British Gas are going to knock 5.1% off their standard gas price from March, which is going to save the average customer around £31 per year. With all that extra money in your pocket, maybe you could buy a helicopter and a volcano lair, and invest with whatever’s left over.
Anyway, EDF Energy then jumped aboard the price cut wagon, and said that they’re going to cut 5% off gas prices. That’s worth around £31 too, and that will come into play on March 24th.
Of course, E.On, Npower, SSE and Scottish Power have already announced their price drops, and they’re all around the same percentage, all ending up in similar savings for the average customer. Not one of these companies has dropped the price for electricity though, even though wholesale prices having dropping there as well.
Don’t think we all haven’t noticed.
Not that this will stop the energy companies feeling very pleased with themselves. British Gas boss Mark Hodges said: “Today we’re announcing a further reduction to ensure our prices remain market-leading. Taken together, our three price reductions will bring the average household’s annual energy bill down by almost £100.”
“British Gas will be cheaper than 95% of the market, for a typical household on a standard dual-fuel tariff. Competitive pricing is the way to retain existing customers and win new business in this hard-fought market.”
What about EDF? Well, managing director Beatrice Bigois said: “We are pleased that we can reduce customers’ gas bills for the second time in just over a year. Our prices are under constant review and today’s announcement reflects falls in wholesale gas costs. There are other costs impacting customers’ energy bills that are beyond our control – these increased steadily during 2015.”
We’ve all seen the latest Three adverts starring a cute fraggle named Jackson who seems to be attempting to make even East17 cool again, but are Three hiding scurrilous shenanigans under those big eyes and purple fluff?
Reports suggest that Three are using the excuse of closing off old tariffs to switch some of their older customers (as in length of time with Three, rather than advancing years) on to new, more expensive contracts, with some customers even complaining of paying more than double their previous cost.
Three says that those on legacy tariffs are being switched to the ‘closest’ existing deal- but as Techradar reports, one customer said that their £15 monthly deal (originally £25, but with an added £10 loyalty discount) had now been increased to £33 a month, although it is unclear if the £10 loyalty discount is then applied to the new cost.
Three claim that they “introduced new price plans giving customers more options in the size of their data and voice bundles, as well as limits and alerts to prevent bill shock” back in March 2014, but increasing a customer’s talk and text capacity doesn’t help if they were after unlimited tethering, for example, which is no longer unlimited on their new plans, and is instead up to a maximum of 12GB per month.
Three has confirmed the process is ongoing, and if you are one of the lucky ones affected, you’ll receive a letter detailing your options going forward. Three said: “We have a lot of tariffs that we no longer sell and moving customers to one of the new plans will ensure they can enjoy the benefits of these plans.” Three also confirmed, however, that all customers who have received a letter are out of contract, and can therefore vote with their feet if they so choose.
Still, many of those affected seem to be none too pleased, but are making good, ironic use of Three’s latest tagline, tweeting their grievances with the hashtag #makeitright. Lol.
Were you thinking of grabbing some of those Lloyds shares that were being put on general sale by the government? Well, you’re going to have to wait, because Gideon Osborne has decided to put the whole thing off for a bit.
Why is he doing this? Well, our beloved chancellor says that selling the final stake of the bank should wait, because of the global turmoil in the markets.
David Cameron pledged that this would be happening during the general election, and expected the sale to raise around £2bn. So, you can either assume that this is a mere postponement, or he’s up to something – your call.
Either way, Lloyds’ share price has dropped of late, and low interest rates have been hammering the banking sector.
Osborne said: ”I want to create a share owning democracy and I want to give the British people a chance to buy shares in Lloyds bank, a bank that they had to bail out.”
“It is also my responsibility to make sure we have a secure and sound economy and with these turbulent financial markets it wouldn’t be right to have the Lloyds share sale now. There will be a sale of shares [in] Lloyds but only when the time is right for people.”
“We need those markets to calm down, and then we can proceed with the sale. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of people interested in buying these shares, I want to sell them the shares, but it wouldn’t be right to undertake that sale when frankly things are pretty turbulent out there on the stock markets and the global financial markets.”
Having enough money to pay your bills is at the forefront of many people’s minds, especially as the longest month in the year dawdles towards another payday. Unfortunately, new research from Santander suggests that many of us aren’t even working towards the right figure, with most of us underestimating how much we have to shell out every month.
And we aren’t even talking the odd £20 or £30 quid. When looking at main household bills, including council tax, energy and utility bills as as well as TV, broadband and phone, Santander’s figures show that bill payers underestimated their main expenses by an average of £1,459 last year, estimating their typical bills to be £2,528, well below the actual annual total of £3,987. That’s underguessing by over £120 per month.
And while misleading adverts have been cited as a possible cause for people not knowing what they’re paying, it is perhaps more likely that people just don’t pay proper attention to their budgets and bank statements. Santander’s figures found that almost a third (30%) of bill payers admit that they don’t read their statements thoroughly, while 5% don’t even open them, so it’s no wonder that they don’t have a clue what’s going on.
Looking at individual bills, TV, phone and broadband outgoings were found to be the most significantly underestimated, with people estimating their annual spend on these bills to be 53% lower than what they are actually paying. This is in no way related to the recent –Advertising Standards Authority finding that many broadband adverts are “highly misleading”.
And if you don’t know what you’re supposed to be paying out, it’s perhaps hardly surprising that many households admit to struggling to cover the cost of their household bills. And belts are quite tight- 34% say they can only just make ends meet, and 25% admit to borrowing money or using their savings to pay the bills. However, this may not be a perennial problem for everyone- we’ve all had tight months- as only 6% claim they often or never have enough money to cover their bills.
So what can you do about it? Well, if you haven’t checked your statements recently, it’s time you did and while some bills are immoveable (council tax springs to mind) you could look at whether you could get a better deal by changing supplier, or moving to a better package. Even water bills might be reducible- if you aren’t on a water meter you might find it cheaper to switch to metered water rather than average use, particularly if you prefer showers to baths for example. Or if you just don’t care to wash frequently.
In a lot of video games now, be they console games, or games that come in app form on your mobile phone/tablet – there’s in-app or in-game purchases. That means, there’s things you can spend real-world money on, while you play.
Now, a lot of people know this, but clearly there’s parents who don’t, because we keep seeing stories where kids have spent ludicrous amounts of money while playing games – because their parents either haven’t told them not to, or haven’t threatened them with all manner of punishments if they go wild with mum and dad’s credit card.
And so, to Lance Perkins from Canada, who has now banned his son from playing on his console, after he spent £5,255.03 while playing FIFA.
“It floored me. Literally floored me, when I’d seen what I was being charged,” he told CBC News. “He thought it was a one-time fee for the game. He’s just as sick as I am, he never believed he was being charged for every transaction, or every time he went onto the game.”
“There will never be another Xbox system—or any gaming system—in my home,” he added.
In this instance, the parent and the child didn’t know the score – but this is 2016 and you really should. If a game has a thing where it says ‘purchase’ in it, you’d be wise to assume that it means ‘spend your actual money from your actual bank account’. Sure, Lance’s son might have an Ultimate Team that is the envy of everyone he knows, but it isn’t much use if he can’t actually play with them because he’s had his Xbox taken off him.
If you’re still unsure, here’s the official low-down on what in-app/in-game purchases entail. In short, if you think it might cost you money, it probably will.
They’re annoying, but they don’t appear to be going anywhere. Don’t register your card with your console, if you’ve got a reckless child in the house.
What with Santander putting up monthly fees with their 123 account, the competition are trying to woo customers away from them. One of them is the Co-operative Bank, who are offering an account called ‘Everyday Rewards’, that is going to pay existing and new customers £4 per month.
How do you get this money? Well, you get the reward for doing bog-standard, everyday banking with them. You’ll also need to pay in £800 per month, and stay in credit or within your agreed overdraft limit too. You’ll also have to go for paperless statements, have four active monthly direct debits, and log-in to your online banking once a month.
It seems like a lot to remember, but chances are, most account holders will do these things while on autopilot.
On top of all this, those who have this account will also get 5p every time they use their debit card (which will max out at £1.50 per month). That’s a potential of £66 per year, for nothing. Not bad.
If you prefer, you can donate your rewards to a number of charities - Amnesty International, Hospice UK, Oxfam, Refuge and the Woodland Trust.
There’s going to be a lot of competition at the moment, as the banks look to lure people away from Santander, and seeing as it is easier than ever to switch, it is worth weighing up all the rewards that will be thrown around in the coming weeks.
If the Co-operative Bank account sounds like your bag, then check it out here.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have kicked off a preliminary investigation, looking at whether or not a trader at Lloyds Banking Group attempted to manipulate the market for UK government bonds.
This is bad news for Lloyds, who have been trying to repair their reputation since it was bailed out with over £20bn of taxpayers’ money in 2008. As the government try to sell off the last of their stake in the bank, this adds a bit of gloom to proceedings.
All this follows a number of fines which have been handed out across the banking world, over the rigging of interest rates and foreign exchange markets.
Now, the FCA wants information about Lloyds traders who might have tried to bump up profits by driving down the prices of gilts during official auctions, or allegedly inflating their price when selling them on.
This comes after criticisms of the FCA, who said they weren’t going to be looking into dodgy banking culture any more, and shouts that everyone’s going soft on the banks.
According to Wall Street Journal, who broke this story, this investigation is solely focused on individual traders at Lloyds for the time being, and is not a broader, industrywide probe into the gilt market. Looks like things are going to get ugly in the banking world again.
George Osborne is to warn of a ‘dangerous cocktail’ of risks from abroad, and from higher public spending on these shores, thanks to what he’s calling a ”dangerous cocktail”. The Chancellor is worried that the UK is going to be pulled into decline thanks to economic concerns in China, Brazil or Russia, and of course, the falling price of oil and political troubles in the Middle East.
Basically, in a speech to some people in Cardiff, he’s going to warn about complacency and doesn’t want anyone thinking that we’re in the middle of a “mission accomplished” scenario.
Osborne’s speech says: “Anyone who thinks it’s mission accomplished with the British economy is making a grave mistake. 2016 is the year we can get down to work and make the lasting changes Britain so badly needs.”
“Or it’ll be the year we look back at as the beginning of the decline. This year, quite simply, the economy is mission critical.”
“Last year was the worst for global growth since the crash and this year opens with a dangerous cocktail of new threats. For Britain, the only antidote to that is confronting complacency and sticking to the course we’ve charted.”
As a complete aside, and keeping with the cocktail theme, here’s a perfectly innocent photograph of our George enjoying a drink with a lady, from when he was younger.
He’s also saying: “Yes – there’s good news here and right across the UK. That’s because we have a national economic plan that backs business and skills, and is delivering growth, high employment, and rising wages.”
“But as we start 2016, I worry about a creeping complacency in the national debate about our economy. A sense that the hard work at home is complete and that we’re immune from the risks abroad. A sense we can let up, and the good economic news will just keep rolling in.”
As for the drop in oil prices: “That is good for consumers and business customers here in Britain, bad news for the oil and gas industry, worrying for the creditors who have lent to it, and a massive problem for the countries that depend on it. Meanwhile, the political developments in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia and Iran, concern us all.”
“Yes, the British economy has performed better than almost anyone dared to hope. And as an issue, the economy has slipped down the list of many people’s everyday concerns. But the biggest risk is that people think that it’s job done.”
Of course, there’ll be some jabs at the opposition: “Many in our politics encourage this, irresponsibly suggesting that we can just go back to the bad old ways and spend beyond our means for evermore.”
“Though the year is only seven days old, already we hear their predictable calls for billions of pounds more debt-fuelled public spending. They reject all the reforms we propose to deliver better quality public services for less taxpayers’ money. Today I want to issue this warning: unless we finish the job of fixing the public finances, to get Britain back into the black by finally spending less than we borrow, all of the progress we have made together could still easily be reversed.”
Prices on the high street are going to continue falling, which is just lovely news for those of us who like buying things. Across the board, prices saw a deflation of 2% in December, according to the folks at BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index.
This trend has been going on for two years and eight months now, and it looks like (according to those crunching the numbers) that this is going to carry on well into 2016. One of the things that looks likely to keep falling in price is oil, which hopefully means cheaper fuel at petrol stations!
As well as that, food prices in December were 0.3% lower than the same period the year before. There was a 3% drop in electrical products, as well as hardware, gardening, footwear and clothing items.
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “This is an incredible run of good fortune for shoppers who’ve been preoccupied with picking up presents for family and friends, as well as themselves, ahead of the holiday season.”
“With retailers continuing to invest in price, relatively low commodity prices and intense competition a hallmark of the industry, we can expect falling prices to continue in the medium term.”
Of course, this isn’t great news for the retailers themselves, as a number of them saw a decline in full-price sales. However, they can carry on blaming ‘unusually warm weather’ as usual, while we all get to fill our boots.
Amazon are amping up the pressure on rival retailers, by offering a service where you can ‘pay monthly’ with them. Sounds like trouble to us, as paying for stuff on the never-never can get consumers in all kinds of bother, but if you’re good with these sort of finances, it could be just the thing for you!
Anyway, if you’re spending £400 in one go, on one item or a load of different things, you can apply to pay them off over four years, without a deposit.
It is called Amazon Pay Monthly, and it’ll launch this month, and will charge you 16.9% interest.
Amazon have joined forces with finance company Hitachi Capital, which competes with similar credit options which exist on the high street.
A Hitachi spokesperson said: “It means you can go straight from choosing a new dishwasher or fridge to accessing finance options through us, all while staying on the Amazon site.”
Basically, you can do your shopping on Amazon as normal, and when you get to the checkout, you’ll be offered Pay Monthly. Of course, they’ll have to run a credit check on you, and if you’re approved, you’re good to go.
Interestingly, Britain is the first area that this has been offered to by Amazon.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have decided that they’re not going to bother with their inquiry into the culture, pay, and general behaviour of staff in banking. Everything concerning our banks is completely fine and we’ve all been worrying about nothing. Obviously.
The watchdog were going to see if pay, promotions and incentives were a contributing factor to some of the wild misconduct that we’ve seen recently. Seeing as banks have been embroiled in countless scandals, which have seen hundreds of millions of pounds in fines being dished out, you’d think that someone might want to get to the bottom of all this?
Obviously not. Mark Garnier MP, a Conservative member of the Treasury Select Committee, thinks there’s something fishy going on here, and that this might be a ‘political’ move. Talking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, he said: “There’s always been this great argument that perhaps the Treasury is having more influence over the regulator than perhaps it ought to.”
“And certainly if I was looking for a Machiavellian plot behind what’s happened here and the tone of the regulator then I suppose I would start looking at the Treasury.”
“And it’s certainly been widely talked about that the Treasury thought the regulator was overdoing it in favour of the consumer and certainly from my point of view on the Treasury Select Committee, I thought otherwise.”
Instead, the FCA are going to be working with individual companies, in the hope that there’ll be a ”cultural change”. Sounds like they’re going to pop round for a brew and say ‘has there been a cultural change yet? There has! Oh good – see you when we see you.‘
Mark Garnier continued: “I think it remains to be seen whether this is a cancellation or a delay, but I fear it probably is a cancellation and I think probably we’re missing an opportunity to be able to look at what is best and worst practice across the banks.”
As an aside, and in no way a suggestion of anything untoward, honest, this decision follows FCA boss Martin Wheatley – brought in because he was an uncompromising regulator – was basically sacked by George Osborne, and at a time when some UK banks are threatening to move their headquarters overseas.
Looks like our Chancellor is gently trying to steer everyone away from hating the banks, and getting rid of Wheatley – who is very outspoken when it comes to our financial institutions – is phase one of that.
In a statement, the FCA said: ”There is currently extensive ongoing work in this area within firms and externally. We have decided that the best way to support these efforts is to engage individually with firms to encourage their delivery of cultural change as well as supporting the other initiatives outside the FCA.”
The company had said that they were going to start treating their staff nicely, and this looks like part of that plan, after they were investigated by the Guardian, over the hours the staff we doing unpaid, after going through searches and surveillance.
MPs and unions were quick to criticise Sports Direct, and the company’s share price tumble thanks to the volume of bad press, especially that regarding zero-hour contracts. As well as this pay rise (which seems to be coming into play just as the mandatory living wage increase is ushered in), Ashley has said he’s going to oversee a review of all agency worker terms and conditions.
