Posts Tagged ‘Consumer’
In order to afford your first mortgage these days, you have to be earning a pretty healthy wage. Gone are the days when you could be a sniveling bong-headed student and just ask your Mum to be guarantor on an interest only mortgage.
Now, to be a first time buyer you have to be raking in £40 grand per year to comfortably afford the average loan of £119,000 – meaning that a new home is just a pipe dream for those earning the average wage of £26,500.
Even so, the Council of Mortgage Lenders says that young people are clamoring to borrow via the Help to Buy scheme, or taking out mortgages that are 3.4 times bigger than their gross salaries. All anyone wants is a place to call their own, with no black mould or landlords who collect the rent while holding a machete.
In February, around 22,000 mortgage loans were agreed by people who were around the age of 30, up by 41% on last year.
But if interest rates rise, the dreams of idealistic young home owners could turn to dust as they struggle to afford even the most average mortgage.
Time to get a better paying job? Oh, sorry, there aren’t any.
Since the switching guarantee scheme came in, over half a million people have decided to move their accounts, rather than slavishly sticking with the same crap bank for life. That’s according to the Payments Council, who counted 609,300 switches in the six months to the end of March – up 14% from a year ago.
Before the Switching Guarantee, customers were basically held to ransom by their banks. It took 30 days to switch, they would bombard you with tearful ‘please come back’ calls, and it was easier to stick with the same old, same old than venture forth and move your money.
But is it enough to open up the banking industry?
Even so, the Payments Council was delighted with the news. Gary Hocking, its managing director said:
‘By making the Current Account Switch Service quick, hassle-free and removing the fear factor, we’ve taken away the barriers customers told us they had when it came to switching. There’s also been a noticeable surge of advertising activity from current account providers, big and small, suggesting that the new service is helping foster competition and choice for customers.’
But critics say that 14% doesn’t exactly herald a competitive banking market. Consumer Batman Ricardo Lloyd of Which!, is taking a very dim view.
‘Despite an increase in public awareness and confidence, switching levels are still low, suggesting that the new seven-day service is not the game-changer that can significantly increase competition in banking.’
I know what’ll stimulate competition. Barclays’ new and outrageously steep overdraft charges, due to be introduced in June, will have customers flocking to switch to ANYWHERE ELSE.
Do you remember what you spent your student loan on? Rent? Bills? Hydroponic equipment and Aftershocks? Well, even though the money is long gone, it will haunt you forever, according to a study by independent education group, the Sutton Trust.
It seems that three out of four students who took out a student loan while at college or university won’t pay off their loans until they’re 51. And if you managed to get yourself a decent job in the interim, you’ll be paying around £2,500 a year off during your 40s.
This follows changes to the system in 2012, when universities almost tripled their fees. But it’s OK. Many graduates will manage to escape penury by qualifying for it to be written off at the 30 year time limit, simply by not earning enough to pay it back.
Conor Ryan from the Sutton Trust explained:
‘There has been a lot said about the lower repayments that graduates make in their 20s under the new loan system, but very little about the fact that many graduates will face significant repayments through their 40s, whereas many would previously have repaid their loans by then.The new system will benefit graduates who earn very little in their lifetime.’
YAY! Let’s bum about and not earn anything! Anyone got a bag of weed and a bottle of White Lightning?
The hotdog is a singularly successful snack. Why? Because of the bun. The bun contains the sausage and the toppings and condiments and allows you to hold it comfortably in your hand. It is a perfect symbiosis of carbohydrate and protein which can be conveniently eaten on the move, and as such is the favourite snack for busy fatties everywhere.
But now two insufferable sounding advertising execs – one of whom is called ‘Didz’ – have decided to dispense entirely with the bun and just serve up a big wet mash up of sausage and mustard in a cup and call it Potdog.
David ‘Didz’ Parker and his pal Alex King have a stall at Borough Market (where else?). They use gourmet artisan sausages to create such delicacies as the ‘Randy’ which contains a gloopy blob of sausage, fried onions and hash browns. To be frank(furter), it’s a MESS.
Sadly, such is the appetite for street food amongst the young wanker population, that the Potdog could soon be a British food phenomenon. The stall turns over £600 a day, and the owners think that the Potdog is far superior to the hotdog.
‘The fillings always drop out and you end up eating a horrible stale bit of bread,” said ‘Didz’. ‘We wanted to raise the game.’
*beats Didz to death with a stale bun with an iron bar in it*
Mmm, don’t you just love a tasty burger? Well, maybe you won’t any more, if the latest warning from UK food inspectors turns into a reality. They’re concerned that more infected animals could enter the UK food chain thanks to a proposed change in abbatoir inspection processes.
In the last two years, inspectors have successfully thrown out the diseased and infected carcasses of animals with many delicious types of pestilence, including tapeworm, peritonitis, milkspot, tumours, and – everybody’s favourite – FAECES CONTAMINATION.
