Rip off Britain - Asda misleading on sale price - Hampton principles

When will trading standards get a grip of asda misleading advertisements on price?
When will the "Hampton principles" (read: "needs of the business") approach to regulation and enforcement be dropped?
Here is a shining example of how the Hampton principles effect us all and are the cause of "Rip off Britain."

Dairylea triangles (16 pack) at asda, has been up and down in price since the week before Christmas.

£1.79 in week of 10th December 2011
UP in price to £1.88 in the week of 18th December 2011 (busy Christmas week don't forget!)
UP again to £2.18 in the week of 25th January 2012 (Remember the big "saving you money everyday" promotions/advertising after Christmas?) a price dairylea triangles (16 pack) have never been before.

I questioned asda about how genuine this offer was and why had the product increased to a record high for it, not surprisingly, asda did not reply to any of my questions or comments about it.

Within 10 days (once the promotion/advertising campaign had finished?) asda reduced the price to £1 and kept it at that price for around four weeks, before raising the price again to £1.88 (UP 88p, in the run up to the Easter holidays).
Since in the week of 15th March 2012, the price has been held at £1.88 during a busy period/customer holidays.

Not content with this yoyo effect pricing, increasing (it seems to me) when a promotion or advertising campaign is running, then being "reduced" for a while before returning to a higher price when the next promotion/campaign starts, asda have once again displayed scant regard for the customers they are telling us they "are working hard to save money" for.

On Thursday before the Easter weekend (I'm told) asda started running adverts on national television about a range of products being "just £1" - one of these products was clear to see, Dairylea triangles (16 pack).
On Easter Saturday, the better half told me of the £1 advertised price, which was £1.88 in store, so I checked online, there too, asda selling price was also £1.88
I put it down to her being mistaken.

Today, as of 1am wednesday morning (whilst writing this post), after Easter, a full 6 days of national TV advertising of this £1 "sale" of products, including Dairylea triangles, I spotted the advertisement for myself. There were Dairylea triangles - 16 packs - clearly being shown next to a big red £1 sign, with a voice over telling us about £1 prices and claiming how asda save us money everyday.
The price on asda's website was £1.88 - this was only adjusted later on Wednesday morning (today).
Has the price been corrected in stores?

Advertising a product for a false price to a large audience, then removing it without notice or correction is a practice known as "bait advertising" and is against the law.

Back in January 2012, I pulled asda via twitter, regarding their advertised blog/twitter posts after asda stated "warburton's bread was reduced to £1.15" when in fact asda had increased the price from £1.30 to £1.35
You can read the full post and comments here:
Trading standards are doing nothing about supermarkets
It took them almost two days to even acknowledge they had blogged about it, then without warning, correction or apology to their customers, they simply deleted it from the blog.
It is a requirement of the law to notify customers of an error or correction in price quoted, after advertising it to an audience, significant in number.

I reported it, but asda kept their "compliant" status with trading standards, and kept all the business benefits this brings with it. No inspections without good reason, notification of an inspection in areas across the country, only with the permission of the primary authority (the trading standards dept in the area of asda head office), presenting less data, in effect head office regulation/enforcement.

This is due to the "Hampton principles" of regulation, that must consider "the needs of the business" before any proposed action can be taken against a business. If it will be detrimental, it cannot be enforced.
The only way around this for trading standards, is with rogue traders which continually flout the laws and do not comply with regulation/enforcement.
Under the Hampton principles, it is almost impossible for a company, let alone a huge business like asda, to lose their "compliant status" with regulators/enforcement bodies.
Enforcement bodies also have to take into account, how much a customer has lost out/suffered detriment.
When buying a car for example, this practice is relevant, it could run into hundreds if not thousands of pounds per customer.
What the Hampton principles make no account of, is the damage being done to customers who would only lose out by a few pence.

This is why asda (and others) can get away with this and escape punishment, avoiding losing their compliant status with regulators/enforcement bodies. The complaint isn't significant enough to warrant losing their status, when this happens alongside no inspections without good reason regulation, regulation fails the customer. How many product lines does this happen with?

In the case of asda and dairylea triangles (16 packs) - only looking at an individual case by trading standards, does not show the full picture (a similar position exists with the energy ombudsman only looking at individual complaints).

