www.mainstream.org.uk
Consumer Rights

'SHRINKFLATION' - NAME & SHAME SUPERMARKETS

All the big supermarkets where we buy the family food, keep using 'shrinkflation' to hide price rises. They keep the price the same - but give us less in the box, bag, packet or tin. How can get away with this and no-one (well, no politicians) notices? Because the product weight is on the back of the packet, out of sight, in the corner, in tiny print - the smallest font possible. To make it hard for us to actually see how much we're getting .

When shops cheat by reducing the weight or amount of the food in the box - and keep the price the same - it's a price RISE of course. If a six-pack of crisps each 30gm , shrinks to a six-pack of 23gm packets - that's a 23% cut in the quantity of food so a 23% price rise. When the biggest tube of toothpaste stays the same price, but shrinks from 150gm to 125 gm - that's a 17% price rise. Sometimes like with chocolate, we notice the smaller size straight away. But sometimes supermarkets use a more underhand way - keeping the same box or jar, putting less of the product into it. So when we see it on the shelf - it LOOKS the same size as before. They've done this with toothpaste (125g tube in the same size box as the old 150g tube - now, the tube rattles around as the box is too long!). And coffee - increasingly, they're putting 190g in the 200g jar. The 'same' price? No, it's a 5% CUT in the amount of food: so a 5% price rise.

In recent months all consumables have shrunk - boxes of biscuits have less, chocolate bars are smaller, packets of sticking plaster have fewer, and smaller, strips. Kitchen towel has transformed into thinner 'toilet roll' paper. (Toilet paper was already so thin, it would have been difficult to make it any thinner unless you used graphene). Tinned fish and soup are in smaller cans. Even the EGGS have shrunk - the ones that used to be medium are now called 'large' . (Eggs which really are large, are now 'Extra Large') .

There's an easy way to fix this. Manufacturers won't like it , it will change the look of their packaging, and reduce their advertising area. ALL supermarket food will have to labelled with a FOOD WEIGHT panel, to cover 30% of the area of the back of the box / packet. This will include multipack items eg crisps, biscuits, soft drinks etc. So for a six-pack of cisps, it'll be the net total weight of the contents of all six bags (The total weight, minus weight of all packaging) . The back will be defined as "any side equal in area to the largest side". The weight panel will have a fixed format & font, defined exactly by Parliament. (There will be equivalent rules for circular packaging such as tins, tubes etc) . For liquid foods like milk, there will be a corresponding panel but with 'Volume' instead of weight.

And it won't just be food: Most family consumables will fall under the regulations - such as toothpaste , kitchen towels, etc. Their compulsory label will say 'Product Weight' or 'Product Volume'. Responsibility for the new-style packaging panel, will be with whoever creates the packaging: the manufacturers, or the supermarket for own-brands.

Shopkeepers who give less of something for the same price - and hide the fact that this is a price increase - are cheating their customers. In the middle ages there was a 'weights and measures' inspector who went round the markets, and if he caught merchants cheating like this - they got arrested. Why can't we have the same consumer protection today?

This new rule won't stop prices rises - but it will make them out in the open , visible to customers, instead of concealed from anyone who doesn't take a magnifying glass with them when they go shopping. MAINSTREAM would then force the big supermarkets to publish details of all their 'hidden' shrinkflation food price rises in the previous ten years - NAMING them, SHAMING them.

MAINSTREAM will also legislate to require the display of the calorie content of food (important to some shoppers who are on a diet) - using a font which is actually BIG ENOUGH to read without a microscope.

 

** STOP PRESS ** 'Public Health England' has just ordered the food industry to follow three new rules regarding snack and takeaway food. The first two rules are reasonable - their third commandment 'make the portions smaller' is pointless, unjust, and it's telling the food industry to rob customers, unless they also tell them 'cut the price by the same amount'. This is about 'ending obesity'. Most of us aren't obese! Most of use buy snack food because we enjoy eating and the convenience of the sandwich being already-made. If the dickhead politicians force Subway and Greggs to make their snacks smaller - we'll just buy two bacon and cheese pasties instead of one.

This dictat for 'health' motives, is totally pointless. And by not combining it with an order to cut the price - it's encouraging food and snack retailers to cheat us even more, selling us less food for the same price. If anyone complains, they can say 'we're only doing what Tory government health experts told us to do, we're stealing your money but it's better for your health'.


END BANK PENALTIES FOR LATE / MISSED PAYMENTS

MAINSTREAM would stop banks from charging penalty fees on customers who fail to make their minimum repayment on credit cards. This just puts the customer more into debt. Instead, banks would have to disable the credit card - so it could not be used for making purchases - until the user has made the correct repayment. Then they would be able to use their card again.

