Episode 12 Rip Off Britain


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Episode 12

Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville travel the country tackling sharp practices affecting consumers and investigating rip-offs and concerns both big and small.


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Transcript


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'We asked you to tell us who's left you feeling ripped off.'

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I think this is very, very, very wrong for what they have done.

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The bank piles charges upon charges upon charges.

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Legally, it was right. Morally, that's where the question of doubt comes in my view.

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'And you contacted us in your thousands

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'by post, email, even stopping us in the streets. And the message couldn't be clearer.'

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-You don't get a straight answer, they try and fob you off.

-I'm not happy at all.

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-There's always that small print with the clause that you didn't realise.

-We're being ripped off big time.

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'Whether it's a deliberate rip off,

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'a simple mistake or a catch in the small print,

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'we'll find out why you're out of pocket and, indeed, what you can do about it.'

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Keep asking the questions, go to the top if you have to.

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We do get results. That's the interesting thing.

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'Your stories, your money. This is Rip-Off Britain.'

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Hello and welcome to Rip-Off Britain,

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the series that takes on the companies and the consumer problems that you've told us about

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and then investigates the rip offs.

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Many of you feel bamboozled by confusing price structures,

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small print and slick sales talk,

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but it's often the everyday things that really get your goat and end up costing you the most.

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You're so right. And this is something you'll identify with,

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because one of the issues we're investigating today is motorway services

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and the price hikes when it comes to buying food and drinks.

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It's an issue we're all aware of, but a trap we still fall into.

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However, the big question is, why do they charge so much more?

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Today we're going to be finding out.

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'Also coming up on today's show, has travelling by rail in Britain become just too expensive?'

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I haven't had a pay rise for two or three years and it's just getting to the point

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where I can't afford to go to work.

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'And when we went on the road and opened up our pop-up shop,

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'you seized the chance to sound off in our specially-built gripe box.'

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What I don't like is when you ring up customer services

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and then none of them's got the right information on the screen

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and you still get nowhere in the end, wasting money on phone bills.

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If you've ever visited a motorway service station which, let's face it, most of us have,

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then the chances are that you've come away feeling that you've paid a high price for stopping off for a snack.

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In fact, a recent survey in What Car? magazine

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found that two thirds of the people asked felt ripped off when they'd been to one

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and a further 25 percent thought that prices were way too high.

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So, highway robbery or just market forces?

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We sent a coach-load of hungry football fans to find out.

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'Britain's motorways apparently used to be THE in place to hang out.

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'Rocks stars, celebrities and the elite headed to these rest stops

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'for the thrill of the open road and a hint of glamour.

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'Nowadays you don't need to be a star to eat at a service station,

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'but it does help if you can earn their money.

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'Today we're joining Michael Clark and 50 other dedicated Macclesfield Town supporters

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'as they travel to an away match in Torquay.'

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THEY SING

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'The 250-mile journey is one of their longest of the season.

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'It's going to take around seven hours and they're going to need a couple of stops

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'so who better to put service station prices to the test on our Rip Off Pit Stop?

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'Our squad have agreed to stop off at the services en route

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'and buy a range of standard items.

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'We'll check these prices against what you'd be charged

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'in a typical high street branch of the same store, just to see how they compare.

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'Michael is collecting the evidence.'

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-Well, John, what did you buy?

-I bought a packet of chewing gum.

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-And have you got the receipt?

-I have.

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-And what did you pay for that?

-It was 79p.

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'That's 79p in WH Smith's,

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'but we found the same item on sale in a high street WH Smith's for 62p.

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-'That's a difference of 27%!'

-ALL: What a rip off!

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'Next up, Dave, who went for something a bit sweeter.'

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I got some Wine Gums and I wasn't very happy with the price.

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-What was the price?

-£2.69.

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'So, £2.69 for Wine Gums in WH Smith's.

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'Yet the same item in the high street branch was just £2.42.

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'That's a difference of 11%.'

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Well, my beloved, what did you buy?'

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I had to buy this water because I forgot to bring mine.

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-An absolute rip off.

-How much did you pay for it?

-£2.09.

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'£2.09. But we found the same bottle

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'in WH Smith's on the high street for exactly £1!

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'A difference of 109%.

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'Premier league prices so far!

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'A recent survey by What Car? magazine found that Burger King charge on average

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'12% more at a service station than they would for the same product on the high street.

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-'And M&S were charging 25% more on the motorway for some items.'

-ALL: How much?

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Whenever we go on long journeys, we do always bring our own food

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with snacks and everything, but you can't bring hot drinks.

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We've just had two teas and that was £4.48. For two teas.

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'You can buy a big box of PG Tips for £2.25.

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270 tea bags.

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-So how do they get the price for them? It's disgusting, isn't it?

-Yeah.

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'And it's not just food and drink that are top of the table.

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'The What Car? survey found that, on average,

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'petrol was 7.4% higher on the motorway.

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'On to the next services where our test continues.'

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-John, what did you buy today?

-Well, Michael, I bought one of these energy drinks for £2.29,

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which I think, for one drink, is absolutely scandalous.

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'£2.29 for an energy drink from Waitrose

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'which on the high street we found at £1.45.

