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Scots share their regional consumer concerns – what are yours?

UK conusmers

Our latest research reveals some of the experiences Scottish people have in public and private markets. It’s clear consumer issues can be region specific – what problems do you come up against in your area?

We already know that for places such as London and the South-East there are particular struggles with rail-related problems – Southern rail being a particular headache for commuters at the moment. Earlier this year, we heard from guest author and Which? Conversation community member, Duncan, who highlighted the problem of access to public pay phones and telecoms issues in the UK’s more rural spots.

In our latest research, our Scottish Consumer Insights Report, we’ve found that many Scots are having problems in key industries, and need guidance, protection and representation in key areas.

Scottish consumers

When we compared Scottish levels of consumer worry to the rest of the UK, it seemed that Scottish consumers had greater levels of concern in general. The top concern for Scots was about public spending cuts (74%), with worries about daily essentials such as food, energy and fuel also higher up than the rest of the UK.

Interestingly, when we looked across banking, energy and telecoms, we found that Scots tend to stick with their providers rather than switch. Just a quarter (23%) have switched their energy supplier in the past five years, only 18% their current account, and 33% their home internet connection.

And yet, energy companies were rated as one of the least trusted industries, along with the financial sector. The water industry was most trusted sector in Scotland, with car dealers the most mistrusted.

Now, according to our research, many Scots aren’t acting on problems they encounter in many markets. For example, although 44% had issues with their home internet connection in the past two years, 46% complained at the time and a worrying 39% took no action as a result. And the most common reason (31%) for this was feeling it wasn’t worth the effort to complain.

When it came to public services, we found that many people didn’t see themselves as consumers in these areas, but they should. For those who’d experienced problems in public services (such as GPs, or dentists), only 18% complained at the time, while 39% didn’t take action at all. Interestingly, 40% of people who took no action felt nothing would be done if they did.

Tackling Scotland’s problems

Recently, the Scottish Government published a long-awaited plan outlining how it will use its new consumer powers to help these consumers out. It puts some very useful commitments and deadlines on paper to give stakeholders and consumers a little more certainty about how they will be helped in future.

The Scottish Government agrees that more can be done to improve coordination in consumer landscape for Scottish people, whether it’s at Scottish level or at UK level. It also believes that the consumer landscape would be better served by more coordination to the various advice services available to Scottish people and a better understanding of how markets work in Scotland. We agree with the approach.

What about you?

Can you relate to any of our Scottish research findings?

Or do you have any particular consumer gripes that are local to you? Maybe you find transport in your area particularly problematic, or your telecoms services aren’t up to scratch – let us know what bothers you.

Comments

The Scottish government rightly wants to bolster the Scottish economy and rebuild its originally world-beating heavy industry. Transport Scotland records on its website that the Forth Replacement Crossing (FRC) project is providing up to 1,200 job opportunities and a large number of sub-contract and supply order opportunities for Scottish companies. It says that 42,000 tonnes of steel are required for the new road bridge over the Firth of Forth but does not mention that this steel is being manufactured in China. Such a wasted opportunity.

Closing our steel industries is just so short-sighted and such a waste at a time when our country needs industry and to stand on its own feet.

People need jobs, the country needs steel, what is wrong with our government that they can’t see it and make it work?

Would they rather pay benefits to the unemployed for what could be many years rather than put money into keeping industries going?