Why are trading standards/regulators not looking at the following?
- How many packs have asda sold of dairylea triangles (16s) over the past week whilst this advertisement has been running on television?
Asda have more than 530 stores in the UK - if every store has sold just 10 packs during this week (think on: some stores will be much bigger and sell many more over Easter holidays) the figures are staggering!

530 stores times 10 packs = 5300 packs of dairylea triangles (16s)
Priced at £1.88 when they are being advertised at just £1 = an extra 88p per pack sold for asda.

5300 packs times 88p = an extra £4,664 in asda's coffers contrary to asda's advertising.

This is just one product line out of how many thousands that asda stock?
If this example were repeated over just 10 product lines, asda would bag an extra £46,640 over what they were advertising!
If this example were repeated over just 54 product lines, asda would bag a jaw dropping, more than a quarter of a MILLION pounds extra from their customer's pockets!
How many product lines do asda stores stock?

Asda's offer is on national television, but not on their website under normal pricing for 6 days, nor is it on their website under their "sales" section (it still isn't today) and was not available in their stores across the UK until 6 days after the ads were run, if they have corrected it?
Will asda be refunding all those 88p gains from sales of dairylea, to customers who bought in their stores? Bought via online orders?

If the Chancellor is "shocked" by tax avoidance by the super rich, he should check out exactly how his continuing with failed "advisory style regulation" (Hampton principles) which failed the banking sector so spectacularly and used by corporate businesses to get around the law, is hitting every family/household on a weekly basis, just by shopping for food!

The road to "Rip off britain" - The Hampton principles

What are the "hampton principles?"
Hampton principles come from the Hampton report, commissioned by the government in 2004, completed and presented in March 2005.
They were a set of rules for mainly five regulators and local council enforcement bodies, like trading standards, etc.
The then government were so impressed, they accepted all the recommendations in the reports findings and implemented them across the board, in all areas of regulation and enforcement. They became statute law in 2008, but by then they were already in place across all areas of regulation.
The idea was to "reduce administrative burdens on business caused by regulations"

The backbone of "Rip off Britain" is the implementation of "risk based assessment," regulation and enforcement.

A business complies with trading standards or it's industry regulator, in return for this "compliance" it receives less audits, no inspections, self provision of information to the authorities and less requirement of it, reliance on the head office policy for bigger businesses, in effect a green light, etc.
Under the Hampton principles, the needs and costs of the business must be considered before the action is taken - if it would increase expense/administrative burden on the business or industry, under law it cannot be enforced.

Problems with "Risk based assessment"
* Philip Hampton who wrote the report, is a corporate businessman. Consultation for his report was, we are told, wide and far reaching. The problem is, the consultation was almost entirely made up of big businesses, trade associations, regulators and enforcement bodies. The number of actual consumers consulted, you can count on one hand. The report was written by business for the benefit of business.
From the government's report, "Hampton: From enforcement to compliance";
- The word "business" is quoted 232 times.
- The word "consumer" is quoted just 30 times.
- "Putting the consumer/customer first" is mentioned just once! (On page 26 if you want to check)
(Source: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/hampton_compliance281106.pdf)

* Once a business is seen as "compliant" with its regulator and enforcement bodies, and the benefits this brings for them, it is almost impossible to lose this status. Thousands of identical complaints, a "super" complaint by a consumer body or a national outcry from the media, is the only instances that seem to be a reason for enforcement bodies such as the OFT or trading standards (for example) to register a complaint against their name. It takes several of these registered complaints before the business' even has chance of flagging up, with the enforcement body, that they maybe flouting the laws and at risk of losing their "compliant" status. This is made worse still, as if the business have "worked closely with [insert enforcement body here]" they are more inclined to raise issues during a meeting with the business top brass rather than inspections. As you will see from examples given later, this is neither use nor ornament. As a way of regulating it is non existant!

* If any action by the regulator/enforcement body, is to be taken against a corporate or business, it must pass the "needs of the business" test. If the action would cause detriment to the business, ie, cost it more money, then it cannot be enforced.
This could be because the business has to prepare answers for any enforcement body, costing it more in bureaucracy and staff, it could result in requiring retraining staff, again at more cost to the business.
Under "risk based assessment" law for regulators and enforcement bodies, action of this kind by those "watching out for the consumer" are, oddly, not permitted to act!

