/ Community, News

This month on Which? Conversation: December 2021

Welcome to our monthly open thread covering what’s happening right now, both in the world of Which? and across the latest news.

Welcome to December, and a slightly belated Hanukkah Sameach to those celebrating!  

This is our monthly open thread, covering what’s happening over the month. We’ll be updating this discussion with what’s coming up, so check back often to see what’s new. 

We also want to hear from you in the comments below. What’s happening for you in December? 

Jump ahead to:

What’s happening this month | 10 December | 1 December | Post a new comment

10 December: New restrictions in England

A number of coronavirus restrictions are now back in play in England following the Government’s announcements this past Wednesday.

  • Face coverings are now mandatory in shops, cinemas, theatres, places of worship, and on public transport (unless you’re exempt)
  • From Wednesday, 15 December, you’ll need the NHS Covid pass or a proof of a negative lateral flow test to gain entry to nightclubs and setting with large crowds.
  • From Monday, people in England should work from home if possible.

See the full list of restrictions in play across the UK, and what you can do to limit the spread. Which? is keeping its guidance up to date – see the 1 December update for a list of useful resources.

Bank closures, the Scottish Autumn Budget and capital gains taxes

Over at Which? Money, the team has been busy breaking down the Scottish Autumn Budget and how that, for the majoirty of Scottish taxpayers, they’ll continue to pay less tax than if they lived elsewhere in the UK.

They’ve also been looking at the upcoming changes to the capital gains tax system, including five changes the government is considering taking on board.

Which? also continues to call for bank branch closures, as it’s been revealed this week that a further 736 branches has closed this year, and 220 more set to shut in 2022. The pace of these closures is accelerating, which in @ahoult’s words ‘leaves many people who depend on them at risk of being cut adrift’ from their essential banking services. Which? is calling on banks to pause any further bank closures until proposals to protect access to cash are rolled out. If you’d like to help us in this call, you can sign our Freedom to Pay petition.

Keeping warm and dry in December

Just in time for colder weather (and off the back of Storms Arwen and Barra), Which? has updated a fair few advice guides on keeping your home–and yourself–protected from the seasonal elements:

Ask Which? Legal

We’re now accepting questions for our upcoming Which? Legal Hour! If you have a question about setting up Power of Attorney, or want to know more about what you need to make a will, they’re happy to help. Post your question now, and the Which? Legal team will answer it during the event on 17 December.

1 December: the Omicron variant: what you need to know

As you’ll likely have heard, there’s a new mutation of the coronavirus currently causing worldwide concern. 

What you need to know about the Omicron Covid variant

Which? is continuing to monitor what this means for you as a consumer, so be sure to check back regularly on the latest advice. Some recent updates include: 

Be sure also to stay aware of the latest government advice, and above all, look after the health of you and yours. 

There’s never a good time for a new and highly transmissible virus mutation, however right ahead of the holiday season – and after the nation is just getting used to opening up again – is less than ideal. An immediate concern is how people plan to celebrate this year; we’re curious to know whether the prospect of Omicron might cause you to rethink whether you celebrate indoors:

How will the omicron variant affect your Christmas / holiday party plans?

I will cancel if government advice restricts indoor socialising (33%, 5 Votes)

I will still have an indoor celebration regardless of the variant, or of government advice (27%, 4 Votes)

Something else - tell us in the comments (27%, 4 Votes)

I have already cancelled my plans due to the variant (13%, 2 Votes)

I will shift my celebrations outdoors if the government advice changes (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 15

Loading ... Loading ...

What other advice would you need Which? to look into for you? Leave us a comment below and we’ll flag it up to our researchers.  

What’s coming up in December?

📅 7 December – National Trade Conversations, one year on –it’s been more than a year since we asked people for their views on trade. We’ll be exploring whether people’s knowledge of trade – and how much it affects them as consumers – may have changed since then.

