Pensioners angry at ‘price fixing’ on mobility scooters launch the UK’s first class action lawsuit that could open the floodgates for campaigning consumers
- National Pensioners Convention alleges Pride breached competition law
- NPC said Pride banned retailers from advertising online prices below RRP
- Lawyers say case could be worth £7.7m and represent watershed moment
- Pride said it is not aware of evidence that consumers have suffered loss
A pensioners’ group is suing a mobility scooter company for alleged price-fixing in what is believed to be the UK’s first ‘class action’ law suit.
The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) alleges Pride, the market leader in the UK’s mobility scooter sector, breached competition law by banning online retailers from selling scooters below the recommended retail price.
Lawyers believe the case could be worth nearly £8m and represents a watershed moment for consumers.
The latest budget from George Osborne could be good news for older motorists and bingo players alike, experts suggest.
Chancellor George Osborne has already suggested he is not prepared to stray from the Government’s austerity plan and use the Budget to fund major handouts that could hamper the UK’s long-term economic recovery.
He hinted that such a move will leave scope for more generous pre-election offerings in 2015.
Freeze on petrol tax predicted
Experts predict that Mr Osborne will continue the freeze on petrol tax, while The Sun reported that duty on bingo halls will be reduced from 20% to 15%.
He has also been under pressure to avoid raising duty on wine and spirits – after ending the duty escalator on beer in 2013.
There will definitely be some nostalgia in the Budget for older people who remember the old thruppenny. These were worth 1.25 pence and went out of use in 1971 with the introduction of decimalisation.
Mr Osborne said he will replace the current pound coin with a thruppenny bit-style design to combat an increase in the amount of fakes in circulation – thought to be 45 million.
On Wednesday, he posted on Twitter along with a picture of the new design: ‘Today I will deliver a Budget for a resilient economy – starting with a resilient pound coin.’
But, overall, the Budget appears likely to bring little change.
PENSIONERS have been urged to make themselves visible if they are to use their mobility scooters on Tiverton’s highways.
Certain classes of the vehicles can be taxed for free to be driven on the roads and are becoming increasingly popular among the elderly.
But some motorists fear a collision with a scooter is imminent as they claim many users do not signal at junctions and are poorly visible due to a lack of lighting and their small size.
Debbie Westlake, chief officer of Age UK, Tiverton, said: “Mobility scooters provide a huge amount of support to people with mobility issues, but safety is of the utmost importance.
“Particularly at this time of the year when the nights are drawing in and the days are shorter, people need to be more aware of the times at which they go out.
“But that applies to anybody, there are probably all sorts of people that could improve – they need to be safe and visible.”
A class 3 invalid carriages can be used on the road at maximum speed of 4mph off the road, and 8mph on the road.
Read more: http://www.middevongazette.co.uk/Pensioners-told-seen-driving-mobility-scooters/story-20459077-detail/story.html#ixzz2qwMKbKMk
Our comment: Making flags compulsory to make it easier to spot a mobility scooter might help.
Age UK has launched an investigation and threatened to suspend a partnership with a mobility company after the Daily Telegraph revealed allegations from pensioners about being subjected to high pressure tactics to sell them overpriced scooters.
Pensioners who contact Age UK asking for advice about which mobility scooter to buy are told to contact Quingo, which pays the charity at least £100,000 a year for the partnership.
However, the firm has been accused of bombarding pensioners in their nineties with calls and attempting to send sales reps to make them buy scooters which are up to £3,000 more expensive than other equivalent brands, according to experts.
The charity said it was investigating the allegations and would “suspend any partnerships” if it found evidence of pressure selling.
The charity says it expects to make £100,000 from the link this year, which is donated by Quingo and based on an anticipated percentage of overall sales.
Great grandfather Vernon Morgan, 92, a former RAF pilot who flew Lancaster bombers in World War Two, said he was called four times in just a few days after Age UK told him to contact the firm.
The elderly were ripped off by Britain’s biggest mobility scooter manufacturer for nearly two years in an online price fixing scam, regulators alleged yesterday.
The Office of Fair Trading said it believed Pride Mobility from Bicester, Oxfordshire had “infringed competition law” and restricted consumers’ ability to get value for money.
Shoppers looking for deals on up to seven different models of Pride Mobility scooters were unable to shop around because internet retailers only ever gave the recommended retail price, the Office of Fair Trading said. The “practices” occured over a two-year period from 2010 to 2012.
Pride are the market leader in the mobility scooter sector, selling the “Jazzy Power Chair” and “GoGo Es 8” scooter. Today’s provisional finding from the OFT is the latest case to stem from an investigation of the entire mobility market two years ago. Then, it said prices for mobility scooters could vary in price by as much as £3,000.
Last month, Roma Medical Aids was accused of breaching competition law by preventing online retailers from selling its scooters or even advertising their prices on the web. In July last year, regulators criticised Derby-based Optimum Care Mobility for mis-selling to the elderly and disabled.
The OFT today issued a Statement of Objections alleging that Pride Mobility Products Limited (Pride), a manufacturer of mobility scooters based in Bicester, Oxfordshire, and some of its retailers, have infringed competition law.
The OFT has provisionally concluded that the parties entered into agreements, or engaged in concerted practices, that prevented the UK-wide online retailers in question from advertising online prices below Pride’s Recommended Retail Price (RRP) for certain models of mobility scooter. These practices may have limited consumers’ ability to get value for money.
The OFT’s provisional finding is that these practices occurred over various periods in relation to different retailers between 2010 and 2012.
Louis Christofides, OFT Director, said:
‘The internet is a vital tool for shopping around. We want people to be able to use the internet to find and compare dealers’ actual retail prices, saving them time and effort in searching for the best offer. This is particularly important in the mobility scooters sector, where many customers may have difficulty getting out to the shops.
‘If retailers are prevented from advertising their discounts online, consumers are significantly restricted from identifying and obtaining lower prices, and it is harder for innovative and efficient retailers to win new customers.’
The OFT’s findings are provisional and no assumption should be made at this stage that there has been an infringement of competition law. The companies will now have an opportunity to respond to the Statement of Objections and the OFT will carefully consider any representations they make before deciding whether competition law has in fact been infringed.
14 per cent increase in the annual cost of motoring reported by the RAC in November, 2011. Stagecoach state that it now costs an average of £6,689, or 55.7 pence per mile, each year to own and run a car in the UK.