Episode 2 Rip Off Britain


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Episode 2

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


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I'm not happy at all. It is the small print with the clause in,

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that you didn't realise. We are being ripped off big time. Whether

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it is a deliberate rip off, a catch in the small print or a mistake. We

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will find out why you are out of pocket and what you can do about

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it? Keep asking the questions, go to the top if you have to. We do

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get results, that is the interesting thing. Your stories,

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your money. This is Rip-Off Britain. Welcome to Rip-Off Britain, today,

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as always, we will be challenging the companies that you say have

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left you feeling short changed. We are here to ask them the tough

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questions that sometimes you can't. But most of all, to make sure that

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you are being treated the way you deserve.

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Absolutely, these are really tough times and who knows, maybe they are

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about to get worse. So you really do need to know that your cash is

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working hard for you. Avoiding any suspect schemes, or rip-offs along

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the way. Every penny counts, and it is frustrating if you get caught

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out by a charge you didn't expect. We have all been there. It doesn't

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have to be a huge amount. We know from your letters and e-mails, when

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you feel ripped off, it is not how much you have lost, it is the

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principle that matters. That is the case with many of the stories we

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are investigating today. Also coming up on today's programme.

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The pricing antics of Britain's best-known comic, why this grandma

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is boycotting the Beano called gifts. I don't think if something

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is advertised as a gift you can pay for the privilege. And more

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problems solved at the Rip-Off Britain one stop shop. Unless you

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pay by direct debit you have to pay handling charge, I think it is

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wrong. With all of us paying for more gas and electricity this

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winter, it is a good idea to try to save money by becoming more energy

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efficient. Having your old boiler replaced with the shiny new

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condenser boiler is a great start. There is no instant return, it

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doesn't come cheap. Imagine the frustration if after you shelled

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out thousands of pounds to get one, winter strikes and your boiler

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packs up. It is bound to get you hot under the collar.

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December 2010, the fiercest cold snap for a century, left us all

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sheltering in the warmth of our homes. Not everyone was suffering.

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The UK's biggest domestic energy supplier, British Gas, has reported

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profits of �742 million. And those profits are a double blow for some

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British Gas customers. Not only are they facing higher energy bills

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this year, but thousands of them are now being told they will have

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to fork out extra to fix a problem with a particular type of boiler,

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which British Gas sold them. Every year a million people need to

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replace their boilers. It is now a legal requirement that when you do,

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you install a condenser-type. These new models may be efficient,

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they are not always fans of sub zero weather. Breaking down and

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leading people without heat at the very time they need it more. That

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is what happened to Jean and Gordon, in 2005 they paid a total of �6,016,

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to have a Glow worm boiler installed. All was fine when five

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years ago the boiler threw in the towel. I thought it was a bit cold

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and felt the radiators, and they should have come on, he said he

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didn't know. The problem was down to the extreme cold we all felt in

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December. Temperatures of minus 20 stopped the boiler to stop working,

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because a small plastic pipe, designed to vent condensation, had

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frozen and caused the system to break down. An engineer came out

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and said the pipe would need replacing at a cost of �150.

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were not happy about that. Because to us, it is a define fault. So

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whether it is a fault of the manufacturers of the system, or

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British Gas doing it, it is just not fit for use, really.

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Not in those circumstances. You can see why they might say that, their

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broken boiler wasn't a one-off. British Gas has written to 46,000

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customers who suffered similar breakdowns last year, advising they

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now need to fit an extra part so the same thing doesn't happen this

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year. That can cost between �149- �199. Jean and Gordon are having

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their's replaced today. This is the pipe up here. That is coming down

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the wall that goes into the guttering. That is the pipe that is

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freezing in the winter. They put the boiler in, as far as we knew it

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was a workable boiler. OK it is six years old, but nobody should give

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you something that you cannot use fuing time, whether it is hot or

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cold -- full-time, whether it is hot or cold. Two hours later, here

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is the new-look winter proof pipe, fitted with a part called a trace

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element, a hot wire that warms the plastic pipe to stop freezing. The

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couple are nearly �200 lighter. are not happy about it, because we

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are paying �199 for it. But, we are just going to hope and pray that it

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will work for us. If every one of the 120,000 new

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condenser boilers which British Gas have installed each year since 2005

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needed to be upgraded in this way, what they are charging for the new

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part would bring in over �107 million. Is that just adding to

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their profits, or does the boiler have a fundamental flaw which they

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should repair for free. We asked them and they said, no.

