Posts Tagged ‘investigation’

Competition Inquiry for UK banks

November 6th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

bank sign Competition Inquiry for UK banksMore bad news for the UK’s banks as a full-on, hardcore competition inquiry into the market for current accounts and small business banking has been launched.

The Competition and Markets Authority proposed the investigation in summer, and have now vowed that they’re going to look at the difficulties customers face when they want to switch banks. One of the things they’re concerned about is the lack of smaller competitors to the big banks on the High Street.

Barclays aren’t happy, saying that this probe is “not appropriate at this time”, adding: ”Various developments, innovations and stimuli are changing the competitive landscape in in relation to both [personal current accounts] and [small and medium enterprises] banking, and these must be given time to mature.”

The BBA – they represents the banking sector – aren’t phased at all, saying that the industry would co-operate because: ”Banks are pro-competition – they compete for business every day.”

The CMA will be looking at these things concerning bank services in the UK.

- Very few customers switching banks or shopping around for the best rate
- A lack of transparency and difficulties in comparing services from different banks
- The hurdles faced by smaller banks trying to enter the market
- The continued dominance of the “big four” banks

We should have some answers from the inquiry in around 18 months time and the CMA added that it would review the 2002 report by its predecessor, the Competition Commission, to see if their findings are relevant to the state the banks are in, and to their own investigations.

Inquiry into Royal Mail deliveries

September 25th, 2014 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

Postman Pat 300x300 Inquiry into Royal Mail deliveriesMPs have launched an inquiry into allegations that the blessed Royal Mail are going to struggle to fulfil their obligations to deliver to every address in the country, for six days a week at the same price thanks to competition from other companies.

The upstanding members of the business select committee have launched an investigation after the Royal Mail bigwigs started crying about the pressure they’re under from TNT, who are able to pick and choose profitable delivery routes in big ass cities while Royal Mail are dashing around trying to provide the same service to everyone, everywhere.

Feel free to make your own joke along the lines of: “They already provide the same service to everyone in Britain – a crap one.

Adrian Bailey, chair of the business select committee, said: “We have had a number of representations from Royal Mail, and others, warning that TNT can cherry-pick profitable routes because they don’t have a universal service obligation. If it [the universal service] is under serious threat, we will see what we can do to protect it.”

Bailey said Royal Mail, TNT, the CWU postal union and regulator Ofcom will be called to give evidence in parliament.

Royal Mail’s chief executive Moya Greene said: “TNT Post UK can cherry-pick easy-to-serve urban areas, delivering easy-to-handle post to homes less frequently than Royal Mail and to no defined quality standard. Royal Mail is required to deliver six days a week, overnight, throughout the whole country, to stringent quality standards and at a uniform, affordable tariff. Everyone should really sit up and take notice of what effect this cherry-picking will have.”

TNT haven’t made a comment as such, but in the past, have said: “We are happy to take any opportunity to explain the benefits of competition in the UK postal sector and its important role in ensuring Royal Mail continues to work towards meeting its productivity targets, which it has so far failed to do.”

Payday lenders told to behave themselves

June 30th, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

wonga ladies 300x282 Payday lenders told to behave themselves The clampdown on payday lenders starts tomorrow, which means they won’t be able roll over loans more than twice – plus there’ll be tighter restrictions to your bank account, so Wonga won’t be able to drain all your wonga.

July 1st will also be the day they’ll have to start being more transparent in their advertising. They’ll have to slap warnings all over the big rubbery face of Earl and his old lady friends, telling people about the risks of late repayment, with a link to the Money Advisory Service in case people need help.

The exact wording? This:

‘Warning: Late repayment can cause you serious money problems. For help, go to moneyadviceservice.org.uk.

Things are looking a bit shaky for the payday loans industry as a whole. A massive investigation is currently being conducted by the Competition and Markets Authority, following the billions of complaints and debt from its customers and critics. The FCA is also looking into capping the overall cost of a payday loan.

So could these new regulations mean that payday loans will soon be a thing of the past? Or are we all so skint and desperate that we’ll do anything to borrow a quick buck?

energy bills 300x300 ‘Once and for all’ energy investigation begins It’s a day of reckoning for the money grabbing energy companies, as Ofgem has asked the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate their profits and prices.

