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Amy Ellis

Computer says 'no'

Computer says 'no'

We moved into our flat a year ago. We did all the usual things, bought a tonne of furniture from Ikea, tried to locate the stopcock (someone had put it behind an inaccessible wall) and got all the essentials sorted like gas, electricity, phone, TV and internet.

We’d had Sky TV and internet in our previous flat, it had always worked well and we still wanted it in the new flat, so we just transferred it all over (see our Cheap Broadband and TV guides to get the best deals).

The internet worked fine to start with. But over time all we seemed to do was complain about how slow the internet was. We’d find ourselves incessantly turning the router on and off in the hope that it might miraculously fix the problem.

It didn’t. Our patience at breaking point, we went out to a large retailer to get something to fix the problem. After speaking to a sales assistant we came to the conclusion that given the thick walls in our property, the signal was struggling.

The answer? A contraption to boost the signal. The price? £20. Not too bad we thought if it solved the problem.

It didn’t. So off we went again to said large retailer and explained the problem to someone else.

The answer? To buy a new wireless router. The price? £50. Not too bad we thought if it solved the problem. But it didn’t.

Taking things back to basics

Now £70 worse off and in the same sorry position, I went off to catch up on Downton Abbey and left my husband to it. Half an hour later we had fully functioning whizzy internet again.

The answer? My husband took things back to basics and called up Sky to see if it could provide an answer to why we were paying so much for something that effectively wasn’t serving its purpose. The price? £0. What can only be classed as a bargain given it actually fixed the problem.

So, I know you’re dying to know exactly what Sky did to fix the problem (apologies to anyone that already knows this, but we didn’t, so if it can help those that don’t, great). It turns out that wireless routers can broadcast on several different channels and if neighbours are using broadband on the same channel, then it can interfere with your signal.

So Sky just walked my husband though how to identify how many people in the surrounding area were on the same channel as us and then how to change the channel to make sure we were getting the best possible signal.

It turns out he didn’t even need to call, Sky have a handy video that you can watch, which walks you through it step-by-step.

We took both the contraptions that we had thought would help us back, and saved ourselves £70.

I guess the moral to the story is, so often we think spending money is more likely to help solve an issue, but in this case a simple phone call was the answer to all our problems.

Have you ever found the simplest, cheapest solution is the one that works? Do you have any tips on boosting your broadband speed? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.


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Sarah Monro

I can extra cash using Field Agent and Swagbucks

I make extra cash using Field Agent and Swagbucks

Many MoneySavers will already know that the idea of making money online is not a myth. I’ve been looking for ways to boost my income for two years now and so far I’ve made around £200, but it’s possible to make more if you’re willing to put in the hours.

If you’re looking for ways to make a bit of extra cash, there are definitely more than a few options out there as our Boost Your Income guide details in full. I thought I’d fill you in on my personal experience of trying to make a bit of extra cash.

The great thing about the websites and apps I list below is that most of them can be done while you’re watching TV, so if you spend a lot of time in front of the box, you might as well try making money at the same time.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that if you’re able to work and keen to boost your income, your time might be better spent improving your qualifications and applying for better paid jobs!

Here are some of the websites and apps I’ve tried so far:

This is a mystery shopping app for smartphones. I found it pays about £5 when you complete short tasks like checking if products are in stock, or if billboards are visible. I once got paid to visit a pub and buy a gin & tonic!

I made £64.50 in two months using this app, which makes it the fastest type of extra earning I’ve tried.

This web site takes some getting into but it’s very addictive once you get going. You earn money by completing surveys, playing games, watching videos and a variety of other tasks.

I made £75 in four months and only gave it up because it was starting to take over my life!

As well as earning money back on your shopping, you can use Top Cashback to make free money. I was paid to sign up to a free credit trial, use comparison websites and post adverts on a classified ads site.

Sometimes you can be paid to do the tasks two or three times, but they have strict rules on this which could result in your account being terminated if you go over the limit.

I’ve made £23 in the last year, but I imagine it’s possible to make more as I don’t check for new offers very regularly.

This app pays you to look at adverts. But you usually only earn about 2p-4p per ad, which means it can feel a little slow to reach the £10 minimum pay-out threshold. Recently it’s also started sending out adverts that you won’t get paid to look at – this makes me reluctant to recommend it as I find this quite frustrating.

