HSBC HSBC forgets to pay everyone before the bank holidayThe last three days of August signal the end of the summer holiday period, with many people looking to take advantage of the last long weekend before Christmas to get away for some bank holiday holidaying. However, for about £275,000 people this could prove difficult as it seems a bank error at HSBC has meant that they simply haven’t been paid.

HSBC is Britain’s biggest bank and has 16million UK customers, but an IT glitch discovered today means they have failed to transfer hundreds of millions of pounds on pay day. Up to 275,000 people were not paid today and face a cashless Bank Holiday weekend after the bank’s BACS payments system failed.

Of course, being stuck for your bank holiday jolly is one thing, but being unable to pay your mortgage or not having any money at all is quite a serious problem for those affected.

While the fault seems to be confined to HSBC systems, employees who don’t bank with HSBC are still affected. This is because salaries from employers who bank with HSBC were not transferred from HSBC business accounts to the accounts of employees, including those who bank elsewhere.

HSBC could now incur huge costs from the error, both in compensation from customers and victims as well as a fine from Britain’s banking regulator the Financial Conduct Authority. There is apparently no question of any kind of foul play, it is just a colossal accident, to rival that of RBS’s failure earlier this year- which led to a record fine of £56 million.

HSBC said, sheepishly: “There has been a fault in the information used to process some payments from HSBC business customers. Approximately 275,000 payments have been affected, including payments to customers of other banks.”

“HSBC apologises for the inconvenience this has caused. We are taking immediate steps to ensure the payments reach beneficiaries as quickly as possible. We will work with other banks to ensure that customers do not lose out as a result of today’s problems.”

 

creditcards Credit card holders can apply for compensation after being sold free security productsTwo million credit card holders are going to be able to make compensation claims, after being sold security products that were in fact, free.

There’s £270 each up for grabs for customers from RBS, Lloyds, AIB banks, Barclays, Capital One, HSBC, Santander, Clydesdale Bank, Danske Bank, Tesco Personal Finance and The Co-operative Bank.

So what’s the craic? Well, Affinion International Limited sold six different products, which were meant to offer protection if their card was nicked or subject to fraud. However, this was completely unnecessary because your bank would already reimburse you if your card gets reported lost or stolen, regarding unauthorised transactions above £50, once you’ve reported it.

Since customers may have been paying for this for five years, plus interest, that’s a compo payment of £270 for your troubles. It looks like the first compensation payments will be doled out some time next month.

If you’re eligible, you should receive a claim form within the next few weeks. You must return it no later than March 18th 2016.

When you get the form, fill it in, sign it and date it and return it in the envelope provided by AI Scheme Ltd. If you send a photocopy of it, it’ll be rejected, so no mucking about it. This is a claim you can do yourself, so if you get any claims management companies sniffing around you, they’re only after a cut, so bin all correspondence from them.

If you think that you’ve had one of the products, and haven’t received a form, then ring the AI Scheme helpline on 0800 678 1930 (or if you’re outside the UK, call +44 208 475 3103).

Claim as soon as you get the form and do not wait until the end of the seven month claim period, okay? Good.

Nationwide say tax changes could cost them £300m

August 18th, 2015 2 Comments By Mof Gimmers

Nationwide 300x187 Nationwide say tax changes could cost them £300mThere’s a lot of changes going on in the world of tax, with shops saying new rules mean that ATMs may not be free any more. Now, Nationwide are saying that recent tax changes could cost them £300m over five years, which could well hit lending.

They say that changes to banking taxes which were announced in the Budget are going to cost them the equivalent of the capital needed to support £10bn of lending. Big talk indeed.

And then, passive aggressively, Nationwide told everyone how well they were doing, basically winking at the Chancellor with a ‘…and we won’t be able to help the country’s growth if you start playing silly buggers…‘.

In the first quarter, profit before tax increased to £379m, up from £253m the year before. Chief exec Graham Beale said: ”Nationwide accounted for more than a quarter of total net lending to the UK housing market.”