The Tory Government has everything to do with Scotland,s repression past tense, that has slowed down
Scotland,s slow progression to pull it,s self out of the mire caused by cuts in all walks of life every thing is based on planet London,s economy. Our steel plants were torn down our mines were closed by a thatcher government, all the car plants are down south, only Scotland has no car build industry at all, we did have but that was ripped from us by the tories of the past not much has changed. The steel down south has been
protected with tax payers money not Just English tax payer,s but U.K. tax payers money, wages are better in
industrial area,s for example, car plant,s which are all in England & Wales for that matter. We also have a
Government who come,s down over heavy on the unemployed and treat them very badly indeed granted some are bone idle, and take life as it is, others are looking for work but people are many & Job,s are few, only
the lucky ones are picked it is a vicious circle. Then there are the long term unemployed they are treated very badly, they are stuck in job type club scenario,s they know there is not a hope in hell of a decent job most are Tradesmen and sum have useful skill,s but there are no job,s for them and they know it and so does this could,nt give a toss Tory Government and the sanction lover,s this lot are the worst of all they are the civil
servants “employed” by all Governments, but at present we have the worst in power as far as the common
Women & Men are concerned that is . This Government even reshuffled its self, after there leader walked out and his chancellor, another no hoper, as it turns out but still the same lot, (some say an election would be the right thing to do) Suppose that,ll have to do for now now we have Brexit means Brexit, well I,ll leave that to the expert,s that is if there are any , mean while we are bundling £ 350,000,000,000,000 of U.K. tax payers
money to E.U. Brussel,s every day, week, who cares because this Tory Government does,nt give a Jot either or they would get trigger out of the stable and ride off into the E.U. lands s shouting Brexit means Brexit also
to find out that it really mean,s , you,ve got it Britian mean Exit, and back to the unemployed well one good reason for the lack of jobs is the E.U. BILLIONS see there is jobs that brits should have. And finally the Tory
scare mongering tactic signal to the Bank of England to devalue the ( £ ) that will do it a**e up the whole U.K. So who to blame for all this, some would say the government some the E.U. , Some the invader,s
Why don,t the unemployed take over the Jobcentre,s the Government has reduced staff in there cut backs
and when the Tories are surplus to requirements they could go to Job club.s to learn a new skill humility
and common sense, whats that I hear you cry, A general election , well that,s the best thing I,ve thought of
while typing this drivel I suppose its the same we hear echoing now and then Bexit mean, Exit for the U. K.
from this money trough, come on Tories learn what to do or get out and let a party that knows what to do
if there is one that is.

Unfortunately, members of the SNP Scottish Government have little appreciation of industry and commerce. It does not appear to be particularly keen to engage with management from these sectors. To be
political, this government is only interested in independence.

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Harper Duns says:
20 January 2017

John, not a wasted opportunity since Scotland’s steel industry making the type of steel needed has been closed down by successive Labour and Tory government’s years ago. Scotland can make only rolled steel and this was sourced from Scotland for the bridge. Even these steel plants were at risk but thankfully saved by intervention by John Swinney who negotiated a deal with Tata steel.

The new bridge, looking very beautiful indeed, will be completed on time and on budget in May 2017. Given how many problems have arisen with the old road bridge, it’s a blessing the SNP insisted on the new bridge. A proud day for Scotland when it opens.

Harper Duns says:
21 January 2017

Not really true, Alan. The SNP are charged with governing Scotland and making Scotland the best it can be for every one who lives here. Independence will always be an aim but, to be fair, it’s talked about more by people outside the SNP than those in it. John Swinney, before he moved over to his new job, and now Keith Brown, and Paul Wheelhouse, deliver twin aspects of this role. They bring new jobs to Scotland, train workers to deliver the jobs needed now and in the future, and always work to prevent job losses. In this way, unemployment in Scotland has been the same as that of the U.K., or even lower, over the past year, despite Scotland not being to offer “secret” deals to businesses such as the one given to the car manufacturing plant in England to prevent it moving to Europe after Brexit.

Thank you for your response, Harper. While I realise that the Scottish steel industry has lost massive capacity with the run down and closure of Ravenscraig I still feel that the UK steel industry could have produced the right material somewhere. Apparently, no UK companies submitted bids for the steelwork contracts. Apart from the majority of the steel having come from China, other steel parts for the bridge have been made in Poland and Italy. I share your pride in this latest example of innovative long-span bridge design – another world first for the UK.

If more expensive steel had to be used there might not be a Forth Replacement Crossing. If more expensive steel was used there would be less public money available for other job creating projects. Countries should concentrate on what they can do well and competitively, the second of which for decades has not been steel production in the UK.

That’s a fair point, Johnecon. Nobody can compete against China if the only criterion is money.

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The damage has been done, Duncan. The contracts for the steelwork for the new Forth road bridge were placed some years ago. European steel plants have closed down in consequence of low-priced steel from China and the remainder are struggling. I was not aware that the UK government was against the EU’s block on cheap Chinese imports; presumably our objections were overruled. The new US president has promised to regenerate the rust belts so home-produced steel will be the order of the day in America; that makes enormous sense – the USA is rich in the minerals required for iron and steel production, as is the UK, and there is no point in hauling it halfway round the world at the expense of the environment [and that’s without taking into account the heavily polluting extraction and production processes in China].

Alan Campbell Stewart I totally agree with all you say. Forget independence SNP get on with the job you elected to do

One of my concerns is the closure of local bank branches, supposedly because less use is being made of them due to personal internet banking. Yet, if you are a shopkeeper, or perhaps a Treasurer of a local organisation who needs to pay in cash and obtain change, the loss of a bank branch is a major obstacle often requiring a long journey by car to get what you require. In North Berwick we have already lost the Clydesdale Bank, RBS is now embarking on yet another round of reducing opening hours in a thinly disguised run down to closure (despite having to queue regularly to be served), and only Bank of Scotland retain full opening hours at present. They will be the recipient of many new business and club accounts.

Another aspect is the loss of local bus services in some parts of Scotland due to local authorities not receiving adequate funding from the Scottish Government, reduction in Bus Service Operators Grant (fuel rebate) and failure to adequately recompense the bus companies for free pensioners’ passes. Transport funding is not protected, and I predict, as in England and Wales, that social isolation among sectors of the community will become a major ;political issue in the not too distant future.

The Royal Bank of Scotland are closing too many branches, Marchmont Bank already closed, Forrest Road Branch closing and Castle Street Branch in George Street Edinburgh will be closing, though one never goes in without queuing. I don’ t do internet banking and never will. One ends up having to drive further and further a field.
Castle Street Bank has just been refurbished very recently what a waste of Tax Payers money then to close it.

In the Highlands we are charged more for our electricity than anywhere else in the UK. We export electricity it being made via hydro and wind, green electricity. The new Beauty to Denny high voltage line shows this. Yet the transmission rate for us makes us pay much more than the average for each therm we use. The system has been challenged but Parliament decided not to change it, it is beneficial to the south east of England. In theory it is based on the centre of the UK, Loughborough way but in actuality it is south east England that gets the cheapest power per therm. So we subsidise the south coastal area. Now common sense shows we have to use more power to heat our homes because we are closest to the North Pole, it is annually colder here than southern England-but we pay the highest price. It doesn’t matter which company you are with because they all have to charge the rate defined by Government. The whole system is blatantly unfair and yet nobody does anything about this injustice. We spend nearly £3500 pa on electric and another £800 on coal/wood to heat our house, that’s the greatest cost on our pensions.

I didn’t think the government set the transmission and distribution prices for electricity. They are determined by the grid operator and distribution network company and added to the electricity production and supply costs charged by your energy supplier. If the distribution costs are higher because of the distances and terrain involved this will unfortunately be compounded by the imposition of government levies and value added tax as a percentage of the cost, and this factor will also apply to the energy production cost. I doubt if Scotland produces electricity much cheaper than other parts of the UK despite the availability of hydro and wind power since these sources do not come for nothing and there are high transmission costs from the remote production facilities to the major centres of consumption.

There are 3 things that I am concerned about and it is these.
I live in Thurso
1) The NHS Highlands of Scotland is in a terrible state. Instead of having my operation which was to be performed at Raigmore Hospital within the 12 week period laid down by the Scottish Government I was informed by letter informing me that due to Local pressure this would not be done but would be carried out down in Glasgow at a Private hospital namely the Ross Hall.
2) The rail service that is provided by Scotrail/Abelio, is a total joke.
There isn’t a regular service from Wick/Thurso to Inverness, which means a minibus is used to take passengers down to Inverness a journey of 120 miles.
3) Why is the postcode KW which is on the mainland of Scotland deemed to be placed in Kirkwall which is on the Orkney Island, the charges that some Courier’s make is horrendous

E. Russell says:
7 January 2017

I have two “niggles”. 1.)How can we stop the intrusive ‘phone calls we receive daily with ‘offers’ or sometimes ‘threats’? We are on telephone preference and have tried other ways – but still get calls daily.
2.) As regards the capacity to carry cycles on trains: The economy in much of Scotland relies on tourism, yet the capacity to carry cycles is minimal, even being reduced. Why? Has no-one thought this through – especially for Highland trains?

I suspect that Scotrail’s management hasn’t heard of mountain bikes.

I did read somewhere that in order to boost tourism on the most scenic routes in Scotland they were thinking of having more suitable carriages on the trains with observation domes, panoramic windows, and seats that line up with the windows [what a novelty! – people on their phones might be distracted by the landscape and forget they are “on the train”].