It’s taken me two years to earn £42, but I think this is a good reward for minimal effort.

Have you had any success with these websites and apps? Do you have any tips on boosting your income? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.


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Zorica Campbell

Additional reporting by Megan Clark.

We put the quality vs price theory to the (taste) test

We put the quality vs price theory to the (taste) test

Last month’s National Chocolate Week really got us thinking – we work for a website that prides itself on fighting for the consumer, so surely it’s our duty to take the fight to the supermarket chocolate shelves, right? We put the quality vs price theory to the (taste) test, gathering some surprising results.

Typically, a 100g bar of high-end supermarket own-brand chocolate sets you back about £1.50, which may not seem a lot but can quickly accumulate over periods of time (weeks, days, hours – delete as appropriate!).

You can, of course, go for the cheaper options – about 35p for 100g, but chocolate connoisseurs don’t always want to compromise quality for price, while others argue cheap chocolate is only for cooking.

So our very willing guinea pigs (colleagues) here at MSE Towers put the chocolate to the test. To make things fair, we only compared milk chocolate and we removed all of the packaging so no one knew which was which.

  • A – Green & Blacks (100g) – £2
  • B – Sainsbury’s Basics Milk Chocolate (100g) – 35p
  • C – Sainsbury’s TTD Belgian Fair Trade (100g) – £1.55
  • D – Cadbury Dairy Milk (120g) – £1 on special offer, reduced from £1.40

We then asked everyone to vote for both their favourite and the one they believed to be the most expensive.

Chocolate taste test

Chocolate taste test

Let the tasting commence

Let the tasting commence

MSEers love a taste test, as we discovered previously thanks to the Pimms vs Jeeves test run by MSE’s Charlotte (AKA Deals Hunter), and this time was no different. As the crowds gathered, comments such as "this is the best taste test ever" filled the air and within 10 minutes, almost everything had predictably disappeared.

The Results

Fortunately, our 22 testers didn’t end up in so much of a chocolate-induced stupor that they forgot to vote and the results were quite split.

What was the favourite?

Though it was close – there was just one vote between first and second place – here are the very interesting results:

  • A – Green & Blacks
  • B – Sainsbury’s Basics
  • C – Sainsbury’s TTD
  • D – Cadbury’s

Cadbury’s, perhaps surprisingly, was in last place, while Sainsbury’s Basics was one vote off taking joint first place with Green & Blacks.

Which was the most expensive?

In terms of price, MSEers were almost right on the money, predicting correctly that the most expensive was Green & Blacks and the cheapest Sainsbury’s Basics.

But although the most expensive chocolate won, with such a significant price difference and with our testers genuinely liking the taste of the cheaper stuff too, the results suggest you don’t have to pay top dollar to get nice chocolate – cheap no-frills still tastes good.

More chocolate related activities

Check out our Forum, @MSE_Forum twitter, Instagram and Pinterest Chocolate board for the chocolate-related activity we’ve been involved in. And if that isn’t enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, check out MSE Debs’ fabulous chocolate cat – this has to be the best we’ve ever seen.

MSE Debs' amazing chocolate cat

MSE Debs' amazing chocolate cat

Do you have any tips on cutting the cost of chocolate? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.


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MSE Helen Saxon

It's sometimes difficult calculating how to get the biggest discount

It's difficult to work out how to get the biggest discount

Any resident or visitor to London will have seen the warnings about card clash on the tube – the idea that you could be charged for a journey more than once on multiple contactless cards. But I wager fewer people have heard of coupon clash (mostly because I just made it up).

I’ve been doing quite a lot of online shopping recently as I’m trying to furnish the flat I’ve just bought. If you know where to look (and MSE Deals is a good place to start) then there are plenty of coupons or codes that give you money off everyday shopping.

However, it’s been difficult trying to sort out how to use them to get the best possible discount. An online order at Marks & Spencer recently offered £5 off if I spent £30. But I also had a separate code which got me 20% off everything I was buying.

The £5 off was automatically added to my basket, and when I tried to put the 20% off coupon code in, it told me it wasn’t valid. It was only when I took the £5 off out of the basket that I could use the 20% off – and it was worth it too as it got me almost £8 off the order.

I was also faced with a similar situation when buying a fridge and a TV stand from Argos. I’d put in a code that got me free delivery, saving me £9. But when I tried to put in another code that gave me 20% off, again, the site wouldn’t let me have it. Sadly, on this occasion I didn’t realise that it might be the delivery code stopping that from working.

