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This month on Which? Conversation: October 2021

Here’s the latest on what’s on and what’s to come on Which? Conversation and around which.co.uk in October.

15 October: New limits for contactless payments

From today the limit on contactless payments will more than double, allowing you to spend as much as £100 with a tap of your card.  The amount you can spend without needing to re-enter your pin also increases to £300.

Read more about the new limit, and what to do if your contactless card is lost or stolen.

How does this land with you? Is it more convenient for you to have an increased limit on your card, or does the potential for fraudsters to take more of your money if the card is lost outweigh any benefit you might see?  Perhaps you’d prefer not to have a transaction limit at all and choose to use Apple Pay or Google Pay instead of contactless?  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

Our Consumer Rights and Scams team would especially like to hear from you if you’re seeing more suspicious activity following the increased contactless limit – or if indeed someone does manage to steal money from your account in this way.  Drop us a note in the comments, or if you’d rather not talk publicly, feel free to get in touch using the contact form.

If given the choice, what would you set as your transaction limit for contactless payments?
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What’s new at Which?

Some of the stories we’ve been watching at Which? over the past few weeks:

A rollercoaster week for your money

You may see a much bigger impact on your finances starting from this week:

With all of that and more it’s been a rollercoaster week for your money. The money experts on the Which? Money Podcast have been answering questions and getting to the bottom of these issues, so may be worth a listen.

When do you put the heating on?

With the nights getting longer and the weather colder, the inevitable question has emerged: is it time to put the heating on?

Previous W? Conversation research on when the heating goes on

When we last asked this question back in 2016, the majority of you reported having yours on by the middle of October.

Have you switched your heating on yet?

Yes, my heating is on now (80%, 1,993 Votes)

No, but I may do soon (12%, 302 Votes)

No, I'm holding out until after the clocks go back (8%, 204 Votes)

Total Voters: 2,499

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And before that, in 2013, most respondents already had yours on by mid-September

Have you turned your heating on yet?

Yes, I've turned my #heatingon (71%, 875 Votes)

No, I'm keeping my #heatingoff (29%, 364 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,239

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How do you decide when to put the heating on though – is it at a particular time of year, or when the whether gets cold? Is the choice yours, or do you use a thermostat to handle this automatically?

How do you determine when to put the heating on?
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Coming up in October

We’re welcoming Which? Money’s Danielle Richardson to Which? Conversation on Thursday, 7 October to answer some of your questions about banking, savings, and Isas – feel free to post your questions in advance, and drop in later on to join the discussion from 3pm.

We’ll be also shifting focus more to sustainability over the month – particularly with the major COP26 climate summit coming up at the end of the month. What effect – if any – does a major international summit have on your feelings on sustainability? Does it inspire, raise ire, or generally get ignored?

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments, or on what it means to you to be sustainable.

Comments

I’m not sure rollercoaster is the amusement park ride I would choose to describe this month’s economic events.

How about Kwasi’s Drop of Doom ride? Or, if you don’t like the idea of being held in your seat by the energy price cap, there is always Rishi’s Freefall Furlough.

Basically, it’s a bungee jump without the cord.

When do you put the heating on?

I have met people who believe that it cheapest to leave their heating on 24/7. You don’t need a smart meter to show that this is untrue but it is the easiest way to prove this to yourself.

Turning on the heating on a particular date is slightly eccentric, in my view, because of natural changes in temperature. Why heat the house when it is warm and not heat it when it is cold?

If you want your whole house to maintain decided temperatures between pre-set times – thermostatic radiator valves and room thermostat with controller – then it seems to me you leave your system to control your heating. You will, no doubt, leave your hot water controller functioning.

In the morning when I am active I prefer a cooler temperature but nudge the thermostat up later in the day or evening. Maybe one day we will have smart thermostats that respond to how we feel.

I’ve found there is no point in wasting money on unreliable mechanical or electronic thermostats. Even the most accurate are not precise enough to detect subtle changes in room temperature that occur over the course of 24 hours.

My home heating system is now monitored and precision-controlled by a bio-organic system. Google hypothalamus if you would like one. Note that they are only available as part of a complete system. But I’m particularly pleased with mine; it does the cooking as well.

That would be human thermoregulation – the system that we are born with. I use mine in conjunction with digital control – my right index finger turns up the thermostat in half degree increments when I feel the need.

Better to use NI rather than AI

Our thermostat has set temperatures for overnight and day-time all year round. If we are staying up late we might advance the setting for one or two hours. The day-time setting is a sort of basic comfort level; if it gets cold then we just raise the setting a few degrees — the system reverts to the regular setting at the start of the overnight setting.

Some mornings [like today] are a bit nippy and the settings are adjusted when the first person ventures downstairs.

