The Lobby: Off-topic discussion

Hello and welcome to The Lobby! Your place to discuss subjects that just don’t fit in our other conversations. Make yourself at home!

This Lobby is closed to new comments

Do you want to discuss an issue but can’t find the right place to post it? Or maybe you’re looking for somewhere to chat with your community pals? Well, you’ve come to the right place…

As with any community or conversation it can – and does – wander off-topic. This is perfectly natural, but it hasn’t always been possible to do so on some of our posts because of the precisely defined nature of each subject.

So, at the behest of some of our community members, we created this off-topic discussion area – The Lobby.

Any ideas spawned here in The Lobby could generate new posts for debate and discussion on Which? Conversation, so you – our community members – are able to help shape the direction of our community.

What happened to the original Lobby?

Why do we have two Lobbies? Well, like all good franchises, we wanted to experiment with a sequel. But seriously, the original Lobby was so popular (with almost 13,000 comments), it was becoming hard to load the page.

So we’re starting fresh with what we’re affectionately calling “The Lobby 2”.

No comments from first Lobby have been deleted, and you can still link to comments, but you won’t be able to add new comments.


To ensure The Lobby remains a healthy and friendly place for you all to share your thoughts, musings all of our Community Guidelines apply, with the exception of one:

You may go off-topic… that is the purpose of The Lobby.  🙂

Looking for other areas to talk?

• Website feedback: Let us know about any technical issues, and share your ideas on the future of Which? Conversation closure: A discussion about the closure of

Which? Members: Discuss issues related to our organisation, including governance

Welcome to the Lobby!

So without further ado… welcome! What are you waiting for!?


Welcome to Lobby II; return of the lobbyists…

I hope this Lobby 2 proves as successful and enjoyable as the first.

Ian, your breakfast offers have been missing lately. Is this due to an absence of crumpets caused by the shortage of CO₂?

Think they slipped through the .net, Malcolm. However, new Lobby, new CEO – perhaps a bright new future for Which? Who knows?

Well, we won’t know at this AGM but 2019 should prove interesting? I hope things change. Otherwise we might be suggesting a Which?2

I thought that we were tackling the carbon dioxide shortage with hot air. 🙂

There will, no doubt, be some topics raised in The Lobby” (v.1) that should be continued here as they were never resolved.

Questions were asked about the ability to see the price of Which? subscriptions and I asked:
“malcolm r says:23 July 2018
Could you not have a Which?Sub so you can put in your requirements and find the best available package, either on a fixed term subscription or a variable one?

It does seem odd, though, that Which?’s products cannot be simply priced in a transparent way. Maybe having to ring up simply puts people off asking, particularly potential new members? It seems easier to find an energy tariff……...

OK, the first part was a bit tongue in cheek, but I think it should be clear what each service/component/magazine from Which? costs, without the need to interrogate them on the phone or have complicated deals. I suggest it will also put off potential new subscribers.

Hi Malcolm, unbundling ideas like these are being explored!

@patrick, thanks.

I wonder why so much of the discussion in The Lobby was about subjects for which we already have relevant Convos. I’m not expecting much change in The Lobby 2.

Maybe we can recruit a few new faces.

Perhaps the moderators should redirect comments where a current Convo already exists. Sometimes it is hard to keep track of relevant Convos.

They sometimes do but maybe a little self-discipline would remove the need and reviving old Convos with new information can help to keep the discussion going. In theory it should help new visitors learn more about the subject but sometimes there is a distracting amount of off-topic discussion in Convos.

Off-topic discussion is something many regulars indulge in from time to time and can be entertaining. Life should not be too serious all the time. 🙂

Of course, Malcolm, but I expect that many have groaned at seeing a long off-topic exchange between us and hardly a relevant post in sight.

I missed my opportunity of a name suggestion – Armadillo 😉

In 18 months when Lobby 2 runs into trouble? 🙂

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The best way of ensuring that an off-topic discussion continues seems to be for someone to suggest that it is moved to The Lobby.

Even if The Lobby had not been archived it would have been difficult to locate specific posts or topic so yes an old Convo is the better option for non-ephemeral material.

I prefer Pangolins?

duncan, aren’t the servers provided by Amazon (why do I think this?)

“Pangolins are the Cutest Animals You’ve Never Heard Of”
Applies to me.

I assumed Roger’s suggestion was a reference to cafedillo, but maybe I read too much into it?

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assumed Roger’s suggestion was a reference to cafedillo, but maybe I read too much into it?

No; Armadillo was what the original off-topic forum in the original forum was called. Cafedilio was set up (in 2005) following persistent outages at Which?so we’d all have somewhere to meet on a wet Saturday afternoon.

Amazon provide server facilities for millions of users. It’s their biggest earner and well ahead of what they make on the Amazon store itself.

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This is a complicated and fluid situation. Murdock was told a long time ago that he’d have to sell off Sky News if he wanted to bid for the rest of Sky he doesn’t currently own. However, Comcast have now pulled out of bidding for Fox TV and are concentrating on bidding for Sky TV. Disney have outbid Comcast for the purchase of Fox TV. Comcast have now outbid Murdock for control of Sky TV. Murdock was told last week that he’d have to keep funding Sky News for ten years but would have no control over it whatsoever. He’s losing a lot of money in this bidding war.

Murdock was told on 3rd June he’d have to get rid of Sky news. “The UK government has cleared the way for Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox to buy Sky on the condition it sells Sky News to another organisation.

It also approved a rival bid for the British broadcaster from US media giant Comcast, setting up a multibillion-pound bidding war.