However, new rules from the EU are diluting inspectors powers and shifting responsibility onto the food companies involved. Unison are concerned that the industry is incapable of policing itself and needs inspectors to act as independent quality controllers. And you only have to look at the horsemeat scandal to see that they have a point.
Pig carcasses have already been affected by the European Commission rules – inspectors would cut into their heads to examine for diseases, but now they are only required to give a visual inspection.
Heather Wakefield from Unison was pretty graphic about the changes, saying:
‘The UK government’s agenda will result in food that repulses us being dished up on our plates. Most people do not know that there are a small group of meat inspectors and vets that keep them safe from harmful and repulsive additions to our sausages, Sunday roasts and beef pies. They work in some of the most awful conditions in blood and animal discharges every day. They are always the first to come under attack, not only from the food business operators, but also from our government.’
Who fancies a kale smoothie?
You know what it’s like. You try to find a reputable tradesman, and some pie eating git with a gut the size of the moon comes into your house, whistles through his teeth and tells you it’ll cost a thousand quid to put up a shelf. Then they bugger it up and you have to pay someone else to do it.
Well, last year, incompetent tradesmen cost UK householders an estimated £1.9 BILLION in botched repairs that had to be redone.
The figures, from the TrustMark tradesman scheme, said that one in five people who have had work done in their homes have had to employ someone else to fix problems – costing an average of £600.
The problems start when trying to choose someone from the job. A quarter of us will employ people based on recommendations from friends and family, while 57% of homeowners didn’t bother to check their qualifications. 6% of us simply go for the cheapest quote.
TrustMark is a government endorsed set of standards for tradesmen, which has been updated and is due to be launched soon. Consumer minister Jenny Willot said:
‘Every trader who has signed up to the scheme has been independently assessed for their competence. We want to put rogue or unscrupulous tradesmen out of business. One of the best ways to do this is to pick out the best businesses, so people know where to turn first for their home improvements, maintenance and repairs.I would encourage all legitimate and honest tradesmen to sign up to this scheme.’
That’s all well and good. But if you were a dishonest tradesman, wouldn’t you just sign up for it anyway?
Right minded people tend to slam the phone into the wall whenever they get a call about kitchens. But if you get a phone call about a government led ‘kitchen scrappage scheme’ – offering to give you a discount on a new kitchen in exchange for your old one – don’t fall for it.
It is, in fact, a con. Quite a clever con, really, considering the government have, in the past, run boiler and car scrappage schemes.
But of course, it’s all a scam to get your personal information. If you ask them what company they’re calling from, they’ll suddenly get shy, because it’s all shadier than a row of shady palm trees on Shady Lane.
What they’ll do instead is try to arrange a home sales visit, and then proceed to ask you probing questions like ‘How big is your cooker hood, love?’ and ‘What kind of knobs do you have?’ and ask you questions about your income.
Andy Curry from the Commissioner’s Office said that the calls will probably come from a lead generation company, trying to get your details so that you can be bombarded with further sales calls.
‘It appears these made up scrappage schemes are just another hook used to get people to give their details, which lead generation companies then sell on.’ he said.
Yet another reason to ditch the landline…
British Gas has been accused of trying to put the frighteners on people, after gasbag Centrica boss Sam Laidlow warned that an investigation into the energy market may lead to power blackouts.
He claimed that potential investors will be put off from backing an updated energy infrastructure if Ofgem started shaking up the energy industry with its two-year investigation.
His reasoning is that the potential breaking up of the Big Six would create uncertainty and decrease investment in the energy market, leading to what he called a ‘substantial risk’ of outages and blackouts. Ooh, we’re so SCARED.
Obviously, this sounds like a lot of desperate, self-serving bollocks, and everyone in the world has come out to tell him so, including uSwitch, Ofgem, the Tories, the Lib Dems, energy secretary Ed Davey and the Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint, who said:
‘Nobody will be fooled by scaremongering from the energy companies. What matters for investors is long-term certainty on returns, not short-term gains based on overcharging.’
So what’s Mr Laidlow got to hide, we wonder? Could it be that he doesn’t want his £2.2m a year wage packet taken away from him? I mean, what’s going to happen if he can’t afford to fill his hot tub with Dom Perignon any more?
They also won the telecommunications wooden spoon for their pay-TV service, which keeps breaking down and causing customers no end of trouble. Even when their actual service is working, customers complained of billing problems.
With 0.32 complaints per 1000 customers this quarter, BT has even surpassed the crapness of TalkTalk, who have been the worst offender for several quarters. However TalkTalk is still the most complained about telecommunications service for landline faults.