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They told us: it is only during the prolonged freezing weather of the

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last two years that the problem came to light, to prevent it they

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now install pipes on the inside wrfrb possible. For outdoor pipes

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they supply the part that Jean and Gordon had fitted, they do so at

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cost price, making no profit. The boiler's manufacturers says there

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is no external fault and saying the pipes worked adequately for five

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typical winters, and last year's extreme weather affected all

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manufacturers, not just them, which the industry's trade body has

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confirmed. But Jean and Gordon are still disappointed that they had to

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pay. It doesn't feel fair. It doesn't feel right.

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Now to something generations of us have grown up loving and trusting,

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the good old Beano. The nation's favourite comic has been making

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children laugh for over 70 years. The antics off the page prompted

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this letter from Christine, who regularly buys a copy for her

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grandson. She wanted an answer to this question: Why does the Beano

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feel the need to rip off young children and grandparents? The

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Beano, ripping people off, that would not be funny. We wouldn't

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resist picking up the challenge on Christine's behalf, but we needed a

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dictionary to do it. For children the Beano is as much a

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part of growing up as riding a bike and washing behind your ears. Since

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the first issue was sold in 1938, the capers of characters like

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Dennis the menace, and the Bash Street Kids, have made the comic a

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national institution. One that still sells 37,000 copies every

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week. Dennis and Nasher and I like them, they cause drama, the whole

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of Beano Town is really scared of them.

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James's grandma, Christine, also has a real soft spot for the Beano,

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she has been buying it for the best part of 30 years, first for her son,

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then her grandson. She's pretty keen on it herself. It encourages

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them to read, because the stories are all short and you can read

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through them pretty quickly. Of course, it gives them hints and

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tips on how to be little rascals as well. But Christine wrote to Rip-

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Off Britain, because she thinks the Beano, just like Dennis and Knasher

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is up to no good. Christine goes to her local shop to buy the Beano,

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just as she does every week. She goes to pay the usual price.

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Only to find it is a pound more expensive than last week. Christine

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has noticed every time there is a gift with the Beano the price goes

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from �1.50 to �2.50. She's pretty miffed about it. I think it is a

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rip-off, if something is advertised as a gift, you should pay for that

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privilege. To me a gift is a gift and shouldn't have a cost to it.

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And clearly the Beano do charge an extra �1. The Beano don't actually

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advertise the supposed gifts as free. Instead using words like

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"amazing" or simply "gifts". Christine, along with Roger, thinks

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that is just dodging the issue. you are giving a gift, give a gift,

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don't try charging your poor customers extra for that privilege.

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The Oxford egg English Dictionary agrees. It describes a gift as a

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thing given willingly to someone without payment. So if a gift is

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something you don't charge for, how can the Beano put the price up

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every time one is included. Christine wrote to the comic twice

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to ask. When they didn't respond. She wrote to us. We asked the Beano

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the name question. They said the cost of producing comics has risen

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substantially over the last year, while at the same time sales have

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been declining. To help them compete effectively with rivals,

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and also attract new readers, they have adopted a flexible pricing

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policy. Which depends on the overall package presented. They

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stress they are kaifrt not to say the gifts are free. Pointing out

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there is an additional cost to them as well as to the readers. Because

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these issues cost more to produce. They say research and sales have

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shown most readers like the gifts. Five for minutes and I want you in.

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Christine thinks the Beano should forget all about gifts and

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concentrate on what it has been doing so well for years, making a

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magazine that children love. I will buy it at its normal retail price,

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because it is, at that price, fairly good value for money. And it

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does keep him occupied in the back of the car, in his bedroom. I will

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not buy it at the inflated price with amazing gifts for � 2.50.

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James will get the magazine some of the time, good for him, but not for

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the rest of the family. Beano is a very good way of thinking of stuff

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to menace about. It gives you ideas to what you could do to your

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parents when they are asleep, like draw moustaches on them, with

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marker. Have you ever done that? but I'm going to try it! Before you

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get seduced by any sort of offer, whether a gift, a buy-one-get-one-

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free, or a three-for-two, James from the Office of Fair Trading has

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really good advice to help you decide if what you are getting is

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as good as it teams. The OFT was interested in how pricing practices

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used by retailers can influence purchasing decisions made by

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consumers. What we found is the presentation of the prices is often

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as important as the prices themselves. We looked at reference

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pricing, where a price is presented as being relative to another price,

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such as was �50, now �20. What we found is consumers often perceived

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the product to be much better value when it is put in the context of a

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higher reference price, even if that reference price had never been

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charged at all for the product. Another pricing practice we looked

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at were time-limited offers, such as must end today, or this bank

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holiday we found these are particularly powerful, it prevents

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consumers from shopping around. Without shopping around it is

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difficult to know whether you are getting a good deal or not. We also

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looked at deals like, buy-one-get- one-free, or three-for-two. We

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found this makes it difficult for consumers to understand the value

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of the product they are getting. Particularly where the

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circumstances are that the product is routinely offered in that way.

