Consumer Skills Category
Being a good consumer is about making informed purchasing decisions. We can help you to do this by equipping you with the sorts of questions we all need to ask ourselves, before making our purchasing choices – whether we are planning to buy or hire items in shops, over the telephone or online.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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,
Tel: 01534 748610
For all other complaints relating to consumer goods or services contact Trading Standards.
9-13 Central Market,
Tel: 01534 448160
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.
Picture the Scene ..the Christmas Jingles playing in the background, puddings set a blaze, friends exchanging small gifts and toasting the festive season and then the restaurant bill arrives.
Now you have additional food for thought, where did the service charge on the alcoholic drinks appear from? Is this allowed?
Much to my relief one of my friends works for the Jersey Consumer Council and came to my rescue – apparently this is ok if the restaurant or hotel or bar clearly advertises outside of the premises that they will add a service charge to drinks.
My dining friend explained that under the Licensing (Jersey) Law 1974 Restaurants are obliged to display a list of the prices charged for intoxicating liquor and for meals and refreshments other than intoxicating liquor. It is an offence to charge a higher price than the price displayed.
She explained to me that if a 10% service charge is applied and this is consistent with the displayed pricelists inside and outside of the premises (and any menus) this would be acceptable. However, if this additional charge was not displayed and the premises still added 10% at the end of the meal, they would likely be committing an offence.
BUT she strongly recommended that in the first instance if you feel that a service charge has been incorrectly added to your bill or that you receive and can show the poor service – ask the staff at the time for clarification. If the additional charges are not advertised as above you are NOT required to pay them.
Jersey Consumer Council – helping you make informed choices
Consumer Action is a Powerful Force
It’s time to recognise that the Jersey consumer is a powerful force that is coming to the fore, have you joined this wave of change?
Interestingly the vast majority of online consumers are more than happy to vote with a click of their finger if dissatisfied. It would seem that Jersey consumers are now prepared to vote with their feet when in retail shops and gaining a similar experience on price or service.
By flexing your demands and voting with your feet (not just your finger), you too can impact the future strategies of a local business. Remember that if you’re not completely satisfied, you can always find other retail outlets for procure your products or services.
Where to start
We have created a simple toolkit to support you in your purchasing routine:
Many of you will have a vague idea of the likely costs of an item/service, if not, check online so you’re prepared. You make have questions you’d like to ask about a specific product.
2 Price check:
a.If time allows, visit several retail shops to experience the customer service quality and pricing strategy, and/or
b. If you’ve purchased the item or service before – check how it differs now.
3 Customer Service
were you acknowledged by staff and was help offered?
Those working in customer service are typically only too willing to help. If you believe that an item/service is positioned above market value ask why. There will be an explanation to balance your opinion. At certain times of the year there maybe sales / promotional offers / added-value offerings, ask when this might be.
Keep the Jersey Consumer Council informed. Share your experiences with us, your successes in discussing prices, service, changing minds, policies and practices.
We look forward to learning more about your experiences and sharing more successes on:www.jerseyconsumercouncil.org.je – see what we’re up to and join in.
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, 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
Peer-to-peer lending, also known as Private Lending, involves matching up investors, who are willing to lend, with borrowers – either private individuals or small businesses. We are sharing this article with you to raise awareness that peer to peer lending is a private arrangement and comes bearing significant risks; attractive as a solution but be cautious and understand exactly what you are signing up to.
By cutting out the middleman and not having the overheads of traditional banks, peer-to-peer lending may offer more favourable rates, or help borrowers who have struggled to get a personal loan elsewhere.
What are the risks as an investor?
By being connected directly to someone who wants to borrow, the most immediate risk to your money is if a borrower fails to repay what you’ve lent them (known as ‘defaulting’).
Your money is also not protected by the Depositors Compensation Scheme which guarantees your savings with Jersey banks up to the value of £50,000.
What are the risks as a borrower?
- Loans are usually granted on an interest-only basis (meaning you repay no capital) and for a short duration, typically 1 to 3 years.
- You would normally still need to have a deposit, or a stake in whatever property you’re putting up as the asset (sometimes called the security).