I’d try a BT8500 phone, you’ll need caller display. We’ve had ours for over a year and get no nuisance calls. You don’t need to be a BT customer to use it

Spot on about both niggles, however, I have noticed that the number of nuisance calls is declining, for a while, it was British Gas and British Telecom, but lately, just a few calls from abroad, we have now stopped paying Virgin for unidentified call barring so we’ll see how that goes.
Re the bikes on trains, its simply a cynical attempt to boost the use of Abellio’s own bike rental scheme, they just don’t appear to be able to accept that nobody is going to hire one of their clunkers unless they are cycling in a city and they are desperate. I wrote to our MSP and MP and Abellio and got the same line about commercial decisions based on research etc etc. It was just the same when the Class 158 sprinters were introduced and eventually they were reluctantly modified at great expense. Maybe some change in attitude now that Paul Verster is gone, but the best would be Humsa Useless could be shuffled off too.

I recently purchased an item online. Fast delivery (from Somerset) – postage & packing FREE. Great! It was my second attempt at buying this item. My first choice supplier (in Peterborough) advertised ‘free P&P’, but after I had placed the order, I received an an e-mail which demanded I pay a surcharge of – wait for it – £19.95 (item cost £15), because my address was in the Highlands. Not in the ‘back-of-beyond’, but on the main A82 trunk road between Glasgow and Inverness. Why can many suppliers offer free P&P, and others are allowed to make vast sums of money from us by imposing exorbitant surcharges. Even normal (e.g. Highland to other parts of the UK) postal prices would be acceptable. Why is this unfair surcharge practice allowed to continue? There should be a law against it!

Davy Andrews says:
7 January 2017

I am amazed that the local Supermarkets – Morrisons (particularly) Asda, Tesco &c seem to overlook the fact that Scotland is capable of producing many food products that are presently imported from abroad. Believe it or not we can grow cherries, plums and apples here in Ayrshire as well as beautiful runner beans and of course potatoes. Scottish tatties are available in the big stores but I have never seen Scottish runner beans, broad beans, apples, plums of cherries. Surely if the big Supermarkets approached our hard pressed farmers to make deals for re-assignment of good quality land to farm those items it would boost our economy as well as our diets and porbably our pockest? Imported stuff is either ludicrously costly or of appallingly poor quality.

The Scottish strawberry season is slightly later than the English season so we buy them until around August when we stop buying strawberries altogether. I wish that other Scottish fruits were marketed in England, especially plums and cherries and also vegetables like runner beans. I agree with your comments on imported fruit and vegetables [except exotics, of course]. Home-grown produce in season is the way to a tasty and healthy life. A lot of Scottish fruits and vegetables go to jam and soup production but in my view they are too good for that.

The discount stores Aldo and Lidl make a bigger effort to highlight Scottish items than the supermarkets which are headquartered south of the border.

Courier services; I live in Orkney, Northern Isles, and for catalogue/online purchases we are charged extra for delivery to ‘Highlands & Islands’ – even though Royal Mail manage to deliver to our address with no extra fee and no problems. The couriers started extra charges about 10yrs ago, before that there was no overcharge or dithering about our postcode and how to get goods to us – so what has been allowed to happen?
MSP’s an MP’s have known about this for years, and yet nothing has been done.

Ferry fares – the SNP have set up the RET system for the Western Isles, but never ‘got around’ to sorting out the high fares for our lifeline services, although their best friends at Serco get a nice payout from the Executive. Whether it’s because the Western Isles are SNP voters or that most of the MSP’s have holiday home out there, we don’t know; but I know we in the Northern Isles are all sick of waiting for this to be addressed.

Air fares – another essential service, especially in medical emergencies, with high charges for locals.
Also, whoever it is that sets these fares is making a mint out of the NHS!
Every plane that leaves the airport will have folk who are visiting Aberdeen Maternity/ARI/RACH, as either out-patients or overnight/long-term stay.
Last time I had to go to ARI for a scan, there were 14 other folk heading to the hospital, all of us with day return tickets – each ticket was charged at £279 !!!! And that was 5yrs ago, I dread to think what the charge will be nowadays.
If one plane a day leaves Mon-Fri, with say 15 patients on board – and also one from Shetland with the same – that is a huge cost over the year. Blatant extortion of the NHS – and it should be checked out.

Broadband – rural service is abysmal, yet essential, especially in such times as over the Christmas season when the weather turns and ferries stop, planes are cancelled, buses don’t appear for insurance & liability reasons (a new thing that Stagecoach have kindly started doing) and folk can’t get to banks, shops, family etc. Farms and businesses need to be connected at all times – sadly, this is not happening.

