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…
The 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.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’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?
It’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
There’s a limit on how much you can spend via a contactless payment, but the watchdog found that, by buying some cheap contactless card-reading technology, they were able to remotely make off with key details from a contactless card, and then use the info to buy stuff, including a telly that was worth £3,000.
That is considerably more than the £20 limit (increasing to £30 in September).
Which!!! tested 10 cards, and they found that, via software from what they call ‘a mainstream website’, they could read the card number and expiry date from all 10 cards. Don’t worry – the cards came from volunteers.
They were not able to get the CVV security code from the back of the cards, but it turned out that this didn’t matter, as they were able to make purchases without the cardholder’s name or CVV code.
With their dodgy reader, a mere tap saw Which!!! getting enough details to enable a trip to the online shops, and thanks to online transactions not being subject to a limit, some scamster could go crazy with your card.
Peter Eisenegger, a security expert who helped develop EU standards for contactless cards, told Which!!! that it would be possible for crims to get a card reader that could lift your details from further away than the one in this test.
He said: “It’s vital to protect consumers from fraudsters who have the knowhow to develop mobile card readers with much greater reading distances than those used by retailers.”
In the last year, the Big Four lost more than a quarter of a million current account, with Barclays waving farewell to 98,400 customers. NatWest saw net losses of 71,040 for NatWest, with 45,119 ditching Lloyds Bank and 44,953 sacking off HSBC, according to Bacs data.
This is all thanks to the switching service, which was brought about in 2013, but is finally catching on, which makes it easier to change which bank you use. Now, the switching time for a current account is 7 days, rather than the old 30 working day period.
It also automatically switches you incoming and outgoing payments, and regarding all payments that are made to or requested from the old account in error, to be automatically redirected to the new account for 36 months after you’ve switched.
The big banks are losing a lot of customers and, including the banks outside the Big Four, last year, 1.1 million people changed to a new bank. With figures showing that only 69% of people have heard of this service, things could get real for some of the crapper banks, and fast.
It looks like the favourite of switchers are Santander (and their 123 current account), Nationwide Building Society and Halifax, who are offering £100 to switch and a £5 monthly reward too.
So shop around. See what works best for you and once you’ve found something better, apply to open a new account and, with the new lot, tell them that you want to switch to them and they’ll help you from there.
The Consumer Finance Association said that these new rules are the reason that there’s been a 70% reduction for those wanting to access short-term credit. When the Financial Conduct Authority started to play hardball with payday lenders, people wanting cash started to look elsewhere.
And while, according to Citizens Advice, the number of complaints and problems about payday loans have halved on the previous year, the CFA ‘Credit 2.0′ report says that people have gone to nastier lenders.
CFA chief executive Russell Hamblin-Boone said of their findings: “Credit 2.0 takes a fresh look at alternative forms of credit, including short-term loans, and shows that turning off the credit tap has had no impact on demand or debt levels. It is an attempt to educate all those who continue to call for further restrictions on lenders without considering the consequences for millions of families.”
“Our analysis of hundreds of thousands of loan applications proves that borrowers are being excluded from credit and concerns are growing for how they are filling the gap in their finances. It’s time to draw a line under the attacks on short-term lenders, recognise the huge improvements in lending and accept that we have a highly-regulated, legitimate market to keep people out of the hands of unscrupulous, illegal lenders.”
“The report shows the scale of the challenge for the regulator in finding the right balance between consumer protection and maintaining a competitive alternative credit market.”
What exactly is the scale of the challenge? Well, the report reckons that 39% of payday loan customers don’t have any other access to obtaining credit. The report adds that credit unions are not a viable option for many, and that trad. arr. lending services are outdated, being usurped by new technology.
Hamblin-Boone added: “The economy is growing again, but the financial landscape has changed forever. Technology is changing the way we live and our ‘instant society’ demands quick decisions, simple products and convenient ways to borrow small sums for short periods of time. Critics of innovation that refuse to embrace the change by trying to hold back the tide could find themselves swept away by modern life.”
