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What’s in the news today?  This is your space to discover and talk about the latest consumer news from Which?’s press office, news site and elsewhere.

There’s a lot of news out there. Perhaps too much. When a big story breaks, many of the consumer stories that may affect your daily life get pushed aside in favour of something else.

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Our Press Office keeps a close eye on the daily news to flag up interesting stories and developments that affect consumers. We’ll share their daily roundup, the latest press releases, and other stories that may be of interest.

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Comments

Success! Whirlpool are being ordered by the government to recall half a million tumble dryers owing to fire risk.

Perhaps they should also be liable for the insurance claims made when one of their appliances catches fire. Any product that is shown to be dangerous -like e. cigarette chargers – needs this kind of government attention. It is totally wrong that such products exist. Product misuse is one thing, when the product itself is faulty it is a health and safety issue. A company as big as Whirlpool needs to be trusted to produce safe white goods. The public can only buy what is on sale and can not be expected to know if the manufacturer has done all the safety checks.

Safety standards issued as IEC / ENs are there to lay down the minimum requirements for products to be made to, supported by UK regulations. Each country has a nominated authority delegated to look after the system – to police it and to hold defaulters to account. In the UK’s case this is Trading Standards.

Reputable companies make products that meet or exceed these safety standards. There will be occasions when individual products may be defective and will slip through the net; rarely is perfection achieved. There may also be rare instances when something never contemplated in the standard arises that proves unsafe; depending upon the severity the standard would be amended.

However, our real problem, I’d submit, lies not with the major reputable manufacturers but with disreputable ones who set out to either cheat the system or who do not have the quality systems in place to consistently make products to the required standard. I see the only way to combat this is to have an adequately resourced Trading Standards to respond to reported problems, to monitor the market and to properly fulfil their policing role – which I do not believe we have – and a regulator willing to impose substantial deterrent penalties on anyone who recklessly distributes unsafe/cheat/non-compliant products.

This requires adequate funding from the government, which it seems unwilling to provide. So much for the government wanting to protect consumers. An OPSS is no substitute for providing people and facilities to do the real work needed.

The Indesit problem was inherited by Whirlpool when they took them over in 2015. What I have not seen explained is why these Indesit tumble dryers, said to have caused 750 fires over 11 years prior to the take-over, were not recognised by the authorities (Trading Standards and the fire service for example) much earlier than 2015 – 11 years into the problem. It was Whirlpool themselves, I believe, who discovered it and made the issue public.

We should also investigate whether Indesit hid the problem from everyone – including Whirlpool.

I suggest there is something very wrong with our protective system that allowed this problem to go unnoticed. Had it been seen much earlier then sales could have been suspended and design changes made and properly tested to limit its disastrous (to many) effects.

Calls for ‘urgent’ action as more than 50 banks close every year in Wales

Which? research reveals bank closures in Wales have rapidly increased in the last four years with Brecon and Radnorshire being the hardest hit – losing 14 banks since 2015. Gareth Shaw said: “Welsh communities are being hit by a double whammy of soaring bank branch closures and cash machines vanishing at an alarming rate – leaving many people at risk of being stripped of cash access.”

https://www.itv.com/news/wales/2019-06-13/calls-for-urgent-action-as-more-than-50-banks-close-every-year-in-wales/

I thought this would be particularly interesting for @carneades. What’s it like in your area?

Bad. Virtually non in towns and villages, now. Thankfully, the Coops still have ATMs.

I am thinking about where I lived and the cornershop did have a cash machine but half the time it was out of money. 4 miles drive to get money frequently.

Any Tory leader hopeful must focus on the access-to-cash crisis

In an opinion piece for the Telegraph, Gareth Shaw discusses the need for whoever wins the Conservative Party leadership contest to address the access to cash crisis. Gareth said: “None of us – and particularly not our next prime minister – can afford to ignore the vital role cash continues to play, not only for the millions who rely on it every day but also for everyone when digital payment systems fail.”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/future-of-money/tory-leader-hopeful-must-focus-access-to-cash-crisis/

“Today, Which? will give evidence to the National Assembly’s Economy, Infrastructure and Skills Committee for its Access to Banking inquiry, and will warn Assembly Members that without urgent action millions of people risk being left behind as bank branches and cash machines continue to shut at a rapid rate.”

I hope that Which? will make positive, imaginative and constructive proposals at this inquiry, and not simply bemoan the loss of bank branches and ATMs. When times and habits change we need to adapt.

Nice try by Gareth Shaw, but I have a deep suspicion that the access-to-cash-crisis will just go through the Tory party leadership mill and come out the other side without generating any energy whatsoever. The main priorities seem to be to make sure that the better off can have a tax cut and older people will be paying £2-3 a week to watch the rubbish on daytime television.

