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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.

25 October: Energy companies, podcasts, and Christmas trees(!)

The unprecedented rate of energy companies closing continues, with now a total of thirteen companies having ceased trading since the beginning of September.  As you know we’re watching the situation closely and updating our advice guidance frequently on this.  Here’s where you can: 

Energy prices is the largest concern you have told us about in our discussions about the costs of living, but there’s a lot more going on out there, not least with rises in inflation and concerns over rising coronavirus numbers.  We’d love to continue to hear what’s on your mind, and what tips and advice you might want to share with others who may be in a similar situation. 

Which? Podcasts: digital currency and hackable homes

On this week’s Which? Money podcast, you can hear an exclusive interview with Tom Morgan from the Bank of England on plans for a new digital currency.

The Which? Investigates podcast is also back for a new season devoted to tech and security. In the first episode, we investigate how hackable your home really is – and what changes we can make in order to keep ourselves safe.

Christmas trees: real or fake?

Early notice – it’s exactly two months to the day until Christmas Day (you’re welcome, I’m sorry).

Over on Which? News our reviews team has taken a look into the eco-credentials of all of the different Christmas tree options available to you.

If you celebrate Christmas by putting up a tree, we’re curious to know: what kind do you go for, and why?

What kind of Christmas tree do you put up each year?

An artificial tree (plastic or metal) (44%, 372 Votes)

N/A - I do not put up a Christmas tree (31%, 261 Votes)

A full-size real tree (bought and cut down) (12%, 99 Votes)

An artifical tree (made from sustainable materials) (6%, 51 Votes)

A small potted tree (6%, 49 Votes)

Something else (tell us in the comments) (2%, 18 Votes)

A full-size real tree (rented) (0%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 853

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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?

£11 - £49 (55%, 199 Votes)

£50 - £99 (19%, 68 Votes)

£10 or less (11%, 38 Votes)

N/A - I do not use contactless (6%, 22 Votes)

£100 - £149 (4%, 13 Votes)

No limit on contactless transactions (2%, 8 Votes)

A different amount - tell us in the comments (2%, 7 Votes)

£150 or more (1%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 359

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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.


I’m failing to understand how the Budget statement, that the new duty bands will affect Red wine but not White wine, is correct.
The Budget report says that the relevant duty band is 8.5% – 22% alcohol. Now the Red wine in my wine rack is 12.5% alcohol whilst three different white wines are 11.5%. 12.5% and 13% alcohol. I do not see anything in the Budget report (section 2.179) which says that colour discrimination will be introduced into the taxation system so how could there be a duty difference? I rarely see any ordinary White wine which has LESS that 8.5% alcohol. (I know there are some low alcohol products, but they are in a small minority.)

Gerard — I think the link shown in Jon Stricklin-Coutinho’s comment above clarifies the position. The duty on stronger red wines and fortified wines will be up-rated while that on sparkling wines and rosé will be down-rated.

Thank you John for the link. I had already read it and did not find it provided an answer. The comment on red wine only makes sense if the author believes that all white wine has a strength of below 8.5%, which is not the case. I have since read the 57 page Treasury Consultation document on the subject which also details the Government proposals, but it does not mention red or white wine by reference to their colour.
Therefore I conclude this comment on Red wine is an error of interpretation, not a feature of the proposals.

Tax, as I understood it, would be dependent only on alcohol content – red, white or rose – with the silly extra tax on sparkling wine removed.

No need to get too excited about cheaper plonk. The new duty rates will not apply until April 2023 by which time inflation and other issues could have completely distorted the picture.

David Bird says:
28 October 2021

Light the woodburner.

The budget statement was well presented by a good communicator. I am saddened to have to listen to the opposition whose job, it seems, is to attack the content and the government because this is a tradition and what is expected. The SNP leader spent most of his time on independence and that was really what he wanted to talk about, not the budget. I leave it to others to analyse the budget facts and its strengths and weaknesses. They, hopefully will talk about what has been proposed and not spout political rhetoric for its own sake. My surprise was the lack of reference to climate change given COP 26 is upon us, and the billions floating around after the worst fiscal year in living memory.

My initial reaction to Budget 2021 was . . . Phew!! It could have been worse.

I thought the popular reactions were more revealing than the budget itself. Hoping that the government would neutralise the likely increases in energy prices, and therefore being extremely bitter that it won’t, struck me as being thoroughly unrealistic given what we have gone through lately.

I think underlying the main points was evidence of trying to construct a balanced budget that didn’t end up wrecking the economy, provides subtle incentives to economise, or to get a job, or to make other changes, and ensures the pain was evenly distributed so far as possible.

Nicely put John and much the same as I thought, though you expressed it succinctly here.

I was saddened, Vynor, by the “two can play that game” threat made to the French by a government minister over the fishing boat licence squabble. It just reinforces my view that many politicians are immature nincompoops who have never left their schooldays behind them. Mind you, the Frogs are just as bad; or worse, in looking for ways to create problems. Both sides should sit down with a nice bottle of English wine and some French Brie and sort things out in a civilised way.

Or maybe the fisherfolk should glue themselves to a Jersey beach.

I was also disappointed by the juvenile language, Malcolm.

I think the DEFRA minister has made the Foreign Secretary’s task more difficult than it needs to be.

Decent diplomacy and a bit of decorum is the way to settle these issues.

The media’s language in relation of the summoning of the French ambassador was also unnecessarily belligerent I thought.