Back in the good old days, getting financial advice was easy. You could sit down with a nice young man who would sort out all your money issues, and any fee would be covered by the commission he earned advising you where to stick your cash.
However, the Governments RDR exercise found that, perhaps unsurprisingly, some unscrupulous advisers were allowing the amount of commission they could earn to affect their advice. Also, many advisers were getting ‘trail commission’- whereby they were paid an annual sum (from the fees deducted from your investment product) despite not actually doing any extra work. As a result, advisers now have to charge a fee for advice, so all the charges are upfront, and you know exactly what you are paying.
And while we always knew- deep down- that the advice was never free, for many people, being able to pay for advice piecemeal was preferable to having to fork out for advice in a lump sum. This point is particularly acute at the moment, with thousand of people with smaller pension pots unsure of what to do once the new rules about cashing in your pension come into effect.
In what is a blatant PR stunt, Unbiased financial advisers are going to offer free 30-minute sessions on pension arrangements, mortgages, investments and general financial health. The government is offering free guidance sessions to help consumers navigate the retirement landscape, but Unbiased think many people would benefit from proper tailored advice over generic guidance.
The sessions will take the form of straightforward reviews of people’s financial situations, followed by adviser feedback on what their next steps should be. They will not offer full fact finds or provide ‘output’ documents. such as those planned for the government’s free retirement guidance sessions.
Unbiased CEO Karen Barrett said: ”At Unbiased we have worked hard over the past decade to get people to understand advice is not free. But we have to move with the time. Consumers these days expect offers and discounts, so we are trying to get into that theme.
Even if it’s only a short session, the free advice might be of use to those unsure of what they should do come April, or for those just looking for a bit of extra direction. And it’s free.
Energy companies may well have dropped everyone’s bills, but they’re going to be making a profit thanks to lower wholesale gas prices. Basically, because they’ve not lowered our bills by as much as they’re saving on wholesale costs, their pre-tax profits over the next year will be up by around 50%, which is £114 profit per household.
Those figures come from energy regulator Ofgem, who are putting pressure on the Big Six to lower our bills even further. Not enough pressure to make them actually do it mind you. They’re basically nagging in the hope it’ll work in our favour.
“Pre-tax margins of a typical supplier are likely to widen over the next 12 months as wholesale costs continue to fall sharply even when accounting for recent price cut announcements,” they said. ”If the market were more competitive you would expect suppliers to be competing more vigorously for market share in response to falling wholesale costs.”
As previously reported on these pages, Big Six companies have announced their price drops, which land between 1.3% and 5.1% and, crunching the numbers, every knows that the energy providers could’ve offered much better deals for their customers.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The inadequacy of recent energy price cuts is now clear. Low wholesale costs are allowing energy companies to increase profits whilst barely cutting energy prices. The ball is now back in the energy firms’ court to actually compete with each other on further and deeper price cuts.”
The Treasury are already investigating the energy sector, to see whether or not the Big Six are actually passing on savings, which they’re clearly not. While one sector gives us small savings, another launches expensive investigations to state the bloody obvious with our taxes.
A gentleman has bought a domain name worth $15,000 (£9,900) for just $10.99 (£7.25).
The snipular bargain was picked up was picked up by Bruce Marler, who was after buying the domain credit.club. A glitch in the website allowed him to get it at the knockdown price by mistake.
He’d hoped to buy it to make even more money from selling it, having been inspired by someone who’d bought the domain wine.club for $140,000.
Marler had created a wordpress platform and registered the address with a Twitter handle too.
The company that runs all dot-club domain names, .Club Domains, said that the sale was an error on its part and that several premium domain names were wrongly listed as available for the low fee for 24 hours. The mistake has now been corrected.
.Club Domains also said they could be arses and cancel the purchase, but their chief executive said they’d honour the deal rather than allowing any particular mud-slinging to begin.
In a statement he said: “The registry does not believe it is in our best interest nor the best interest of the registrant to pull the name back given the substantial investment in time and money he has invested to launch credit.club. I informed the registrant of such matters and wish him a continued success.”