We also use garments as a means of keeping warm and keep all the internal doors open to avoid cold spots.

Setting the thermostat in the hall at 22 degrees seems to keep the whole house comfortable. We don’t adjust the thermostatic radiator valves.

I am not sure about “smart thermostats that respond to how we feel”; to whose feelings will they be tuned where there are two or more in occupation?

Some seem to overlook the use of clothing and other coverings to maintain a comfortable personal temperature.

I expect that wearing it also saves embarrassment if someone comes to the door.

What I do is quite similar to what John has described.

John’s comment about more than one occupant reminds me that my mother used to turn the temperature up and my father turned it down when each other was not looking.

It must be difficult to maintain the best personnel temperature if you are in charge of an office.

For politeness we avoid commenting on other people’s embarrassment, Wavechange.

In the office, I found that a heated argument raised the temperature quite a bit.

Smart thermostats that respond to how we feel when there are two or more in occupation?

This will be resolved with the new Government-approved energy efficient replacement for gas boilers, due by 2025. Based on current progress, they will blow hot and cold at the same time.

Its possible to raise your bodys temperature by using your own bio thermostat, the hypothalamus, according to how you feel, using The Vase Method. This is how it’s done:

buzzworthy.com – Explained – How Tibetan Monks Use Meditation To Raise Their Body Temperature.

It’s worth noting that women are more likely to turn up the heat as they tend to feel the cold more than men. Personally I find vacuuming is the best heat conductor.

A fever will raise the body temperature but I don’t recommend it.
Beryl makes a good point – being active in the house not only keeps you warm but accomplishes jobs that need doing.

Why not fit the room thermostat in the bedroom? That’s what I’ve done, though my heating system isn’t finished yet because of menacing stuff like plaster repairs taking forever and a day to dry out and so on, before I can hang a radiator, and the odd patch of fungus that has to be dealt with etc.

I think the hall is the usual place for positioning the room thermostat because it is not a place where people spend any inactive time and where not fitting a thermostatic radiator valve will not cause a problem. The bedroom temperature can be moderated with a TRV on the radiator and the warmth can be regulated to be a little lower than in sitting rooms. The hall is usually a convenient location in which to put the timer and thermostat so that adjustments can be made quickly during the daytime. I think installing it elsewhere, while perfectly practical if desired, would make a house a little harder to sell.

Many homes, of course, do not have a hall, in which case the controller and thermostat have to be somewhere else.

TRVs are a rather poor way of controlling temperature because the heat sensor is close to the source of heat. I used to give this as an example when giving lectures on industrial fermentation, where accurate temperature control is important.

TRVs are simple and cheap and we don’t need good room temperature control because our bodies can do that. Remote TRVs, where the sensor is some distance from the radiator are better.

Agreed, but the ideal is not always practical in the domestic situation.

While TRV’s are close to the heat source their calibration presumably allows for that and they are usually fitted at the lower intake close to floor level where ambient temperatures are relatively low.

Yes, and they do work better if they are horizontal (a little further from the source of heat), though most are vertical.

This seems an informative summary:
http://danfossheating.ourpressoffice.com/2019/trv-installation-time-change/
A horizontal TRV moves the sensor from directly over the hot pipe so improves its accuracy by relying more on room air flow rather than convected from the pipe.

It’s not just rising heat that matters but radiant heat from the radiator. Danfoss and other manufacturers do make TRVs with remote sensors.

I’m not convinced much radiant heat from the edge of a radiator would reach the sensor of a horizontally- mounted TRV.

Presumably TRV’s with remote sensors require a power source. That might not always be easy or the user becomes reliant on batteries.

I am getting increasingly fed up with having to rely on batteries for so many functions these days.

Any day now my central heating control will go on the blink as the battery is run down. I keep spares but the only way I shall know is when it stops working [I don’t check the indicator light at frequent intervals].

Not necessarily. They can use an oil-filled bulb connected to the valve with a capillary tube. The distance between the valve and sensor is usually limited to a couple of metres but can be longer: https://www.myson.co.uk/products/remote_sensor_heads.htm

Many people set their TRVs on maximum, which negates the point of having them.

These are OK if you don’t mind seeing the capillary tube running from the sensor to the valve.

The little capillary tube is ok if you don’t have any destructive pets like dogs, especially some smaller dogs as they’re a bit too fond of chewing things up if they’re within their easy reach. Then you’d have greasy oil on your carpet…

I’m happy with our existing valves.

A remote adjuster unit would add £40-55 to the cost of each TRV depending on brand.

I’m not convinced that having a TRV sensor close to the radiator is a significant problem. Consider a system where the sensor is completely isolated from the radiator and only measures the ambient air temperature.