But, now I’ve figured it out, in future I’ll always work out which of the codes and discounts available will save me the most money and put that in first. And then I’ll put all the others in, because you never know, they could just work…

Do you have any tips on stacking coupons or which offers to use first? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.


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MSE Helen Saxon

Always check the paperwork before putting your signature to it

Always check the paperwork before putting your signature to it

Sadly, I’m not a millionaire and therefore don’t make nearly enough to be taxed anything close to £2.24 million.

But I did recently buy my first home. One Friday night, towards the end of the buying process, I got home to find a letter from my solicitor.

Buying a home involves A LOT of paperwork and it’s important to keep on top of it. So I sat down intending to sign it and send it back straight away so there wouldn’t be any delays.

Everything was going fine: the address of the flat I was buying was correct, as were the details about me. But then I read down to the amount I had to pay in stamp duty.

At first, I didn’t really comprehend the number as it had no comma separators (as in 1,000,000). Then it dawned on me that the piece of paper said that the "amount of tax due for this transaction was 2240000.00" – in other words, £2.24 MILLION! Hardly your average first-time buyer’s stamp duty bill.

As it happened, when I called the solicitor after the weekend, I discovered there had been an administrative error and it could be easily sorted out.

Shortly afterwards, a new stamp duty form was sent with the correct (but still excessive) amount of stamp duty land tax (it’s worth a read of Martin’s blog The UK’s worst tax… stamp duty – a sentiment I heartily agree with).

So, the moral of the tale is… ALWAYS, ALWAYS check the paperwork before putting your signature to it!

Have you ever received a larger than expected bill? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.


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Archna Luthra

We're hoping to run a collective switch

We're hoping to run a collective switch

Collective switching first hit the scene in May 2012. The generic concept is that a trusted intermediary or local agency, such as a council, negotiates a deal with an energy supplier, then gets people to switch.

The idea is great in principle, but in practice so far most collective switches haven’t come up with market-leading deals. Plus, it’s not easy to compare the results to what’s on offer on the rest of the market, so a comparison site wins almost every time.

But we’re attempting to change that. With 1.2 million Cheap Energy Club members we’re in the perfect position to tackle the energy providers and try and haggle a market-leading deal. We’ll then show it alongside the results of our whole of market Cheap Energy Club so you’ll know if it’s definitely the cheapest tariff for you.

It won’t be easy – so far when we’ve tried to negotiate with big suppliers they have been unwilling to offer anything decent without imposing terrible conditions such as "you can’t then contact consumers for three years after the cheap fix ends to tell them to switch again" but hopefully the tide is turning.

While we very much hope this will work, if suppliers don’t come up with worthwhile offers, we won’t recommend them to you by publishing them on the site.

Energy regulator Ofgem’s rules say we have to publish our intent to run a collective switch so that all interested providers can take part, and that we must include the criteria we’re looking for. So here’s a rundown of what we’re asking and the process we intend to use…

What tariffs are we looking for?

There will be a number of categories that suppliers will be able to bid for:

  • Auction 1: The cheapest market-leading 12 month fix.
  • Auction 2: The cheapest long-term fix of three years or more.
  • Auction 3: The cheapest green fixed tariff.
  • Auction 4: The cheapest prepay fixed tariff.

How will it work?

  • Step 1: Suppliers will submit their bid on auction day. They can enter more than one category.
  • Step 2: MoneySavingExpert will assess the offers. In the event suppliers offer a similar bid, those suppliers will have the the opportunity to undercut further.
  • Step 3: MoneySavingExpert will choose the winning bid in each category.
  • Step 4: Once the winning bid has been determined, it will be uploaded to the Cheap Energy Club Collective Switch page so users will be able to compare it alongside all other tariffs available on the market. 
  • Step 5: New and existing Cheap Energy Club users will have 10 days to apply for the collective switch tariffs.

What criteria must the tariffs meet?

