Review of "Which?"

published 03/02/2005 | steffee
Member since : 05/07/2000
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"Which? Online - The Online Which?"

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I guess by now most people have heard of ipoints? Well, if you haven't it's basically an internet based reward scheme, whereby you gain ipoints by signing up to other websites, filling in questionnaires or buying certain products from certain online stores. You get emails (at least two a day I'm afraid) informing you of certain offers, for example "earn 2 ipoints per £1 spent on such and such website" etc. But this is not a review on ipoints, so I'll move on then. Well, recently I received an email telling me if I joined up to Which? Online's free 30-day trial, I would receive a whopping 225 ipoints, and, as if that's not enough, a free mini digital camera to boot. Now this is an offer you'd have to be crazy to refuse, so off I rushed to the Which? Online website in case suddenly was to vanish into thin air, or the internet sporadically crashed because of the crowds of other emailees were like-minded resulting in a chaos not dissimilar to the Census 1901 going online, or just in case ipoints realised how foolish they had been and terminated the offer. But no, I managed to sign-up without ado, and received my 225 ipoints. And so we shall continue with the review itself...

☺☻☺About Which?☺☻☺

I had never actually picked up a copy of the paper Which? magazine that accompanies the seven-year-outdated copies of Hello and Womans Own in every dentists waiting room. I was vaguely familiar with the type of publication it is - to advise people on which car to buy, which mortgage provider to go with, which holiday is the best in terms of price/facilities/dog-sitting and so on, but I always likened Which? to Readers Digest or Saga, which was something over-50s subscribed to; or in any case, I was always much too young to be thinking about cars and mortgages, so never gave it more than a first glance. However, naturally, since I'm writing a review on Which? Online (which I assume I might get on with in just a short while), I figured it essential to research the actual company first of all, as it is the Which? publication that gave birth to Which? Online.

Which? was formed in 1957 by Michael Young and Co., initially under the name Consumers Association, but quickly and luckily changed to Which? (I have to say Consumers Association Online would have rather a different ring to it, I would instead be inclined to research Coronation Street's Wetherfield Consu... anyway) with ten thousand subscribers in the first month!! Now, still going strong, Which? publish seventy thousand issues a month, and 170 books a year. They're very proud of their publication, which aims to inform buyers fully as to what goods and services to purchase, which to avoid, and they have never had a single advert in any of their publications, nor do they receive funding from any organisation, so as not to bias their research, and questionning their subscribers so as to find out what people actually want to know about, as well as exposing non-desirable companies, or rip-off-merchants is how I would describe it. Which? is based in three offices (Hertford, London and Edinburgh) and employ 500 researchers/writers etc, and whereas the first issue included articles on kettles (you mean they had electricity in 1957? That's before my mum was born, and she was here with the dinasoars) and cake mixes; issues of today are focussed on more important ones of GM foods, cloning, credit card fraud and so on.

Which?, according to their website, state that their aim is "a fair consumer world where everyone makes confident choices". (I know, I know, I could have just stated that at the beginning...)

☺☻☺About Which? Online ☺☻☺
Which? online is basically an online version of the popular Which? publication. You already worked that out for yourselves though didn't you? Well, in that case, Which? Online is more than 'just' an online version of Which?, but an archive of every article ever published by Which? since 1996. Well that's impressive isn't it, but it doesn't stop there either, Which? Online also includes the Gardening Which?, the holiday one, computing, car, tax guide and many other publications. And there's more than that too, there is a free NTL-based ISP that subscribers have access to, which(? sorry, couldn't resist) is obviously one of the best services around in terms of speed, price etc, otherwise they would have ruined their whole objective before starting. More than that even, there's a forum for all other subscribers to talk to each other, relay websites they've found interesting to each other and tons more (I will go into detail later, 5000 word limit isn't it?!). There's also extensive support for people who just can't log into the site, various polls and surveys, and many more other features.
Ok, so where to start...

