My previous blog focused on the difficulties that Age UK had got itself into by promoting commercial products and receiving commissions for their introduction. Essentially, I think this is a good thing to do because it, not only brings income into the charity, but should also facilitate elderly people making good choices in an environment when often they need advice. Age UK has a very good and trusted reputation and therefore their recommendation is very valuable to suppliers, which is why Age UK are able to secure commissions for the introductions they make. There is however a danger in this process if the financial arrangements are not entirely transparent. It’s also important that the trust placed in Age UK is mirrored by the terms and conditions of the suppliers’ offer. Where this doesn’t happen, trust can easily be lost.
Below I have reprinted a blog I wrote in September 2010 which is entitled “Signs of the Times”. Although this blog was about mobility scooters, my penultimate paragraph underlines the importance of transparency in contract arrangements. It’s a sad fact that many suppliers of services and products to older people often wrap their product offer in a welter of small print and caveats. Elderly people need to trust Age UK to look after the customer’s interest in making such transactions and to do it for a modest and transparent price.
I have highlighted the danger signs in the penultimate paragraph in bold type!
“Signs of the Times” – reprinted from 30th September 2010.
Two full page advertisements in The Times today aimed at older people can’t be cheap. The fact that they are there at all is an indication of the growing importance of the elderly market. Less surprisingly they are promoting three products which seem to define the stereotypical view of the elderly market – mobility scooters, stairlifts and walk-in showers. This imagery all reinforces the view that as you get old you’re going to end up frail and immobile unless you purchase these essential but very expensive pieces of equipment.
The first advert is for Quingo Mobility Scooters; a very comprehensive illustration of the chair and all its features and variations. Just two slight worry areas. Firstly, there is no mention of the cost of the scooter, but it is obviously not cheap, since they are offering “free gifts” worth around £600 when you purchase one during October – no pressure? Secondly, there is a small print footnote to say you cannot buy these scooters in mobility showrooms or on-line, which probably means you’re going to get a home visit from a company sales person. No pressure?? These may well be great products but if they are, why the reticent sales information?
The second advertisement is prominently branded “Age UK”, “Age Concern” and “Help the Aged” which I am sure gives great credibility to the products for anyone considering a purchase. Again there is no indication of the cost involved. Understandably a survey will need to be carried out – which will guarantee you a home visit – but not from the charities whose name is plastered all over the advertisement. Again, in the small print you find the products are provided by the Minivator Group. Also in the small print, there is carefully worded reference to the profits being shared with Age UK. That’s “up to” 50% of the “NETT” profits generated by “THIS ADD”. Full details of the profit sharing arrangement can be obtained by making a written application. I doubt many people do that – but I will and I will let you know what it says.
Given the excellent reputations of the Charity Organisations involved, I am sure this is a sincere promotion. It would be good therefore to see a clearer view of the costs and the actual profits shared. Surely if it’s a good fundraiser for Age UK, they would be proud to talk about it?
I am going to follow up both these advertisements and will report back on the responses I get.