However, thanks to changes to the bank levy, and the addition of an introduction of a tax surcharge on banks, could hit Nationwide’s lending over five years. What are these changes? Well, George Osborne announced that the annual levy that banks pay on their balance sheets is going to be reduced from 0.21% to 0.1%, with the introduction of an 8% surcharge on banks’ profits.

Beale reckons that this stance will be useful to international banks in the UK, but detrimental to building societies.

“This represents a missed opportunity to support diversity by acknowledging that building societies are different to banks and to recognise the contribution Nationwide and other mutuals make by lending to the UK economy, and the housing market in particular,” he said.

Free ATMs in shops? Maybe not

August 17th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

reg varney cash machine 300x300 Free ATMs in shops? Maybe notIf you’ve been drawing money out for free down the shops, that might all be about to change warn the UK’s shopkeepers, thanks to a change in how they are taxed.

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) are asking the government to exempt ATMs from business rates, which cost shops up to £15,000 per machine. And now, some shops are being asked to cough up for one off bills which are running into tens of thousands, because charges have been backdated to 2010 by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA).

The ACS, who rep independent traders, said: “We believe ATMs are a high street enabler providing shared benefits to a range of traders, allowing consumers to access their cash and spend it within their local communities.”

So what to the VOA have to say about this? A spokesperson says: ”We are currently reviewing ATM sites to ensure all sites that should be assessed are correctly rated. This treats all businesses equally, and ensures they pay their fair share of the overall business rates bill.”

“We will continue to consult with the machine operators who will be affected by this exercise.”

banks 300x218 Nine banks to pay $2bn to settle for forex rigging The scandal of banks diddling the foreign exchange rate is a thing that just won’t go away, and the nine major banks that have been accused of doing it have agreed to pay $2bn (that’s £1.28bn to you) to investors in settlements, according to a law firm that are involved in the case.

Plaintiffs have “reached settlements totaling more than $2bn with Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citi, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan, RBS and UBS,” say the Hausfeld firm in a statement. They represent the investors.

While there’s no official word on how that money will be split up, rumour has it that Barclays will have to pay $375m, HSBC $285m, BNP Paribas around $100m, and Goldman Sachs about $130m. They’ve probably got that money as loose change in their old jackets.

This follows other banks who have already agreed to make payments, with JPMorgan Chase coughing up $99.5m, the Bank of America paying $180m, Citigroup $394m and Swiss UBS at $135m.

Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and RBS all pleaded guilty to US Justice Department relating to charges of conspiring to manipulate the massive currency market.

Your mortgage might be getting more expensive

August 7th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

mortgage money 300x200 Your mortgage might be getting more expensiveThere’s going to be a bit of chatter about bank rates today. The Bank of England’s interest rate has been down at 0.5% since 2009, and it looks like it’ll soon go up. As a result, so might your mortgage.

In addition to the interest rate, there’s a whole bunch of other factors that will mean your mortgage will increase. Bank funding costs are going to play a role, as ever, as lenders weigh up how much interest they’re going to charge on new fixed-rate mortgages and floating-rate mortgages.

Of course, in finance, when a butterfly flaps its wings in the US or Chinese stock markets, a hurricane can hit Britain. The Bank of England’s economists recent found that American swap rates were responsible for a number of movements in UK mortgage rates.

And while UK mortgage rates might be at a low level, the Bank of England have said: “Banks’ funding costs, an important influence on mortgage rates, had risen since May and it was possible that mortgage rates would shortly begin to rise”.

With the US Federal Reserve expected to raise its interest rates before we do in the UK, you can see what is going to happen. Even though the interest rate is going to stay at a similar level for the next 6 months, it doesn’t mean other factors won’t put up the price of a mortgage.

money 300x168 Interest rate rises unlikely to bring relief for long suffering saversAs we all know, interest rates have been lower than a limbo bar for ages now, but with increasingly-present signs of economic recovery, most of the types who know this sort of thing are predicting that rates will rise from next year onwards. While this could spell bad news for borrowers, who are currently enjoying rock-bottom loan rates, savers and those on a fixed income might be looking forward to an increased return. However, forecasts from analysts at credit ratings agency Moody’s suggest that savers may have to wait longer to see an upturn in their personal fortunes.