☺☻☺What types of articles are publicised on the site?☺☻☺
Well the site contains a menu down the left-hand side of the main page, with the headings; Audio Visual, Cars, Computers and Internet, Consumer Rights, Food & Drink, Gardening, Health and Wellbeing, House and Home and Travel and Leisure. Highlights on the main page of the site are (at time of going to press, ie now) Buying from Ebay, Downloading Music, Travel Agents, Tipping, New Flowers for 2005, and Organic Gardening. There's also a What's New section detailing hidden charges etc of the Credit Industry with links to Debt Management and Credit Reference agencies. Even more stuff on this front page includes Food Scares, Car Depreciation, The Good Food Guide and the Wine Guide. And you can access specific magazines for example Holiday Which? direct from the front page. There's Recent Reports and a link to the Forums; and also there's links to the current campaigns, cheap and discounted goods and the bookshop.
Well, that's the main idea of the main page of the Which? Online website, but anybody could find that out. It's what's included after clicking on a certain link that people would like to know (or not). So here we go: I click on the Buy from Ebay link to reveal and article on tips and tricks of ebay buying and selling. There's a link to ebay itself, and a main description of the site, followed immediately by The Risks. Ebay states that less than 1/10,000 of their items is fraudulent, which Which? points out means there are still 200 fraudulent items selling on ebay at any one time. Quite scary. It goes on to define 'phishing' and explain helpful processes such as SquareTrade, which attempts to resolve buyer/seller disputes. There's a box of abbreviations used in Ebay on the following page, e.g. MIB Mint In Box, followed by tips for buying and selling, be clear when selling items and to search for bargains try common spelling mistakes in the search box. There's also info on bulk listing and sniping, among others.
I click on Car Depreciation and am impressed by my findings. To summarise, I find that the Mini Cooper, BMW 1 Series and Mercedes Benz C class hold their prices well, losing less than half of their value after 3 years, but Perodua Kenari, Proton Wira and Nissan Primera depreciate the most, nearly 80% of their value after 3 years. Wow, shocking news, particularly with the Nissan. Food Scares is equally as shocking I'm afraid, revealling illegal dyes found in chilli powder (Sudan 1 used in shoe polish!), chemicals found in fish that are harmful to unborn babies, BSE, Acrylamide found in a wide range of fried and baked foods, e.g. crisps. There are some links to websites, including and advising people to research on the facts of foods they regularly consume. Jeez, more shocking news then, I think I regret clicking into this section now.
Clicking on Travel Agents reveals that travel agents aren't really too bothered about their holidaymakers at all, with the majority of travel agent focussing entirely on the brochure when they're selling a holiday, not informing people of safety issues found to be wrong with a certain resort or hotel, travel agents not using resources and not listening to their customers requirements at all. There's a "family tree" displayed on the site, showing which companies are actually subsiduaries of other companies, which makes quite interesting reading, and an invitation to click a link to, which offers official holidaying advice. Thomas Cook appears to be the most successful at identifying the customers actual needs when booking a holiday, rather than fixating on potential profit as some of the others were inclined to do.

☺☻☺What's going on in the forum?☺☻☺
The forum is built around four main sections. Expert Advice is a forum whereby subscribers can discuss the information they've found in the reports, whether they agree etc, and what they have found to be a reputable/dodgy company etc. There is a little category called Product Tests, which is set out to rival Ciao I feel, but fails miserably. For a start there are several categories, including one which is General, and it is badly laid out, with brown text on a white background, no pics, and no other colour anywhere on the page!! You Help You is another group of forums where readers basically complain about their computer, but there is a Noticeboard where members can buy and sell products to each other. There are very few, but included a Toshiba laptop and a fire ladder. Hmm. We Help You is technically technical support, which leaves the final forum category: Armadillo. Forums in Armadillo are Armadillo Tips, Debates, Jokes, Miscellany, Current Affairs, Games, Media, Sport and Talkback. Current Affairs topics are the usual ID cards, terrorism and "the impending demise of analogue tv", which admittedly, held my interest for a while, but which is alike to all the other forums on Which? Online in that it is in that awful brown font. Argh!!

☺☻☺And the many other features?☺☻☺
Well you can purchase Which?s books online. Titles include The Which? Pub Guide 2005, The Good Skiing and Snowboarding Guide 2005 and Planning Your Pension. Cheap electrical goods takes you to Hughes Direct, where for example, you can purchase a 28" flatscreen Panasonic TV for a mere £279.99. And bargain digital cameras and camcorders takes you to There is also links to mortgage rates, savings rates, investment rates and interest rates, which update daily with the current best deals. The best current account shows a table which compares how much each bank charges for overdrafts, how much interest they pay, minimum ingoings per month and overall general customer satisfaction and reveals that the Smile Current Account is the best, though whether I will take their word for it, I'm not sure.

☺☻☺So how much does it cost, and what is the support?☺☻☺
It costs £7.75 a month after the trial period of 30 days, or £4.75 a month for Which? magazine subscribers, but don't despair, there is a free section too, available to everyone without even needing to fill in a free trial request. Everything is updated monthly, apart from certain features such as interest rates which are updated daily. For people experienceing problems there is free email or forum support, or premium rate telephone support available 8am-12midnight.
The free trial gets you a username and password which lets you access the parts of the site that aren't free to all. To subscribe to the free trial, click on "free trial" located in a box near the bottom right of the main page of the website, and fill in a 34 second form including your name and address on page 1, followed by your credit card details, and page 3 doesn't exist. You're done!! The small print bit, you need to give them 7 days notice of your intention not to continue with the subscription to avoid paying, so you actually need to cancel after 23 days.

If you skimmed, don't worry, just comment on the smiley faces!!

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Comments on this review

  • voyagerdude220 published 17/06/2006
    Sounds like a very good, but expensive service. Great review! Ian xx
  • DamonaKing published 09/01/2006
    This review needs an E rating, well deserved. Damona
  • yamcam published 23/02/2005
    Too pricey for me...Loads of info in your review...brill...Angie x
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