And even though BT has announced plans to hang out with their new boyfriend EE more to improve their mobile speeds, EE came second place on Ofcom’s s***list, generating above average complaints – 0.29 per 1000 customers.
It seems that if you don’t want to be on the phone all the time shouting at someone, you should switch to BSkyB or Virgin Media, who managed to come out of the report with significantly fewer complaints.
Santander has been fined over 12 million by the Financial Conduct Authority for giving customers bad advice on investments, which is the largest fine ever given for this particular kind of incompetence.
The FCA said that Santander had ‘let customers down badly’ by giving customers duff advice. It claimed that the bank had not considered the risks customers were prepared to take with their investments, and gave them unclear advice.
They also rapped them for failing to train their new advisers properly, and not making the necessary checks to ensure they gave the correct advice.
Santander stopped giving in branch investment advice in 2012, and when confronted, the bank tried to make it sound like it all happened hundreds of years ago, under the reign of Henry V.
‘We regret that elements of Santander UK’s historic branch-based investment sales processes did not meet the required regulatory standards and apologise to any customers who have concerns.’ A spokesman said.
Tracy McDermott from the FCA countered: ‘Customers trusted Santander to help them manage their money wisely, but it failed to live up to that responsibility. If trust in financial services is going to be restored, which it must be, then customers need to be confident that those advising them understand, and are driven by, what they need.’
Allegedly, Lloyds Banking Group – who have never been known not to serve themselves first – have been withholding millions of pounds of PPI compensation, thanks to a loophole in the law.
The Financial Ombudsman Service say Lloyds is using an ‘alternative redress’ scheme, which complies with the Financial Conduct Authority’s rules, as a way not to give customers their full payouts.
The alternative redress scheme is an obscure, generalised rule that assumes that customers took out regular premium policies – and that they must be reimbursed for that.
But some customers didn’t take out regular premium policies. They were sold single policies on more than one loan. So Lloyds have been deducting the cost of a cheaper regular policy from the payouts, even though some customers are owed more.
For example, one Halifax customer with 2 loans was offered £2300 PPI compensation. But when she brought the case to the Financial Ombudsman, Lloyds were asked to pay her an extra £1200.
Lloyd’s said yes, it WAS using the alternative redress system, but argued that it had done nothing wrong, saying: “The FCA handbook is very clear that in these specific circumstances, the provider should give redress that puts the customer in the position they would have been in had the customer taken a regular premium policy.’
If you want to watch Lloyd’s squirm on TV, a BBC special about the PPI compensation, ‘Britain’s Biggest Banking Scandal’ is due to air tonight.
Gone are the days when you used to hide from the TV Licence van, gibbering with fear. Now savvy non-payers are exploiting a legal loophole which means they can stop TV Licence people from entering their properties and threaten to sue them if they visit again.
According to a Freedom of Information request, over 7000 people are thought to have contacted the BBC to withdraw access to TV licence enforcers. Bascially, TV Licence bods can’t arrest you, and they can’t demand access to your property to check out your claim that honestly guv, you don’t own a telly, you just watch iPlayer on your laptop, yeah?
And that’s not the only problem that the BBC faces. Tory MP Mark Bridgen is leading a debate in the House of Commons tomorrow which would decriminalize non payment of the licence fee in 2016. Bridgen growled: ‘It is clear that a large proportion of the public resent the BBC’s heavy-handed way of collecting the fee.’
But if the licence fee fails, then what will become of the BBC? Well, the Tories don’t give a monkeys. They really won’t be happy until they’re dancing on its grave, holding a burning effigy of Jimmy Savile.
Ah, BhS. Home of ugly clothes and haunted looking post-menopausal women, sitting alone in the bleak cafe. A place where retail dreams go to die. Yet it keeps going, buoyed by that most buoyant of billionaires, Sir Philip Green, who is probably at this very moment lounging on his yacht playing Solitaire on his iPad and eating quails eggs out of an ivory bucket.
Since last year, Sir Phil has been banging on about introducing a food department into his stores, and now he’s ready to launch BHS Food in two stores in glamorous Staines and Warrington. His plan is to undercut Tesco by 10%, thus leading a budget department store supermarket revolution – or something. If his discounted Bisto gravy granules and fizzy drinks are a hit, BHS Food will be introduced into 140 stores around the UK.
Sir Phil is taking a gamble on this – after all BHS suffered losses of £71million last year and nobody in the industry has any confidence in it. But he seems unperturbed about it in the way that only billionaires can be.
‘On the basis that everyone is going into the high street and convenience maybe it’s an opportunity.’ He shrugged. ‘If you don’t buy a ticket you can’t win the lottery.’
While it’s doubtful that BHS Food will become the new cheaper version of M&S Food, if all goes well, a large supermarket could buy into the deal and take advantage of BHS’s 180 locations. But if it fails, Sir Philip might have to sell the business completely.