The referral means there’ll be some serious explaining to do and the investigation is due to start immediately.

*rubs hands with glee*

Every member of the Big Six – British Gas, SSE, Npower, EDF, Scottish Power and E. On – will be crapping themselves as the probe tries to determine ‘once and for all’ whether they are making excess profits.

Dermot Nolan, Ofgem chief executive, said: ‘Prices have risen more than they should have, we believe, over the last few years. Profits have risen, prices have risen, margins have risen.
Competition is not working well, consumers are probably paying more than they should have and we need to put in step a process that is going to force competition to drive costs down.’

The investigation will take about a year, and if they find that the Big Six have ripped customers off, the companies will be broken up, and all those energy fat cats will have to go on the scrounge.

If the companies were right, and wholesale prices, energy infrastructure and all that jazz were driving the price rises all along, we’ll have to find something else to moan about.

But something tells us they’ll only have to take one look at all those Chateaubriand dinners and enormous pay packets, and the decision will be clear…

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.

about british gas image British Gas accused of scaremongering over blackout claims

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?

For a while now, the OFT has been investigating furniture and carpet companies for running false promotions and artificially inflating prices so they can slash them and sell you a hideous kidney coloured pleather corner sofa that looks like a tumour.

martin kemp 300x225 Carpet and furniture companies agree to stop lying about prices

Now though, the shamed companies – which include SCS (shame on you Martin Kemp!), Carpetright, Dreams, Bensons for Beds and Furniture Village – have agreed to stop making up prices willy nilly and only offer genuine discounts.

The OFT found that the original, reference prices of furniture before they were ‘discounted’ had never actually existed – they were just arbitrary, and unfairly pressurised customers into buying at so-called bargain prices.

The stores haven’t accepted any liability, but they’ve all pledged to stop messing around and price things clearly and fairly. And if they do have discounts to offer, the sofas/beds/wardrobes have to have been on offer for a higher price first.

So if you need to replace your existing sofa with a reclining, wipe clean bouncy castle, at least now you know how much it actually costs.

martin lewis 300x219 MoneySavingExpert sale could be in jeopardy as OFT has a nose aroundOnly a few weeks ago, it was looking as though the MoneySavingExpert was about to become the MoneySpendingExpert, as Martin Lewis announced plans to sell off his thriving website to MoneySupermarket for a tasty £87m.

BUT… its not a done deal just yet. The Office of Fair Trading are probing the deal, wondering whether it will “result in a substantial lessening of competition” under the merger control provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002.

The OFT is currently in consultation with customers and competitors of the two companies and if they feel as though there are sufficient worries, they can refer the deal to the Competitions Commission.

Our breath is literally bated here. Bated.

HSBC’s $1bn ‘money-laundering’ apology

July 12th, 2012 6 Comments By Mof Gimmers

HSBC HSBCs $1bn money laundering apology Big cheeses at HSBC are going to face a Congressional committee next week. The US government are trying to stop banks moving money through countries including Iran, Cuba and Sudan. Basically, money is being laundered through the finance system, which is nice to know after the banks went power-mad and caused a recession, not to mention the whole Libor-rigging scandal.

HSBC are the only British bank with a network in America and there looks like there’s going to be some huge fines handed out.

Stuart Gulliver, HSBC’s chief executive, told staff yesterday that “between 2004 and 2010, our anti-money laundering controls should have been stronger and more effective and we failed to spot and deal with unacceptable behaviour,” adding “it is right that we be held accountable and that we take responsibility for fixing what went wrong”.

HSBC have confessed that some of these investigations focus on historical transactions with “Iranian parties”. Basically, America and the EU are trying to make it difficult for Iran to fund its nuclear reactor programme. The Congressional committee said they will be using HSBC as a case study to look at “the money laundering and terrorist finance vulnerabilities created when a global bank uses its US affiliate to provide US dollars, US dollar services and access to the US financing system to high-risk affiliates, high-risk correspondent banks and high-risk clients”.

So there you have it. A bank, basically being accused of helping terrorism. That’s nice isn’t it?

Charity muggers to be investigated

June 25th, 2012 15 Comments By Mof Gimmers

chuggers Charity muggers to be investigatedChuggers are scum that get away with it. If anyone else pestered you in the street, you’d tell ‘em to sling it. However, these people have guilt-trips in their armoury, so assaulting them seems a bit much. However, these charity peddling swine are going to be investigated for ‘poor practice’ which is wonderful news!

The Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) are looking at allegations that chuggers have been using confusing tactics and flouting rules.

FRSB will look into Tag Campaigns, whose street fundraisers were reportedly failing to abide by some regulations while raising money for Marie Curie Cancer Care. The regulator is following up the Torygraph’s investigation which ‘exposed’ the tactics used by charity workers.

Footage given to the FRSB showed team leaders urging chuggers to be persistent while one fundraiser confessed that they got people to stop by ‘confusing’ them by telling them they’d dropped something. The rules state that chuggers should “never deliberately confuse, mislead or obstruct the public”.

One team leader was shown following pedestrians down the street after they’d said they weren’t interested. How many of you have suffered that?

Alistair McLean, chief executive of the Fundraising Standards Board, said: “The footage of both training and on-street fundraising that I was shown by The Sunday Telegraph is deeply worrying. Fundraising agencies must maintain the highest standards at all times, protecting and building the brands and reputations of the charity clients they work with. Any breach of these standards can have a weighty impact on trust and confidence in the charity, fundraising technique and, ultimately, donation levels.”

rotten apple 243x300 Apple under pressure as Foxconn accused of hiding underage workersApple is under fire after their manufacturing partner Foxconn was accused of using forced student labour and hiding underage workers during the well publicised independent inspections last week.

Debby Sze Wan Chan, a case worker at Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) has been tracking what they allege to be “involuntary labour practices” at Foxconn. She told Reg that local governments in China “repay” Foxconn’s decision to locate in their area by getting vocational students to work in the factories as interns in order to help cope with the high turnover of employees.

“We describe the internships as involuntary or forced labour because if they don’t go to the factory they may not be able to graduate or they may need to drop out of their courses,” says Chan.  She added that, after speaking to Foxconn workers, the recent inspection by the Fair Labor Association (FLA) was hugely flawed, after SACOM gathered information which says that Foxconn are hiding illegal workers.

“I heard from Foxconn workers that underage workers of 16-17 years old were not assigned any overtime work during the audits,” she said. “It’s obvious that Foxconn prepared for the audits, although the FLA said they were unannounced.”

Even the FLA are coming under scrutiny, with SACOM claiming that they are “not really independent”, given that they’re funded by corporate companies, including Apple themselves.

While many companies invariably have similar problems on their hands, Apple have made themselves a target by claiming to be more stringent about such matters and, in Apple’s defence, CEO Tim Cook has admitted the existence of underage labour supplier plants and has pledged to end it. Apple have also pressured Foxconn into raising workers’ wages by 16 to 25 per cent.

But is it enough?

car off road 300x225 OFT chases after motor insurance industry with a big stick!

Office of Fair Trading is looking hard (really, really hard) at replacement vehicle, repair costs and referral fees following steep rise in premiums. That’s right! The OFT is chasing the motor insurance industry with a broom handle and want to thwack it’s behind!

The OFT has been collecting evidence thanks to continued rising prices, with some estimates putting the annual increase at 40%. They say that they’re going to look at two areas in particular that they believe “restrict[s] and distort competition”.

The first area they want to investigate is the cost to insurers of third party claims for replacement vehicles and repairs. OFT think that insurers “appear to find it difficult to assess the extent to which the costs claimed are reasonable”. Secondly, they want to look at the practice of referral fees, with insurers, roadside assistance companies and garages all cited for selling off drivers’ details to claims management companies.

The Government have already announced a ban on referral fees in England and Wales, however, without thorough policing, there’s a strong chance the whole thing won’t work in practice. In addition to this, the OFT has asked for the help of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to work with insurers to make insurance product information easier to understand.

The results of the OFT investigation are due in spring 2012.

bad apple 210x300 European Commission investigate Apple and book publishers over price fixing claimThe European Commission are investigating e-book publishers owned by Lagardere, Pearson Plc, News Corp. and two other firms after the suspected they may have colluded with Apple to block rivals via their pricing deals.

Antitrust rules forbid price-fixing agreements designed to shut out competitors.

“The Commission will in particular investigate whether these publishing groups and Apple have engaged in illegal agreements or practices that would have the object or the effect of restricting competition in the European Union or in the European Economic Area,” the EU’s executive Commission said in a statement.