You come home to a cold house and turn on the heating full blast. The radiator heats up and starts to warm the air in the room. The TRV only shuts down fully when it reaches the set temperature – 20C for instance. Meanwhile, the radiator is still piping hot and continues to warm the air in the room. The air temperature overshoots the set temperature by some margin, depending on the size and temperature of the radiator, and the heat losses from the room.

Some electro-mechanical room thermostats have an anticipator ciruit to help reduce the overshoot that occurs due to the lag between the air reaching the set point, and the bimetalic strip warming up to that same temperature, finally signalling the boiler to switch on/off. The anticipator consists of a small electical resistor near the bimetalic strip. When the boiler comes on, the resistor starts to heat up. This causes the bimetalic strip to break the circuit slightly sooner than it would otherwise do, if left to measure the room air temperature alone.

In a similar way, a TRV sensor near to the radiator, closes the value slightly sooner, reducing the overshoot.

I regard TRVs as just automated versions of the lockshield valves fitted to radiators (the ones you can’t adjust manually), whose main purpose is to balance the flow of hot water between the various rooms and radiators in the house to achieve a more uniform temperature. They are not precision controls and the bias caused by being in close proximity to the radiator averages out in the grander scheme.

I’m familiar with the heat anticipator mechanical thermostats which appeared in the 1970s but modern electronic ones seem to work much better. I have seen room thermostats mounted on external walls which is not a good idea.

Apart from smart radiator valves, TRVs just have numbers rather than temperatures. They are a crude but adequate form of temperature control since human thermoregulation does a very good job for most of us. It’s amazing that the core body temperature is kept within a very narrow range and above or below this can be fatal.

My room stat has an anticipator element, but I’ve left it disconnected for the moment, although I’ve used a cable with a neutral connection so the option to connect it is available if needed. And I’m fitting steel panel radiators so do you think I should use the element? I read somewhere in one of my heating books that the anticipator element is provided for use with cast iron radiators which hold their heat more than others. And I could also use the neutral as a return path if I fit a neon to the stat to show when it’s calling.

The purpose of a heat anticipator, as Em has said, is to prevent the room temperature overshooting the required temperature. That is because heat from a radiator does not immediately warm the thermostat. There is information online but I’m happy with a modern electronic room thermostat.

I think I’ll have to wait until I’ve completed my heating system and then experiment with thermostat and see what happens while I watch my digital thermometer. In my bedroom I’m fitting the radiator on one wall with the thermostat on the far side of the room about twelve feet away, so I suppose the radiator could heat up one side of the room to a higher temperature than the thermostat setting before the heat reaches the stat, so it probably will need the little element connected to turn off the stat a bit faster, but only time will tell. I suppose the need for the anticipator varies for each system and how it’s installed.

Can you advise whether the CH uses more or less energy if it is switched off during daytime between 8am and 4pm, than if the temperature is turned down to about 10C during that time, to keep the home at an ambient temperature when vacant, and then programmed to turn up to about 20C at 4pm.

My daughter and son in law switch their heating off every morning when leaving the house and program it to turn back on from cold at 4pm, and their energy bill is still quite high even though they are out all day working. Would they save by turning the thermostat down to about 10C during the daytime when they are away? Their thermostat is situated in the hall.

I managed to free the stopcock with the gripper this morning, but only after spraying with WD40 again, waiting 10 mins, and warming the join by applying heat from a small candle. A tip I learned from youtube. Unfortunately the arm unit was spraying water which indicated a washer problem. I managed to contact a plumber who felt a new arm was probably needed, so is coming to fix it when convenient for me.

Thank you for all the help guys, it was much appreciated.

At least you have managed to get a plumber, Beryl. The last time I tried, in 2017, the only one I could find locally could not help immediately but kindly lent me tools.

It’s generally cheapest to turn heating off if it is not in use. If the temperature is turned down to 10°C for eight hours it probably won’t fall to that temperature, so it would be no different from having turned it off.

I decided to make a tool to turn off my stopcock more easily. It’s not stiff but at the back of a cupboard full of cleaning materials, including six types of cleaner for stainless steel sinks.

Switching heating off, or turning the thermostat down to 10C, will probably have the same result in energy use (probably none at all unless the house is very poorly insulated). They may need to look at what rooms they heat unnecessarily to save on their bills, and at their loft insulation.

Having a pleasantly warm home when you occupy it is what you seek to achieve so seeing how quickly the house gets back to a required temperature on a cold day should decide when to time the boiler to fire up. They may also consider the heating being turned off earlier in the morning; as they will be pretty active before going out a drop in temperature is not likely to be uncomfortable and will save a bit more energy. Experimentation with the timings is called for.

