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  
At Home
Living Costs
22 April 2022

Netflix monthly subscription costs increasing this month

In January 2021, we advised you that Netflix was increasing its subscription prices. Well, just over a year later, they are increasing again. It may not be a surprise that the company recently announced that, for the first time, thousands of people in the UK have unsubscribed. The possible cause of this could be the current cost of living emergency, as people take a closer look at their financial situation and find ways to reduce their outgoing payments.    Now’s the time to check what plan you have and whether you actually need it. The monthly costs are increasing as set out below: Basic plan £6.99 p/m (£83.88 per year) - increased from £5.99 (no increase in 2021) Standard plan £10.99 p/m (131.88 per year) - increased from £9.99 (a £2 p/m or 23% increase in 15 months) Premium plan £15.99 (£191.88 per year) - increased from £13.99 (a £4 p/m or 34% increase in 15 months)   The higher the cost the more options available to you e.g. more screens can view at the same time and HD or ultra HD. By switching your plan you could save up to £108 this year. It’s easy to change, simply: Log in to your Netflix account and go to ‘Plan Details’. In the ‘Change plan’ option, select the plan you want. Click ‘Continue’ and ‘Confirm’ Your plan will be changed immediately but we suggest you do this as close to the next billing date as possible because you won’t get any money back – you’ll simply pay less the next time you’re billed.
Living Costs
Money
22 March 2022

JCC open letter asking Chief Minister for temporary and immediate consumer support

The Council has written an open letter to the Chief Minister asking for him and his Government to implement several temporary measures that will provide immediate support to the Island’s consumers. Our five requests are: Reducing the duty on motor fuel by 9p per litre at the till £100 credit made available to every household to spend on their chosen energy bill Commitment that the GST de minimis for online goods will not be reduced before 1 January 2023 Consider allowing free bus journeys to St Helier and/or three hours free parking on Saturdays Consider establishing an independent anti-inflation panel Read the full letter here. We have not yet received a response from Senator Le Fondré but will update you once we have heard from him.    
Health
Living Costs
Money
18 February 2022

Funeral costs comparison

The loss of a loved one is extremely hard, both emotionally and practically, so the more that can be planned beforehand, the easier on those we leave behind. Death and funerals are often topics that people feel uncomfortable thinking about or discussing. Yet, they are two of the most important matters in our lives, and it is good to be prepared for when that sad time comes. Any age is good to have those discussions with your loved ones, although the older we get the more morbid it might feel. The cost of a funeral is an essential part to be aware of, as families are often left with unexpected costs when a financial provision has not been made to cover them. The Council last published prices in February 2017, so recently contacted three local Funeral Directors to update the information – De Gruchys (Co-Op), Maillards (independent) and Pitcher & Le Quesne (Dignity). SunLife have been publishing their ‘Cost of Dying Report’ since 2004, and this year’s survey showed a slight reduction in the UK. It highlighted that although 66% of people put money aside for their funeral, over a third did not make sufficient provision to cover the full cost. The full report contains a lot more detail. Funeral Director Services Although price is a key factor, each Funeral Director is well established with staff who are experienced in comforting and offering both support and guidance to grieving families. It’s important to feel comfortable and build a relationship with the Funeral Director, so we recommend that you visit each of them before deciding who to choose. The Superintendent of the Crematorium is also happy to receive calls and answer any questions. Breakdown of Costs Service/Product De Gruchy’s(Co–Op) Maillards(Independent) Pitcher &Le Quesne(Dignity) Professional Fees £1,250 £1,335 £0 Funeral Director fee above professional fees £0 £0 £1,590 Care of deceased (bringing into care and treatment 24/7) £490 £380 £295 Provision of hearse, driver and bearers £750 £716 £600 Provision of one limousine £200 £194 £195 Attendance of Funeral Director at burial of ashes £75 £90 £0 Total cost of above £2,765(£2,165 in 2017) £2,715(£2,256 in 2017) £2,680(£3,863 in 2017) Direct/’no frills’ cremation * £1,795.35 £2,040.35 £1,700 Embalming (if requested) £185 £200 £155 Coffin – cheapest wood effect £595 £650 £495 Coffin – cheapest eco-friendly coffin (rattan, sea-grass or wicker) £785 £750 £845 Ashes urn – cheapest hardwood £120 £120 £115 Prices correct as at 14 February 2021 * May include different services and products. The price provided by Maillard’s does not include the Crematorium fee. Additional costs to the services provided by the Funeral Directors are: death certificate (currently £30) minister/pastor or celebrant fee church fees Crematorium fee (currently £760.65) doctor’s signature for crematorium form grave purchase internment fees (no interment fee of ashes at the crematorium if cremated in Jersey, otherwise it is £50) Book of Remembrance entry at the Crematorium (currently £42-£150 depending on wishes) Optional costs such as flowers, an organist or musician/singer should be accounted for too. To make the process easier for bereaved families, much of the organisation can be arranged and paid for by the Funeral Directors, who include them in the final invoice. The companies sometimes work with each other when the need arises, to ensure the experience is as painless as possible.They are willing to work with families to find the best option that will suit their needs and budget, and if requested will provide an estimate of costs before you agree to go ahead. Should you be eligible, they can advise on the Government’s Death Grant payment, which is currently £929.88. Guernsey Funeral Directors We also contacted the five Funeral Directors in Guernsey to get a comparison, four of which are independent. Two were willing to provide a price breakdown with an average cost of £2283.50.
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.
Living Costs
Money
28 January 2021

