The people of Scotland will be able to get their hands on limited-edition notes featuring Pudsey Bear, which are being auctioned off in aid of BBC’s Children In Need.
If you land one of these notes, you probably won’t want to spend it on beer and cigs, as there’s only going to be 50 printed in total. 40 of those will feature the serial code Pudsey01 through to Pudsey40, with the remaining 10 are going to have personalised serial numbers, according to the Bank of Scotland.
Look at the state.
Most of these notes will be auctioned in December by Spink’s, who are well versed in selling banknotes and coins. That’s what they do. They’re really good at it.
We shouldn’t mock it really. The design itself was created by Kayla Robson, who is a child from Dundee. She won a competition to design part of the note.
She said: “I am very excited to see my design on the new £5 note. Art has always been one of my favourite subjects but I never expected one of my drawings to end up on a banknote.”
While Google have sneakily dropped their ‘don’t be evil’ motto, they’re finding that people are coming after their tax, along with other companies like Starbucks and Apple.
Basically, big-ass businesses have been enjoying a variety of loopholes so they can sidestep billions in tax, but that could well be a thing of the past, thanks to a worldwide clampdown. World trade body the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) announced that they are looking at getting back some of the £160billion they reckon they’ve lost to tax avoidance by multinational companies.
The OECD say that this ‘seismic shift’ in international tax rules is going to force the hand of these massive companies, where they’ll have to cough-up the money that is due, as they ban ‘brass plate’ operations in low-tax territories and outlaw dicky loans between companies.
“This is coming to an end,” said OECD head of tax Pascal Saint-Amans, aiming to help “local companies that cannot benefit from loopholes in the international system”. Finance ministers from around the world are going to meet up, to look over the plans. Over 60 countries have already agreed to them.
Saint-Amans added that many tax laws date back to the 1930s and are “not fit for purpose”, which has led to “more and more aggressive planning from companies”, which will have “a major behavioural impact” on large firms.
Next week: Huge businesses find a different way of not paying taxes.
There’s going to be at least £2bn worth of shares in Lloyds Banking Group getting offered to the general public in 2016, according to the Treasury. Hurray, if that’s your sort of thing. If not, go back to thinking about what you’re going to have for your tea tonight.
Joe Public is going to get a 5% discount on the market price and, in addition to that, receive a bonus share for every 10 if they hold on to their investment for more than a year.
You’ll need to apply online or by post, and all the proceeds from the sale will go toward getting rid of the national debt. That’d be our debt, being paid off by ourselves there. Either, this might be a good opportunity for some, if they’ve got a hankering for some stocks and shares action.
To try and stop rich people getting all the shares, anyone applying for less than £1,000 will be prioritised, apparently.
The sale will be happening next Spring, which is a bit vague. Either way, the government clearly want this sorted out quickly and they’re clearly hoping that some ordinary people will show some interest with this.
Over £20bn in taxpayers’ money was thrown at Lloyds thanks to the global financial crisis, and since then, the government has been slowly flogging shares to institutional investors. However, next year is the first time the general public will be able to get in on it.
If you want to buy some Lloyds shares, then start at this government website, dedicated to the sale.
Consumer group Which!!! have said that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) should ‘name and shame’ banks that provide the worst current accounts, in a bid to see a complete overhaul of accounts, which will better protect customers from pointlessly high charges.
Some time next month, the CMA are going to publish their provisional findings from their investigation of banking services and current accounts.
Both Which!!! and Tesco Bank would like to see more transparency when it comes to bank charges. Tesco would like to see a traffic light system, which would allow people to see how much they’ll be hit with when it comes to overdraft charges and the like.
The watchdog showed some people a number of different accounts, and it turns out that only a small minority were actually able to spot the cheapest overdraft.
Which!!! big cheese Richard Lloyd said: “With few consumers moving their finances to different providers, and the existing big banks continuing to hold substantial market power, the inquiry must look beyond ideas to improve information and switching.”
“When it reports next month the CMA should propose changes that will incentivise banks to better respond to the needs of their customers.”