Fox is attempting to buy the 61% of Sky that it does not already own, in a deal valuing the company at £18.5bn, but the bid has been complicated by concerns that it would leave Murdoch with too much control over the UK media.”

Personally, I’d prefer Disney to get Sky, but I suspect they’re more interested in Fox TV and Film studios.

@carneades, “ Armadillo was what the original off-topic forum “. Thanks Ian.

I am sure the government’s decision on the Sky take-over was based on a rational assessment of the balance of control over the media and the national interest and not as a result of pressure from a petition. That’s probably why it took so long – so that the decision would stand up in court if it had to.

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It was never going to be done behind the scenes, Duncan. Every major merger and acquisition has to be scrutinised by the Competition and Markets Authority and this particular one has been rumbling on for some time as different bidders came and went. It has been heavily publicised throughout featuring in all the main news media. There are special rules laid down in law for control of specified national newspapers, so the main issue has been the question of media control given that News Corporation, Fox and Sky together would have been a dominant force. I don’t discount the power of petitions and public engagement but they don’t substitute for detailed examination and consideration of the many complex issues involved. Petitions are a valuable adjunct to democratic processes as they highlight the strength of public interest in a topic, if not necessarily the strength of public opinion. At the end of the day the decision lies with government and has to be made in accordance with the criteria laid down in the monopolies and mergers legislation.

I am not sure what you mean in this context by “ignore the voters”. Nobody votes directly on competition policy at election time [although the policies and attitudes of the respective parties might have some influence] so petitions can cover ground not canvassed during a general election and give an indication of a portion of the public’s opinion but they clearly do not represent the electorate. Having made the fateful decision to elect a particular party into office it is almost certain that the policies and decisions that emerge will be in line with that party’s manifesto and known sympathies; to that restricted extent they will suit the electorate

I do not know how inclusive the petition process is – is it not the case that participation is on a self-selected basis? I don’t know, because I have never been contacted to add my name to a petition on a national issue, or been informed what is up for a decision, and have not been aware of any party political activity on such an issue. It seems to come mainly from pressure groups and from people who are already pre-disposed to take part in petitions and do so regularly. I suspect that, sometimes, realisation of the desired outcome is a coincidence.

The trouble with petitions is the silent majority don’t get a say.

I get the same petitions as Duncan having signed one once, and there have been a few I would have voted against given the chance. Having looked at a few and read some of the comments, it would appear some people sign their name to anything that appears in their inbox.

Every petition should have a for and against before it is taken seriously.

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The 38 Degrees campaign started more than two years ago, but I would argue that it was far more down to pressure from Hacked off and quite a few MPs who became actively concerned about the effect Murdock was having. When Murdock made no secret of his desire for the UK to leave the EU a lot of MPs on both sides of the house became very worried about the undue influence he was perceived as having.

I doubt the 38 degrees campaign had a lot of effect, honestly.

Of course, I don’t think the lecturer at Birkbeck is a fool, Duncan, or dismiss petitions as irrelevant. What I question is the claim that they are instrumental in decision-making. The government was always looking for ways to block the News Corporation takeover of the shares in Sky that it did not already own. The government’s decision had to be taken on a rational basis complying with the legal requirements in the relevant monopolies and mergers legislation so that if challenged in court it would prevail. To a considerable degree the petition had an emotive, personality-oriented flavour whereas there has always been a rational basis for preventing media concentration.

You are clearly very impressed with 38 Degrees and I can see why. I too welcome this kind of action that could not have occurred until almost every household had a device that could access the internet. There is considerable potential for having much more meaningful public engagement on national issues, but I am in agreement with Alfa that there need to be alternative voting options otherwise petitions can easily be dismissed as tendentious. I agree with you that the 38 Degrees petitions are inclusive to those who have participated but it might be worth exploring ways of making them accessible to more people. Of course, with an either-way vote, the outcomes might not always be what the promoters were looking for.

At the end of your comment you are obviously alluding to Which? [based on previous similar comments]. I don’t think petitions can be compared to Which?’s efforts over the years. Which? was hammering away on the doors of government for many years before on-line petitions were even thought of and they have been consistently successful – eventually – with most of their campaigns. And what Which? has dealt with have not always been the popular issues that have mass appeal as a topic. Building a case and negotiating the intricacies of existing legislation on consumer rights and protection cannot be reduced to the vox pop, vote YES only, type of campaign that petitions are good for. At least Which? looks after the silent majority and backs its approach up with research, testing, intellectual scrutiny, and detailed negotiation at the highest level.

I wonder just how much use is made of petitions, which often come from pressure groups, with a specific agenda.

The government has a means of organising petitions,, which will lead to a debate if sufficient numbers support it. If I recall correctly, from the few I have seen, they allow “I do” support but not “I don’t”, rather like Which? campaigns.

Responding to these petitions will depend upon you being aware that they exist, Where there are significant issues to raise I’d suggest we need a mechanism where as many people as possible are told of their existence. The petition needs to be accompanied by a fair and unbiased summary of the topic. How do we achieve that?

Here is what Dr.Justin Schlosberg, Media Lecturer Birbeck University said about those who contributed to this campaign” It is always interesting to here others views on matters. However, I wonder why I should take any special notice of any individual’s opinion.

Dr. Justin Schlosberg’s an interesting character. A self-described ‘media activist’ his political inclinations appear to be towards the hard left wing and his studies and publications ask a lot of questions but say little in the way of positive courses of action.

However, the questions he asks are important, and the main thrust of those questions is how power can and should be challenged. He is an authority on the media in the UK and, as such, his opinion is possibly more important than many. He’s spot on about the possibility that Fox News may return but covering the UK, and that’s a big concern.