While the Bank of England is probably going to start slowly increasing the rate, which has been at the lowest-ever 0.5% since 2009, Moody’s claim that savers will not benefit when interest rates rise. They suggest that instead the banks will seek to hold down deposit rates to improve their profit margins. As if our local friendly banks would do such a scurrilous thing.

“These increases should contribute positively to the banks’ profitability since we do not expect them to pass the benefit immediately to savers,” said Moody’s Carlos Suarez Duarte. “We think it’s unlikely that UK banks will pass all the benefits of higher interest rates to their customers and therefore, margins should initially improve,” he finished.

However, they also suggest that the crunch of higher borrowing rates might be tempered by attractive offers as banks fight for market share as well as profitability- challenger banks such as TSB and Virgin have taken a larger chunk of the market from the big boys than they would like to admit.

The ratings agency also predicted there would not be widespread financial hardship among UK households on the back of a rate rise. Partly this is down to the expected slow and steady increase, which allows households to adjust to increased payments over time, but also because the industry has, purportedly, learned something from the financial crisis, and tighter affordability checks mean that a 1% rise should be able to be absorbed into a household budget.

“Low interest rates and bank competition have made consumer debt more affordable, hiding the risk to highly indebted consumers. However, we expect only moderate and gradual interest rate hikes during the outlook period, which would allow borrowers to adjust their personal budgets and therefore, prevent a material deterioration in asset quality,” said the Moody’s, adding that they anticipate that “an increase of 1% on the base rate will have no effect in the level of arrears of the prime mortgage portfolios.”

“Even a three percentage point increase in the base rate would imply only 4% more borrowers facing payment problems according to our forecast,” he finished

broadband 248x300 Citizens Advice shows broadband providers are baiting and switching with pricesIn the wake of some serious price increases by the major players, new research from Citizens Advice shows that broadband providers are misleading customers with price ‘promises’ that mean some customer end up paying up to six-and-a- half times more than the adverts imply.

The charity found that many broadband adverts lure unwary consumers by offering “teaser deals” which last only a limited time, with the real and long-term costs of the deal hidden in the small print. The research showed that hidden charges such as line rental, starter fees for a new contract and delivery costs of new equipment mean that monthly costs are more than three times the price promise, on average, with some paying more than twice this.

Citizens Advice analysed adverts from the six main broadband providers over the promotional period looking at deals that were advertised as costing from absolutely nothing up to £20 per month. The research found that, in actuality, the full cost to consumers ranged from £20 to £45 per month.

Line rental was the most expensive additional cost, which Citizens Advice calculated can add up to £16.99 to the headline price alone. But that wasn’t the only added extra- one offer for broadband was advertised at £9.95 for six months, but once installation fees and line rental costs were factored in, the cost soared to £35.79.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: “Broadband providers are cashing in on false promises. With some people paying up to six-and-a-half times more a month for broadband than advertised, customers are being sold one thing and charged another.”

“Confusing teaser rates and hidden costs make it difficult to work out whether you’re getting a good deal. Internet providers need to be up front about broadband costs, ensuring adverts are transparent and people know what they’re signing up to.”

“Some broadband firms are starting to accept that prices need to be clearer. Now the whole industry needs to up its game – and the Advertising Standards Authority should help by setting new, clear rules.” BT/Sky and Virgin in particular seem to take it in turns to tell tales on each other to the regulator for over-egging their customer offers. Still, with Citizens Advice weighing in, perhaps there is some light at the end of the transparency tunnel.

sainsburys 300x192 Sainsburys drops cost of personal loans to 3.5%Sainsbury’s Bank have gone and hacked away at the interest rates for Nectar card havers for mid-sized personal loans. They’ve dropped it to 3.5%, which is very low indeed.

