Saturday, 15 October 2016

Daily Mail Iceland Free Marmite offer - Too Good to be True

Marmite became headline news this week when Tesco and the manufacturer Unilever argued over the wholesale price 

The Daily Mail and rival supermarket Iceland decided to cash in on the huge national publicity surrounding the dispute.

The Daily Mail was offering a free large jar of Marmite worth £4.50 to readers who took this voucher into their local branch of Iceland. 

I dislike the Daily Mail, but I love Marmite. I have no attachment to Iceland, but I enjoyed Malcolm Walker's (the man who founded Iceland) autobiography.

I bought the Daily Mail (actually got the cost refunded by using a MyWaitrose card after spending £5 in store) specifically to get the voucher and free large 500g jar of Marmite (worth £4.50).

Imagine my surprise when I visited Iceland shortly afterwards to discover they did sell Marmite 'but it's finished'. When I checked on twitter I wasn't alone. It seems almost no one had found any 'free' jars of 500g Marmite.

On the website other deal hunters noted they hadn't found any Marmite either. 

Some comments suggested stock had been limited to either 6 or 24 jars per store. Other comments suggested that the stores had removed Marmite from the shelves completely for the day of the offer.

Now obviously I don't know how many 500g jars of Marmite were on offer at Iceland.

However the Advertising Standards Authority ( has very strict rules on promotions like this. It's Advertiser's Code states that advertisers must calculate the likely demand for a promotion. If the promotion is to have very large prominence the availability must meet the expectation of consumers.

The offer of a free 500g jar of Marmite (worth £4.50) was on the front page of the Daily Mail, directly under the masthead. 

Marmite was national news on the BBC and every other newspaper. It was even mentioned on Question Time! 

If there were just 6 or 24 jars of 'free' Marmite available in each store then this information should have been printed - so potential purchasers of the Daily Mail could accurately calculate their chances of success. 

I would not have purchased the Daily Mail if I knew there were only 6 or 24 jars per Iceland store.

So I decided to complain to the Advertising Standard's Authority. Now in my experience this is a complete waste of time. The ASA doesn't punish the advertiser in any way whatsoever when it upholds consumer complaints. The ASA is funded by the advertising industry, and in my experience it prefers to rule in favour of errant advertisers.

That is a big claim, but I base it on my experience. A couple of years ago I made the mistake of complaining to the ASA about a Morrison's Supermarket buy 3 bottles of wine for £10 promotion in the national press and online one May Bank Holiday weekend. 

This wasn't just any 3 for £10 promo, some of the wines were premium bottles - including Campo Viejo Rioja and Wolfblass which normally retail at around £7 a bottle. Morrisons had very little stock, but when the shelves were empty by Thursday the press ads continued all weekend and the website still displayed the non existent offer.

The ASA kept me informed of the progress of my complaint - which was the same 'availability' complaint as the Marmite offer. Morrisons told the ASA that when the premium wine ran out (very quickly, because they had under-estimated demand) they had included some other wines in the promotion. 

I responded to the ASA that this wasn't ok. The new wines were not the premium wines in the photographs, and in any case as they were not named in the promotion shoppers would not have known they were included in the offer.

The ASA asked Morrisons about this, and why they did not amend their website to update the offer and availability.

Again Morrisons convinced the ASA they had done all they could. The ASA officer handling my complaint told me they would recommend to the ASA Council (who make the final decision) not to uphold my complaint. 

I was so outraged (and I had spent a lot of time on this by now) I said I would write a letter to the ASA Council explaining how I felt Morrison's account of events was being favoured over the facts I had supplied (mainly screen shots of their website which Morrisons didn't have). I don't know what happened next, or even if my letter was actually read out by the ASA Council at their meeting, but my complaint was upheld by the ASA Council - despite the officer recommending the opposite.

I vowed then never to complain to the ASA again. It took up loads of my time and I got nothing but cross. Morrisons carried on with business as usual. I still didn't get any Campo Viejo Rioja. 

However never say never. I have just filed a complaint with the ASA on the basis of 'availability' for the Daily Mail, Marmite, Iceland promotion. 

