Yes it’s that time of year again.
But before succumbing to an orgy of chocolate eggs, hot cross buns and falling asleep in front of the fire, we decided as part of our investigative research, to peruse the internet to see what’s been making the headlines this Easter.
It struck us that consumer issues seem to be at the forefront of this year’s offerings. Three stories in particular clearly made the tabloid news editors’ weekends:
The poor kids whose mum had ordered them giant Easter eggs from Tesco’s in her online shop, only to discover they had been sent a chicken and broccoli salad (between them) as a substitute. Well, we’re all for healthy eating, but this did seem a tad unfair.
Then there was the scandal (or was it?) of Cadbury dropping the name “Easter” from one of their eggs. Cue the inevitable disgruntled ramblings of Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells on what was really a non-story, but good tabloid fodder nonetheless.
And finally another scandal – this time the shock horror news that Aldi are cheaper than Thorntons. Who’d have thought it? Yes, you can buy the Drizzled Chocolate Wonder egg in Aldi for £2.99 but you’ll have to fork out £15 for pretty much the same egg at Thorntons.
But hidden beneath these gems, was a far more concerning consumer story. Sir Bernard Hogan –Howe, chief of the Metropolitan Police, suggested that consumers who find themselves the victims of online fraud, should no longer be compensated by their bank, but should instead have to suffer the consequences.
Sir Bernard’s view was that bearing the brunt of the associated financial losses would teach consumers a lesson: sort out your security or suffer the consequences.
What Sir Bernard seems to have failed to grasp, is that online fraud is growing exponentially, and security options available to the average consumer, are struggling to keep up with the ever more sophisticated online scams that confront all of us on a daily basis.
Last year, losses resulting from UK internet banking fraud amounted to almost £134million. At present, consumers who find themselves victims of online fraud can usually expect to get a full refund from their bank or credit card supplier.
Sir Bernard believes this sends out the wrong message to consumers and absolves them of any responsibility, The harsh approach of making consumers suffer the financial losses would, he argues, encourages people to take more care of their internet security – updating passwords and software to help prevent fraud in the first place.
Yet the banks are struggling to counter the online fraudsters. And if they are struggling, what chance does the average consumer have?
The public relies on the might of the UK banking industry to protect the consumer. Blaming the consumer for the problem does not seem to be a particularly effective way of tacking this area of crime.
We’ve seen examples of letters purporting to be from banks, stores, and phone companies which ask the consumer to contact them about their account. These are not letters which are instantly recognisable as scams. They seem genuine, and the email versions appear to be sent from the companies involved. So it is not something that the average consumer can easily identify as being fraudulent.
Yes, there are things we can all do to protect ourselves online (which we’ve gone through in detail in previous posts) but the fact remains, fraud on a scale such as this cannot be left to the individual consumer to prevent.
Right. Rant over. Back to our Drizzled Chocolate Wonder…