It seems we’re becoming victims of our own savvyness when it comes to credit cards. Business analysts Moody’s have produced a report that suggests UK households are risking a “personal debt crisis” in relation to the affordability of their credit card repayments. The problem? We’re all taking advantage of the glut of lengthy interest-free credit cards but we’re just switching credit cards instead of paying off balances.
Interest rates have held at their record low of 0.5% for the past six years. This, coupled with zero inflation, has meant things are cheaper to buy and that borrowing costs next to nothing.
Moody’s found that at the beginning of 2013, the best balance transfer offers provided a two-year interest-free period, whereas the current best offers allow for three years of interest-free credit. But instead of using this interest-free period to reduce their debt, paying more off while there is no interest charge, it appears UK householders have learned nothing from the last crisis and are instead loading up their credit cards while the sun shines, with no contingency plans for affording repayments once interest rates rise again in the future.
Moody’s latest report – Rising Consumer Debt Is Increasing Risk in UK Credit Card Pools – found that unsecured lending has jumped 7% since December 2012, showing that people are doing the opposite of the Bank of England’s advice to start “managing their finances” in expectation of interest rates rising.
“Consumer spending has surpassed pre-crisis levels, at a time when growth in unsecured consumer debt is outstripping wage growth,” Greg O’Reilly, an analyst at Moody’s, said.
“Low interest rates are hiding the risk to consumers, making consumer debt appear more affordable on the surface, but masking potentially negative long-term consequences…The risk is that if consumers do not repay the transferred balances before the end of the interest-free period and the debts begin to accrue interest, consumers will struggle to afford the higher levels of debt they have taken out since 2013,” he finished.
Don’t say you haven’t been warned. So have you started bashing the plastic more recently or are you being sensible with you balance transfers and paying off as much as you can while rates are low?
Copycat websites are still all the rage, and the latest trend is for shysters to set up websites to sell you a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) even though you can get them for absolutely nothing. But the reason this seems to be such a rich vein for the fraudsters is that it seems many people don’t know that the cards are free.
According to our friends over at Which!!!, 20% of British adults, that’s one in five, didn’t know that EHIC cards are free for UK residents. They also found that almost one in 16 UK adults who’d been to Europe in the last five years had paid for an EHIC card.
The problem is, of course, that most search engines carry ads for third party websites at the top of search results pages. Copycat websites exploit this, and make themselves as official-looking as possible, so that you think you’re on the proper site, when actually you are being taken for a mug.
Which!!! reckon that the two of the most prominent adverts for EHIC cards promoted via top search bot Google lead to copycat sites charging between £24 and £35 per card, instead of getting a free EHIC card from gov.uk/ehic.
But why do I need an EHIC?
Many people think that if they have travel insurance, they don’t need an EHIC. This simply isn’t true. An EHIC will enable you to access state-provided healthcare (NHS equivalent) in European Economic Area (EEA) countries, including Switzerland, at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free. For example, if you want to see a GP in France, say, you will have to pay a standard amount for the consultation; showing your EHIC card will reduce the amount you pay. If you need ongoing medical care, the EHIC card will cover your treatment until you return to the UK. Unlike many travel insurance policies, the EHIC will also cover treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and routine (i.e not planned birth) maternity care. The NHS has a specific country-by-country guide if you want to check a particular treatment in a certain country.
But while EHIC covers state medical services, it will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs, such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK (or, obviously, lost or stolen property), which is why you buy your travel insurance. Some insurers will allow you to reclaim any costs incurred abroad, such as those charged for seeing a GP as above, but some will only refund the EHIC-net cost and some now insist that you hold an EHIC, while others will waive any excess if you have used your EHIC. So being as it costs nothing but a few minutes of your time, you’d be a fool not to get one- and carry it with you when in Europe.
So, now to know how to use Apple Pay, because we told you how – but that was no use to HSBC customers, who seemed to be getting left out of the whole thing.
The strange thing about the delay, was that HSBC were originally listed as one of Apple’s banking partners at launch, but that wasn’t the case. Weirder still, was the fact that HSBC were the ones to blab about when the launch date was.