* "No inspections" - How exactly does a regulator/enforcement body carry out their work without inspecting businesses?

* "Risk based assessment" allows trading standards (for example) to focus resources on rogue traders - admirable as that maybe, it doesn't help the issue of enforcement of the law does it?
Rogue traders are a minority of businesses and one man bands, what about the damage done by corporate and big businesses?
Only today, the OFT removed the credit license of Yes loans, splashed all over the news. Good?
Look at the background of the case... you'll see the regulation (or lack of) was not so good! According to the BBC website, Yes loans have been "under investigation" since 2009 - customers that were charged up front fees for setting up a loan have taken months to get them back, it was down to the individual to fight their corner. What were the FSA doing for almost 3 years?

Risk based assessment regulation and enforcement in action, or the lack of regulation/enforcement leaving ordinary people to fight for themselves? Which ever way it's marketed to the public, the Hampton principles or "risk based assessment" in regulation urgently needs abolishing, not my words, but the words of top brass in the world of business.

Our next post will show how this principle effects every household in the country...

Dad diary - Hard times, sleeping patterns, Jobs creating jobs and pottering.

Hard times in hoover towers at the moment, juggling bills around is one of those thankless tasks that never gets any easier, especially in today's economic climate. The signs are, that there is no respite or light at the end of the tunnel for us.
Is this typical of what is happening around the UK?
I cannot say, but with all the measures and cuts we have been making here for the past 2-3 years or so, I can fully accept that those households which have not gone to such lengths as we have, will be struggling at the very least.

Of course, it's not just about the money.
It's been 5 years this summer, since our last holiday and that was a 3 day short break in Blackpool at an old friend's hotel.
The cost of everything is rocketing way in excess of what we can afford.
Cutting back on things is one thing, we are getting close to the stage where cutting things out all together will be the only option.
Even running this website, for my own reference, is at risk.
It pains me to see my family struggle. I do not like to see the personal results of financial pressure, the long working hours, no flexibility, etc.
This is not living, it's existing. We are running around just to stand still.
We do not go out for meals or nights out (cannot remember the last meal out we had), we drink only at Christmas, etc.
For a couple of years now we haven't been able to afford a theme park visit, attend a music festival of any kind, you get the picture.

No matter how frugal we have been/are, something has got to give.

Sleeping patterns of sprog2 are pretty regular. Apart from the occasional illness, we are getting 11-12 hours sleep right through the night no problem.
I've been meaning to post about this for a while, but delayed it as a good friend (Hey up Handles!) has been having a nightmare recently with her little girl's sleeping, I didn't want to rub it in, in anyway.
I am a little worried that something maybe wrong though. I don't recall sprog1 sleeping as good as this at this age? Could it be a sign of something else?
When she's asleep, hardly anything will wake her, noise has been used around her since day one, music, hoovering, people talking and laughing, etc, once she's nodded off she's out of it.
Anyone else's two year old sleep like a log?

I'd like to think this is down to my *luckily reading that professor's study into not establishing a routine with babies until they are approaching 3 years old. Letting them instead, sleep when needed, eat when hungry, etc. The logic (if there is any) being that parents spend an age battling to get a baby into a routine which studies show is almost pointless, as baby does not/will not understand until approaching the age of 3.
It was written by a bloke, which made me sceptical about it. With afternoon naps now just on the odd day, I can kind of see where the prof is coming from, time will tell I guess.
*Watch this, now I've wrote this I'll be getting tantrums, irregular sleep patterns and bricks bouncing off my swede for the next fortnight!

Jobs creating jobs, who'd have thought that a bit of plastering and moving a radiator would lead to the switching around of more than five beds between people who live hundreds of miles apart?
Everytime I get the urge to get cracking, it leads to more work for me.

