Sealing their reputation as a caring, sharing payday lender, Wonga has raided the account of an innocent 15 year old boy whose bank details were used by fraudsters to take out a loan.
Obviously, you have to be 18 to borrow cash, but greedy Wonga didn’t check the details closely enough, and failed to spot that the account actually belonged to Simon Oliver, now 16, from East Sussex.
The poor lad tried to take money out on a school trip, only to find that Wonga had drained it of £260. Not only that, but IT WAS HIS BIRTHDAY AND CHRISTMAS MONEY THAT HE’D SAVED UP. (Let’s just take a moment here to well up with indignant tears).
Simon’s bank refunded the money, but the trouble won’t be over for Wonga. According to Watchdog, which will be getting its teeth into the story on tonight’s show, there have been 386 reported fraudulent loans granted by the company – some amounting to thousands of pounds.
The Office of Fair Trading are currently investigating the whole payday loan industry – and MPs are calling for much stricter measures, including real time credit checks. Let’s hope these shabby shysters get their arses kicked soon.
Everybody universally loathed the original Go Compare ads, so a new campaign was created to acknowledge the fact it was so hated, featuring the Go Compare man being kicked in the stomach by Stuart Pearce and blown up by Sue Barker in a balaclava. Clever eh? Oh I bet there were some wry meta chuckles in the idea pod that day.
But those smart arsed advertisers have been hoisted with their own petards, because now THOSE adverts have become the most complained about ads of 2012 – with nearly 2000 complaints.
31,298 complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Authority last year, mostly from people with nothing better to do. Thanks to the big response to the Go Compare ads, complaints about financial services ads skyrocketed by 86%. The Wonga ads, with their cunningly hidden terms and conditions, were also on the ASA list of doom.
People also took exception to Channel 4’s ‘Bigger’, ‘Fatter’ ‘Gypsier’ campaign to promote My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, which was third on the list with 373 complaints.
But nobody is more hated than the Go Compare man. It’s enough to make poor Gio Compario sing a heartbreaking aria from Madame Butterfly as he waits for the exhaust fumes to fill his Vauxhall Nova.
Baby You Can Drive My Car, sang the Beatles, but they wouldn’t have been so free and easy with the unleaded these days. In fact, it seems that we’re all keeping our cars chained to the driveway thanks to soaring petrol prices.
Sales of petrol are at a 23 year low, possibly because going for Sunday drive is more expensive than a box at the opera. 1.37 billion litres was sold at UK forecourts last month, which is a drop of a staggering 56 million litres compared to February, when the prices went up by 2p a litre.
Sainsburys, Tesco and are offering Petrol Sales at the pumps, taking that all important 2p off and reducing it from £1.36 to £1.34. But even so, the price of petrol is still over the odds for most people.
The industry blames the sky high prices on the cost of oil, obviously, but Luke Bodset of the AA blames the price rises on speculators who bet on the movement of petrol prices.
‘It’s a completely daft situation. Europe has got more petrol than anyone knows what to do with but petrol is still unaffordable for many drivers. People just can’t afford these prices. Our research shows two thirds of people are using their cars less or cutting back elsewhere to compensate for higher prices.’
But the Office of Fair Trading has ruled out an enquiry into petrol pricing, saying that there’s little evidence that companies are ripping customers off.
In the meantime, it seems like most of us are hanging up our Magic Trees and going for a walk instead.
With most people struggling to make ends meet and trying to make breakfast by gluing the crumbs in the toaster together with tears, there’s not much money left for little luxuries.
But according to the Mintel Lifestyle survey, people are trying to make themselves feel better by beautifying themselves. Sales of beauty products went up by 11% per person since 2007, when the financial crisis hit. This so called ‘lipstick effect’, apparently happens when recession-hit women (and transvestites) just want to cheer themselves up with something cheap.
The survey also found that people are doing more cooking from scratch at home, including baking, inspired by such shows as the Great British Bore Off.