Anyway, most of the big guns are on board already, but there are some people still waiting. If you’re a customer of Bank of Scotland, Halifax, Lloyds, M&S Bank and TSB, you’ll have to wait ’til Autumn. We’re sure you’ll live.
Barclays, meanwhile, are oddly quiet about the whole thing and all they’ll say is that a collaboration will be coming ‘in the future’.
So there you have it. HSBC have joined the future and some other banks, for whatever reason, haven’t. Meanwhile, everyone with an Android phone literally couldn’t care less.
Even though it vanished from the high street yonks ago, RBS are bringing back the Williams & Glyn bank. This is one of the conditions under the taxpayer bailout, which RBS want to reuse, and then float on the stock market as a separate business.
RBS originally disbanded the bank in 1985, but now it is coming back.
This week, RBS sent an email to customers, telling some of them that they were being shifted over to this new arm, whether they liked it or not.
The email says: “We’ll be launching a new bank ‘Williams & Glyn’ by the end of next year. As an RBS England & Wales customer, [we're] delighted you’ll become part of this new bank and [we're] excited to share the progress we’re making in building Williams & Glyn.”
They add, that this is apparently “more than just a name change. It’s a new way of banking.”
RBS are vowing that they’ll “be re-introducing Bank Managers in our branches. They will play a central role at Williams & Glyn, spending time getting to know their customers and understanding their needs.”
There’s a page dedicated to answering your questions, over at rbs.co.uk/williamsandglyn, but there doesn’t seem to be a resolution for the main question; “Erm… and when did I agree to this?”
If the Budget last week wasn’t bad enough- with the proposed 3.5% increase in insurance premium tax adding around £68 to every household insurance bill, new figures suggest that dishonest insurance claims are also adding a new high of £90 to every home’s premium.
A new report from the Association of British Insurers and City of London Police’s national fraud unit says that insurers claim they discovered 350 fraudulent claims each day in 2014. This is across insurance types, including car, motor and home. Car insurance was responsible for the largest proportion of fraud- with over half (67,000) of the 130,000 claims made, with these being worth £835m in total. Personal liability claims were second, worth £330m.
However, some suggest that this is a mere fraction of the insurance fraud out there, and that most people are actually getting away with it. Stephen Gaywood, a fraud specialist at the AA, told the Telegraph ” Most insurers believe this is the tip of the iceberg,” adding that “those attempting to defraud their insurers are increasingly likely to get away with it, but the industry’s focus on fraud needs to be stepped up.”
But it could simply be the case that policyholders don’t realise they are committing fraud, for example by failing to provide the correct information when they sign up for car cover. For example, many people will include people, primarily teenagers for example, as a named driver on a vehicle when they are actually the main driver of that vehicle. This is actually classed as insurance fraud, as it is often used to generate a lower premium than the expensive driver would get if they insured in their own name, and is known as “fronting”. Other ‘misdemeanor’ type insurance frauds commonly seen include using incorrect job titles or saying a car is kept in a garage, when generally you can’t be bothered to actually open the door and it stays on the driveway.
However, in view of the increasing number of fraudulent claims, the insurance industry is apparently determined to begin clamping down on all types of fraud. A spokesman from the ABI said that from now on, regardless of whether people are ” are making a dishonest claim or lying when applying for cover to get a cheaper premium, insurance cheats are more likely to get caught than ever before.”
Drops in the prices of clothes and food were the main reason for the rate change, according to the excitable folks at the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Bank of England governor Mark Carney jumped in as well, saying breathlessly that he thinks inflation will remain low in the immediate short term.
Get a load of that!
The rate of Retail Price Index (RPI) inflation – which just so happens to include housing costs, like mortgage interest payments and council tax, was 1% in June, which is unchanged from last month.
“Inflation has continued its pattern of recent months, when prices have been very little changed on the previous year,” said Philip Gooding from the ONS. ”The headline rate for June has dropped very slightly on May, back to zero, thanks to small downwards effects from movements in clothing and food prices and air fares.”