I generally find those little eraser sponge things get my stainless steel sink really clean, so no need for bottled stuff.

It is sometimes hard to understand that turning off heating is always cheaper than leaving it running. I explain it like this:

Your house is like a leaky bucket of water. The higher the water level in the bucket, the faster it leaks out.

Since you pay for water, would it be cheaper to:

a) keep the bucket filled to the brim at all times,

b) keep the bucket half full,

c) let the bucket empty and only re-fill it when you need to?

I trust everyone would agree that c) is the most economical choice.

Now, instead of a bucket holding water, you have a house holding heat. The walls, roof and floor leak heat. No matter how good, insulation is never perfect. The water level in the bucket is equivalent to the amount of energy in the house – as measured by a thermometer.

Answer a) is the same as keeping your house at 20C, answer b) is the same a keeping your house at 10C and answer c) is letting you house cool right down to outside temperature.

Of course, it is important not to let your house reach freezing temperature to avoid damage to pipes, condensation and damp, so 5C is the minimum safe temperature. But if you are just out for the day, it is usually fine to turn the heating off altogether.

The plumber wanted to come straight away Wavechange, but I was expecting a call from the hospital so he said he would phone me back. He was the same guy thar attended a problem with the toilet in the bathroom a few years ago.

The only problem with a cold house is mould, if left for too long during winter months. A few nasty black drips emerged from the stopcock when I got it to move. I will try to remember to turn it periodically to prevent it jamming again as you never know when you may need it in an emergency.

By the way, do you keep 6 types of cleaners, one for each sink, or 6 type of cleaners for one stainless steel sink 🙂

PS The plumber has just phoned to say he’s coming tomorrow at 9am.

Some people keep their heating on in order to prevent mould but unless there is a structural problem, inadequate ventilation is likely to be the main cause.

Correction, five types of stainless steel cleaner – one was duplicated. The creams are very good for brass that has heavily tarnished over winter, prior to copious application of Brasso. That’s not at home. The Cif spray is very effective but on limescale but evil but since it contains acid I have to hold my breath. I’ve not found abrasives effective, Crusader.

I have identified a valve that needs to be replaced and that is on order. Hopefully I won’t need to borrow Em’s buckets.

Just be glad that you have booked a plumber, Beryl. In the days before we had trained Gas Safe engineers it was risky to call a gas man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1dvAxA9ib0

That takes me back a few years Wavechange! I found the same rendition complete with lyrics so that I didn’t miss any of the humour. Flanders and Swann were brilliant and extremely funny. When I told the plumber over the phone I put a lighted candle under the stopcock to warm it up he was highly amused! Well it succeeded in shifting it!. I think it must have attained enlightenment 🙂

I’ve yet to find a suitable mask that cuts out all strong smells associated with chemical cleaning fluid. Even the industrial type don’t filter it out completely.

I think i will continue to keep my CH system on 15C during the night and increase it to 20C when I get up in the morning, as I don’t have enough buckets to try Ems bucket experiment. I will certainly pass it on when I next speak to my daughter on the phone though!

I guess he was amused because a quick waft of his gas blowtorch would produce a lot more than one candlepower of heat.

If your daughter has a gas smart meter it would be very easy to carry out tests to find out the costs of leaving heating on overnight, turning it down and turning it off. Obviously this will be affected by whether it is mild or cold.

That’s why you fit a frost stat, to override the programmer and the room stat and fire up the system if the house gets too cold. And of course if the house is well insulated it would take absolutely ages, most likely several weeks for the house to cool right down. And most of my house is not heated and hasn’t been for well over 30 years and it’s not that well insulated and it only ever cools down to about 7 degrees C downstairs in the depth of winter. But I’ve still fitted a frost stat anyway just in case as I don’t want my hugely expensive cast iron heat exchanger cracked, no chance!

The little “eraser” sponges are actually not abrasive, they’re soft and they’re activated by warm water and I’ve found them very effective for cleaning metal, not just a stainless sink. They have some kind of chemical in them that cleans the muck and tarnishing off and they don’t scratch. And you can also use them to clean the outside of stainless pans and to clean the cooker. They keep my cooker and my sink lovely and clean, but they don’t last very long, at least not the way I use them.

Sorry, I did not know what you meant by eraser sponges. Here is an article by Which? https://www.which.co.uk/news/2014/05/are-magic-eraser-sponges-too-good-to-be-true-365990/
I need to work my way through a stock of sink cleaners for the time being.

In discussing home heating and energy saving we should not overlook the role of soft furnishings.

The fashion for hard floors has affected room temperatures; they take longer to warm up and don’t necessarily hold much warmth. Fitted carpets with a high wool content and a good underlay provide comfort underfoot and heat retention.