That's just as effective a sanction for the cardholder - but it doesn't put them into more debt, thus giving them more problems in repaying. Makes sense.


FREE OUR INTERNET FROM E.U. SHACKLES

Brussels has totally ruined the Internet experience for us - 'us' that is, the 500 million citizens of the 27 EU countries. First they forced Google, and all search engines, to implement the so-called 'right to be forgotten'. This means criminals and paedophiles can request Google to stop showing links, to sites which show details of their previous crimes. Google usually says 'Yes' so as not to risk a huge EU fine. This 'rubbing history out' has already let several murderers get all details of their crimes, removed from the Internet.

Then the EU Cookie / GDPR legislative mess of 2017-18. This forces users to click on the screen, to acknowledge that they understand that the website stores cookies on their PC or device, and to acknowledge that the website is storing their personal data, and may use it to pass to other businesses, and they have read the small print, and agree with it. What!

The EU / Brussels junta doesn't seem to understand how people actually use the internet. Nobody goes onto just one website, for an hour, then switches their PC off. People (and especially the young) skim across sites - a few seconds here, a brief look at something, then 'click', we're on a diferent website. It's called 'surfing'. That's what we do. In one hour 'on the net' , I might dip into fifty different websites; sometimes, going back to the site I was just in a few minutes before. But because of this Eurocrap regulation - EVERY TIME I enter a website, I have to click on that box that says 'I have read your cookie rules and understand how you use my data, I agree with this'. If I don't click the box - the browser freezes me.

The problem is - we DON'T read these conditions, we don't go and check their cookie details, we don't have a look what they're doing with our data. Nobody does this! I don't do it. You don't do it. We just click the stupid cookie warning box, so we can get on with surfing. To get the information, read the news, buy a ticket, book a flight, whatever. And because we don't read this garbage, we just click to get past the box - the whole process of having these warnings is UTTERLY POINTLESS and time-wasting.

Good news: We're on the way out of the EU ! We can 'forget the right to be forgotten'. MAINSTREAM would bring back freedom for Google to show all information that is, or was, in the public domain and not private and personal. Criminals who've used this EU getout to cover up their tracks - will be named publicly. We'd ban all interruptions online where we have to 'click' to carry on browsing. Back to 'free surfing'. Websites could publish details of their 'small print', cookie policy, etc. But they wouldn't be able to make users have to 'click' to carry on browsing.

 

Your Internet FAQs

Q. Why does Brussels hate Google so much?

A. Brussels hates all American companies, but especially Internet companies. That's partly spite and resentment, because the world chose the US-developed World Wide Web as the internet standard, in preference to the French Thomsen minitel internet which was around long before the WWW. (Although the World Wide Web was invented by one of our own, brit Tim Berners-Lee, it was in the USA that it was developed into a practicable application).

Q. Surely GDPR is good as it lets us control which companies our personal data gets shared with.

A. The correct fix for this problem is NOT the GDPR solution. MAINSTREAM would abolish GDPR and all related cookie warnings. We would legislate the correct solution to this problem, banning any company from passing a customer's personal details to a third party.

Q. How would I then give a company permission, to pass my details on to another business?

A. You couldn't - companies would be forbidden to do that under any circumstances. You'd have to contact the third party yourself - and tell THEM your personal details directly.

Q. Surely the internet has a DUTY to explain to users about cookies? - they might not be aware of this

A. We would codify in the constitution, an 'Assumption of Common Sense'. This means (among other things) we can assume that internet users KNOW that websites may store their data and write cookies on their device. Parents would have the reponsibilty to pass this down to their children - teachers, the duty to pass this on to schoolchildren.


OUTLAW MICROSOFT'S ANNUAL 'LICENCE' FEES

No wonder Microsoft's Bill Gates is the world's richest person. Nowadays if you buy a laptop or PC with Microsoft Office software installed - like Word, Outlook and XL - you have to keep paying Microsoft an annual fee to 're-license' their software; in effect paying them an annual rent to keep using a product you've already paid for. This doesn't just apply to business customers - it's home customers as well. It's like buying a CD and then you keep having to pay more every year, to keep listening to the music, or the CD will stop working. Microsoft justify this by saying that by renewing their 'licence', users get the latest updates to their product.

But most home users don't want or need to keep getting these new updates - they just want their word processor, E-Mail and spreadsheets to keep doing the old stuff properly. Mainstream would stop Microsoft - and other similar companies - from imposing these 'renewal fees' on home customers in the UK.


