Energy crisis, inflation, rising rental prices: Especially in these times, it is particularly important for consumers not to pay extra unnecessarily. Unfortunately, the rip-off scams are often very sophisticated, so that many people do not even realize how much they are throwing their money out of the window. In an interview with ntv.de, consumer expert Ron Perduss explains what these are and how to buy cheaper.
A current analysis by "WeltSparen" shows that Germans still waste an average of 24.19 euros per day. This is mainly due to sophisticated rip-off methods that the "ntv service" moderator Ron Perduss knows very well. The consumer expert has now written a book about it, entitled "Rip off". In an interview with ntv.de, he reveals where much more money is often spent in everyday life than is necessary.
ntv.de: Mr. Perduss, many people have various customer cards in their wallets. Is it actually worth owning these or collecting loyalty points to save money?
Ron Perduss: Imagine you walk into a large mall and someone wants your phone number, email address and home address. In return, he will give you a discount coupon with a one percent discount. Would you take up the offer? Certainly not. But that's exactly what happens with the point collection cards. They always give a one percent discount, unless there are special discounts. Trading cards are all about collecting points. When you go shopping, you only see points and no discounts. If you go shopping for 100 euros and get 100 points, that's 100 cents - that's one euro. It's even bolder when it comes to loyalty points. Here you first have to make sales for the points in order to then be able to buy a product at a discounted price. These are mostly branded products from pot or knife sets. Many studies have already shown that these are not genuine branded products, but ones that were specially made for them. For the pot sets, for example, thin-walled steel is used. The 70 percent discount then has little to do with reality. After all, it is of poorer quality.
Many shops also offer apps that you can download to your smartphone to save a few percent. What do you make of it?
It is possible to save money with it. As a customer, you often get a discounted price with the app, especially in supermarkets. But you always have to ask yourself whether it's really worth it to give your personal data for it. You can often get these discounts elsewhere. I always recommend the brochures. There are also websites where coupons are offered without having to reveal your personal data.
What's the problem with the recommended retail price (MSRP price)?
The problem is that in reality - even if the legislator prescribes it - this price was rarely taken. We see this above all with furniture stores, which then advertise with the RRP price and permanently offer large discounts. Then the couch suddenly costs 50 percent less than the RRP price, but that's a price that comes from the manufacturer. It is also reasonable to assume that there are agreements between the seller and the manufacturer. Theoretically, the prize only needs to be taken once for it to be used as a base. The question is whether that was the case at all. That's why I would always ignore the RRP price.
Can you trust the offers in outlet stores?
They always advertise with big discounts on the RRP price. But the same applies here as with the premiums. These are specially made products for the outlet only. They are usually of poorer quality. The RRP price never really existed and that's why this discount is nonsense.
Many bargains in the sale or on discount days, such as Black Friday, are not real. How do consumers recognize a good offer?
I would always recommend using price search engines. Most major price search engines also have a price history, which means they also show the price development over the last few weeks and months. You can get your bearings there. Especially before these bargain days, I would always check whether this is really the cheapest price at the moment or whether the product has been cheaper before. There was a change in the law last year. Online shops must therefore always state the lowest price in the last 30 days when prices are reduced. So you can see whether this is really a good bargain or whether the price was artificially high beforehand in order to be able to lower it massively. Price search engines are the best tool because you have the price history. We sometimes see extreme price fluctuations, especially with electronics.
What are the biggest rip-off traps in the supermarket?
There are several. I wrote down 20 to 30 in my book. In the last few months, two stitches in particular have caught my eye. It's all about the advertising statements on the products. On the one hand, there is high-protein advertising, i.e. products with a high protein content. It all started with yoghurts, but now there are also pizza and other non-specific products with this advertising. The products are significantly more expensive, but the question is: Who needs that anyway? Many people have noticed that athletes need a lot of protein because it supports muscle building. But the truth is that even top athletes don't need this high protein intake. If you want to eat a high-protein diet, you can also eat normal foods and do not need these ready-made products. But the corporations hit it hard. Such a high-protein pudding then costs 50 to 60 percent more than the normal pudding next to it, which may have the same flavor.