Have your say on the Government’s GST review

We have arranged to meet with the Treasury office to discuss this review and want to hear your thoughts. We represent you, the consumer, and the more we know about what you’re thinking, the stronger the argument we can approach the Government with.   The Government of Jersey has announced today that they are reviewing the way GST is collected on products imported into Jersey by ‘personal importers’. This review will possibly include the complete removal of the de minimis (which was reduced from £240 to £135 in October 2020), resulting in the need to pay GST on all online purchases.  It appears the Government wishes to instruct retailers based in ‘the country of origin’, e.g. the UK, to include GST on all items bought by and delivered to Jersey residents, and then pay the GST totals on to the Treasury department.  GST is what’s known as a ‘regressive tax’ as the current rate of 5% is applied uniformly across all goods and services, thereby negatively affecting low-income earners, as it takes a much larger percentage of income than from high-income earners. This can be clearly seen in the below examples:  For a product costing £100 we pay a total of £105 (£100+£5 GST (5%)).    – Impact on low-income earner (minimum wage)  For someone earning the minimum wage of £8.32 per hour (as at 1 April 2020) this £5 GST charge represents approximately 60% of their hourly rate.  – Impact on middle-income earner (£50,000)  For someone earning the wage of £26 per hour this £5 GST charge represents approximately 19% of their hourly rate.  – Impact on high-income earner (£75,000)  For someone earning the wage of £39 per hour this £5 GST charge represents approximately 13% of their hourly rate.  The announcement states that Government policy has long been a ‘fast follower’ of the EU and UK, and it wishes to follow suit on collecting taxes on cross-border sales more efficiently and effectively, as well as levelling the retail playing field.   We also suggest that there are far better ways of levelling the retail playing field rather than simply increasing taxes. One such idea being the reduction of commercial property rents, especially in King Street and Queen Street, which in turn should allow retailers to reduce their costs. We have previously sent other ideas to the Chief Minister.  We are aware of several instances where a UK retailer has refused to remove VAT, or wrongly included it in the cost, and GST is then charged on top of that i.e. a tax on a tax, which the GST law allows. We will strongly push for VAT to be removed from all goods at the time that GST is added by the retailer.  We’re concerned that for some large retailers, the changes required to their systems and administration process, may be enough for them to simply stop delivering to Jersey, thereby reducing our choice even further.  Please email contact@consumercouncil.je with your views so we can put them to the Treasury office.