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Jersey Consumer Council

Tag: home life

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.


Peer-to-Peer Lending Explained

September 6, 2017 Banking, Consumer Skills, Money Matters No Comments

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?

  1. Loans are usually granted on an interest-only basis (meaning you repay no capital) and for a short duration, typically 1 to 3 years.
  2. 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).
  3. 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?
  4. Interest rates can vary, depending on the lender and their appetite or consideration of the risks involved.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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”

 

Reference

http://www.which.co.uk/money/investing/types-of-investment/guides/peer-to-peer-investing/peer-to-peer-lending-explained


Take time to think and plan when cooking on a limited budget

September 6, 2017 Consumer Skills, Home life, Money Matters No Comments

Eating on a budget, finding timeand 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…

  1. Work out your weekly grocery budget (planners available by post or http://www.jerseyconsumercouncil.org.je/money-matters/budget-planner/).
  2. Plan out a weekly menu (recipes available by post or http://www.caringcooksofjersey.com).
  3. Write out your shopping list; including weight of ingredients.
  4. Be disciplined when you shop and stick to your budget. Where possible ‘Shop the Offers’. Get familiar with your supermarket’s offer cycles.
  5. Allow planning and preparation to be a priority. This gives you timeto batch-cook and freeze where appropriate. There is no need to feel guilty about time spent planning and cooking.
  6. Enjoy your cooking, keep budgeting and planning.

If you would like to learn new skillsand 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:

www.caringcooksofjersey.com

 


What type of Life Insurance Policy should I buy?

August 30, 2017 Insurances, Money Matters No Comments

Most people have two or three main protection needs that can be covered by Life Insurance (often known as Life Assurance):

 

  • Paying off large debts such as your mortgage in the event of your death.
  • Family protection, where you leave behind money for your family to live on after you’ve died.
  • Funeral expenses

Different types of insurance policies are good for different protection needs:

 

Term Assurance

The most basic type of life insurance is called term insurance, where you choose the amount you want to be insured for and the period for which you want cover. If you die within the chosen period, the policy pays out. If you don’t die during the term, the policy doesn’t pay out and the premiums you have paid are not returned to you.

 

There are three main types of term insurances to consider: level term, decreasing term and family income benefit. Sometimes a combination is the best answer.

 

  • Level Term Life Insurance

A level term policy pays out a lump sum if you die within the specified term. The amount you’re covered for remains level throughout the term – hence the name. The monthly or annual premiums you pay usually stay the same, as well.

 

Level term policies can be a good option for family protection, where you want to leave a lump sum that your family can invest to live on after you’ve gone. It can also be a good option if you need a specified amount of cover for a certain length of time, e.g. to cover an interest-only mortgage.

 

You might also consider including an automatic annual increase of the sum assured to counteract the effects of inflation or increasing expenses. There are even budget versions where the monthly cost is lower during the first few years.

 

 

  • Decreasing Term Life Insurance

With a decreasing term policy, the amount you’re covered for decreases over the term of the policy. These policies are often used to cover a debt that reduces over time, such as a repayment mortgage.

Premiums are usually significantly cheaper than for level-term cover as the amount insured reduces as time goes on.

 

  • Family Income Benefit Life Insurance

Family income benefit life insurance is a type of decreasing term policy. Instead of a lump sum, though, it pays out a regular income until the policy’s expiry date if you die.

 

The upside of family income benefit is that it is easier to work out how much you need. For example, if you take home £2,000 a month, you can arrange for the same amount to be paid out to your family if you die.

 

 

Whole-of-Life

As the name suggests, whole-of-life policies are ongoing policies that pay out when you die, whenever that is. Because it’s guaranteed that you’ll die at some point (and therefore that the policy will have to pay out), these policies are more expensive than term assurance policies, which only pay out if you die within a certain timeframe. These are often used when cover is required for funeral expenses.

 

The good news is that Life Cover in general is now more affordable, and most importantly can provide you with  peace of mind, knowing that your family will be financially protected in the event of your passing away.

 

 

For and on behalf of Cherry Godfrey Insurance Services (Jersey) Ltd  

Regulated by The Jersey Financial Services Commission in the carrying on of investment and general insurance mediation business

 


Trading Standards credit card warning: online payments where you lose protection

August 30, 2017 Banking, Home life, Money Matters No Comments

A little-known flaw in the Consumer Credit Act may put Jersey shoppers at risk of losing their money if things go wrong.