  • The tariffs must be the cheapest on the market at the time of the collective switch.
  • It’s preferred that exit fees are not attached to any of the tariffs, though they will be considered alongside their other merits. For example, if a tariff is particularly cheap, exit fees will be less of an issue.
  • Credit meter tariffs must be available across dual fuel and also single electricity and Economy 7.
  • Users must be able to pay by direct debit, except those with a prepay meter.
  • Tariffs must be available to new and existing customers.
  • Suppliers must provide a bespoke MoneySavingExpert email address and telephone number to deal with any customer service issues. Suppliers must agree to resolve any issues on the basis of fairness, not just law. We would require the winning supplier to sign up to a guarantee that bills will be issued and billing errors will be resolved promptly.

Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

FAQs for suppliers

Q. Will you contact users when this deal ends?
A. We will contact users that join Cheap Energy Club during the collective switch in exactly the same way we contact other Cheap Energy Club members, meaning we will alert them when they can save by switching to a new tariff.

Q. Who will be able to sign up for the collective switch tariffs?
A. Existing members of Cheap Energy Club, as well as anyone joining during the 10 days that the collective switch is open.

Q. Can we offer an added freebie and how will you factor this into your decision?
A. Yes, you can. Preference will be given to a voucher for a large high street store (or even better, more than one store). If an alternative incentive is offered, eg, an energy monitor, we will make an assessment on its worth based on the going price.

For example, if an energy monitor’s RRP is £40 but it’s available for £20, we would assess it based on the cheapest price it’s available at. The incentive needs to be significant and have a wide appeal — a free hotel stay for use on 1 February in Timbuktu won’t be received well. 

Q. How will you tell your users about the collective switch?
A. We will be sending a special email to existing Cheap Energy Club users and mentioning this in the weekly money tips email.

Q. Can we have a cap on the number of people that can sign up to our tariff?
A. Yes. If there is a limit to the number of people you can offer the deal to, that’s fine provided we’re able to tell users clearly what the limit is and when that cap has been reached.

Q. Will there only be one winning tariff per category?
A. We will choose more than one tariff per category if the winning tariff has a cap on the number available.

Q. Will this tariff be available elsewhere?
A. No, this is a collective switch so the tariff will only be available via MoneySavingExpert’s Cheap Energy Club.

What are your views on collective switching? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.


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Megan Clark

My dad has always been a smoker and I’ve always encouraged him to stop. So when Stoptober came up in a forum brainstorm session, I jumped on the chance to help run the campaign.

The idea behind Stoptober is to challenge people to give up smoking during October. It’s great as it not only improves people’s health, but it helps their pockets too.

A smoker of 20 a day earning an average wage will spend nine weeks a year working to fund their habit, according to our Demotivator tool, and it’ll cost them £3,000 over the course of a year.

That’s a lot of potential savings you could make and then sink into other things, such as repaying any debts or being able to afford an extra little treat you maybe couldn’t have justified before.

As someone who would rather spend their money on Céline than cigarettes, I probably need a Stop-Shopping-tober of my very own. But rather than giving up smoking (or shopping), I am in the forum every day providing support on our Stoptober thread.

Stoptober roadshow

I also went to visit the Stoptober roadshow when it came to London. As soon as I got there, I was told to stand in between two jugglers as they threw juggling clubs either side of my head! It was incredibly close but I escaped unscathed.

Here I am getting involved in the Stoptober action

Here I am getting involved in the Stoptober action

Jugglers at the Stoptober roadshow

Jugglers at the Stoptober roadshow

On a more serious note, the jugglers worked fantastically to grab the attention of young families passing by to encourage them to learn about the Stoptober campaign.

While there I also spoke to Rowan from the local NHS Stop Smoking service. She gave me an insight into the toll smoking can have on your health – and your wealth.

Rowan explained how the roadshow targets the areas of the UK with high smoking rates, and that in these areas, it is often the cost of smoking that motivates people to quit – rather than health concerns.

She said the best way to quit costs nothing: "The most effective way to stop smoking is support. Things like Stoptober also really help. It takes the pressure off those quitting and provides a light-hearted escape from withdrawals."

Quit now for your health and your pocket

Quit now for your health and your pocket

As most people find cold turkey hard, I asked her what she thought of e-cigarettes. She said: "As they weren’t marketed as a stop smoking tool, I’m not convinced. There are also large doses of heavy metals in them, which aren’t healthy. However, they are a lot better than smoking cigarettes, so if you have to use them to quit, it’s better than relapsing."

She also recommended NOPE – Not One Puff Ever, a mantra to keep you on track when those cravings are particularly strong. "You can never have ‘that one cigarette’ to tide yourself over, always be strict on yourself."

