosts Jersey Fuel Watch, a website www.jerseyfuelwatch.com on which we display both road fuel and heating oil prices, giving consumers a one-stop price-comparison shop.

One of the most confusing market sectors for consumers is telecommunications.  In a bid to improve transparency here, amidst a limited number of highly competitive providers, the Consumer Council established TelCoWatch[1], a one-stop comparisons website, to help Islanders make informed choices about how and where they best spend their telecoms budget.

This site, which is supported by the telecoms companies, cuts through industry jargon and lays out the product offerings and cost structures available, so that consumers can choose the provider, product and contract which best fits their personal needs. It is collaborations like these, established and driven by the Consumer Council, that serve to create a culture of positive, fair, consumer-led competition on the Island.

Competition isn’t just based on price; the provision of customer care can be a key area of differentiation.  This was evident when the Consumer Council conducted some research within the competitive arena of Primary Health Care. Our aim was to challenge providers to be more transparent with their pricing structures, but our findings also revealed that consumers have a strong desire to feel valued – good customer service can be a significant factor in driving their choices.

In a noteable OXERA report, Professor Sir John Vickers noted that ‘in small-island economies, such as Jersey, it is just as important that markets work well, as it is in larger economies. But in smaller jurisdictions competition policy and regulation, where competition is not possible, faces particular challenges.’  The consumer is a key player in keeping businesses competitive – they do their talking with their £££s, which can be just as powerful as regulatory efforts to control competition.

What is clear is that the consumer voice needs to be heard.  Looking after their interests is a crucial aspect within a successful, competitive market place and the Consumer Council continues to work with, and behalf of, Islanders to make a positive and valued influence on our local economy

[1] http://jerseytelcowatch.com