Mobile coverage – another rip-off service, aimed only at the those that live in cities when common sense tells you that the ability to make contact with others in times of need is just as important in rural areas as it is in urban environments.

Petrol prices – highest in the land! Why?
Food prices – the same item for sale in Tesco, Inverness, will be up to 10p dearer in Tesco, Kirkwall. Why?
Domestic fuel – folk, especially the elderly, sitting in cold, damp houses rather that risking using the heating as the cost of oil is ridiculous. Why?
Why are these companies allowed to get away with charging whatever they like for essential goods?

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“Scotland is SNP controlled , the Scots voted for them”. SNP took 95% of the seats, but only got 50% of the votes, and with a 71% turnout, just 32% of the voters. Labour took 24% of the votes but got just 1 seat (1.7%). It does illustrate the problem of how representative our current voting system is. I’d prefer to see seats allocated by the % votes, not a first past the post. It should at least see parliaments (UK as well) populated in a more representative way. Whether it leads to more or less decisive government is another matter.

Whether or not the Tories are “hated by the working class” is questionable, but Scotland has people other than working class. They should all be represented.

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No, I wouldn’t call DC’s votes a majority. Exactly the point I was making. I believe proportional representation is, in principle, the right way where we are all represented according to our votes. Not perfect, but nothing is – simply better than the present system. Those who voted in Scotland would still have seen the SNP with 50% of the seats, labour with 24%, Conservatives 15% and the remainder split accordingly. All would then have some voice, even if not very effective.

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duncan, I’m talking about the general election results where the SNP took a far larger number of seats than their share of the vote – these were the figures I quoted. We are at cross purposes.

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I support the redrawing of parliamentary constituency boundaries [as proposed by the independent boundary commission, not the Conservative Party] in order to even out the electorates and eliminate many anomalies of representation. I have examined the proposals for my area and they make good sense. It happens that overall the review will favour the Conservatives, which reinforces the points made by Malcolm over what happened to Labour in 2015 in Scotland – if the system had had more equality Labour would not have lost all their seats bar one and would not have faced such a disastrous future across the UK as they do now. I think the boundary review is long overdue and should certainly be implemented for the next General Election – putting these things off for political reasons always makes them worse in the long run. The art of political leadership is to manage the accession to power, not to whinge about the cards one is dealt. I don’t regard a Tory victory at the next election as a foregone conclusion on any political measure but Labour could hand it to them on a silver salver with watercress all round it if they’re not careful.

I am also in favour of proportional representation, although I am undecided on which particular system would be best. As Duncan says, this is not going to be on the agenda of either of the two main Westminster parties because, again, they are thinking of their own self-interest and suppressing any smaller parties who might rival them for power. I guess a lot of those who voted SNP for Westminster must be wondering what they have achieved, and whether knocking Labour out of Scotland was a smart move. They might vote more tactically next time.

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Just a point of information: both the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliaments were originally established to use a form of PR with the intention that no one party would ever dominate.

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Understood Ian. This Conversation is getting complicated. I have been writing about the UK national parliament where PR is a non-runner. My point was that – Scotland having replaced nearly all their Labour MP’s with Scottish National Party MP’s – the opposition to the government has been divided and seriously weakened. The government takes no notice of the SNP while the remaining Labour representation is in a state of disarray, to put it mildly, having lost its Scottish strength. The evidence of the strain this puts on the SNP is there in the shape of the First Minister, becalmed in Edinburgh with no foothold in Westminster and trying to play cards she doesn’t hold. The Prime Minister must be seriously tempted to call her bluff and order a second Scottish independence referendum right now!

Redrawing boundaries seems sensible to me to ensure that each MP represents roughly the same number of people. Proportional Representation has its downsides but it seems to me that people’s votes only count if the parties they vote for are proportionately represented in Parliament, whether national of regional.

My original comment pointed out, when you said the Scots voted for the SNP, that in the 2015 General Election only 50% who voted (32% of the electorate) did so but they got 95% of the seats. I believe those figures are correct but it was not an argument I was putting forward, just a fact.

Yes indeed, and it’s a relevant fact that shows how a distorted representative system can have perverse consequences.

There needs to be more investment in Scotland in general. Perhaps even an ‘Oil Fund’ along the lines of Norway’s could be used to encourage new industry, working in the renewables field to set up in Scotland as we seem to be leaders in employing this technology. A high speed rail link to Europe is also long overdue along with full electrification, better fare structures and services. However, UK Gov’ not interested.