The roadshows will be continuing around the UK this month, although there’s no schedule for when they will turn up – just keep your eyes peeled. There’s a bit more info on the Stoptober Facebook page.

It’s never too late to quit

According to Stoptober figures, over the course of 28 days, a 20-a-day smoker will save a huge £250. That could be a credit card cleared, a weekend away or even 1/4 of a Céline handbag (I’ll get there one day!).

But just because Stoptober has already begun doesn’t mean it’s too late to stop smoking – it’s never too late to quit.

For help and support you can join our forum, which is full of MoneySavers who’ll give you tips on how to stop, as well as ideas on what to do with all that extra money at the end of Stoptober!

Are you taking part in Stoptober? Or do you have any tips to help others quit smoking? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

Stoptober Q&A with Lee Nelson

As giving up smoking is hard, we’ve also lined up a few surprises for our forumites during the month. One of these was a Twitter Q&A with Stoptober celebrity ambassador, comedian Lee Nelson (real name Simon Brodkin).

All the questions below were asked by the MSE Forum team and all the answers were given by Lee Nelson. Here’s what happened…

Lee Nelson ready to answer our questions

Lee Nelson ready to answer our questions

Q. @MSE_Forum: What was your first job?
A. @RealLeeNelson: I’ll let you know when I get it.

Q. If money were no object what would you buy?
A. Two cinema tickets – not on a Wednesday.

Q. Are you giving up smoking for Stoptober?
A. Of course, I think Stoptober’s amazing. I always start smoking again in November to be part of it the following year.

Q. How many did you smoke a day?
A. Once I’m awake I’m like clockwork, one ciggie every 30 minutes. So I’m usually a 10 a day man. Four on weekends, you need a lie in.

Q. Best joke off the top of your head?
A. Alan Pardew.

Q. If I gave you £1,000 right now, what would you do with it?
A. I’ve always fancied myself as a numbers man so I’d spend £500 on a new telly and save the remaining £400.

Q. Best suggestion to stop cravings?
A. Patches, gum, cold turkey even cold chicken. Any meat really.

Q. What will you be doing with the money you save this month?
A. I’d invest it very wisely in scratch cards.

Q. Who’s the biggest diva of the Stoptober ambassadors?
A. Jason Bent. He doesn’t get into bed for less than £200,000.


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MSE Sam McFaul

Now I'll always check the manufacturer's warranty before making purchases

Now I'll always check the manufacturer's warranty before making purchases

When my earphones stopped working after two and a half years of almost daily use, my first thought was that I’d simply buy a new pair from the same company (RHA).

It wasn’t until I was comparing prices that I noticed that the earphones came with a three year warranty. I’m the type of person who keeps original packaging ‘just in case’, although it turned out I didn’t need it as I quickly found a warranty claim form on RHA’s website and filled it out.

The only hurdle was finding the original receipt. Fortunately, I had ordered the earphones online and was able to find the receipt in my email inbox.

Despite sending off the warranty claim, I still wasn’t convinced it would be so easy to get my well-worn earphones replaced. Yet within 24 hours, I had received an email asking me to confirm my address so that a replacement pair could be sent to me.

Just a few days later a brand new boxed set of earphones arrived in the post, along with a prepaid envelope so I could send back the defective pair.

I’ve read information on about claiming on warranties, but never really thought it could apply to or even be worth it for smaller items. The original cost of £30 had seemed a reasonable outlay for nearly three years of wear and tear, but now I’ll definitely be checking the manufacturer’s warranty before making a new purchase in future.

Have you claimed on a warranty before? Did you find it easy to get your money back? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.


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Guy Anker

The ball has hit our arm, we've not committed a bad foul

The ball has hit our arm, we've not committed a bad foul

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has today ruled that a TalkTalk broadband and line rental deal we wrote about earlier this year was not clear enough – something we disagree with.

Naturally, we are deeply frustrated by the ruling, particularly as it claimed – wrongly in our opinion – our write-up was "misleading".

The ASA upheld two complaints about us, but also rejected two.

See the full ASA ruling and immediately below is our write-up of the deal (minus links to other pages as the deal has now expired), followed by my summary of the ASA’s ruling.