Good curtains, closed during the daytime in winter months when the house is vacant, can save considerable heat loss. Blinds of any type do not insulate but might cause draughts around the edges and between the vanes in vertical and Venetian types. If blinds are preferred, Roman ones are best since they overlap the edges of the window and are usually made with fabric which can be inter-lined.

Fabric upholstery and feather-filled cushions provide warmth and comfort when seated for lengthy periods watching TV [another source of heat].

Furniture should not block radiators but in many modern houses that is difficult to achieve in living rooms because of room sizes, open plan designs, and large glazed doors across one wall.

A porch can make a significant difference to internal warmth.

Velvet door curtains are rarely fitted these days but where a house is particularly hard to heat or there are uncomfortable draughts they can save heat loss. The original fittings can still be found at reclamation outlets or new swinging drapery arms with fittings are available from specialist suppliers.

It is important to pay attention to ventilation in dealing with home heating, both for personal health and for fire safety reasons if there is a gas fire or a wood or multi-fuel burning stove in the room.

If a stiff drink appeals as a heartwarmer, only brandy does the business. Other liquors tend to have a temporary warming effect but soon actually chill the body [alcohol lowers your core body temperature because the rush of blood to the skin’s surface is a means of body cooling].

For a warmer bed when retiring, open the bed about an hour beforehand and let the room heating warm the sheets and duvet cover. Laying on a warm surface is better than having a heavy top layer on the bed, so a cotton bottom sheet with a flannel or flannelette under-sheet is a good way to stay warm throughout the night. What you wear in bed makes a difference too; taboo though they might be, socks keep the tootsies toasty.

Thought for today

Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality.

Imagination fuels a new reality. 🙂

Why fight or contest reality?

Because reality is perceived differently by everyone, according to the capacity and degree of sensory input and the unique distribution of individual neurological receptor circuitry in the brain.

.”Absolute reality is the ultimate, usually conceived as all encompassing, the sum of all being, actual and potential, or otherwise, transcending the concept of being altogether.”
Georg Withelm Friedrich Hegel,

The minds ability to imagine is an effective way of evading absolute reality which would prove too much for most to cope with at this stage in human evolution.

Beryl — Thank you for the Hegel quotation. In the context of “absolute reality” your Thought for the Day makes a lot more sense than the way in which I took it initially.

Our council has just announced that, in order to close anticipated budget gaps totalling £10.6m over the next four years, it will be “re-imagining” its services. Using euphemisms for cuts is no doubt part of its escape from reality.

John – Politicians and Local councillors seem to have perfected the art of evading absolute reality! See my last comment on Boris’s speech………..

I enjoyed your comments on the Tory Party leader’s address to the multitudes. I didn’t watch it but saw snippets on the news. It was a show business exercise carefully stage-managed taking us down the American route into party conventions with all the razzamatazz, banners and flag-waving. Not much substance however.

The Labour leader was heckled and the party “faithful” were mindful of the cameras and stood and cheered now and then. Boris addressed his crowd, who remained seated and clapped politely now and then. Boris glossed over the National problems and gave us aspirational soundbites without much detail on what he would do to make his goals into happenings. Sir Kier spent a long time telling us who he was and what motivated him. He avoided the party disunity and it was left to the cameras to show the red card dissenters waving from the crowd. It was a calm and collected speech but not one where it seemed that singing the final “Red Flag” afterwards sent the party home on a high determined to change the world. Boris dotted around like a fly in the room, landing and flying off in another direction. Sir Kier soldiered like a mole gradually coming to the surface of his mole-hill. Neither thumped a tub or roused anyone. Boris has to pull the country back from a deep depression and counter the negatives of supply shortages and general discontent at the way climate, economy and international affairs are shaping. He made a careful speech which avoided much of these issues in any detail. Sir Kier has to unite his party before he can attack other parties. His balancing act produced a thoughtful and introspective speech but left the conference to go home and reflect rather than get up and go.

Politicians are in marketing, proponents of optimism. If politicians told the whole truth and weighed the good and the bad I doubt many people would like it. They would simply support those who told them what they wanted to hear.

What bothers me is when politicians declare their stance, as they often do, for a particular faction in a bid to attract their votes. So, just as one example, a “party of the workers” (which powerful trades unions like); most of us are, or were, “workers”, using our time to earn money to support ourselves. Or, “the party of business”. We all live in the same country and all should have an administration – government – that works fairly on all our behalves. In practice that is probably what happens, underneath the rhetoric, unless by mischance a reactionary group take control.

You forgot to mention the reactionary group on the far right of the opposition benches, alias The Scottish ‘Nasty’ Party, with acting tribal chief Ian Blackford’s heated and vociferous exchanges, whose main hate game is entirely focused on reducing the Tory Party down to his own level. The real chief, affectionally known as The Rottweiler to local opposition groups, of course never present, relying on her litter to represent her at Westminster.