Speaking to the Domain Gang website, Mr Marler said: “My intent is to sell the domain, eventually. This domain is as good as any finance-related .club domain that exists. If the site grows in revenue the site can be considered a business venture, but at this point it’s a domain investment.”
Business, there, ladies and gentlemen.
The PPI debacle has become one of the most shameful episodes in British banking of the last ten years. And there’s quite a range of knobbery to select from.
A whopping £17.3 billion has now been paid out, after PPI was ruled to be an utterly despicable piece of mis-selling, often with no actual thought as to whether the customer could pay it back or not.
Payment Protection Insurance or PPI, was meant to protect borrowers in the event of sickness or unemployment, but were often sold to those who would have been ineligible to claim.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it would use its findings, due to be published in the summer, to assess if the current approach to compensating customers is working properly. Because there just hasn’t been enough money squandered on this.
The FCA said in a statement: “The FCA will then consider whether further interventions may be appropriate, which could include a consumer communication campaign; a possible time limit on complaints; or other rule changes or guidance, or whether the continuation of the PPI scheme in its current form best meets its objectives,”
“While this work continues, the FCA expects firms to continue to deal with PPI complaints in accordance with our requirements,”
Banks such as Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland have already set aside £24 billion to compensate consumers, with many of them wiping off the entire debt of customers
Since 2011, the banks have dealt with over 14 million complaints about PPI, and have got to around 70% of customers paid back.
There’s still around 4,000 complaints coming through the banks each week about PPI, so even if you have the slightest doubt, get in touch with them.
Honestly, you can’t trust anyone these days.
Naming a new business venture is tricky because, most of the time, you’re stuck with it. It’s like naming a band. You have to hope that everyone just gets used to a thing called Smashing Pumpkins or whatever.
And so to Uxbridge, where someone has opened up a cafe. No, not a cereal cafe or another idea that signals that adults are about a month away from turning into dribbling infantile dimwits, but rather, a normal cafe where you can get a brew or a butty.
However, there’s a small problem with the logo.
Bitterwallet stared at this for a while, wondering what the cafe was called. We couldn’t work out anything that didn’t say ‘Wanky Teapot’.
Spotted by Twitter user Tony White with the comment: ‘The *what* Teapot Co? New cafe might need to work on its logo’, we stared and stared at it until someone else pointed out to us that it was in fact called the WONKY Teapot.
Either way, if you’re in Uxbridge a want a hot beverage, you’d be advised to proceed with caution if the staff ask you if you want cream.
Everyone hates pretentious stuff, but sometimes, you can put up with it because you get to drink nice wine or eat wonderful food as a result. If people want to get all lovie about it while you stuff your face, then fine.
However, sometimes, it goes way, way beyond. You think wine experts are a pain in the hole? Wait until you read the flowery prose of a Water Sommelier.
Spotted by Sophie Gadd, the water sommelier says that “the most important role for water during a meal is to perfectly complement the taste experience”, which means drinking glacéau smartwater, which according to their own website, is “vapor-distilled” and “inspired by the clouds”.
You can read the rest for yourself, but please don’t blame us if you end up kicking yourself out of a window in frustration and horror. We’re all just going to have to get used to the fact that there are people in the world who are paid to match your water with food.
You’ll notice though, that Arno Steguweit is Europe’s “only water sommelier” and that, thus far, they’re only offering one brand, almost like they’re sponsored.
Feel free to appoint yourself the world’s only special brew sommelier.
The Ellesmere Port branch in Cheshire has been forced to remove padded envelopes off the shelves after they realised that crooks were using them for a sneaky but genius bit of wrongdoing.
While it wasn’t the entire area doing it, Asda said it had narrowed it down to a small number of customers.
Asda was alerted to the scheme last month but it did not come to light until a baffled shopper questioned why envelopes had been moved from the other side of the shop to where the in store Post Office was.
In store staff confirmed the issue with one customer, who then shared it with the whole world via Facebook “It’s because people used to pick them off the shelves, stuff DVDs and such like into them from the store, then post it back to themselves..”