Another comment piece today on cash – this time in the Financial Times.

Reacquainting yourself with cash could change your values

In a comment piece, Alice Ross writes about the benefits of using cash. She highlights how handing over coins or a banknote actually makes you notice the cost more, how the use of cash could be revived for nostalgia purposes and the issues that a cashless society poses for groups such as older people and those on low incomes. She mentions that two-thirds of UK bank branches have closed over the past 30 years, according to Which?.

https://www.ft.com/content/74acefb4-8d2b-11e9-a24d-b42f641eca37

I totally agree that handing over cash does give a much greater sense of cost. Using a card, or even a cheque, does not give the same feeling of parting with wealth.

I see no point in reviving cash for “nostalgia” purposes; the ways cash has been superseded for many transactions are to be welcomed, and are here to stay. We will never lose cash, in my view (well not in my lifetime) but its use will continue to diminish and we must accept that.

We do need to think constructively about how cash can be made easily accessible to a lot more people than banks, ATMs and post offices can ever achieve. Facing reality is important to make sensible progress.

Protecting your buying rights with little-known card laws

There is a rule that has been quietly protecting people for more than 40 years — a law that gives customers the right to claim their money back. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act protects those who have lost money when companies go bust, defraud them or fail to supply what they promised. Which? last year launched a free tool to help people make Section 75 claims and to date, 9,011 claims have been made using it.

https://www.ft.com/content/c7a72604-892e-11e9-b861-54ee436f9768

Thanks for the news items and links, Abby. Can we explore use of this Which? tool and the one for faulty goods ‘just for interest’?

So far I have managed to tackle problems myself, helped by information on the website and in Convos. I would be interested in playing with the tools to learn more but would not want to introduce spurious information that might be used by Which?

Hi @wavechange, here are the two tools:
https://www.which.co.uk/tools/s75-chargeback-claim/
https://www.which.co.uk/tools/faulty-goods-complaint-tool/
I don’t think you could do the whole thing without sending info through to us though.

The tools basically help you populate a letter using clear questions to ensure the correct information has been noted. They are a bit like the downloadable letters. https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/letter/letter-to-ask-for-a-faulty-item-to-be-repaired-or-replaced

Thanks very much, Abby. If I have to send information I will have to wait until I have a genuine problem. Maybe it’s not the sort of consumer issue that we normally discuss here, but is very relevant to our wellbeing.

In other news for today…

‘Buy now, pay later’ crackdown to save consumers £60m a year

The financial regulator is to tighten rules for companies that charge customers interest on “buy now, pay later” policies in an attempt to tackle high-cost credit that disproportionately affects vulnerable people. The Financial Conduct Authority said that its new measures would save consumers up to £60 million a year.

https://www.cityam.com/city-watchdog-launches-crackdown-on-buy-now-pay-later-deals/

Thanks for that. Thankfully there are some people who do care about our environment.

Our big story today is about Ryanair inflating fares when converting from Euro.

Here is our new item of it…
https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/06/ryanair-customers-paying-extra-with-rip-off-exchange-rates/
Just to highlight – we are calling on the UK CAA (rather than the Irish equivalent) to take action as they have been the body taking on legal action on Ryanair so far.

And here is a summary of how the media are covering it..

Travellers are ripped off when booking Ryanair flights because of misleading currency conversion on its fares, Which? has claimed. Those booking flights from Europe to the UK on the airline’s British website are quoted fares in Euros but Ryanair converts the fare to sterling at the point of payment, automatically applying an exchange rate. Caroline Normand said: “This misleading pricing trick is one of the clearest examples of a rip-off we’ve seen, but Ryanair have been allowed to continue to get away with it due to a lack of action from the Civil Aviation Authority. It must clamp down on this practice before thousands more holidaymakers are caught out this summer.”

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-7137387/Which-warns-Ryanair-passengers-not-use-airlines-rip-currency-conversion-tool.html
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/ryanair-inflates-fares-with-euro-conversion-trick-0cpbr9qkc
https://news.sky.com/story/ryanair-hikes-fares-with-rip-off-exchange-rates-consumer-group-claims-11741629

I know there were questions last week about Ryanair and what is being done in Ireland about it – here is an example of how the Irish press are covering the story:

Consumer watchdog flies into Ryanair currency row

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has confirmed it has contacted Ryanair about its use of dynamic currency conversion. The system allows customers booking flights from a country with a different currency to switch the price paid to their home currency, meaning they can be sure of what they will be charged by their bank. Last week, the airline’s use of dynamic currency conversion was criticised by Which?, for the high currency conversion rate it charges customers.

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/consumer-watchdog-flies-into-ryanair-currency-row-wdghvb8qg

BT and Virgin Media rivalled as TalkTalk reveals broadband boost and cheaper prices

BT and Virgin Media face more competition with TalkTalk announcing a broadband speed boost. The UK firm is now promising customers faster internet connections without paying a higher price. According to Which?, TalkTalk and Sky came out bottom of the rankings for satisfaction with them earning only a 50 per cent customer satisfaction score. TalkTalk was panned for the quality of its customer service and tech support and failed to score well in any category, including value for money.

https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/science-technology/1139590/BT-Virgin-Media-broadband-deal-TalkTalk-speed-boost-price

I won’t be back… Arnie’s pressing PPI limit warning

Time is running out for Arnold Schwarzenegger as he reminds people they have just over two months left to complain about PPI. Up to 64 million PPI policies were sold, mostly between 1990 and 2010 and you can get help to claim from the FCA, Financial Ombudsman, Money Saving Expert and Which?.

https://www.metro.news/business-briefing-bank-of-mum-and-dad-is-the-11th-biggest-in-home-loans/1601321/

WARNING: the advert might give you nightmares if you are as easily scared as me! 😀

The saviour of cash

In the Mail on Sunday, Jeff Prestridge discusses last week’s Cash Summit which took place as part of Which?’s powerful access to cash campaign. Author of the ‘Access to Cash Review’ Natalie Ceeney took a starring role in the event – “with her zest and determination, cash has a chance of surviving. Without her input, the banks will roll all over us and strip the pounds from our wallets, just like they axed our branches.”

https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-7144897/This-woman-crusading-against-cashless-society-saviour-cash.html

I doubt the prediction of this rather overblown article will come to pass. Certainly consumers are making much less use of cash as, for many, more convenient forms have payment have emerged. However, as we see in Convos, there are very many instances where cash is almost a must, and certainly a preference, particularly for small and personal transactions.

It is a pity that the Mail on Sunday does not do some basic research of its own For example instead of relying on partisan campaigning it might examine the claim “ an alarming shrinkage in the number of free-to-use ATMs in recent months ” and ask from where these have gone – isolated machines (being protected as as far as possible by LINK with substantially increased subsidies) or near others where the demand for withdrawals has declined to make some of them uneconomic? It might also think about making constructive proposals, such as are given in the Access to cash” review; for example, enabling cash business to dispense cash, a proposal that would make cash more conveniently available to far more people than can get at it now.

Times change and we have to adopt a sensible, pragmatic and constructive approach that is progressive not live in the past.

Google’s AR animals entertain Android users

Google is rolling out a tool that lets Android users view moving animals which make sounds in augmented reality through their device’s camera. It currently only works with some animals but could be expanded to include objects and brands in future. Kate Bevan, editor of Which? Computing magazine, said: “While I expect to see this technology taken up by brands for advertising further down the track, AR will also be used for practical things like navigation: Google is already rolling out a trial of AR maps for owners of its Pixel phones, and I expect to see that more widely available next year.”

(Includes photo of Kate’s ludicrously fluffy cat!)

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-48636448

Kate’s cat is obviously unaware about what is happening in augmented reality. 🙂

Baby cot mattress sold by Amazon and Argos recalled over safety fears

Simba is voluntarily recalling one of its cot bed mattresses after tests proved that it had safety issues. The Simba Hybrid Cot Bed Mattress has been recalled because tests by Which? found that there was shrinkage when it was washed. The mattress was available to buy between 8 May 2018 and 10 May 2019 through Simbasleep.com, Amazon, Argos and eBay. The company has advised that parents stop using the product immediately and return it. Which? Testers washed the cover at 40C and found that it shrank, meaning the mattress had to be squashed to fit into it.

https://inews.co.uk/news/consumer/simba-mattress-hybrid-cot-bed-product-recall-tests-which-shrank-washing/
https://www.scotsman.com/read-this/baby-cot-mattress-sold-by-amazon-and-argos-recalled-over-safety-fears/

Millions of broadband customers are losing £200 a year by failing to switch and face price hikes of up to 60%

Millions of broadband customers are losing nearly £200 a year by failing to switch, new research has revealed. Customers who stay with their providers beyond their initial minimum contract are being hit with price hikes of up to 60 per cent, according to Which?. Households signed up to Virgin Media’s M50 tariff, for example, will see their monthly bills jump by £192 a year after their 12 month deal ends. Natalie Hitchins said: “These findings continue to show it is imperative that broadband customers who are out of contract either contact their supplier to secure a good deal or shop around and look to switch elsewhere.”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/money/how-192-gets-sneakily-added-16517531
https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/science-technology/1140425/Virgin-Media-price-increase-contract-BT-Sky-TalkTalk-which-report