Meanwhile, Tesco Bank boss Benny Higgins said: “Banks have lost the trust of their customers and it is about time that the industry took concrete steps to restore faith in the sector. An opportunity exists for the industry to come together to deliver a straightforward, accessible solution that will help customers get a better deal from their bank.”
The banks that do business in the UK don’t seem to know their arses from their elbows at the minute, which shouldn’t surprise us really. One thing they’ll be pleased about is the news that PPI complaints are finally on the way down. About time.
However, while they’ve been sorting out that mess, they’ve created another, with half a million bank customers complaining about their current accounts in the first half of the year. Quick reminder that it is easier to switch than ever before.
Not only that, pension complaints are also rocketing upward. There’s new rules where you can be more flexible with your pension money, but it seems the banks aren’t being very smart about the way they let people control their own affairs. There’s also investigations into pension fraud, which is hot at the minute.
While PPI complaints drop off, after the banks collectively doled out £24bn in compensation to try and say sorry, there were still 883,043 complaints about payment protection insurance in the six-month period, according to Financial Conduct Authority figures. If you think you’re in for some compo over PPI and haven’t got it sorted yet, you’d better hurry as there’s likely to be a time limit put in place – you can find out how to claim your PPI compensation here.
While current accounts get an overhaul from all banks, this has seen them lumbered with having the second highest level of complaints in the first half of the year, with 506,326 concerns hitting building societies and banks – that’s a jump of 31.6% from the previous period. In the same time, decumulation, life and pensions products attracted 73,055 complaints which is a spike of 19.7%. Credit cards also went up, by 11.1%.
“The decrease in the overall number of complaints is driven by a drop in PPI claims, but overall the figures are still far too high and it’s particularly worrying to see current account complaints continuing to rise,” said Richard Lloyd, the main cheese at Which!!!
“Banks must step up their efforts to ensure that they deal with issues quickly and fairly and stop the same problems happening repeatedly.”
Lightbulbs. The plastic carrier bags of the energy-saving world (doing a perfectly fine job, but an easy target for Energy Saving Measures) have been fiddled with for years, with the EU banning normal incandescent bulbss back in 2011. Even the supposedly better Halogen bulbs are scheduled for extinction in a few years’ time, but the standard replacement CFL (compact fluorescent) lights aren’t actually bright enough to find your way to bed at night. So what is the crack with energy-saving blubs and should we just bite the bullet and replace our bulbs now- while we’ve still enough light to do so?
At the moment you have three options for bulbs- halogen, CFL and LEDs, although halogen bulbs were doomed to go the way of incandescent bulbs in 2016, although they have earned a stay of execution from the EU until 2018 so far. You can’t even work out what bulbs you need in watts as (being part of the point) the watts used by the old incandescent bulbs far exceeded the equivalent energy use of the new bulbs; here’s a handy conversion table using the new-fangled notion of lumens:
Obviously, LEDs are by far the lowest energy guzzlers- and they also last the longest at around 25,000 hours of use. So why don’t we all immediately switch? Well, LED bulbs are also the most expensive. Nevertheless, there has to be a point at which it’s worthwhile making the switch, doesn’t there?
The handy folks over at the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) worked out the equivalent running costs of using the three different types of bulb if you had the lights on all the time, or for six hours per day, as well as the comparable cost per bulb.
As you can see, using LED bulbs saves a little over £4 per year in energy but costs £6 more than CFL bulbs, meaning it would take two years to be better off, but at least you would be able to see (a main complaint against CFL bulbs is how long it takes them to get to (so-called) full brightness, even though the CSE now boasts that modern lights can get up to 70% bright inside one whole minute). And if you compare against the halogen bulb, you need to remember that while you’d manage a year’s continuous use with one LED or CFL bulb, you’d need at least four (and probably five) halogen bulb, meaning the cost of the bulbs is similar, but the energy bill saving is actually over £46 compared with LEDs. No wonder councils are retro-fitting all their lights with LEDs…
But who actually has the lights on all the time? If you look at the figures for six hours use a day, the actual cash savings are far lower, and it would take five years to earn back the extra cost of an LED compared with a CFL bulb. When looking at Halogen, you’d probably squeak by with one bulb too, but even so, the cost saving on your bills for one year will more than cover the extra cost of the bulb.