- At the end of the term, the loan is either paid off by some means, such as replacing with a conventional bank mortgage or selling the property, or in some cases the loan can be renewed for a further period. Take care, if you have struggled to obtain a traditional mortgage and your financial situation has not improved you have no guarantee of obtaining a traditional mortgage at the end of the term to enable you to continue to live in the property. What will you do if the value of the property goes down?
- Interest rates can vary, depending on the lender and their appetite or consideration of the risks involved.
- While the rate of return may be favourable to the investor/lender, the interest rate for the borrower can be higher than high street lending and much higher arrangement and early redemption penalties.
- Borrowers may intend for the loan to be a short term, interim solution before moving to mainstream mortgage lending but if they are still in the same circumstances at the end, the loan can be rolled over (and over) which just continues the difficulty.
- We strongly recommend that you ask any lender about the Jersey Code of Consumer Lending; this is a voluntary or ‘self-regulatory’ code, which sets standards of good lending practice. These standards seek to ensure that Jersey consumers are treated fairly and that the opportunities for taking on excessive financial commitments are reduced. The Consumer Council is working hard with industry, Jersey Financial Services Commission, Citizens Advice, Trading Standards and the Financial Services Unit, Chief Minister’s Department to update the Code and to raise awareness of its importance as it provides various safeguards for consumers. The Financial Ombudsman will take codes of practice into account when determining a complaint. The Code exists even whilst it is being updated, it can be found at this link gov.je/tradingstandards/consumerlending and remains fully relevant.
- The Channel Islands Financial Ombudsman (CIFO) is an independent organisation that resolves complaints about financial services with powers to investigate complaints and award compensation. If you take a loan from an individual, rather than a lending business, you may not be able to complain about them to CIFO. Contact details ci-fo.org and 01534-748610.
What advice do we have for consumers?
Ask yourself why it is important for you to take on additional risk with peer-to-peer lending?
Will your financial situation improve with hard work over time so you can access the traditional mortgage market?
Do you have other housing options? Possibly rental
Our advice is to get professional, qualified and independent legal and financial advice before making any decisions. Don’t let the excitement of a new home cloud your judgement on such a large long term financial commitment. This may be the largest financial decision you ever make – don’t let it be the worst!
Make sure you have a professional valuation on the property you are thinking of buying. Consider if your property will be adequately insured – life insurance, critical illness, building and contents?
Terry Vaughan, Director, Head of Risk and Compliance at The Mortgage Shop and Henley Financial highlighted that “If you’re a borrower, your lawyers need to make sure the person granting the loan has the authority and legal right to do so. Your professional adviser will also check on source of funds for the loan being proposed. You also need to ensure the terms are suitable for you. You need to be aware of the repayment schedule and be sure that it is within your budget”
Eating on a budget, finding time and having the confidence to prepare meals from scratch, are why sometimes many find it difficult. With a bit of planning, using leftovers and just giving it a go, it does get easier.
A good place to start is a weekly menu plan and a budget, which will help you get into the habit of knowing what your weekly shop will cost. Allocate one or two days for a pasta dish, they are cheap, quick with many variations, such as meatballs and spaghetti, ham and pea or simply fresh tomato sauce, all of which should cost under £5.
Sunday is a great day for a roast as you will have more time, plus you can use the leftovers for a dish or two during the week. Why not buy a bigger chicken and strip the carcass down to create a chicken and leek pie on Monday, or a chicken curry with some simple flat- breads another day?
Once you become confident with creating really simple dishes, you’ll find yourself building several weekly meal planners which you can just use time and time again. Because after all, we need these things to be simple.
Caring Cooks have a range of cost effective recipes allowing you to try your planning, shopping and cooking skills. Caring Cooks are treating us all to a Cookery demonstration 27th September Coop Grande Marche St. Helier 12:30 – 13:30 pm.
Let’s get started…
- Work out your weekly grocery budget (planners available by post or http://www.jerseyconsumercouncil.org.je/money-matters/budget-planner/).
