Hurray! A crackdown on card fraud!

December 19th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

creditcards Hurray! A crackdown on card fraud!Good news everyone – new rules have been revealed which aim to beat down on card payment fraud! Aren’t you thrilled about that?

The European Banking Authority (EBA) has shared their new, tougher guidelines, making payment service providers get serious about customer identification before payments are processed.

There’s good reason for this too – in the last four years, the yearly cost of card fraud in the UK has jumped up from £365 million to somewhere in advance of £450 million! Two thirds of that came from the dastardly practice of ‘skimming’, where small amounts of money are continually removed from an account in the hope that the victim won’t even notice.

Of course, there’s been an increase in digital snidery too, with ne’er-do-wells using malware and the like. There’s also the tried-and-tested tactic of just nicking your card too.

Anyway, all this means is that you’ll carry on as normal while fraudsters will have to learn a new set of tricks to try and get at all your precious money.

Job ad confirms Apple Pay is on its way

December 19th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

apple pay 300x169 Job ad confirms Apple Pay is on its wayApple have effectively let the cat out of the bag as regards Apple Pay coming to Europe.

An advert on the company’s website, which has now been taken down, said that the company was seeking a London-based intern to “drive out the roll-out” of Apple Pay across Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa.

It said: “Apple Pay is a new and exciting area in Apple that is set to expand across Europe, Middle East, India and Africa.”

“Apple Pay will change the way consumers pay with breakthrough contactless payment technology and unique security features built right into their iPhone 6 or Apple Watch to pay in an easy, secure, and private way.”

Apple Pay is two services that need close links between Apple and the banks.

The first is an in-app payment tool, which developers can implement to allow customers to make purchases without entering credit card details. In apps such as Uber, users will instead be able to pay by simply tapping the touch ID sensor of an iPhone 6, iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 3.

The other allows users to buy items in stores using their NFC-enabled iPhone 6, or their Apple Watch – which is yet to go on sale.

Over in the states, Apple have been making sure that retailers have the sufficient hardware handy. Whereas in Europe, we’re a bit ahead technology wise, and it’s expected to less hassle to launch.

Oh, the future is more trouble than it’s worth.

Top ten outlandish TV licence excuses

December 19th, 2014 No Comments By Thewlis

At this time of year, saving a few pennies can be hard to do, so what some folks do is save themselves £145.50 a year by not paying for a TV licence.

Of course, there are legitimate ways to escape having to pay for a TV licence, like not watching live TV, but if you don’t pay and get caught, you could face a fine of up to £1000, which is far less pleasing on the pocket. So if you do get caught, delivering your very best line in excuses to the enforcement officer could be crucial.

Today, TV licensing has revealed the top ten excuses for not having a TV licence, which include dabbling with spirits on the other side, the tooth fairy, and actually being Jesus.

Pick your favourite from the list below:

tvlicence 450x500 Top ten outlandish TV licence excuses

Consultant Psychologist Kerry Daynes explains that people tell lies “usually to lubricate passage through our daily lives and often to make other people feel better.” She also muses that it is “interesting that the more outlandish excuses have been judged by the evader as more socially acceptable, and therefore less embarrassing than the truth,” conceding that some people may have come up with the most ridiculous thing they could think of to show contempt.

A BBC spokesman said “At just £2.80 a week per household the BBC provides excellent value for money. Low evasion rates are effectively saving each licence fee payer £15. It means that programmes like EastEnders, Strictly, Sherlock, Doctor Who and Match of the Day can be watched by everyone – not a select few. Public support for the licence fee has risen by 22% since 2004.”

ebay Middle aged men quite selfish on eBay after ChristmasMiddle-aged men don’t give a shit about anyone. That’s essentially the dimensions of a report released by eBay.

In January 2013, men between the ages of 45-54 Last January were behind 3.8 million searches for luxury items, the highest volume of consumer inquiries across the gender and age ranges.

Possibly rewarding themselves for managing to survive Christmas.

It also found that January and March both registered highs of self-gifting. Which is, frankly, a phrase that can be shot into space.

