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The trick to access every network’s signal from your mobile

The trick to access every network's signal from your mobile

Mr Cameron, I've got a tip for you

The Prime Minister’s rightfully badgering the UK mobile phone networks to share masts in rural areas to prevent mobile blackspots. He has complained of having to go to the top of a hill in Cornwall when on holiday in order to speak to world leaders, and thinks this problem of poor rural coverage needs fixing.

Well, Mr Cameron, there’s already a way you can access all signals from your mobile, so to help you (and others), I thought I’d bash this note out.

In the UK, each of our mobiles is locked to one network’s signal – after all, that’s what we buy when we sign up. Yet if you travel abroad, and your phone is roaming, it can often connect with any signal from the overseas operators, so in fact, you may get more coverage there.

1. Use a foreign Sim in the UK

The trick to turn this on its head is to pop a foreign Sim card in your unlocked handset. Yet not every Sim will work, as it depends on their relationships with UK networks.

If you did try this, one piece of luck is that European Union roaming charges are regulated (interestingly, this doesn’t cover calls from UK networks to UK networks). So if you were to get a prepaid EU Sim and use it in the UK, the current maximum costs are…

EU roaming caps
Making calls to UK/Europe €0.19 (excl. VAT) / £0.19 (incl. VAT)
Receiving calls €0.05 (excl. VAT) / £0.05 (incl. VAT)
Texts to UK/Europe €0.06 (excl. VAT) / £0.06 (incl. VAT)
Data download, per MB €0.20 (excl. VAT) / £0.20 (incl. VAT)

2. More certainty using a global roaming Sim

The problem with foreign Sims is the uncertainty of their network connection in the UK and the fact you have to pay to receive calls. But global roaming Sims are designed to be relatively cheap wherever you go, and the big benefit is you usually don’t pay to receive (this generally applies in European and big Western countries, you can pay in some others) – so they’re perfect for people who regularly travel to different countries.

So I decided to check out their policies on when calls were made on them in the UK. The first one I tried, World Sim, wasn’t good for this. Its UK partner is O2, so you’d automatically be connected to that.

Yet the two providers below automatically connect to the strongest signal (and you can manually select a network if you choose).

Now technically, the underlying Sim used for these global Sims is a Jersey one. This means it isn’t governed by the EU cap, so prices vary. But crucially, if you receive calls via them in the UK, you won’t be charged.

Details on how to get these Sims in the Global Roaming review.

Prices for global Sims on a UK network
GoSim 0044
Making calls to UK 12p/min (landline & mobiles) 15p/min landlines (25p to mobiles)
Receiving calls Free Free
Texts to UK/Europe 9p 10p
Data download, per MB 21p 39p

Who should be doing this?

On paper, this would work well for anyone who needs a constant connection and that’s more important than price (as far cheaper deals are available see Cheap Mobiles), so that’s likely to be a business user – or indeed the Prime Minister, when making emergency calls to international leaders.

One way to make this easier to use, though, would be to get a handset which takes a ‘dual-Sim’. This means you have your normal Sim in it, but if that’s not working you can seamlessly switch to a ‘strongest signal’ provider.

I should note at this point I’ve not actually tried this, it’s based on the companies’ notes on how they work. So I would love feedback below from anyone who’s done this.

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How would you describe Lidl? Is it really “poor food for poor people”?

How would you describe Lidl? Is it really “poor food for poor people”?

How would you describe Lidl? Is it really “poor food for poor people”?

The papers were full of it yesterday on the back of Lidl announcing sales of premium vintage and non-vintage wines such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape. All the messages were on about posh goods next to the usual tat. The phrase that came up time and time again was that "the firm is trying to move away from its poor food for poor people image".

I found this interesting, as I think it’s perhaps a legacy of a long-gone time. It’s not close to how I would characterise Lidl (or Aldi) and so I’m interested to find out if this is a true reflection of the general perception of Lidl, both among those who shop there and those who don’t.

Certainly a basket of shopping at Lidl can be very cheap. True too is the fact that it is used by many as a place to cheaply stock up on your bog roll and necessities – with a catch-up shop for the other stuff done at the main supermarkets. Yet for me this is less about quality of food and more about the range of choice.

I would categorise both Lidl and Aldi as ‘limited brand’ supermarkets – when you shop in them, you don’t necessarily get the brands you are used to, nor do you get the great plethora of options for each food item that you do elsewhere.

Instead, you get a limited choice of own brand and other brands – far fewer options of your tinned tuna than in a large Tesco store. But this is the defining point – a limited number of choices doesn’t necessarily limit quality.

