Energy & Fuel
Living Costs
Money
27 April 2022

Jersey’s Government rejects calls for consumer help

Jersey’s Chief Minister has rejected a call from the Jersey Consumer Council to help Islanders through the current cost of living emergency.  The JCC took the unusual step to write to Senator John Le Fondré on 18 March, to ask him and his Government ministers to consider a package of measures which could help ease the financial pressures being put on consumers following a combination of Brexit, the economic recovery from Covid and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.   Combined, the three price rise drivers have resulted in record fuel prices, rocketing food prices and unprecedented energy price increases.   The five key measures the Council requested for a three month period were:    A reduction in fuel duty by 9p a litre  A £100 credit made available to each household to put towards their energy winter bill  Free bus journeys and free parking into town on Saturdays  A commitment to not introducing a reduction in the online shopping threshold before 2023  The establishment of a panel of Islanders and business leaders who could suggest further assistant measures    Below is the Chief Minister’s full letter dated 13 April 2022    Dear Carl,  Thank you for your letter, dated Friday, 18 March, relaying the suggestions of the Jersey Consumer Council (JCC). I apologise for the significant delay in replying to you.  The Government of Jersey is fully aware of the inflationary pressures facing all Islanders and has implemented support measures which were announced at the last States sitting by the Social Security Minister. Any measures adopted by the Government need to be targeted to achieve the maximum assistance to those most vulnerable to the effects of inflation.  The current inflationary pressure has largely arisen as a result of global factors that are beyond Jersey's control. However, in addition to the measures already taken, Ministers continue to consider further practical initiatives that can be taken where appropriate in the short and medium term to alleviate the impact of inflationary pressures will have on Islanders. These will be ready for presentation to the next Council of Ministers following the elections in June.   I have set out below detailed responses to each of the suggestions raised by the Consumer Council.     Reduce the duty on motor fuel by 9p per litre at the till  Whilst on a cursory basis this might appear attractive there are a number of concerns over this suggestion.  Reducing fuel duty is not an effective means of delivering help to Islanders. It does not benefit all households equally. Average mileage and fuel consumption in Jersey is significantly lower than in the UK. In addition, households on lower incomes - who have lower rates of car ownership - make up only a small percentage of motor fuel spending. A reduction in fuel duty would therefore disproportionately benefit those households with higher incomes and more vehicles, with some of those least well off receiving no benefit at all.  The Jersey Consumer Council's PriceComparison.je website on 21 March showed the cheapest litre of unleaded petrol in Jersey was 149.9p (in St Saviour) while the most expensive was 167.9p (in St Helier) - a difference of 18 pence. For diesel, the cheapest litre is to be had in St Helier at 153.0p in St Helier and the most expensive litre can also be had in St Helier for 173.9p - a difference of 20.9 pence, which is far greater than the reduction of 9p per litre which is proposed by the JCC. Islanders therefore already have the ability to achieve far greater savings than a reduction of 9p would achieve by being selective in where they purchase their motor fuel.  It should also be remembered that the States Assembly has declared a Climate Emergency and that we should be doing everything possible to encourage the use of public transport and other more climate friendly modes of transport at this time, many of which offer better value to islanders. The component of fuel duty hypothecated to the Climate Emergency Fund is essential in delivering on the commitments identified in the Carbon Neutral Roadmap that is due to go before the States in April.  A 9-pence reduction in fuel duty would reduce Government income by a little over £4 million per annum. The Carbon Neutral Roadmap proposes a suite of policies that seek to reduce Jersey's reliance on fossil fuels over the long term for reasons of sustainability (carbon reduction) but also to increase the affordability and security of our energy supplies. By reducing resources to deliver these policies, Jersey will remain exposed for longer to energy market supply issues and the geopolitical tensions associated with fossil fuel production that we are seeing causing the current market volatility and associated impacts.  Finally, in relation to a reduction in fuel duty it would also be important to have some degree of confidence that such a reduction would be passed on in full to consumers and I note that this concern is also being expressed in the United Kingdom.     Make £100 credit available for every household to spend on their chosen energy bill  It is important that any measures agreed by Ministers provides support in a way that is targeted to where it is most needed and can be of the most assistance. For this reason, a £100 credit to all households is not being actively considered. However Ministers have agreed a temporary scheme to support those most vulnerable. The Minister for Social Security has announced plans for monthly payments to support those most vulnerable in our community. This will take the form of a direct monthly payment of £20 to every adult or child in a household claiming Income Support and every pensioner claiming a means tested benefit.  This scheme will run from April to December 2022 and will benefit approximately 11,450 individuals. An eligible household of four will therefore receive £80 per month for nine months which is clearly more beneficial than a single payment of £100. Payments will be sent automatically - there will be no need for people to apply. These payments will also go to everyone receiving the Community Costs Bonus (CCB). Officers will also be exploring options for longer term support which will be considered by the new Council of Ministers following the election in June.     Commit to not reducing the online shopping threshold before 1 January  I can confirm that this is already the case and that the GST De Minimis Level will not be reduced (from £135 to £60) until mandatory registration of larger offshore retailers commences. As identified in the Law [Finance (2022 Budget) Law], which was approved by the States Assembly at the end of last year, the reduction in the GST De Minimis Level will not come into force until 1st January 2023.     Consider allowing free bus journeys to St Helier and/or three hours free parking on Saturdays  Whilst theoretically attractive, experience and evidence does suggest that these proposals can result in unintended consequences which would not achieve the desired outcome. Previous surveys indicate that Jersey consumers value the convenience of a location above the price of parking when choosing where to shop. Indeed, the percentage of respondents who considered the price of parking to be a factor was less than 10%.  It should be recognised that free parking could therefore work contrary to its intended result. As it removes the price incentive to walk, cycle or use the bus for town workers, this could generate additional demand for parking spaces making it harder to find a parking space which in turn may put people off shopping in the town.  Regarding free bus journeys, the most recent Household Spending survey found that bus fares averaged less than 0.2% of total expenditure - and that actually it was higher earners that spend more on public transport than lower earners.   Consider establishing an independent anti-inflation panel  The Government has reconstituted the Inflation Strategy Group to monitor changes and recommend any steps the Government can take to assist Islanders. This group has already met and is supported by the Chief Economic Advisor and Chief Statistician, and other specialist officers.  Current forecasts are for further changes in inflation over the course of the next year and the Government will aim to target any supportive measures to assist Islanders who are most vulnerable That is why we have put in place more than £2 million worth of assistance for those most affected by the current inflationary pressures, and which are taking affect during the course of this month.   I hope the above clearly addresses each of the points raised by the Consumer Council in your letter and provides the Council with confidence that the Government of Jersey is taking this matter seriously.   Yours sincerely  Senator John Le Fondré  Chief Minister    Consumer Council Chairman Carl Walker responded by saying: "We are very disappointed with the response from the Chief Minister and his team, and it is clear that the Government of Jersey believes it is already doing enough to help Islanders through these extremely difficult times.  "The Council has tried its best to prompt the Government to act beyond the £4.62 a week it has promised to those already on benefits, and will now concentrate on developing other work streams which may help consumers cope with this cost of living emergency.”    Islanders are welcome to share their thoughts on the JCC’s social media accounts or by emailing contact@consumercouncil.je  
Scams
12 May 2022