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'That's a difference of 58%.'

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-I was naughty and went and had a burger meal.

-How much was the burger meal?

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-£5.09.

-£5.09?

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'£5.09 for a meal from Burger King

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'which on the high street was £3.49.

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'That's a difference of 46%.

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'What Car? journalist Will Nightingale says their survey found

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'service station prices were often offside.'

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Motorway service stations point out that a service station is expensive to build, about £25 million,

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and they have to claw this money back somehow.

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That's justification to a certain extent.

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I don't think motorists would mind paying a couple of pence extra

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on a bottle of water or similar.

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But when we're talking about twice the price, that's just ridiculous.

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'We spoke to both Welcome Break and Moto,

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'the owners of the two services that we stopped at,

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'and asked them why prices in their shops were so high.

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'They said they operate under restrictions that don't apply on the high street.

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'For example, they need to be open 24 hours

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'and to offer free facilities, such as toilets, parking and play areas.

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'In fact, Welcome Break said that two thirds of their visitors

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'don't spend any money at all.

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'Both said prices compare favourably with other travel venues, such as airports,

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'that they have regular deals and special offers

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'and that there can be ways of getting things like tea and water more cheaply than in the shops,

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'for example, through vending machines.

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'They also point out that it's the fuel companies who set the petrol prices and not them.

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'And Moto flagged up that their prices are all on the website,

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'which may not be handy when you're on the road.

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'We also spoke to the individual stores themselves.

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'M&S said that the higher prices reflected the fact that these stores are open longer

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'and offer convenience for customers on the move, while Burger King,

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'Waitrose and WH Smith all said their motorway branches were franchises

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'so prices were set either by the franchise owners or the service station operators.

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'It's the end of a long journey for our weary travellers,

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'the charming seaside town of Torquay.'

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Right, let's have your empties, then. Come on. Chop-chop!

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'So what does Michael Clark think of the prices that they've paid along the way?'

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The only thing I find good about service stations, to be honest, are the toilets. They're second to none.

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They're very, very good. But apart from that, unless I was absolutely starving,

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I would not use them because the prices are absolutely horrendous.

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Some shocking price differences revealed there.

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£2.09 for a bottle of water that you can buy on the high street for £1?

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And £4.48 for two cups of tea?

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You can see why so many people take a packed lunch and a flask.

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Now, Britain's railway network used to be the envy of the world,

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but nowadays it seems to make headlines for all the wrong reasons.

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# I hear the train a-coming

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'Images of steam trains take us back to an age of opulence and bustling platforms

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'and the luxury of travel.

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'Britain invented the railways, but the modern rail network faces accusations

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'that it's becoming more profiteering than pioneering.

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'1.4 billion train journeys were made in the UK over the last year.

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'But passengers are becoming increasingly worried about the cost,

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'especially since the Department of Transport announced plans to increase rail fares above inflation in 2012.

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'Quite a blow when rail travellers here already pay 20% more for their journeys than passengers in Europe.'

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-Do you take the train?

-I drive if I can.

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Yeah, I would prefer to drive.

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Even with the price of petrol and diesel,

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I still think it's cheaper than taking the train.

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I will be standing for my half an hour journey home now, so I don't even get a seat.

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'One such commuter is Rosie Fluin, who lives in York with her husband and young daughter.

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'Three times a week, she makes the 20-minute train journey into Leeds.'

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I travel to Leeds for work. I commute from York to Leeds

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because I work for Leeds City Council three days a week.

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I prefer to take the train because it's more environmentally friendly, more convenient and quicker.

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It's just more expensive.

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It costs me £14.30 a day, which is £42.90 a week,

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which is nearly the cost of a weekly season ticket.

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'Rosie earns £920 a month at the council,

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'so her rail fare is taking 20 percent of her salary.'

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In January, the train fares will be rising.

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What it's going to mean for me is I may have to stop working,

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or I may have to stop working in Leeds and try and get a job closer to home,

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because I just can't absorb the costs anymore.

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I haven't had a pay rise for two or three years

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and it's just getting to the point where I can't afford to go to work.

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'Rosie doesn't want to move from York as her daughter has started nursery.'

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# Train arrives

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'Plus, it's a good area for schools and her husband works locally.

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'But Rosie says jobs in York are few and far between

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'and for her, Leeds offers better prospects.'

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I go to work cos I want to contribute to the family,

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I want to provide for my family

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and I want to also provide a good example to my daughter.

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I don't want to not work. I want her to see both her parents working and that it's a good thing to do.

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'Rip-Off Britain has arranged for Rosie to meet with her local MP, Hugh Bayley,

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'to see what he thinks about the financial strain of taking the train.'

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It really is a question of whether I can absorb the extra cost.

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I'll seriously have to consider not... Giving up my job.

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I think she's raised important issues and if people's wages aren't rising,

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and many people have found their wages flat-lining for several years,

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and if they're public sector people,

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they're going to flat-line for the next two years, a lot of people will feel the pinch.

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It particularly affects women and part-timers, people like Rosie,

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and I think the government ought to look at bringing in regulations to allow people

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travelling three days a week because they work three days a week to have some kind of a deduction.

