Catch-free they really exist?

Consumer on a laptopWe've always loved a good bargain, but never more than now. Commentators are united in their view that this has been one of the toughest financial years in living memory, and with the pressure on to make the most of our money, we are increasingly being drawn to discounts and promotions.

Far from being recession busting, however, these bargains and bundles may not be entirely what they first seem. A recent survey by Which? magazine found that supermarkets often embellish bargain offers to lead shoppers into thinking they are getting a great deal when this may not be the case. Offers on fruit and wine are amongst the worst offending, with products pitched as half price sometimes never being available at the original price anyway.

Consumers, though, have no need to despair. There is a developing trend for companies to shun confusing prices and instead opt for transparent, simple pricing or provide tools to wade through complex, competing deals. This surge in 'purse power' shows that the economic trials are making consumers much more savvy, and companies – large and small - are starting to sit up and take note. Here's four of the best examples:

  • The Invisible Hand app is one tool that has captured the imagination of the value-seeking consumer. Once downloaded on to a smartphone, it automatically scans the web to find the lowest price for the items you are looking at buying, saving you time and money hunting for the best deal.

  • Fitness fanatics – exhausted by complex gym membership deals - are switching on to the rise of the 24 hour, contract-free gyms. These gyms offer fantastic state-of-the-art equipment and great classes for pay-as-you-go prices with no strings attached.

  • The restaurant discount card Tastecard offers card holders 50% off or 2 for 1 at over 5500 restaurants – no need to trail the internet and print off vouchers.

  • And if you do your groceries online, check out which will compare the cost of your weekly shop at Asda, Ocado, Sainsbury and Tesco.

Another brand defying the trend for hidden costs, is Freesat. Freesat offers free quality satellite TV for a one-off payment, with no monthly bills or commitments. With over 150 channels as standard you'll be spoilt for choice. Pick up a Freesat HD box from £69 and enjoy five free HD channels too.

What's more you can even use your existing satellite dish so it can be as easy as plugging it in and you're away. Don't have a satellite dish? A standard installation costs £80.

Not forgetting, there's also the option of purchasing Freesat+. This allows you to pause the action and pick up where you left off. Rewind and record live TV too, so you never have to miss a thing.

And now selected Freesat boxes and TVs also bring you brilliant On Demand TV from the BBC and ITV. Without any subscription fee, Freesat viewers simply pay once and have access to fantastic satellite TV year after year after year.

There might not be an organised march or campsite protest, but the campaign for transparent pricing has clearly begun: rip-off Britain you have been warned!

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