yorkshire building society Yorkshire Building Society fined for missellingYorkshire Building Society have been fined for mistreating its customers.

The building society has been slapped with a £4.1 million fine, for being shits to customers facing financial difficulties.

The findings were found after a City regulator noticed that call handlers at Yorkshire had failed to implement the right payment solutions, making it even worse for customers having a struggle.

The building society has agreed to refund all mortgage arrears fees, plus associated interest, charged to customers since January 2009.

This redress scheme, announced in February, is currently under way and about 33,900 customers will be repaid a total of £8.4m.

Those customers with an existing mortgage will have their loan credited, while former customers will be sent a cheque. Cor! A cheque. How modern. A Yorkshire spokesman named anonymous, reckons that all affected customers will be refunded by the end of 2014.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) had said that while Yorkshire viewed repossession as a last resort, it failed to recognise that delays in reaching long-term payment solutions meant that some customers incurred increased fees and interest.

These failures happened between October 2011 and July 2012 as is the company’s second fine for being devious arses.

The regulator noticed that in 64 out of 87 cases reviewed, showed that the consumer was treated shoddily.

Tracey McDermott, director of enforcement and financial crime at the FCA, said: “Customers in financial difficulty need to be treated fairly and sensitively. Firms must ensure that they are taking into account the particular circumstances affecting customers who find themselves in difficulty. Firms need to be dealing with these customers proactively, without delays, in order to ensure they are not losing out.

“By allowing cases to drift without agreement, Yorkshire’s actions meant that customers in vulnerable circumstances risked falling into further financial difficulty.”

Chris Pilling, chief executive of Yorkshire Building Society, apologised to customers using the ‘inflatable school’ joke as an apology. “We are very sorry for letting them down,” he said.

This is Yorkshire’s second fine in 2014. In June the FCA issued a £1.4m fine for exaggerating the returns that investors could expect from stock-market-linked bonds.

Lloyds Bank in further PPI debacle

October 28th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Lloyds Banking Group 001 300x180 Lloyds Bank in further PPI debacleTroubled horse-logo’ed bank Lloyds have paid out the most in PPI, confirming that their bill for the scandal has soared to a whopping £11 billion!

The tax-payer saved bank is said to have put aside £600 million to cover the PPI mis-selling shambles, which is on top of another £600m which Lloyds threw at it earlier this year.

Lloyds said at the time that, although the number of PPI claims is falling, it is still paying out around £200m a month to victims.

This is on top of the news that the bank was the worst performing UK bank in the European bank ‘stress test’ and the confirmation that there’d be 9,000 job losses over the next three years .

As PPI was designed to cover repayments on loans and credit cards, most loan and credit card companies sold the product at the same time as they sold the credit.

By May 2008, 20 million PPI policies existed in the UK with a further increase of 7 million policies a year being purchased thereafter. Surveys showed that 40% of policyholders claim to be unaware that they had a policy.

Several European banks fail ‘stress test’

October 27th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

bank sign Several European banks fail stress testA ‘stress test’ of banks’ finances has been failed by 24 European banks, the European Banking Authority has announced.

Fortunately none of them are UK banks. PHEW.

The 24 banks now have nine months to get their act together or face being shut down. The review was based on the banks’ financial health at the end of 2013.

Ten have already taken steps to bolster their balance sheets in the meantime. All the remaining 14 banks are in the eurozone. The health check was carried out on 123 EU banks by the EBA to determine whether they could handle another financial crisis.

The list of 14 includes four Italian banks, two Greek banks, two Belgian banks and two Slovenian banks.

The worst offender was Italian bank Monte dei Paschi, which showed a capital shortfall of €2.1bn. Bloody Nora. Admittedly banks are in a better place than they were in 2011, when the last stress test was taken. Although various analysts question the validity of these tests as they failed to spot the collapses in Ireland and Belgian bank Dexia.

But now that’s all changed, as the profits that banks are allowed to make through a future financial crisis are capped. Net income is slashed by 20% and there is greater transparency around how the data is used, giving more certainty to investors.

Also, the introduction of the Asset Quality Review looks at banks’ loans and their governments debts, which has lead to a more sturdy assessment.

The banks that still need to raise capital:

Austria: Oesterreichische Volksbanken
Belgium: AXA Bank Europe, Dexia
Cyprus: Hellenic Bank Public Company
Greece: Eurobank Ergasias, National Bank of Greece
Republic of Ireland: Permanent TSB
Italy: Banca Carige, Monte dei Paschi, Banca Popolare di Milano, Banca Popolare di Vicenza
Portugal: Banco Comercial Portugues
Slovenia: Nova Kreditna Banka Maribor, Nova Ljubljanska Banka

The best and worst UK hotels revealed!

October 27th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

hotel 300x300 The best and worst UK hotels revealed!A survey by Which!!! to find out Britain’s best hotel chain has revealed Sofitel as the winner. The upmarket version of Novotel has rooms at £144 a night and only has three branches in the UK.

The runner-up Premier Inn, offers 650 hotels in the UK, and is more the hotel of choice for those on a smaller budget.

Eligible hotel firms were judged in nine categories, including cleanliness, customer service, food, and value for money. The rest of the Top five were Warner Leisure Hotels, Hampton by Hilton and Q Hotels.

However at the other end of the chart lurk Travelodge, Britannia Hotels and Old English Inns/Hotels. Shall we have a look at the chart in full?

Yes, let’s:

Name                                    Average Price    Customer score

Sofitel                                     £144                       83%
Premier Inn                          £61                         82%
Warner Leisure Hotels    £128                       80%
Hampton by Hilton           £80                         78%
Q Hotels                                £102                        78%
Marriott Hotels                  £110                        73%
DoubleTree by Hilton      £112                         72%
Holiday Inn Express         £72                          72%
MacDonald Hotels            £124                        72%
Novotel Hotels                    £97                          72%
Radisson Blu                       £111                         72%
Holiday Inn                         £88                          71%
Ibis                                           £63                         71%
Crowne Plaza Hotels        £107                       70%
Ramada                                  £75                         69%
Best Western                       £92                         67%
Hilton Hotels                       £110                       67%
Ibis Budget                            £32                        67%
Copthrone Hotels              £86                         64%
Mercure Hotels                  £93                         64%
The Hotel Collection        £109                       63%
Jurys Inn                               £87                         62%
Days Inn/Hotel                   £55                         61%
Thistle Hotels                      £101                       61%
Travelodge                            £44                        60%
De Vere Hotels                    £115                       58%
Principal Hayley Hotels  £120                       55%
Old English Inns/Hotels £70                         50%
Britannia Hotels                £56                         33%

Poor old Travelodge. But hey, with average price of £44 a room, it’s good for romps with your secret lover or somewhere to be sick in and crash after a work’s party.

Facebook: still not paying tax

October 23rd, 2014 3 Comments By Ian Wade

Bitterwallet Facebook censorship Facebook: still not paying taxFacebook didn’t pay any UK corporation tax again in 2013 – the bloodclots. It’s the second year in a row that the social media company have side-stepped the ol’ tax.

Facebook reported a pre-tax loss of £11.6m in the UK last year, despite its US parent company reporting a net profit of $1.5bn (£900m).

The company’s UK revenues rose from £34.6m to £49.8m, according to Facebook UK’s latest financial filing at Companies House published on Wednesday.

According to Facebook, its turnover is classed as “marketing and engineering services”, due to much of their ad revenue being sifted through Ireland because lower tax rates.

Facebook also made £371m in advertising revenue last year, which is a 67% rise from £222m in 2012. Facebook UK have however incurred a corporation tax charge of £3,169, as well as receiving a credit of £182,000.

Also, the UK end employs 172 staff, who were paid £40.8m last year, almost double of 2012′s £21m. Most of this could be laid at the door of the £15.5m payment cost for share-based payments, as UK staff received 1.52m free Facebook shares worth $118m at their current share price of about $78.

So yes. All a bit uncool, especially given that Mark Zuckerberg is splashing out $100m on his own island. He’ll probably set a bank up on it so Facebook can ‘rest’ funds there too.

Violent stock market crash imminent

October 16th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

stock market Violent stock market crash imminentA stock market crash so violent that it can probably bend time is being mooted.

The state of the world’s financial markets suggests that a break is about to happen at any point! We’re doomed!

The Bank of International Settlements said that suspiciously low levels of volatility in the markets seen this year, suggest a lack of liquidity that could trip up investors who assume they can dispense of assets when a sell-off begins.

These remarks follow as the FTSE 100 index suffered another day of losses, dropping 2.8% and mirroring falls across Europe. Guy Debelle of BIS said global investors were buying assets on the misguided presumption of liquidity that does not exist and that in a possible sell-off, volatility and price movements “will be exacerbated by the reduced capacity and inventory of market makers”.

Despite the world issues flying around causing markets to wobble, the BIS observed that volatility in fixed income, equity and foreign exchange markets has fallen to historically low levels.

Debelle, who is also an executive at Australia’s Reserve Bank, said: “While there is more forward guidance from central banks in place than in the past, investors do not have to believe it. I find it somewhat surprising that the market (in aggregate at least) is willing to accept the central banks at their word and not think so much for themselves”.

Referencing the US bond crash of 1994, Debelle warned that exits in the present bonds market could be even more violent in future with “a fair chance that volatility will feed on itself”.

It’s all somewhat worrying isn’t it?

In his speech, Debelle also referred to tightened regulation in the sector introduced in the wake of the financial crisis, adding: “Regulatory changes have, as intended, increased the cost of market-making, and hence shifted some liquidity risk to end investors. There have also been some strategic decisions taken by institutions and internal constraints have been imposed which have reduced capacity”.

Crush your car with MoneySuperMarket!

October 8th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

cars 300x200 Crush your car with MoneySuperMarket!Price comparison website MoneySuperMarket are offering everyone the option to crush their cars!

The website wants to get people across the country thinking about ‘crushing’ car insurance quotes by giving them the opportunity to crush a real car.

You there, in social media land, can use The Car Insurance Epic Car Crusher, which is a 6000 kilo robotic hand over the next two days.

Controlled from MoneySuperMarket’s Facebook page, it will offer four entrants an hour the chance to crush a car. And if you’re unlucky there, in the waiting hub you will also be able to play a car racing game, watch a live feed of cars being crushed and view the gallery of cars destroyed previously.

This is too much for a Wednesday, no?

David Harling, head of digital at MoneySuperMarket, said: “We wanted to demonstrate in a very ‘real’ way just how powerful our price comparison site is in crushing car insurance quotes and this activity was the perfect fit, playing to every driver’s secret desire to obliterate a car in true movie villain style.”

“The execution is in keeping with the ‘epic’ tone of our creative executions and gives car drivers across the country a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity they’ll be bragging to friends about for weeks.”

‘Engagement and destruction’. It’s like Ballard or something.

PPF step away from new rule laying

October 7th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

pensions 300x187 PPF step away from new rule layingThe Pension Protection Fund has stepped away from laying down new rules.

The company which acts as the UK’s safety net for company pensions, had suggested a stricter approach to the levy it imposes on employers that use “Asset Backed Contribution” structures.

Some suspect employers had included intangible assets such as trademarks and copyrights, in a bid to lower pension scheme deficits.

It also showed that in most cases these assets were being overvalued and gave employers the opportunity to hoodwink their staff.

However, to prevent companies getting away with lower levy payments, the PPF proposed in May that only ABCs backed by UK property would be recognised for the purposes of calculating the levy.

Instead on Monday, the PPF had changed their minds following information from industry stakeholders.

Explaining himself David Taylor, director of strategy and legal affairs with the PPF said: “Following discussion with the industry, we are now moving to a position where we are less concerned about underlying assets in these vehicles,”

“However, in order to be able to recognise a wider range of assets we will require more from the schemes in terms of how they certify to us the valuations on insolvency.”

This news has gone down reasonably well with the pensions industry.

The PPF announced these concessions as it confirmed that it would collect about £625m from employers in 2015-16 – about 10% than the previous year. also appeared “likely to fall further rather than rise”, the PPF said.

Spending still a bit squeezy

September 29th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

clothes shop 300x225 Spending still a bit squeezyThe British consumer looks like they have another three years of spending squeezes.

The annual wage growth is likely to remain well below the 4.5%-to-5% rises seen before the financial crisis struck in 2008, according to a EY Item Club survey.

Median pay in real-terms is forecast to fall from £18,852 in 2008 to £17,827 by 2017, the survey suggests.

The Item club, a non-governmental forecaster that uses HM Treasury’s model of the UK economy, believes that record numbers of people in work – currently 30.6 million – will act as a brake on wage rises.

Their report expects the gradual pace of consumer spending to be around 2% in the next two years, as opposed to the 3.7% it was last decade, pre-all the hassle.

Martin Beck, the EY Item Club’s senior economic adviser said “Total household incomes have strengthened because more people are in work, but individuals do not have extra money in their pockets,”

“Real wages are being held back by strong growth in the supply of workers and the fact that firms are facing increased non-wage costs, such as new pension schemes,” he added.

Mr Beck also believes the so-called “squeezed middle” – the charming name awarded to households containing neither highly-skilled nor low paid workers – will continue to see limited growth in disposable income as pay rises remain below the rate of inflation – currently 1.5% – and competition for jobs remains strong.

BitPay orking-way ith-way eBay

September 26th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

BitPay logo 300x158 BitPay orking way ith way eBayBitPay has announced that they’ve been working with eBay to accept Bitcoin payments.

Bitcoin’s payment processing solutions department confirmed its partnership with the eBay-owned firm, which indicates that the comedy currency is likely to be accepted at the online shopping portal at some point in the future.

The deal will see PayPal users, in ownership of a Bitcoin wallet, capable of using Bitcoins to purchase games, music, videos, news, ebooks, and other digital content.

Obviously, the service will be rolled out first in North America before being subsequently expanded worldwide.

Scott Ellison, senior director of strategy at PayPal, said excitedly: “PayPal is excited about all the innovations taking place in payments these days. More choices in how people create value, share it, buy, sell and trade it, that’s exactly what PayPal is all about.”

“We believe Bitcoin offers unique opportunities as more people and businesses experiment with it. PayPal is excited to work with BitPay to offer new experiences and the trusted service our customers expect. We hope to do more together as the Bitcoin ecosystem continues to evolve.”

This comes after eBay subsidiary Braintree – BRAINTREE, AS IN BRAINTREE IN ESSEX. HAS NO ONE THOUGHT THIS THROUGH? – announced earlier this month that it will also activate Bitcoin payments in the coming months.

What could possibly go wrong?

branson ice cube 300x292 Billionaire suggests people should work when they likeRichard Branson, the perma-grinning billionaire who invented Mike Oldfield and a terrible train service, has come out and echoed what every sane non-billionaire person has been harping on about since time began – that everyone should be able to take time off work – whenever they want.

In an excerpt in his new book called ‘The Virgin Way: Everything I Know About Leadership’, which he’ll no doubt be handing out free because he’s so “yeah”, the bearded one (pictured here in ICE LIKE A MYTHICAL GOD) writes: “It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours a day, a week or a month off,”

It’s something he’s introduced into Virgin offices in both the US and UK, where employees are given the responsibility of taking leave, only if they feel their absence won’t damage the business.

Branson reckons he got the idea after reading an article about the Netflix business model, and how they do not track vacation time.

“I have a friend whose company has done the same thing and they’ve apparently experienced a marked upward spike in everything – morale, creativity and productivity have all gone through the roof.”

Doesn’t mention team-leaders guilt-tripping staff, which you know damn well happens. He does waffle on and suggests that he gave Steve Jobs the idea for iTunes.

“On April Fool’s Day 1986 I gave an interview to a big-name music publication and told them that Virgin had been secretly developing a ‘Music Box’, on which we had stored every music track we could lay our hands on, and from which music lovers would, for a small fee, be able to download any individual song or album they wanted,” he told the i paper.

“Many years later Steve Jobs told me he had been utterly taken in by the idea. While we will never know for sure, I have always wondered if the April Fool’s prank triggered the birth of iTunes and the iPod – which ironically contributed to the death of our Virgin Megastores and changed the entire music industry.”

He no doubt laughed as he said it, while buying a planet to, like, ‘hang out’ on.

Debt management firms to be kept a closer eye on

September 23rd, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Credit Card Debt Collectors 300x200 Debt management firms to be kept a closer eye onCity news now, and regulators are investigating several debt management firms, and are warning that the industry needs to get its act together and help those vulnerable by financial difficulty.

The Financial Conduct Authority, who took over running things in this area in April, issued its warning as it prepared to authorise up to 200 debt management firms from next month.

The FCA aren’t going to give away any names or dish out any figures as to how many companies are under investigation, however two firms have already had their applications refused and seven others have had their bank accounts frozen to protect money from clients.

Victoria Raffe, director of authorisations at the FCA, said: “These firms are advising consumers who have often reached rock bottom, so it’s important that firms get it right. Many firms are falling well short of our expectations and they will need to raise their game if they want to continue operating”.

Debt management companies are paid by customers in financial palavers, and act as an intermediary and help pay off the customer’s bills, depending on the needs and repayment programme set out.

The FCA wanted to be sure that the advice being given by firms wasn’t being driven by bonuses or other such incentives. It also wants fees charged to be clear and transparent. This was previously part of the duties of the Office of Fair Trading, but under a change in the rules the FCA is now responsible for consumer credit.

So now, the regulator has also taken control of regulation of payday lenders,  and is proposing a cap on lending rates so that no one is taking the piss.

Wetherspoons: tax-free boozing on Wednesday

September 22nd, 2014 5 Comments By Ian Wade

pint of beer 300x180 Wetherspoons: tax free boozing on WednesdaySeveral Wetherspoon pubs will be dropping their prices by 7.5% on Wednesday.

The pubs will taking part in national Tax Equality Day, which highlights how everyone would benefit from a VAT  reduction in the hospitality industry.

It’s been part of an ongoing palaver between the company and the Government over their tax battles.

More than 900 Wetherspoon pubs are taking part in the campaign.

The company paid out £275.1m in VAT last year, which took their total tax bill to £600.2m, which is 43% of the company’s sales.

On average, each Wetherspoon pub pays £12,700 a week in tax.

UK supermarkets pay no VAT on food, whereas pubs pay 20%. The company said this economic disadvantage has contributed to the closure of many thousands of pubs.

You can see their point.

While this may be a political point by the pub chain, you don’t need to be interested in this jostling. Basically, head to your local Wetherspoons this Wednesday and enjoy a cut-price piss-up. Hurrah!

Directors bonuses must now be justified

September 17th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

fat cat rich man 300x300 Directors bonuses must now be justifiedAre you one of those people on the internet who likes hitting out at ‘fat cats’? Like griping about those who make loads of money because you  can’t stop mentioning your socialist leanings down the pub, much to the mild irritation of your pals?

Well, get this – all companies (so, not just banks) will have to be able to prove that director’s bonuses are linked to their performance thanks to a new City code.

You see, there’s a review of the corporate governance code and it has been decided that companies are going to have to provide more information for shareholders. This will include all manner of performance things, as well as details on the risks being run and details about how long a business would be able to run for under their current financing arrangements.

Unbelievably exciting isn’t it?

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) have told the City that the next review is going to tackle diversity in the boardroom and they’ve got two years to make some changes.

“Diversity can be just as much about difference of approach and experience. The FRC is considering this as part of a review of board succession planning and will consider the need to consult on these issues for the next update to the code in 2016,” it said.

More pressing changes ask for an extension of clawback arrangements which bankers are already working to. Basically, this new code says that companies should have arrangements to allow them to “recover or withhold variable pay when appropriate to do so”. It’ll also require companies to look at how long a director should wait before receiving any bonuses and that any extra pay should be link to performance.

“The changes to the code are designed to strengthen the focus of companies and investors on the longer term and the sustainability of value creation,” said Stephen Haddrill, chief executive of the FRC. ”The changes on remuneration also focus companies on aligning reward with the sustained creation of value rather than, as before, simply on retention – a focus that has tended to promote pay escalating and leap-frogging.”

So, from now on, companies will make two statements: One will be based on accounting rules and the other will require directors to assess their ability to stay in business for more than 12 months. Could play havoc with our Deathwatch articles, but there you go.

Either way, those ‘fat cats’ are going to have to justify their bonuses now, which they inevitably will be able to, much to the chagrin of those who can’t abide these upwardly mobile swine.

traintrack 300x225 Rail fares are still going up   the North gets hammeredRail fares are going up by 2.5% in January and waxy old George Osborne has capped the ticket prices for the second year running, so it’s slightly better news than the feared 3.5% – 5.5% increases.

He also announced that he was scrapping the ‘flex’ system where train companies could cheekily raise some fares by up to 2% above the permitted average.

It will cost the Government £100 million though, so they’ll claw that back from you elsewhere no doubt.

As if pre-programmed, Mr Osborne trotted out his: “Support for hard-working taxpayers is at the heart of our long-term economic plan.”

“It’s only because we’ve taken difficult decisions on the public finances that we can afford to help families further.”

However, rail passengers in the north of England are not going to be feeling very supported for their hard work and tax payments, as new rules mean that passengers in Greater Manchester and parts of Yorkshire won’t be able to buy off-peak return tickets for travel between 4pm and 6.30pm. That basically means that, because they’ll be buying ‘peak’ or ‘anytime’ tickets, it’ll cost them 40-50% more than off-peak fares.

So, if you’re catching a train from Rochdale to Wigan, it’ll now cost you £11 when it would’ve cost you £4.20.

Martin Abrams of the Campaign for Better Transport isn’t happy: “The DfT’s extension of peak fares on Northern is part of an incoherent strategy to make existing passengers pay more for outdated services instead of investing in better quality rail for the future across the region.”