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They do it in other countries where you buy a carnet of rail tickets

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which you can use on the days that you travel

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and we could do something similar in Britain.

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'One of the UK's leading commentators on transport matters, Christian Wolmar,

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'thinks there could be another solution.'

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The railways are very crowded at peak times,

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particularly in London and the Southeast and other commuter areas,

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and one of the ideas is to create a kind of third type of fare,

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so we'd get peak fares, off-peak fares

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and then semi-off-peak,

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and that might help things by encouraging the people travelling at the absolute busiest times

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to travel at a slightly less busy time,

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maybe half an hour or an hour later,

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and that could be a workable idea

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as long as it's not used just to extend the peak times

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and make it more expensive for everyone to travel.

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'But for the moment it seems that we're stuck with expensive prices

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'that many just can't afford.

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'The Association of Train-Operating Companies blames rising ticket prices

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'on the fact that the government wants to reduce

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'the amount of taxpayers' money going into the railways,

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'meaning tough decisions on fares have to be made

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'to guarantee ongoing investment in more trains, faster services

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'and better stations.

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'But for rail travellers like Rosie, the question remains.

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'Will spiralling fares mean that they simply won't be able to afford to travel by train any longer?'

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The future, I still don't know. It's a bit up in the air at the moment. I'll have to see what happens.

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Well, with rail fares set to rise by an estimated 8% in 2012,

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how can you make sure that you really are getting the best deal when you travel?

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Well, I travel by train quite a lot, so come on, Anthony Smith from Passenger Focus,

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what are your money-saving tips?

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With a little bit of planning, us passengers can save pounds on rail travel. Here's how.

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Do a little bit a planning ahead, a bit of research. Find out when the peak and off-peak times are.

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If you're travelling at quieter times, it can save pounds.

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Look into getting a railcard. Young person's, senior, disabled.

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Even on one journey, you can save money using the rail card and cover the cost of the rail card.

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And buy your rail tickets from the train companies' own websites.

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They often have special offers and there's no extra charges.

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If you're travelling longer distance, it's always worth thinking about buying an advance ticket.

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It ties you to specific trains but it can save you a lot of money.

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Buy as soon as you can. Sometimes up to 12 weeks in advance the tickets are available.

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But don't forget, these tickets can be bought up till six o'clock the day before travel.

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If you've got a bit more time to do some research,

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you can look into splitting your journey into different parts

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so that even if you're travelling in the peak in one part of the country, you're not in the other.

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There are various websites that can help you do this and it can save a lot of money and is perfectly legal.

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If you're travelling more regularly to and from work,

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look into getting a season ticket, either an annual one, a monthly one

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or a weekly one. They offer really good discounts.

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It can save you pounds

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and many employers still give season ticket loans

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which can help spread the cost.

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If you are delayed or if things go wrong, you've got rights, you can get money back.

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Complain to the train company in the first instance

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and if you get stuck with them, Passenger Focus can help you out.

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'Still to come, the family that says changes to a customer loyalty scheme

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'have scuppered their holiday plans.'

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I couldn't believe that after having been such a loyal customer,

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that they were dropping this onto their collectors at such short notice.

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'Our experts have been rushed off their feet at our pop-up shop for consumer advice.'

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0800 numbers from a landline are free,

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but if you phone it from a mobile, they do charge you.

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Next, a cornerstone of British culture, the local pub.

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A place to catch up with friends, relax over a drink,

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and who knows, perhaps be short-changed while you're at it.

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'Ever since the Bronze Age, we've been drinking alcohol.

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'Well, it was probably safer than the water in those days.

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'And here in the UK, we do like our beer in pints.'

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Yeah, I really like coming to my local pub

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because you get good company, you get a good pint of beer.

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Beer is a big part of my life.

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I work hard, I like to have a good drink and have a good time in the pub, so it's important to me.

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I'd say one of the best things about coming to a pub like this is

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being able to enjoy a product that you can't get at home,

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being able to talk to other people and feeling a part of your community.

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'A pint is equal to one eighth of a gallon

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'and there's usually a helpful white line on the glass

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'so that you can tell you've got the full measure.

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'But CAMRA, the consumer group for the beer and drinks industry,

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'says all too often drinkers are not being served the full pint.

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'Their last survey on this a few years ago

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'suggested a quarter of all pints were five percent short

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'and they say the situation isn't getting better.'

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The short pint measure means that there are actually more pints

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being served in pubs than the government gets excise duty for.

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200 million pints extra are probably being served because of short measure.

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'CAMRA estimates that these short measures

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'could be costing pub customers more than £600 million a year.'

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The key issue for CAMRA is customers getting a full pint of beer when they go into a pub.

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If you go into a supermarket, you get a pint of milk, you expect a pint of milk in that bottle.

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Unfortunately, often when you go into a pub,

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you ask for a pint of beer, you may only be served about 90 percent of a pint, the rest is froth.

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There is still no legal definition of a pint served in a pub

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with no real protection for the customer.

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'Industry guidelines say that a licensee should endeavour to serve

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'at least 95 percent liquid in a pint,

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'but if a customer asks for a top-up, it should be given and given with good grace.

