car Drivers fined by police after insurers stop cover with no warningDrivers are finding themselves being stopped and fined by the police thanks to insurers cancelling their car cover without telling them.

The Financial Ombudsman Service says that they’ve seen a spike in complaints about policies being stopped without any warning and that, in the worst instances, motorists only find out about it when they’ve been pulled over for driving with no insurance.

The Ombudsman says that those who allow their insurer to renew their policies automatically, but don’t realise that they must declare any change in circumstances since first purchasing the cover, are the people most at risk.

Basically, if your insurer thinks that things are different, they may cancel your policy and there’s a chance they won’t tell you. It seems that motorists who have benefited from reduced premiums for having a no-claims discount are also at risk from getting their policy cancelled without being told.

And this is not to be sniffed at, as the penalty for driving without insurance is six points on your licence and a £300 fine. The Financial Ombudsman says: “These types of communication breakdowns can have very serious consequences for the people affected.”

So if your car insurance automatically renews, it is worth contacting your insurer and seeing if you can change that option or, indeed, ask them to provide you with clear correspondence of any changes in your policy.

Deathwatch: loaves of bread at Greggs

May 20th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

bread Deathwatch: loaves of bread at GreggsHorrifying news everyone! Greggs – the baker – may well stop selling loaves of bread. There’s going to be riots about this. We can see people chaining themselves to the front doors of Greggs up and down the country. We really can.

Greggs said on Twitter that they’d removed their loaves from one store to ‘allow for other products to be sold’ after someone complained that their local shop didn’t stock them anymore. Greggs added: ‘If products aren’t selling well, we take them off.’

Now, you’re thinking ‘cuh! One store? Why should anyone care?’ Well, crusty cobblers and the like, may be on the way out as Greggs said that they’re focusing on things that are quick and easy lunchtime snacks, rather than mucking about making loaves.

A Greggs spokesperson said: “Many customers are now coming to us for bakery food-on-the-go products, including sandwiches, which are freshly prepared in store every day and made using our own bread.”

“While loaves of bread can still be purchased in a number of our shops where we see high levels of customer demand, we also understand that customer shopping habits and needs are changing and have adapted accordingly.”

This is our generation’s JFK moment.

google Google to tackle Amazon with Buy button?Soon enough, when you’re shopping for a new pair of shoes or wanting to buy some movies, when you search in Google, you might have the option to buy it directly through them, rather than messing about pressing buttons to get to Amazon or eBay and wasting your valuable minutes on this planet.

That’s right – the search behemoth is apparently looking to rollout a ‘Buy’ button on its Shopping tab. Google say they won’t get any commission on this and they’re thinking about doing it to help you out. They’re selfless like that, clearly.

That, or they’re going mine all that lovely data and sell it on for a wad of money from someone.

Anyway, according to various reports and mutterings, these buttons will appear alongside paid search results in the ‘Shop on Google’ section.

Seeing as Google have Google Wallet, you’d think that they’ll store your payment details in that, so you don’t need to enter your payment details all the time. That means you might have to be signed-in with Google all the time, which again, works in their favour massively and will no doubt annoy people who don’t have a Google account.

PPI complaints still dominate, despite drop

May 19th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

ppi 300x202 PPI complaints still dominate, despite dropThe PPI mis-selling scandal trundles on and, in vaguely good news, complaints about them have halved in a year. However, don’t be fooled, as PPI is still a massive issue, dwarfing most others. Basically, it won’t go away.

The Financial Ombudsman Service, which deals with all the unresolved cases, said that they’d received 204,943 complaints about PPI in the 12 months to the end of March, which is still a shedload. Other complaints about financial products don’t even come close.

The ombudsman reckons that PPI cases could still be dogging everyone for a while yet, and could take years to work through.

So far, over £24bn has been paid out via a gigantic programme of compensation. There’s still a chance that the banks are being idiots about the whole thing, still!

The Financial Ombudsman Service found in consumers’ favour in 55% of cases over the year, which tells you how shifty the financial institutions who were selling PPI, have been. Cases are still coming to light, with some banks contacting customers to tell them that they’d applied PPI to credit cards without ever telling customers. Worth ringing your bank up to see if you’re in for some compo.

Screen Shot 2015 05 19 at 13.46.49 222x300 Sorry kids, a train strike this Bank Holiday means your trip is cancelledIf you’ve made arrangements to take a train somewhere this Bank Holiday, you might want to start arranging a back up plan.

Members of the RMT Union have announced that they are planning to take industrial action on, yep, you guessed it, Bank Holiday Monday 25th May and also Tuesday 26th May.

Talks are supposedly ongoing this week between Network Rail and the Trade Unions so there still might be a possibility that the strike will be called off with a resolution to their dispute being reached.

Should the strike go ahead, train companies have put in place special ticketing arrangements and these are shown below. Do remember to check any existing travel restrictions on your tickets.

