As a voice for consumers, the Jersey Consumer Council works on behalf of the island’s consumers as a research and policy-based champion for good consumer market conduct. We investigate and publicise anomalies in consumer affairs and provide Islanders with accurate and timely information to help them make informed decisions.

 

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Latest News

Scams
17 June 2022

Father's Day Scams

Be on your guard for scams, particularly on WhatsApp.   We're aware of a couple of scam competitions, where fraudsters are imitating companies such as Heineken and B&Q.   Please remember not to click on any links if you don't know where they have come from.
At Home
Living Costs
Money
10 June 2022

New Budget Tool Available

We're delighted to announce the launch of our Budget Tool.   It can be found by clicking on the 'Budget Tool' button at the top of the home page or clicking the link below.   Many of you used the old version so we've built this updated one to help Islanders with money management, especially during the current cost of living crisis.   It's best completed online but there is a print option enabling you to print and fill in by hand if you prefer. As you fill in your monthly income and out-going expenditure, the tool will automatically calculate and total, providing you with a final balance amount.   The information can be saved and recalled at a later date so it can be used to show your financial status to potential landlords, banks or lenders. It can also be updated as needed.   https://www.consumercouncil.je/budget    
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. 
Scams
11 May 2022

Email and Phishing Scams

Definition of phishing (Merriam-Webster dictionary)  : the practice of tricking Internet users (as through the use of deceptive email messages or websites) into revealing personal or confidential information which can then be used illicitly    Phishing scams are used by fraudsters to trick you into giving them your personal information, including bank account details, passwords and credit card numbers. They are becoming more sophisticated, often masquerading as legitimate companies and using real logos, and are often indistinguishable from the real company, so it is always sensible to remain suspicious.   Individuals and businesses can be the targets of these scams.   In the past, it might have been easier to spot scam emails as they were filled with spelling mistakes and poor grammar, but this is not the case nowadays.  Phishing emails may contain links that, when clicked, 'infect’ your computer with a virus. It’s important not to click any links, until you are sure the sender is legitimate.    Do and Don’ts to avoid phishing scams  Do not reply to any spam mail asking you to confirm or update information about your account.   Do not click any links, especially ones that request you to login, unless you were expecting to receive it and it is from a real company/contact.  Do be careful opening attachments even if they appear to have been sent by an authorised entity.  Do not send confidential account information by email, especially your bank details, as emails can be intercepted.   Do install a firewall, anti-spyware or anti-virus software to protect your computer from any possible attacks.   Do not respond to scam emails as they often request you to call a number that is usually untraceable. Only use contact details you have and not those listed on the phishing email.  Do be suspicious and vigilant by checking the email address it has been sent from. Often the last part of the address doesn’t make sense or can have one letter different to the real company’s address, for example someone pretending to be from PayPal or Netflix may use email addresses like @paypail.com or @netfllix.com. Do not share passwords under any circumstances.    If you receive an email or fall victim to a phishing email, report it to the police or forward it to scams500@police.je.   You can also contact the Jersey Office of the Information Commissioner (JOIC) on 01534 716530 or email enquiries@jerseyoic.org if you believe personal information has been compromised, lost or accessed without your consent.     
Scams
11 May 2022

Romance Scams

Definition of catfishing (Mirriam-Webster dictionary)  : a person who sets up a false personal profile on a social networking site for fraudulent or deceptive purposes    Have you watched the Tinder Swindler on Netflix? Online dating was becoming more popular before the pandemic, but the last two years have seen this form of dating increase hugely.  Sadly, scammers are taking advantage of people looking for love with catfishing a common ploy. They pretend to be romantically attracted to a victim by building up trust and then use manipulative and gaslighting* tactics to demand money.   Many of us might be convinced we could never fall for this type of scam but, sadly, it happens too often and victims are often scammed out of thousands of pounds.    Have you received an unexpected Facebook friend request?  In this digital age, scammers frequently use social media to target individuals, often using bogus photos and stories to lure them in for example:  Facebook friend requests or messages from someone claiming to be a highly qualified professional, such as a lawyer, doctor, neurosurgeon, soldier or even helping others with the agencies, such as UNICEF.  The fraudulent Facebook profile will show photos of the scammer in exotic locations, or helping others, but these photos have usually been copied from the internet and are not the person they claim to be. A reverse image search will often find where the image has been taken from. From examples seen by the Consumer Council, profile names can often be a double Christian names such as David James; Paul Henry; Mark Frances etc, although we have also seen ones from James Henderson.    False promises  These scams are often conducted over a long period of time, building up the victim's trust.   The scammer will often ‘live’ in a different country explaining this is the reason they are unable to visit but promising to do so, as soon as they can. They may promise lavish gifts and even offer to marry the victim sending photos of the engagement ring they have apparently purchased.     Guilt tripped into sending money  Though many people won’t even meet the scammer, they frequently will be willing to transfer them vast amounts of money in the hopes of a relationship. In fact, Islanders have lost hundreds of thousands in the last few years.  Once the trust is built, the scammer will ask for money often making the victim feel guilty if they don’t send the money. It may start with relatively small requests, such as to  Help pay for a hospital bill  Pay for a child’s education  Donate to the church fund  Buy an iphone or ipad to help keep in touch  Pay for phone calls to keep in contact with you  Money for a ticket to visit you  Then the bigger payment requests start, and this is where many victims lose thousands of pounds:  Money to put a deposit on a house for you both  Problems a with a large building or legal invoice that, if unpaid, means the scammer will be jailed    How to protect yourself from falling victim to a romance scam?  Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.   Remain skeptical and if any warning signs appear, try to remove emotion from your decision even if your ‘partner’ appears sincere.  Don’t feel guilty for refusing to make a payment and if they insist stop all contact. They are scamming you.  Don’t give out personal information especially account details.  Do a reverse image search of your admirer’s photos. Often these romance scammers will steal other people’s photos, so these may be featured on a legitimate person’s social media. Go to Google and search ‘How to reverse image search’.  Watch out for inconsistencies in their story and grammar.  Be cautious about what photos or information you share with the person. They may use compromising photos or information as blackmailing material.  If you arrange to meet them in person, inform friends and family of where you are going.     Remember, anyone of any age or gender is a target for these scams.  If you have fallen victim to romance fraud or catfishing, report it to the States of Jersey Police on 612612.  For more information, go to the Jersey Fraud Prevention website.   * Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation which often occurs in romantic relationships. In relation to online romance fraud, a scammer will mislead by creating a false narrative, threaten to ‘leave’ and make the victim feel guilty and question their judgments. This leads to anxiety, confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem and usually results in the victim transferring money to keep their loved one (the scammer) happy and ensure they are not left alone.   
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