Gaming Scams

Have you got two-step authentication switched on?  Many children and adults play online games using the Steam* platform, often messaging each other via the Discord** service.   As with any online platform, these are at risk of fraud and we’ve recently been made aware of a 14 year old gamer becoming the victim of a scam.  A scammer pretending to be an official administrator of Steam contacted the gamer saying the user’s account had been reported for fraudulent transactions and they were going to block it.  In order to ‘protect’ and ‘validate’ the account, the victim was instructed to by a £100 gift card. Being unfamiliar and naïve of scammers, the young gamer was worried that all gaming history and contacts would be lost, if they did not act quickly and pay the money. Using a GoHenry account, the victim paid the amount.  The scammers then took their request to the next level and asked for the gamer’s passport details. Thankfully, the young victim asked his parent where his passport was and explained why he needed it.   The parent read the threatening Discord messages and realised it was a scam, which the victim refused to believe and was more concerned that the account would be blocked. They contacted a known local gaming contact who was very helpful and explained to the victim that it was a scam and to immediately stop all communication with the scammer.  The Steam account had been compromised, as the scammer had changed the user’s password. The parent contacted Steam who were able to retrieve the account.  Due to a limit on the GoHenry account, this victim’s financial losses were limited to £100 but it has scared them and they no longer feel safe online.  Activating the two-step verification process will reduce the risk of accounts being hacked.    * Steam is an online platform where gamers can buy, play, create, and discuss PC games. The platform hosts thousands of games from both major developers and indie game designers.  ** Discord is a free voice, video, and text chat app that's used by millions of people ages 13+ to contact their gaming communities and friends. 
At Home
Money
Shopping
05 September 2022