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'But CAMRA says that doesn't always happen.

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'So at this beer festival in Bedford,

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'they're using a particular type of glass.'

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We've used what are called oversized lined glasses.

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We fill the beer right up, liquid right up to that line with the froth on the top.

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It means the customer's got a full pint.

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It means they don't spill the beer when they take it from the bar back to their seat,

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so there's no sticky floors or sticky carpets there, as well, and everyone's satisfied.

0:19:580:20:03

'It's already a criminal offence to serve short measures

0:20:030:20:06

'and Trading Standards can investigate if that's what you get. But CAMRA says that's not enough.'

0:20:060:20:12

We're calling on the government to introduce legislation

0:20:120:20:16

that defines a pint as 20 fluid ounces,

0:20:160:20:18

so there's clarity for everyone, both licensees and customers.

0:20:180:20:23

Secondly, we'd advise as good practice

0:20:230:20:26

for pubs to use oversized lined glasses

0:20:260:20:29

and those oversized lined glasses should have a nice clear, broad, white line

0:20:290:20:34

where the 20 fluid ounce mark is, so everyone can see whether it's a full pint or not.

0:20:340:20:39

'The British Beer and Pub Association don't agree that drinkers need more protection,

0:20:390:20:44

'saying publicans have enough red tape without more regulations on compulsory glassware.

0:20:440:20:49

'And though they reiterate the guidelines,

0:20:490:20:51

'they say it's important to remember that beer comes with a head

0:20:510:20:54

'and customers' tastes on that vary.

0:20:540:20:57

'But CAMRA insist it should be last orders for short pints.'

0:20:570:21:02

The issue of short pints has been going on for decades, if not centuries.

0:21:020:21:07

I'm sure people were moaning about it in the time of the Romans.

0:21:070:21:11

However, in the last 30 or 40 years, it seems to have got worse.

0:21:110:21:16

You ask for a pint of beer, you should get a pint of beer,

0:21:160:21:19

not 95 percent.

0:21:190:21:22

Being out on the road, meeting so many of you face-to-face has turned out to be a revelation

0:21:220:21:27

because everybody seems to have a story to tell.

0:21:270:21:30

That's what we're here to do. We're here to listen and to help.

0:21:300:21:33

Our experts over at the shop have certainly been busy.

0:21:330:21:36

'We've been meeting so many of you

0:21:360:21:39

'and the BBC learning area has been really busy

0:21:390:21:42

'helping people gain confidence with their maths and avoid rip offs.'

0:21:420:21:46

So, our pop-up shop for Rip-Off Britain is new. So, too, is our gripe box.

0:21:470:21:52

It does look a bit like a TARDIS. It has been so popular today.

0:21:520:21:56

It's been rather difficult to get people out.

0:21:560:21:59

So they love the idea, they're in a box, contained, they can really get everything off their chest

0:21:590:22:04

What I don't like is when you ring up customer services

0:22:040:22:08

and you get through to different people every time you ring up

0:22:080:22:11

and then none of them's got the right information on the screen

0:22:110:22:14

and you get nowhere in the end, wasting money on phone bills.

0:22:140:22:17

One of the things my wife and I find extremely frustrating at home

0:22:170:22:21

is the number of unwanted telephone calls we get these days.

0:22:210:22:25

Telephone calls, unsolicited calls, sales calls.

0:22:250:22:30

Why can't 0845 numbers be straightforward, simple?

0:22:300:22:35

Whenever I want to phone up the bank or increasingly other organisations,

0:22:350:22:40

I'm being charged 40p, 50p a minute,

0:22:400:22:44

which I think is unfair

0:22:440:22:46

and it just seems to be that there aren't any options now to phone a landline.

0:22:460:22:51

'So paying for local calls at national rates seems to be a real bugbear.

0:22:510:22:56

'And Paul asked for some advice on his gripe from Trading Standards officer Sylvia Rook.'

0:22:560:23:02

-How can I help you?

-Erm, well, my particular gripe

0:23:020:23:05

is with supposedly free telephone numbers, 0800 numbers.

0:23:050:23:10

I've just had my mobile phone bill, which normally is £12 a month, which is now £50

0:23:100:23:15

and I just think it's a bit unfair, really, not just for students, but for everybody.

0:23:150:23:19

You know, in this economic climate, the last thing you need is this expense.

0:23:190:23:26

Companies do it because it's a standard charge

0:23:260:23:29

no matter where you phone from. That's why they give you the number,

0:23:290:23:32

so that they can say everybody pays the same.

0:23:320:23:35

0800 numbers from a landline are free.

0:23:350:23:37

If you phone 0800 from a landline, it will always be a free call.

0:23:370:23:41

If you phone it from a mobile, they do charge you.

0:23:410:23:43

But there is something I can do that can help you. There's a website called saynoto0870.com

0:23:430:23:50

and it's on the screen here. It allows you to put in any of these numbers that start with 08

0:23:500:23:56

and if there is one, it provides you with the alternative landline number.

0:23:560:24:00

So I've put in the Student Loan Company, I can see it's an 0870 number,

0:24:000:24:04

so I can understand why it's caused you distress.

