Channel 4’s Super Shoppers programme took aim at Age UK last night over the price of goods and services it sells to those it works to help.
Amongst insurance products and utilities services sold by the charity, the price of Doro’s PhoneEasy 508 handset was also highlighted in the documentary. The show stated that while the model costs £34.99 through Age UK, it retails for just £17.99 at Argos. However, Doro contend that the Argos figure is operator subsidise, the handset is a discontinued model and that £17.99 was not the correct price at the time of the show’s comparison.
The Channel 4 show concluded that the charity had failed to its charter aim of giving users “competitively priced” products and services by suggesting deals far more expensive than can be found elsewhere.
Doro UK and Ireland MD Chris Millington described the episode as “unethical” and “ upsetting”, stating, ‘It is extremely disappointing to see Age UK’s good ethical nature and well-respected name dragged through the mud this week for its “overpricing”.’
Attacking the show’s approach, he continued:
‘Any media coverage should be balanced and well researched to ensure it is presenting qualified information, yet the examples in this story around one of our devices do not reflect the true market situation. In addition, the story misses the major point that Age UK is a charity, and thus is not profiting from a higher price on a product than a retailer. It is not a retailer - it is providing access to many key products for the ageing society and any margin from these sales become donations and contributions towards the work that Age UK does to support the more vulnerable and senior citizens in society. Buying one of our handsets through Age UK will demonstrate that a customer is also supporting the work it does.’
Millington then compared Age UK’s proposition to that of for-profit mobile retailers, ‘Any traditional retailer can work on lower margins as they work hard to streamline their business to provide maximum efficiencies suited to the scale of their business and therefore ‘need’ less margin to survive. In addition networks don’t just sell SIM-free devices – they sell contracts such as pay monthly or pay-as-you-go which earn them an ongoing revenue. Age UK sells this handset SIM-free, so it is a one off purchase for the customer. All mobile retailers use this ongoing revenue of the connection to calculate the margin of the sale over the lifetime of the connection and thus reduce the up-front cost.’
Describing the effect the show may have on customers, the MD continued, ‘Putting the media spotlight on issues in this manner will ONLY mean the one’s that suffer are unfortunately the charity and the elderly people they help - which is not only unethical, but also upsetting when this is not considered alongside business facts, or an understanding of the mobile phone retail scene.’
Similiarly, Age UK released this statement disagreeing with the show, ‘To base any conclusion on the basis of one individual’s quote for car insurance, or to provide only a limited assessment of the price position for the mobile phone and the incontinence products we sell, is a misleading and grossly unfair approach.’
Doro also questioned why they were not approached to comment on the claims made in the documentary.
Mobile approached Channel 4 to respond to Doro’s statement, but the TV network is yet to respond.