So it seems that, despite annoying EU nudge tactics, LED will be the way to go, purely from a protecting your pocket point of view. Only problem, of course, is how much it costs to change all your fancy light fittings
Everyone knows that being a lazy bones costs money in this world, but now someone’s actually quantified how much extra people could end up paying just by not making a quick phone call or internet click. Using uSwitch figures, someone slipping on to a standard variable energy tariff this week if their fix ends on 30 September could end up paying £186 a year more for their energy.
Despite the ongoing investigation into whether suppliers are overcharging customers, an estimated tens of thousands of customers will be affected in the next few days as their “fixed” fuel tariffs come to an end, after which their energy firm will revert them to a more expensive “standard” rate.
It’s not surprise that standard rates are more expensive than the periodic deals offered, but taking some as examples- a ‘Value Plus’ Extra Energy customer will see price increases of £186 for customers on its “ValuePlus” fixed tariff, First Utility’s “iSave September 2015″ customers will pay £139 extra unless they switch to another tariff, and British Gas “discount fix September 2015″ customers will be £121 down by sliding onto a standard tariff- all according to analysis by uSwitch.com
The average figures for the 23 fixed tariffs that expire on September 30 suggest that suppliers charge some customers £80 to £180 extra for the same energy used by other customers on cheaper deals- although energy firms have long lobbied to maintain the right to charge higher prices for standard tariffs, as, after all, customers can switch to the cheapest non-standard tariff if they ask to. And as we have previously suggested, the CMA has also warned that forcing suppliers to take care of those who don’t take care of their own tariffs would push up costs for all customers-its ongoing investigation found that energy firms can only afford to offer cheaper tariffs “if a proportion of customers revert to the more expensive ‘standard variable’ rate.”
But there is (only) one firm whose standard variable rate is actually cheaper than at least one fix. Scottish Power’s one-year fix ending on Wednesday is £100 more expensive than the firms’ standard rate after a 4.8% price drop in February after Government pressure. Good call if you’ve been on that one for the last 12 months…
Roger Witcomb, Chairman of the energy market investigation said “Many customers do not shop around to see if there’s a better deal out there – let alone switch. The confusing way energy is measured and billed can make comparing deals understandably daunting.”
uSwitch.com calculate that the current cheapest fixed tariff the 30 September people could switch to costs £841 based on “typical” household usage, (3,100kWh of electric and 12,500kWh of gas per year) from Extra Energy- whose standard rate is the one costing the £186 more, correlating with the idea that it’s the lazy folks who compensate for the savvy switchers…
If you use a mobile phone, your bill could be set to rise following Ofcom’s latest announcement on new bandwith usage charges. The telecoms regulator sets the price at which use of the UK’s bandwidth is sold to mobile phone operators, but after consulting on the notion that the current £64.4m annual charge wasn’t a market rate, a new charge of £199.6m per year has now been announced- over a threefold increase. Unsurprisingly Britain’s mobile phone operators are not best pleased and are warning of price rises for consumers.
The new announcement follows an extensive consultation period- Ofcom were first charged with calculating an actual market rate by the Government back in 2010, and the latest figure is lower than the latest estimate of £228.3m floated in February and far less than the initial five-times increase they first came up with. So really, the mobile operators should be pleased they’ve got off lightly, and accept that they need to pay a market price rather than pocketing all the profits for themselves, right?
Unfortunately not. Operators have not ruled out raising prices to absorb the cost of the new fees- under the new charges, Vodafone and O2 will see their fees more than treble from £15.6m a year to £49.6m. EE’s charges will rise from £24.9m to £75m, while Three’s bill will go from £8.3m to £25m. The new fees will be introduced in two phases and will be in place by the end of October next year.
A spokesman for EE wasn’t best impressed, telling the Telegraph:
“We think Ofcom has got this wrong. The proposed licence fees for 1800MHz spectrum are based on a flawed approach.”