This rate sees Sainsbury’s undercutting Nationwide, M&S Bank, Cahoot, and First Direct, which were all the previous best-buys at 3.6%.

There is a caveat of course, but it could well suit some of you. You can borrow a 3.5% rate on loans of up to £19,999 if you agree that you’ll pay back what you owe within two and three years. If it transpires that you need more time to pay, the rate rises to 3.6% for 3-5 years to repay. If you need 5-7 years to pay back your loan, then that’ll come in a 5.6%.

There’s no penalties for those of you who would like to make overpayments, but if you’re going to clear what you owe early, you will be charged up to 58 days interest on the final balance.

Now, this is for those of you who already have a Nectar card. If you don’t have one, Sainsbury’s bank are charging a slightly higher rate of 3.6% for amounts between £7,500 and £15,000 (taken out over 1-5 years). If you don’t have a loyalty card, and are repaying over 5 or more years, then you get a rate of 5.6%.

So if you’re serious about getting a Sainsbury’s loan, then it would be wise to get yourself a Nectar card, which you can do online for free. Make sure you use your loyalty card in store or online within six months of applying for the loan, or you won’t get the discount.

Check out the Sainsbury’s Bank loan situation here.

bt 300x141 BT apply mid contract price hikes of up to 7%  but you can still cancelThis week BT announced new price rises- rises that are way, way over the cost of inflation. Their argument is, of course, that they are simply aligning their prices with the market, following similar hikes by other telecoms providers such as Virgin Media. However, given the massive rise, if you are tied into a contract with BT, you do have the option of waving a get-out-of-contract free card at them, provided you let them know within 30 days of being told about the price hike.

Most of these price changes, which include higher costs to call to BT landlines and mobiles as well as dearer monthly line rental and call plans, (and BT broadband prices rising by almost 7% alone), will come into force on 20 September 2015. However, under rules introduced by Ofcom last year, if you took out a contract after 23 January 2014 and your provider significantly raises prices on that contract, you can cancel without paying any penalty fees.

This has been confirmed by BT who say that customers who are part-way through a contract can leave without penalty, providing they do so within 30 days of receiving their price-increase notification letter. The only possible exception would be if you very recently took out a contract and you were advised at the point of sale that the price would be rising. Which seems unlikely.

So, if you think you can get a better deal elsewhere- and you can use comparison sites to compare providers- but bearing in mind that most of them have also increased their charges, make sure you let them know you are cancelling without penalty within those 30 days.

The main price changes by BT include:

Calls to UK landlines and 0870 numbers for customers not on call inclusive packages will rise from 9.58p a minute to 10.24p.

The set-up fee for landline calls – charged each time a call is connected – goes from 15.97p to 17.07p.

Calls to mobiles from a BT landline will rise from 12.77p to 13.65p a minute.

Standard line rental is to rise from £16.99 to £17.99, while line rental plus goes up from £18.99 to £19.99.

Unlimited anytime calls will rise from £7.45 to £7.95 a month for contracts before 20 June 2014.

Unlimited evening and weekend calls go from £2.12 to £2.26 for the same customers.

Unlimited anytime calls packages bought after 20 June 2014 will rise from £7.50 to £7.95.

Unlimited evening and weekend calls go from £3 a month to £3.20.

The cost of paper bills will increase from £1.59 to £1.70.

old man 300x196 New Government consultation aims to prevent extortionate pension freedom charges2015 has been the year of ‘Pension Freedom’ and since the Chancellor relaxed the rules allowing people to get wider access to their pension funds (after retirement age of course), it has proven decidedly popular with the populace. However, insurance companies, being money-grabbing so and sos profit-driven, seem to have taken pension freedom as an opportunity to take liberties with your money, with some charging extortionate amounts to allow the shackle-free access envisaged by the Government.

As a result, the Government has decided to investigate. Yesterday, the Treasury launched an immediate consultation to look at whether exit charges could be cut or capped for those looking to access their pensions early, and to find out “how to remove other barriers that may be stopping people enjoying the benefits of increased flexibility over their pension pot.” There’s even an online survey for ordinary folks to let the Government know what they actually think. Which is new.

The Treasury say that both the Chancellor George, and Work and Pensions head honcho Iain Duncan-Smith have “raised concerns” that some insurance companies are “failing to play their part in making pension freedoms available to savers.” You don’t say.

In fact, our friends over at Which!!! have already crunched some numbers by examining the fees charged by 18 providers. They found that someone with a pension pot of £50,000, taking 4% a year through income drawdown, could be over £3,000 better off over 10 years if they used the cheapest provider, Fidelity (£4,993), rather than the most expensive, The Share Centre (£8,100). The difference is even more marked for someone with a larger pot of £250,000, withdrawing 6% a year, who could face charges anywhere between £16,325 (LV), and £26,490 (Scottish Widows) over the same period- a difference of more than £10,000.

The new consultation will look at how best to remove barriers and in particular will investigate:

options to address excessive charges for early exit penalties. This includes the option to impose a legislative cap on these charges for those 55 or over if there is sufficient evidence
how the process for transferring pensions from one scheme to another can be made quicker and smoother
how we can ensure that there is greater clarity around the circumstances in which someone should seek financial advice

The consultation will run for 12 weeks and a response will be published in the Autumn. The online survey will run alongside the consultation for 12 weeks and will form part of the government’s response.

Which!!! executive director Richard Lloyd said,  “The old annuity market failed pensioners miserably and the government must ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again with drawdown. With such big differences in cost, and confusing charges that make it difficult to compare, it’s clear more needs to be done to help consumers make the most of the freedoms.”

“We’re campaigning for a cap on charges for drawdown products sold by someone’s existing provider to ensure people get good value for money.”

Of course, capping fees is one way of making sure insurance companies don’t take the Mickey when pensioners want to be flexible with their pension pot, but the danger of setting a cap is that companies might decide not to offer the flexibility that consumers want- insurance companies are at liberty to do this and some have already made their stance

Amazon Prime- actually worth it?

July 30th, 2015 10 Comments By Thewlis

optimus prime transformed top 300x267 Amazon Prime  actually worth it?Amazon are the company many people love to hate- with some still boycotting the online retail giant over corporate tax avoidance. But with small, but significant changes to delivery policies, and now the news that Amazon Instant Video has snagged Jeremy Clarkson and his buddies for a new Top Gear-esque show, is Amazon Prime actually turning out to be a non-brainer?

Well. First things first, Amazon Prime costs £79 a year (or £39 if you are a student), which is the equivalent of just over £6.50 per month. But included with your Prime membership is unlimited one-day delivery, Kindle lending library, and access to Amazon Instant Video, and free cloud storage as well as the newly launched (to little fanfare) Amazon Music streaming service which allows Prime subscribers to listen to hundreds of albums free of charge, ad-free. So what are the savings?

Well, Amazon’s delivery always used to be a major perk, as anything would be delivered under its ‘Super Saver’ delivery within 5 days. However, they changed their policy to mean that now, only orders including £10 or more of books qualify for  Super Saver Delivery., with orders of non-books needing to be over £20 in order to qualify. If you were to pay for delivery, you’d pay £5.99 for one-day delivery, £2.75 for first-class post (which takes up to two business days), £8.99 for express delivery (you will receive the item by midday the following day) or £14.99 for delivery on the evening you purchase the item. So guaranteed one-day delivery seems to be quite cheap really, especially if you’ve left things to the last minute, or you’re having a late December Christmas present meltdown. Some suggest that, if you buy things from Amazon 13 times in a year, you will have ‘recovered’ the cost of your Prime membership.