Ashley said in an interview: “I’m making a New Year’s resolution pledge to the Daily Mirror – and I’m deadly serious. I want to see Sports Direct become the best high street retail employer, after John Lewis. I realise this is ambitious and it won’t be easy, but I believe as a FTSE 100 or even 250 company we have a responsibility to set a high moral standard.”
“We’re putting our money where our mouth is and have notified the City we will be spending £10m ensuring all employees are above the minimum wage.”
A number of staff on zero-hour contracts are still in the middle of suing Sports Direct though, so they do have a long way to go before people look at them like John Lewis.
Either way, the staff affected by the pay rise will be getting an extra 15p an hour, which means those who are 21 and over will get £6.85 an hour, while 18 to 20 year olds will get £5.45 an hour.
The largest drop has been in London, where the study says that the real value of average pay has dipped by 23.2%. Following that was a 16% drop in the South East, then the East Midlands (15.7%), Yorkshire and the Humber (14.9%), North West (12.4%), West Midlands (11.8%), East (11.5%), Wales (11.3%) South West (10.6%), Scotland (6.7%) and North East (5%).
Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, said: “While we have seen a growth in the number of workers as the population has grown, average pay has simply not kept pace with inflation.”
“Since 2008 the cumulative inflation has been 20.6%. During this period, pay in the UK has gone up by 7%, which has left the pay of the average full time worker down by 13.6% in real terms.”
“This has had a deflationary impact on the economy and has also affected the tax take by the Chancellor to pay for essential public services. In the autumn statement, the Chancellor predicted that the economy would grow steadily each year to 2020 when it would be 12% bigger than now.”
“Workers in the UK will want to see that growth translating into pay rises above inflation to make up for lost ground.”
However, the NAO have said that there are improvements, but HMRC haven’t published estimates of where these improvements are coming from, making it “inherently challenging for HMRC to understand whether it is using the best mix of measures to tackle tax fraud in the long term”.
“HMRC has met its targets to raise more tax revenue in the short term. It now needs to consider whether its overall strategy is designed to achieve the best long-term outcomes,” said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO.
“We will be evaluating HMRC’s performance in tackling different types of tax fraud in more depth. As we do so, we will be looking for further improvements in the way HMRC uses data and analysis to understand the effect of its actions in both the long and short term.”
There’s another worry too – the NAO have voiced concerns that HMRC had looked at easier prosecutions in a bid to meet targets, rather than solve the problem in hand.
This follows the news that HMRC are doing a huge overhaul, closing 170 regional offices and replacing them with fewer, bigger hubs.
“HMRC is cracking down on tax avoidance and evasion with a wide range of civil and criminal interventions to collect and protect revenue for public services, steadily reducing the tax gap to its lowest-ever level,” said the Revenue. Over the next decade, we’ll see if their plan has worked out or not.
The Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis, has gathered together a team of legal experts to look at whether or not they can challenge the government over student loans, specifically, the new rules around the repayment of said loans.
George Osborne said that he was freezing the level at which graduates pay back their debt at £21,000. Martin Lewis thinks this is a ”disgrace”. ”No commercial company would be allowed to do it – the government shouldn’t be allowed to either,” he said.
He continues: “If you earn £22,000 and the threshold had increased to £22,000, you’d have repaid nothing. But with it at £21,000 you’d repay £90 a year.”
“How can I, to so many people, in good conscience explain student loans if the government is prepared to change students’ terms after they’ve signed up, in some cases after they’ve graduated? In a personal capacity I’ve engaged the solicitors Bindmans to investigate if there are grounds to judicial review this decision and to look at other legal grounds to challenge it (it may be people with student loans will need to agree to take cases – I doubt there’ll be a shortage of volunteers).”
The new £21,000 limit was planned to be increased with earnings from 2017, but now, it’ll be fixed until April 2021. This is a bid to reduce the government’s debt.
Lewis added: “My view (and it may be nonsense hence why I’m engaging lawyers) is there are many areas of weakness in this announcement – primarily that this is an unfair change in contractual terms for students, one no commercial company would’ve been allowed to do.”
You can read his full blog here.