REGULATE PREMIUM-RATE PHONE CHARGES

We'd have tighter control of premium-rate phone numbers, and stop companies using them as an extra source of income. We'd limit the number allowed - the full list would be published on a government website, stating for each, the company owning the number, and their contact details in case of issues. Ever noticed, while you're listening to the 'automated assistant' telling you the options you can choose, how SLOWLY the girl's voice talks? That way they're getting more money from you. Businesses should ONLY be able to charge, for that portion of the call where the caller is talking to a human operator. That's when they're paying somebody's wages in a call-centre. All the automated parts, where the caller selects options from the auto-assistant - as well as any time spent waiting to get through- cost the business NOTHING. So why should we have to pay a premium rate for this time?

Premium rate calls would have to FIRST explain the above rules. After this, when finally a human operator is reached, this would be when any premium charges kick in. There would be a warning 'bleep' and 'Premium rates about to start' advice, to warn the caller that the premium rate starts to apply, and say exactly HOW MUCH this is per minute.


COMPUTER HACKING AND SCAMMING

Banks must disclose computer errors affecting customers

Hacking into computer systems is already supposed to be an offence - but no-one gets prosecuted , unless they hack into the US Homeland Security or MI5. What about the thousands of cases every day, of thieves hacking into our personal bank accounts to steal by setting up fake payees or whatever; cloning people's card details. These are crimes - why do we ignore them! Like many people I've suffered from this when someone set up a fake payee in my account and took two large payments out. My bank never even noticed until I told them - then they just refunded the money. They made no attempt to even find out who stole the money and it was certainly not reported to the police. If you see someone at an ATM with a load of cloned cards, trying them all to see if they can get money out - don't bother to call the bank . Customers somewhere are having their money stolen - but all the banks care about is keeping theft like this hushed up. They're more concerned about avoiding bad publicity, than looking after our their customers' consumer rights.

The same when errors in their computing systems affect their customers' accounts. My bank had a portal error over a two-month period: When customers made online payments, the portal was entering the payment reference wrongly. Eventually they fixed it - but didn't inform anyone. (I found out a year later, it had caused HMRC to allocate tax payments to the wrong month). In cases like this, banks MUST inform all customers potentially affected, as soon as they know - warning them to check their statements, and disclosing the error the bank had made. We would make this a specific offence of Covering Up.

We'd enforce anti-hacking law properly and banks would NOT be able to keep quiet about hacks, but would be obliged to publish details of all hacking attempts - successful, or otherwise.

Also a new offence, for the less serious cheating of computer scamming. This is when websites deceive consumers by hidden links (we click into them by mistake) - or wrongly-labelled links . A link is labelled as going to one website - in fact it takes the consumer somewhere else. All these cases are deceitful ways to make us buy someone's products by disguising that website as something different. It's deceitful , it's cheating, it should be an offence under the law.


'MAKE TAX DIGITAL' SOFTWARE - A BIG SCAM BY HMRC

Even the tiniest business will soon be forced down the 'Make Tax Digital' route. This means the business themselves, will now have to do a lot of the processing previously done by HMRC. But of course our tax is now so complex - it needs special software. Companies are not allowed to write their own software - they have to use HMRC-approved software. Surely if business are now forced to format their tax returns in the new digital fornat - and this requires special software to do - then HMRC should be providing this software to their customers, free of charge.

No, they won't do this, forcing all businesses to buy suitable software from HMRC approved vendors. And it's expensive - for a small business, very expensive. Yet another HMRC scam, one more burden on businesses already struggling with rising costs and the Brexit indecision. And we can't take them to court.


DOORSTEP SELLING - PAST ITS SELL-BY DATE

In modern Britain there are a hundred other ways for vendors to sell their wares, and for charities to collect donations. There's E-Bay and similar social media sales platforms. There's car boot sales, online selling, charity shops, markets, whatever. Nowadays many residents find it intimidating and annoying when strangers knock on their door - for any reason; so much so, a big percentage of householders just pretend to be out and don't answer the door.

The majority of doorstep callers are honest; but sadly, there's a small minority who are dishonest, faking charities, looking for victims to scam, or have a more sinister purpose - using door-knocking as a cover to identify and rob vulnerable residents such as the elderly.

If micro-businesses like window-cleaners want to boost trade - they can still do this by dropping leaflets and flyers through letter boxes - as long as they don't knock on doors, ring doorbells or attempt to disturb the residents in any way.


BANKS TO SHOW TRANSACTIONS IN PROPER COLUMNS

Remember when you logged on to your bank, you went straight into your most recent transactions: displayed in the correct, time-honoured manner of debits and credits in separate columns? This format's evolved over hundreds of years of book-keeping, so customers can clearly see which transactions are debits and which are credits. This is essential to spot unauthorised or unknown transactions - which could indicate that your account's being scammed. What happens today? Banking websites put debits and credits all in the one column, using minus signs to differentiate.

