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This month on Which? Conversation: September 2021

Here’s what’s happening on Which? Conversation and around which.co.uk during the month of September.

27 September: Petrol queues, cladding protests, and rising energy bills

Did you get caught in petrol queues over the weekend?  The rush of panic buying and ensuing shortage has been all over the news this weekend, with the latest being reports the Army may be drafted in to deliver fuel.

What’s been the situation where you are?  Were you waiting in the queues–or caught in the traffic backups around them?  If you did fill up, how long did you wait?  Have the rushes on the pumps caused you to rethink how you travel? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments. 

The latest on energy suppliers

Which? experts are still on top of rising wholesale gas prices and the effect it is having on energy suppliers (and consumers). So far, nearly 1.5 million customers have been affected since the start of September.

Check out the latest updates on failing energy companies. If you’ve recently been told that your energy supplier has ceased trading, or if the rising energy bills are affecting you in another way, we’d love to hear your experience so far.

Let’s talk about energy price rises

Hear the voices of those affected by the cladding crisis

The Which? Video team recently went along to the Leaseholders Together rally to hear directly from those affected by the Cladding Crisis.  Watch as they share their stories, or listen along on the latest episode of the Which? Money podcast:

15 September: If you change your mind…

Something we’re watching this week: energy bills.  It’s only two weeks away from the planned price rises in energy bills, so if you’re out of contract or approaching the end of your current energy bill contract, you may want to consider switching to a new provider to avoid future price rises. 

We’ll be starting a new conversation about switching this Friday, 17 September about your experiences of switching.  If you’re thinking of switching and want to hear from others, or if you have a bad switch that you’d like to tell others about, please do join us then.  

For some, changing providers may be less of a choice, as half a million households will be moved to new energy companies after Utility Point and People’s Energy go bust.  If you’re one of them, check out our guide on what to do if your energy supplier goes bust, and our discussion on how long you may wait for a refund from your former supplier, if you’re owed money of course.  

Something we weren’t expecting to happen this week – the return of ABBA.  The Swedish band have announced a new album and virtual concert coming to London in 2022. Earlier many of you had shared your thoughts on digital fakes and de-aging in our earlier discussion of Paul McCartney’s video

…deep fakes are a potentially worrying technology, as might be used by bad actors for criminal purposes.  (DerekP)


…  the problem is that it is probably a very time-consuming and expensive process for which very few events would generate sufficient audience [and hence the advertising revenue] to justify the cost –

John Ward, in relation to remastering/colouring vintage film

Would this be an experience you’d pay for?  On the one hand there’s nothing like live music, particularly after concerts being on hold for so long due to the pandemic.  On the other hand, is it really live though – and if they’re not really there, couldn’t you just watch it on a screen at home? 

Would you pay for and attend a concert where the performers are virtual?
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Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

8 September: T&Cs, sneezes, and the future of money

Inspired by Em’s comment in the Lobby, what do you do when you are wearing a mask and have to sneeze?

What do you do if you have to sneeze while you're wearing a face covering?
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With more people travelling, we’ve been hearing a plethora of complaints about travel tests, from tests being ordered and not arriving to people unable to find a cheap test from the list of providers.  Following a lot of these complaints the cheapest firm on the government’s list of travel test providers has been removed.  We’ll update these as more details emerge, particularly with talk of upcoming lockdowns and of scrapping the traffic light system in favour of a Green/Red system. 

Updating our Terms and Conditions and Community Guidelines

We’ve reviewed and updated our Terms and Conditions on Which? Conversation. If at first glance these appear very similar to the previous version, you’d be correct; materially these are consistent to the earlier version, with much of the update being in page style and navigation.   

Here’s a summary of the key changes:

  • We’ve clarified the wording on the registration process for Which? Conversation, including how to register using your email address, using a social media account, or by commenting as a guest.   
  • We’ve added in a section about how to remove your data from Which? Conversation, including removing your user account from the site, and how you can hide or remove your comments from Which? Conversation.
  • We have clarified the rule on posting of personal information in regard to business email addresses linked to an individual (e.g. firstname.lastname@examplebusiness.com) – the most common example of these is a CEO’s email address. These qualify as personal contact details under our Terms and Conditions, so going forward our moderation team will be removing these as we would with general personal contact details.  Email addresses not linked to an individual (e.g. report@phishing.gov.uk), or linking to pages which feature one’s business contact details, is allowable under the Terms and Conditions.