More difficulty logging in again despite officially signing in with user name + password. Tea ceremony lady gone missing, had to go through Wavechange via Community to log in.

Dave the plumber has been and gone along with the old ballcock, which has been replaced with an ominous looking black component! The handle needed replacing but he didn’t have anything similar in his van, so we quickly went online and he found one that would fit. He had to saw the old handle off due to corrosion and talked me through how to fit the new one arriving tomorrow.

Modern technology came to the rescue and solved what could have resulted in yet another problem.

It’s good that you are not dependent on a single toilet, as many of us were in our younger days. Unfortunately multiple bathrooms can cause more problems, so there is plenty to keep plumbers in business. I hope you are flushed with success soon.

I should be able to collect my replacement valve soon and hopefully it will be an easy job.

It is good that Which? should continue to highlight the phishing emails (e.g. Supermarkets and now Anti-Virus software) to draw them to the attention of the public, although there is little point in commenting that someone-should-do-something-about-it. I think we have to accept that a lot of this traffic is generated from beyond the reach of any UK authority.

But there is a different type of spam email where accountability is possible. For instance, for the last few months, my inbox has been polluted with regular marketing emails addressed to a stolen email address, from a marketing agency called Karma Response SL, based in Barcelona, Spain. Needless to say, I have never given them permission to send me marketing communications.

But some of these emails appear to be promoting the services of well-known companies in the UK, such as Boots and Lloyds pharmacy, Verisure alarms, as well as various funeral plans, dodgy investments and Russian dating sites.

How is it possible for a company, like Boots, to associate itself with an EU marketing agency that is in blatant breach of GDPR, without any accountability for these illegal actions? Assuming there is a contractual relationship, there should be joint and several liability for this, and Boots should be accountable to the ICO. If not, Boots should be suing this agency for unauthorised use of their trademarks.

There is not much point in an individual in going after some tinpot marketing agency in Spain. They won’t get very far. But if the law extends to the companies that these agencies are supposed to represent, we might see some action.

There is an interesting new development in the squabble to obtain refunds for flights operated by Ryanair, reported yesterday by The Guardian. Ryanair are now refusing to carry passengers, unless they pay back Ryanair for a earlier missed flight.

These were flights that operated normally when Covid travel restrictions were in place. Ryanair relied on their standard “no refund” policy, to refuse to reimburse passengers who were legally unable to travel. Some customers were later successful in using chargeback via their credit card provider to get their money returned.

Whilst chargeback is a useful remedy for the consumer, it is important to understand that successfully recovering money via chargeback (or the Direct Debit guarantee) does not mean your contract is automatically at an end, or absolve you of any debt still owed to a supplier.

Some passengers that are now rebooking with Ryanair are being refused travel under Ryanair’s standard terms and conditions:

7.1 We may refuse to carry you or your baggage on any flights operated by an airline of the Ryanair Group, if one or more of the following circumstances apply, or we have good reason to believe that they may apply … .

You owe us any money in respect of a previous flight owing to payment having been dishonoured, denied or recharged against us

Passengers may still travel if the cost of the earlier flight is returned to Ryanair. If not, Ryanair will refund the cost of the flight they are refusing to carry you on.

I would never dream of giving repeat business to a company that I had previously had a dispute with, unless it had been settled by mutual agreement or I had no choice. It would seem that some consumers like to push their luck, and this time I feel Ryanair has them over a barrel.

I would have thought the law of frustrated contracts would apply in such a case even though the previously-booked flights were not actually cancelled. Given the government’s directions and the conditions in foreign countries, and not withstanding Ryanair’s reluctance to cancel the flights, passengers were not in a position to travel. Under the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act 1943 both parties [i.e. the passenger and the airline] are released from the contract which, due to circumstances due to neither party’s actions, has been rendered unviable and is thereby frustrated. The passengers get their money back and the airline does not have to carry them, so it is a neutral outcome. In my view, Ryanair have no basis on which to reclaim any chargebacks or S.75 compensation payments. The new booking establishes a new contract, but Ryanair do presumably have the right at its discretion to decline to accept a booking.

The problem for some passengers could be that Ryanair is the only carrier to and from a particular destination, or only goes there on certain days, and that accommodation and other travel arrangements have already been booked. There are probably flights by other carriers to any destination but Ryanair could be the cheapest. It looks to me as though Ryanair are being particularly and deliberately awkward, but as Em suggests they do not deserve repeat business.

It would be interesting to have a legal opinion on whether the second sentence of clause 7.1 in Ryanair’s terms and conditions [as quoted in Em’s comment above] is an unfair contract term, in which case it could be void.