 

Under Section 75 of the UK Consumer Credit Act, shoppers who make payments between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card can get their money back if the goods turn out to be faulty, not as described or don’t arrive. The UK law makes the retailer and credit card company jointly liable. Jersey consumers usually benefit from this protection due to terms and conditions reflecting the UK Consumer Credit Act.

 

However, a little-known loophole revealed by a MoneySavingExpert means that consumers will only be reimbursed if there is a direct link between the customer, their credit card provider and the supplier. If the payment is processed by a third-party company then the protection under Section 75 does not apply.

 

So, if you bought a concert ticket through an agent on a credit card, you may not be able to get your money back using Section 75 if it doesn’t arrive.

The same may apply if you booked a holiday through a travel agent. However, the travel industry may very well have their own financial protection schemes in place.

 

You may also not be covered for credit card transactions made through online payment platforms, such as PayPal, because it breaks the chain between customer and supplier.  However, if the firm you’re buying from has a “Commercial Entity Agreement” you’ll be able to make a claim under Section 75 even if you use PayPal. PayPal has its own Buyer Protection scheme. This covers online purchases made on eBay and other websites if the item does not arrive or match the seller’s description. Property, vehicles, custom-made items and industrial machinery are among some items that are not guaranteed.

 

Amazon is another firm where Section 75 may not apply. Shoppers who buy items on a credit card from third-party suppliers on the online marketplace will not be covered. If you buy directly from Amazon then you could make a claim.

 

Confused, it is not surprising! Trading Standards offers the following advice:

  • Know who you are buying from and who will take your payment
  • Wherever possible put payments on your credit card
  • If you are entitled to protection, you are still covered even if a small proportion, part payment or deposit was paid using your card
  • When things go wrong, don’t delay. If you don’t have Section 75 protection you may alternative protection through platform buyer protection schemes, but these are often time limited.

 

Free confidential consumer advice is available from Trading Standards on 448162 or email tradingstandards@gov.je. You can also drop in, they are in the Central Market under the clock.

 


Occasionally when we buy goods or services we’re asked to pay a deposit… but what are our rights?

August 30, 2017 Consumer Skills, Home life, Money Matters No Comments

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.

 


Are you using the correct charger for your device?

May 19, 2017 Home life No Comments

Incorrect charger use exposes weaknesses in the battery and is likely to cause damage.

By using a charger that is too powerful for the device you are charging, it can expose weaknesses in the battery and cause it damage, leading to a shortened life span of the item or in more extreme cases, the battery could fail and pose a fire hazard.  For example, e-cigarette batteries generally run on lower amperage to mobile phone chargers. Nationally there has been a rise in fires involving e-cigarettes; the direct cause being due to failure of battery packs during charging.

 

A spokesperson from Electrical Safety First has commented ‘Always use the charger that is supplied, or designed to be used, with the device.  If a charger with a different amperage is used, this could lead to an incorrect charge being supplied resulting in damage to the battery.  A damaged battery is at risk of catching fire or exploding. Lithium batteries, which are common in products like e-cigarettes and mobile devices, are very sensitive and need to be charged carefully.’

 

When charging devices:

  • always use the correct charger and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.  Mobile phone chargers are generally too powerful for charging e-cigarettes
  • never charge a battery that has signs of damage, that has been dropped, or has been subjected to impact
  • never plug a charger into a non-approved mains power transformer
  • check that your e-cigarette battery has overcharge or overheat protection
  • remove the battery from charge when complete, don’t overcharge
  • never leave a battery on charge unattended
  • don’t use if wet or exposed to water
  • E-cigarettes -do not over tighten the atomiser or when connecting to the charger
  • ensure that you dispose of batteries correctly

 

If you require any further assistance please contact Trading Standards on 01534 448160.

 

With thanks from Trading Standards & Jersey Fire Service


Charities & Bequest Issues

February 22, 2017 Consumer Skills, Home life No Comments

The majority of us will have had personal experience with specific charities. For many, it is important to support these charities after our death so that their services can continue to provide a benefit and make a difference. Leaving a bequest to a charity in your Will is a great way of doing this.

 

When leaving a bequest some may have a specific purpose in mind for the bequest they are making, however it is important to bear in mind that there are a vast number of charities, some with very specific aims and some with a wide and general purpose. Is it possible therefore, to bequeath money to a charity and specify how they put that money to use? The short answer is that in general, it is not possible to specifically direct how you would like your money to be used. This is because once a bequest has been made the funds belong to the charity and they are free to decide how best to use it. Having said this, it is possible to express a wish in your Will that the money be used for a specific purpose. This will give the charity a clear idea of how you intended the money to be used even if it is not binding. One of the most common examples that we see, is a bequest to a medical charity, with a wish expressed that the money to be used for research purposes.

