Research by tech experts Webhelps shows that automated “chatbots” are now used by some of the UK’s biggest banks, utilities and online retailers to answer customer complaints, queries over bills or switching accounts. But 45% of users find the systems unhelpful and impersonal and most would prefer to speak to a human. Other refuse to use automated helplines because of concerns about security and privacy. Overall 85% would prefer to deal with a person. Older consumers particularly miss human contact on the other end of the line.
Good customer experience cannot be delivered by technology alone.
Nationwide is launching later life mortgage products and dedicated advice aimed at those aged 55 and over (people can apply up to the age of 85). Over 55s are often refused mortgages because lenders are concerned they won’t live long enough or earn enough to pay it off. The new Nationwide loans can be repaid by the sale of a home after borrowers have moved into long term care or when they die. There is also an equity release product for those who already own their home, enabling money to be taken out for home improvements or holidays. Nationwide said the options address the needs of an ageing population.
The ONS has estimated the number of people living in England will top 60 million by 2029. By then the population of London will pass 10 million. The population projections account for birth and death rates, life expectancy, movement within the country and net migration. The population pressure will continue to be at its greatest in London and southern England.
Changes to Divorce Law
The Justice Secretary has proposed changes to the Divorce law. Currently divorce can be classed at “at fault” or “no claim of fault”. If there is no claim of fault there are two ways of obtaining a divorce – a couple can be divorced after two years of separation if both agree or after five years if just one partner wants a divorce. The proposed changes to divorce law will eliminate the idea of fault and there will be just one ground – irretrievable breakdown. Divorce will be granted at the request of just one spouse, although a new option of joint application from both husband and wife will be made available. The right to contest a divorce will also disappear to prevent a reluctant partner spinning out the process by “contesting” the petition. Couples will have to wait a year after the wedding before asking for divorce, then there will be a new minimum waiting period of 6 months enforced between the divorce petition and the split being legally finalised to give people a chance to change their minds. The Justice Secretary intends to bring a legislative bill before Parliament although it is likely to face some opposition. The changes are proposed to remove “at blame” on either petitioner which can lead to conflict and affect family members as the divorce progresses, especially children.
Access to Cash warning by the Bank of England
The chief cashier has warned that the use of cash becomes harder as bank branches shut and shops may not allow cash transactions. The bank is committed to helping people carry on using cash for as long as they want to.
Debt Charity StepChange
StepChange received 657,930 enquiries in 2018 – a 6% increase on the previous year. The biggest increase was enquiries from single parents,. The top reasons given for debt were unemployment, injury, illness or a fall in income.
Insurer “More Than”
It has been brought to the attention of the FCA that More Than was charging a small fee for a printed version of their motor policy documents. As a result More Than are now refunding customers as the FCA investigates whether they are in breach of their regulation that if a customer requests a paper copy it should be provided free of charge.
Victims of Banks Scams
Only 2 banks have promised not to pass on the cost of refunding scam victims to their own customers. A new refund scheme for victims of scams where neither the bank nor customer is to blame is set to be launched on May 28. However banks have only pledged to cover the cost until the end of the year, by which time they hope to have found a longer-term funding solution.
Price of Loyalty to Home Insurance
Citizens Advice has announced loyal customers are paying nearly twice as much for home insurance than new ones. For example the cost of insurance for a new customer may be £172 but in the 6th year it becomes £325.
Saga has said it would now offer policies with fixed prices for 3 years. The FCA is due to publish its findings in the summer regarding loyalty penalties.
No-fault evictions to be banned in England
The government is consulting on plans to abolish the current Section 21 process to prevent private landlords from evicting tenants at short notice without good reason after a fixed-term contract ends. The new laws would mean landlords would have to provide an explanation with evidence to bring tenancies to an end e.g. overdue rent. Landlords would still be able to evict tenants if they wanted to sell up or move into the home themselves.
Centre for Social Justice “Why Family Matters”
A report has found that people whose parents parted before they were 18 were twice as likely to fail at school, end up homeless or go to prison compared to children from families that had stayed together.
Shelter – Key figures on private renting:
Charges for ATM Cash Withdrawals
Notemachine, the firm who provides a fifth of the country’s free cash machines, is to start charging customers around 95p a time to withdraw money following changes to how ATMs are funded. The free ATM network is paid for by high street banks which give a fee to operators each time a customer withdraws money using their card, however the banks have now reduced these fees from 25p per transaction to 22.5p. Notemachine is planning to charge customers at half of its machines, the remainder which are operated under contracts for big businesses such as supermarkets are likely to remain free to use.