Consumer Watch

Wendy Knowler fights for your rights...

Wendy Knowler masthead
April 18 2012 at 11:20

I see MultiChoice has given its “new technology-resistant” subscribers a small glimmer of hope that the company will backtrack on its unilateral decision to remove the full programme listings from its Dish magazine.

Scores of subscribers have written to newspapers about the disappearance of listings from the monthly magazine, arguing that they don’t have the time or the inclination – or the technology, in some cases – to access the programme listings the way MultiChoice wants them to, via their decoders, on the DStv website, on social media or on their cellphones.

Isobel Blake told Consumerwatch: “I find it totally unacceptable that one can no longer have the month’s programmes at a glance and be able to plan one’s viewing.

“Important, too, is being able, every night, to browse through what is on offer without having to interrupt a programme to access the TV guide.

“There are many viewers out there who do not have PVR, wide-screen TV sets and all the updated technology which MultiChoice… seems to think we all have.”

Patricia Simon wrote: “My aunt, who is in her eighties, phoned me, very distressed, asking how she was going to know where her programmes are. MultiChoice is causing a lot of anguish to its clients. Why did the company not ask us whether we wanted any changes? The people who work for it are all computer literate and have not thought very clearly about the make-up of (its) clients.”

Youth culture does indeed rule, and while it could be argued that we all need to move with the times when it comes to technology, those paying for a service should be given the option of sourcing the information relating to that paid service in the way in which they are most comfortable.

So while many service providers prefer to save the cost of sending out monthly statements – dressed up as concern for the environment, of course – those who still prefer a hard-copy statement to be sent via snail mail are accommodated.

MultiChoice claims that it stopped printing the programme listings in its magazine not to save costs but to do away with inaccurate information.

Because of the magazine’s three-month lead time, many listings were outdated by the time they reached subscribers, the company said.

Now the company is saying that in light of the complaints received, it will conduct a survey in the coming weeks, asking subscribers whether they would like to receive a printed version of the listings “even though there will still be inaccuracies”.

“Once we have received the feedback from this survey, we will determine the best route forward to resolve this to the satisfaction of our subscribers.”

As I said, that’s a teeny glimmer of hope for protesters.

Certainly more encouraging than the response that Blake received last Friday from a member of the DStv enquiries team: “Please be informed that the decision for the magazine layout to be changed it has be made,” she wrote. “The EPG (electronic programme guide) is more accurate that the magazine, most of the time |when the schedules were changed the magazine had already gone to print and we received a lot of complains regard incorrect schedule on the magazine.”

For Blake, that added insult to injury.

“I am appalled that a note like this has been sent out without someone checking not only the content but the grammar,” she said.

That’s another thing about the non-youth – they, or should I say we, don’t receive sloppy language well.

Down with sneaky pack size shrinkage

It seems the “pack shrinkage” issue – the subject of last week’s column – is one that stirs passions in consumers and journalists across the globe.

In that column I commented, as |I have done many times in recent years, that while price increases are inevitable, the manufacturers should do this in a transparent way – by putting up the price of an existing pack rather than spending time, energy and resources by making the jar of tomato sauce, bar of soap, |tube of toothpaste or slab of chocolate ever so slightly smaller, in the hope that consumers won’t notice, and won’t “kick back” against the price increase.

It’s sneaky, and we know this because the new packs never proclaim “Now in smaller pack!” in large, excited letters.

Canadian columnist Andrea DeMeer shared similar sentiments in |a column published this week, going as far as to say that the Canadian government should take steps to protect consumers from “their own gullibility”.

“The cheese bar shrivelled from 900g to 600g. Last month there were 16 sausages in the package, today there are 12,” she wrote.

“There aren’t as many chicken wings in the box, and if you look closely it appears someone sat on the can of coffee.

“Naturally, both food processors and grocery retailers hope no one is paying that much attention.”

Canadians, she says, deserve |a “you get what you think you pay for” law when it comes to food.

“Manufacturers should be required to clearly state ‘new size’ on packaging when portion size is reduced,” she suggests.

What a brilliant idea.

And what a pity that requirement isn’t included in the food labelling regulations that came into force last month.

With those regulations having been delayed for years, I’m not hopeful of updates any time soon.

Which, again, is a pity, because, as DeMeer says, consumers need as much help as they can get to make the right choices.

So keep an eye on those pack sizes, and if you spot one that’s shrunk slightly, please let me know so I can alert readers.

You’ll have to be really sharp, though, because the “shrivelling” is done subtly, so that while there’s less of the product to be had, the pack looks the same size as the old, bigger one on the shelf.

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