📅 17 December: Which? Legal Live Hour: we’re excited to be welcoming Which? Legal back to Which? Conversation later this month for the next in our series of Legal Live Hours, where they’ll be taking your questions on Wills and Power of Attorney (POA). We’ll be taking your questions on this from 9 December, but if you can’t wait, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

📅 31 December: the Which? Conversation quiz of the year: get ready for the biggest quiz on Which? Conversation since…well, the 2020 quiz of the year.


Always look forward to quiz of the year 😎

What is an app based receipt? As long as the app allows it to be displayed, checked & annotad, exported in some common, reusable format then great. It also depends on what information has already been captured and saved when placing the order and how easy that is to export and save for delivery checking.

Which? article “3 reasons why you shouldn’t buy anyone a laptop for Christmas” doesn’t give the most useful advice of all:

When you do buy a laptop, buy it online:

Manufacturers such as Dell and HP are often cheaper, particularly if you work for a large company and you can buy through an employee discount scheme. Check employee benefits, or ask your HR or IT department what deals are available to staff. If there aren’t any, challenge them to get them in place for next time. Your Procurement team should be looking to leverage staff benefits from any large company purchase, as well as the cheapest price.

If you buy from the manufacturer, you will get the latest, current models. Retailers often have an inventory of older models they need to shift. You get direct access to all the technical resources, who may be able to sort you out more quickly than a retail store, particularly if it is the latest generation laptop and chips are in short supply.

Bought online UK Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 gives you the right to return the (unused) laptop within 14 days from delivery, no question, whether for the 3 reasons listed by Which?, or just because you don’t like the colour of the case. But check who pays for return delivery.

If you prefer to deal with a High Street retailer, browse in store, then order from their website, to secure these additional rights.

I have benefited from buying IT equipment and car hire at very good prices negotiated by my employer. It is certainly worth finding out what is on offer.

Are you happy to pay less for products at the expense of other consumers?

Yes because the companies have offered these arrangements. The regional university purchasing group used to send periodic newsletters encouraging staff to take advantages of their offers on printers and some other accessories. When it was introduced, the well advertised Apple educational discount on computers was equivalent to removing the VAT but now it is far less generous.

I don’t blame you for taking advantage of such arrangements. My first employer had arrangements with local businesses that allowed employees to get much better prices than were offered to the general public. Many companies offer discounts to particular groups of people, such as union members, employees, NHS workers for example and. I have no problem with that. Is it different to negotiating prices in other ways, which some feel is unfair on those who don’t?

I have done plenty of price haggling when buying research and teaching equipment during my working life but am not keen on consumers having to do this because those that lack confidence are at a disadvantage. I prefer to support companies that don’t hike renewal prices.

Many companies operate differential pricing models – charging different groups of consumers different amounts for the same product. It enables them to increase their market share, whilst protecting their profit margins.

We all pay more or less for the goods and services we buy and I don’t see how that is necessarily at the expense of other consumers. I am not sure that someone buying during a sale period, using a discount voucher or travelling off-peak is impacting me one way or another.

Supermarket staff get discounts on their food – it is a well-recognised perk of the job. If they did not, wages would need to be higher, pilferage would be more tempting and customers would definitely pay more for their own food as a result.

But if we want to talk true discrimination, we should focus on a characteristic protected by law, namely age. Why should children and OAPs get preferential rates for travel, admissions, meals and haircuts?

Some are more able to negotiate than others. I don’t expect anything will change.

Having made the unplanned cutover to a full EV in just one week (a fortuitous customer cancellation I was happy to take off my dealer at a very good discount), I have been frantically trying to get a home charging point installed. Apparently, the ending of the Government grant at the end of March 2022 is pushing up demand, as everyone is now trying to beat the deadline and save £350.

Whilst Which? provide general advice on the subject of home charging, I have since discovered that not all smart chargers are born equal and that some of the suppliers are far worse than others for installation and repairs under warranty. On that basis, I have decided to cancel my booking, take my time and not rush into a major purchasing decision I may live to regret for a long time.