However, what is also a Thing with Amazon Prime is the cashback you get if you don’t need your item the next day. If you have normal delivery instead of next-day, Amazon will give you a digital content credit of between £1 and £3 per delivery (so if you have a few things to buy that you aren’t desperate for, you can do quite well here) that can be spent on things like Kindle books and MP3 music. Even more savings in the jar.

And talking of Kindle books, if you have a Kindle (unfortunately just having the Kindle app on a tablet or laptop doesn’t count) you can ‘borrow’ one book per month from the Kindle lending library. Of course, Amazon also has “Kindle Unlimited” at £7.99 a month where you can borrow as many novels as you wish, but if you are happy borrowing only one book a month, this perk could save you up to £84 a year, by not subscribing to a rival e-reader subscription service.

But Amazon Instant Video is the big one, Clarkson notwithstanding, as, if you’re into that sort of thing, this will immediately save you £72 a year (against your £79 Prime cost) as this alone costs £5.99 per month. It also compares favourably with other streaming services like NowTV (which recently received a massive boost thanks to Game of Thrones) at £6.99 per month or Netflix, which starts at £5.99 per month, but whose ‘standard’ subscription which includes viewing on two screens (like Amazon Instant Video) is actually £7.49 per month.

So what do you think? Are you a happy Amazon Primer or are you still brandishing your figurative bargepole? You can’t get Better Call Saul on Amazon either…

How to get your money back from Cash Genie

July 28th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

stock payday loans 300x225 How to get your money back from Cash GenieThe payday lender, Cash Genie, has been ordered to pay £20m to people they’ve ripped off. The lender was told by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to dole out the money to more than 92,000 customers.

Turns out that they’re been ripping off customers in a number of ways, with Cash Genie charging fees which they were not entitled to, according to customer contracts. In some cases, they charged people who weren’t able to repay their loans £50 to transfer them to their own debt collection firm, Twyford Developments.

Basically, they were taking money needlessly from people who were already struggling with debt.

It transpires that Cash Genie were also rolling over and refinancing loans without customers’ consent, which of course, all means that people in financial hardship were being hit with extra interest and additional costs.

Cash Genie also traded as the online brands txtmecash and paydayiseveryday, with customers advised to go to these websites on the promise of a fresh loan. Then, when customers went to these sites, they were used to harvest banking information so they could take payments from existing loans without permission.

So, Cash Genie will reimburse some people and write-off the debts of others.

Linda Woodall of the FCA said: “We expect all firms to notify us of any unacceptable past or current practices and provide appropriate redress to anyone affected.”

What Do I Do Next If I Was A Cash Genie Customer?

For the time being, if you’ve been swindled by Cash Genie, you don’t need to do anything. Cash Genie is going to contact affected customers by 18th September.

There’s more info over at the Cash Genie website, if you think you’ve been affected. The FCA also have some information as well.

For the time being, sit tight and wait for Cash Genie to get in touch with you. Do not appoint a claims management company to sort this out either, as they’ll charge you for a service that you won’t need.

If you feel that it is important to talk to someone, you can contact the Cash Genie Customer Service team on 0333 366 0023, or email them at customerredress@cashgenie.co.uk or by letter at Cash Genie, 2 Reavell Place, Ipswich, Suffolk IP2 0ET.

If you’d prefer, you can get in touch with the FCA by calling 0800 111 6768 or 0300 500 8082, or email them at consumer.queries@fca.org.uk.

Mr. Happy Everything is rosy with household financesIt’s rare that economists aren’t gloomy, but it seems everyone is feeling more positive about their finances. The latest Nielsen consumer confidence survey shows that UK confidence has overtaken the global average for the first time in more than nine years- last time we were this happy financially, Tony Blair was telling us things could only get better for the third time and the official interest rate was nine times higher at 4.5%

British consumers are also more confident than those in Germany for the first time in five years and we’re now second only to Denmark in confidence ratings throughout Europe. We’ve also stopped shopping around so much, with the switching of grocery brands to save money now at its lowest level since late 2009.