0:24:040:24:06

It's come up with a landline number there.

0:24:060:24:09

This is a good opportunity... It doesn't cover everything,

0:24:090:24:13

but it should cut down on some of your telephone costs.

0:24:130:24:16

-And pass the message on to all your student friends, as well, because it's a very useful website.

-I will.

0:24:160:24:21

-And I wish you luck with the rest of your degree.

-Thank you very much.

-Good to meet you.

-Bye.

0:24:210:24:26

There don't have to be huge sums of money involved for you to feel as if you've been ripped off.

0:24:290:24:34

Sometimes you might just think someone's taking your loyalty for granted.

0:24:340:24:38

That's certainly what our next viewer felt. So, were they right?

0:24:380:24:42

'Reward cards and loyalty schemes can be a great way to save money on future purchases.

0:24:440:24:50

'But one of the most established schemes, Airmiles,

0:24:500:24:53

'where you earn flight miles as you spend, has recently announced changes

0:24:530:24:57

'that have led quite a few of you to get in touch.

0:24:570:25:00

Sorsha Holloway, who's a photographer, started collecting Airmiles in the mid-90s.'

0:25:000:25:07

The Airmiles scheme made it possible for many people to travel to places

0:25:070:25:11

they wouldn't otherwise have been able to go. Especially if you have a family of four,

0:25:110:25:15

it's not going to be cheap to go on holiday anywhere and if you can collect

0:25:150:25:19

and save up for that special holiday, for example, the flights to Antigua

0:25:190:25:24

that you wouldn't normally be able to do, then how great is that?

0:25:240:25:28

'But now the scheme's been overhauled.

0:25:280:25:31

'It's to be known as Avios.

0:25:310:25:33

'You'll need fewer points to fly to some destinations and more to get to others.

0:25:330:25:37

'But the change that's upset collectors like Sorsha is that from mid-December,

0:25:370:25:43

'when you book a flight with your points, you'll now have to pay all taxes and fuel surcharges on top,

0:25:430:25:49

'an extra cost that the old scheme covered.'

0:25:490:25:52

When I received the initial email announcing the changes, I was really horrified.

0:25:520:25:57

I couldn't believe that after having been such a loyal customer,

0:25:570:26:00

that they were dropping this onto their collectors at such short notice.

0:26:000:26:05

'For over 15 years, Sorsha's gone out of her way to collect her Airmiles,

0:26:050:26:09

'even when that's meant using shops or petrol stations that aren't the closest to her home.'

0:26:090:26:14

We did all our shopping at Tesco and converted all our Clubcard points to Airmiles.

0:26:140:26:18

We did all our fuel shopping at Tesco. I did a lot of internet shopping through the Airmiles E-store

0:26:180:26:24

and I think in the last year, shopped at 26 shops on the E-store to collect Airmiles.

0:26:240:26:30

And I wasn't silly, I didn't shop there if it was cheaper elsewhere,

0:26:300:26:34

but I did use it where I could.

0:26:340:26:37

'It might seem churlish to complain about points you've been given for free,

0:26:370:26:42

'but Sorsha had been collecting all those miles so that she could book a dream holiday

0:26:420:26:46

'to visit her family in South Africa.'

0:26:460:26:49

We had nearly 10,000 Airmiles at that point and we were aiming to have collected enough by spring next year

0:26:490:26:55

to do a significant part-cash, part-miles payment for four return flights to Johannesburg.

0:26:550:27:01

'But because of the changes brought in under the new Avios rules,

0:27:010:27:05

'she's worked out she'll now have to pay around £1,500 for those taxes and charges,

0:27:050:27:09

'and extra cost she hadn't expected and couldn't afford. The planned holiday was abandoned.'

0:27:090:27:15

Having to cancel the planned trip to South Africa was very disappointing for us as a family.

0:27:150:27:20

My husband's older brother and his wife have lived out there for many years and we've never been to visit.

0:27:200:27:26

The children were also, obviously, looking forward very much to going and seeing the wonderful wildlife

0:27:260:27:32

and it was going to be a really exciting trip.

0:27:320:27:36

'Sorsha's unhappy that, as far as she's concerned, the goalposts have moved.'

0:27:360:27:41

It might not be the worst thing that could happen in the world,

0:27:410:27:44

but for us, it was almost like a holiday bank account.

0:27:440:27:47

After being a loyal collector, really loyal collector,

0:27:470:27:51

I couldn't believe that they were going to treat their members in that way.

0:27:510:27:57

And...what I mean is, how they went about it.

0:27:570:28:03

They didn't give us much notice.

0:28:030:28:06

Something that was so major, I think we should've been informed a long time before.

0:28:060:28:11

'She feels she's earned her miles and the flights she was hoping they'd buy.'

0:28:110:28:16

Yes, we have had benefits from the scheme and we have used the scheme very well,

0:28:160:28:21

but we have put business the way of the Airmiles company, Lloyd TSB.

0:28:210:28:27

A lot of money went through those credit cards and through the tills at Tesco.

0:28:270:28:31

'Avios told us they're sorry that some customers

0:28:310:28:34

'are disappointed by the change, but Avios remains

0:28:340:28:37

'a great value travel rewards programme,

0:28:370:28:39

'especially for flights to Europe

0:28:390:28:42

'on which the extra charges will be fixed at £27.