But to alleviate your fears, Malcolm, he dosn’t credit the members of 38 degrees with more than a nod, really; they were “absolutely instrumental” in the campaign, but only as a part of it.

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But…I was never taught by Albert Einstein.

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duncan lucas said Today 11:49:

And is Which “absolutely Instrumental ” in all its campaigns ? For that matter how does Which compare to the other big two organisations in Achieving and winning their chosen media activated policies.

Which? often claims success in some campaigns when in fact other organisations are similarly claiming success for exactly the same campaigns. I think it’s called marketing.

I get told of every success and there are many, even small ones achieve action from HMG /Big Business UK. Its easy to pick holes in anything I can easily do that but being continually negative without putting forward a POSITIVE course of action is just complacency in thinking.

No one was ‘picking holes’ but pointing out that what you posted was not even current news; it’s rather old in fact, and also people were concerned you were attributing too much influence to an enthusiastic campaign group.

The heading for your posting was

Absolutely Good News !! –HMG has BLOCKED R. Murdoch from taking over Sky News and that implied this was a new development – which it isn’t. I’ve known about it for months.

Perhaps it might have been worth focussing on the fact that we allow ex-pats and foreigners to buy British media at all. Just look around and see which press titles have owners that actually live in the UK or are British.

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Duncan – I don’t think you can compare Which? with a petition organisation. They are two completely different animals with different purposes.

Which? does not always succeed in the short term with specific campaigns but it raises the temperature and gets things moving in the right direction. That might not be an absolute ‘Win’ but without it other campaigns wouldn’t even get started. Which? is very good at rolling the wicket and moving the sight screens after which play can commence. Of Which?’s 800,000 subscribers only a handful take part in specific campaigning, and many of the people who participate in Which? Conversation, and do the opinion polls, have no stake in Which? or visit more than once. People who want the more popular types of opinion-forming can join the other organisations, add their names to petitions, and get the feedback.

It is impossible to say whether Which? is “absolutely instrumental” in all its campaigns. Probably not, on balance, because some proposals come from a variety of sources and there is a degree of band-waggoning. But with Which? we are getting more than you can get from a petition organisation. Which? is not just a platform that launches short-life petitions; it is actively and deeply involved in the issues and its research and experience inform its actions. And it is still there monitoring after the decision has been taken.

Is it possible to engage in a discussion with petition organisers over the direction in which they should go, or is the question fixed and you either take it or leave it? The well-rounded consumer will be involved in both types of influential action.

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I was intrigued by your question , John:”…Is it possible to engage in a discussion with petition organisers over the direction in which they should go?”. I found this: “Each week 50,000 members, chosen at random, are asked to vote for their top priorities; only ones where there is a strong consensus will be pushed forward. On occasion the whole membership is invited to take part in votes to decide the organisation’s position on a newsworthy issue. For example, a poll in September 2014 found that members were evenly split on whether to support or oppose military action targeting ISIS in Iraq. As a result, 38 Degrees took no position”.

I have an open mind on the value of such organisations as 38 Degrees, now in its 8th year, and do participate but one big downside is that MPs have become disenchanted with them in general, and are possibly prone to ignoring emails if they come from 38 degrees members.

I’m sure of one thing, however; I doubt any single group or organisation, no matter how powerful it believes itself to be, can match the power of a single episode of a David Attenborough TV documentary.

I believe Which? could do well to ask its members for support or otherwise before it launches one of its campaigns. Presumably it still is an organisation of its members?

I presume Connect is an example of that, but the problem with Connect is that it only asks for opinions on very carefully defined lines.

Which? have a team whose sole purpose is to identify important consumer issues and I do wonder if what you’re suggesting was behind the creation of W?Cs. But here might be a somewhat avuncular attitude that pervades the upper echelons of Which?. That could actively militate against member consultations. And Which? doesn’t have a good track record with its membership in general, remember.

When I became a member (as opposed to a subscriber) in 1996 there was a lot of encouragement from a couple of the directors. They were remarkably open and transparently honest about the place back then. A lot has changed, mostly not for the better. I wait to see if the incoming CEO will approach things differently.

Thank you Duncan and Ian. I am supportive of petitioning – after all it is one of our oldest and most traditional ways of seeking change and is a citizen’s right if not by law at least by custom and practice. Petitioning for a debate in Parliament now has a legal basis

Ian – I am encouraged by what you reported from 38 Degrees but you have identified one of the drawbacks of some forms of petitioning. Templated petitions are not usually taken as seriously as personal ones individually written or typed. I have been involved with numerous petitions or representations on local matters but never lent my name to a national one.

“That didn’t stop the American government from “requisitioning ” him to help build the Atom Bomb . He said he later deeply regretted doing that.”

Duncan, as reported by Richard Rhodes, in his 1986 book “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” it was more the other way round.

Einstein did express regret at having helped Szilard to “requisition” the USA into building the atom bomb – before the Axis powers did.

It was also reported that the Americans regarded Einstein as a security risk, so, even if he had wanted to be closely involved, that would not have been allowed.

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Duncan – Derek did not say that Einstein was pro-Hitler; what he wrote was that “the Americans regarded Einstein as a security risk”. That seems plausible to me.

I don’t really see why Albert Einstein was introduced into this topic at all, actually.

Nobody except you has made any comment about Russia in this sub-thread but you are obviously angry about something.

You do seem to go on about Israel and the Jews rather a lot but I cannot work out what you are trying to say; whatever, I don’t think it is relevant to this Conversation.