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All of the different pricing practices can result in an

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information overload for consumers, that is particularly harmful where

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they are being manipulated in such a way, that they use prices that

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may or may not have been used as a sales price at some point in the

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past. The way to combat that is be aware the pricing practices are

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used, to shop around and not purchase anything until you are

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confident you are getting a good deal.

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There can't be too many of us who haven't, at some point or another,

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received letters in the post promising the chance to win big

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cashes, in return for fining up for something or taking out a

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subscription. What are the chances of actually winning? Here is one

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Rip Off viewer who has been waiting for his prize for quite a long time.

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Reader's Digest is something of an institution, it was published in

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1958, and established itself as a family magazine, and a trusted

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brand. 3 years later, it is still a popular read. Enjoyed by some 70

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million people worldwide. One big fan is Roy, an 87-year-old war

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veteran, and Military Cross holder. He's been a subscriber of the

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magazine for years, he also loves its regular book offers. I decided

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I would buy books from Reader's Digest and build up a reasonable

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library of interesting books. A good plane are about the war years,

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because that's -- many are about the war years, that is something I

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was interested in, having been involved myself. So this is how I

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built up the collection. Which I hope will benefit my children and

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also my grandchildren in due course. But when Roy orders his books, he

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also receives letters from the company, offering him the chance to

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take part in regular prize draws. They send a catalogue of books,

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then they say if you choose one book or two books out of the

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selection, you will enter for a prize that might be worth �10,000-

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�15,000, something of that sort. And for Roy's daughter, Anne, it is

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those prize draw letters that are causing concern. She says the

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language used in them has left her father convinced that the more

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books he buys, the better his chances of winning a prize. As a

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result, in the last five years, she estimates he has spent around

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�2,000. Some of the letters make it plain that he doesn't have to say

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yes to win a prize, but they then subsequently have gone on to say,

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if you do say yes, you will get an extra prize, or there will be an

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extra bonus for you. They give the impression, I think, that your

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chances of winning are very, very good. "To claim your �30,000

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opportunity, simply browse through the enclosed catalogue now." Then

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it says, "to order one or mo products and ensure your

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opportunity to win the �30,000 customer reward prize, complete

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your joint confirmation certificate." Well if that doesn't

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sound like you have to buy something to win a prize, I don't

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know what does, frankly. Roy has bought dozens of books over the

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years, and entered many of the draws, but so far he has yet to

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scoop the big prize. Having recently been told he's down to the

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final stages in one draw, he's convinced that the �100,000 prize

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really could be coming his way. In fact, he is so hopeful he asked us

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not to use his surname, to make sure that his future chances won't

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be scuppered. I don't know the number of people in the draw, but

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I'm assuming it is probably two or three in the final stages. You

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don't get a letter from the liaison officer for winners, unless there

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is something in the offing. So I interpret that accordingly. I feel

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he may be in for a disappointment. I feel it is cruel. If he really

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isn't close to winning the big prize, I don't think these people

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should be writing him letters which make him think he is. I think

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that's wrong. Chances are, those letters are

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going to many more people than Roy realises. And Anne believes, if

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customers like her dad, knew their real chances of winning, they would

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feel differently about the prize draws. Suppose they say when you

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enter the prize draw your chance of winning is going to be one in

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10,000. How would you feel about that? What would you think?

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very enthusiastic about it. Probably not bother. I probably

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wouldn't bother. Reader's Digest does state in the small print that

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you don't need to buy anything to take part in the prize draws. But

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Anne believes they should make this much clearer, and she's so

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concerned about the letters that she has passed some of them on to

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the advertising standard authority. I said if I could please collect

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more correspondence from my father, they would be prepared to look at

:19:45.:19:49.

the case again. They felt, from what they had seen, that there were

:19:49.:19:54.

issues which might need to be investigated. Anne hopes that by

:19:54.:19:58.

telling her dad's story, it is going to help raise awareness of

:19:58.:20:02.

the marketing tactics that even trusted companies often use, but

:20:02.:20:06.

which she believes can be misleading. People who, of an age,

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if they receive an official-looking letter, from a company, which they

:20:10.:20:17.

trust, will take the contents at face value. It won't be younger

:20:17.:20:24.

people, they might be a little more sceptical about the contents.

:20:24.:20:32.

Reader's Digest told us that Roy is a valued customer and while every

:20:32.:20:36.

competition has an element of excitement about the possibility of

:20:36.:20:42.

winning, it isn't their aim to raise unrealistic expectations.

