Beware supermarket vouchers

We are in Advent.  The trees are up and the Christmas shopping lists are made.  And every time we go to a supermarket we get another voucher offering great riches…or not. You need to be wary not to be conned into spending more than you would normally and to understand how little you will get with some of the offers and how many hoops you will have to go through to get any cash at all. And the stores are probably hope that the lure of points will take your eye off the price of the food on the shelves. […]

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Don’t be fooled by energy companies

Don’t be fooled by the apparent generosity of the energy companies that have frozen the price of gas and electricity until at least the end of the winter. Their marketing people are earning their money with their full page advertisements published on the coldest days so far of this winter telling us that they are not putting prices up.   What the ads did not tell us is that the companies bought their gas electricity in the wholesale markets when prices were much cheaper.   And they are only freezing their already very expensive standard variable rates. They are not however freezing […]

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Energy bills unfair to all

The chancellor announced in his Autumn Statement that the domestic energy bills are to be looked in to by the Government to make sure they are fair to all.  It cannot come a day too soon….and no doubt it will not be soon at all. The company’s tell us that they are making minuscule profits on our energy bills because they have historically used the cheapest tariffs for their calculations.  They could then say their profits were only 4% on a typical customer.  But if they used the standard variable rate it would be much higher. And all this was […]

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The poor need help to get better deals

I met the personification of the spirit of Money Fight Club when I was a fellow panelist at the Money Advice Service’s Financial Capability Week at the QEII centre this week.  Vanessa Simao is a trainee with the Young Women’s Trust in London and an outreacher in Barking and Dagenham so she knows that to help clients in her work she has to share her own experiences as a single parent. She knows what it is like to take a loan to provide food or heating and then to get behind and agree to consolidate the loans into one payment […]

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New inflation index is hollow victory

Someone in Government has listened to us and finally recognized that buying and owning a house is expensive and getting more so.  The Consumer Prices Index  that has been favoured by the Government to assess the rate of inflation has ignored mortgage payments, council tax, buildings insurance and estate agents costs.  It replaced the Retail Prices Index devised in the First World War, which includes all these costs. This sleight of hand  has meant that the official inflation rate is currently 1% while the traditional RPI which is 2% is ignored by the authorities unless consumers are paying.  It is […]

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Service charges horror for flat owners

Leasehold, a unique form of tenure unique to England and Wales is preoccupying us this week as so many buyers of flats are hit with unexpected bills.  First of all I am helping a group of flat owners who have been hit with a 30% surcharge on their service charges, which seems bad until you hear of a young couple forced out of their home by the cost of their service charge. Yes, the charges must under law be reasonable and management companies must account for their spending but both the cases above demonstrate how hard it is for people […]

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True measure of inflation is ignored

How did it happen?  The upstart measure of inflation CPI has so overtaken RPI that is now ignored – particularly now that the Retail Prices Index is now running at 2% twice as much as the Consumer Prices Index. In other words we believe inflation is half as high as it really is. Since 2010 the Government has used the lower CPI for benefits, tax credits and public sector pensions.  But student loans, rail travel and mobile phone contracts are increased in line with the RPI. Savings rates are worse than they seem As savings rates are shy of both […]

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Double charging the poorest borrowers

  It’s always the same. It’s the poor what gets the blame and are charged far more than they should be. At the end of September Wonga managed to charge customers twice leaving thousands without money to buy food or pay their rent over a weekend.   But that accident was resolved in days. When it comes to overcharging it is the establishment lenders that know how to double charge their poorest customers over many years and take their time to put their customers back. Poorest customers will be repaid The Financial Conduct Authority estimates that up to 750,000 mortgage customers, […]

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Delays for new train fare compensation

News about the new  train fare compensation for  travellers if they are delayed more than 15 minutes will be met with muted joy. While it is very annoying to arrive in Victoria time after time 28 minutes late and therefore unable to get any compensation for the delay. The new extra level of delay compensation paying after 15 minutes will give just 25% of the single fare. And for those with season tickets they will first of all have to divide their annual cost by 464 and then divide that by four to get the level of their compensation. No […]

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Savings rates that make us poorer

The email pings into my laptop from an oh-so-helpful bank wanting me to “make sure your account is right for you.” Interest rates are being cut again next month and I have been sent a list of 19 new savings rates. The accounts have encouraging names such as the Good for Life Isa but it will stop paying 0.5% and start paying a miserly quarter percent. My own eSaver is being cut from 0.6% to 0.35%. These latest cuts come days after Ros Altmann, the former pensions minister, announced that we all need to save more for our old age. […]

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