One of my favorite topics is also these de luxe gourmet products that are currently being offered around the holidays. They are then also packaged in black with a golden bow around it, giving the impression that you are getting a very high-quality food. In the end, these special ingredients, which are advertised on the front, are only in micrograms on the packaging. In addition, the product is still heavily processed and hardly differs from the other products. In the end you can also buy the no-name product because the quality doesn't differ much.
So what can you do to save on supermarket shopping?
It is important to look at the special offers, read brochures and deal with prices. You should also not go shopping on an empty stomach and rely on private labels and no-name products. Stiftung Warentest evaluated the tests of the last four years and compared branded items with no-name products. With own brands you save 30 percent on the purchase price and the own brands performed slightly better in terms of quality than the branded products. So you buy a very good quality at a reasonable price. The packaging doesn't look that nice, but the contents are still very good.
Energy costs have exploded due to the Ukraine war. How do you find the cheapest energy supplier?
You should use the comparison portals, because some energy suppliers are currently lowering their prices again. That said, it makes sense again to compare prices when price increase letters come. You should do the price check every twelve months and of course also control and optimize your own consumption.
Even bank customers are not safe from rip-offs. How do banks rip off their customers?
Every company wants to make money and the banks don't make money with the current account, but with all other products. There are some of these that I consider rip offs. For me, the classic is residual debt insurance, which is always offered with loans. This should step in if you cannot pay your loan installments due to illness or unemployment. The problem with this is that the contribution here is very expensive. A consumer who had applied for car financing from a car dealership recently wrote to me that the premium for the residual debt insurance was 3,000 euros. It's spread over the six years in which he pays off the car, but I still think it's a rip-off. If you want to cover the risk of death, you can get term life insurance for just a few euros a month and you can easily save 3000 euros or more.
What's the catch with the free checking account?
There are only a handful of banks left that offer free accounts. And you should be aware that a bank has nothing to give away and that the money will be collected elsewhere. My tip is always to look closely at the conditions. The account may be free, but you may have to pay for services separately. Or the credit card costs more than at another bank.
There are also many pitfalls in insurance. Which ones make sense and which types of insurance do you advise against?
There are a few insurance policies that everyone should have. For me, that's private liability insurance, because it always comes into play when you cause damage to a third party. If you have an apartment, it makes sense to think about household contents insurance. Then disability insurance is very important in addition to health insurance, which everyone should have. But there are also a lot of unnecessary insurances, such as those related to vacations - such as travel cancellation insurance or luggage insurance. Nobody needs glass breakage insurance or mobile phone insurance either.
The cases in which benefits are paid are very complicated, so that the insured event usually does not occur. The insurance companies also want to keep their money together. If you have luggage insurance and your suitcase is stolen, you don't just get your money back. You would have to handcuff yourself to the suitcase and if it is stolen, the insurance company will pay. There are also situations in which you are already insured. If the suitcase is in the hands of the airline at the airport, they are liable for it. Or if the suitcase is stolen in the hotel, then the contents insurance is liable because the suitcase is part of the household contents. Many consumers do not know this and some insurance companies take advantage of this. With travel cancellation insurance, even a small cold is not enough for it to step in if you are ill and cannot start the trip. It only pays if the illness is serious or a relative dies. But it doesn't pay if you don't feel like going on vacation or your partner separates. This is only worthwhile for expensive trips or trips with several people, where there is a greater risk that someone could get sick. International health insurance, on the other hand, is very important because enormously high costs can arise if you are ill and are traveling outside the EU.
What rip-off traps are lurking in rental agreements?
When it comes to apartments, a big rip-off for me is always the utility bills. Every second utility bill is wrong, not always with fraudulent intent, but there are still a few black sheep among the landlords. Very few people bother to properly check their utility bills. Cosmetic repairs are also a common point of contention. You should always look closely at the rental agreement and see what is in it. As far as the amount of the rent is concerned, you should always use the local rent index as a guide.
Isabel Michael spoke to Ron Perduss
(This article was first published on Sunday, February 05, 2023.)