UNFORTUNATELY: The BUCK stops with NO-ONE, from the SNP government to the CEO’s of companies. It flies around like “Confettti” in the wind. UNTIL, GOVERNMENT; North & South of the BORDER take full responsibilty of RUNNING the UK, then things will just get worse, especially the; NHS. It has become a FARCE since my young days. NO-ONE, from Prime Minister to STURGEON will take resposibility for the FARCE it has BECOME!!

I find it increasingly difficult to contact staff in local government. I live in Bristol but experienced the same problems in Weston Super Mare when I lived there. You ring the contact phone number and get through to an answering service with no local knowledge. You have to explain to them who you want to contact and why and they put you through to another number that may or may not pick up – often you are just left holding on and have to keep ringing back through. if you do get through, that number is a reception number and they offer to send an email to the person you want to talk to. They never come back to you. It doesn’t matter how urgent it is to speak to them (on one occasion it was about a social services assessment ordered by the court and when the hearing came round it just wasn’t done and had to be postponed – this incurred further legal fees and court fees when I had tried and tried to get through to the person doing the assessment and her manager to ask had they even received the request from the court as I had heard nothing). This poor service is particularly galling as we pay for these services through our council tax. There appears to be no accountability and if you want to complain, there is no clear complaints procedure. I am just told to write in to the (team) manager. I do this and hear nothing. I feel like banging my head on a brick wall at times. I have even travelled some distance to the town hall and said I would wait until someone could speak to me and had the security staff escort me from the building (with my grandson aged 3). You are overwhelmingly given the impression that you are a nuisance – there is no customer service, no accountability and no way of getting your voice heard. It’s not good enough.

Scottish gov doesn’t care about anyone except for independence

Stupid statement. The Scottish Government is made up of SNP, Cons, Labs, Greens, with the majority being SNP, the choice of the Scottish electorate.

It is my experience that those resident in Scotland have a greater social responsibilty than the media’s portrail of the majority of the rest of the UK. From this premise, and my atitudes, I would like to see a broad response to supporting those in rural areas, and in impoverished circumstancies, assisted by those in urban more affulent areas. Basically a broad socially responsible approach.
This will certainly incur financial costs to myself and others, but will benefit the society as a whole in the longer term. This seems to be contrary to the general UK attitude currently, and an indication that seperate policies need to be implemented in various regions of the UK.
Federalism?

sue williams says:
8 January 2017

I object to the number of unsolicited calls, especially when they are received before 9am . I am registered with the TPS but still regularly get calls
I had a self catering holiday at Burghhead (Moray) and I went down to the harbour, the fishermen told me that they brought prawns in at 5.30 a.m. and I could buy them then , but after that they were shipped to Spain!
I also picked up a bag of prawns in Morrisons and put them back because they were from Thailand, why cant we have Scottish prawns! I also picked up a bag of fish pie mix in Tesco, that stated that all the fish was from Scotland but sent to China for packaging Why!!, needless to say that went back on the shelf

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I am infuriated by mail order / on-line companies that offer ‘free’ delivery only to find that this does not apply to Inverness. Inverness is the distribution hub for the Highlands and Islands and this discrimination is infuriating. One tool supply company in the Midlands slaps on a £10 charge for paltry little items that fit into an envelope. So, what do I do? I get the purchase sent to my daughter in Edinburgh under the ‘free’ offer and then she posts it to me for a couple of pounds. Disgraceful treatment of a part of the UK in which the rest of the UK apparently wants us to remain.

Parcelforce has some of the IV postcodes (Inverness and surrounding area) in Zone 1 (England, Wales and Scotland) whereas others are in Zone 2 (Highlands and Islands), which means higher charges. Retailers vary. For example, John Lewis has a surcharge for all IV postcodes. Some carriers will not even deliver to outlying areas.

I recently visited the Aberdeen branch of Ikea which is described as an ‘Order and Collection’ branch because I want to buy a new sofa and my partner a new rug. We’ve wanted a branch in Aberdeen for many years because of the exotortionate delivery charges for goods from their Edinburgh (and Glasgow) branches. Meanwhile, my partner was ordering the rug and discovered that the advertised price was not available and would be charged a collection fee, which had to be calculated on completing the order. There were only choices for the price – the price + delivery (at Aberdeen premium rates) or price + collection charge – in this case about 10% of the price. When he complained about this, he was pointed to a sign on all goods that there is a sticker on all price tags “Only available to order with an additional charge”. Needless to say, he didn’t buy the rug, nor did I pursue my interest in the sofa.