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I wish you wouldn’t take umbrage so vehemently when anyone questions you, Duncan, especially when you make provocative comments. I am not saying you are lying and I am not saying you are discriminating – so why put up such resistance? It’s just that I don’t see the relevance of much of what you are saying. I don’t see how this information helps a discussion about petitions.

I trust everyone would agree that there is no place for anti-Semitic comments on Which? Conversation.


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To clarify, I was simply agreeing with what Derek had said and I have not read the earlier posts.

I would like to see us focus more on the sort of issues that Which? focuses on or we think they should focus on. Discussing warfare and some of the other subjects that are frequently debated in The Lobby may deter those who might otherwise make comments on consumer issues.

Duncan, please stop these sorts of comments, the rest of you stop winding him up.

Remember, this is a consumer website.

Agreed alfa. Sometimes the word “inquisition” springs to mind. Let our arguments be on topics, not about commenters.

However, “ The Lobby 2

This will give you the space to discuss anything that takes your fancy

Some controversial comments have to be addressed and cannot be allowed to stand. In future it would be better to send a memo to the editor rather than debate the issue here because all we get is an even bigger confrontation.

I think we all need to impose some self-discipline in The Lobby Mark 2 otherwise the rules will have to be rewritten to confine the scope of the discussion.

I agree with contesting a controversial comment, but one way is to have it removed or moderated. Anyone who suffers that indignity may realise the boundaries or choose to have a discussion with the moderators. All it takes is three reports (even from one person at the moment, believe. ) Better than the occasional personal ding dong.

There are a number of ways commenters can make a contributor feel uncomfortable when they say something contrary to their own opinion. This can put a newcomer off. Regulars might review their initial reactions and their phrasing when the blood rises slightly. Like emails, a comment can be made in haste and repented at leisure.

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I’m unsure how the reporting mechanism actually works. Is it three reports for the same criteria, or simply three unrelated reports?

But Derek has made a very salient point: this forum must never allow anything remotely anti-Semitic, racist or misogynistic to remain.

Lest anyone have any doubts, this is part of the internationally agreed (although not by Corbyn) definition of anti-Semitism:

Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.

Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the N***s.

A personal or heated argument can only be terminated when one side ceases hostilities. It does put people off and that is the last thing we want to see in Convos. It is natural for us to stand our ground and want the last word – characterised by a few discussions – but only one person can, and that usually means a truce.

I am not convinced that the normal, sometimes slightly robust, interchange, without personal comments, does any harm at all, however.

I’m not sure this is appropriate, really, when we are trying to avoid controversy. This post includes two of the three taboo topics – only sex seems to be missing 🙂

I think it is three reports of any kind, but perhaps Which? will confirm.

Malcolm – I agree with your previous post but one [“A personal or . . .”]. Having re-read this string of comments, I cannot see where anyone has accused anybody of anything.

Ian, I posted this twice:

“I think it is three reports of any kind, but perhaps Which? will confirm.“.

I then reported it three times on the same criticism, and once each on the first three. Each resulted in it being removed and referred to the moderators. Each referral said it would be looked at; only when I tried to report for a fourth time did it tell me I’d already reported it 3 times.

It is a deficiency that one person can decide to remove another’s comment.

@gmartin, please ignore my reports!

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I cannot see where anyone has accused anybody of anything.
duncan disagrees. I think this in danger of getting out of hand. I believe the best course of action is for the moderators to remove all relevant comments.

@gmartin, is this the best solution?

The solution is; you must first be conscious of an unconscious provocative comment when it arises and then simply ignore it, otherwise the ego takes charge and you then unconsciously become a party to something you would have preferred not to.

Difficult to do for some I realise, but it gets easier with practice and is extremely effective.

Malcolm: removal of comments is always a dangerous move. You may consider that the best course of action is to remove comments, but I have a very long history of managing forums and I can say with confidence that it should only be a very last resort.

The reasoning is fairly simple. Contentious or simply incorrect postings should always be challenged; that’s what happens in adult societies. Adults should also be happy either to defend their postings with quantifiable evidence, or apologise and withdraw them.

Removal by moderators or admins is viewed as censure or censorship. It creates bad feeling, provokes feelings of resentment and can end up causing issues further down the line.

Mostly, problems are created because people don’t follow three basic rules:

1. Don’t dash off a response, Think carefully.
2. Consider whether the post was a form of humour. Humour doesn’t always work in text.
3. Is your response justified and would you say the same words if you were with a group of friends?

Sadly, things can unravel at times and a post may, as a last resort, need editing or even removing. But there’s always a cost.

I have not read much of the foregoing. Could you link to this internationally accepted text Ian.

I am a little loathe to accept it in toto as I do not like to see the confusion of race, religion, ethnicity, and a particular country ending up as some blanket ban on references to particular action taken by a nation, state or sections of its population.

However the “thread” I do not really think it adds anything to Which? and is a major distraction and should be removed.

Patrick – This comment by Ian earlier today is what you are seeking –

I now see that the Israeli Parliament [Knesset] has passed a law arranging for two classes of citizens in Israel. This seems immediately to highlight an anomaly :

” Applying double standards by requiring of it a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”
I think every democratic country considers all are equal under the law. I see an Israeli cartoonist has been fired for recognising the similarity to Animal Farm and its version of equality.

As for the internationally accepted agreement I am not sure 15% of the world’s nations agreeing makes it internationally accepted other than by a narrow definition of what the term

This article is interesting if more info is required.

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Malcolm: removal of comments is always a dangerous move.” Perhaps I should have said moderation rather than removal.