0:28:420:28:45

'They point out that until 2008,

0:28:450:28:47

'the old scheme made these charges, too,

0:28:470:28:50

'and though they did then absorb those charges for a while,

0:28:500:28:53

'the cost of UK passenger duty has risen significantly.

0:28:530:28:57

'They insist the Avios scheme has many new benefits.'

0:28:570:29:00

For me, it feels quite sad, really.

0:29:010:29:04

I think it's the end of a beautiful relationship with the Airmiles company.

0:29:040:29:09

For me, I will never collect Airmiles again unless they bring in significant changes in the futures.

0:29:090:29:17

If you'd like advice on what to do in that kind of situation, we've done the groundwork for you.

0:29:170:29:22

Here's an expert with the key things you need to know.

0:29:220:29:25

There's a huge range of loyalty cards and clubs out there

0:29:260:29:30

and wherever you choose to spend, whether it be on your food

0:29:300:29:33

or everyday goods, leisure, travel, there's always someone somewhere offering you points for something.

0:29:330:29:39

There's a range of ways that you can maximise the points on any scheme that you have.

0:29:390:29:44

First off, always make sure that you present your card, whether in store on online.

0:29:440:29:49

If you have the ability to pay for goods where you can also gets points from a credit or debit card,

0:29:490:29:56

that is also another great way of doubling up your points.

0:29:560:30:00

But, of course, make sure you pay the statement off in full at any time.

0:30:000:30:04

If you're in a scheme, you should keep your eye on that scheme

0:30:060:30:09

to make sure your points are being added to your statement,

0:30:090:30:12

and, of course, be aware that if you're inactive for a period of time, you could lose those points,

0:30:120:30:17

so be aware of what the rules are with your individual scheme.

0:30:170:30:22

Additional points seem like a great thing at first,

0:30:220:30:25

you think, "Wow! I'm going to get closer to the goal of the redemption of my points very quickly!"

0:30:250:30:30

But those points are costed in by the retailer, they cost the retailer to offer them to you.

0:30:300:30:35

So always look at what's the true value of the product,

0:30:350:30:38

Just because you get additional points, doesn't mean it's a good deal.

0:30:380:30:41

You could probably buy the product cheaper elsewhere

0:30:410:30:44

and the value with extra points isn't worth that saving.

0:30:440:30:47

Don't be a slave to points, they are a bonus, not the reason for buying the goods in the first place.

0:30:470:30:53

'Big companies don't always make things easy to understand.

0:30:570:31:01

'And it can be very confusing trying to work out why you haven't ended up with what you'd expected.'

0:31:010:31:06

'So if you feel bogged down and don't know exactly what to do,

0:31:060:31:10

'we've put together a booklet of tips and advice.

0:31:100:31:13

'You can find a link to the free guide on our website.

0:31:130:31:16

'Or if you want to receive a copy in the post, send an A5 self-addressed envelope

0:31:200:31:25

'to the address we'll give you right at the end of the programme.'

0:31:250:31:29

We heard from a number of viewers who say that their local councils are raising parking charges,

0:31:320:31:38

wait for this, by up to 400 percent to help cover government cuts.

0:31:380:31:43

As usual, the cost seems to be falling on the consumer.

0:31:430:31:47

So could it be true? We went to Barnet in London to find out.

0:31:470:31:51

'Some of the residents in Barnet, North London are battling the local council

0:31:530:31:57

'over a rise in the cost of parking permits.

0:31:570:32:00

'And they hope to take the fight to court.'

0:32:000:32:02

Well, originally, we were very pleased at being a controlled parking zone

0:32:020:32:07

because we are very near the tube, and we had real problems.

0:32:070:32:11

People would leave their cars all day and you could never park near your house.

0:32:110:32:15

'But members of the Barnet Controlled Parking Action Group

0:32:150:32:19

'have dug into their own pockets to pay for legal proceedings against the council

0:32:190:32:23

'after the price of residents' parking permits more than doubled, from £40 a year to £100.

0:32:230:32:30

'And visitor permits have gone up from £1 to £4 a day.'

0:32:300:32:34

The legal case is that Barnet are not allowed to increase the charges, the parking charges,

0:32:340:32:41

to raise revenue, and that's what they're doing.

0:32:410:32:45

They're allowed to increase the parking charges if it's to run the scheme,

0:32:450:32:49

or to reduce the amount of cars coming into the area.

0:32:490:32:53

But there isn't a problem with the number of cars coming into the area.

0:32:530:32:58

And they actually made a surplus of £4 million last year, so they don't need extra money to run the scheme.

0:32:580:33:04

'78-year-old Ken Johnston is just furious about the increased charges.'

0:33:060:33:11

I can't pay £4 every time someone comes.

0:33:110:33:15

If they come, I can't ask them for £4.

0:33:150:33:17

And it's going to make it awkward for people coming to visit us.

0:33:170:33:22

The families can come any time. Some come every day.

0:33:220:33:26

In fact, seven or eight a week. It can be £32 a week.