:20:42.:20:45.

They said they will take Anne's comments into account when they

:20:45.:20:51.

review how to contact customers. In the meantime, while her dad

:20:51.:20:56.

holds on to the hope of a big win, Anne is determined to try to get

:20:56.:21:00.

the rules on prize draws changed, to stop vulnerable customers being

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persuaded to make the sort of purchases they neither want nor

:21:04.:21:13.

need. Do remember, with any sort of

:21:13.:21:16.

unsolicited mail, though they may phrase things as though they are

:21:16.:21:19.

your best friend, they are usually only after your cash. Don't be

:21:19.:21:23.

persuaded to hand it over, unless it is for something that you are

:21:23.:21:29.

sure you really want. At a time when money is tighter

:21:29.:21:34.

than ever, you need to know that your cash is working hard for you,

:21:34.:21:37.

avoiding rip-offs and sharp practice along the way. We have put

:21:37.:21:41.

together a booklet of tips and advice to help safeguard your money.

:21:41.:21:51.
:21:51.:22:01.

You can find a link to the free Still to come on Rip-Off Britain

:22:01.:22:06.

Britain. You have certainly kept us busy with stories and complaints,

:22:06.:22:10.

our pop-up shop gave us a chance to solve some of them face-to-face.

:22:10.:22:14.

There is savings to be made for consumers by bundling your

:22:14.:22:17.

broadband and home phone together. We investigate whether the

:22:17.:22:21.

donations going in the charity bags that drop through your letterbox

:22:21.:22:29.

really do end up where you think. Over the last two years, we have

:22:29.:22:34.

lost up �4.6 million in bags that haven't been given to us.

:22:34.:22:39.

A problem that we looked at in our first series has cropped up again

:22:39.:22:43.

in a lot more of your letters. That's the charges for watching

:22:43.:22:48.

television, if you are snuk a hospital bed. Hospitals, of course,

:22:48.:22:53.

are where you might need some cheering up. Having access to a

:22:53.:22:58.

tele can seem a life saver, but it may not come cheap. It is usually a

:22:58.:23:02.

case of pay up or switch off, you might find there is another catch

:23:02.:23:12.
:23:12.:23:12.

too. After a spell in hospital, Archie is glad to be back at home,

:23:12.:23:18.

he struggled with his health, after suffering two strokes, the 57-year-

:23:18.:23:21.

old from Scunthorpe has also developed lung problems. He relies

:23:21.:23:26.

on his family, including his nephew, Rob, for help around the house.

:23:26.:23:31.

can hardly breathe. If I'm going out for a walk, I have to stop,

:23:31.:23:38.

every so often, to catch my breath. Archie loves to watch TV, it fills

:23:38.:23:42.

his time while he gets plenty of rest to build up his strength. He

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spent just over a week in nearby scorn Thorpe General, which like

:23:46.:23:52.

many hospital -- Scunthorpe General, which, like many hospitals in

:23:52.:23:56.

Britain has a television system. But patients have to pay to use

:23:56.:24:01.

them. Archie bought a �5 card, which apparently gave him 12 hours

:24:01.:24:06.

of TV Times. He was amazed to discover those 12 hours had to be

:24:06.:24:11.

used continuously. I knew I was being ripped off, basically. Paying

:24:11.:24:15.

all that money to watch something, that even if you switch it off at

:24:15.:24:18.

nightime, you have used it, your hours are gone, you don't save

:24:18.:24:23.

anything. To me it is just a big con. But, with little else to do,

:24:23.:24:27.

Archie kept buying the cards. During eight days in hospital, he

:24:27.:24:32.

spent �40, just to watch television. He wasn't watching it all the time.

:24:32.:24:39.

But, of course, he couldn't store up those unused hours. I just can't

:24:39.:24:43.

afford it, I'm on the dole i get �65 a week. You go into hospital

:24:43.:24:48.

and you have to pay out for that for a tele. You can watch it at

:24:48.:24:56.

home for nothing. Ridiculous. It was around ten years ago that

:24:56.:24:59.

pay-for-TV and telephone systems were introduced into hospitals

:24:59.:25:03.

across the UK. They are expensive to install, and have no cost to the

:25:03.:25:07.

NHS. So, that optional bedside entertainment, brought with it a

:25:07.:25:12.

price for the patient. If Archie was at home, the cost of watching

:25:12.:25:18.

TV, with his license, would be 40p a day. Quite a lot less than the �5

:25:18.:25:24.

he was charged for 12 hours viewing in hospital.

:25:24.:25:28.

