/ Money, Shopping

Your comments this week – plastic bags, bills and banking

Are sugary cereal bars as healthy as they seem? Will free banking really prevent mis-selling? And should we pay for plastic bags? You’ve been debating these questions and more this week.

Shatter the myth of free banking

Norm says that extra bank account charges would drive him away:

‘The first time my bank introduces a charge will be the last time I use them. They have already reduced the meagre interest rate on my current account to zero, so charging to keep hold of my cash would be the last straw.’

In the meantime, Nfh shared their vision for banking:

‘It would be much fairer if end-prices for banking services were related to cost. I believe it would be fair for UK banks to charge for incidental services that cost the banks money. For example, sending out paper statements by post, using another bank’s cash machine (after one or two free withdrawals per month) and for paper-based transactions (e.g. cheques).’

Why the government’s sitting on £1bn of TV licence fees

Tpoots wasn’t impressed to hear about the £1bn ‘interest free loan’ TV licence holders give to the government every year:

‘This angered me too when I set up a direct debit for TV licence, but sadly you’re at their mercy and have to agree to these terms or pay the full year in a lump sum. Not many people will be happy doing that, especially as they will probably have only just moved into a property at huge expense.’

Donna Edmunds didn’t think this system was fair financially:

‘There’s no explanation of why the system is set up in this way, or what they do with the money. If you want to pay by direct debit (and as I can’t afford the lump sum in one hit, I have to), you HAVE to go along with this. It’s not even as if the licence itself is optional!’

Are we getting carried away with plastic bag use?

In the debate over free plastic bags in supermarkets, Chris pointed to an overseas solution:

‘When I was living in Australia a few years ago, most supermarkets just stopped using plastic bags and instead offered really robust and good quality tote bags for around $1 (40p at the time) – I was more than happy to meet the initial cost for this quality bag and still carry them round in my backpack to save me using plastic bags here. The situation won’t change unless we’re no longer offered plastic.’

But Vivienne doesn’t want to see plastic bags disappear:

‘I want to continue to be given “free” plastic bags from supermarkets and other shops. It is very easy for drivers to carry plastic bags and “bags for life” in their car, but it’s a big problem for non-drivers like me. I have a 25 minute walk to the supermarket and simply could not carry sufficient heavy, bulky bags with me.

‘I do have to get a cab home with all my shopping, but would not want to have to get one to the supermarket too. My supermarket and other shops bags are always reused for bin liners, storage, garden rubbish, charity shop donations etc – without these “free” bags I would have to buy bin liners and larger bags instead, rather defeating the object.’

Energy bills – now is the autumn of our discontent

As energy company SSE announced 9% price rises, Chris Gloucester shared his concerns:

‘Back in the days when energy supply was privatised, we were all told that the resulting competition would benefit us all. Well, to me it doesn’t seem to have happened that way. The big six suppliers seem to have a monoploy. Prices keep rising and profits keep rising, and there seems little the free market can do to improve the situation.’

Wavechange doesn’t think renationalisation is the answer:

‘I well remember how inefficient most of our nationalised industries were. I think that the answer is private industries that are efficient through competition but closely regulated to avoid the problems that we are all aware of. Renationalisation is inconceivable, so we need to get on with the regulation.’

Are 30% sugar cereal bars really a substitute for breakfast?

When our research found that cereal bars rarely deserved their ‘healthy’ image, Laura was glad to have some evidence to back her view. She gets our Comment of the Week:

‘My daughter’s school has a healthy-eating policy but allows these kind of bars in lunch boxes. I have been saying for some time that these bars are no better than a chocolate biscuit type snack but have not been listened to. I shall now show the school this!’

Comments have been edited due to length, so make sure to read them in full on their relevant Convos (by clicking on the red title link).

Peter Hutcison says:
24 August 2012

It has always been obvious to me that I was going to have to contribute my share towards the Banks overheads. I also expect to pay one way or another for the convenience of using a credit card. Who else is there to pay but the customer? You just have to shop around for the best deal as with everything else.
When the banks can lend money at a reasonable interest rate they can afford to pay interest on deposited funds.
The other myth is interest free hire purchase.

Cathy says:
27 August 2012

I read with interest your article on plastic bags. Our local Tesco (there are 3 large in our vicinity) and all have plastic bags strewn around the bagging area for people to use despite their policy of them being out of view! I take bags with me however I can understand those without transport finding it difficult to carry sufficient for a week’s shopping. I also note that when the staff are packing on line orders, they tend to use more bags, leaving them half full, rather than fill each one. I think the practice in Northern Ireland Tesco (noted 3 years ago) of charging for bags, as well as M&S is a good one. The tendency for discarding these bags in the countryside is all too visible, such a blight. A problem we have encountered is that these plastic bags have a short life and tend to disintegrate leaving a mess when they are stored, e.g. using them to pack shoes etc when going on holiday.

Kathy Crawford Hay says:
31 August 2012

Plastic bag debate. My preference is for all plastic bags to be banned starting with supermarkets. I live at North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland, which is a seaside town with great beaches and wonderful sea- and wild-life. The devasation caused by plastic bags is unacceptable. None of us truly know how long plastic bags will hang around on this earth. Working with local North Berwick business colleagues, I helped to introduce a successful “Bring your own Bag” campaign some years back. We used to bring our own bags before plastic bags were invented – let’s do so again.

Have Which readers any experience of vacuum storage bags for clothes?

Hi Tom,
I have some from Lakeland that seem to be working well. They are Lakeland Exclusives and have inner retention straps and outer zip covers. Not cheap, but seem to be worth it after having cheaper ones that didn’t work. They also stack well.

Although I haven’t had a problem, the handles are reported to be weak so I don’t use them.