Alongside this, our Community Guidelines page has also had a refresh. The key change you’ll see here is how the page is organised: we’ve taken the previous long list and divided it into Do’s and Don’ts, as well as making sure the wording is consistent with the updates to the Terms and Conditions.  Should you have any questions feel free to leave a comment here, or equally get in touch via the Contact us page.

The death of the wallet and passbook?

A couple of interesting stories on the subject of banking and the future of money caught our eye this week:

We’d be interested to know what these changes might mean for you – is your banking passbook an essential or a relic? Have you started using your mobile phone to pay more often? If so, why did you change from other payment methods?

Let us know in the comments.  

1 September: When does autumn start for you?

When does autumn actually start for you? With school starting and holidays ending? Cooler temperatures and shorter days? Maybe the return of pumpkin spice in your coffee? Can autumn actually start if summer – and the warmer weather it is expected to bring – didn’t really happen?

This question started a short debate around the virtual office the other day, and we’d be interested to hear how you’re marking the seasons, especially given the the regular cadences of summer holidays aren’t as regular due to the pandemic.

New petrol and the costs of holidaying at home

Some of the stories we’re watching:

Would you use a buy now, pay later scheme to book a holiday?
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What’s in store this month

Our scheduled events will resume later this month, where we’ll welcome Which? Magazine editor Harry Rose to the site for your questions. Watch this space for updates to come.

We’ll also be starting discussions on switching energy bills, whether you trust online ads, and updating you on how we’re campaigning on travel, among other discussions.

As part of our test and learn period as well we’ll also be updating and refreshing a lot of the older pages on the site and changing what pages appear in the comments and activity feeds so that we’re better able to steer people to topical conversations. We’ll announce these changes here as they go live.

One of the more immediate changes you’ll see is in this post itself. Rather than a new post posted each week, we’ll be posting one post for the month and updating it each week. This should hopefully reduce the number of pages you would need to click through to follow the conversation.

Over to you – what’s in store for September? Let’s chat in the comments.


My Autumn starts sometime in October – depending on the weather the later the better. I do not want to wish the Summer away. It certainly doesn’t start when the schools go back – why would it?

E10 petrol has got to be the biggest con out. For starters, it contains 90% conventional petrol as opposed to 95% for E5 – an insignificant decrease. The ethanol replacement (bio or any other kind) has the chemical formula C2H5OH which, when burned, produces carbon dioxide and water. So that part of it is NOT carbon-neutral. Plus, what will happen to ‘non-compatible’ cars? They will become valueless and destined for the scrap heap – incurring more energy consumption in doing so and making replacements…

Far better not to use a car at all for short journeys, the majority of which are under 5 miles. Most of these can be walked or cycled. A bike with panniers can carry a lot of shopping – and the bike is carrying its weight. Don’t forget that a car engine is least efficient when it’s cold – and most engines need to do 10 miles to get fully warm.

E5 will still be available for at least 5 years in the more expensive “super” form.

Although E10 petrol will not be a problem for most car owners it could cause problems for equipment with small engines that are unused for months, for example over winter. This could affect lawnmowers but is more likely to be a problem for the small engines used in strimmers and chainsaws. It’s best to allow the carburettor to run dry or use an (expensive) alternative to petrol (e.g. Aspen fuels) the last time the machine is used before storage.

Exactly, Wavechange. I use Aspen for the last couple of fill-ups of the season in the mowers and strimmer – and always in the rotavator. However, for those who have so far got away with petrol, I reckon they will be carb jet cleaning at the start of the next few seasons – with a whole new fuel system tank to port every 5-10 years (carb, pipe, tap…)

What if they by premium/super petrol which I understand is only 5%?

The problem started with E5 petrol, though it was difficult to distinguish between the effect of ethanol and stale petrol. Modern car engines have computer systems that allow them to cope with different grades of petrol but small engines may need to be adjusted to use petrol containing ethanol. Unfortunately the adjustment screws on carburettors tend to be factory sealed for emissions control.

I share Roger’s concerns.

I start stocking up on lots of essential goods, like bog rolls, razors, soap, cleaning stuff, aero 360 refills, anything that’s routinely consumable and runs out fairly quick so I can avoid having to go to shops that are full of stupid outright EVIL and grotesquely SICK halloween stuff, which causes me all manner of aggro which I absolutely DON’T need. And the household goods chain stores start filling up with such stuff from late august/early september which is FAR too early. And it so infuriates me how so many shops, including one well known British charity won’t display anything remotely Christian in december in case it might be supposedly “offensive” to non-Christian cultures, but that’s not the real reason is it? because IF they’re so “concerned” about offensiveness then how come their shops are still piled high with hideous halloween stuff two months earlier in october and earlier? What outright hypocrisy! No-one ever thinks of that do they, not even Christians by the looks of it. Well they should. And of course I try and do what maintenance I can on the outside of the house before the temperature drops too anywhere near frost level and before the autumn rains come. And I make sure my soda stream is fully gassed up in late august so it will last me until early november as I now only drink fizzy water.