Archie isn't the only patient agrieved over the charges. It is an

:25:28.:25:35.

issue that is debated in the local press, and MP, Nick Dakin has heard

:25:35.:25:39.

from several other constituents who are unhappy. I'm concerned about

:25:39.:25:43.

the impact on people with low incomes and can't afford to be 3ing

:25:43.:25:48.

up large bills. There is a long -- to be picking up large bills. There

:25:48.:25:52.

is a long history of communal places where people can access

:25:52.:25:55.

television. Why that should be taken away so people don't have a

:25:55.:26:00.

choice, I have a concern about that. If there was still the communal

:26:00.:26:06.

areas and the axe sets to -- access to TVs over the bed, that seems a

:26:06.:26:12.

fair choice, and people can make the decision that best suits them.

:26:12.:26:16.

The company that operates the bedside TV system, says, unusually,

:26:16.:26:19.

they haven't been able to find Archie's details in their records.

:26:19.:26:24.

But, in any case, there are better value pricing options he could have

:26:24.:26:29.

chosen, which would have halved the cost. They have trialed pay-per-

:26:29.:26:32.

unit system, but for various reasons, they didn't work. Although

:26:32.:26:38.

they are exploring alternative methods ofing for the future, of

:26:38.:26:43.

10,000 patients who took part in a survey in September, 65% described

:26:43.:26:46.

the current set-up as value for money.

:26:46.:26:51.

Meanwhile, it is likely that Archie will need more treatment for his

:26:51.:26:56.

condition, and another stay in hospital. Even if he chooses a

:26:56.:27:01.

different package, he fears facing another hefty bill. The people are

:27:01.:27:11.

going to be in there for months. How can they afford it? How does a

:27:11.:27:15.

company like that explain themselves to people's relatives

:27:15.:27:20.

that it's costing that much to keep them there. Just to keep them a

:27:20.:27:26.

little bit entertained. Unfortunately it appears these are

:27:26.:27:32.

charges we can't escape and are not going to go away. We have some

:27:32.:27:36.

pointers on other charges you can expect when you are in hospital.

:27:36.:27:42.

Where possible, how to avoid them. If you are going to hospital for

:27:42.:27:45.

treatment, you might assume that because it is NHS treatment that it

:27:45.:27:52.

is free, however, you may find that you are being charged for amenities

:27:52.:27:57.

that don't constitute treatment. Car parking charges will vary

:27:57.:28:00.

throughout the country. In Wales, for example, there are no charges,

:28:00.:28:04.

they have been scrapped all together, in Scotland certain

:28:05.:28:14.
:28:15.:28:16.

conditions have been exempt from charges. In England, exempts and

:28:16.:28:24.

discounts -- he can exceptions and discounts vary from hospitals to

:28:24.:28:27.

hospitals. If you want to make telephone calls from a bedside

:28:27.:28:31.

phone, you might find the charges are quite say. Relatives who want

:28:31.:28:35.

to call you might be hit with very high in coming call charges. You

:28:35.:28:39.

might be able to use your mobile phone on the ward, you should

:28:39.:28:49.
:28:49.:28:53.

always check with the ward sister first. You might be charged for

:28:53.:28:57.

taking money out at a hospital cash machine, take money with you.

:28:57.:29:00.

Hospital shops are more expensive than high street shops. Think about

:29:00.:29:03.

taking what you need, such as packed lunches with you when you

:29:03.:29:09.

travel. Hundreds of you e-mail and write

:29:10.:29:14.

into us at Rip-Off Britain Britain. So we decided we wanted -- Rip-Off

:29:14.:29:18.

Britain, so we decided to have the opportunity to meet you face-to-

:29:18.:29:22.

face and hear your stories. We have teemed up with BBC Learning to open

:29:22.:29:28.

our own Pop Up Shop in Manchester. It is going incredibly well, we

:29:28.:29:35.

have had lots of responses. Simon, we have a queue outside the door.

:29:35.:29:38.

What are you expecting today? think it will be mostly to do with

:29:38.:29:42.

flights. First of all, booking the flipping things, and why you have

:29:42.:29:46.

to pay a charge with some airline, just to hand over money. Also, if

:29:46.:29:51.

your flight is delayed or cancelled, what are your entitlements. The

:29:51.:29:55.

biggest rip-off today that I want to persuade people to avoid, is the

:29:55.:29:58.

changing money at the airport scenario. If you do that you might

:29:58.:30:02.

as well just hand over your purse to someone and say help yourself,

:30:02.:30:06.

ultimately you are just being ripped off massively. It is not

:30:06.:30:13.

just the travel industry that is affected by hidden charges. Carolyn

:30:13.:30:19.

has found out that she's paying for the prove lij of paying her phone

:30:19.:30:27.

and broadband bill. They introduced a �5 non-direct debit charge.

