Sunday, 26 May 2013

Is rip-off Britain killing our faith in human nature?

Like lambs to slaughter...
I'm a trusting sort. I believe deep down that most people are good and kind, or at the very least no worse than mildly opportunistic.

I also think that the Internet is just a reflection of 'real life' human interaction - no better, no worse.

But. Yes, there's always a but.

But lately I've been stung in a couple of Internet interactions. Not exactly scams, but cases where I ended up paying more than I anticipated, often for a service I didn't want, need or even know existed.

Most cases, if I'd read the small print or double checked elsewhere, I wouldn't have been caught, but I don't know I needed to.

I understand up-selling, but there is a whole shift away from offering a good service or product at a decent price to tipping huge amounts of time and effort into exploiting haste, laziness and ignorance.

The first was when I came to renew my car insurance. I used, as those of us who consider ourselves savvy, a comparison site.

 I bunged the details in and waited.

Ping.

The results appeared. The cheapest was a company I'd heard of and considered reputable. Fine - job done. Attention elsewhere.

It was only later when I checked the paperwork that I realised that the car details were wrong. Same make, different model. Several time consuming calls later I had to pay extra to insure the kind of car I actually have. An extra cost that would have put this company's quote right down the comparison results.

"But you should have checked the details madam." Of course I should but I didn't think I'd need to. Didn't think there would be a computerised attempt to screw me.

Then this week it was passports. Boy Two's passport runs out in September so I went online and googled "UK passport renewal".

I filled in the official looking form on the proper looking website and paid £34 for what, I presumed, was a new child's passport.

Yes I was in a hurry.

Then a filled-in form arrived all ready for signing, counter signing and returning. Job done. 

Only yesterday I got a letter saying I still needed to pay. Oh no I don't, I phone HM Passports in a state of high dudgeon. 

"Yes, madam, you paid a third party site for a service you could have had for free. You paid to have the form filled in for you."

"Oh."

"It happens quite a lot and you should check you're on the right site."

Bugger. 

Add that to all the times you end up renewing something a year later when you didn't realise that you'd signed up for automatic renewal... or indeed still use the thing. 

But it's only a tenner so you don't get round to doing something about it... till next year. 

And then when you do want to cancel something, you need to post an actual letter to somewhere or phone a clogged up phone line or something so annoying you don't get round to doing it. 


I'm getting really fed up of feeling ripped off and foolish. But worse still, to avoid future episodes of virtual mugging I'm starting to assume that everyone is out to con me and therefore lose any sense of trust. 

 I don't know how we can stop this - maybe it's not too late to appeal to the consciences of those folk involved in this business. Is there an attitude of "if they're too daft/hurried/trusting to check then hell mend 'em"?

I'm going to start with naming and shaming, that might help: 

Car insurance quote via Quidco's comparison and bought through Swinton. 

Passport scammers are at the entirely plausible Passport.uk.com.

Have you got any others? 

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