Sunday thoughts: December

By Monsignor John Devine

Whether I buy a house, a car, a sofa, a plane ticket or even groceries, I am ripped off. The cards seem stacked against the individual consumer. The phrase 'terms and conditions' is short hand for extortion.

Extra charges are routinely revealed when I have completed a transaction. I am obliged to take out car insurance but can't afford to claim unless I pay an extra premium to further insure the quoted insurance premium. I am encouraged to renew by direct debit but I am penalised for my loyalty – a new customer is quoted a cheaper rate. Banks rip me off for borrowing and rip me off for saving. Buying goods and services online should allow me to avoid the rapacious middle man but price-fixing cartels have been exposed even on the internet. Worst of all, I am charged VAT, not just on the purchase price, but on postage and package.

eBay, an informal market between private buyers and sellers, has been high-jacked by wholesalers. Car boot sales have been similarly invaded. And reductions in legal aid limit my chances of access to the courts, giving the wealthy further advantage. The market place is a minefield for the little person. Have you ever tried changing your mobile phone provider?

Scripture readings for Advent suggest this is not a recent phenomenon. The Old Testament is full of references to the exploitation of the powerless. But the promised one, the shoot that springs from the stock of Jesse, will judge the wretched with integrity. With equity he will give verdicts for the poor. In his days, justice shall flourish.