Don't hold your breath of the outcome. Advertisers know they can get away with this sort of behaviour. Hardly anyone complains because they assume all these offers are bogus anyway. That's what my partner always says - you didn't believe that did you?

Here is a link to the ASA ruling over the Morrisons offer. Mine was one of the 2 complaints. So yes, no one complains.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Beware TFL Contactless Payment overcharging with Credit Cards

Check your card statement very carefully if you use contactless payment on London Transport TFL instead of Oyster

Using a credit card to touch in and out and pay for journeys on the tube around London would seem like a much better payment method than using an Oyster card - which you have to apply for and top up in advance. 

Contactless credit and debit card payment is especially useful for infrequent travellers who would previously have paid much higher single fares.

Topping up an Oyster card also requires a stored balance, using a credit or debit contactless card means you truly do 'pay as you go' - no upfront contribution to the TFL coffers.

However the down side is you don't see any display on the card reader showing how much you have been charged when you pay this way. Also all the journeys in a single day are added together into a single charge on your card statement so you have no idea what you paid for each individual journey.

I just got my credit card statement for March. 28 days ago I was charged £10.80 on 30th March for journeys that should have cost a total of £5.60. I didn't discover this until my credit card statement arrived almost a month later.

Fortunately the day this journey took place I suspected something would go wrong with the payment so I registered my credit card on the TFL website in my Oyster profile.

The reason I suspected a problem was because although the customer leaving the exit barrier in front of me touched out there was a problem with his payment.

I had already touched my card on the reader and we both pushed through as the barriers opened. I was concerned about how I would be charged. If you don't touch out you pay a full fare and I couldn't be sure whose payment had registered to open the gates - his payment or mine.

So I spoke to a member of TFL staff who explained I should touch out again as I could not be charged twice.

I was dubious this would happen  so I registered my card online when I got home and thought nothing about it until the credit card statement arrived.

£10.80 as a daily charge exceeds the 
£8.80 daily fare cap for touching in and out

After looking at the statement I logged in to TFL to discover I had an incomplete journey alert in my account. But instead of recognising that my card had been charged twice less than 1 minute apart the system appeared to assume I had made another journey in the meantime (if only tube travel was so quick you could go anywhere within a single minute!) and was asking me where I should have touched in.

I filled out an online form to claim a refund from TFL, but it looked like what might happen would be that I would subsequently get charged for 3 journeys instead of the 2 I actually made that day.

Then I phoned my credit card provider MBNA. The agent was extremely unhelpful when I explained MBNA had accepted an incorrect charge on my behalf from TFL. They explained curtly that this retailer (TFL) had instructed them not to deal with any disputes but refer complainants to TFL.

This morning I phoned TFL. The agent saw the problem and agreed to refund the incorrectly registered incomplete journey fee of £5.20. But I was unhappy about this. TFL could have contacted me by email or phone using data in my account, but no, they just billed my credit card an extra fee - exceeding the daily maximum charge.

I pushed the point. 

  • The member of staff at Oxford Circus was incorrect when they advised me to touch out again. The agent explained you are charged every time you touch the reader.

  • TFL should have realised I could not have made a fresh journey inside a one minute interval.

  • TFL should correct these errors - other credit card users who don't register their cards online may never spot the error.

The agent said this was a unique situation, normally errors were automatically corrected before charges are applied.

I responded I very much doubted this experience was 'unique' and had only happened once on planet earth with millions of users every day. He agreed it was not 'unique' but only happened a few times a day. 

That's a lot of extra revenue taken from customers who have been overcharged. 

TFL should be proactive and refund customers - not wait for them to notice.

TFL should warn customers of other contactless payment problems - not just the danger of card clash (touching more than one card near the reader may result in multiple charges).

The agent did agree to refund me £10 for the trouble their mistakes caused me.

I won't be using credit cards to pay now but will revert to topping up an Oyster card - that way my contract is direct with TFL not via a credit card company, and I can verify the charge for journeys on screen as I touch out.

Here are TFL's help pages for disputed credit card incomplete journey charges: