Your consumer queries


VAT adds to price of e-books

IN AN item on the e-book last week we said there was no reason it should cost the same as the traditional book – other than the fact that publishers are loathe to undercut their paper bread and butter and so artificially inflate the prices.

Liam Byrne pointed out one reason.

“The single biggest difference between the price of an e-book and that of a traditional book is the VAT rate that attaches to it,” he writes. “The VAT rate for a traditional book is 0 per cent whereas e-books, in common with all electronic downloads, attract a VAT rate of 23 per cent. In the case of the music example that is also referred to in the article, the VAT rates would be the same for both.”

He stresses that he has no reason to defend the pricing of e-books and there is no doubt that the pricing is being manipulated by publishers” and adds that “leaving out reference to the different VAT rates just makes it easier for publishers to confuse the issue”.

It’s a valid point.

Bringing a medical device onboard

G FROM Dublin is having a weekend away in the next couple of weeks and last week she checked the new Aer Lingus carry-on baggage allowance.

“What particularly caught my eye, in addition to the obvious tax- free shopping issue, was its discrimination against people with babies and those who require a medical device,” she writes.

“As a user of a prescription medical appliance myself, I can assure you that I do not bring it with me everywhere for its entertainment value.”

She says that on its website, Aer Lingus claims: “In addition you may choose to carry on one of the following which must be placed under the seat in front: Small ladies handbag/gents satchel not exceeding 25cm x 33cm x 20cm; baby changing/food bag; medical/assistive devices.”

G from Dublin says she has never had an issue with her medical appliance “even with Ryanair. That I use a medical device is not a lifestyle choice and it does not have a dual purpose as a satchel.” We sent on this query to Aer Lingus.

A spokeswoman said its new allowance “is a standard piece of cabin baggage . . . In addition, a handbag, a satchel or duty-free shopping bag, within a specific size, may also be carried but . . . placed under the seat in front.

“In addition customers may carry on a baby-changing bag and food bag, medical and assistive devices.”

Quite a stretch to get refund from gym

A DUBLIN reader called Carolyn left her gym, called Energie Fitness, in May of this year. “That was fine and they said the last payment would come out in June,” she writes. “But lo and behold the gym took another payment in July,” which is where her saga started.

She has since called them at least seven times but has yet to be refunded the €46.08 she is owed.

“They know they owe the money to me but I just seem to keep getting fobbed off.

“I am always being told someone will phone me back or it is the bank’s fault. I even spoke to the manager who said the person who does the refunds was off and I was promised that they would process it when that person was back in.”

She last spoke to the gym on Friday, August 3rd, and she was assured the issue would be dealt with but nearly a month on she is still waiting.

“I know it’s not a whole lot of money but I still want it back and it’s the principle at this stage.”

Absolutely right. We contacted the gym on her behalf to see what the delay was in issuing her with the refund and on the same day the money was returned to her account.

A spokesman for Energie Fitness said it had nine clubs in its chain with about 1,400 members in each one. He said it dealt with very few complaints of this nature.

“We have a very clear process in terms of cancellations and we have now dealt with this issue and a refund for the extra month is on the way to Carolyn,” he said.

Irish butter spreads to Belgium and back

PATRICK TALTY bought butter in Tesco last week. He had been looking for Glen Ilen but went for Glenstal butter instead.

It is a product of Ireland, the packaging says, from “cream from cows grazing on lush Irish pasture”. But its EU health-mark was BE CO383 which means it was produced in Belgium.

“I emailed Glenstal asking why it sent milk or cream to Belgium to make butter and then ship it back but they didn’t reply.”

In response Glenstal tells us its butter is produced in Ireland (at Arrabawn Co-Op) and sent in bulk to Belgium to be packed into an “innovative and unique pack format”.

The company says it is unaware of any Irish butter packers who could pack butter in the format it wants. “When sales reach a critical mass, then we may be able to persuade an Irish packer to make the very substantial investment necessary and purchase a suitable butter packing machine.”

A spokesman said it was “not without precedence that an Irish produced product is packed in another EU state, due to lack of specific equipment or economies of scale”.

Air card credit confusion

CAVEAT emptor for travellers with Aer Lingus. Two years ago during a flight, a reader bought a Skytel phone card because it could be topped up.

“Last year I went online and topped it up by €20 for my son who was going away – needless to say he didn’t use it to ring his mammy,” she writes. This year she brought it with her again but when she went to use it, she was told it was out of date.

“The small (teeny tiny) print says that it expires 180 days after first use, which is fine, but why therefore did they take my €20 last year?”