Phuong Nguyen, director of eBay Advertising UK, said: “Our latest Indulgence Barometer shows that high-end purchases aren’t restricted to Christmas; there are year-round opportunities for luxury brands to engage, and January presents a huge opportunity to grow share of wallet as shoppers stop buying for other people, and get ready to treat themselves.”

“Marketers need to make sure that they don’t blow the budget in December; ring-fencing spend for January, and adapting campaign messages to reflect the shift in shopper mind-set is key to cashing in on the January opportunity.”

An Indulgence Barometer! Have you heard such twaddle?!

electricity meter 300x187 When that great deal on electricals is more like a dodgy dealIt’s almost Christmas. That means it’s almost time for the post-Christmas sales, where many people try and get that electrical bargain they’ve been mulling over. However, a new investigation by our chums at Which!!! reveals that, as a massive surprise to no-one, some of these ‘offers’ aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, and in some cases aren’t even offers.

Which!!! tracked the prices of electrical goods over the course of six months at Amazon, Argos, Currys and John Lewis. They found a number of ‘deals’ where the savings either didn’t exist or were much lower than claimed.

Some examples of non-deals include:

Argos maintained that the Nikon D3300 was on offer at a £200 saving even when it was only £10 cheaper than the previous month.  There was also a note saying it had previously been sold for a cheaper price.

Amazon’s ‘discounted’ price for a Philips iron was actually higher than the Philips RRP of £65. Which!!! couldn’t find any other retailer selling it for more than £65 either.

The Canon EOS 70D  has an RRP of £1239.99 according to Amazon, making their offer prices of £959.99 and £967.99 look pretty impressive. However, Canon’s own typical selling price of £959 means you would probably have ended up paying £8.99 more.

Which!!! asked the retailers for their comments. Amazon said: ‘We work with product manufacturers to provide our customers with a wide range of information about any given product, including RRPs. We aim to provide the very latest information.’

Currys said: ‘We are proudly transparent on our prices, which are 5-10% cheaper than most of our multi-channel competitors. We are the only retailer to always show customers when and for how long our ‘was’ prices applied, both online and in- store. We strictly observe government guidelines on pricing by giving customers clear information.’

John Lewis said: ‘It is never our intention to mislead our customers. We have very robust checking procedures in place for our offers. However, our processes do rely on manual input and it appears there was a human error. We have reviewed our processes and when we display information about the dates a product is at the higher price it will be in a more prominent position.’

Argos said: ‘We work hard to ensure that all of our offers are fully compliant with all regulations and guidance. For full transparency, we use explanatory text and reference intervening prices. We cannot comment on retail prices that the manufacturers have quoted due to competition law.’

So what can you do? Well caveat emptor rules, and make sure you do your research when contemplating one of these purchases, rather than taking the word of a business that has a vested interest in relieving you of your money. For Amazon products, you can always use a price tracking system like camelcamelcamel to see whether you are getting a genuinely good price, or set up a price alert to buy when the price falls.

presents tree 300x225 The search for the perfect Christmas present is over…It’s just over a week to Christmas, and present panic-buying starts to set in. What will you do if you can’t find that Frozen Minecraft Lego Barbie your child so desperately needs. But never fear, it seems what they really want for Christmas is cool hard cash.

Of course, unless you wrap every fiver like a pass the parcel, money under the tree isn’t going to look quite the same, but according to a Halifax survey of over 1000 people with under 18s, a third thought their children would prefer cash to an actual present.

But, of course, everyone will still drive themselves mad trying to find that perfect present which ends up gathering dust, or in the next box for the charity shop. The Money Advice Service polled over 3,000 people and almost 40% said they had received presents they hadn’t used, with an average value of £54. So why not just wang your kid £50 instead?

Even better, why not give them a cash gift they can’t even use. Invest it in a Junior Isa or even a pension for a child and you can force them to invest for their future in this time of peace and goodwill.

“It’s nice to have presents that you can unwrap at Christmas but it’s a very sensible approach to give money and it is a nice way of teaching children about the value of money and putting money aside,” says Anna Bowes, who despite commenting on behalf of, had absolutely no vested interest in saying that.

Although the benefits of investing in a pension as early as possible are well documented, the most obvious options when investing money for children are Junior ISAs and standard children’s savings accounts. Junior ISAs are available to children under the age of 18, who don’t already have a Child Trust Fund. Importantly, children cannot get to their ISA cash until they are 16, whereas a savings account gives them access to the money from as early as eight years old. When they’d only spend it on Freddos and Tizer.

So now you’ve got your presents sorted. No need to thank us.

Post Office card account renewed until 2021

December 17th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

postoffice10a 300x180 Post Office card account renewed until 2021The government have confirmed that the Post Office card account will continue until at least November 2021

The previous contract between the government and the Post Office had been due to expire in March 2015, but crisis has been averted and now been extended to the new date in the future.

The card is a lifeline for those 2.5 million people – at least half of those being pensioners – who have no truck with banks

The account allows holders to get their cash out at the Post Office’s 11,500 branches or 2,500 cash machines.

Pensions Minister Steve Webb welcomed the news, saying: “Although most people have a bank account, there are certain groups for whom this is not viable and, for them, the Post Office card account provides an important lifeline,”

He also threw in the bonus news of the contract costing 10% cheaper than previously, but the amount paid to subpostmasters per transaction remained the same.

George Thomson, general secretary of the National Federation of Subpostmasters, said: “The renewal of the Post Office Card Account will help provide the Post Office network with a more stable future.”

Wonga cap loan rate all by themselves

December 17th, 2014 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

wonga ladies 300x282 Wonga cap loan rate all by themselvesWonga have capped the costs of their payday loans at the maximum rate of interest allowed by the FCA. You may remember that, last month, the regulator said that they were introducing a cap of 0.8% and rules would come into play on the 2nd January.

Well, Wonga have decided to implement these new rules now, as well as capping late payment charges at £15, which is also the maximum allowed.

The payday loan vendor has also ditched the £5.50 transmission fee and increased the minimum you can borrow to £50 (it was previously £1, remarkably. Why you’d want to take a loan out for a quid is anyone’s guess).

Wonga UK chief executive Tara Kneafsey said: “We’re pleased to offer our customers a cap-compliant product ahead of the FCA’s January deadline. This and all the changes we’re making at Wonga reflect our commitment to provide short-term lending to the right customers in a responsible and transparent way.”

You can almost hear the seething resentment in her words can’t you? ‘They made us do it.’

Of course, Wonga will still be grumpy because, in October, they had to write off 330,000 customer loans after the FCA found that they weren’t properly checking their customers’ ability to repay loans. Oh, and they also had to dole out over £2m after they were caught sending out letters to threaten customers with, from non-existent law firms.

Here’s hoping they have a rotten Christmas.

Barclaycard road-testing tap and pay gloves

December 17th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

barclaycard gloves 300x180 Barclaycard road testing tap and pay glovesAll you’ll need is gloves, if a batcrap trial currently being conducted by Barclaycard has its way.

The bank are trialling a prototype glove that will ‘tap and pay’ like shoppers would do with contactless cards.

Barclaycard’s cashless mittens are embedded with a small contactless chip that can be linked to a credit or debit card. And look so, so stylish.

You can use them to pay for items up to £20 which all sounds a bit of an effort to be honest.

They are presently being tested on guinea pig shoppers (not people shopping for actual guinea pigs) in the UK and may take off next year if they go down well.

Barclaycard added that it is working on, rather sexistly, ‘his and hers’ versions of the gloves, with the women’s version having a softer and more ‘fleecy’ appearance than the men’s.

Mike Saunders, managing director of digital consumer payments at Barclaycard, said that the gloves “could be bringing some festive cheer to bag-laden shoppers by Christmas 2015″. No, honest. He did.

The company had previously announced that they have already been testing out bPay wristbands. Oh they might as well just turn us all into cyborgs and be done with it, eh readers?

Fee-free bank account on its way

December 15th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

banks 300x223 Fee free bank account on its wayThe Treasury are about to announce a new bank account that is free of charges.

The account will be available for people who are not eligible for a normal standard account, or have no bank account at all.

These accounts will allow customers having access to all standard over-the-counter services in bank and Post Office branches, as well as access to the entire national ATM network.

