The high cost of travelling west to east

Mon, Jan 21, 2013, 00:00

Your consumer queries answered

A reader called Éilís Ní Dhuibhne was driving from Kerry to Dublin last week and noticed that the price of a litre of unleaded petrol increases substantially as you cross the country from west to east.

On the day she was travelling, she noticed that a litre of petrol cost €1.52 in Tralee, Co Kerry. By the time she got to Dublin it had risen to “€1.59 in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin”.

A credit-card crunch in the balance transfer market

“At this time of year, many people are looking at changing credit cards to save a bit of money,” writes a reader called Sarah. It is a sensible thing to do but she has “a warning” about Tesco’s credit-card division. “I applied for a Tesco credit card as it offered 0 per cent interest on balance transfers. It’s being touted as a good deal,” she says.

Indeed, Pricewatch has recommended this option to readers in the past. Typically, how it works is a customer applies for a new credit card – in Sarah’s case, to Tesco. The new company then pays the previous credit-card company, in this case MBNA, the outstanding balance on the customer’s old card.

The customer then owes the old company nothing, and owes the new company the outstanding balance. It is all very simple. Or at least it is supposed to be.

Sarah applied and included details of the balance transfer she wanted to do. “I got the new Tesco credit card, and a few days later got a credit- requested. That was around December 11th.”

The payment from Tesco to MBNA had not showed up by December 28th so she called Tesco. “They informed me payment had been rejected for some reason. I asked them to try it again, since I had spent some money on the new Tesco card and I couldn’t transfer the full original amount I had requested.” She told them to transfer what they could.

Two weeks on, and the payment to MBNA was still not showing up. “At this stage, I had to make the minimum payment on my MBNA card so as not to be charged. I called Tesco; they told me MBNA was rejecting the payment. I called MBNA, and they said there were problems with Tesco and that [MBNA] weren’t rejecting payments.”

She called Tesco again, and was left on hold for about 15 minutes as a call-centre operator spoke to a technical department. “She tells me they are having on-going issues with transfers to MBNA credit cards, and don’t seem to be able to do it. As it stands, I now have two credit cards, as I can’t transfer the balance from my MBNA card. I am going to pay off the balance of what I spent on the Tesco card with an MBNA cheque, and close the Tesco account. There is also no online service with Tesco. Payments are also slow to hit the account. The 0 per cent interest on balance transfers is definitely not worth the hassle.”

We got in touch with Tesco to find out more. “We have had difficulties in transferring a small number of balance transfer payments from Tesco to another bank,” a spokesman said. “We are currently working through the issue with the bank, with the support of IPSO, and hope to have the matter resolved shortly for those customers.”

Why some kiln-dried logs can be all hot air

Last week we reviewed fuels and said that kiln-dried logs were better than air-dried ones. A number of readers took exception to this, including Joe Barry, a man who knows a thing or two about wood having been the chairman of environmental organisation Crann and “a life-long promoter of home-grown, sustainable Irish wood”.

“There were four items reviewed in the value for money section and the first was the peat briquette. While briquettes are handy, they produce a lot of dust and obviously burning peat from our remaining bogland is not really a good option,” he writes

He points out that peat is a fossil fuel and therefore burning it contributes to our CO2 emissions. “Coal is also a high-carbon fuel and does likewise. Burning straw logs looks a more friendly alternative but it can contribute to the corrosion of the iron in stoves and, as you pointed out, they tend to expand alarmingly.”

He then comes to the kiln-dried logs from a company called Hot Logs. He says they sell an excellent product “but some of the other so-called kiln-dried logs on the market are not fully dried and can contain a high moisture content in the centre of the log. Also, in order to dry the logs, oil or electricity are used to generate the necessary heat to remove moisture and are therefore not environmentally friendly.

“You suggested that air-dried timber was in some way inferior and, while many cowboy operators do sell wet logs that are not properly air dried, many others sell a properly dried product, and this is far superior as a fuel and as an environmentally friendly product.”

He points out that the wood-fuel business is relatively new and largely unregulated so home owners need to be aware of the facts. “Air-dried timber, once it is correctly seasoned, is in fact a superior product to the others mentioned.”

He also says his son has been selling air-dried fuel from his family’s woods in Meath for seven years now ( “and we are very aware of the damage wet fuel can do to stoves and the need to ensure the produce is always properly seasoned. His business has grown on repeat orders. One delivery of wet fuel and you have lost a customer for life.”

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