So my question, which I’d love you to feedback on below is; what is YOUR perception of Lidl and Aldi? And do say whether you shop there or not.

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10 changes to make the Green Deal work update – have they listened?

10 changes to make the Green Deal work update – have they listened?

10 changes to make the Green Deal work update – have they listened?

The Green Deal is the Government’s flagship home energy efficiency scheme, sadly and also predictably, it has been a rather huge flop. The concept is great – you get money to improve your home, which you then pay for out of the savings on your energy bills. The problem is the system is far too complex and couched in the language of debt.

Around its launch in February 2013, I blogged on why it wouldn’t work and what needed to change to make it work. I sent this to the Government which promised to look at it.

In the last month we’ve seen the launch of Green Deal 2, and yesterday I was on Radio 5 Live debating it with Secretary of State for Energy Ed Davey (download the podcast), so I thought it time to have another look at my recommendations and see if they still hold.

The good news is, about half of them have actually been adopted by the Government, and Ed Davey accepted this directly and said "we’ve been listening to what you and consumers suggested Martin". Listening by politicians is never a bad thing.

Before I start, just a quick message. This blog isn’t intended to put you off the Green Deal. My frustration is it has merit and should help millions, but its structure both psychologically and financially puts many off. Yet I’d still urge you to check it out. If you’re not familiar with how it works or want to see if it’s suitable, do read my Green Deal Mythbuster guide first – as the info below assumes some knowledge.

Here are the ten suggestions I made in early 2013, and updates in purple on whether they’ve been enacted.

  1. Don’t call it “The Green Deal"

    Most people are selfish actors. To interest them, you need to focus on what they gain from it, not the environmental benefit. So call it the “Home Improvement Deal”, or even a halfway house: “The Home Efficiency Deal”.

    Update: SEMI-HURRAH. The scheme’s still called the Green Deal, but the month-old newly relaunched element of the Green Deal is called the "Home Improvement Fund" – a much better name and it’s already been a far more successful launch. It’s effectively a cash giveaway of up to £7,600 per person for certain energy efficiency measures. Demand is up. See our Home Improvement Scheme info for help. On the radio yesterday the Secretary of State directly acknowledged this as a suggestion that originated here.

  2. Don’t charge upfront for an assessment

    £125 million of cashback is being pumped in to get this up and running; yet you will only know if you’re eligible for that by paying a typical £125 to get assessed. That’s a huge sum, and more than people are willing to risk.

    There has to be a way of factoring the assessment into the cost for people who do get things done. Of course, by having a paid-for assessment you get a self-selecting group of applicants who are less likely to be browsers and more likely to follow through, but I think it cuts too many out.

    A detailed pre-application web form (and phone service for those not online) that’s binding could do a similar job – giving both the assessor and home owner an idea if it’s likely to be of benefit to them.

    However at this point, I doubt that will change. So why not divert some of the proposed cashback money into free Government assessment vouchers, again with an online pre-assessment first?

    Certainly we’d be happy to distribute them from MSE at no cost, eg, 20,000 x £100 vouchers. This way, you may actually find you’ve a decent number of people who’ve used the scheme and have good things to say about it. (Of course, again, there should be a pre-apply form so only those who are likely to act get them).

    Update: Some improvement. There are a few geographic areas where there are free assessment firms. Also, as part of the Home Improvement Scheme if you get two qualifying measures (or solid wall insulation) you can get £100 cashback for the assessment. Overall though this is still a blocker for many people – they worry about one scenario where you could really lose out by paying for an assessment, not qualify for anything, and you don’t get cashback.

  3. Allow it to be repaid when you move home

    Many people fear having a Green Deal loan attached to their house, as it’ll mean no-one will want to buy their house. I think that’s overblown, as these insulation measures in themselves will make the house more attractive and thus more likely to sell. Yet that doesn’t matter – the fear itself is enough to prevent the scheme working.

    My suspicion is many new buyers will ask for the remaining Green Deal loan to be taken off the house price. However, it’d be far easier to simply say: “I’ll pay it off” to the new buyer.

    This is one reason having redemption penalties on these loans is just so silly. If people could simply use the cash to clear the debt when selling their home – at no extra cost – you’d mitigate this worry somewhat.

    Update: HURRAH. Two weeks before the scheme was relaunched last month, The Green Deal Finance Company removed the redemption penalties so you can now repay it when you move home.

  4. The loans should not have interest attached

    This was the one thing that made me truly despair when I read the Green Deal proposal. Why on earth make it an interest-charging loan? Many people are rightly debt-averse.