Miranda says:
15 September 2021

I label seasons according to the meteorological quarters, so Sept-Nov are Autumn for me. Psychologically, there are two markers: leaf colour and the smell/feel of the air. So knowing it to be autumn and feeling it to be autumn are separate things.

Apropos BNPL for holidays – isn’t that how packages are usually sold? You pay a deposit, then the full price X weeks before travel. I will cheerfully continue doing that. But the popular BNPL looks to me like HP but even more debt-driven. I prefer only to spend when I know I can afford to. For food for my family in the week before payday, if they would otherwise go hungry, then maybe (though would then worry how I’d fund the following pay period). But for toys and clothes? Nah!

Did you know this week is Gas Safety Week?
For Gas Saftey Week we are focusing on the importance of having a safe and reliable carbon monoxide alarm in your home and how getting annual boiler service could save your life, as well as saving you money. Check out our content for more information and don’t forget to book your annual service: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/09/do-you-have-a-safe-and-reliable-carbon-monoxide-alarm-in-your-home/

I am abroad at the moment with my wife & son. I took out Breakdown Cover for 2 weeks until the 20th September. Through unforeseen circumstances I wanted to extend the cover by a week but on contacting Start I was informed they do not extend cover once abroad. That I could only purchase cover while in the UK. I phoned the AA and was informed I couldn’t buy cover from abroad to cover me to the UK.
So motorists should be made aware UK companies won’t extend Breakdown Cover if you are already abroad.
Why not? I haven’ta clue.

Which have just launched a new campaign to “MAKE TECH GIANTS TAKE RESPONSIBILITY”, along with an invitation to add your name to a petition.

There are some glitzy graphical effects, presumably hiding a subliminal message to Sign! Sign! Sign! for those who succumb to hypnosis. Normally, when I am asked to give my support to a petition, there is a clear statement about what is being demanded and from whom. It’s also about free choice.

I won’t be adding my name unless Which? are open about what I am signing up to and cut down on the chicanery.

If you had followed the Convo discussions on the subject your subliminal conscientiousness would have no need to query it.

peter saunders says:
27 September 2021

was in a queue for petrol as down to last 10 miles and use car to take mum to medical appointments after surgery. waited some 20 mins, but can see some places will restock this week. Hopefully the £20 will last for a while, so long as petrol stations restock. Are there car sharing apps?

I don’t know about car sharing apps but perhaps it’s worth speaking to neighbours or local friends to help your mum. One of my neighbours asked for a lift to a railway station and respectfully sat in the back with a face mask on.

I was quite excited to read the new “Best Electric Cars of the Year So Far” by Adrian Porter, as I’m thinking of changing mine.

That is, until I read the top recommendation, a Porsche Taycan (2020-) 81% costing £83635.00

What planet do you people live on? Not mine, I hope!

Perhaps it would be better to invest in a porch rather than a Porsche.

I remember when Adrian used to discuss washing machines and detergents with us on Conversation.

That’s about the price of essential extras on a basic Rolls-Royce, Em, that include power operated picnic tables. Perhaps one is in the Which? testing programme?

I wonder why the EU sets an upper limit of 900W on domestic vacuum cleaners yet makes no attempt to regulate the size or consumption of motor car engines, neither fossil-fuelled nor electric?

That is a very pertinent point, Malcolm. It would be interesting to see if the EU would be able to answer it.

I wonder if there will be an electric Roller one day. Another tonne of heavy metal shouldn’t make much difference except perhaps to the price. R-R used not to disclose the power output of its motors, always describing it as “adequate”.

Yes – the first R-R electric was announced yesterday: “2023 Rolls-Royce Spectre is luxury firm’s first electric car. Sleek EV coupe previewed as Rolls-Royce vows to ditch combustion completely by 2030.” (Source: Autocar)

Wavechange — Not being interested in having a Porsche or a Rolls-Royce, nor being able to afford either, I am investing in a refurbishment of our porch but our builder has been unable to attend for two days because he cannot get any diesel for his van at his village garage and doesn’t have enough in the tank to get him to Norwich and back. Not as big a problem as others during the present situation and time is not of the essence. He is doing the carpentry work at home and checking with me by e-mailing pictures of the work in progress. He can get up to primer stage before having to fit the framework and glazing on site and then give it all four coats of paint.

