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Radio 5 live and Which? team up for a week of People Power

Hands in together

This week 5 live Breakfast has invited Which? to talk about the consumer issues that matter to you. The show’s presenter Nicky Campbell joins us to introduce the series.

I was fortunate enough to present Watchdog, the BBC’s flagship consumer show for nine and a half years. Fighting for consumers, taking that fight to the big companies, smaller companies, con men and criminals was a passion and a privilege.

Often just telling people their basic rights was the order of the day, and helping consumers navigate through the maze of legislation and tangle of confusion to find out what the best deal is, the best way and the best solution. Ultimately – what is best for you.

This is no time to be ripped off. It’s bad enough out there as it is right now without getting seriously short-changed. I am thrilled that 5 live Breakfast will be working in tandem with Which? in our week on People Power. Throughout the week we’ll be addressing five different consumer issues – energy, transport, health, finance and retail – and asking experts, including those from Which?, to give our three million listeners the best possible advice they can.

We’d be interested in your thoughts. As times are hard, do you think some companies seek to take advantage of consumers? Do they expect that we’ll just accept price rises? Do you feel that companies are playing fast and loose with us? Let us know and don’t miss People Power on 5 live Breakfast from 8am Monday 27 June to 1 July.

Rose says:
27 June 2011

Where do I start??!!:-
Energy: prices don’t go down when they should, or quickly enough, yet companies are fast to increase prices by huge percentages. I also think that switching has caused more problems than before we could switch (this also applies to home and car insurance). Very few people have the time to constantly monitor prices and switch regularly, the elderly don’t stand a chance, and it would be a lot easier/fairer to know that we were getting a fair price and could stay with our providers long term. It’s hardly surprising that our lives are so pressurised when we now have all these time-consuming additional tasks to do and not enough time for families/leisure.
Transport: we’re always being told to use public transport but it’s too expensive, too crowded and the services are unacceptable (eg for my partner to get the train to work 50 miles away – with a station close to home and work – he has to change trains 2-3 times each way, the journey takes 2-3 hours each way and the cost makes it prohibitive).
Health: England should have free prescriptions if Wales and Scotland have! For some reason, it seems that we in England are expected to subsidise people in Wales and Scotland. Medicines and operations shouldn’t be down to a postcode lottery either – everyone in the UK should be treated the same and have the same opportunities.
Finance: I could go on for hours on this one! Credit card companies have put into debt many people who previously managed their finances well. This is because the goalposts are continually changing (eg taking away preferential rates, charging rates way above base rate – rather than a certain max percentage above, increasing rates when a customer’s payment record is good, putting numerous charges on the account – eg MBNA made an error on my statement and put on 5 different types of charges and fees totalling nearly £600!,) etc. Banks should all have the same payment timescales (eg when a direct debit goes through an account, when a cash payment in is credited, when a BACS or CHAPS payment is credited, when an “unpaid” direct debit is rejected, etc and we should all know what those timings are. A bank shouldn’t be able to reserve funds in an account on a Friday for a Monday direct debit (eg Natwest) especially as cash could be paid in on the Saturday or via online fast payment systems (both of which make the money available immediately). Our 3 banks all use different timescales and different rules, making it very difficult to manage our money!
Retail: shops and other businesses shouldn’t be able to temporarily inflate prices to then “reduce” them later. Supermarkets shouldn’t be able to “con” customers by, eg, their “2 for the price of ..” offers which save small amounts, eg only 5p on 2 x 4pts of milk!

Thanks for writing that Rose, it saved me, but 100% agreed.

Where on earth do we start? So many ripoffs, so many scams, so much privacy invasion, the list is endless

Maggie says:
30 June 2011

Utilities – Surely prices, pay structures, profits etc. should be transparent. Is there any way we can see how much the CEO receives in salary bonus etc? I do not believe the price rises about to be actioned are justified. We need much more competition as the present system is far too complicated and search sites can be inaccurate.
Finance – this also gives a warped picture of “best” savings rates as they only show a restricted number of accounts and providers.
Insurance – as ablove
It is only now that I can spend time on the computer chasing up “best buys” as I
have retired.
We should not have to do this – changing insurance, bank accounts, utilities every year. It is a complete waste of time and money. How much manpower is used to keep changing?

Keith says:
30 June 2011

Why is it insurance companies quote a good price in the first year to get your business and then substantially increase the premiums they quote the following year, do they hope we have forgotten what we paid the previous year or cannot be bothered to check.The annoying thing with this is that
when you challenge them about the unjustified increase they seem to magically give you a better quote, why do they not give you this in the first place and save a lot of aggrevation particularly for older people, who cannot sometimes be bothered or have the energy to challenge and therefore pay a ridiculously higher premium.

philip says:
4 February 2012

I am currently in credit to the tune of £550 with scottish power. I will demand my money back but accept that i need a small amount in the kitty.

If you instruct your bank to recoup the direct debits you overpaid to the utility company they will then transfer that amount to your account and will then recoup the money from the utlility company. I requested this through natwest and the money was in my bank within 2 hours.