However, all this cooking while wearing make-up doesn’t seem to be making us happy. Only half of Brits said they were satisfied with their standard of living – compared to 60% in 2008. So it seems that we’d still rather be sunning ourselves on a yacht with Kanye than standing in Debenhams wondering whether to splurge our meager wages on a Clinque chubby stick or a silicon baking tin.
As austerity rumbles on, we all just need to keep going and look on the bright side. And at least we’ll look nice when we’re standing on the street with our ‘Homeless and Hungry’ signs.
Doh! Nationwide customers must be wondering what they did wrong to open an account with Britain’s most haphazard building society – they’ve been locked out of their online banking for the SECOND time in a week.
The first glitch took place on Tuesday, causing outrage on Twitter. Then everyone was locked out again last night, with the message: ‘We are making every effort to restore service as quickly as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience this will cause you.’ Their mobile service crashed as well.
Behind the scenes, IT people frantically struggled to get the kettle on, while customers vented their anger on Twitter AGAIN with great wit and eloquence.
One monkey wrote: ‘Online banking still not working. Been 3 days now’.
Another monkey commented: ‘Banking down again? What a joke!’ (Doesn’t it make you yearn for the days when people used to write proper letters of complaint to Esther Rantzen?)
Nationwide have again apologized, saying it was a different glitch to the one on Tuesday. All these technical gremlins are a bit embarrassing for the building society, which is hoping to attract customers from high street banks with their much vaunted FlexDirect accounts.
But not if their website keeps crashing like a drunk uncle into a wedding cake.
Unsurprisingly, the Advertising Standards Authority have banned an advert for Pussy. Pussy, if you didn’t know, is an energy drink, and the company have run a number of commercials that have played on the word which of course, usually means vagina.
The ASA ruled that one poster which states: “Pussy – The drink’s pure, it’s your mind that’s the problem” won’t be appearing again. The ‘I [heart] Pussy’ ads are fine, clearly.
In total, Pussy has received 156 complaints, which most people whinging about the implied sexual explicitness. Others felt it was derogatory towards women and those with religious beliefs. The rest felt children shouldn’t see the word ‘pussy’ out in public, thereby alerting kids to the slang version of a word they previously thought meant ‘cat’.
The ASA ruled that while the ad did not portray women in a derogatory way or offend religious people, it was sexually explicit and likely to cause widespread offence.
Pussy said it had not intended to offend, and that “the slang meaning of the word was not one that [it] had created, and that any problems were only caused by those who were twisting the meaning of an innocent word”.
Here’s a nice idea – ‘Suspended coffee.’ When you buy your morning coffee from the local snarling barista, you also pay for a second, which can be claimed by a poor person in need of a caffeine fix to get through another day on the poverty line.
The scheme itself began in Italy, where coffee is seen as a basic human right, like passionately gesticulating or riding a moped without a helmet. Now coffee shops in the UK are signing up to the Suspended Coffee idea, which relies on old fashioned good faith and a sense of social justice.
Always thinking up new ways to distract customers from the fact they don’t pay any tax in the UK, Starbucks is also getting on board, and will announce their version of the scheme very soon.
It all gives you a warm glow, doesn’t it? And we may soon be used to the sight of the nations’ ‘gentlemen of the road’ lining up at the local Starbucks for Frappucinos and Vente lattes.
‘What’s your name, sir, so I can write it on your cup?’
‘EH? Dunno. The boys round the pile of burning tyres call me Nobby.’
Overdrafts are funny things. Not hilarious, clearly, but peculiar in the way the charges for them are calculated, which can end up being very pricey indeed. So expensive that even Wonga consider themselves a better lending option.
Of course, unauthorised overdraft fees are understandably pecunious, but even standard, arranged fees can vary wildly from bank to bank, and even between accounts at the same bank. Without sensible comparisons, consumers might be hard-pressed to calculate whether they will be better off or not switching banks.
Natwest and RBS have recently announced changes to their overdraft pricing structure (taking effect in July) and they are lowering the cap on maximum monthly fees, down from £186 to £90, which is almost certainly A Good Thing. However, for agreed overdrafts the new charge will be at least £6 per month. If you previously paid less than £6 in monthly interest, the changes will therefore be less of a good thing for your pocket. But what of the alternatives?
Figures compiled by the Independent show that the amount of overdraft you use has a crucial effect on which account is best for you, and given overdraft finance is best used for unexpected additional costs, this can be very difficult to predict. Assuming a £250 overdraft is required for a month, a Halifax Reward current account would charge you a whopping £25 (£1 a day for 30 days less the £5 monthly rebate). Lloyds TSB’s Classic account would also come in higher than the new Natwest/RBS charge at £9.73, but the smart money would be with First Direct, who give you a £250 overdraft completely free.
However, if you are £500 overdrawn for two days in a month, then Halifax comes out on top, as the £2 in daily fees is covered by your £5 rebate. First Direct’s 22p is still a snip, but Lloyds TSB would charge you £6.52.
Although there are overdraft comparison services out there, other factors such as monthly fees, withdrawing cash abroad and credit interest rates (or cashbacks) mean the overall bank account picture for consumers is far from clear. It’s no wonder customers without a crystal ball can’t decide whether switching would work for them, resulting in default high retention rates for banks.
Times are tough for many people at the moment, and rather than face personal bankruptcy or repossession, some people have been turning to “Sell your House Quick” merchants to try and salvage some of their equity. However, it seems these helpful sorts are not necessarily quite as altruistic as they might like to appear, with the Office for Fair Trading (OFT) launching a new investigation into the business practices of this type of firm.
Now it might sound blindingly obvious to say that the sort of people doing this kind of thing are out to make a quick buck for themselves. The OFT has no quarrel with this and actually thinks these arrangements might constitute a “valuable service”, but they are also concerned that these services “might lead to homeowners receiving much less for their property than it is worth. Any losses could be very high.” You don’t say.
The OFT is “particularly concerned” about advantage being taken of “people in financial difficulty,… those who need to sell their property quickly following a relationship breakdown or the elderly, who might need money to pay for their care.” Pretty much everyone who would be considering using this type of quick sale service then. However, specific bad practices they are keen to investigate include:
Unclear fee structures, for example imposing an unexpected fee following an encouraging initial valuation, as a condition for progressing the service.
Reducing the price offered at the last minute after someone is financially committed to the transaction.
Making misleading claims about the value of the property or the level of discount to be applied to the sale.
Falsely claiming to be a cash buyer.
Inducing consumers to enter into agreements that prevent them from selling to other buyers, with severe penalties for breach of contract.
Last year, the BBC investigated claims of improper behaviour by such firms, with examples such as Malcolm Haywood, from Lincolnshire who wanted to sell his house quickly, and agreed to a sale price of £120,000. However, just before the deal was signed Gateway Homes UK dropped the offer price to £80,000. Similarly, Pat Hardy, from Teesside, signed to sell her property to Tom Craven Property for £75,000, but they lowered their offer the day before removal to £40,000. Both companies told the BBC that the number of complaints amounted to less than 1% of their customers.
The OFT has asked over 50 quick house sale firms to provide information on their business models and practices, but has also asked for evidence from other people, just in case these firms are less than forthcoming with the truth. The OFT would like to speak to valuation experts, estate agents, debt advisors and home owners about their experiences.
In any case, any findings and subsequent recommendations will take a number of months to be processed- which doesn’t really help anyone thinking of dealing with one of these companies right now.
If the ASA find that you continually do not comply with UK Advertising Code they get in touch to let you know where you are failing and this should give you adequate time to put right those wrongs.
If you continue to make various claims within your advertising and choose to ignore the ASA, you get added to their list of “Non-compliant online advertisers”. That is exactly what has happened to Radisson Blu, the upscale brand of the worldwide Radisson hotel chain.
The ASA found that Radisson Blu were misleading customers looking to book hotel rooms by quoting prices exclusive of VAT on its website. This is in breach of CAP (Committee of Advertising Practices) requirement that VAT exclusive prices can be only be given if every person receiving this price quote is not required to pay VAT or be able to recover it.