    It’s the student loan debacle all over again (once you understand it, it’s not as bad as you thought, but most people don’t get to the point of understanding it).

    While these loans are very different from commercial borrowing due to the golden rule that you shouldn’t repay more than you save, that just doesn’t cut it for most. They see the interest figure and say “no loan”.

    I accept there’s a cost attached to the financing. Yet even learning a trick from the sofa-sellers and charging more upfront – so that there’s no interest, just a fixed repayment based on that – would’ve made it easier for people to stomach.

    Update: No change here, sadly. I stick by my view. Making this a ‘debt’ is a bad move and puts off many who would want to do it.

  5. Not allow it to be sold door-to-door
  6. This risks lowering the reputation of any service when it’s sold this way. (In plain terms, sell it door-to-door and it makes many feel it’s dodgy or shoddy.) I know there are rules saying door-to-door Green Deal sales must obey “no cold callers” signs, but still, was it necessary to have it pumped out like this?

    One worry is salesmen showing up on the doorstep saying "I’m from the government".

    Update: This hasn’t been as big a problem as I predicted. I’d still prefer not to have it sold door-to-door but I don’t think it a major issue now.

  7. Standardised maximum pricing

    We don’t yet know how the assessors and installers will price, but many are worried they’ll pump up the cost in a way that negates the benefit of the financing in the first place.

    As this is a Government scheme, I’d think some form of price regulation on the 50 or so things you can have fitted within the Green Deal scheme, or even fixed prices, would give more confidence that you’re not getting ripped off.

    It’s worth remembering one of the new things the Green Deal lets you save on is double-glazing. That industry is haggle central – I’ve heard of cases of people being charged 10% of the original opening price for the same thing. It’s not good for the Green Deal if it falls into the same system.

    IMPORTANT UPDATE: For me this is the single biggest problem I hear about with the Green Deal. I am often being told people are being given quotes for work within the Green Deal wrapper at many times the cost of getting it done themselves. Effectively this just puts the Green Deal subsidy into the installers pockets.

    I asked Ed Davey on the radio to install maximum prices for different work, his answer is "we have encouraged more operators so we have competition" (my suspicion is that he probably doesn’t believe this himself but has to follow his coalition partners free market principles).

    This is a bit like saying there is competition for foreign currency at airports. True, there is, but they’re all massively overpriced as they know you’re a captive customer – and you shouldn’t use them. The Green Deal isn’t quite that bad, but it’s certainly far from good. I would strongly repeat that there needs to be price caps or (enforceable) reasonable pricing policies to make this work.

  8. If interest will be charged – let people know what it is

    The fact we don’t know the Green Deal interest rates yet, even after the scheme has launched, is ridiculous. Even once we do know them, they will vary with the length and amount of borrowing.

    People need to know even before having an assessment what this is likely to be. Firms need to publish their loan rates for different amounts (or do it via an online tool).

    Update: Interest rates are now public and typically between 7% APR and 11% APR, which isn’t that cheap compared to the cheapest private debt financing.

  9. Loans shorter than 10 years should be allowed

    Cavity wall and loft insulation will pay for themselves in a far shorter period than the effective minimum 10-year loan. So why are people forced to borrow longer? A golden rule of borrowing is to repay as quickly as you can, as it minimises interest.

    Update: No real change here. I still think there should be shorter loans available, though it’s not one of the biggest issues.

  10. No early redemption penalties

    People should always be allowed to pay off their debts earlier with no charge if they choose to. Full stop. End of.

    Update: SEMI-HURRAH. They listened, these have been scrapped for all new applicants, though not for those who already have the scheme.

  11. Centralised information and application

    To make this scheme work, it needs to feel official and authoritative. Some form of central call centre to give people official information before passing them onto a selection of reputable firms would give greater confidence (this may be being done, I’m not aware of it though), although I accept it would take some market forces out.

    Update: SEMI-HURRAH. There is now a central information number. Gov.uk lists the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234, or Home Energy Scotland on 0808 808 2282 where you can call for info, though they don’t pass you on to suppliers directly. There’s also a central search online for assessors, providers and installers.

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Come to The Martin Lewis Money Show Roadshow in Manchester and Sheffield

Come to The Martin Lewis Money Show Roadshow in Manchester and Sheffield

The Martin Lewis Money Show Roadshow

Hoorah! ITV has recommissioned a fourth series of my show. It won’t be on for a while yet, but we’re about to start filming. My aim to start with is to get out there and meet people, hear their stories and questions before we even begin to do the set pieces. So we’re starting off with a roadshow and I’d love you to come.