This strikes me as unfair on consumers, given that it is not possible to buy the item at the advertised price (regardless of the sticker) – there will always be an additional charge for all their items. This seems a lot like the Ryanair case where it was not possible to buy air fares at their advertised rates because there was always an additional charge somewhere in their system.

It also seems unfair because they do not advertise the full cost of the item (with either delivery or collection charge), so consumers cannot find the true cost until they ask at the order desk, by which time they feel pressured into completing the purchase. This seems like the way that many airline companies used to advertise their fares without additional taxes, so giving the impression of affordable fares until the last moment (thankfully a thing of the past not).

The last thing that is unfair is the principle of a collection charge. If I buy food from my local supermarket or a kettle from an electrical supplier, I do not expect to have to pay a collection fee, even though the items have been delivered from a central depot. The supplier invariably charges the same fee as the rest of the country.

Does anyone else have experience of this and think I might have a case against Ikea?

Had a bit of fun with one company which will remain in-named. I ordered items to the tune of circa £1600. Had quite a long discussion, very cordial. Came to the delivery address. (I live just outside Inverness}” Sorry, we have a delivery charge to the Scottish Islands. Explained that I was on the mainland. This charge also relates to the Highlands”.
“Cancel order, then”.
“No, wait, we can come to some arrangement”.
“Sorry, too late. Until you equate your delivery charges, no business”.
To date, no change.

I live in the Highlands and whilst I do get irritated by some of the higher prices or poorer services we receive, I do think there is often an over-reaction to some of this and a bit of balance is needed. There is an element of swings and roundabouts here – after all, house prices are generally much cheaper and how can you put a price on the access to all the beautiful scenery we are surrounded by? We have to accept that it is simply not feasible to have the same level of public services such as a public transport infrastructure in sparsely populated areas – although there does need to be some! We also need to accept that businesses are just that. They are not charities and where there is a legitimate need to charge more we should happily accept that whilst counting our blessings for other things.

But having said that, there is a significant amount of unreasonable profiteering going on. For example, I do object for being charged more for P&P only to find it being delivered by a carrier that does not charge more for delivering here. My grouse is more with Government. It seems that market forces dictate just about everything these days but there are certain basic services that everyone should be entitled to and which Government should intervene in. For example, Government could and should do much more to improve Broadband and mobile phone coverage. These days, a decent Broadband connection is essential for most businesses and of course the tourist industry is dependent on visitors who expect a decent connection. There other things which are more clearly Government’s responsibility. Maintaining the roads is one such basic service which is being neglected by the Scottish Government and I have recently had to replace 2 suspension coils as a result of driving on 3rd world standard pot-holed roads. Let’s just say there is a lot of politics going on and not enough government.

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Brian says:
10 January 2017

High cost of courier deliveries to the highlands and yet Royal Mail is same all over the country.???????!

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Royal Mail is a permanent organisation that has a statutory universal service obligation. It must deliver to any address in the United Kingdom and has uniform charges across the country. It cannot turn away any mail that is correctly presented and paid for. Independent carrier companies are free to come and go as they please, set whatever charges they think fit, accept or decline whatever they like, and exclude any areas they don’t wish to serve. Unfortunately, some retailers exploit the existence of a higher cost carrier to outlying areas in order to charge an excess whereas in many cases [depending on the consignment] they could have used Royal Mail but would then have had no legitimate justification for charging a premium for delivery.

BT charges the same for telecom services anywhere in the UK and, so far as I am aware, will provide a service to any address in the country. Independent telecom operators are free to serve wherever they choose, and only have to link up to the BT trunk system at an exchange, but as Duncan says, they prefer not to if they consider it would not be profitable for them.

The cost of sending a letter is fixed but Parcelforce, a subsidiary of Royal Mail, does charge more to deliver to certain postcodes as I mentioned above.

I hate being forced to constantly switch provider just to avoid being ripped off – no reward for loyalty. Fixed rates (for energy, mortgage interest, savings interest etc) are hailed as providing consumer choice. In reality, they require consumers to be better at predicting future rates than the energy or financial markets that generate them. For most consumers, that’s never going to happen, we always loose out, providers always win and the least able and most vulnerable in our society are the most exploited in these arenas.