RTÉ One, Tuesday, 8.30pm
The Consumer Show

The Consumer Show

the consumer show

Topics

Liquid Detergent Capsules
High Street Shops
Property Tax

Liquid Detergent Capsules
The laundry industry has been very successful in making detergent pods very attractive products with bright colours showcased in transparent plastic containers. But these attractively-packaged, bite-sized and squishy pods are also a magnet for children. If swallowed, the detergent causes swelling of the gullet as well as vomiting etc. If rubbed or squirted in eyes, the skin covering the cornea can be chemically injured by up to 80pc.

Adrieanne Murphy's then-16-month-old daughter Addison burst an Almat (Aldi own brand) detergent capsule and the contents squirted into her eye. She was brought to Temple Street Children's Hospital. Although, there was no permanent damage, the experience was painful and traumatic. "It left burn marks on her face (she has pictures) and burned the cornea in her eye," Adrieanne says. Her medical report records the incident as "a chemical injury." Addison now fears water or any kind of liquid going near her eyes.

Sarah Nestor's toddler son Oisin burst a Tesco own brand detergent capsule and the contents squirted around his mouth, causing pain and distress.

As far back as 2005, ophthalmic surgeon Mr Ian Flitcroft, Temple St Children's Hospital (and three colleagues) co-authored a letter to the Lancet medical journal raising the alarm. Eye injuries are similar to "arc eye" suffered by welders, which is known to make grown men weep with pain. He believes the industry are still dragging their feet in dealing with this issue and wants them to do more to make incidents of injury to children totally avoidable.

The Consumer Show can now reveal a 53% in incidents with detergent pods reported to the National Poisons Information Centre in 2012. They were already the number one cause of household poisoning.

Ciara Conway TD and Chairman of the Dáil Health & Children's Committee joined Keelin in studio to express her concern over the safety of these liquid detergent capsules. She has committed to putting a motion under a topical issues debate to ask the Minister to look at this area to see what is being done and how much further can we go. She also proposed getting industry in before an Oireachtas Committee to examine this as an issue and to explore what industry can do to reduce the exposure of liquid capsules to children

Statement from Aldi Stores (Ireland)
Every product sold by Aldi Stores Ireland Ltd. fully complies with all packaging and labelling standards and regulations.

In accordance with EC Directive 1999/45/EC, and EC Directive 2001/60/EC, both of which are enacted into Irish law and enforced by the Health and Safety Authority, the Almat Liquid Sachets product labelling provides extensive handling instructions. As would be expected of any household cleaning product, the labelling also states clearly to keep out of the reach of children.

Statement from Tesco
We were very concerned to learn about the incident with the Lily liquid detergent capsule. Since then, we have introduced a range of improvements to our detergent liquitab products including better locking mechanism on lids and more prominent on- pack warnings. We are also working with our suppliers with a view to introducing opaque packaging so the capsules cannot be seen.

Statement from ICDA
All the major manufacturers have signed a commitment to implement measures aimed at reducing incidents with young children. They have committed to introduce the following as soon as possible during 2013:

  • Reduce the visibility of the capsules for example by introducing opaque boxes or obscure packaging.
  • Restrict access to the capsules by small children for example by introducing pack closures that discourages, delays or otherwise impedes the ability of small children to open the pack.
  • Display prominent messages on the pack which inform parents how to safely use and store these products.
  • Take part in consumer awareness campaigns in partnership with the Irish authorities to remind families on the necessity of storing chemicals safely in the home.

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High Street Shops
Shopping on Dublin's Grafton Street and London's Oxford Street, The Consumer Show reporters Kathriona Devereux and Tadhg Enright, investigate if big international brands are charging Irish consumers more than UK shoppers.

The Consumer Show's survey of popular high street stores found that some UK chains are charging Irish consumers up to 30% more than their UK counterparts for the exact same items. When it comes to beauty products Irish shoppers are also paying more than the sterling price with some cosmetics up to 40% than the sterling price. Some examples are:

  • French Connection Blazer - ¤170 in Dublin, £120 in London - that's ¤29.60 more, which is 20.5% above a direct currency conversion
  • Topman Mustard Parka - ¤150 in Dublin, £95 in London - that's ¤38.85 more, which is 35% above a direct currency conversion
  • Mac Studio Fix - ¤31.50 in Dublin, £20.50 in London - that's ¤7.52 more, and 31% above a direct currency conversion
  • Bodyshop White Musk for men eau de toilette - ¤27.95 in Dublin, £16 in London - that's ¤9.23 more, which is 49% above a direct conversion

Stephen Lynam from Retail Ireland explains that the cost of labour in Ireland is about 17% higher than in the UK, and rents are about 50% higher, all of which leads to a higher price in Ireland. Dr Tony Foley of DCU Business School argues that there is evidence to suggest the profits earned by Irish stores are higher than those of their international counterparts. The bottom line is that the consumer is king and the consumer has the right to shop around for the best value and to spend their hard-earned euro wherever they wish.