The participating banks – which have agreed to launch the accounts by the end of next year – are Barclays, the Co-operative Bank, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, National Australia Bank (which owns the Clydesdale and Yorkshire), Nationwide, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander UK and TSB.

However there are concerns that regular current account holders will feel a bit narked that they may be subsidising the fee-free accounts.

Also, some have voiced worries that the new account could attract more than just benefit claimants, however they’ve thought about this and there’ll be a level of restrictions.

As if to make things slightly worrying, it increasingly sounds like a two-tier banking population may arise, as the account will be linked to the Universal Credit welfare scheme, of which there are estimated to be up to seven million people involved.

HMRC blasted for helpline hopelessness

December 15th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

TAX MONKEYS HMRC blasted for helpline hopelessness Which!!! have thrown shade on Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) helpline service.

The tax helpline has been criticised in a new report by the watchdog of consumers, saying that there had been little improvement in the service since they met up in July with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which served them a scathing review of their lengthy waiting times and shoddiness in answering phone calls, which were costing customers £136 million a year.

The service will be in heavy demand in the next two months, as thousands will be completing their self-assessment tax returns before January 31st.

HMRC’s chief executive Lin Homer, reckons that they had been improving the service in recent months.

However, Which!!!’s report details that 29% of calls made by their members, were cut off by an automated answering system carping on about the lines being busy.

Where there were 71 instances of callers not being cut off, they were then put on hold for an average of 18 minutes, with one caller being held hostage for 41 minutes. PAC chairwoman Margaret Hodge said: “Customers of Government services should be able to contact those services easily and cheaply.”


Amazon’s 1p cock-up causes mayhem

December 15th, 2014 3 Comments By Ian Wade

amazoninstant Amazons 1p cock up causes mayhemA software error on Amazon’s website on Friday saw hundreds of things sold for literally 1p.

The error, which occured between 7pm and 8pm on Friday, could cost retailers – who use the tool RepricerExpress – thousands of pounds.

So what happened? Well, this software balls-up has seen hundreds of items sold for just 1p. The tool, which promises to “auto-optimise” prices on behalf of retailers, allowing them to “sell more and keep listings competitive 24/7 without constant attention”.

While those who spotted the glitch, ramraided the site for tat they didn’t necessarily need and wanged on about it on Twitter, the retailers being hit are mainly small companies, and family-run set-ups.

Well what did Brendan Doherty, the RepricerExpress CEO, have to say about the matter?: “I am truly sorry for the distress this has caused our customers. We have received communication that Amazon will not penalise sellers for this error. We are continuing to work to identify how this problem occurred and to put measures in place to ensure that it does not happen again.”

Amazon said the majority of orders were cancelled immediately and confirmed it would be working with sellers who had seen orders processed.

A spokesman for Amazon said: “We are aware that a number of Marketplace sellers listed incorrect prices for a short period of time as a result of the third party software they use to price their items on”

“We responded quickly and were able to cancel the vast majority of orders placed on these affected items immediately and no costs or fees will be incurred by sellers for these cancelled orders. We are now reviewing the small number of orders that were processed and will be reaching out to any affected sellers directly.”

insurance def 300x199 Now car insurers are asked to give their lowest prices to existing customersOn the back of Nationwide’s existing-customer-only top mortgage deal yesterday, now calls are out for the FCA to investigate motor insurers save their best rates for new customers to the detriment of loyal drivers.

Speaking to the Insurance Times, Ian Hughes, Chief Executive of Consumer Intelligence, questioned the practice of offering discounted premiums to new customers but not to existing clients. “Is it a fair outcome that a customer that has been with you for six years could, for instance, get a premium that is half what they are currently paying if they were a new customer?” he asked, plaintively.

Mr Hughes is firmly on the side of the fence that says it is not fair, calling on the FCA to examine new business discounts as part of its focus on ensuring fair outcomes for customers. And he’s got a point, particularly as changing insurer every year is more difficult for certain groups of consumers.

But he doesn’t take the soft option and blame the comparison sites, as after all, that’s the way many people seek out the lowest renewal premium. Hughes lays the blame squarely at the door of the insurers themselves:

“A lot of people try to put the blame at the door of price comparison sites, but they are not to blame for this problem. This problem is created by introductory discounts – by giving your best prices to your least loyal customers.”

