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
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
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:
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.
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
Funeral costs comparison
Death should not be a topic which we all avoid discussing – it is best to talk about death regardless of your age; remember it is a fact of life and your funeral service shouldn’t leave your family in debt.
We would recommend that you visit each of the Funeral Directors in Jersey to view their premises
and meet the staff who would be caring for your family. Each business offers bespoke personalised services and your relationship with the Funeral Director is really important throughout the planning and service stages.
“Understandable lack of shopping around by consumers at their lowest ebb, and an industry where costs can be opaque; the reality is a huge range in pricing, which could potentially save consumers hundreds of pounds”
Simon Cox, Consumer Protection Proposition Lead, Royal London Group1 SunLife’s annual 2016 report titled ‘The Cost of Dying’ is the fastest rising of any fixed cost in the UK – rising much faster than living costs, such as rent, food, utilities, insurance or clothing: ‘the funeral – which makes up 44% of the cost of dying – has soared by 5.5% in a single year. The average funeral in the UK now costs £3,897 which is more than double what it was when SunLife first started tracking funeral prices in 2004’.
Do you feel under pressure and tempted to spend money that you cannot afford at Christmas? To help you stay within your budget, the Consumer Council has put together a food and present planner.
If you use this or any planner, you are less likely to exceed your budget, and your money should go further.
Can’t print it? We can pop a copy in the post to you. Please call on 611161 or email us at email@example.com
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|
|Irresistible Rich & Fruity|
|Marks & Spencer|
|Classic Recipe Pudding|
|The Collection Intensely Fruity|
|Tesco Finest Pudding|
|Tesco Christmas Pudding|
|Essential Cider & Sherry|
|6 Month Matured|
Seeing your Doctor?
Here are a few tips…to make the most of your time with your Doctor
Be Prepared…lists will always help and read them out at the start of your appointment. This helps the doctor to see the whole picture and to avoid leaving the embarrassing ailment until you are about to leave.
Try to pre-empt your doctor’s routine questions, prepare answers for: ‘how long has it been going on? Have you had it before and has anyone in the family had the same thing? And be specific and upfront about your history.
A symptom diary can help; these are helpful for tracking times when symptoms hit.
Your doctor may ask you to return to discuss one of your problems – it maybe that he or she feels that it deserves more time and a more detailed evaluation. A repeat visit will almost certainly incur a further charge.
Not Playing Fair?
We can all buy something and suddenly find when we look at the small print, that there are a lot of terms and conditions that seem to make it very difficult to do anything when the goods or services are not quite what they
Not all the small print is necessarily fair or reasonable and that is whyit is important to know that from 27 January, 2010, the Supply of Goods and Services (Jersey) Regulations 2010 may mean that
the person supplying the goods or services cannot actually rely on such an unfair term.
Telecommunications –Buying the Right Mix of Services
What are bundles?
Bundles include a mix of mobile; fixed line and broadband services. Having a bundle will in most cases require you to sign a contract for at least a year; or perhaps longer. Breaking a contract if you subsequently find that the service is not suitable or does not really give you what you wanted, may be expensive. In this article we consider only bundles associated with contracts and not Pay As You Go offers, which will be considered separately.
The main bundle types include: