HomeFinanceVICTORIA BISCHOFF: Firms must stamp out the price hikes

VICTORIA BISCHOFF: Firms must stamp out the price hikes



Stamp out price hikes: Firms that exploit customers now are unlikely to hold onto them for long, says VICTORIA BISCHOFF


No one enjoys haggling more than yours truly.

As consumer group Which? pointed out this week, you can make serious savings by ‘making a nuisance of yourself’. And, as my husband will attest, this is something I’m rather good at.

But even hardened hagglers like me become weary in the face of nonsensical pricing decisions.

Cost of living crisis: With bills soaring, firms should be going out of their way to ensure households are not paying more than they need

Cost of living crisis: With bills soaring, firms should be going out of their way to ensure households are not paying more than they need

Take my car insurance renewal premium, which crept up by £17.26 this year. A quick look on comparison websites revealed there were identical deals available for far less than I paid in 2021.

When I called my existing provider to ask if it could match the price, I was immediately offered a ‘loyalty discount’ of £26.05.

Could it go further? Bingo — another £10 saving. Any more, I persevered? Success!

The third discount was slightly more complicated as it involved bundling in a month’s worth of home cover, but resulted in a further £31.59 off.

That’s a (very welcome) total saving of £67.64. But what a waste of everyone’s time. And as we report, it’s not just insurers forcing customers to fight for a fair price.

Money Mail Reporter Amelia Murray has discovered that telecoms giants are offering a secret discount to customers who call to negotiate a new deal.

Given so many companies are now reserving their cheapest offers for those who manage their accounts online, it’s no wonder people are confused.

With bills soaring, firms should be going out of their way to ensure households are not paying more than they need to. 

Yet, as is so often the case, they instead try to sneak through higher prices in the hope customers don’t notice they are missing out on vital savings. And this brings me to my next major bugbear.

Why are broadband and phone providers allowed to hike prices mid-way through a contract?

After all, if you lock into a fixed mortgage or energy tariff, the price remains the same for the duration of the deal.

We’re not talking about a modest rise, either. The clauses woven into their small print mean they can hike prices each year by inflation plus close to 4 per cent.

Many mobile giants even go a step further by using an outdated — and ultimately more costly — measure of inflation to determine increases. 

This means millions of households now face bill hikes of 10 per cent or more. It truly beggars belief.

If a tiny supplier in East Yorkshire can cancel its price increase to avoid burdening struggling households further, why can’t the likes of BT and Vodafone?

The top bosses would do well to remember that customers have a long memory. Exploit them now when times are hard and it is unlikely they’ll stick around later.

Counter argument

So much for ‘declining footfall’ in bank branches.

My local HSBC bank was packed when I visited to drop off some Christmas cash the other week, with some 30 customers in and out in the 15 minutes I was there.

But, my goodness, what a faff! The supposedly convenient self-service machines no longer accept First Direct bank cards as they have not been upgraded after the HSBC-backed telephone bank switched from Visa to Mastercard.

Customers can still deposit cheques and cash at the counter. But, as we reported last year, four in ten HSBC branches no longer offer counter services. 

First Direct says the issue should be fixed at some point ‘this year’ — but wouldn’t it have been more sensible to resolve the glitch before rolling out new cards?

No-spend trend

After boasting of my New Year Resolution success last week, I must now confess a failure.

Number nine on my list of ten money-saving goals for this year was to commit to one spend-free week in January. I won’t make excuses for my pathetic efforts (or midweek Mocha addiction).

But our ‘no-spend trend’ feature has inspired me to try again next month.

The winner is…

A huge thank you to everyone who voted in our revamped Wooden Spoon awards last month. 

The sheer number of entries we received speaks volumes about the sorry state of customer service today. We will unmask the unfortunate winner next week.

[email protected]





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