 

 

Advocate Zoe Blomfield, Managing Partner

t: +44 (0) 1534 888666


Christmas Puddings & Pricewatch

November 14, 2016 Home life, Top tips No Comments

Having found our Mince Pie tasting in 2015 so revealing we decided to put Christmas Puddings to the taste and price test this year. Taste testers helped us from Citizens Advice Jersey, Trading Standards, the Channel Island Competition and Regulatory Authorities and 4insight, a local Market Reserach Company. Our 5 testers (we had two testers from Trading Standards as one was an entrant to the Great British Bake off 2015) each tester could award a maximum of 25 points per pudding; the clear winner was the most expensive of our pudding purchases.

The testers noted that the complexity of microwave cooking such as microwave for 2 minutes, rest for a minute, cook for 40 seconds and then rest again seemed to have benefits when it comes to the final texture. Detailed below are the scores from the ‘blind’ tasting. Now it is your turn to see if you agree with our testers!

Puddings Tested…full results will be published week commencing 28th November in our all island newsletter.

Brand of Christmas Pudding
Coop
Christmas Pudding
Irresistible Rich & Fruity
Marks & Spencer
Classic Recipe Pudding
The Collection Intensely Fruity
Tesco Alliance
Tesco Finest Pudding
Tesco Christmas Pudding
Waitrose
Essential Cider & Sherry
6 Month Matured

Trading Standards & Consumer Council Top Ten for Christmas

November 3, 2016 Consumer Skills, Home life, Money Matters, Top tips No Comments

Settle down with a warm drink and peruse our Christmas survival tips…ranging from call out charges to buying on line and the risks of fake products.

  1. Buying Online

In most cases if you shop online with a Jersey, UK or EU trader you have a right to cancel and receive a full refund, even if you just don’t like the goods or have simply changed your mind.

This is in addition to your normal statutory rights. There are some exceptions and time limits apply. Check it out before you buy. Extra tips here… http://www.jerseyconsumercouncil.org.je/consumer-skills/shopping-online/

 

  1. Product Safety

Be safe this Christmas. Follow the instructions and appropriate warnings. Make sure toys are CE marked and follow the intended age warnings.

 

  1. Know who you are buying from

If you are shopping online make sure you know who and where the trader is based. For example don’t assume you are buying from Amazon when you may be buying from an Amazon seller outside the EU.

Your goods may not comply with European safety standards, they may take a long time to arrive and the cost of returning them may be uneconomical.

 

  1.  Fakes


Don’t be tempted to buy really cheap branded goods online. Electrical goods may be a fire or electrical shock hazard and perfumes and cosmetics may contain harmful substances.

 

  1. Additional Protection

You get additional protection when you buy goods or services over £100 if you paid using your credit card. If something goes wrong and the trader won’t help, the credit card company may have to step in.

 

  1. Christmas Loans

If you have to borrow money, make sure they are a reputable lender. Do you understand exactly what you are signing up to and what will happen if your financial situation gets worse? Is the lender a subscriber to the Jersey Code of Consumer Lending?  See www.gov.je/tradingstandards/consumerlending

 

  1. Call out Charges

If you have to call out a tradesman for an emergency repair during this festive season make sure you know what the ‘call out’ or ‘minimum charge’ will be before you agree. Make sure you both understand what work will be carried out, what it will cost (or how it will be calculated) and when and how the trader expects payment.

 

  1. Faulty Goods

You have statutory rights if goods are faulty or not fit for purpose. Try to keep gift receipts as it will help if things go wrong and don’t delay in complaining.

 

  1. Unwanted Gifts

Your statutory rights do not apply if you simply changed your mind. Check out the store’s returns policy before you buy. Remember if you bought online, you may have additional rights.

 

  1. Recall and Safety Notices

Trading Standards publish product recalls and safety warnings. To sign up for notifications, visit www.mygov.je

You can select the category of goods you are interested in, for example food, toys, electrical goods and nursery products.

 

Finally, do you know where to get help? Trading Standards offer a free and confidential Consumer Advice Service. The drop in service is located under the clock in the Central Market. 
You don’t need an appointment. Alternatively you can call on 448160 or email tradingstandards@gov.je