I thought the logic on the 900W power cap was that some manufacturers were promoting higher electrical consumption without regard to efficiency, as a means of suggesting to the consumer that their vacuums were better at cleaning.

I do recall reading that manufacturers were also in the habit of making their appliances noisier, as further proof that they were more powerful. This was certainly true of the three Kenwood Chef’s I’ve had over the years. I used to shut the first one in a cupboard when whisking egg whites – so much brute force was necessary in those days! I guess modern eggs use less energy to whisk.

I wish someone would make the same progress with cutting the noise from circular saws, and banning the sale of modded exhaust pipes. Which brings us back to why there is no limit on car engine power?

Good job you don’t have a Porsche, John. There is a very old joke about an itinerant hard-of-hearing handyman, who was asked the paint “the porch”. In your case, it would have ended up with four coats.

The EU power cap has encouraged the introduction of more efficient motors. The use of high power consumption motors is not practical for cordless cleaners. Now we have corded cleaners that use less power too, but the EU limit helped make this happen,

John – I am impressed that your builder is able to work from home. Coronavirus or not I want to have my windows replaced next year. I painted the downstairs ones during the lockdown but the upstairs ones are a bit of a state.

On the subject of Which? car reviews, there needs to be more effort put into updating, and re-testing if necessary, the existing car reviews, rather that putting the latest shiny new apirational (to some) offerings through their paces. I assume all these cars need to be purchased and resold once finished with, so more cheaper car reviews and retests would be a far better use of Members’ subscriptions.

As I’m more familiar with the JLR range of vehicles that most, here’s two anomalies I’ve just picked out at random:

“It [the Jaguar i-Pace all-electric] also qualifies for the government plug-in car grant.” No, it doesn’t. It’s – once again – too expensive to qualify.

The Land Rover Discovery Sport was first (and last) reviewed in January 2017. Having written this off as too unrelable and given a “Don’t Buy” recommendation, the review is full of factual inaccuracies and subjective prejudice. As it is JLRs most popular SUV, it deserves more attention, even if it doesn’t deserve a higher score because of reliability issues. For instance:

“The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit feels rather lethargic, particularly in top gear or when pulling out into traffic. It’s not particularly refined either, putting out plenty of vibration and an annoying hum when revved. And there’s some noticeable turbo lag (the delay experienced between pressing the throttle and accelerating).”

The original launch model (which was tested here) used the old Freelander 2 engines manufactured by Ford. From 2016, they were fitted with the JLR Ingenium modular engines, which are much more refined. The Discovery Sport chassis has also been completely redesigned to support hybrid power trains and is shared with the Range Rover Evoque.

I’m sure if the work of keeping car reviews up-to-date is too much of a diversion for those that would rather be driving the latest launch models, there are many students who would enjoy a summer internship checking past Which? reviews for anomalies. At the moment, even free Wikipedia is a better source for getting the facts right.

Lots of car programmes on television have majored on exotica and fast hot hatches. Other magazines, and series, have concentrated on classic cars and the value of cars like the wooden Morris Minor Traveller. Presenters either try to reach the sound barrier in decibels and acceleration or they drag dusty relics from old garages and tart them up to sell at auction for thousands more than they bought them for. I expect that museums will continue to display our past motoring history, but, with the dawn of the electric age anyone with a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Rolls, Bentley, Porsche, BMW M or even a humble Ford ST or Hot Mini will see their pride and joy gradually reduce in value and become unsalable and unusable. A whole niche market will no longer exist. There will be super fast electric cars that blow the battery in one push of the throttle but a whole century of expert engineering will suddenly be worthless and those factories that made them either have to re-engineer electrically or go bust. They have to do this without any previous model to improve on and no second hand market to drive sales. Maybe this was a rich man’s pleasure but it has been a fascinating journey to watch from the side-lines, particularly when a cherished relic turns out to be something one owned as a first car way back then.

We could have a competition to see which model depreciates from100 to 50% fastest.

Plenty of such information is published but with such a diverse array of contenders and options there is dissent. E.g.https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/best-cars-vans/355003/fastest-depreciating-cars-motoring-money-pits-2021-gallery

However, a lot will depend upon whether you intend to hang on to the car of your choice. What matters then is not depreciation but, particularly, maintenance costs.

