Energy firms will continue to offer “dumb” smart meters for months, even though providers were expected to stop offering first generation meters, known as Smets1, from March 15, as they often stop working when you switch suppliers. But British Gas, SSE, EDF Energy, Eon, npower and Scottish Power have confirmed they are still installing the older meters.
The House of Commons housing committee has accused big housing firms of exploiting buyers with leasehold contracts. Their report calls for a full inquiry into the sale of leasehold properties and for consideration to be given to law changes to help existing victims. The committee reported:
Many buyers the committee heard from were unaware of the differences between freehold and leasehold.
Nationwide has launched a marketing campaign promising it will not leave towns deserted. The building society is pledging that it will not close any of its 650 branches if they are the last in town and vowing to stick to its promise until May 2021 at the earliest. Nationwide have benefited with branches growing as a result from competitors leaving the high street.
Energy firms have scrapped the dual-fuel discounts that encourage customers to buy their gas and electricity from the same supplier – a saving on average of £15 a year.
Mental health and problem debt
The Money and Mental Health Institute (founded by Martin Lewis) has released statistics about debt and mental health problems in England. The data (from 2014) confirms the strength of the relationship between these problems.
People with mental health problems are three and a half times as likely to be in problem debt ie they are seriously behind on bills like their rent or utilities. It was also found that certain mental health conditions have a higher association with financial difficulty.
Mental health problems can affect a person’s finances. People with mental health problems are less likely to be in paid employment, more likely to be living on a low income, and symptoms of mental health problems can make it harder to keep on top of managing finances. Symptoms of the mental health can also contribute to a person’s struggle to control spending when they’re unwell e.g. impulsive spending, and people experiencing low motivation or difficulties concentrating can find it much harder to shop around for good deals on their energy or financial services.
Financial difficulties can be a significant source of stress, and the stigma of debt may mean a person is reluctant to tell others that they’re struggling, or to ask a creditor for help. This can leave people isolated and make it practically harder to resolve their problems.
JustGiving ditches its 5% fee
Justgiving will no longer charge fees on donations, previously it had levied a 5% platform fee on contributions. From 26th March donors will be asked if they want to make a voluntary contribution to support the operation of the website. However, in line with other online giving platforms payments will still be subject to standard card processing fees of 1.9% plus 20p.
Fall in house prices
House prices in England have dropped for the first time in 7 years, mainly due to a price fall in London. In other areas prices have risen e.g. West Midlands, East Midlands and the North West. The average price is now £255,683.
Car hire companies to be more transparent about costs
Rental car firms will now have to be more transparent about the real cost of hiring a car. An investigation by the UK competition watchdog and European consumer authorities found leading firms had fallen short of commitments made in 2015 to be honest about rental costs.
Now headline prices advertised by Avis, Europcar, Enterprise, Hertz and Sixt must match the final price which customers pay. Previously companies added hidden fees when consumers came to pay. Cancellation costs, deposit requirements and what is included in insurance must also be clearer.
Since the review by watchdogs began in 2018, Enterprise and Sixt have changed the details on their websites. Avis and Europcar will make final changes by the summer. Hertz will update its prices early in 2020.
AO, the online electrical delivery firm, is developing a scheme to rent out washing machines for £2 a week. The proposal will be tested over the next few months to gauge how many people keep up the payments. Comparable products with other rent to buy operators would be £10 a week. The £2 is to be paid by direct debit and will include cost of machine and a 5 year warranty.
BBC accused of political bias around reporting of UC
Officials working for Amber Rudd have submitted a dossier to the BBC of what they describe as biased and inaccurate reporting about people’s ability to survive on the benefit. The BBC has been accused of inconsistent reporting, highlighting individual cases where people are struggling with their UC claim, but then not asking the DWP for a response regarding the cases, giving them a chance to explain the problem.
Gambling Firms accused of introducing new games
Gambling firms have been accused of introducing “roulette” style games, using hand written slips, on the day the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals was reduced to £2. This is now being investigated by the Gambling Commission.