I can only give a personal view and in most cases I’m happy so see arguments robustly made and defended. However this one seemed to have gone a little further in the eyes of one involved and the cleanest way to prevent it escalating seemed to be to defuse it by removing comments that might be, say, misconstrued.

Hi all. As many have pointed out, this is not a debate we need to be having on Which? Conversation. It’s also one that, in the eyes of some, has gone too far, and there is nothing to be gained here by continuing. We always want to avoid removing comments and discussions where we can, so I’m kindly asking that this one comes to a close here.

While the lobby (2.0!) is a place for some great off-topic chat, we all need to remember what we’re known for; friendly, consumer debates with well-informed comments and in-depth knowledge from our regulars – let’s get back to it.

Thanks all.

Patrick; the plural of ‘Lobby’ is ‘Lobbies’ not Lobbys’,

Of course. Lobby for change. Now was it pedant’s corner or pedants’ corner?

We have a new Lobby, a new CEO, so can we now have a new way of posting – LOGGING IN TO POST?

Please @patrick ? Before you inflict the next deluge of verbal diarrhoea on us? 😫

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I agree alfa.
Attracting more contributors – often one-offs – simply to increase numbers seems no reason to avoid the requirement to log in. If someone genuinely wants to contribute to a topic, and not just have a rant, then they will join and, hopefully stay. I guess many may well be put off by the torrent of negative posts that can arrive, when they want to make a useful contribution and see it debated. In generally steer clear until the dust has begun to settle.

Which? is an organisation with serious intent and I see no reason to have that changed.

After a one-off registration I thought we only had to log in once for several weeks of access. The big benefit is that contributors can then find their comment again easily if they have something to add or to find out what other people had to say on it. I think this is what is lacking in the ‘deluge’ conversations – a lack of continuity and development of the submitted thought. Logging-in here is an easy process that only takes a few seconds.

HI @alfa, I’ll chat with the team about it. We’d need to make some changes to the technology and user experience to make that happen, and so it’s working out whether it’s worth doing now or for when the new technology comes in in the future.

Welcome to he first full day of the Lobby II and the day in 1814 when Stephenson introduced his steam locomotive, the day in 1943 on which Mussolini was dismissed as Italian Premier and arrested on the authority of King Victor Emmanuel III, the day in 1965 when Bob Dylan was booed by sections of the crowd at the Newport Folk Festival for performing with an electric guitar and more topically, the day in 1999 on which Lance Armstrong won the 1st of 7 consecutive Tour de France titles, later to be disqualified for drug cheating.

At Malcom’s request, and to celebrate the opening of Lobby II, help yourselves to our fresh cream strawberry tarts and as much chilled freshly-made orange juice as you can drink.

Hello, I’ve been reading these comments with great interest. I recognise many of your names from my time on Convo many years ago. I now work for Alex Neill – our Home Products and Services MD – on business opportunities within the home sector.

As you’ve pointed out Malcolm, the news article we published on the 16th July was solely focused on Amazon to mark Prime Day. Our team scoured through the offers to bring readers a selection of the best deals available on Amazon. It’s important that we cover these big events and popular shopping days – both from a commercial and charitable point of view to ensure we’re supporting the business and tackling any dubious offers. You’re absolutely right to shop around and if the deals aren’t for you, then it’s right that you let them pass you by. You’ll be very familiar with our investigations into whether special offers are as special as they seem and the consumer rights information we provide helps people address take action in these unfortunate cases.

Which? makes money through affiliate links but this never involves compromising our integrity. The payment Which? receives from affiliate fees does not drive our product recommendations, which are based solely on the rigorous product tests and impartial reviews. While this news story was focused on Amazon, you’ll be aware that where we offer the ‘Where to buy’ tab on product reviews, we typically offer a variety of retailers to purchase the product from. We’re just in the process of digesting some research where members have told us what’s important to them when deciding where to purchase an item from to help inform how we develop this in the future.

John, you make some interesting points about how Which? is just a part of your preliminary research. I think many of our members would say the same. It’s worth noting that our Best Buy and Don’t Buy content is only available to members, with the exception of when we have a serious safety concern about a product. In this instance, we make this information publically available with a safety warning. You also mention that encouraging online purchases could inadvertently be supporting the demise of the high street. You’ll be familiar with our best and worst shops surveys where we provide two separate charts for online and high street shops. This particular piece of activity was focussed on online but we want to ensure customers receive a good experience however they choose to shop.

Derek, we are looking at how we can offer links to more retailers to give consumers the right level of choice – some people feel they’d like a comprehensive list in price order, others feel that a focused list of retailers offering the best customer service is the best approach.

We’re looking at how we can offer the best purchasing experience for both members and non-members so your comments have come at a perfect time. As a business looking to continue its success, we need to look at the opportunities outside of our loyal members and the potential to generate revenue from an audience not always interested in a subscription. The views of our valued members are of absolute importance so the key will be achieving this whilst continuing to meet the needs of our members.

This is in regards to this thread:

Thank you.

A very full and polished answer Charlotte – I think that perhaps you are mistaken in some respects.

” “Which? makes money through affiliate links but this never involves compromising our integrity.”
From a historical point of view the organisation was taking money from vendors from 2007 to AFAIK 2016 without informing subscribers that it was. I cannot easily square this with the word integrity.

The Which? subsidiary Which? Financial Services Ltd obviously receives significant millions from commercial companies now but has/is being subsidised by subscribers to a current total of £22.5m.
One of the affiliate links to a large solicitors marketed by Which? as preferred solicitor which would have cost me around £100 more than using a small solicitors in Eastbourne.

WFSLtd would have received £50 from the preferred solicitor. Can you explain why using my Which? subscriber discount with the preferred solicitor I would have been £100 worse off and Which? £50 richer sits with your claim?