You might be right John, but the passenger’s unilateral action to chargeback their entire fare shows that they were not interested in a more balanced approach. Under the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act 1943, Ryanair would have had the right to deduct reasonable expenses, the pre-travel administrative costs of booking flights, for instance. The passenger could have claimed a refund of the government taxes, as these were not payable by Ryanair in the event of a cancellation. I expect the actual value of the flights in question would be no more than £10 each way.

However, I don’t agree that Ryanair was either at fault or unable to fulfill their part of the bargain. Ryanair fares are unrefundable – that is clear and that is why they are so cheap. The Covid-19 restrictions only made it impossible for some passengers not to travel. Certain exempt workers and foreign nationals were legally entitied to travel. How should Ryanair be expected to know? It is really no different to turning up at the airport with an expired passport or other invalid travel documents.

There were similar cases where EuroTunnel customers expected a refund of their non-refundable crossings because they were not eligible to travel legally to France under Covid-19 restrictions. I don’t think they got refunds.

Having defended my least favourite airline, I am still interested to see how this develops from a consumer standpoint. Are the contract’s terms and conditions unfair? Why didn’t the passengers affected read them and take note? Maybe they are simply not clear enough?

Perhaps it should just read: “If you’ve s*****d us over in the past, you won’t be welcome on board in future and we have ways of making things very unpleasant for you if you try.”

Yes, Em, this is an interesting case and far from clear cut. As often happens with cases reported by Which? we do not get all the information we need to give it full consideration. We do not know when the original flight was to take place; if it was in the early days of the coronavirus emergency it would be understandable for passengers to make a chargeback or S.75 claim because there was very little awareness of the frustrated contracts provision, and even Which? did not mention it or refer to it for a long time. And tour operators, airlines, accommodation providers, wedding venues and other businesses did not know about t and gave no regard to it in their terms and conditions; they probably thought they could keep deposits and advance payments if their customer decided not to travel or attend — and normally that would be the case where there was a no refund policy in place.

We also do not know the destination so we can only speculate on the ticket prices. Nor do we know whether the new flight is a like-for-like replacement of the original one [it might not make any difference, of course.

This does throw a little light on the chargeback scheme. It clearly irks Ryanair that a customer’s bank or credit card issuer can revoke a payment. Whether the payee can appeal against such a decision, or even have any say in the matter is unclear, but my inference is that the decision is the payer’s bank’s alone. This case has also skirted around the CAA who presumably have no view on the matter once the chargeback procedure has been applied.

I do have some sympathy for Ryanair in this instance because their business model is based on full occupancy of their aeroplanes; even a few passengers pulling out and getting their money back could mean the flight is entirely lossmaking.

I have relatives who were in close contact within the last 2/3 weeks, with someone who was recently admitted into hospital with COVID-19. They have both been vaccinated and followed up with LFD and PCR tests, both of which came back negative. They also live a few miles north of Newbury in Berkshire.

I was very surprised they tested negative on both results, but I was unable to ascertain the extent of protection they took, which led me to research into the odds of contracting Covid after receiving 2 vaccinations, and came up with the following advice. The safety measures are represented by a model of multiple layers of Swiss Cheese, and the level of protection taken, which demonstrates the need to continue wearing face masks + social distancing + cleaning and disinfecting + hand washing for high risk people.

See: health.clevelandclinic.org – Can You Be Around Someone With COVID-19 (or exposed) And Not Get It?

Having two vaccinations is greatly beneficial in preventing serious illness should you become infected. It does not prevent infection, however, so it makes sense to continue taking precautions https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/how-to-avoid-catching-and-spreading-coronavirus-covid-19/

Hopefully, sensible people taking these precautions will also help prevent spreading the ‘flu if and when it arrives.

I am due a flu jab tomorrow. The only booster Covid available is Pfizer which has to be a separate appointment at the local health centre, and approved by a local GP, so I am now awaiting feedback for another appointment following a letter sent to them and copied to me authorising this from the hospital consultant.

Life is getting more complicated with each minute!

Malcolm, we already know sensible people are in very short supply, when it comes to Covid precautions.

I read that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are being used for the current vaccination programme. I hope you will back soon to say that it has gone well, Beryl.

But for a little inconvenience your life and health are being protected, Beryl. Not a bad swap 🙂

You wouldn’t have thought so Malcolm, if you had been on the receiving end of the GP Practices phone this afternoon, especially when I declared all the doctors where in isolation at present, following the 6 o’clock BBC news yesterday 🙂

Wavechange, thank you for your continued support and good wishes. I’m afraid it was very much a case of Pfizer or neither. I too read Moderna vaccine would be another choice for high risk people. The main criterion seems to lie with immunosuppressive people to qualify for the booster Covid vaccine at present. However, I now have to sit tight and wait for a response to the letter from the hospital consultant to the GP.