- Plan out a weekly menu (recipes available by post or http://www.caringcooksofjersey.com).
- Write out your shopping list; including weight of ingredients.
- Be disciplined when you shop and stick to your budget. Where possible ‘Shop the Offers’. Get familiar with your supermarket’s offer cycles.
- Allow planning and preparation to be a priority. This gives you time to batch-cook and freeze where appropriate. There is no need to feel guilty about time spent planning and cooking.
- Enjoy your cooking, keep budgeting and planning.
If you would like to learn new skills and confidence in the kitchen, and are over 16, please get in touch with Caring Cooks to find out more.
Recipes which share ingredients and are simple to make can be found here on Caring Cooks website:
Your financial circumstances might sometimes mean that you require professional advice to make sure that you make the correct decisions and take the correct actions.
A professional adviser will help you to prioritise your financial goals and give you an understanding of the bigger picture, taking into account other important factors such as any potential tax implications and investment risk. There are thousands of different financial products and investments available and choosing the right one for you can be difficult and at times confusing.
Do you need financial advice?
You may find it helpful to speak to a financial adviser if you are not sure what you need to do or are feeling confused about the options available to you. Financial advisers can help you with a variety of things, such as:
- Providing an income after you stop work
- Saving and investing your money
- Buying and insuring your home
- Insuring yourself and your family against illness, disability or premature death
- Passing your assets on to the next generation tax efficiently
- Changing personal circumstances such as starting a family, redundancy, divorce or bereavement
Once your financial adviser has recommended a plan to help you achieve your financial goals it should generally be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure it remains appropriate to your circumstances and accommodates any changes to your priorities.
What does professional financial advice cost?
Financial advisers usually charge for their services in one of (or a combination of) the following methods:
- an hourly rate – typically averaging around £150 – £250, but can be higher for specialist advice;
- a percentage of the money invested – this can vary depending on the size of the initial investment and will typically be 0.5% to 3%. An annual charge for reviewing an investment portfolio is likely to be 0.50%-1%;
- a fixed project fee – typically £1,000 – £5,000 for a specific piece of research and advice work;
- some firms may also charge clients a monthly retainer fee of between £50-£100.
Fees vary depending on the experience and qualifications of the adviser and the geographical location of the business.
Advisers are no longer paid commission, except for certain non-investment product recommendations, and they have to explain to you how much the advice will cost you. You will need to agree this and how you will pay for it before any advice is provided.
What should I be looking for when dealing with an adviser?
It is important to understand whether your adviser is regulated to provide investment and financial advice in Jersey. A regulated advisory business needs to have in place professional indemnity insurance, which would provide their clients with an additional level of security.
A professional regulated adviser will be able to draw your attention to the potential pitfalls of what may seem a fool proof way to get a much better return on your assets. This is becoming more common place because traditional methods of generating returns on your capital such as bank deposits and low risk investments are currently providing little or low returns than in previous times.
The following list is a prompt for some of the questions you can ask your financial adviser.
- Are you regulated to provide financial advice?
- What is you experience?
- What types of clients do you work with?
- What are your qualifications?
- Do you offer an area of expertise?
- How much will the advice cost?
- What information will you need from me?
- What are the risks associated with the recommendation?
Financial planning involves revealing detailed personal financial information and can involve divulging information about your goals and ambitions, so you need to be comfortable in the company of an adviser. It is worth meeting a few to determine who you are most comfortable working with in an ongoing professional relationship.
There are two great truths when considering investments
- If it looks too good to be true it generally is
- Don’t put your investment eggs in one basket
When we pay a deposit, we are committing to a binding contract with the outstanding payment to be paid at a later date. The natural position of the Law is that the deposit will not be refunded should you decide you do not want the goods or services. You should be aware that the trader may be in a position to pursue you for the outstanding money.
For example, when ordering a wedding dress or prom dress, we are usually required to pay something upfront. It is always recommended that you ask whether the amount it is refundable or not, and if it is, ask the person to indicate the term on the receipt or by email.
For further advice on this matter or any other consumer issues, please contact Trading Standards on 01534 44160.