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Charlotte, thanks for the reply. I regret I am not convinced. 🙁

The Which? news item on Amazon was straightforward advertising. There were 24 products promoted for Amazon, of which only half were “Best Buys” and others had mediocre reviews. To get a meaningful review of the product you presumably have to log-in as a Which? member, so visitors would not see all the necessary information; they would rely on Which?’s independence, which is not evident here.

8 were not the cheapest despite Which?’s claim “We’ve rounded up some of the best deals and biggest discounts”. And to get these you presumably also have to be a Prime member – also promoted on Amazon’s behalf by Which? “Our team scoured through the offers to bring readers a selection of the best deals available on Amazon. Why only Amazon when better deals were available elsewhere and, indeed, better products.

I do not see how Which? can possibly justify overt advertising of a single supplier in this way. The only purpose, presumably, was to direct people to Amazon to buy, and generate revenue for Which? I do not think a consumers’ organisation purporting to be independent should do this.

Have Which? taken any action through Trading Standards to have Amazon investigated and, hopefully penalised, for selling or facilitating the sale of fraudulent, dangerous and harmful products (e.g. 2-pin plugs, CO monitors, Slime recently)? You see, my concern at this lucrative commercial partnership with Amazon is they will be more reluctant to bite the hand that feeds them.

My view is that this kind of financial link with a commercial organisation, particularly one that seems to have poor credentials, is not in consumers’ interests. I hope this sort of practice will cease later this year – but I’m not holding my breath.

But much more importantly, we have to thank Jeff Bezos for rescuing The Expanse and agreeing to produce its 4th season for Amazon Prime.

Really? Damn. Now I have to go over to the dark side…

Possibly a sort of “Clarissa Mao moment” for Bezos?

Indeed. 🙂

Am off line for much of the time so will have to make an effort when the web reaches me for a week or so. How many pendants do we have? Sunday Times, “The Pedants Are Revolting” somewhere in the archives back in the early 2000’s. Worth a read if you can find it. I have mentioned this before some while ago. I thought I would make a mark here, just to register. So long for now.

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I thought that we had abolished pendants when we abandoned the death penalty?

I hope your temporary absence will only be for recreational purposes, Vynor. Look forward to seeing you back.

Happy sailing Vynor?

As regular readers of Conversations , and ordinary members of the charity, may know I have a very poor opinion of this consumer body’s ability to spot problems on the housing front. This ranges from shoddy building, onerous leases, to the use of tame solicitors. These matters have of course been around for quite a few years without comment by Which?

Here is a current scandal story –

And two for the price of one in that we have incompetent solicitors [possibly panel?] and also the snagging problem.

Quite a few years ago the Dutch consumer body lobbied and got passed a bill that meant purchasers of new properties retained 5% untill all problems were resolved. It is not a great distance to Holland and you might think that consumer bodies seek out the good solutions to consumer problems.

Unfortunately we seem to have a consumer body that thinks commercially and has a team looking at Amazon special events to talk about products it possibly will earn fees from. Seems to me that it should allocate staff to be bold and active on the long existing problems that need dealing with and present a succint and clear case on the problem and a proposed solution to which all members could easily support.

Earn respect, and loyalty, for tackling problems that are blatant – and effect many citizens for significantly.

” As a business looking to continue its success, we need to look at the opportunities outside of our loyal members and the potential to generate revenue from an audience not always interested in a subscription. The views of our valued members are of absolute importance so the key will be achieving this whilst continuing to meet the needs of our members.”

Loyalty, business, generate revenue …… rather a chilling monetary view of what the charity has become.

Patrick: I’m still inwardly wincing at the spelling in the header.

And on a completely unrelated topic (although I don’t know…)

“An analysis of students in the US has found that those who have a certain type of brain parasite are more likely to be majoring in business studies.

Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite carried by cats. It can infect people through contact with cat faeces, poorly cooked meat, or contaminated water, and as many as one-third of the world’s population may be infected. The parasite doesn’t make us feel sick, but it forms cysts in the brain where it can remain for the rest of a person’s life. Some studies have linked infection with the parasite to slower reaction times, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, suicidal behaviour, and explosive anger.

Now an assessment of almost 1300 US students has found that those who had been exposed to the parasite were 1.7 times more likely to be majoring in business. In particular, they were more likely to be focusing on management and entrepreneurship than other business-related areas.

The study also found that professionals attending business events were almost twice as likely to have started their own business if they were T. gondii positive, and that countries with a higher prevalence of T. gondii infection show more entrepreneurial activity.

The team behind the study say their data suggests that the parasite may be involved in reducing a person’s fear of failure and high-risk, high-reward ventures. Rodents infected with T. gondii are known to become less fearful of encountering cats.” Courtesy New Scientist.

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Welcome to the day in 1803 when the Surrey Iron Railway, arguably the world’s first public railway, opened in south London, the day in 1882 on which “Parsifal” opened in Bayreuth, Germany and the day in 1945 of the Declaration of Potsdam: the US, Britain and China demanded the Japanese surrender.

More fresh cream strawberry tarts available, in addition to even more freshly-squeezed orange juice and as much iced water as you can drink. How’s that for service?

Normal service resumed. :-). Please may we bring our reusable cups and plates?

Almost normal…I’m waiting to see how the new CEO shapes up.

And when will the glaringly obvious spelling of ‘lobbys’ be corrected???

I hope we have seen the end of Conversations written by a CEO and abandoned with no further input. At the very least our previous CEO could have asked someone to make some input that reflects the position of Which?