To tide me over, I have bought a Laser 7695 13 Amp charger (£329 at Toolstation / Machine Mart, but found cheaper elsewhere). I couldn’t bear the thought of buying something so potentially lethal off Amazon. It seems robust and well-made, although the country of origin is not evident, and will help if staying with friends in remoter parts of Devon.

I particularly like the selectable Amperage (8A – 10A – 13A), as leaving the car on charge overnight at even 10A (2.3 kW) is likely to leave some older house installations with a scorched wall socket. At a 13A charge rate, the live pin becomes too hot to touch after a few minutes, so I won’t be using that unless in a hurry. At 8 Amp charging, as long as I average less than 50 miles per day, I can keep the car topped up on Economy 7.

As 7kW smart chargers will soon cost the best part of £1000, it is past time for Which? to run a full test (or at least a customer survey) to help indentify the best buys and the ones to avoid. In the mean time, does anyone have any advice what to go for and what to avoid?

I cannot advise on chargers but I can certainly relate to mains plugs and sockets getting too warm (at work rather than home) when used for an extended period at their maximum capacity, resulting in the need to replace properly wired MK sockets with fused spurs. That would be no help in your case because you want a temporary solution and to retain a detachable lead. I wonder if you simply have a rogue fuse that has a higher resistance than specified by the standard.

It would be interesting to have a Which? report on car charging and maybe a checklist of things to look for.

You could check the wall socket and plug wiring to ensure the connections are tight. Maybe change the socket for another well known make.
Good luck with the new car.

I had assumed that BEVs and PHEVs would be supplied with a suitable charging cable for use with a standard mains socket. Having had a look at a few articles, this seems to be the norm.

Thank you for your good wishes.

The wall socket is an MK metal clad switched double, wired by me (before part-P), run directly off a garage CU with a 16A MCB. The plug on the charger is moulded on, so there is nothing to tighten there.

I will look at the fuse as suggested. Perhaps I need a HiFi TUNiNG UK-Supreme 3 Mains Fuse – 13A – hand-made in Germany with gold-plated end caps to reduce contact resistance. Only £46.00, but then it does come with a 12 month warranty. Apparently, some people claim they can hear the difference this makes. In fact, I might even go for the Synergistic Research Orange High-End Fast-Blow Fuse, a snip at £155.00.

I was thinking about the BS1362 specification, Em. I believe that a different type of BS may be specified by some audio enthusiasts.

If the Live pin is becoming too hot to touch within minutes and it’s not just the fuse or socket, you might have been sold a faulty charging lead.

I look forward to hearing more about chargers. Eventually I will take the plunge.

Further to the above, I have installed a new MK Masterseal socket on the outside wall. I have also given the 13 Amp fuse end caps, phosphor-bronze clips and plug pins a good polish with a “Dremel” (Proxxon) multi-tool wire brush and tightenen the fuse clips. No sign of over-heating now.

That will keep me going unit I get a wall charger installed – I’ve already laid the SWA in a trench to the garage.

@wavechange: If I install solar panels, would my Sonos sound brigher on sunny days?

Merry Christmas

That’s good news. Our lab technicians who routinely did the PAT testing (or PA testing if you prefer) carried a can of Brasso for treatment of older plugs with tarnished brass terminals.

Merry Christmas to you too and I look forward to more discussion of technical matters in the New Year.

This reminds me of a situation where I was asked to repair an old late 70’s TV set who’s power supply kept blowing up after being brought home from a local “repair” shop. After putting right all the shop’s botched up mess in the set I then checked the socket and found it to be thoroughly worn out. So off went the ring main and out came the socket and in went a nice new one of reputable make and then there was no further problems. Some old sockets wear out and lose their grip on the plug’s pins and this causes arcing and of course when used at near full load it will over heat dangerously and create a serious fire hazard. So if your socket is overheating so badly you can’t touch it there’s a good chance the socket is worn out and needs replacing, or if it’s fairly new it might be a poorer make and still might need replacing with a better one like an MK. Mains sockets are like anything else, some are poor quality and have poor metal without sufficient tempering and some lose their tempering with use over time.

Home made sherry trifle