“The trebling of fees is bad news for British consumers and business as it raises the risk that we won’t be able to offer the best prices, and invest and innovate at the pace we and our customers would like,” he continued, passive-aggressively, finishing that “we’re also very disappointed that Ofcom has not reflected the higher costs we’ve taken on to meet enhanced coverage obligations that Ofcom and Government encouraged us to accept.”
A Vodafone spokesman said the company would be “reviewing Ofcom’s new fees” and that it was “too early to say” whether costs would be passed on to consumers as they represent “a significant increase” taking into account the investment they are putting into their “network and services”.
An O2 spokesman said, concisely: “We’re examining the decision in detail before deciding how best to proceed.”
Three declined to comment.
Ofcom, however, is unimpressed. “We have listened carefully to the arguments and evidence put forward by industry, and conducted a complex and comprehensive analysis to determine the new fees,” said Philip Marnick, Ofcom’s group director of spectrum.
“The mobile industry has not previously had to pay market value for access to this spectrum, which is a valuable and finite resource, and the new fees reflect that value.”
Ofcom continued: “The operators have had five years’ notice that the fees would be increased to reflect full market value and we expect them to have budgeted for this,” said a spokesman.
“We’ve listened carefully to the arguments and evidence put forward by industry. The fees announced today are in line with analysts’ expectations and with the amounts that operators pay for accessing spectrum in other countries.”
However, the final effect on consumer bills will remain to be seen, as shareholder profits are likely to be more important than happy customers, particularly if any increase ends up being industry-wide.
If you think that you’ve been missold Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) and you’ve been lazy with regards to sorting it out, you’re going to have to get a wriggle on, because the Financial Conduct Authority is thinking about putting a deadline on the whole thing.
Now, you might think it is really difficult to make a claim, but it isn’t. You can do it yourself and should in no way be paying someone to do it for you.
The people who say they’ll do it for you will charge you a big ol’ fee, and they’ll add VAT to it. It really is a racket, but you can do it for yourself.
So, let us give you the low-down on how to sort out this PPI nonsense.
What The Bloody Hell Is PPI Anyway?
Basically, banks offered payment protection insurance, which were designed to protect your loans or credit cards or whatever. However, banks, loan companies and credit card firms missold them for high rates and, in some cases, customers were forced to have them without knowing about it. As a result, the establishments who did this have to pay compensation to those affected.
So, How Do I Find Out If I Was Missold Something?
Okay. If you’re unemployed, self-employed, or retired or even had a medical problem that prevented you from working at the time you took out the policy, you’re good to make a claim. Or, if you were told that the insurance was compulsory before you could be approved for credit, you’re golden. Even if the PPI wasn’t properly explained to you, you could be in with a shout of getting some cash.
When Do I Need To Make A Claim?
Do it now. Stop mucking about and get your claim done. Now the FCA is talking about a time limit on this, you need to pull your finger out. Also, if your policy was taken out longer than 6 years ago, you might have some bother, but that shouldn’t stop you trying.
How Do I Make A Claim Exactly?
Get any paperwork you have. If you don’t have it, never mind, we can still get a claim done – you will need to ask your lender for copies of your paperwork. Thanks to the Consumer Credit Act, you can legally ask your lender to sort you out with copies of paperwork. It’ll cost you a quid to get them though.
If you can’t remember which who you took loans out with, then get in touch with credit report agencies like Experian.
Once you’ve got all your details, you’ll need to write to whoever you have your policy with. If you are not much a letter writer, worry not, as you can use the free templates for letters by clicking here. And if the company has gone belly-up, no matter, you can get in touch with the Financial Services Compensation Scheme people, by ringing 0800 678 1100 or clicking here.
Don’t be thinking you’ll get your money quickly though – there’s a massive backlog on this, but your bank should tell you within 8 weeks of you getting in touch, whether you’re successful with your claim or not. If you’re unsuccessful, but think the bank are having you on, then take your claim to the Financial Ombudsman Service, which is free.
Call them on 0300 123 9123 or go to the FoS site by clicking here. You can write to them too, via snail mail: The Financial Ombudsman Service , South Quay Plaza, 183 Marsh Wall, London, E14 9SR.
Is That It?