CAP say that they have contacted Radisson Blu on numerous occasions yet they still have not amended their website to comply with this requirement. We found it strange that such a high profile company like Radisson Blu would want to remain on a list of businesses having such a sheer disregard for advertising standards so we contacted the ASA to ask what efforts Radisson Blu have made:
A period of grace is granted, in this case 3 months, to advertisers to give them time to amend their advertising.
We then follow-up this communication after the grace period has ended, contacting advertisers who are not complying.
We then give another warning, requesting assurances from an advertiser that they will comply otherwise we will apply sanctions.
If assurances are not received we apply sanctions – Radisson Blu Edwardian were added to our list of non-compliant online advertisers.
I should mention that we are in discussions with Radisson Blu Edwardian and are hopeful that they will begin complying soon. If they do, we will remove them from the wall entry.
So it seems that Radisson Blu are on their way to being allowed off the naughty step but we do find it strange that they have had more than 4 months to amend their systems which, considering all other hotels are complying, seems to be long enough.
Just a quick glance at the other businesses on the ASA list tell you that this isn’t a place that such a reputable business would want to be appearing.
The latest Government acronym the CMR (Claims Management Regulator) has recently announced new rules governing Claims Management companies. New rules, that are, apparently “extremely disappointing”.
The Citizens Advice (no longer a Bureau) have been campaigning for tougher regulation on the firms who chase you (and ambulances) in the hope of making a fast buck. Citizens Advice wanted the following tougher regulations to apply:
Barred from cold-calling.
Ban on charging up front fees.
Charges and fees should only be in proportion to the compensation gained and paid at the time of payout.
All contracts to be signed in writing by the consumer.
A standard written contract that provides clear consumer information on risks and cooling-off rights.
While you might wonder at the legality of any company being enforceably engaged without a signed written contract in place, this is the only recommendation the new CMR have seen fit to introduce- firms must agree contracts in writing with their clients, before any fees can be taken, and must refer to their regulatory status as being regulated by the claims management regulator – rather than the Ministry of Justice. The regulator has also banned advertising that offers “vulnerable” individuals a cash incentive for signing up to use their services.
CMR head Kevin Rousell said: “I want people to have time to think through their arrangement and be happy and clear about exactly what the deal is before they part with any money. These new rules will root out poor practice and ensure consumers are better protected by making contract terms much clearer.”
However, Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice Chief Executive retorted:
“Too many people have been ripped off by these predatory firms who use underhand tactics to make money from people who often don’t have a claim to make.
“The new Conduct Rules are extremely disappointing. The regulator has let consumers down by not banning upfront fees, barring firms from cold calling or making sure fees are in proportion to the compensation gained.”
Currently, around 3,000 claims management companies are licensed to provide claims management services; around 1,900 licensed for personal injury and 1,100 for financial claims, largely PPI focussed. Between April 2011 and March 2012, 260 claims management companies had their licences removed.
In 2012 Citizens Advice Bureaux dealt with over 16,500 problems with PPI, a third more than in 2011. Just under 3,300 of these were about claims management companies. Between April and October 2012, the Citizens Advice consumer service handled over 4,800 queries about claims management companies offering PPI compensation services.
Citizens Advice research found that 9 out of 10 people were pestered by calls, emails and spam texts from these firms within 12 months. While advice is to never reply to spam texts (even if prompted to send STOP or the like) you can forward spam texts to your provider to deal with- 7726 for Everything Everywhere or O2, 37726 for 3, 87726 for Vodafone.
They also found that:
2 in 3 Claims Management companies don’t tell people how much they would charge for their services
72% don’t say when they will charge their fees
4 out of 5 do not give information about their cancellation rights
just 43% say what would happen if you took out a claim
and less than half were clear about people’s chances of success
1 in 5 CAB clients were lead to believe they could make a claim for PPI – even if they had never been sold a policy. Claims companies take around 25% of a person’s successful PPI claim in charges, even though you can do it yourself very easily for absolutely nothing.
Another week and another ASA ruling on a daily deals site. This time it is the turn of Groupon to get a complaint against them upheld. We must say though, in Groupon’s defence, they don’t appear as often as KGB Deals in the ASA rulings.