0:33:260:33:30

'Fellow resident Janice Curry is also feeling the pinch of the price rise.'

0:33:300:33:35

Every time somebody comes to see me, even if they just come for a couple of minutes, it costs me £4,

0:33:350:33:40

so to have a coffee morning or something like that used to be £10 or something and now it's £40.

0:33:400:33:47

So it's made a huge difference to people like myself who are at home who aren't working or who have kids.

0:33:470:33:54

'She thinks the increase being forced upon her and fellow residents is staggering.'

0:33:540:33:59

I do think this is a bit of a stealth tax. We've been paying £1 for years, happily paying it,

0:33:590:34:03

and it's always felt a bit expensive but you think, "I live in London, I can deal with it."

0:34:030:34:08

But increasing overnight from £1 to £4 is...

0:34:080:34:13

I'm not sure how they can justify that and it does feel like a rip off.

0:34:130:34:17

'The increased parking charge for visitor permits

0:34:190:34:21

'also affects tradesmen carrying out work on local houses.'

0:34:210:34:25

Well, we're here a month now, doing this project here with three vans of trades here.

0:34:250:34:30

And I have to pass that onto the customer because I can't afford to be paying for the parking here.

0:34:300:34:36

So it bumps up his bill. If people aren't happy to pay then I'm reluctant to do the job

0:34:360:34:42

because if it drags on, it will impact on the profit and the price I've got to charge.

0:34:420:34:48

'Philippa says it's this four-fold increase on visitor vouchers that's really upsetting local residents.'

0:34:490:34:55

If you had that on, say, a bus fare, your daily bus fare went up from £2 to £8,

0:34:550:35:02

people just wouldn't accept it. There would be outrage.

0:35:020:35:06

It's an enormous increase and yet we're just supposed to accept this without saying anything about it.

0:35:060:35:12

One of Barnet's arguments is they've raised these charges to bring them in line with all the other boroughs.

0:35:130:35:19

And quite clearly it isn't.

0:35:190:35:22

I live in Barnet where the residents' visitors vouchers are £4 a day

0:35:230:35:29

or even for half an hour it's £4. We only have £4 vouchers.

0:35:290:35:34

In Haringey, just up here, they only have two hours a day, it's 30p an hour, maximum 60p.

0:35:340:35:41

Barnet are saying they're comparable with other boroughs. Clearly, right on our doorstep, they're not.

0:35:410:35:46

'Paul Watters from the AA believes the issue of parking permits amounts to blatant profiteering.'

0:35:460:35:53

When the schemes first started, they were meant to help locals with parking problems.

0:35:530:35:57

Now they're being seen as revenue opportunities.

0:35:570:36:00

The charges were supposed to be for administration of the scheme,

0:36:000:36:04

but now they're seen as a revenue raiser. That seems wrong for residents with parking problems.

0:36:040:36:09

It's very difficult in areas like Barnet where only a few households have residents' parking schemes.

0:36:090:36:15

They have to contribute more than their fair share for their permits.

0:36:150:36:18

It seems unfair that the rest of Barnet without residents' parking schemes get away with this charge.

0:36:180:36:24

'We asked Barnet Council to explain the increase.

0:36:240:36:27

'They said they have held down permit charges for several years

0:36:290:36:32

'but now felt that they had to bring them into line with other boroughs.

0:36:320:36:36

'They accept that some residents

0:36:360:36:38

'don't agree that the new prices are comparable.

0:36:380:36:41

'But they've supplied them and us with information to prove their point.

0:36:410:36:45

'And they say that, although controlled parking zones exist

0:36:450:36:49

'at the residents' request, if a number of them now wish to leave,

0:36:490:36:53

'they'd be willing to look at that.

0:36:530:36:55

'But Philippa is determined to fight on.'

0:36:570:37:00

It's just paying through the nose for what should be our right,

0:37:000:37:03

to park outside our own house, have friends come round and see us,

0:37:030:37:07

why should we pay for it? I think it's a complete rip off.

0:37:070:37:10

'We've heard from many of you about your frustrations at high train fares.

0:37:120:37:16

'Earlier on we heard from Rosie, who's worried she'll no longer be able to afford to travel to work

0:37:160:37:21

'because of the price of her train fare.

0:37:210:37:24

'So I went to talk to Theresa Villiers, who is Minister for Transport,

0:37:240:37:28

'to see what she has to say about the situation.'

0:37:280:37:33

Minister, I feel as if I'm here articulating a howl of protest from rail users.

0:37:330:37:40

High fares and a government that doesn't seem to be listening.

0:37:400:37:44

Of course we are listening, of course we recognise the concern out there about the level of rail fares.

0:37:440:37:51

Those rail fares are contributing to

0:37:510:37:54

one of the biggest programmes of rail improvement since the Victorian era,

0:37:540:37:58

to address people's concerns about crowding, about quality of service,

0:37:580:38:02

and to strengthen our economy, as well.

0:38:020:38:04

We are determined to get the cost of running the railways down,

0:38:040:38:08

so that we can deliver better value for money to passengers,

0:38:080:38:12

and respond to exactly the sort of concerns that your program is highlighting.