Survey - Credit Card Availability

Would you mind taking 2 minutes to complete our credit card availability survey? Recent History Credit card availability to Islanders, or the increasing lack of it, has been on our radar for 2-3 years. We have held multiple meetings with local financial institutions, Jersey Finance, Jersey Banking Association, as well as representatives of the previous government representatives.   Recently, the Council contacted several other providers including AMEX, MBNA, M&S Bank, Virgin Money and Tesco, and received replies from all. We have since become aware that John Lewis is also following the same pattern.   Reasons Their reasons for either pulling out of the Channel Islands altogether; no longer accepting new applications; or only offering existing customers a replacement card; are two-fold:   1). Jersey is not part of the United Kingdom. 2). Providing the service is no longer commercially viable.   Locally, we are only aware that HSBC offers new applications to non-account holders if the applicant meets the appropriate requirements.   Having received more enquiries from islanders during the last year, and many in the last month, it appears the situation is worsening so we're trying to find out how many applications or renewal requests have been refused.   Survey Link The closing date is Wednesday 14 September. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/creditcardavailability Thank you    
Energy & Fuel
Living Costs
30 July 2021

Fuel And Oil Prices Rising Sharply

The Jersey Consumer Council has been monitoring fuel prices since 2007 (see below table). As the below graph highlights, fuel prices have increased steeply since the start of 2021. We approached each of the Islands’ fuel suppliers for comment and, similar to the investigation we did last year on Jersey versus UK prices, it appears that multiple global impacts are causing the increase. Nick Crolla – Head of Sales & Marketing, Rubis “We’ve seen the wholesale fuel market increase by around 6ppl in the last few months, this has been mainly due to the global rebound in demand for fuel, as COVID restrictions have been easing. These are all global influences which have an impact on our supply chain”. Nick Cunningham – General Manager, PDJ “Oil prices have been reeling ever since Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reached a compromise that resolved a two-week-long standoff over production levels. Under the compromise, the UAE will see its baseline production level lifted to 3.65 million from the current baseline around 3.17 million bpd (barrels per day) when the current contract expires in April 2022. Crude oil’s year-long surge has been sputtering for most of the last two weeks with the prospect of new supply undermining the case for producers to increase prices. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, known as OPEC+, reached a compromise last Sunday to increase oil supply from August to will lower prices which, hit their highest level this month in more than two years”.   Jon Best – Chief Operating Officer, ATF “Oil prices have been on a yearlong surge, as demand has increased as a result of the relaxations in global lockdowns. What will happen in the short term is anybody’s guess, rising COVID-19 infections in many countries may threaten demand, although major banks have steadfastly argued that the market will continue to rally, with Goldman Sachs reiterating on Monday that it sees more upside in the market. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies, known as OPEC+, reached a compromise on [18 July] to increase oil supply from August to cool prices, which had hit their highest level this month in more than two years”. To date, no comment has been received from Paul Wright – Customer Sales Development & Account Manager, Channel Island Fuels. We will continue to monitor fuel prices sold at all Island forecourts and the cost of heating oil. Prices are published on our pricecomparison.je website and free downloadable app.
Consumer Tips
Energy & Fuel
Money
30 March 2022