:30:27.:30:32.

you want to write a cheque for your bill it costs �5 to pay that way.

:30:32.:30:36.

Unless you pay by direct debit you have to pay the �5 handling charge.

:30:36.:30:42.

Which I think is wrong. They have now introduced a paper billing

:30:42.:30:47.

charge, of �1.50. What do you make of this case? Unfortunately it is

:30:47.:30:51.

not unique in the market nowadays. Providers in all sorts of

:30:51.:30:54.

industries nowadays consider cheques to be an expensive way to

:30:54.:30:59.

take the money from you, certainly within broadband, there is only one

:30:59.:31:04.

or two providers that will allow a cheque for free. Two or three

:31:05.:31:10.

providers won't allow you to take a cheque at all. The best way is to

:31:10.:31:13.

bundle your home phone and broadband together. If you go down

:31:13.:31:22.

the route where you have to pay by cheque premium it is only one

:31:22.:31:26.

payment. In conclusion to your case, you are getting a better rate with

:31:26.:31:30.

one company and they are charging a smaller amount for paying. If you

:31:30.:31:34.

eliminate the charge per month, as Mike says, possibly you will be

:31:34.:31:39.

paying for more your service. I'm a little bit confused, you access

:31:39.:31:44.

your computer regularly, why are you so resistant to paying your

:31:44.:31:48.

bills on-line? Because of the security. I have never paid

:31:48.:31:51.

anything on-line, I have never bought anything on-line, I don't

:31:51.:31:55.

like my bank details being on-line. Because you never know these days

:31:55.:31:59.

what might happen. A lot of the big providers in the market now are

:31:59.:32:02.

very security conscious, if you are leaving your bank details on the

:32:02.:32:05.

account, you really should feel quite sure that nothing will happen

:32:05.:32:09.

to them, and you will be able to make your payments without issues.

:32:09.:32:13.

Carolyn feels she should learn more about on-line security, BBC

:32:13.:32:18.

Learning have good advice. It has recommended guides, it shows how to

:32:18.:32:21.

shop safely with a credit card on- line. It has all that information

:32:21.:32:26.

for you. There is a beginners guide to using the Internet. You click on

:32:26.:32:33.

to it, it says safety. Skillswise website has been a great

:32:33.:32:37.

starting point for Carolyn, that should open more doors for her as a

:32:37.:32:42.

consumer. We're all finding more and more

:32:42.:32:46.

charity bags pushed through our letterboxes, asking us to fill them

:32:46.:32:51.

with our unwanted items. A perfect excuse to clear out the cupboards

:32:51.:32:54.

and help a good cause at the same time. But do you really know where

:32:54.:32:58.

your donations end up. Not all these bags are quite what they seem.

:32:58.:33:02.

In fact, doing what you think is a good deed, so end up having a

:33:02.:33:09.

really adverse effect on your local charity shops. With so many

:33:09.:33:12.

collection bags arriving through our letterboxes, it seems charity

:33:12.:33:16.

really does begin at home. But instead of being delighted at what

:33:16.:33:20.

appears to be an effective way of getting us to give. One of the

:33:20.:33:23.

country's best known charities is warning against it, saying only a

:33:23.:33:28.

third of the items put into these bags will end up for sale in

:33:28.:33:32.

charity shops. The way that the world is at the moment, the price

:33:32.:33:38.

of rag is the highest it's been in my ten years of service with the

:33:38.:33:41.

British Heart Foundation bs, that obviously encourages more

:33:41.:33:46.

collection companies to sipt. The glut of commercial collect -- set

:33:46.:33:49.

up. The glut of commercial collecting companies has made it

:33:49.:33:53.

hard for us to get the stuff we need. It is not justs the

:33:53.:33:58.

collections that upset the heart foundation, they say the public

:33:58.:34:01.

don't realise when charity companies deal with private

:34:01.:34:04.

companies to collect on their behalf, the private companies are

:34:04.:34:08.

able to sell on the goods themselves, and only give a small

:34:08.:34:12.

percentage to the charities themselves. The items are resorted

:34:12.:34:14.

and sold on to Third World countries, the money that then goes

:34:14.:34:19.

back, sometimes it is as little as 5% that goes across to the original

:34:19.:34:23.

charity. Every single charity needs money, without the vital funds none

:34:23.:34:26.

of us continue the hard work. A small percentage is better than no

:34:26.:34:31.

percentage at all. The British Heart Foundation uses

:34:31.:34:35.

its own vans to pick up donated goods, and driver, Joe, is

:34:35.:34:39.

concerned about the dwindling number of collections he is making.