B’band & phone equiv £15.25/mth + £75 Love2Shop (if line rent paid upfront)
New hot deal that can save some £100s a year. Check what you pay now – many on c.£16/mth for line rent ONLY

Add up what you pay for phone & broadband now. Many people typically pay £300+ a year before calls. Yet if you pounce on short-lived hot promo deals you can nearly halve that. Full info in Cheap Broadband, here are the headlines:

  • cheap broadbandEnds Thurs. £75 high street shops voucher on hot deal. MSE Blagged. Until Thurs, TalkTalk newbies (ie, not had it for 12+ mths) can get this Simply Broadband deal on a 1yr contract:

    – Compulsory line rent: You pay £15.95/mth. But we suggest, if you can afford it, you opt to pay £141 upfront for the year (equiv to £11.75/mth), during the online sign-up.
    - Unlimited broadband: Currently £3.50/mth, so £42 for the year (avail to 85% of UK).
    - Included calls: None, but you can add ‘boosts’ for anytime to landlines.
    – £75 Love2Shop voucher, spendable at Boots, Argos & over 80 other stores.
    Once your broadband connection is live, log into TalkTalk My Account, and the voucher will be posted within 28 days.

    Analysis: Excluding calls, if you pay line rent upfront + broadband, the year’s cost’s £183, equiv to £15.25/mth (pay line rent monthly, it’s £233 – £19.42/mth), plus you get the £75 Love2Shop voucher. If you’d spend that at, say, Boots anyway, factor it in too & it’s effectively £108 over the year, equiv just £9/mth (£158 a year or equiv £13/mth).

    Need a new line? If you don’t have a line (or only have a cable one or, in a few circumstances, Sky customers) installation’s £50. You’ll get that back on your first bill but WON’T get the voucher.

Issue 1: The ASA claims our write-up implied calls were included when they weren’t

You’ll see our headline states the deal is for "broadband and phone". The phone element came with just line rental and no inclusive calls.

The ASA thinks we "misled" because it interpreted such a headline would have people think calls were included.

If you look at our full write-up, we did mention calls are NOT included, so we DID include the key info.

Headlines often can’t tell you the whole story, they give an overview. In this case, if you read the full piece you will see we included the relevant info.

Yes, we could have written ‘line rental’ instead of ‘phone’ in the headline to make it even clearer (something we do now) but we don’t agree that many people will read our write-up thinking calls are included. And don’t just take our word for it…

Martin Lewis asked people on Facebook the following question when we became aware the ASA was investigating.

If I headlined "phone & broadband deal £12/mth" would you think:

  • A. You got line rental, broadband and all calls for £12.
  • B. You got line rental broadband and no calls for £12.
  • C. You got line rental, broadband for £12 and not sure about calls so you’d look more to find what calls you got.
  • D. Something else.

Out of 1,567 people who answered the question, here is how they responded.

  • A: 9%
  • B: 21%
  • C: 53%
  • D: 17%

So only 9% of people thought you definitely got calls.

Therefore, 21% don’t think calls are included, and more than half would have looked for more information, which the rest of the write-up provided.

Issue 2: The ASA thinks we omitted a key piece of info

The ASA also thinks we failed to disclose that anyone who took the deal who racked up £20 worth of calls could be barred from making a chargeable call until they made a payment to bring it below £20.

We saw this as very much minor detail, and we linked to TalkTalk’s terms and conditions which stated this. This is because calls were not even included in the deal, plus the term did not cost anyone any cash. In fact, it can be viewed as a positive term and therefore not something to warn about given it stops people building up a big debt.

We also reviewed how similar deals are written up by other websites and we did not find any that mentioned an unbilled call limit, leading us to assume it is industry practice not to do so.

No complaints from users

What’s more, we have not seen any complaints to us that relate to the points raised – the one person who complained to the ASA about this write-up is a journalist, though we don’t know who he or she is.

Our suspicion is that person went fishing for something to try to catch us out with on a technicality as the complaints are so specific.

In case you’re wondering, the ASA is allowed to investigate based on just one complaint.

So that means we have not seen anyone who thought they were getting inclusive calls included but was upset when they realised they wouldn’t. And we have not seen anyone who feels let down by us not disclosing upfront that they would not be allowed to make a chargeable call when their bill reached £20.

Other issues rejected by the ASA

The person who made the complaint about this write-up didn’t just complain about the points above.

He or she also challenged the accuracy of our write-up where we stated calls weren’t included, but that you could pay extra to get an inclusive allowance bundle. This was accurate so the ASA threw the complaint out.