Pottering season is almost upon us, once I get my head around the fact that the garden isn't a chore again, I'll be out there. I like pottering, I frugally picked up all my bulbs at the end of last season, still have half a bag full of seeds for flowers from last year and pallets that need chopping up for kindling which will be fun. The grapevine in the recycled greenhouse should be growing out via the tiny top window this year, it's well routed now, 3 years, so shouldn't cover me in spiders everytime I attempt to do anything in there.

Until next time, be frugal out there.

Facebook applications data mining your information.

Where is your facebook personal information going?
How is your facebook information used?
Which companies are using your facebook information?
Do you trust businesses that are farming your friend's and your personal information?
The short answer, nobody knows where or what is going on with your facebook profile information!

How a facebook application works:
Imagine your facebook page, which runs the any application, as an electronic picture frame, simply a border.
Your facebook application is written, coded, etc, just like this website.
With one exception. You can view the coding for this website. With a facebook application, game, picture changer, etc, you cannot.
The facebook application appears in your electronic picture frame, ie, with your facebook links all around it.
It is running on an entirely seperate website from facebook.
How do you view the coding for it so you know what's going on with information?
Unless you are a computer buff, you can't!

A new facebook friend started using a regular photo app and invited me to use it also.
I attempted to block the photo app from access to my data.
On the first screen giving me a chance to accept or decline the app, it listed all the information it required.

* Full access to my newsfeed, wall, email, photographs, videos and friends.
* Full access to my updates, fan pages and groups that I'd joined.
[Read: Everything I had placed on facebook]

I declined, another screen popped up.

"For the app to work, it will also have access to:"

* My friends list.
* My friend's newsfeeds.
* My friend's pictures and videos.
* My friend's email.
* My friend's groups, fan pages and "like" selections.
* MY friend's walls, profile information and settings.

This can include home and mobile phone numbers, email addresses, personal home addresses, family associations, shopping habits, products you "like"... you get the picture.

Is all this information really neccessary?
I think not.

More alarming, was the facebook application's "Terms and conditions" for anyone using the "service"!
Never, have I seen a more vague and contradictive set of terms and conditions and trust me, I've come across some dodgy ones in my time on this planet.

"We will not sell or pass on your information to any other company [*Notice nothing is said about your friend's information!]"
Two lines later....
"We reserve the right to pass on your information to any of our affiliate, corporate or parent companies"
So what about protection of all my friend's and my data?
"Your data will be stored in a secure way at all times"
A few lines further on...
"We cannot guarantee that your information will be always be stored in areas that are covered by data protection"
Hardly trustworthy is it.
So what about the actual information/pictures, etc.
This becomes their company's property and can be used as they so wish.
Hold on a mo, these are my pictures, my information, my email address, shouldn't they belong to me at all times facebook?

I tracked the facebook application back to the company website to try and learn about the company behind it.
A quick check on the website on which the facebook application is running reveals they have 9 other facebook applications running from the same domain name (website address) all different from the photo application that wanted to mine all this data.
Further digging on the owners of the company reveals they have received millions of dollars in loans to set up the company after they worked in a big corporation, so successful has their business been that they recently paid off their loans early and sold their business to a market leading corporation in their industry.
The industry the company is in, is called "Content Delivery Network" or CDN.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content_delivery_network

Companies in this field are in the business of providing streaming videos, for example, saving server space, faster speeds, etc.
I am presuming their facebook applications business is a sideline?
Hard to though when the company has been sold?

So when you have friends who play games, change photographs, etc, on facebook, using an application, they are already "sharing" your information, pics, etc.
They will have already accepted the terms and conditions of the company running the facebook app.
There are no safeguards, security procedures or legal bodies that can track what your information is being used for and protect it.
Consumer bodies have mentioned about official government offices having access to the information out there, I would suggest tightening up controls and getting a grip on what the private sector are doing in the first instance, BEFORE anymore of our information is shared.

One disturbing point, that will be looked at in the future posts, is facebook's role in all of this.
I use an email address as a secure log in name, to log on to my account with them. I do not expect, or have ever been asked, if this secure email address is/can be distributed to every company that owns and runs a facebook application!

Financial Ombudsman Service rule against PPI refund claim on the basis of psychic powers?