I was dismayed to receive in the post a commemorative plaque that will be seen by many people. The manufacturers had omitted a vital comma in the text. The sign was cast metal and not possible to alter but I asked the person who picked out the letters in black on the white background to paint in the missing comma. Hopefully the widow of the deceased did not spot the mistake when she unveiled the plaque yesterday. Not far away there is a large marble memorial where the engraver had put a surplus apostrophe in ‘its’. I shaded it in with a black marker.

It astonishes me how many don’t grasp the it’s / its rules. Not exactly testing.

Now there’s the potential for a new topic on something many won’t understand. Many seem to consider grammar, correct spelling and use of the correct words to be pointless. It is a trend no doubt hastened by texting. I disagree; the proper use of our language ensures misunderstandings as to meaning are less likely to occur.

I wonder whether it was the plaque manufacturer or the commissioner who got it wrong?

I was sent the text for the plaque. It seemed excessively long but when I pointed this out I was told that it had come from the family of the deceased. I produced a design ready for use and sent a pdf to the organisation that was having the plaque produced by the company they have used in the past. My input was needed because the height was critical for the proposed location. I received the plaque direct from the manufacturers because I had offered to have it installed and no-one else saw it until it was painted.

I think it is three reports of any kind, but perhaps Which? will confirm.

Something Which? might be interested in – or possibly not.
“A radical change to planning laws was smuggled out by the Department for Communities. Councils lose the right to block developments if they have failed to build their fair quota of new housing. Unscrutinised, who knows if this will be gift for developers to build greenfield identikit executive homes wherever they want, however unaffordable? The local government association’s Tory chair says it “punishes local communities”. The guess has to be that if it was good news, it would not have been sneaked out.”

for other things sneaked out without MP’s having sight.

The policy that local authorities had to have identified a five-year supply of housing development sites if they wanted to defend refusals of planning consent has been in place for some time and has caused much upset in rural areas where people thought the local community should be able to decide when enough new development was enough for the infrastructure and local services to support.

If new executive homes are what the market wants and can afford to buy it seems unreasonable to thwart that with unrealistic demands for other kinds of development, i.e. ‘affordable’, for which the market does not seem to exist because they are patently not affordable. I presume that every move to a new executive home probably leaves another smaller/older house available and so on down the chain so that small unimproved cottages are available at economical, and truly affordable prices, for those who can put in the work to bring them up to a decent standard.

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From Wiki “
Pyrex (trademarked as PYREX) is a brand introduced by Corning Inc. in 1908 for a line of clear, low-thermal-expansion borosilicate glass used for laboratory glassware and kitchenware. It was later expanded to include clear and opal ware products made of soda-lime glass.

Corning no longer manufactures or markets consumer glass kitchenware and bakeware. Corelle Brands, which was spun off from Corning Inc. in 1998 under the name Corning Consumer Products Company and since renamed, continues to license the pyrex (all lowercase) brand for their tempered soda-lime glass line of kitchenware products sold for the consumer market in the United States, South America, and Asia. In the regions of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East the PYREX (all uppercase) brand is licensed by International Cookware for use on their borosilicate glass products. The brand name has also been used for non-glass kitchen utensils and cookware in various regions for several decades.

I had always associated Pyrex ( clearly strictly PYREX) with Corning’s borosilcate, and never knew the term was also used for soda lime products – much higher expansion and poor resistance to thermal shock. PYREX and pyrex are different, eh? Bit sneaky.

Borosilicate glass is made by other manufacturers.

We have discussed the change in composition of glass used in cookware before, either in a Convo about exploding oven doors or washing machine doors. Borosilicate glass is more expensive so a cheaper alternative has been used and now we have a class action case. We could do the same in the UK if we put our minds to taking action.

Pyrex laboratory glassware was widely used at one time and I assume that this is still borosilicate glass, but a lot of lab glassware is now German.

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These are 2 translated reviews on Coline glass food containers from Clas Ohlson:
Almost the same event as the review below by Izabelle. The box exploded with a lot of pressure, it went into a thousand pieces. I thought nobody was in the kitchen when this happened. However, mine had been heated in micron, but this happened about 6 hours afterwards.
Hope I do not have 9 explosions to wait now.

2 out of 4 food boxes have exploded after a short period of time after purchase. Due to thick glass, there has been a considerable pressure in the glass when broken.
One exploded when it was empty in the sink, at room temperature and without touching it. The other exploded after I removed it from the fridge (NOT heated in micro) and a few minutes later would start eating out of it. Glass is shoved in different directions on people around me, as well as my hands and arms. No one was injured but if I had close my face or held it in my hand, I could have done it badly.

I bought some of the small ones for the freezer, thought they were good so was going to buy some more but quite a few negative reviews had been written regarding exploding containers. All those comments have been removed but already 2 new ones added. I did put my concerns to Clas Ohlson and they replied the containers cannot be put straight in the microwave from the freezer as they cannot handle going from extreme cold to extreme heat.

I had been using them for over 6 months with no problems but those comments didn’t fill me with confidence so am now very cautiously using them for freezing food after it has cooled down and defrosting on the draining board with a cover over them. They are not going in the oven or microwave.

It is slightly worrying though.

Most of my glass cookware is old and some of it very well used. A couple of years ago a friend who knew I was looking for an other casserole with a plastic lid (for storage) bought me one but I realised that it was just ordinary glass and it has never been used. I might use it in the freezer but certainly not in the oven.

Maybe this comes under the Which? ‘Making Products Safer’ topic. We don’t need companies that compromise public safety by changing products that people trust.

Please let us know what happens with the class action case, Duncan.