Anytime, Off-Peak or Super Off-Peak ticket valid for travel on either the Monday 25 or Tuesday 26 May can be used on Sunday 24 May or Wednesday 27 May instead.

Advance ticket for travel on Monday 25 or Tuesday 26 May can also be used on Sunday 24 May or Wednesday 27 May instead. However, if you travel on either of these two alternative days, you must use the same train service that you would have used on the 25 or 26 May, or the services immediately before or after this service.

As soon as we hear more news we’ll let you know.

Google Glass to make a comeback?

May 19th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

google glass Google Glass to make a comeback?The appetite for Google Glass hasn’t been too great, leaving Google to pull the idea for a while. While the idea of the gadget isn’t all that bad, there was something awry about it and the prohibitive price didn’t help matters.

With all that in mind, the wearable technology could be making a comeback, as part of a new crop of wearable products. With the Apple Watch selling like hot cakes, the time might be right for Google to chance their arm again, in this particular field. We shouldn’t forget that virtual reality is just around the corner too.

So what’s the score? Well, there’s been a number of job adverts on Google’s website. The Google Glass team are now focused on developing “smart eyewear and other related products,” suggesting that Google are going to expand beyond the goggles.

These job listings include an Audio Hardware Manager, a Human Factors Designer, an RF Systems Engineer and a Hardware Automation Engineer (Manufacturing). It has also been rumoured that Google will be unveiling a new version of the Glass headset alongside other wearable products at the Google I/O developer conference at the end of this month.

Google just need to remember that, whatever they do, it has to have style as well as substance, as the old glasses looked a bit grim. The Apple Watch has been warmly received for the aesthetic, so Google Glass needs to look like a designer pair of specs and, importantly, not cost a grand. Then, they might be on to something.

Wonga: now serious and devoid of puppets

May 19th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Wonga, after a hard year, are making a comeback and they’ve gone all serious and aiming their wares squarely at sensible, normal folk. The puppets are gone, replaced with a farmer, a dinner lady and a man who paints the lines on football pitches.

They’ve decided that the new tactic should be aimed at Middle England.

Wonga 500x280 Wonga: now serious and devoid of puppets

This is the first ad-campaign that Wonga have undertaken since they were blighted with a series of scandals, and the management fleeing the ship like rats. You’ll remember that they were stung for sending out fake legal letters, and the marketing team behind the puppet commercials backed away from them as they morally didn’t like what Wonga were doing.

They also lost £37m and expects to lose money this year too.

Wonga has now overhauled their image and business model, in a bid to comply with the new, stricter lending rules imposed on them and they’re also looking to stop giving loans to people who will struggle to repay them.

The payday loan company now turns down 45% of applicants thanks to their new credit-checking system. Not too long ago, they only rejected 20% of those applying for loans. Wonga are also toying with the idea of a name change, but the brand is seen to be far too toxic by many. For the time-being, it stays.

“We’re re-presenting our short-term loans to the public in a way that accesses the right type of customer and reduces the risk of inadvertently attracting the very young or vulnerable,” said Tara Kneafsey, the UK chief executive of Wonga. “Our focus is on serving hard-working people throughout the UK who need access to transparent, flexible and short-term credit products.”

medicine Free medicine for children through Minor Ailments schemeGetting sick is pain, but help is at hand where you can get free medicine over the counter at a pharmacy near you, if you use the minor ailments scheme.

So how does it work? Well, go to your pharmacy and ask for the minor ailments scheme form, and fill out your order, and you could get your meds through your NHS contributions.

This scheme is meant only for baby and children’s medication, and is there to alleviate the burden on the NHS. If you don’t need to go to your GP, you don’t have to.

If you want more information on this, the NHS have a page about it all, which is helpful.

There’s a search engine about the minor ailments scheme, which you can check out by clicking here. Not all pharmacies run a minor ailment service, sadly. If you have a Boots nearby, they’re on-board with the scheme. You can check out their information on it all, here.

Basically, if you just need some Calpol or nappy rash cream, you can avoid the wait at the GP’s and get it for free at participating pharmacies. This scheme has been around for a while, but it seems there’s a lot of people out there who still aren’t aware of it, so have a look into it and make the most of this very useful service for new parents which will save you time, as well as money.

If you’re an adult picking up a prescription, there’s also a thing where you can save money. In some cases, picking up a private prescription is significantly cheaper than doing it through the NHS. Have a look here for more details on that.

money 300x168 What are the best alternatives to pensioner bonds?The window for purchasing the Government-backed pensioner bonds closed on Friday, and it is interesting that they are, reportedly, the most popular financial product ever marketed.  The fixed-rate bonds offered market-stumping rates of 2.8% AER for one year and 4% AER over three years, and allowed the over 65s to invest up to a maximum of £10,000 into each type of bond. Although the government had originally limited the available amount to £10 billion for these bonds, the Chancellor then changed his mind, and instead they were on unlimited sale for four months. But now that the door has firmly closed on that investment, what alternatives are there for those looking to stash some more cash?

First up, in advance of the new savings allowance coming in from next April, are cash ISAs, which give a higher equivalent rate of return.Which!!! best buy tables show the best one-year fixed-rate ISAs are from Al Rayan Bank and Punjab National Bank, both offering rates of 1.9% AER. However, they warn that the rate from Al Rayan Bank is an ‘expected profit rate’ from Sharia compliant investments, so returns are not guaranteed. Punjab National Bank also offers the best three-year fixed-rate at 2.3% AER, and a number of others offer rates around the 2.25% mark.

But if you’ve already invested the maximum £15,240 in an ISA for this year you might want to look at savings accounts. Punjab National Bank is again top of the rate pops  for both one-year and three-year fixed-rate savings accounts, their one-year fix paying 2% AER and the three-year fix paying 2.55% AER. Note that if you have a spare £10,000 to stash for three years, figures from Moneyfacts show AgriBank as top banana with an impressive 2.7% return.

Which!!! also recommend looking at current accounts for smaller cash piles. Nationwide’s FlexDirect account pays 5% AER on balances up to £2,500 for the first year and Santander pays 3% AER on balances between £3,000 and £20,000 on its 123 current account, but watch out for qualifying criteria like minimum payments in or direct debits. You could also look at peer-to-peer lending, which offer savers favourable rates, often 5-7% AER over five years, but currently without the FSCS £80,000 savings protection.

Finally, another option open to those likely to have qualified for Pensioner Bonds would be to invest more in the State Pension. Only open between this October and April 2017, qualifying individuals (women born before April 6, 1953, and men before April 6, 1951) can purchase additional ‘annuity’ in £1 per week increments, for a fixed sum now. The capital amount of investment/the amount you will receive depends on your age and gender, but the returns could beat current annuity rates. Take the following official example of a 65 year old man. To get the maximum top up of £25 per week, he’d pay £22,250, which works out at an ‘annuity rate’ of 5.84%, which is inflation-proofed and offers a half-pension to the spouse on death. This is around half the price he’d pay if he bought a similar annuity from an insurance company, and he’d only have to live 17 years to ‘get his money back’, even though the ONS would estimate he’d actually survive a further 21 years and seven months, precisely.

However, the sweeping pension changes recently introduced removed the requirement to purchase an annuity on death, and while a 5.84% return might compare favourably to savings rates available now, you do not get your capital back, and all your cash will be fully exhausted on a second death. Also, who’s to say they won’t change the state pension rules again before you have drawn all your ‘break even’ benefits? It’s not like they’ve totally messed with the system before or anything…

Deathwatch (again): Thorntons

May 18th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

A box of Thorntons Contin 002 300x180 Deathwatch (again): ThorntonsThe chief executive of Thorntons has resigned as the chocolate-pushers continue to perform really badly. They’ve been on our Deathwatch for a long time now, beleaguered and ploughing away, and things don’t seem to be improving.

After announcing a pre-Christmas profit warning and the supermarkets dropping their orders with the confectioner, chief-executive Jonathan Hart is leaving his post at the end of the company’s financial year on 27th June.

Even though there have been improved profits along the way, thanks to cutting costs, actual orders for Thorntons’ products have barely risen. In March, the company announced that their full-year profit down nearly 10%, with revenues down 8%.

Paul Wilkinson, Thorntons’ chairman, said: “Over the past four years Jonathan has turned around our retail business, as well as creating and delivering the vision and strategy that will serve as the platform for the continued transformation of Thorntons into an international consumer goods business. On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Jonathan for his significant contribution and wish him well for the future.”

Thorntons’ shares have plummeted from 118p to 95p. While the business continues to survive, they remain on Deathwatch.

barclays bank limited 300x300 Barclays set for biggest ever fine, at £250mThe Financial Conduct Authority is going to make an example out of Barclays by slapping them something stupid, with a fine for £250m over the foreign exchange rigging scandal.

The watchdog is handing out a fine that tops the penalties tha other banks paid out to the regulator last year.

This comes as part of more than £4bn in fines expected to be doled out on Wednesday for Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, JPMorgan and Citigroup. While other establishments settled in 2014, Barclays decided not to.

Thanks to this, they missed out on a 30% reduction that everyone else received, leaving them paying more than the record fine that UBS paid in November, when they coughed-up £234m.

Barclays will also have to settle with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, so this is going to hit them square in the coffers, and hard.

Altogether, the fines for libor rigging lies somewhere in advance of £6bn, and the whole thing isn’t even done with yet. When it all ends, it will only add to an already dizzying amount of money.

The majority of the fine given to the FCA will go to the Treasury, with George Osborne most likely to announce how he’ll be spending the money in July at an emergency budget.

TV licence More and more people refusing to pay for TV licenceWhile the BBC clearly has more output than the average broadcaster, that doesn’t mean everyone has to like it.

Now, over 1,000 homes per day are getting rid of their TVs and not paying for their licence fee by watching shows on catch-up or on other subscription services. According to figures, over half a million households said that they no longer have television sets.

With people increasingly picking up tablets and other devices, that number is only likely to increase, with people opting out of paying for the licence fee by watching shows on catch-up. Obviously, the BBC would like to see all this locked-down, while others would like to see the BBC moving away from a compulsory licence, to a more modern voluntary subscription package.

A BBC spokesman said: “We’ve repeatedly said that the licence fee should be modernised to include people watching catch-up TV and we’ll discuss the best way of doing this as we approach the renewal of our charter.”

If you watch things on iPlayer, all you get is a very polite: ‘Don’t forget, to watch TV online as it’s being broadcast, you still need to be covered by a TV Licence.’

There’s a feeling among many that, if the BBC thinks it is good enough, then it will be confident that it could survive with a similar subscription package to Sky or Netflix.

Channel 5’s former chief executive David Elstein reckons: “More and more people are going to twig that if they dispose of their fixed television and watch on a phone, tablet or laptop, the BBC will no longer chase them [for the licence fee]. That 1,000 a day will turn into 2,000 a day. Why would you pay £145.50 a year if you don’t have to?”

Indeed, some people plain refuse, and the BBC agree that the whole idea of a licence needs updating. Are we seeing the end of the licence fee as we know it?

If you’ve been out in the world with your eyes open at any point, you’ll know that sometimes, Out Of Order signs will appear on toilets. They’re annoying, but a necessary evil.

However, one sign at a Debenhams in Cardiff has caused a bit of interest over what is either a fun joke or a brilliant spelling mistake. The sign apologises “for any incontinence this may cause.”

CFH64bkUEAE87kQ 500x332 Dont wet yourself over this toilets out of order sign

We can’t decide whether or not that someone is having a joke, or if it is a genuine spelling error. Either way, we’re glad it exists.

Just as long as you didn’t see it in person and end up pissing your sides.

make up 300x225 Arsenic and human waste found in fake make upDo you like putting human urine on your face? How about rat poo? Do you want to daub yourself with a mixture of the aforementioned, especially when it is mixed together with arsenic? If you’re into that, you should totally buy a load of fake make-up.

If not, then the police are saying that you should avoid fake beauty products, which are being sold all over Britain.

A campaign has been launched called ‘Wake Up – Don’t Fake Up’, which aims to warn consumers about the fake beauty product industry, which is reportedly worth £90m a year. This isn’t some dodgy person flogging counterfeit perfume out of a suitcase on a street corner – thanks to the internet, these products are everywhere.

Sadly, consumers are being conned as, online, you can’t hold the product to see inspect it and stock images are being used with these knock-off goods, so they look like the real deal.

The police’s lab tests have shown all manner of horrible stuff in them. Fake perfumes have been tested and, in them, they’ve found cyanide and urine.

Many counterfeit cosmetics are made in unsanitary factories, which means whatever vermin is creeping around there is taking a dump in the products, which you then wipe all over your face. Not cool.

Something is being done about this, though – in the last 18 months, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has suspended more than 5,500 websites which were flogging fake-up, and they seized more than £3.5m worth of products.

Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall said: “Many people don’t know about the real dangers counterfeit beauty products pose to their health. That is why this week we are urging the public to Wake up – don’t fake up! Criminals are exploiting every opportunity to fool customers into buying counterfeits in order for them to make some quick cash – putting people’s health, homes and lives at risk.”

“Beauty products are meant to enhance your features, however the fakes can in fact do quite the opposite. Our general rule is: if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.”

A new look for New Look

May 15th, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

new look 300x224 A new look for New LookHigh street fashion vendor, New Look has been taken over be a South African billionaire, in a deal which values the company at somewhere in the region of £1.9bn.

Brait – the private equity thingummy of the excitingly named Christo Wiese – said that they’d reached an agreement with New Look’s shareholders, and that they’d be buying a 90% stake in the company for £780m.

Wiese will also be launching a new fashion retailer on the high street called Pep & Co. Looks like the streets of Britain will be awash with clothes and that businesses are confident there’s enough of us wanting to spend money on them.

Of course, this also underlines just how alluring the British high street is to foreign investors.

This new deal means that Apax and Permira, who bought the New Look chain back in 2004, will be abandoning their exploratory plans for a flotation of the business.

As New Look have been looking to expand their menswear ranges, we only hope that all this means some bargains for everyone concerned. Go on foreign investors – woo us with cheap stuff!