Hey all – A question for the intelligence of the crowd; I’m moving into a new home, hopefully at the end of the month and have to buy quite alot of new stuff (divorce, the joys!) and was wondering what the collective set of things you would buy first in a new home to keep it nice? I’m thinking good food storage containers, cupboard organisers and wardrobe inserts? What am I missing? Many thanks!

Pre-covid, I could have suggested a large shopping list of things needed to start a new home and sent you off to Debenbams, House of Fraser, John Lewis, Ikea, etc., to come back with a giant haul stuff. But because of store closures and stock shortages, High Street shopping is no longer fun or a productive use of time.

My advice would be to start with nothing and open an Amazon Prime account. As you come across the many things you find you need – a saucepan, a drying rack, a mop – order it online and it will be with you next day. Better still, you have 14 days to change your mind and send it back free of charge. So, if you can’t decide, buy different sizes, brands, types, take your time evaluating everything, and rigourously send back what you don’t need.

Don’t forget John Lewis offer free next day delivery to a local Waitrose branch, and Ocado also sell a limited range of homewares – from the likes of Addis and Oxo.

My big ticket purchase would be a robot vacuum cleaner. The Dyson recommended by Which? is very good. You will still need a hand-held model to do the edges and cobwebs after a few weeks.

As to storage containers, OXO Pops are very good for dry storage, but expensive. Stick with the packets the food comes in, until they are on offer. The Sistema Klip It system is also very good, especially for fridge and freezer storage. There are some bundles on offer that are cheaper than individual items. I’ve found that the integrated clips used by other brands break off after time, especially if used in the freezer.

If you won’t be living on Pot Noodle, buy a set of colour-coded chopping boards in a rack to save your counter tops. The commercial ranges are better than the domestic offerings. Later, you can replace the individual boards as they wear out, get grubby or burnt by a misplaced pan, rather than living with a damaged set.

Look at Nesbits to see what is available; shop around for the best price.

I wouldn’t bother with cupboard organisers until you know what you are going to store and where. Some such homewares are just expensive items which take up space rather than help with finding things. So long as you have enough coat hangers you won’t need wardrobe inserts initially; they also tend to take up space. The important thing to keep your home neat and tidy is to put things away; how you store them behind wardrobe and cupboard doors is less critical and you can adapt as you get used to your new space. So long as you know where things are, that’s all that matters.

My advice would be to do things your way now. Don’t worry about trying to follow how your home was organised previously or think there is some sort of convention over what you need to have. There is no right or wrong way and, as Em says, it will be better to take things one step at a time. Finally, don’t do anything that might limit your future choice of house mate or partner who might have their own ideas. The main thing is to keep your home as clean as you can.

Hi Dan and welcome to Which? Conversation. In your circumstances I would be guided by what was useful in your previous home. Perhaps you managed to keep some of the more useful items.

My advice is to gradually buy or otherwise acquire what you need, taking time over choosing. Unless you are familiar with a particular product it can be best to buy from a shop where you can see products rather than risk being disappointed by unseen online purchases.

I agree with John about keeping the place clean and organised. If there is a possibility that you will be joined by a new partner soon you might find that they come well equipped. It’s worth spending time getting to know your new neighbours.

Most people buy far more than they need, whether clothing, kitchen paraphernalia, ornaments, linen………… Take this opportunity to limit your possessions to the essentials (maybe he odd treat).

Agree with John on the limited value of organisers. Looking to tidy up my already large cutlery drawers and make a bit more room for all the random kitchen paraphernalia, I bought a Joseph Joseph DrawerStore Compact Cutlery Organiser tray.

It only holds a maximum of 5-6 place settings and takes far longer to empty the dishwasher, as everything has to be nested. The drawer now won’t close with the knife handles sticking out, although the drawer conforms to the minimum dimensions stated on the product. As it was half-price, I’ve kept it to store little-used odds and ends, like steak knives, teaspoons and meat thermometers which, somewhat-ironically, has now freed up more space for the cutlery that I can’t use it for. Otherwise, I would have sent it back as unfit for purpose.

Take a mental picture of your daily routine and jot down what you use and where you have kept it in the past. Make sure that the essentials are covered – kettle, toaster, cutlery, crockery, a saucepan or two and some cooking utensils. Towels bed linen and places to put all these items. The other alternative is to move first and find out what you haven’t got. Buy this as you need it. That way you will build up necessary stock and not clutter with things you will never use. Good luck.