However, despite calling for FCA intervention, what Hughes is really hoping for is that the insurance industry will see the error of its ways and change policy before being forced to act by the regulator.

He said: “It is always my hope that the industry can be grown up enough that it can recognise and fix its own failings. When a regulator has to step in, nine times out of 10 that creates issues and challenges all of its own.”

But are the insurers really going to change? Surely it only needs one pioneering insurer to set the ball rolling in the looking-after-existing-customer stakes? Unfortunately not. “The problem is that if any one company starts to try and address the problem then, unfortunately, they will lose a lot of business,” warns Hughes. “No one company can fix this by themselves. It needs to be corrected as an industry and that is a big challenge.”

So is a self-correcting insurance market just pie in the sky? Looks like we will have to wait for regulatory interference before we can all stop chasing new deals every year. Besides- if your insurer told you they were changing strategy and were offering you, their existing customer, their best prices, would you believe them anyway?

UK trounces rest of World in online shopping

December 12th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

online shopping  UK trounces rest of World in online shoppingEveryone! We’re a nation of online shoppers! Praise be! That’s how much we hate human contact and actually walking down a street!

The UK spends around £2,000 online per head each year on average – it’s 50% more than the nearest rival Australia manages, and is down to broadband and our inability to get off our arses.

A higher use of debit and credit cards has also been cited as quite a key thing, according to a new report from Ofcom.

As a bonus, Ofcom also discovered two-fifths of advertising spending was now happening online – way more than in any other country.

Ofcom said the popularity of online commerce was boosted by widespread superfast broadband access in the UK, which is ahead of France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Nearly eight in 10 UK homes have access to broadband services that provide connection speeds of at least 30 megabytes per second.

Said Ed Richards. Ofcom’s chief executive: “The internet has never been more important to the lives of people in this country, and the demand for better connections keeps rising,”

“We are making significant progress in this area. However, we all acknowledge that there is more to do, and this will be the challenge for the coming years.”

parking space 300x227 Council parking fees are extortionate claims RACCouncils have been accused by the government of rinsing drivers for parking fines left right and centre.

Well. Where to start here with the bombshells? A council being corrupt is up there with the exclusive of bears defecating in woods. Take your pick.

In 2013/14, councils in England made a combined profit of £667 million from their on- and off-street parking operations. This was 12% more than the 2012/13 figure of £594 million, with 44% of the 2013/14 total being generated by councils in London, the RAC Foundation survey said.

How unusual that very, very few councils are actually losing money on parking, as only 16% of the 353 parking authorities in England had negative results. Well, that’s just not good enough.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: “These official figures show how town halls are committing daylight robbery by ripping off drivers with exorbitant parking charges and unfair parking fines.”

“The recent growth in fines is coming from the industrial use of CCTV spy cars allowed under laws introduced by the last government. This is why we have introduced a law before Parliament to stop these snoopers, as part of package of measures to rein in the town hall parking bullies and protect local shops.”

A politician there, tough on corruption and bullying and everything.

According to RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister: “Parking profits seem to be a one-way street for councils, having risen annually for the last five years.”

“Yet over the same period spending on local roads has fallen about a fifth in real terms. We understand the pressures councils are under with their overall income still falling and the level of services they have to provide in such areas as social care rising rapidly.”

“One sign that the escalation in parking profits might be coming to an end is that much of this year’s increase comes not from growing income from penalties and charges but cuts in the cost of parking operations.”

“This suggests local authorities are making efficiency savings and should bring some good news to both drivers and council tax-payers. The bottom line is that parking policy and charges must be about managing traffic, not raising revenue.”

Shall we gander at those councils with the biggest surplus in 2013/14 before capital charges?

1. Westminster £51.03 million
2. Kensington & Chelsea £33.51 million
3. Camden £24.87 million
4. Hammersmith & Fulham £22.96 million
5. Wandsworth £19.69 million
6. Brighton & Hove £18.09 million
7. Nottingham City £12.06 million
8. Islington £10.38 million
9. Tower Hamlets £8.32 million
10. Brent £8.31 million