You’re more than welcome to pop along and say hello to me, Saira or just see how we film it. It’s even better still if you’ve got a question, want to tell me how much you’ve saved, or want to join one of my cashmobs. First, though, the dates…

  • Sheffield Roadshow: We’ll be based in the Meadowhall Shopping Centre on Monday 14 and Tuesday 15 July from 11am to 7pm.
  • Manchester Roadshow: We’ll be in the Manchester Arndale on Thursday 17 and Friday 18 July from 11am to 7pm.

What you can take part in…

Do come along, even if you just want to spectate, the more the merrier but there’ll be lots going on. Though be prepared to be filmed, obviously.

  • Ask a MoneySaving question: Anything, be it savings, credit cards, bills, broadband, digital TV, energy, flight delays, PPI, consumer rights, mortgages, deals – if I know about it, I’ll try to help (though it may be busy so be prepared to wait – and TV crews tend to slow things up).
  • Tell us about a big saving you’ve made. I’d also love to see people who’ve made big savings from the info on the show, or from listening to or reading the MoneySaving techniques generally and who want to inspire others or tell their story.
  • Join a cashmob: During the lunchtime and early evening you can join one of my cashmobs (a money flashmob) where I do a five-minute guide on a big MoneySaving subject, telling you how to beat the system.

You can just pop along, but if you want to tell us you’re coming in advance and what you want to talk about, then you should get to the front of the queue quicker, especially if you can only come for a short time. So please email itvmlshow@itv.com.

Special subjects we want to focus on…

There are a few areas we’re looking to major on in the series. If you want to talk about any of these, we’d love you to come along. With these it would be especially great if you emailed itvmlshow@itv.com in advance as we may want you to bring bills, etc, along.

  • Household broadband, digital TV bills.
  • Cutting overdraft or credit card costs.
  • Flight delay reclaiming.
  • Should you repay your mortgage?
  • Childcare costs and vouchers.
  • Should you get a joint account?
  • Car hire abroad.
  • Have you switched energy bills in the last few years?

Looking forward to seeing some of you there.

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If a company makes a mistake, that doesn’t make it a monster…

If a company makes a mistake, that doesn't make it a monster…

If a company makes a mistake, that doesn't make it a monster…

If a company makes a mistake, that doesn’t make it a monster…

As it says at the top of the page, MoneySavingExpert.com is here to cut your bills and fight your corner, and we do our best to live up to that promise. As part of that, our forum, Twitter, Facebook and News pages are often filled with individuals who feel they have been horribly mistreated by companies both big and small.

I wanted to take a few minutes to explain my view on these issues. I often hear people who mistakenly believe that we’re here to ‘take down’ companies at any occurrence (sometimes this is said as a compliment, other times by businesses as an insult). Yet that simply isn’t true. I’ve always explained my stance as ‘the adversarial consumer society’ – in other words, a company’s job is to make money, as consumers, our job is to stop them. Yet I don’t believe companies are wrong to do so.

The best analogy I have for this is that as a Man City fan, when we play Man United, I desperately don’t want them to score, but I don’t believe they are wrong for trying to do so.

Looking at what happens when companies have mistreated a consumer is a subset of this. Things fall roughly into one of two bags…

  • When we’re all guns a blazing. If you look through the reclaims section of the site you will see articles about when businesses have systemically, deliberately and occasionally, maliciously mistreated customers. Here they’ve overstepped the line as to what is acceptable, and often the law.

    When that happens we are ‘all guns a blazing’, using all the firepower of our 15 million unique users, combined with media appearances to help people help themselves to get redress from those companies and the money they should never have had to pay out, back into their pocket.

  • When it’s just human error. Most problems with businesses actually tend to happen due to simple human error, or unexpected consequences. When people contact us about those, provided the firm says: "Oh, we are very sorry that was the individual operator" (and we can’t see any systemic problems). Or they say: "We didn’t realise that happened but we will put it right immediately, sorry about that". For me, that is usually it.

    I instruct my editorial and news teams that the latter isn’t really a story (with the odd exception of something that’s genuinely interesting in its own right). Providing the company puts it right, stops it happening again, and puts the individual back into the position they should’ve been in, we don’t cover it. You’d be amazed at how many stories like this we drop.

    I do occasionally note stories in broadcast or print media where you can see it was just an error but they go to town on it anyway, and I always find it uncomfortable so I don’t particularly want MSE to follow that line.

PS. Just to say, this isn’t a blog requesting you to send us your individual complaints. I’m afraid if you do we are nowhere near resourced enough to deal with them from millions of users, so most remain untouched. The main job of MSE is to aim to try and help you do it right in the first place. We aim at prevention more than cure.

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