0:38:120:38:16

Well, we did vox pops outside Paddington Station and stopped, I suppose, a dozen people, all told.

0:38:160:38:23

Every single person, one way or another, was complaining about the cost of fares.

0:38:230:38:28

One man said, "I travel in conditions that are worse than cattle travel in.

0:38:280:38:33

"I pay full whack, I end up sitting on the floor outside the lavatory." This cannot be right.

0:38:330:38:39

That's why we are expanding capacity on our railways.

0:38:390:38:44

But that does mean also passengers contributing to the cost of those improvements via their fares.

0:38:440:38:50

In a time when we have a huge crisis in the public finances,

0:38:500:38:55

it's simply not feasible for the taxpayer to pay the full cost.

0:38:550:38:59

The passengers need to contribute, as well.

0:38:590:39:01

Your own predecessor, if I can quote his words to you,

0:39:010:39:05

talked about fares being "eye-wateringly high".

0:39:050:39:08

He clearly thought that was a bad thing. What people are looking for is for fares to come down.

0:39:080:39:14

We are determined to deliver better value for money for passengers,

0:39:140:39:18

-and the way we do that...

-But does that mean cutting fares?

0:39:180:39:21

If we manage to do that we can deliver better value for passengers.

0:39:210:39:25

Would you say that the average rail traveller is getting value for money at the moment?

0:39:250:39:30

I think a lot of people feel they're not getting value for money

0:39:300:39:33

but the reality is that the fares they're paying

0:39:330:39:36

are contributing to the improvements that passengers want, that our economy needs.

0:39:360:39:42

So there is a purpose to these. And also it is worth bearing in mind that for certain journeys

0:39:420:39:47

there are cheaper fares available, but I recognise that, for many people,

0:39:470:39:52

it's not always easy to get those cheaper tickets and it's vitally important for them

0:39:520:39:58

that we carry through our reform programme to get the cost of the railways down.

0:39:580:40:02

I have asked you in a number of ways whether your phrase about bringing down the cost of the railways

0:40:020:40:09

would actually result in fares falling,

0:40:090:40:13

and you've not really been able to say the answer is yes,

0:40:130:40:16

and that is really the thing that people want to hear.

0:40:160:40:19

We believe we could get to a point where fares would go up just by inflation,

0:40:190:40:24

so they would stay steady in real terms.

0:40:240:40:27

Now, whether it will be possible to go further and reduce fares is not something I can say at the moment.

0:40:270:40:33

But I am determined that the cost of the railways will come down,

0:40:330:40:37

and that passengers will take a share in those savings, so we can deliver better value for money.

0:40:370:40:43

-Theresa Villiers, thank you.

-Thank you very much.

0:40:430:40:46

'Here at Rip-Off Britain, we're always ready to investigate more of your stories.

0:40:480:40:53

'Confused over your bills? Trying to wade through endless small print that leaves you none the wiser?'

0:40:530:41:00

I might have been stupid for not reading it, or I've read it and not took it in.

0:41:000:41:05

I could kick myself. I really could.

0:41:050:41:08

'Unsure what to do when you discover you've lost out,

0:41:080:41:11

'and that so-called great deal has ended up costing you money?'

0:41:110:41:15

I thought, "This cannot be true. It's totally unacceptable." I was so angry!

0:41:150:41:20

'You might have a cautionary tale of your own and want to share the mistakes you made with us

0:41:210:41:26

-'so others don't do the same.'

-No-one knows about this so this is very strange to me.

0:41:260:41:32

And I really would like to get this much clearer.

0:41:320:41:34

'You can write to us at...

0:41:340:41:38

'Or send us an email to...

0:41:460:41:49

'The Rip-Off team is ready and waiting to investigate your stories.'

0:41:520:41:57

Well, it does seem that when faced with unacceptable goods or service,

0:42:000:42:04

all too often we Brits simply grin and bear it.

0:42:040:42:07

-Perhaps it's down to our stiff upper lip.

-You're right.

0:42:070:42:10

But here at Rip-Off Britain, we believe that in these tough economic times,

0:42:100:42:14

-you really should put aside your reserve and stand up for your rights.

-That's always our message.

0:42:140:42:19

Because bear in mind that it's far more expensive for companies to find new customers

0:42:190:42:24

than it is to satisfy a disgruntled one. So there's usually everything to play for.

0:42:240:42:29

And remember, if you genuinely feel that you've been ripped off or let down,

0:42:290:42:33

you need to complain, that's again one of our messages. As consumers we have very clear rights.

0:42:330:42:38

And that's just about where we have to leave it for today,

0:42:380:42:41

but we hope you'll join us next time for some more of the rip offs that are driving you absolutely crazy.

0:42:410:42:47

-So until then, bye-bye.

-Bye-Bye.

-Bye.

0:42:470:42:50

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:42:510:42:55

E-mail [email protected]

0:42:550:42:59

Angela Rippon, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville investigate why viewers have been left out of pocket. Whether it is rocketing energy prices, unexpected bank charges, or a catch in the small print that has had devastating consequences, they will get answers from the companies responsible. Plus, the team have been on the road, tackling consumer complaints face to face at the Rip Off Britain pop-up shop.