Fashion journalist and savvy shopper Darren Kennedy has advice for viewers to avoid paying higher prices:

  • Go online and check the difference between the Sterling price, and the Irish Euro price.
  • Do a currency conversion - plenty of apps and websites available, including www.xe.com
  • If there is a significant saving, factor in delivery costs.
  • Some UK cosmetic sites don't deliver to the Republic of Ireland so make sure you check this before you give up on the high street store.
  • Any product you buy online can be returned, but it must be done by post and may take a little longer.
  • Use your common sense - if you are shopping in a high street store, go into the store, try it on and make sure you like the look, feel and fit of the item - then go buy it online.

Statements from Retailers:

French Connection:
We contacted French Connection but received no response.

Topshop and Topmam:
The TOPSHOP and TOPMAN Euro prices reflect the costs incurred of getting our products to that market from our distribution centres in the UK and the local costs of operation within Ireland. We continually review all these factors to ensure that we are competitively and fairly priced.

MAC Cosmetics:
We contacted MAC Cosmetics but received no response.

Benefit:
We would like to clarify the confusion around the exchange rates on our products in Ireland. Unfortunately we can't control the currency exchange rates between the £ and the Euro and our prices were harmonised when we started the business at the rate of around 1.45 - 1.50 euro to the £. (It stayed that way for 12 plus years....) We try to be as fair as possible, but we are still paying the same for the product now even though the exchange rate is 1.15...it has of course, been as low as 1.05!

We are not alone in being 'victim' to the vagaries of currency exchange rates and we hope you understand the difficult position we're in. Sorry Irish customers, we really hope that you will carry on enjoying our products, we have more exciting launches for 2013 so watch this space Benefans!"

The Body Shop:
In Ireland, The Body Shop is not operated by the international company. It is franchised to and operated by an independent Irish owned franchisee employing 90 people. This is therefore not a statement by or on behalf of The Body Shop international. Commenting only on the Irish market, the Irish franchisee Peter MacDonald said " The Body Shop products are of an extremely high quality and efficacy and are priced competitively in Ireland . Our retail prices are based on the positioning of the products in comparison to a range of other branded products in the Irish market. The operation of the Irish business is specific to the Irish market and cost parameters in other markets are different. We strive to offer a very high quality customer experience and we are confident that the products and services are competitive in Ireland.

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Property Tax

By now most of us will have received a letter through the post from Revenue asking us to pay property tax. Some of us will feel that the value of our properties have been over or under estimated. Bill Tyson has this advice for home-owners:

  • The estimate is just that, an estimate. It's up to you to value your home. You don't need to pay for a valuation. Check what the house actually sold for on www.propertypriceregister.ie But if you don't send in a return you may be hit with interest at an onerous 8pc.
  • We asked the Revenue what happens here if you undervalue. They say the penalty is "the correct amount of tax, subject to a maximum of ¤3,000....Once you file on time and honour the payment option, interest will not arise."
  • You can defer all of it if you earn less than ¤15,000 for singles or ¤25,000 per couple every year. If you earn within ten grand of those figures, you can defer part of it. There are other options for deferral listed on the Revenue so it could apply to a lot of people.
  • Interest is charged on the deferred amount but at 4pc. That's not onerous - it's less than most mortgage rates. So if you are stuck and qualify it might be an option. But even low interest racks up in the long term. A house worth ¤172k would have a bill of ¤315 a year.
    Deferring that for 10 years would cost ¤693 in interest plus the unpaid tax. Over 20 years, the interest alone would go up to ¤2646.
  • Overall once you send in a return the Revenue are taking a fairly soft line This is an unpopular tax and they just want to get it up and running.
  • For more information check out lpt.revenue.ie/lpt-web/valuation-guide/index.htm

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