A different study by Lloyds Bank, of more than 2,000 people aged between 18 and 75,  also reported an increase in consumers’ confidence. Its survey on spending power found that 70% of empty-nesters- people aged 45 or more whose children had left home- described their financial situation as good, compared with 61% of parents aged 25 and over with younger children and falling to 58% cent of young singles aged between 18 and 24 with no children.

And the Lloyds Bank Spending Power report suggests that confidence is rising with people’s confidence in their personal financial situation increasing by 5 percentage points. And the outlook is rosy-  31% of young single people aged between 18 to 24 said they expected to be able to save slightly more in six months times than they do at present, although this figure falls to 11% for those aged 45 or over, who already think they’re in a good position financially.

Patrick Foley of Lloyds Bank said: “Consumers remain in good spirits, with sentiment buoyed by a combination of strengthening wage growth and muted price pressures,” meaning that lower prices and stagnantly low interest rates, combined with wage increases mean we all feel richer.

And Asda have quantified just how much richer we are. Last week, Asda’s latest Income Tracker report revealed that UK households have an average of £189 of discretionary income to spend each week, which is £18 more than this time last year, a figure that has been consistent for the last quarter. So what are you spending your extra £18 on?

prostar offer 0407 bogof 300x150 ASA rules double glazing ads with massive discounts are just plain wrongIt’s a bit like the perennial question of whether the tree falling over alone in the woods makes a noise– do the too-good-to-be-true sales offered by sofa retailers and double-glazing salesmen ever end? Well now the ASA has ruled against one such company to prevent them from advertising heavily discounted prices which are actually just the normal prices.

You’ve probably seem the Safestyle UK television adverts (and then wished you could scrub your ears and eyeballs), which normally involve a lot of screaming and unbelievable offers of free upstairs windows, or free windows at the front or BOGOF or something else that offers a prima facie discount of around 50% from the ‘normal’ price of their windows. The ASA, however, were responding to a complaint over advertisements offering “55% off” as a promotion. The complaint suggested, heaven forbid, that the 55% off was not, in fact, an offer, and the 55% off prices were available all the time, meaning that this constituted false advertising.

In response, HPAS (trading as Safestyle UK) affirmed that during the previous six months there had been 86 offer days, with a further 86 non-offer days. They said given the schedule, and similarly to other retailers that offered periodic sales, it was possible, if not likely, that consumers would see a number of different promotional Safestyle ads before either responding or making a purchase.

As part of the investigation, as is often the case, the ASA also spoke to Clearcast, to see what checks they had undertaken before allowing the ad to run.

Clearcast said they had also been suspicious of the 55% off claims taken care to discuss what was needed to support the pricing claims as “the prices must represent genuine discounts”. They had received ‘evidence’ from Safestyle in the form of a signed letter that affirmed the above and stated that  “the products had been sold without discount for at least the previous 93 days at the time of clearance”, which is already not quite the same as the 86 days they claimed to the ASA. Safestyle, however, also informed Clearcast that because all items were made to measure, they “did not have price lists as such but that any full prices would be discounted by 55%.” Clearcast also trusted Safestyle as far as they could throw them, so further requested, and received, some kind of legal confirmation “that the ad was accurate and not misleading.”

Nevertheless, the ASA did their own digging and found that, far from the 86 or 93 days claimed by Safestyle, from the beginning of 2015 until the date of the complaint in early March, “there had been only one three-day period, in January, at which no promotional price was offered against Safestyle’s standard prices.” The ASA did concede that there was a longer non-promotional at the end of 2014, amounting to a massive 35 days, but during that preceding three month period, the products had been offered at either 55% off or on a buy-one-get-one free promotion for the majority of the time.

As a result, the ASA concluded that the ‘discounted’ price, and not the non-promotional price was the normal selling price and that therefore any offers claiming to offer 55% off were misleading and must not be used again. Consumers 1, dodgy double glazing salesmen 0