RTÉ One, Wednesday, 8.30pm
The Consumer Show

The Consumer Show

Catherine with Rosaria and Rosaria's daughter

Programme 4: 10 May

On foot of complaints by The Consumer Show viewers, Renault Ireland have issued the following statement:

"Renault Ireland's response to an item on last week's The Consumer Show on RTE 1 was not used in full on the show.

In relation to the issue of an electric window mechanism failure on the Mégane II and Scenic II, Renault Ireland released the following statement before the show, but unfortunately it was not used, which Renault regrets."

"Renault through its franchise dealer network operates a policy of commercial goodwill that means even after the expiration of the manufacturer's warranty it may be possible to have partial or even total coverage of costs to rectify a defect.

This policy is applied on an individual case-by-case basis once the vehicle has been inspected at a Renault dealership and the terms and conditions of the policy are met.

In Ireland the policy applied to rectify a specific issue on the previous model Mégane, not the current model, with regard to a window mechanism failure. The same applied in the UK and France.

We invite any Renault customer who has a window mechanism issue on this previous model Mégane to take their car to a Renault dealer to be assessed. Your Renault dealer will then inform you of the eligibility of your specific case for coverage under this policy. You will find your nearest Renault dealership on www.renault.ie"

"Renault Ireland invites all Renault car owners, to visit their nearest Renault dealership for a complimentary 25 point check.

We value our customers and customer satisfaction is our number one priority, so we openly encourage all Renault customers to take up this offer."

If you are a Renault owner and decide to avail of this offer, please contact us on consumers@rte.ie to let us know how you get on.

Shrinking Products
As margins are squeezed and costs increase, manufacturers have searched for new ways to keep their profits without scaring away the consumer by increasing prices. In order to do this, some manufacturers are resorting to the shrink ray.

From orange juice to nappies to washing up liquid to chocolate, manufacturers aimed and fired their shrink ray and have decreased the size of their product while keeping the same price and often the same packaging. What could be viewed as a stealth price increase laregely goes unnoticed by the consumer who otherwise would run away from a hike in price.

Damien O'Reilly, DIT Lecturer in Retail Management says that Irish people have changed their shopping habits but they are still totally focused on price - they do not look at the actual weight/number of items in package.

We survey the public by taking our basket to the streets - outside a major retailing centre - and asking shoppers if they were aware that certain products have shrunk and how they feel about this practice.

We reveal a basket of selected goods that over the years have shrunk in size.

We contacted the manufacturers of products featured in this item and they gave us the following responses:

Pot Noodle
"The change in weight for Pot Noodle Beef and Tomato flavour was due to harmonisation of the weights of all the varieties in the range, as prior to that each pot noodle flavour had been a very slightly different weight. The weight was harmonised to 90g across the range. So, for some varieties, the weight went down slightly and for some it went up. The recommended resale price ("RRP") was not changed. (¤1.31 RRP). Of course, retailers remained free to set their own prices at all times.

The changes resulted in the same end product to the consumer, but optimised, with maybe more concentrated flavours or different flavours or less fillers, to achieve the same flavour at an equal weight of 90g in every variety."

Pond's Cold Cream
"All our products are regularly reviewed and their packaging updated to keep up with the changing market conditions and consumer trends.

The size of the Pond's jars across the range was reduced in April 2010 by 30% from 75ml to 50ml, to align with many popular face products sold this size from well known brands such as Nivea, Olay and L'Oreal.

Despite the reduction in size we were not able to reduce the unit price of Pond's range at which we supply our retailers, due to the rising cost of raw materials, manufacturing and transport. This is why you may have seen the retail price of the new jars of Pond's stay the same or increase. Please note though that as a supplier, Unilever has no control over the retail price of our products, which is at the sole discretion of the retailers.

Nonetheless, based on our recent survey, Pond's range remains one of the most competitively priced ranges of branded face products."

Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers
After correspondence from The Consumer Show, Cadbury's confirmed the following "As discussed on the phone it would appear that the Cadbury Fingers pack has been at 125g since October 2009, it was previously at 150g."

"The weight of Pringles from March '08 - September '09 was 155g in September '09 this changed to 165g. Prior to March 08 there were a variety of sizes available across promotional skus but the core size was 170g. Across this period the formulation of Pringles changed (due to things such as reduction in saturated fat content and upgrades to texture and seasoning of the chips)."

"The specific pack count (Baby-Dry carry pack midi) changed from 38 to 36 in July 2009...In the few years prior to the pack changes we saw significant increases to the costs of raw materials (e.g. pulp prices increased by 18% between 2005 and 2009, and crude oil by +25%). This global macro-economic trend had an inevitable impact on production costs. That said, Pampers kept these costs manageable for many years, and tried to minimise the impact of these rising costs on consumers. In 2009 the majority of the cost increase came on Pampers Baby-Dry where we had invested heavily in product innovation. At the same time as the changes on Baby-Dry we also improved the value of Pampers Active Fit by adding two extra nappies to the Active Fit Carry pack (as well as adding additional nappies to the other pack size variants). These changes were communicated at the time to our retail partners who stock our product. Whilst we provide a recommended retail price to retailers, we do not set the price of a product - this is at the sole discretion of the retailer."

Mars Ireland
'Like all food manufacturers, we have seen continued cost increases over the last few years. We look to absorb the vast majority of these costs by being more efficient, but on occasion we have to consider increasing prices.