:34:39.:34:43.

I have been a British heart foundation van driver for ten years,

:34:43.:34:47.

I have noticed doorstep donations drop dramatically from full van

:34:47.:34:51.

loads every day, to half a van load. I will drive around the housing

:34:51.:34:55.

estates, there is less and less doorstep donations, the

:34:55.:34:58.

householders are confused, they don't know what they are doing.

:34:58.:35:00.

charity claims that two-thirds of the bags drop through our doors are

:35:01.:35:04.

delivered by commercial companies. And while many of those are working

:35:05.:35:08.

with charities, a growing problem is that some collectors are doing

:35:08.:35:15.

nothing of the kind. Over the last two years we have

:35:15.:35:19.

lost up to �4.6 million in bags that haven't been given to us.

:35:19.:35:22.

There is a huge difference between the commercial collectors who are

:35:22.:35:24.

giving a small percentage to charities, but there is also a lot

:35:25.:35:27.

of bogus collectors out there giving absolutely nothing to

:35:27.:35:32.

charities. The charities say this can make it

:35:32.:35:35.

hard for anyone wanting to support a particular cause, to be confident

:35:35.:35:40.

that their donations will do so effectively. Which is why, in

:35:40.:35:45.

Ipswich, another charity, Mind, has stopped delivering bags all

:35:45.:35:49.

together. I have noticed in the last three to four years, massive

:35:49.:35:53.

increase in the amount of companies representing charities, putting

:35:53.:35:58.

bags through the doors, for collections. It has become

:35:58.:36:03.

increasingly hard to find an area that hasn't been blanket dropped by

:36:03.:36:08.

these massive companies. They collect clothing and shoes, and

:36:08.:36:11.

give a very small percentage of the money that they make on those

:36:11.:36:15.

collections back to the charities that they represent.

:36:15.:36:19.

I think it is vital that these private companies are regulated in

:36:19.:36:24.

some way. So that they show exactly how much profit they are making,

:36:24.:36:28.

from these charitable organisations. So it gives the public an informed

:36:28.:36:31.

choice about whether they should support these people or not, or

:36:31.:36:34.

whether they can support the charities in a different way, that

:36:34.:36:40.

could actually make a real difference.

:36:40.:36:46.

In a British Heart Foundation survey, 65% of the people asked and

:36:46.:36:51.

wonder why these companies exist, and wrongly assume whether all

:36:51.:36:55.

their donated -- wrongly assume all their donations are going to the

:36:55.:36:58.

charity. Both Jill and Louise are determined to get the message out.

:36:58.:37:01.

My advice to the general public is, if they are putting their stock

:37:01.:37:05.

into a bag, really read the detail on the bag, check with the local

:37:05.:37:09.

shops, check with the charities of their choice, but the absolutely

:37:09.:37:13.

best and most guarantee way to get your stock into your local charity

:37:13.:37:19.

is take it to the shop. I think people would be horrified if they

:37:19.:37:23.

realise what had a small percentage was going back to the charity and

:37:23.:37:27.

how much profit these corporates were making on the back of what

:37:27.:37:30.

would appear to be a very charitable gesture.

:37:30.:37:33.

We do feel ripped off, most importantly we feel the public are

:37:33.:37:36.

being ripped off. They are not clearly informed about where their

:37:36.:37:40.

stock is going. Commercial collectors, if you have nothing to

:37:40.:37:46.

hide, be transparent on your bags. The public deserve the truth.

:37:46.:37:49.

a depressing picture of people feeling their charitable instincts

:37:49.:37:53.

are being taken advantage of. We pride ourselves on being a

:37:53.:37:56.

charitable nation, but if we lose our faith in the system of

:37:56.:37:59.

collection, we may stop giving, and then the people we want to help

:37:59.:38:04.

will lose out. What can the Government do to help? I have come

:38:04.:38:10.

to speak to the minister for civil society, to see what he has to say.

:38:10.:38:14.