So, while this is good news for consumers, people who crunch numbers don’t like long periods of negative inflation. They think it bad for the economy. The reason for that is, that people might not throw their money around, on the off chance that everything continues to get cheaper.
“The data therefore raise questions over the whether underlying price pressures are really picking up to the extent than the Bank of England is anticipating,” said Chris Williamson, chief UK economist at Markit. ”The Bank of England needs to determine whether pay growth will continue to accelerate as firms compete for staff, or whether low inflation will keep the overall rate of increase below levels that would normally worry the monetary policy committee into hiking interest rates.”
You might be wondering how to do it, because you might not be as tech savvie as everyone on the internet. Don’t sweat it – we’re here to guide you through it.
What Do I Need?
Right, you’ll need one of the following – an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, an iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 3, an Apple Watch that you’ve synced-up with your iPhone 5/iPhone 5c/iPhone 5s/iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus. Your phone needs to be running on iOS 8.3 or above. If you think you need to update your operating system, click here to sort that out.
You will also need to have your fingerprint with Touch ID, as well as having an iCloud account on a phone that has the United Kingdom set at the region. And of course, you’ll need a credit or debit card from a bank that is supporting Apple Pay.
I’m Not Sure If My Bank Supports Apple Pay!
The short answer is that Barclays haven’t signed-up with Apple yet. The long answer is that RBS, Nat West, Nationwide, Ulster Bank, MBNA, Santander, are. In the next 4 weeks, HSBC will have joined-in too. Later in the year, the Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Halifax, M&S Bank and TSB Bank will be on board too.
So How Do I Set Up Apple Pay On My Device?
Get on your device and open Passbook. If you need to go through the menus, go to Settings, then hit Passbook and Apple Pay. There, you’ll add your card by hitting the plus symbol. Or, it might say Add Credit or Debit Card. Depends which device you’re adding it to. You might have already added your card when you linked it with your iTunes account, in which case, you’ll only have to pop in your security code.
You’ll click ‘Next’ to get everything verified with your bank and, once they’ve given you the all-clear, you’re set. In the Passbook section, you can add a number of cards, if you like.
Where Can I Use Apple Pay?
There’s over 250,000 retailers who will be accepting Apple Pay, and we’re certainly not going to list them all here. You’ll see that some shops have signs saying they accept Apple Pay. However, some of the bigger stores include Lidl, Boots, M&S, the Post Office, McDonald’s, Waitrose, Costa, KFC, Starbucks, BP, Wagamama, Subway and Nando’s.
More and more shops will be getting down with Apple Pay in the coming months. You can also use it like an Oyster Card on the readers on London’s public transport.
So How Am I Supposed To Use The Thing?
Have you done a contactless payment with your debit card? If so, very similar to that. If not, it is really straightforward.
Hold your phone over the card reader with your thumb/finger (the one you stored with Touch ID – so sucks to be you if you did it with your nipple or dog’s nose) on the home button, and Passbook will automatically kick in. Your device will vibrate and make a ping! noise, and your payment is done. Just to be extra thorough, your device will day ‘Done’ on the screen.
If you’re planning on using it through your Apple Watch, then, when making a payment, double-click the side button to get your card up, then hold it next to the card reader and, again, it’ll vibrate and ping!, and you’re away.
What Is An iPhone?
Don’t you worry. You can still pay for things with money. Don’t get worked up about it all.
And that has been announced by a loudmouth from HSBC. In a tweet (since deleted), the @HSBC_UK account, when asked about the contactless service, said: “Yes! It’s due to launch this Tuesday! We are excited too.”
HSBC have since said that “there is no set date for launch”, but no-one is having any of that and the person running the social media account of HSBC has probably been locked in a stationary cupboard with a venomous snake, which will be then set on fire and used in a bankers’ ritual to some false god.
Of course, retailers have already been putting their signs up around the country, saying that they’ll be supporting Apple Pay, so we knew it would be soon. Everyone, apart from Barclays, have signed-up for the service.
Obviously, it’ll be compatible with iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch, and if you fancy it, as soon as Apple give the official green light, you can go into your settings and add your card.