Here is a Consumer Reports video from January 2015, demonstrating the difference between borosilicate glass and the cheaper, sub-standard alternative:

Alfa – Looking at the Clas Ohlson website I see that a casserole dish is described as ‘classic tempered glass’. As far as I know, borosilicate glass is not normally tempered and if it breaks then this will not happen dramatically because there is no stored energy from tempering.

A scientific glassblower puts new borosilicate glassware in annealing oven for long enough to remove stresses created when making and repairing products.

Borosilicate glass is simply a low expansion formulation of glass that can withstand sudden heating and cooling without breaking. Like being dowsed in cold water after being in the oven.

Soda lime (“common”) glass has a higher expansion and must be toughened to withstand both thermal and mechanical shock. It is heated to near softening point then rapidly chilled with air jets to set the outside thin layer. Car windscreens were a good example, as are their side windows. This glass, if properly toughened, breaks into small safe cube-shaped pieces .

All glass must be gradually cooled – annealed – in a Lehr after forming to relieve stresses .
I wouldn’t contemplate anything other than borosilicate glass for oven type cookware. But I’ve no experience of using other types. Successfully toughening anything other than flat glass requires care, as the soft glass must be properly supported to keep its shape before chilling.

Here’s a bit about Corelle break-resistant glass tableware:

When annealing glass it is maintained just below the softening temperature (hence the need for support) to remove internal stresses and then allowed to cool slowly. There is no chilling as this would reintroduce stresses.

Tempering of glass can vary. Most of us are familiar with toughened glass that is very strong but can break completely and explosively. Other forms of tempered glass are tougher than standard glass but break less dramatically and into larger pieces and shards instead of small pieces. The Consumer Reports video shows this and there are plenty of photos of broken washing machine doors online.

Borosilicate and soda glasses have different coefficients of thermal expansion (the reason for the resistance of the former to thermal shock), melting temperature,refractive index and density. They are easy to distinguish in the lab but not in the home.

Duncan referred to a section on Corelle Brands’ website entitled “The Truth About Pyrex.” I could not find this and presumed it had been removed. It has, but at present it is still in the Google cache: Look now because it will be gone soon.

It seems that borosilicate glass is not as safe for the consumer. I wonder if that claim would stand up to scrutiny.

A somewhat messy way of checking whether glass is borosilicate or soda glass would be to dip it into a dish of corn oil and see if it disappears:

The basis of this test is that borosilicate glass has the same refractive index as the oil. Scientific magic.

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A mere Dr, Duncan. In the US I would be referred to as a professor. I don’t normally use ‘Dr’ but I did use it when Currys were giving me the run around over a faulty product earlier this year. I will buy some corn oil and prepare to make a mess in the kitchen.

The basis of this test is that borosilicate glass has the same refractive index as the oil. Scientific magic.

I’m waiting for the company that can change the refractive index of ordinary glass to something approaching 0.0000000001, so that light would still pass through, but at around a velocity of about 6mm per year.

It could eliminate the need to move house for a better view. You’d simply buy windows that had been left on the side of a hill in the Lake District, say – for a year, then fit them in your own house. Once in situ you’d see magnificent views of the Lake district from a terraced house in Birmingham.

LMAO. Regrettably you will have to wait for a long time… the speed of light through the medium and its refractive index are inextricably related! The slower it goes the more it bends.

If there are any kids reading, do try immersing cookware in corn oil to see if it becomes invisible, and try not to make too much mess. Science is fun.

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Many of the public assume that Dr means a medical doctor. Don’t dare refer to a surgeon as Dr because they should be calls Mr.

🙂 Interestingly, I suspect many don’t realise that the non-medical ‘Dr’ predates the medical one, and the use of Dr by a GP or other medic is in fact honorary.

I’m a bit late back but interesting stuff .

These are the actual containers:

There are 3 sizes, the 2 larger sizes give the material as borosilicate glass, the small one (mine) doesn’t say.

Reviews don’t say which size they refer to. They don’t give me the impression of fake reviews. I don’t like the fact the bad ones are removed.

It was hard work finding single portion size glass containers that could go in the freezer, oven and microwave. I also wanted the clip-style lids as others can be hard to attach and remove.

Very few are single portion size. Many containers are too shallow for heating. Many are round which I consider have too much wasted space around them.

So these appeared to be perfect and at a very good price.

I don’t know if plastics have anything to do with it, but the cost of glass containers has gone up considerably in the last few years.

The corn oil test may well explain the origins of the name of the company making PYREX 🙁

A current solution would be to move from Birmingham before the invasion of yuppies on HS2.

Or Mrs.
I often wonder why, when someone retires, resigns from or is kicked out of certain jobs they still refer to their last position as a title. The military for example.

Thanks for the link, Alfa. I agree that the rectangular dishes are extremely useful and often make ‘nearly-ready’ meals that are stored in the freezer, transferred to the fridge to thaw and after removal of the lid are put in the oven to heat and in some cases brown on top.

I can accept that different benefits can be claimed for borosilicate and toughened soda glass but it would take a lot to convince me that borosilicate is not the better product. There are different grades of borosilicate glass and it might be interesting to test claims that newer borosilicate is not as good as the old Pyrex.

It would be interesting to have some advice from Which?

I would like to see Which? acquire some and test them for safety. Only the large size is available at the moment so they may need to be quick.

They may be temporarily out of stock as has happened before, or they might be withdrawing them. Either way, I would like to know how safe or dangerous they really are.
@patrick ?

Quick links for reference:

Borosilicate glasses are very versatile. For those interested this is a good summary

Our friend Snell was a clever old soul…