Meantime I sincerely hope you receive some better news soon about your chances of receiving a booster covid vaccine Wavechange.

I had two doses of the Oxford vaccine, Beryl but will accept what I am offered. The second was nearly six months ago, so I should hear soon. I’m not worried about reaction to the vaccine, just being indoors with other people. So far I have never had more that a sore arm or felt a little gruesome until the following day, following vaccination, which are typical reactions.

Except for frontline health and social care workers, we are expected to wait to be contacted for Covid booster jabs. When calling my GP surgery for routine test results there was a recorded message asking callers to wait to be contacted. Message received.

Phil says:
15 October 2021

Local practice did both for me last Saturday; booster (Pfizer) in left arm, ‘flu in right. The e-mail I got from the NHS said this was safer but didn’t explain why. Strange they won’t do yours at the same time Beryl. Anyway absolutely no side effects and I wish the same for you.

Thanks Phil, it’s good to know yours went alright and very encouraging. I have yet to receive the latest Government NHS letter, maybe it’s because the vaccine programme coincides with consent direct from the hospital, and the advice from there was to receive both at the same time. Will keep you posted – I have everything crossed at the moment!
🙂

Thought for today

Regular naps prevent old age – especially if you take them while driving.

I expect one would be enough when on the motorway, but the terrible thing is that its effects would not be limited to the driver.

It is a serious problem, hence the warnings about driving when tired. New cars now have features that can detect that the driver is not alert, for example if they are drifting out of a lane on a motorway. As a bonus this might provide a warning to concentrate on driving rather than playing with the mobile.

Narcotics can also dull the senses and their use is a growing danger. In some cases it can take a few days without a further intake for the effects to wear off.

Some information from across the pond:
Key drowsy driving statistics

How many accidents are caused by drowsy driving?

Drowsy driving accounts for about 100,000 crashes annually on the roadway, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities per year (NSC)
Drowsy driving contributes to an estimated 9.5% of all crashes, and 10.8% of those that involved airbag deployment (AAA)
Drowsy driving mimics alcohol-impaired driving — 18 hours without sleep is similar to a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05% (CDC)

How often do people drive while drowsy?

About 27% of drivers report driving while being so tired they have difficulty keeping their eyes open (AAA)
1 in 25 drivers admit to falling asleep behind the wheel (CDC)
47% of those who have nodded off while driving did so on a trip lasting one hour or less (NHTSA)

When does drowsy driving happen?

Most drowsy driving crashes occur between midnight and 6am or later on in the afternoon when the body regulates sleep (NHTSA)
Drowsy driving crashes often only involve a single passenger running off the road (NHTSA)
Drowsy driving crashes are more common on highways and rural roads (NHTSA)

I would not rely on US statistics. They drive on the wrong side of the road, which can be dangerous.

Indeed Wavechange. My car told me off when (on a quiet road) I was trying to do something to change the music, on the touch screen. It told me I was tired and should take a break. It didn’t actually detect the next layby and pull in, but it knew I was not concentrating on the road ahead.

Touch screens seem to be a rather retrograde step that can cause significant distraction. Maybe the touch facility should be disabled while driving.

I have yet to gain much experience of this sort of technology, Vynor, though I have experimented with triggering the warning system on two cars by deliberately drifting out of a lane when no-one was around. My present car has no such features, though it does stop me fiddling with display settings when the car is moving.

It used to take an hour a unit of alcohol for the effects to wear off. Heavy consumption the night before can still render you unsafe to drive the following morning.

CONTACTLESS CARD LIMITS
A few of us discussed this elsewhere and that is probably buried somewhere in The Lobby.

https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/09/which-banks-will-allow-you-to-control-your-contactless-card-limit/ Having seen this article and others, I was disappointed to find that the contactless limit on a Lloyds credit card had been raised to £100 with no option for me to change it.

I rang Lloyds and was told that they are working on providing customers with the opportunity to lower their contactless limit. It might have been a good idea to put this in place beforehand but cardholders of most banks are just given the choice of having a contactless card limit of £100 or cancelling the contactless facility.

Viper Bugloss says:
21 October 2021

When Do You Turn Your Heating On?

When I absolutely have to. I am retired, a 74 year man living on his own. I am renting an old property which is heated by three night storage heaters, which are expensive and inefficient. I am not in a position to buy or to move so I am stuck. My electricity costs could go be at the rate of over £2,000 a year, so I am delaying as long as possible putting the heating on. Currently, I am with Neon Reef but their status has to be precarious. I they go under I will almost certainly be faced with even higher bills.