Fuel Saving Tips

Fuel Saving Tips With forecourt fuel prices going through reaching record highs, we’ve put together some tips on how to reduce your fuel consumption and get the best available price. Since the Council started collecting forecourt prices around 15 years ago, the highest recorded prices were in 2012/2013 when they reached just over £1.20 per litre for unleaded petrol. The latest prices, published on 29 March 2022, are eye-watering with the prices ranging from:Unleaded £1.519 - £1.749 plDiesel       £1.550 - £1.819 pl Now, more than ever, it’s essential that we drive as efficiently as possible to get the most miles from as little fuel as possible. Your car manual will possibly have some suggestions on how to get the best out of your specific make and model but here are some more general tips. Get the best price Find the forecourt closest to your house, work, or on your route, that is selling at the best price by using our pricecomparison.je website or free downloadable app. Most forecourts with the same branding sell at the same price, but not all. Just because you can get one price in St Martin does not mean it will be the same in St Ouen. Sign up for one of the free loyalty schemes offered by the suppliers, as you will often benefit from discounts, or accumulate cash for use at a later date. The places offering these will be shown on our price comparison site very soon. Drive wisely Avoid stopping and starting, if possible. Gently roll up to the red traffic light or yellow line. Lower your speed and drive in the highest gear for that speed (within the speed limit).Accelerate away slowly and, when driving try to maintain your speed and keep the revs between 1,500 - 2,500 rpm (petrol) and 1,200 - 2,000 rpm (diesel). Brake gently too, rather than leaving it late and wasting energy (unless an emergency stop is required). Keep in gear when braking as this uses very little fuel. Keep the number of times you change gear to a minimum. Many new cars have gear change indication on the dashboard which shows the most economical gear to be driving in at any one time. With all our hills, its’ good to know that when coming to one accelerate a little ahead of time and ease off as you drive up, which will minimise fuel consumption. Our Island speed limits range from 15 to 40 mph. According to the RAC, when driving in the UK driving between 50 to 60 mph is the best for fuel efficiency. The faster you drive the more fuel you use. Cruise control can be used in the UK or Europe but is no real benefit on our roads. Maintain and tidy your car Check your tyre pressure to reduce drag and effort on your engine. The correct pressure for your vehicle will be stated in the car manual. Check the oil levels and get it serviced regularly. It’s a good time to clear out anything in the boot that you don’t need for every journey. Any extra weight uses more fuel. Take off the roof rack, roof box or cycle rack, as these create drag and add weight. It’s great to support your football team but those patriotic flags, stuck on the window or aerial, will cost you. Don’t warm up the car Modern day cars don’t need to be warmed up before driving which means you’re not wasting fuel. Keep air con to a minimum If the window is iced over, use a scraper to clear it rather than cranking up the heater to warm up the window. In the summer, open the window and let that fresh air in, although this does increase drag. When you do need to use the heater or cooler, keep it to a minimum as it is one of the biggest uses of fuel. Plan your journey If you’re unsure where you’re going it’s worth using a satnav to get you there using the quickest route. Most newer models will redirect you to avoid traffic jams or roadworks so you don’t waste time and fuel in a traffic jam. Make your journey as efficient as possible by planning your stops so you don’t have to go back on yourself. Car share and buses Reduce the time you use your car by car-sharing or using the bus service.  
13 January 2023

Call for a centralised electoral register

The Jersey Consumer Council is calling for a centralised electoral register as part of a response needed to prevent further credit card companies from pulling out of Jersey and other Crown dependencies. For more than two years, we've been meeting with credit card company representatives, credit reference agencies, the Jersey Bankers’ Association, finance leaders and the Jersey Financial Services Commission to try and understand, on behalf of consumers, why credit card companies are refusing new applications to Island residents, refusing to provide Islanders with a new card once their existing one expires, or, in some instances, closing existing accounts, despite excellent credit history. And during the summer of 2022, we received more than 600 responses to a survey we conducted to try and get a better understanding of how consumers were being impacted by the move. The Council has found that, while a number of factors seem to be influencing the credit card companies’ decisions – particularly the move by UK-based banks and lending corporations to ringfence or limit their business to the UK only, following the 2008 banking crash – the lack of a centralised electoral register in Jersey is a huge stumbling block for credit reference agencies to validate applications from Island residents. Complications in pursuing individuals in debt through Jersey’s court system have also been cited. Jersey Consumer Council Chairman, Carl Walker said: “We have worked very hard to try and get clear answers as to why this is happening to not only Jersey residents, but also those in Guernsey and the Isle of Man, but it is a very complicated problem we are facing. “It would seem, in Jersey‘s case, that the inability of credit reference agencies to easily prove or check who people are, particularly those who have no credit history from living in the UK, is a huge, stumbling block. Experian, one of the UK’s leading credit reference agencies, told us that many applications would be successful if they had better access to Islanders’ data.” Mr Walker added: “We are mindful of Jersey’s unique electoral system, and the identity and authority each parish does, and should hold, in this Island. However, if some kind of resolution can be found, which does not remove any authority from the parishes, then it should be explored as a matter of urgency. “We are very concerned that this trend from UK banks could spread towards mortgage applications, loans, credit and other finance-related services. We would be happy to work with whatever agency or government department can take this forward, on behalf of Islanders, to get a quick result, before the problem gets any worse.”