Pretty much. Get your bum in gear and make a claim! Good luck!
With the FTSE 100 falling below 6,000 yesterday, middle class investors everwhere ar up in arms at the fall in value of so-called ‘blue chip’ companies. But as some of the more recent ‘big names’ to lose a lot of value, such as Tesco, have proven, no company is immune from the effects of the stick market. So, if you happen to have some spare cash, and you don’t want it to earn practically no interest in a bank, could investing in whisky be the thing for you?
Of course, slightly alternative investments have been around for a while, and those so inclined could store their money in dusty old bottles of wine or huge and unsightly artworks as they saw fit. Certain other markets, however, have been limited to instutional investors- huge funds with even huger piles of cash to invest meaning each transaction would be similarly massive- and retail investors, as most individuals are considered, have been left out in the cold. The market does seem to be changing though-this time last year, the Royal Mint jumped into the retail market, allowing ordinary folks to buy bullion in person-sized holdings, later refining their offering to permit people to buy a mere piece of a gold bar as well as various gold and silver coinage- you can now invest in precious metals from as little as £20.
Now some bright spark has done the same thing with whisky. The idea is relatively simple- the distillers make the golden liquid that will, after years of proper sitting around in barrels, become that glorious malt people pay lots of money for. However, making this pre-whisky costs quite a bit, and if we’re talking about serious single malts, it could be over a decade until the distiller gets a return on that money. So instead, investors (through a set up like WhiskyInvestDirect) buy the pre-whisky from the producer, who still actually keeps the stuff and charges for its storage, and then sells it back to the distillery before bottling and onward sale. Note that the major consumers of Scotch are not actually the Scotch- it (almost) all goes out to emerging markets, with over 90% is exported to the likes of China and Russia, as well as Nigeria, Venezuela, Turkey and other growing economies.
The investment works in terms of buying Litres of Pure Alcohol (LPA) and you can invest now if you like- current opportunities include one, two and three year old whiskies from Ardmore, Blair Athol, Glen Spey, Inchgower and five other distilleries, with most labels owned by firms like Diageo.
Prices start at £2.70 per LPA, and the WhiskyInvestDirect promises that “new stock lines are offered at less than a 2pc mark-up.” But note that, as with many things, while you can get in if you’re a small drinker, the cost of that tipple might be prohibitively high owing to the costs. You can buy just one LPA but trading costs are 1.75%of the value either selling or buying but topped with storage costs of £0.15 per litre per year – but with a £3 per month minimum.
But is it a good investment? While any investment has some element of risk, and past performance is no indiciation of future returns, this type of asset class has no retail investment history to look back upon. Nevertheless, the website now offering whisky boasts of a 13.5% annual return, netted down to 9.5% after charges on an 8 year malt sold annually between 2005 and 2014 . But this depends on having an 8 year malt to sell every year, i.e you’ve invested every year. If you dig a little deeper and look at selling after eight years, figures from the Telegraph show that the level of return depends on when you sell, and selling in the early 2000′s would have given you a negative return- maxing out in 2005 with a loss of around 20%. Selling in 2014, however, would have doubled your money. Still, as investments go, whisky might have an advantage over the stock market- if it all goes belly up, at least you’ll have something to drink…
We blorted on about what to expect from the new freedoms around pensions, but as ever, there’s a catch. We spoke about the charges and tax consequences, and thanks to new figures, we see that 1 in 6 people over 55 will be hit by exit charges of (up to) £5,000 if they want to utilise new pension freedoms.
Around 700,000 people are going to have to pay if they want to get at their savings, and over 100,000 of these will pay more than £1,000, with 13,000 of them having to cough-up as much as £5,000. A lot of pensioners who have worked hard to have these savings could be charged even if they stay with the same pension firm, but want to switch to a more suitable, flexible product.
While it was a nice idea to let those with pensions use them like a bank account, it seems the financial institutions are imposing very steep penalties for those who want to. What a surprise eh? Finance companies acting like thundering arseholes!
Official data from the Financial Conduct Authority shows that around 670,000 over-55s are looking at charges before they can take their money. The FCA published this data, saying that they want pension firms to publish explicit details of all exit fees.