By slightly reducing portion sizes on Mars & Snickers in 2008 we were able to continue to responsibly meet consumer demands for healthier lifestyles whilst not increasing our prices.

Specifically on our Funsize range we have not had a price increase since 2007 nor do we intend to have a price increase in 2011. As part of our drive to constantly improve our products in 2008 we reduced calories to 99 calories or less, removed all artificial colours, flavourings, preservatives, and Transfats, provided full GDA nutritional information on pack and more recently significantly reduced saturated fat. As part of this product improvement the Funsize products changed weight, some increased in weight e.g. Mars 270g going to 288g others decreased in weight e.g. Milky Way 270g to 248g. Our consumers were made aware of these changes via press and radio in 2008.

We always listen to our consumers on these matters as we have the principal that the Consumer is our Boss and we work hard to ensure we continue to offer great value for money.'

The price of gold has rocketed in the past few years, yet gold has always been a popular investment avenue for people looking to diversify their savings and spread the risk. In the past year, gold has also become easier for the Irish consumer to invest in. However, is the surge in gold prices in recent months something to be concerned about?

Eddie meets Maynooth accountant, Tom Crowley, who has been investing in gold for the past year through a special monthly investment scheme, paid through direct debit, after he looked to gold as a way of diversifying his savings and spreading the risk.

His view is similar to that of other gold investors. With gold prices rising rapidly in the past few years, a growing number of people are looking at it as an investment option. Professor of Finance at Trinity College Dublin, Brian Lucey, also speaks to Eddie about how people tend to turn to gold during troubled times as a form of financial insurance, or as a safe haven for their money.

Once seen as the investment choice for just the wealthy, gold seemed out of reach of the general public. But now, the precious metal has become a popular investment option and in response to that, the Irish public is now being offered more accessible ways of buying gold, such as a monthly investment scheme. Stephen Flood from Goldcore international bullion dealers also speaks to Eddie about what he sees as the benefits of investing in gold, and how investors no longer have to have that large lump sum to become a gold owner.

Meanwhile, Rory Gillen of The Investr Centre investment advisors speaks to Eddie about the current gold market, its rising price and where its future lies. As demand for gold continues to rise, we question the perceived view that gold is a traditional safe haven. But with gold increasing by almost 40pc in euro terms last year, are we looking at a good rush and in turn a gold bubble, or is gold still looking like a solid investment for the foreseeable future? Is it time to sell. or is it still time to buy?

Dynamic Package Holidays
A regular package holiday is when a travel agent or tour operator creates a holiday and sells it to you as a complete package.

With a dynamic package an agent provides the facilities for you to choose and book your own flights and accommodation through one website.

Your contract is not with the agent. Instead you have separate contracts with the airline and hotel and that means you don't have the protection of the Package Holidays and Travel Trade Act.

When you book a package holiday the price can't change, except in certain specified circumstances. When you get to your destination it has to be as described or you may be entitled to compensation; and if the agent goes bust or the flight is cancelled you will be flown home or refunded through a fund operated by the Commission for Aviation Regulation.

None of that protection is there when you book a dynamic package. While there is absolutely nothing wrong in providing a service like that or in booking your holiday that way, make sure you know that the protection you have may not be as strong as with a regular package.

We spoke to Irene Hogarty and her sister Betty Daly who got a shock after the holiday they booked cost more than they expected.

Low Cost Holidays, the company Irene and Betty booked their holiday through, have since refunded Irene and Betty the additional amount charged and issued the following statement:

Re: Lowcostholidays Booking - Irene Hogarty
Thank you for your email regarding the Hogarty family holiday booking which has been investigated by lowcostholidays customer services team. Lowcostholidays is disappointed to learn of the difficulties that Ms Hogarty has experienced with this booking. Unfortunately, as a recently launched website, teething errors do occur with the system, which is what appears to have happened on this occasion. Lowcostholidays is refunding the additional amount for the holiday to Ms Hogarty.

Lowcostholidays apologies to Ms Hogarty for the inconvenience caused by this error and as a gesture of goodwill, has also given Ms Hogarty a voucher towards her next holiday booked with lowcostholidays.

Supermarket Prices - April Averages
Every week we have been showing you our Consumer Show trolley of 50 products of mostly branded goods, which is compiled in conjunction with Smartshopper.ie But we have also been following a larger range of branded and non branded goods with the price comparison website Fitthebill.ie. This week we are looking at the prices of just under 200 products for the month of April in the big four supermarkets Tesco, Dunnes, Superquinn and Supervalu.

The cost per month is the average cost for the trolley of goods in each of the supermarkets. The findings show the difference between the most expensive and cheapest trolley for the month of April is just over 55 euros.

Superquinn was the most expensive for our April shopping trolley with an average cost of ¤645.15

Supervalu was second dearest at ¤628.32

Tesco was the second cheapest at ¤604.75

While Dunnes Stores was the cheapest for The Consumer Show's April trolley with an average cost of ¤589.58

But when we take the own - brands out of the trolley, including fruit, veg and meat during the same period it has a significant impact:

Superquinn is no longer the most expensive with an average cost of ¤470.08 for branded only goods from our April trolley

Supervalu is the most expensive with the average cost for branded goods at ¤474.40

Tesco is the cheapest at ¤456.57

Dunnes Stores is a very close second cheapest at ¤458.41

The difference in April for branded goods only, between the most expensive and the cheapest, is about 18 euros. In summary supermarkets compete very closely on branded products.

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