Category Archives: Finance

What would really help consumers of essential services?

The report of the ESAN Conference 2018 with conference slides and videos of the presentations where available have now been published. Thank you to everyone who attended and special thanks for the BT team who hosted the event. Please continue to share your thoughts of what would really help consumers of essential services on #ESANdebate.

#esanevent stimulates debate on consumer voice

On Wednesday 2 November, 18 speakers and 92 delegates came together at the iconic BT Tower for the ESAN Conference: How can the consumer voice be better heard in the regulation of essential services?  “Fantastic speakers, great content, excellently chaired”   #esanevent
Earth Hour

UKRN launches leaflet for vulnerable consumers seeking support services

ukrnThe UK Regulators’ Network has today launched an advisory leaflet to help ensure vulnerable consumers get the help they need to access essential services.

Produced through a collaborative effort between Ofgem, Ofcom, Ofwat, the ORR and the CAA, the leaflet highlights a range of free support services offered by utility, telecommunications and public transport providers.

The UKRN website gives details of how to get braille, audio and large print versions of the leaflet.

The value of being online

cash pileBT has commissioned independent research to try to establish the social
value of digital inclusion activities in the UK.  Find it here.

The value of being online to a new user is £1,064 per annum. This comes from having more confidence, making financial savings online, new job seeking skills and a reduction in social isolation.  Other figures for more experienced users are also given.

 

New figures on the cost of not being online

cash-1-editedThe Keep me Posted campaign have carried out research with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) into the additional costs of being offline, which shows that people who are not online pay £440 more per year.  Read more here.

Findings:

•             Households who do not use the internet pay an average of £440 more a year for their goods and  services, equivalent to 4.4 per cent of their average household income

•             This equates to 5.4 per cent of the average household income for older people aged 65 plus and the most vulnerable people in society

•             Households that cannot take advantage of lower energy and telecoms tariffs for switching to online-only services miss out on a potential annual saving of £139

•             7 million people in the UK have never used the internet, with the vast majority (72 per cent) being the poorest 10 per cent in society

•             Almost half (48 per cent) of those 65 years of age and over have never used the internet

 

Wonga to pay compensation after sending letters from non-existent law firms to customers in arrears

cash-pile-editedThe FCA said 45,000 customers of the UK’s biggest payday lender would be compensated after it found that letters threatening legal action from non-existent law firms had been sent to customers, in an attempt to boost collections by increasing the pressure on people in debt.  In some cases customers had been charged for the letters.

The practice ended four years ago before the FCA had responsibility for payday lenders and credit, so it does not have powers to fine Wonga.   Which? welcomed the tougher line being taken by FCA on irresponsible lending.  The FCA stated that it “expects firms to pay particular attention to fair treatment of those who have difficulty in meeting their loan repayments”.

Shelter warns of families on financial knife-edge

why_cash_is_cool-editedShelter warns that almost 4 million families are living without any safety net.

Some 3.8 million families have only enough money to pay their rent or mortgage for a month if they lose their jobs, the housing charity has said.

Shelter, which surveyed 7,500 people, said high housing costs and stagnating wages meant many were living on a financial knife-edge.

The survey

Shelter’s findings were based on a YouGov survey of 7,500 adults who pay rent or a mortgage. It says 44% of working families with children under the age of 18 could be one paycheque away from losing their homes if they became unemployed because they have little or no savings.

Its researchers also found that 29% of families would immediately be unable to afford to pay for their home if they lost their income.

Read more here.

FCA wants financial services firms to stop charging expensive rates for calls

FCA_logo.2The FCA is concerned that customers are being charged high rates to contact financial services firms and will consult with industry, consumer organisations and consumers to ensure customer calls are more affordable.

According to FCA boss Martin Wheatley:

“We want to update our rules so that they best meet your needs as a customer. This means charges for both consumer helplines and complaint lines being capped at the cost of a basic rate call – so the same price as calling your neighbour or a family member on their landline”.

FCA will issue a consultation but wants firms to look at their practices in advance of this.

Consultation

The FCA’s consultation will propose the standardisation of the rules so that charges for consumer help, and complaint, lines are capped at the cost of a basic rate call. In a letter to consumer group, Which?, the FCA said it believed that the introduction of requirements in the Consumer Rights Directive, designed to ensure firms no longer charge a premium for calls, should apply to all financial services firms.  The Directive requires firms to offer basic rate numbers for enquiries but at present, this does not apply to financial services firms.

In the same consultation the FCA will also look at a number of proposals to improve complaints handling by financial services firms including looking at complaints reporting and responding to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards.   The consultation will be published later this year.

Read more from FCA here.