These exit fees are not the same as annual management charges, which pensioners will also have to pay for if they withdraw some money from their savings.
The FCA’s findings show that 204,500 pension policies have been accessed in the months following the reforms. However, with many pensions being started in the days before transparency about charges, many people will be finding out that fees could really hammer away at their money. There’s also the small matter of a lot of pension scams knocking about. It is thought that there’s been over 10,000 people who have reported these scams to regulators.
160 potential frauds are being looked at by the FCA, and they’ve launched full investigations into five, which now involve the police.
With Santander upping the fees on their 123 account, Tesco Bank have made a move in a bid to make themselves more attractive to anyone thinking of switching accounts.
They’ve said that they are going to scrap a £5 monthly fee which is currently charged to its current account customers. From tomorrow (September 17th 2015), the fee will be removed, provided you can deposit £750 or more a month into your account.
If you have a Tesco Bank current account, you get 3% interest on credit balances up to £3,000, without having to pay a monthly fee.
In simple terms, customers who pay the fee will be £60 a year better off, while Santander’s annual cost will be jumping up from £24 to £60.
This comes at a good time, as it really is easier than ever to switch your bank account. Your bank account can be transferred over to a new one within seven working days, and of course, Tesco Bank is part of the current account switching service. Of course, the state of Tesco’s affairs regarding their retail arm, may well put you off joining up with them, but this signals that there’s going to be a lot of competition over the coming months, from all corners of the current account world.
The millions of people who have a Tesco credit cards have some bad news this morning – Tesco have halved the value of the ClubCard points they get. This is thanks to new laws that have forced a number of high street lenders to pull back on their cashback offers.
Regarding Tesco, around 2.8m make savings with Clubcard points if they use their Tesco credit card, which can be redeemed at a host of places and businesses.
However, as of November, Tesco Bank will halve the earnings that customers make on shopping they’ve bought outside of Tesco. The company said that this new ruling was “disappointing” but they had to do it thanks to an EU cap on the amount card providers earn from shops.
With Tesco being a big player, it is obvious that if they reduce their deals, other businesses will follow.
A number of banks have dropped their incentives too, such as RBS and NatWest, with the closure of the ‘YourPoints’ scheme that paid 1p per £2 on purchases. They’ll also be getting rid of the Cashback Plus credit card bonuses at the end of the month.
This could well mean that Sainsbury’s Nectar points will be affected, as well as the cashback paid on Santander’s 123 Credit Card.
Credit card issuers earn money from each customer thanks to these incentives. A Tesco spokesperson said: ”We use that income to fund the Clubcard benefits we give back to our customers. As a result, we’ve had to make some changes to the amount of points our customers earn.”
“We are disappointed that the industry changes have resulted in the need to reduce the Clubcard earn rate on our cards when they are used outside of Tesco.”
The next £20 note that Britain gets will be printed on plastic. This will be the third note going to polymer, after the Bank of England had a 10-week public consultation which showed that 87% of those surveyed said they were in favour of this change. Or they said ‘not really arsed’.
Either way, it is happening and should be in circulation by the close of the decade.
You’ll remember that the £5 and £10 notes are already planned to go plastic, with the new fiver – starring Winston Churchill – being issued in Autumn 2016. The polymer £10 note will be in circulation some time in 2017.
Victoria Cleland, the Bank’s chief cashier, said that this switch to plastic is going to help to reduce fraud and make banknotes much more durable.
She added: “Experience from central banks that have issued polymer banknotes has been positive. Canada, for example, has seen a real reduction in counterfeit levels since launching its polymer series a few years ago. Polymer is also cleaner and more durable, leading to better quality notes in circulation.”
Will there be £50 polymer notes? We just don’t know. So few us get £50 in our hands, there’s a good chance we don’t care, too.
The next big question is from Mark Carney, the Bank of England’s governor, who wants to know who should be the next face of the £20 note. It should be a historical figure, who should “celebrate Britain’s achievements in the visual arts”. We’re hoping for Roy Race from Melchester Rovers or Max Headroom.