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RTÉ One, Tuesday, 8.30pm
The Consumer Show

The Consumer Show

Topics

Stress of Debt
Health Insurance
SIMI

Catherine with Rosaria and Rosaria's daughter

Stress of Debt
In 2010 the Central Bank formulated the Mortgage Arrears and Resolution Process (MARP) in order to help avoid repossessions by helping borrowers in arrears and pre-arrears engage with their lenders, and restructure repayments if necessary.

Eddie met with James and Stephen, two individuals who, despite doing their best to proactively engage with their lenders at all times, found their dealings with their banks particularly stressful. In early May the Central Bank issued a clarification of the guidelines which protect consumers, which include the amount of contact a lender can make with a borrowers when they're in an arrears situation. Bernard Sheridan, Director of Consumer Protection at the Central Bank, explained that they expect the manner in which lenders engage with borrowers should be a positive experience, and that they will be conducting inspections before the end of the year on this matter.

Borrowers who enter the MARP process should expect the following from their lender:

Some useful tips from Eddie:

  • No extra charges or surcharges on arrears
  • Limited contact by the lender
  • A positive and sympathetic approach from the lender

Statement from Ulster Bank Representative:
I am unable to comment on an individual customer case however we work with all of our customers in financial difficulty on a one-to-one basis and have extensive forbearance options in place. When a customer is on a reduced payment arrangement with the Bank, we are unable to change the date of this repayment. We take complaints very seriously and investigate matters fully.

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Health Insurance
Every month six thousand people abandon their health insurance. In the last year alone sixty five thousand people abandoned their VHI health insurance. Meanwhile the two million of us who have stuck with it have seen the cost of our health insurance premiums go through the roof. Some policies have gone up by over 60 per cent.

As a consumer affairs journalist, Conor Pope gets more complaints about health insurance than almost any other subject. Conor has found that people are scared because they can't pay their premiums and furious with their providers whom they feel have let them down. At the centre of this storm is the VHI, who has the biggest share in the market with 1.3 million customers but has reached crisis point. And while the premiums are rising for older people, cover has been cut by as much as 20% on some procedures.

Reporting for The Consumer Show, Conor met with Fintan Buckley, whose father Colin is a lifelong member of VHI. In 2010 Colin was diagnosed with a heart problem and as undergoing open-heart surgery carried serious risks, Colin's doctors recommended the 'TAVI' procedure. The Buckleys were told that even though Colin had VHI Plan B cover, he would not be covered for TAVI as at the time it was not a listed procedure. Dr Brian Maurer, Consultant Cardiologist from Blackrock Clinic, worries that patients' lives were potentially put at risk on account of this type of decision by VHI. In the end, the Buckleys, concerned about their father's health, agreed to collectively spend ¤37,000 of their own money to fund the TAVI procedure. Since then, VHI has changed its policy and will consider covering TAVI procedures under certain plans on a case by case basis.

While the VHI is increasing the cost of policies held by older people, they have been at the forefront of introducing dozens of new policies clearly targeted at younger, healthier people. But with more than 200 policies to choose from, it's hard to figure out who's offering the best deal. Conor has the following advice for those looking to cut health insurance costs, without cutting cover:

  • Always ask your provider about Corporate Plans - these plans are available to every single person and frequently work out much cheaper.
  • Visit www.hia.ie - the Health Insurance Authority's website which allows people to make comparisons between major providers.
  • Other schemes such as the Hospital Saturday Fund are also worth exploring.

The statement from VHI is comprehensive and can be accessed by clicking here

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SIMI
The Consumer Show receives a huge number of emails from viewers who are experiencing problems with their cars (new and second-hand) and are very confused about what their rights are, and whether they should be dealing with the garage or the manufacturer.

The Tanner family bought their Seat car last year and in March this year they started having problems, where the car often lost power and stopped in the middle of the road. They went back to Clareview motors where they had bought the car and they were told the garage was no longer dealing in Seats and asked the Tanner family to approach Seat directly. After a lot of back and forth The Consumer Show stepped in, and Seat Ireland provided the Tanners with a brand new car.

Patrick Keogh bought a second-hand Citroen from Autoimage in Carlow last year. Over the course of 12 months the car broke down 10 times - every time the garage fixed the problem and assured Patrick the car was fit to drive. Eventually Patrick lost all confidence in the car and asked Autoimage for a refund or a replacement but they were adamant the car was okay. Eddie spoke with Autoimage and they have now replaced Patrick's 2005 Citroen with a 2006 Toyota Corolla.

Two very positive outcomes, but by different means. To set the record straight for once and for all Eddie spoke with Alan Nolan, Director General of the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI), who confirmed that your contract is with the person or garage who sold you the car and, as with any other product and regardless of the warranty, if it is not fit for purpose you are entitled to a repair, refund or replacement.

Statement from Clareview Motors, Limerick
We are delighted that the matter has been resolved for the customer.

Statement from Autoimage, Carlow
I believe Mr Keogh was unlucky to experience a number of problems with his car over the last 25000 Kms and 12 months. The car in question had a current NCT certificate and normally a well maintained 2005 car with over 140000 kms would be reasonably reliable over this period. However, cars are mass produced machines with thousands of moving components and sometimes customers can be unlucky to experience mechanical difficulties. We are in the motor business for the last 22 years and paramount to our success is maintaining our customer satisfaction. We were delighted to offer Mr Keogh a different solution to his motoring needs.

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