The person who complained also thought we had misled people as we subtracted the value of a voucher that came with the deal to give users an equivalent monthly price.

The deal was advertised by TalkTalk as £15.25/month but it also came with a £75 Love2Shop voucher. We stated that if you would have spent that voucher anyway, it is the equivalent of £9/month. The ASA had no problem with that analysis so threw that complaint out.

We are journalists, not advertisers

I must admit to much frustration at this saga, as unlike newspapers, our journalistic writing is caught by the ASA’s rules.

The key word in that is “journalists”. We are not advertisers.

Newspaper journalists are not caught in the same way, as they have a different model as they take paid advertising. We are caught because you can click a link from our content and go direct to the product provider to get the deal. We do not have any advertising banners.

I used to work in national newspapers and we worked in exactly the same way as we do here, only that at MSE we explain products in even more detail to help users make as informed a decision as possible.

With our model, we write about the best deals, and we may or may not get paid if people click through to a product from our site. But when we write, we write as independent journalists, regardless of whether we are paid or not.

We’ve a good relationship with the ASA

MSE has a good working relationship with the ASA, which has been very helpful in trying to make us understand its viewpoint and how it works.

But we believe the ASA is too blunt an instrument. Even if we had done wrong, it has grouped us in with companies that genuinely mislead.

An analogy we’ve talked about internally is in football where a referee can award a penalty for a nasty two-footed tackle, but also for handball where the player unintentionally uses his or her arm.

In this case – even if you think we’ve done wrong – the ball has hit our arm, we’ve not committed a bad foul.


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Amy Ellis

I found it hard to let go of such a consistent part of my financial life

I found it hard to let go of such a consistent part of my financial life

We’ve all been there. We’re going out with a girl/guy (delete as appropriate) we know is no good for us, we know we could do better and yet we stay with them because… well because, often it’s just easier. Usually it’s not until you break up with that person and find a real winner that you realise how bad the situation really was.

I opened an account with what was then Lloyds TSB over two decades ago. I distinctly remember going into the branch and my nana giving me my first money to deposit into the account. And then I became one of those people – until I started to work for MoneySavingExpert – that just stayed loyal.

And like with the slightly dodgy boyfriends I’ve had in the past, it wasn’t because I was completely happy, but I think it was just because it was habit and it was familiar.

But it was the splitting of the bank into two separate entities, Lloyds and TSB back in 2013 and the terrible service I received as a result, coupled with working at a company that advocates "ditching and switching" if you’re not happy, that convinced me to switch my current account.

So after Christmas I came back into the office and opened an account with First Direct with a view to switching my TSB account to it when it was all set up.

So far so simple. I received the card, pin number and all the usual reams of paperwork you’d expect in the post. I called and spoke to a very cheery woman at First Direct that I informed I wanted to switch my current account. I then reached the final step where I had to read one last lot of paperwork First Direct had sent before I agreed to switch. And then, nothing.

That must have all been back in late January and it wasn’t until my colleague reminded me First Direct is a fee paying account unless I deposited enough money into it – aka my salary – that I realised I was going to start to get stung if I didn’t actually switch.

Why did it take me so long to switch?

But why had it taken me so long to switch? I had a half-hearted attempt at AS psychology back in school, and by no means am I an expert, but something makes me think there is something psychological going on here!

Everything was there to encourage me to switch, bad service with my existing bank, a lure of £100 to switch to the new bank and yet I dragged my heels.

I kept telling my colleagues the reason I was being so slow was that I was busy with the new flat I’d just bought, or planning for my wedding, but I think these were just excuses.

A part of me didn’t seem to want to let go of something that had been such a consistent part of my financial life. Even though I wasn’t happy, I knew what to expect, I knew how everything worked and for the familiarity, I was just willing to put up with the bad service.

But you’ll be happy to know I have finally switched. And when I went onto my TSB internet banking and saw that my old current account had finally been deleted, instead of feeling a bit sad as I expected, I actually felt a sense of relief.

I still hold some accounts with TSB and it’s my plan to slowly get rid of all ties, but I have a feeling that after taking this first step it won’t be as bad the next time round, especially if First Direct turns out to be a winner.

Do you keep meaning to switch banks but feel like something is holding you back? Maybe like me you have some strange emotional connection to your provider. Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.


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