“So, stealing without taking anything out of the store. The Post Office then takes it away without you going through the alarm gate. You’ve got to hand it to the crims in the port, it was worth all the hassle just to hear that story!!” he added.
Asda remain unamused, commenting that they will be getting the police involved too. So there. “We take shoplifting very seriously and work with the local police to ensure this doesn’t happen in our stores,” a spokesperson said. “This allows us to continue to offer the low prices that customers expect from Asda.”
The slowcoaches will bring Word, PowerPoint and Excel to the tablets, having faffed about it for too long. The apps work much like the iOS versions, letting you create and edit documents, presentations and spreadsheets that will sync with OneDrive so you can work from anywhere.
Also, the Android versions of Word, PowerPoint and Excel let you quickly browse and open recent documents from your OneDrive or Dropbox accounts.
You can also create new projects using a variety of customizable templates for documents and presentations
It’s the final hurdle after three months of testing and soft-launching Microsoft Office, which has benefited from customer feedback.
All of the apps require you to have a Microsoft account (you can sign up from the app itself if you don’t have one), but once you’re all set up, you’ll be able to create and edit documents for free during a one-month trial. After your free trial is up, you can sign up for a subscription to Office 365 with a number of tiered subscription plans for both large and small businesses down to individual users. However all this stuff used to come as standard on some computers.
Office for Android works on tablets running Android KitKat 4.4, that also have 7-inch screens or larger (sorry, phablet owners). While you can use the final apps on an Android tablet running Lollipop.
Microsoft ain’t said owt about iOS, so keep holding your breath as regards that.
Loyalty schemes are often touted as a good way to retain customers and to keep them choosing your brand over another, and British Airways’ Avios scheme for airmiles is no exception. However, running a successful a loyalty scheme is a lot like trying to please a good woman- always better to keep her happy, as once you start scrimping on what you’re offering, hell hath no fury…
New changes have been announced to the British Airways airmiles (Avios) scheme that will see the scheme ‘gutted’ and ‘devalued’ for normal, economy class users. However, this is not a cost-cutting exercise, as British Airways are, at the same time, making the scheme far more generous for those who, arguably, need the benefits less as they are already forking out first – and business-class prices.
For example,from 28 April a basic economy-class ticket from London to New York will earn just 865 airmiles, down from 3,458. Previously, a Heathrow-Vancouver economy return earned 9,400 points which was more than enough for a round-trip from London to Milan (subject to a £35 payment). Now, some economy passengers face a 75% fall in the number of Avios earned, to just 2,350 meaning the same traveller would now need to make four round trips to earn enough for a journey to Italy and back.
Passengers in Scotland and northern England face even more dramatic increases in the cost of redeeming points for journeys to Europe. At present they are entitled to a free domestic connecting flight, often to London, but this ‘courtesy’ is also being withdrawn “to bring the UK in line with the rest of the world.”
Business and first-class passengers are the big winners from the changes to point-earning. These travellers will see their Avios points rise by as much as two-thirds, with the Heathrow to JFK traveller picking up 8,645 airmiles, up from 5,187, on a one-way flight. However, when business travellers come to redeem their points, the number of Avios they have to spend will rise. For example, a business class flight from London to Sydney currently costs 100,000 Avios points, but this will rise to 125,000 at off-peak times and 150,000 at peak times.
And this peak and off peak pricing for reward flights is across the board, hitting those who travel at Christmas or during the school summer holidays hardest. For example, a single flight to Rome will cost 7,500 points in July but 6,500 points in January. BA said the new structure means that “for two thirds of the year you will require fewer Avios than now to fly on reward seats.”
To attempt to sweeten the deal and head off the inevitable PR storm, BA is promising to make half a million extra seats available for travellers trying to use their accumulated points. “We guarantee that more than 9m reward seats will be available on our flights, with a minimum of two Club World/Club Europe and four World Traveller/Euro Traveller reward seats on all British Airways operated flights that are offered for sale on ba.com,” it said, before going on to excuse the changes to the scheme as being in the name of ‘fairness’, by making more expensive tickets earn higher rewards. “In practice this means that if you pay for a flexible ticket you will earn more Avios than the lowest priced ticket in the same cabin.”
So are you going to be affected by the dramatic changes? Or are you more prosaic, happy that getting something for nothing is always a good thing, even if it’s a lot less something than it used to be…
Initially, there’ll be 10 mini-Argos stores at Sainsbury’s, which will be open by summertime.
As Argos move away from relying solely on catalogues, this is a cheaper way for them to expand and, Sainsbury’s themselves who are under increasing pressure from their rivals will welcome any extra footfall that comes their way.
The joint-statement said: “These new format Argos digital stores will provide customers with a choice of over 20,000 non-grocery products which they can either buy instantly in store via tablets, or reserve online for easy collection within hours, the same or the following day.”
“An extended range of around 40,000 products can also be ordered in store for home delivery. The Argos digital stores in Sainsbury’s will range in size from around 1,000 to over 5,000 square feet.”
Sainsbury’s are keen to grab more concessions as Argos is just one of 30 they’d signed-up, including Jessops and Timpsons.
Mike Coupe, chief executive of Sainsbury’s, said: “These 10 Argos stores will complement our supermarket offer, giving customers the opportunity to shop for an extended range of non-food items.
“They will bring something new and different to our customers, and fit well with our strategy of making our supermarkets more convenient.”
Sony are getting rid of their Music Unlimited service.
The streaming service is going in favour of a new deal that Sony have conjured up with Spotify, which will be streamable to consoles, smartphones and tablet devices.
Spotify will become the exclusive partner for a new service called PlayStation Music, which is heading this way in the Spring and hitting 41 countries.
Music Unlimited breathes its last on March 29th after an unremarkable five years since its launch in 2010.
Sony customers paying for Spotify through PlayStation Music will be able to access the streaming service across their various devices, browsing its catalogue of 30m songs, creating and listening to playlists, and streaming music while playing games.
Spotify’s chief executive Daniel Ek said: “As a gamer and PlayStation 4 user myself, I’m super excited to be able to soundtrack my FIFA 15 Arsenal matches later this spring.”
Sony Computer Entertainment boss Andrew House chipped in with: “This partnership represents the best in music and the best in gaming coming together, which will benefit the vibrant and passionate communities of both Spotify and PlayStation Network.”
The challenge now is Spotify’s and see if they can woo the 64 million active users of the PlayStation network, and rinse them for subscriptions. The companies are not announcing how much a Spotify subscription through PlayStation Music will cost or whether Sony will be subsidising part of the £9.99 monthly price.
Tony Steeles from Croydon said his car kept being targeted by hungry squirrel gangs, hell bent on feasting on the eco-friendly bits of the vehicle.
Mr Steeles first noticed teeth marks on his rubber areas, and suspected those varmints because only the roof was affected. Tony said: “I got a new car from Toyota. I’d not had it very long and I noticed that some of the rubber parts of the car, like the aerial, were being damaged.”
“So I had to call out the AA because the car had lights coming on the dashboard. He looked at it and said it’s rodent or squirrel damage.”
“So I took it back and got it repaired. This happened a few times and eventually I got it replaced. Since then I keep the car in the garage. I could see the teeth marks. It was definitely some sort of wildlife, and I thought it was a squirrel not a rat because the area affected was on the roof.”
Speaking to Auto Express, Mr Steele said: “The aerial’s been chewed off twice, the oxygen sensor’s been damaged and various rubber-like trim parts have been chewed.”
Handy tip, from someone who has been there: wasabi paste. Smear your aerial with that. Foxes don’t like wasabi paste. Even the fancy inner London ones.
A spokesman for Toyota told Auto Express: “We have had very few complaints of this occurring in the UK.” But said they would “investigate if any improvements can be made to the design of our products to deter rodents”. Mr Steeles added: “To be honest, Toyota have been quite good about it.”
Which is quite good really.