Have you noticed how pricey everything is getting these days?

Increased charges are all around us, from that paper bag at the supermarket that’s now costing you 40p to a £7.50 monthly charge just to keep an email address when you move to another broadband provider.  Businesses bank on you being annoyed, but not annoyed enough to walk away without spending your cash.

Welcome to the world of micro-charging – also known as drip-pricing. Businesses have realised that a £1.99 rise here and there is enough to make us tut. But because these amounts seem small, we are willing to begrudgingly put up with them.

This form of charging has exploded in recent years as businesses also realised they could start charging us small amounts for things that used to be free. When I wrote about this for the Mirror last year, I received a huge response. It’s clear that micro-charging grinds your gears, but what can we do about it?

Sadly, options are limited. The best way to make your voice heard though is to walk away from the business. But don’t do this silently. Make a formal complaint and tell them why you are leaving or refusing to give the business your custom. If enough of us do this, we might just make a difference.

Here are some examples of micro-charging and sneaky price increases to watch out for. But share your examples with the Mirror too!

Streaming services

Over the pandemic, TV and music streaming sites and apps got us through some difficult times. But flash forward a few years and you’ll find that the big players have decided we’re so addicted we’ll put up with price hikes or additional costs.

Slowly but surely, the TV streaming sites are clamping down on ‘sharing’ of log in details, forcing many people to buy their own subscriptions. Fair enough, but those subscriptions are also increasing in cost. Other streaming services are getting crafty. Amazon Prime has now foisted ads on to viewers for much of their free content – unless you are willing to pay the £2.99 a month to remove them. That’s an increase of £35.88 a year in order to get what is effectively the same service.

Of course, you already have to pay to get other steaming sites ad-free, like YouTube and Spotify. But increasingly, we are being forced in to more annoying and restricted versions of streaming services if we want to save cash. If you can cope, then send a message to these businesses by opting to go on to the free/cheap versions with adverts. And grit your teeth.

However, you might want to explore some of the cheaper ‘no frills’ options for the streaming services you just can’t do without. Many streaming sites have basic packages, though increasingly these are closed to new customers. Ask yourself if it’s worth the extra cash to view TV on various devices, if you mostly watch on your tele in the living room.

One last thing: Watch out for additional channels that you can sign up to through steaming sites. You might have forgotten that you took out a free trial so you could watch a specific film – and as a consequence you are paying an extra £5 a month for a service you don’t want or need. So check you bank accounts and cancel what you don’t need.

Airline charges

If you’re thinking about booking a holiday to escape the terrible weather, then hold on to your hats because it’s got A LOT more expensive.

Airlines have clawed back their pandemic losses by charging for every aspect of your flight. For those thinking they can save some cash by avoiding taking hold luggage, be aware that many low-cost airlines are now charging £20 or more for a standard cabin bag, one way.

You’ll find other costs have gone up too on the low-cost airlines – everything from hold baggage to choosing seats. Don’t be fooled by in-flight discounts too. I spotted one airline advertising a 20% discount on all food and duty-free last year… after it had raised prices by 40%.

In addition, some airlines have introduced variable charges, which means they can claim some extra costs are minimal when in reality they keep increasing. Watch out for airlines ‘bundling’ additional costs in to random ‘collective’ packages too. I suspect that this is being done to make it difficult to compare prices for flights through comparison sites.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) publishes comparison tables of airline charges, but be wary as these tables seem to feature the lowest prices for some airlines, not what they actually bill you in most instances.

The best way you can work out the true cost of a flight is to have a figure in mind for all the essential costs you’ll need to spend.  For most people, this will include a hold bag (around £35 each way), cabin bag (£25 each way) and an allocated seat (£7). That’s £67 to add on to each flight or £134 for a return.

Bear in mind that many mid-range airlines don’t tag on all these charges, so a more expensive flight might work out cheaper than a low-cost option if they don’t charge for extras.

Dynamic pricing

One price hike we can’t avoid is ‘dynamic pricing’. This is where businesses charge you more when demand is higher. I hate, hate, hate this concept. Even the name gives the impression that this blatant rip-off is somehow a positive thing. It isn’t. At all.

If the price of a pint is already driving you to distraction, then bear in mind that some of the UK’s biggest pub and restaurant chains have announced their intent to introduce dynamic pricing (also known as surge pricing) at busy times. In other words, when you’re most likely to be at the bar. This type of media announcement is a common strategy, where a business will ‘float’ some bad news in the public domain to get the initial wave of outrage out of the way, then introduce the changes quietly further down the line in the hope that we’ll be annoyed – but not enough to walk out.

I’d encourage anyone who spots these price hikes to push back (politely). Ask the venue when surge pricing begins and ends each day and make a point of ordering before and after this period. Oh, and watch out for automatic service charges too. Many bars in London – and increasingly around the UK – have started adding service charges on to your bill when you order drinks at the bar! They should draw your attention to this, but in my experience, this usually just involves giving you a receipt and hoping you won’t notice. You can, of course, refuse to pay this.

If you’ve bought tickets for a gig, event or festival in the last, then you’ll have encountered some pretty outrageous booking fees. These charges are out of control and you can’t opt out of them. In America – where much of this madness originates – there’s been a lot of controversy over how these fees being used to disguise the actual cost of some events. Last year, we saw artists and ticket companies blaming each other for the final cost at checkout. Last year, I called for these charges to be capped or banned outright. The fight continues.

But it’s dynamic pricing on gigs, festivals and event tickets that is proving to be the most contentious extra charge. Charging people extra when demand is high is ludicrous when buying tickets as… the demand is already high. This has led to some truly shocking price increases for in demand gigs in America. We need to resist any attempt to introduce dynamic pricing in the UK.

Ticket companies also love a bit of micro-charging. The most common example is ‘gig cancellation insurance’. These policies are usually available before you pay for the final bill and offer to cover you if a gig is cancelled or delayed. Only… if a gig is cancelled you are entitled to a full refund anyway. And if you can’t attend a rescheduled gig, then you should get a full refund too. Some policies have adapted to cover situations where you might not be able to attend a gig, like illness or injury, for example. But check in to other insurance policies available online first, before you book tickets. You might find a better deal.

Featured in Mirror – Martyn James

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