Minister, there is a crisis for charities about the bags that are

:38:14.:38:19.

left in people's houses, which they fill in good faith, and the

:38:19.:38:22.

charities say that two-thirds of the stuff never ends up in their

:38:22.:38:26.

shops. My concern as minister for charities is what it is doing to

:38:26.:38:30.

undermine public trust in giving. We have two potential problems here,

:38:30.:38:34.

one is public dissatisfaction with how much of the proceeds from that

:38:34.:38:38.

go to the charities. The second issue is the one that is concerning

:38:38.:38:42.

me most at the moment, is actually about crime and left and fraud, and

:38:42.:38:46.

the fact that in some cases this isn't going to charities at all, it

:38:46.:38:51.

is going into Eastern Europe, in many cases, as really organised

:38:51.:38:55.

crime. That is very, very serious indeed, and costing charities in

:38:55.:38:59.

this country, estimates vary, but up to �50 million a year. There is

:38:59.:39:03.

a lot of money to be made by the wrong kind of people out of this, I

:39:03.:39:07.

think the figures are something like nearly �1,000 for a tonne of

:39:07.:39:11.

clothing, and yet the maximum fine I believe that the police can levy

:39:11.:39:16.

on people is �1,000. Is there anything that you can do to perhaps

:39:16.:39:20.

create a greater match between the offence and the punishment?

:39:20.:39:24.

convened a meeting of everyone who has an interest in this area,

:39:24.:39:28.

charities, licensing authorities, the police, to say OK, there is a

:39:28.:39:35.

problem here, what can we do to work together to make this more

:39:35.:39:39.

effectively. Critically the missaid they know they can do more and

:39:39.:39:49.
:39:49.:39:49.

should -- the police said they know and should do more. The authorities

:39:49.:39:51.

are taking "zero tolerance" approach to this. That is one of

:39:51.:39:55.

the key developments. People are generous, they want to do the right

:39:55.:39:59.

thing, they want to make good use of the things they no longer want,

:39:59.:40:04.

they want to give them to charities, what should they do? Please don't

:40:04.:40:07.

be discouraged about giving, now more than ever charities need your

:40:07.:40:09.

support. Secondly, there is a requirement for anyone collecting

:40:09.:40:16.

on behalf of a charity, to print on the bag, the registration number of

:40:16.:40:18.

the charity. Not a company registration number, but the

:40:18.:40:22.

registration of the charity, check that. If you have any doubts, check

:40:22.:40:25.

that number on the charities commission website to recognise

:40:25.:40:31.

this is a bona fide operation. If you have any further doubts check

:40:31.:40:34.

with your local authorities that it is legitimate. If you still, at the

:40:34.:40:39.

end of that process, have any doubts, please consider taking the

:40:39.:40:44.

clothes directly to your local charity shop, or if you have a

:40:44.:40:46.

recycling bin near you. Simple steps to give yourself the

:40:46.:40:53.

confidence that you are not being ripped off. Here at Rip-Off Britain,

:40:53.:40:58.

we are always ready to investigate more of your stories. Confused over

:40:58.:41:03.

your bills? Trying to wade through endless small print that leaves you

:41:03.:41:07.

none the wiser. I might have been stupid for not reading it, or I

:41:07.:41:11.

have read it and not took it in. I could kick myself, I really could.

:41:11.:41:16.

Unsure what to do when you discover you have lost out, and that called

:41:16.:41:20.

great deal has ended up costing you money. I thought this cannot be

:41:20.:41:27.

true. It is totally unacceptable. I was so angry. You might have a

:41:27.:41:33.

cautionary tale of your own, and want to share your mistakes with us,

:41:33.:41:37.

so other people won't do the same. Nobody knows about this, and it is

:41:37.:41:41.

very strange to me I would like to get it clearer. You can write to us

:41:41.:41:51.
:41:51.:42:03.

The team is ready and waiting to investigate your stories.

:42:03.:42:06.

I think you will agree it is obvious from the experiences we

:42:06.:42:09.

have heard today that quite understandably most of us want to

:42:09.:42:12.

know exactly where our money is going. So when that's not clear,

:42:13.:42:16.

always do your research, and never be afraid to ask questions, that is

:42:17.:42:20.

the motto. Absolutely, it is what we do on this programme. It can

:42:20.:42:24.

seem that everyone is after your money. So you really do have to

:42:24.:42:27.

protect it. You can never do too much research or price comparison

:42:27.:42:31.

when you are being asked to hand over your cash. Not least, because

:42:31.:42:34.

you just might discover another company that will give you a better

:42:34.:42:38.

deal. That is always a good thing, that's it for today. Please join us

:42:38.:42:41.

The series exposing rip-offs, raw deals and poor service returns for a new run, with Julia Somerville joining Gloria Hunniford and Angela Rippon to investigate why viewers have been left out of pocket - and trying to get their problems resolved. Whether it's rocketing energy prices, unexpected bank charges, or a catch in the small print that's had devastating consequences, they'll get answers from the companies responsible - as well as giving invaluable tips and advice on how to get the best deals, and avoid costly rip offs! Plus, the team have been on the road, tackling consumer complaints face to face at the Rip Off Britain Pop-Up shop.