Why do they do this? Because that way, they can stuff loads of advertising links alongside your statement, trying to sell you extra services. Modern bank portals function to benefit the bank's profits, not to benefit customers. Mainstream wants banks to be required by law, to show latest transactions using the whole width of the screen - debits and credits in their own columns. (The only exceptions would be narrow-format devices like ATM print-rolls, or very old mobile phones, where there's not enough space for the extra column.)


OUTLAW BOOKING FEES

Mainstream would outlaw all so-called 'Booking Fees', added to ticket costs by many theatres, music venues etc. It would be unlawful to add any charge on to the actual prices of the ticket, or any other service supplied. We'd also outlaw charging extra fees for payments in cash or by debit card. These kind of fees would be legal, only for Credit Card payments - these incur an interest cost for the supplier, so it's quite right that they charge an extra fee.


ESTATE AGENTS MUST GIVE FLOOR AREAS

Estate agents use the age-old trick of wide angle shots, to make all the rooms look bigger than they really are. What's wrong with just giving the actual area - in square metres / feet, whatever - of the house or flat? They've been doing this on the continent for years. Why not here?

Mainstream would compel estate agents to always publish the total floor area, inside the property.


MINIMUM FONT ON ALL PRODUCT PACKAGING

A minimum font size on all product packaging - everything. Food, pharmaceuticals, DIY materials such as paint, household goods, etc. It's not acceptable that we sometimes need a magnifying glass to read (what could be vitally important) product information about usage or ingredients.


ENFORCE VENDING MACHINES TO GIVE CHANGE

Now vending machines are allowed to keep the change. Selling something and not giving the change is stealing! We'd enforce all vending machines, whether for products (like drinks), or services (like parking), to either accept only a single coin or note of the correct value, OR to always give out the correct change. One or the other.


AIRLINE TRANSPARENCY FOR LOST BAGGAGE

Air passengers don't have enough rights where their baggage gets lost or damaged. Damage to cases and bags isn't just caused by thieves - its done by customs and security staff as well, who randomly open "suspicious" suitcases and then leave them with the locks broken and the contents all upside down. Passengers at present get no official notification that anything has happened. This state of affairs must end. They must be told at the end of their flight "your bag has been opened for inspection by border officials of (whatever) country". They should get compensated if padlocks are broken or missing.

Regarding luggage that gets stolen en route, we need an end to the secrecy of where, and when, this is happening. There should be a published list say every month, of the number of baggage-theft incidents. Not detailing individual cases of course, but giving number statistics for each airline and each route. Then if it transpires that certain airline routes (and possibly certain airlines) have a higher risk of getting your baggage stolen - the public will have the knowledge to enable them to make informed choices about routes and carriers.


INSTRUCTIONS - ONE LANGUAGE ENOUGH

Product instructions are always in multiple languages, not just English. Very useful obviously for the many residents here whose native tongue isn't English. This used to feature just the "main" European languages such as French, German and Spanish. Now it's ALL the many languages from the EU - and in addition, many non-EU languages such as Turkish, Arabic and Chinese. The trouble is there are now hundreds of languages in use in this country. Where do you draw the line? The situation now is ridiculous where for some small products (like watches and fit-bits) the instructions aren't a leaflet any more, but a small BOOK with instructions in 30 languages, taking up more space than the actual product!

Mainstream believes it's gone too far. Let's get back to English only. That's good enough for most of our overseas residents; and if it's not, there should be just a one-line internet address printed to show where they can download instructions in their own language.


APPLIANCE CABLES MINIMUM LENGTH

Some unscrupulous electric appliance manufacturers have found a way to make extra cash - cutting their costs, by selling their appliances with the bare minimum of lead - in one case only 40 cms long for an electric kettle. This causes the kettle to be used with the cable and plug stretched, which is dangerous. There must be a legal MINIMUM length of lead .

There's similar electrical safety issues with lighting products such as some 'candelabra' style lights imported from the Far East. The bulb sockets are loose and floppy - an unsafe design. Acceptable in India maybe - not here. We'd enforce electrical product safety in the retail sector with a well-budgeted, properly-staffed Trading Standards regime.


FIX ANOMALIES IN ALCHOHOL AND TOBACCO TAX

Mainstream would fix discrepancies in taxes on alchohol and tobacco: non-alchohol beers are now taxed at the high 'speciality beer' rate; there's no alchohol, there should be no alchohol tax!

The same with e-cigarettes, so-called 'vaping'. They don't contain tobacco, so cannot possibly be liable for tobacco tax. This mistake looks like possibly just an error by HMRC in both cases.