“The Commission is also examining the character and terms of the agency agreements entered into by the above named five publishers and retailers for the sale of e-books,” it said.

It identified the publishers as French media-to-aerospace group Lagardere’s Hachette Livre unit, News Corp’s Harper Collins, CBS Corp’s Simon & Schuster, Pearson’s Penguin and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck, which owns Macmillan in Germany.

A Pearson spokesman said the group would work with regulators in the investigation, with a spokesperson noting: “Pearson does not believe it has breached any laws, and will continue to fully and openly cooperate with the Commission.”

Apple, however, declined to comment.

OFT investigate payday loan companies

September 26th, 2011 5 Comments By Mof Gimmers

payday loan 300x200 OFT investigate payday loan companies

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) are going after two loan sharks payday loan companies following a thoroughly fascinating investigation by Which! Money.

The consumer group have, according to themselves, uncovered “widespread” poor practice in the sector. Like what? Things like breaches of the Consumer Credit Act, poor privacy provisions and inflated interest rates.

SHOCK!

So who should you be looking out for apart from… well… all of them? Of the firms reported, the oddly named Paydaykong.com appear to be operating without a valid Consumer Credit Licence and Swiftmoney.co.uk failed to show the APR for its loans anywhere on its website.

Which! Money’s investigations are also sniffing around Casheuronet UK (who operate Quick-payday.co.uk) and Quickquid.co.uk after the consumer group received dozens of unsolicited third-party emails and phone calls following a researcher’s application, which implied that his details had been sold on.

There are also reported examples of potentially misleading claims about APRs, customers being encouraged to borrow more money than necessary and consumers being urged to roll-over existing loans for several months. All poor form really.

There’s also talk of several firms not being up to scratch with website security, with one provider allegedly asking customers to enter bank details on an unsecured page.

Which! executive director, Richard Lloyd, says: “Payday loans might seem like a good solution for people whose money won’t stretch to the end of the month, but they should be treated as an absolute last resort.”

“With increasingly squeezed household budgets, more people are taking out payday loans so it’s vital that regulators keep a close eye on providers and deal firmly with any lenders breaking the rules.”

OFT set to get stuck into motor insurance industry

September 8th, 2011 4 Comments By Andy Dawson

tiny car2 300x200 OFT set to get stuck into motor insurance industryThe cost of car insurance has risen by 40% over the past year or so, but hey, that’s okay isn’t it? The insurers wouldn’t put the prices up by so much if they didn’t need to now would they? Everyone shut up and think about something else.

But wait a moment – it’s not that cut and dried. The Office of Fair Trading aren’t prepared to let it lie. They’re about to launch an investigation to see if we’re being unfairly overcharged. Phew!

We quoted that 40% premium rise figure at the top of the story but that’s just an AVERAGE. 17-22 year olds are now paying a typical premium of £2,431 per year, a hike of 64% on the past year.

The insurance companies are citing factors such as an increase in fraudulent and personal injury claims, claiming that the whiplash epidemic (570,000 claims in the past year alone) is making it tougher for everyone.

Otto Thoresen, the director general of the Association of British Insurers, said he saw the OFT investigation as an opportunity to highlight the cost pressures motor insurers are facing. “The motor insurance industry has not been profitable for the last 16 years” he said. Hopefully the OFT will find it if that is indeed the case or not.

Centrica and British Gas 001 300x180 Ofgem to investigate pricing policy of stupid energy companiesBDO (that’d be a bunch of faceless accountants, rather than Liam Gallagher’s terrible new band) have been called up by Ofgem to take the laborious examination of energy companies’ pricing policies after they were all accused of saying that they weren’t making as much profit as they actually were, which enabled them to hike up customer charges.

Those under the microscope will be The Big 6 – British Gas, E.On, EDF, Scottish Power, Npower and Scottish & Southern.

Ofgem have accused these energy buggers of putting their prices up in response to soaring costs much more quickly than they’re willing to reduce prices when costs retreated.

For starters, the Big 6 have been asked to be more transparent so that we can all understand how they get to the figures we see on our bills.

An Ofgem spokesman said BDO will look into each account area and concluded: “We feel there could be more transparency for the customer.”

This is going to be a long and expensive investigation isn’t it?