A PPI refund claim, which I raised with the financial ombudsman's service (FOS) has been declined, because the ombudsman, was not "persuaded that the customer would most likely have acted differently [read: refused to buy] had they been properly advised, informed and fully understood the position [of the PPI sale]"

This statement in itself, acknowledges that the ombudsman agreed with the claim, that the customer WAS NOT properly advised and informed so they could have fully understood the PPI product being sold.
How the FOS can rule against a PPI complaint because they couldn't prove that they wouldn't have bought the PPI had they been accurately informed, is a complete joke!

I wasn't aware that to find in favour of a customer reclaiming against a PPI product being mis sold, the customer must convince the FOS that, had they been given accurate information at the point of sale, they would not have bought the product?
Something that cannot be physically proven cannot be the basis of any sound judgement!
How can anyone prove that they would or wouldn't have done something, had something else been done differently?

I was under the impression that for a claim to be upheld in favour of a customer, the FOS would need to see proof that;
* The company gave the customer information [about the PPI product] that was clear, fair and not misleading, in order to put the customer in a position where they could make an informed choice about the insurance they were buying.
* In giving any advice or recommendation, that the company took adequate steps to ensure that the PPI product it recommended was suitable for the customer's needs.

If the customer can prove that any aspects of the selling process of the PPI were misleading, untrue, false, etc, or that information given about the benefits of the PPI were not as the company said they were, then surely this is ample grounds for upholding the claim and finding in favour of the customer getting a refund?
At the end of the Ombudsman's letter they acknowledge that the customer was not properly advised, therefore mislead.

Of course the real reason for refusing the complaint here is related to "middle man" company, that acts as a filter to protect the individual business from Financial services authority audit and complaints to the ombudsman.

Heres how it works: Individual business (ie. car dealership the customer buys from) - Middle man company (which receives fees from individual business for training staff in updates of FSA policies, complaint prevention,etc. and pays fees to the FSA) - financial ombudsman service (Which have ombudsmen put in place by the fee receiving FSA, the same FSA that "advises" the middle man company on policy for fees).

- Customer complains to the dealership and gets fobbed off.
- Complaint is handed over to middle man company. After "extensive review" *Ever heard a company ruling against it's own training service for which it is getting paid? No, me neither!
- Complaint is refused and customer given option to go to FOS.
- FOS looks at complaint, but never contacts the dealership in any of it's investigations, instead contacts the middle man company.
- FOS agrees with customer that they were mislead in sales process, that cancellation fees existed for PPI but customer was told they were not.
- FOS then refuses the complaint, on the grounds that they were not convinced that the customer wouldn't have bought the PPI had they known the cancellation fees existed - this is despite evidence given and witnesses to the sale backing up the complaint, that the PPI was only signed for on the premise that no cancellation fees existed!

Where the middle man company comes into it, is that the financial ombudsman service will not rule against a middle man company, as they are designated training companies of the FSA!
To rule against the middle man company would then force the FSA to stop the work of the middle man company auditing individual businesses for them, and action would have to be taken against them, which would damage their financial connection.
If the middle man company are suspended/awarded against for any reason, it would cut funding to the FSA.
How many companies do you know, that will cut their own funding by choice? *I know of none!

A clear conflict of interest exists, which the FOS and the FSA both deny.

So how about the FSA and the FOS tell us how many times they have ruled against one of these middle man companies? (There are just over 600 middle man companies, each one can have thousands of individual businesses paying them fees)
They refused.
Freedom of Information act will force them to reveal?
The act doesn't apply to the FSA or the FOS.
What about just the name of any other middle man company so they can be checked?
They refused.

This is why a complaint against a middle man company must satisfy the financial ombudsman of something that has nor will, ever happen.
I could understand the ombudsman ruling against the complaint because they were not convinced that anything misleading took place, but as they admitted in writing, they were satisfied that this was the case.
So why is it not enough to prove your case with facts, witnesses, etc?

There were other major points regarding being mislead at the point of sale, the ombudsman did their "extensive" review of the case then forgot to mention a single one of them in their refusal letter. When asked why there was no mention of them, they said, "No comment!"

If the psychic powers of the ombudsman rule that in a parallel universe, somewhere in the future, you would have bought the PPI policy had you known you were being mislead anyway, then you have no chance of winning your complaint.