This complaint centred around a daily deal for “an Afternoon Tea with Sparkling Wine for two at Danubius Hotel, Regents Park (53% off)”. The cause for complaint was because this deal was actually 5p cheaper than the Groupon offer by going straight to the hotel website and booking up.
Groupon responded to the ASA by stating that they have procedures in place to ensure that this type of thing should never happen and is also part of the contractual obligations of the advertising business. Having used a few of these daily deal sites in the past, the price of the offer and the prospective discount is usually how we quickly determine whether it is actually a good deal.
Whilst this might look like a genuine mistake it still shows that we should all be running our own checks instead of getting carried away with the discount. Always check the business out and whether they have a better price on their own site. In the past we have also seen many new businesses selling their goods via Groupon. This might not be a concern for most but it again does prove that a little more work should go into checking out the retailer that is sending you the goods or providing a service.
Or, you could just see an offer for “Three Courses with Cock…” and not think twice about getting that booked up.
Can you imagine a world where product manufacturers might lie stretch the truth present their product in the best possible light in order to persuade you to buy it? That day is here folks. New research from WhatCar? has found that there is a significant difference between official fuel economy information and vehicles’ actual performance.
The figures showed that 95.5% of cars do not match the published fuel economy figures, with an average miles per gallon shortfall of 17%. City cars and superminis were the worst culprits, with fuel economy shortfalls of 23.3%, and almost 25% respectively. SUVs demonstrated the lowest shortfall in What Car!’s tests, coming in at only 12.9% down- but then again, they were starting from a lower measure of economy in the first place.
The difference, according to the magazine is that they reviewed fuel economy performance of more than 500 new cars on real roads to arrive at the results – in contrast to official research for published mpg figures which is conducted in laboratories. But it wasn’t all bad news- testing also revealed that some vehicles did deliver the expected miles per gallon, and others exceeded it.
The Mazda 3 outperformed the published average miles by gallon by almost 10%, while the Nissan 370Z exceeded it by 6.8%.
Based on the research, WhatCar% developed an online tool to check cars’ fuel economy. The tool asks you to select not only the type of journeys you make, but also the levels of congestion and your style of driving to give you a more accurate estimate of your likely fuel efficiency- and how much this differs from the published figures.
“Expecting high fuel economy and getting the opposite can double a household’s fuel expense,” said WhatCar# editor-in-chief Chas Hallett.”It is vitally important for consumers to buy the right car for their life.”
He also highlighted the “misconception” that smaller cars always give better fuel economy.
“If you use a small-engined car for long motorway runs every day, it will not be that economical,” he said, adding that a vehicle with a larger engine would be better.
WhatCar@ also offer ten handy tips for reducing fuel consumption, including such gems as leaving the kids at home (extra weight), not getting lost (wasting fuel driving around) and to drive your car as if it were a pushbike, freewheeling down hills. All excellent suggestions, of course.
The True MPG calculator only has data for new cars currently on the market- aimed at helping those buying a new car in selecting the most fuel efficient choice for their personal circumstances. But that doesn’t mean you can’t calculate the true mpg for your existing car and driving circumstances- simply put ten gallons of fuel in your car, drive as normal, and see how far you get before you run out of fuel. The answer divided by 10 is your mpg. Simples.
Apart from the fact that we live under a government that seems hell bent on destroying the poor and vulnerable, you might be wondering why your wallet is full of moths and you’re staggering from one pay packet to the next like a drunk near some bins.
It could be because last month was the first time in a long time (15 months in fact) that non-food items went up in price. The 0.2% price increase might seem piffling on paper, but there have also been less promotions this year, so less chance to snap up bargains on the high street on stuff like electrical products, beauty and clothing – or indeed anything that might cheer us up.
This is because demand has increased, according to the British Retail Consortium, which leads retailers to up prices. So with inflation on food still at 3.5% and less discounts in the shops, the British consumer is once more squeezed tighter than Eric Pickles into a pair of New Look jeggings.
Uhhhhhh. Can we just fast forward this dismal part of history and go straight to jet packs and living in space?