Author Archives: Oliver Domleo

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CAB News 07 December 2018

Friday 07 December 2018

We have published this article after the Money Advice Service published new guidance on the collection of council tax.

National

Employment rights

Your rights to time off work if you have a childcare emergency this Christmas

The Mirror, 07/12/2018

Our advice on workers’ rights and childcare arrangements in an emergency has been used by the Mirror ahead of Christmas.

Tracey Moss, employment expert at Citizens Advice, said: “In an emergency, you are entitled to take time off to make sure your child is looked after. This is known as dependant leave.

“If your employer won’t give you time off, or has disciplined you for having to look after your child, contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help.”

Best places to work

Third Sector, 05/12/2018

Citizens Advice was included in the top 10 charities to work for by Third Sector.

Debt

MAS launches `progressive” council tax recovery guidance

Credit Connect, 05/12/2018

Our response to the Money Advice Service’s guidance on how to collect council tax arrears has been included in Credit Connect’s coverage.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Council tax arrears are the most common debt issue we help people with at Citizens Advice. Too often we see the harm that’s caused by the way this debt is collected, including further financial hardship and stress. The pursuit of government debt by authorities has also been criticised by MPs.

“Good collection practices by local authorities can work. By helping those who are struggling to meet their payments, councils can improve their collection rates. While voluntary approaches are welcome, to properly protect people from bad practices the government needs to establish an independent bailiff regulator.”

Regional

Impact of universal credit

Stoke Sentinel, 05/12/2018

Biddulph Citizens Advice said it was preparing for an increase in inquiries as Universal Credit is brought to the area.

They said: “We are anticipating that as Universal Credit is rolled out across Biddulph the demand for advice in both welfare benefit and debt will increase, as council tax reduction is not one of the benefits amalgamated into U.C and legacy benefit claimants will be being migrated to a new benefit with new compliance conditions that they have not previously been subjected to.”

Christmas Debt

How to avoid running up a debt this Christmas

This is West Country, 05/12/2018

Citizens Advice Cornwall has released a Christmas list of 12 tips to help people avoid pressure on their household budgets.

Bernie Buck, deputy chief executive at Citizens Advice Cornwall, said: “People can feel an awful lot of pressure on their finances over Christmas. All too often, this gets carried into the new year where they have to play budget catch up.

“But there are some simple and practical steps people can take to guard against a festive debt hangover, including early planning.
“If people are really struggling financially they can speak to one of our advisers face to face, online, or over the phone.”

Online marketplaces

How to avoid running up a debt this Christmas

Thame Gazette, 05/12/2018

Thame Citizens Advice said buyers need to beware as thousands of customers report being ripped off on online marketplaces.

A spokeswoman for Thame Citizens Advice said: “Far too many people are being ripped off on online marketplaces. As part of National Consumer Week we want to make sure customers know what to look out for when making a purchase and their rights if something goes wrong.

“To reduce the risk of being left out-of-pocket it’s a good idea to check the product information on these sites carefully before they make a purchase.”

In other news

O2’s data network was restored this morning after a day-long outage.

The airline regulator has begun enforcement action against Ryanair for refusing to compensate passengers for strike disruption.

A new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation says 4 million British workers live in poverty.

The boss of the UK’s largest funeral provider, the Co-Op Group, has admitted the industry has taken advantage of people’s grief in the past.


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“Too often we see the harm that’s caused by the way this debt is collected”, Citizens Advice welcomes new guidance for recovery of council tax

Image result for council tax debt

Friday 7 December 2018

The Money Advice Service has launched guidance for a more progressive approach to the recovery of Council Tax.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Council tax arrears are the most common debt issue we help people with at Citizens Advice.

“Too often we see the harm that’s caused by the way this debt is collected, including further financial hardship and stress. The pursuit of government debt by authorities has also been criticised by MPs.

“Good collection practices by local authorities can work. By helping those who are struggling to meet their payments, councils can improve their collection rates.

“While voluntary approaches are welcome, to properly protect people from bad practices the government needs to establish an independent bailiff regulator.”

Background

Since 2014, it has been more common for people to come to Citizens Advice for help with household bill debts – such as council tax – than with problems related to consumer credit debts.

Between 2011/12 and 2017/18 council tax arrears problems increased from 168,000 to 217,000.

Our Council Tax Protocol has been signed by 61 councils, covering over 12.1m people (22% of the population in England.)

The amount of council tax arrears is calculated at £2.84 billion. This is based on data from the Department for Communities and Local Government.

This year, MPs on the Treasury Select Committee this year labelled government debt collection practices as “overzealous and with routine recourse to bailiffs.”


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CAB News 30 November 2018

Friday 30 November 2018

Citizens Advice East End appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire to discuss a local rogue letting agent.

National

Housing

Letting Agencies charging just to see properties

BBC 2 (Victoria Derbyshire), 30/11/2018, p, author

Martin Shankleman of Citizens Advice East End appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire programme to discuss a local rogue letting agent that had been the subject of a BBC investigation.

Martin told the programme: “We’ve been inundated with complaints from people who feel they’ve been let down by letting agents”. And cited a case where a person had lost £1300.

Energy

Smart meter installation rates slide

The Times, 29/11/2018, Emily Gosden

The charity’s call for the 2020 rollout deadline to be extended to 2023 is cited by The Times which highlights the declining rate of smart meter installations.

Not so smart ministers

Daily Mail, 28/11/2018, p.46, Victoria Bischoff

Money Mail editor Victoria Bischoff’s opinion column highlights the recent NAO report on smart meters and the continued decision not to postpone the deadline.

“The findings of the National Audit Office follow repeated calls from consumer groups such as Citizens Advice imploring for the deadline to be pushed back. Yet ministers refuse to see sense and admit that their plan is just not realistic.”

Debt

Ministry of Justice issues call for evidence over bailiff reforms

Credit Strategy, 27/11/2018, Calum Fuller

Citizens Advice latest research showing that 2.2 million people contacted by a bailiff in the last two years experienced them “pushing the limits of the law” received further coverage.

Benefits

More than half of people denied Universal Credit have cases overturned on appeal

Independent, 27/11/2017, May Bulman

Citizens Advice data on Universal Credit received further coverage.

Citizens Advice, which has recently been contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to support the rollout of the new benefit, has seen 3,929 individual clients on issues with universal credit appeals in the past 12 months.

Regional

‘Universal Credit’ biggest change

Barrow North West Evening Mail, 27/11/2018, p.4, Tom Murphy

The launch of Citizens Advice Barrow’s service to support Universal Credit claimants is covered in the local media.

Christine Mckinley, Chief Officer at Barrow Citizens Advice, said: “We already know that people can struggle with the online Universal Credit Application process. A recent survey by the charity found that a third of people that Citizens Advice has helped nationally struggled to provide the evidence need to complete their claim”.

Hartlepool advice experts’ Christmas call after helping people with £7m of debt

Hartlepool Mail, 27/11/2018, Mark Payne

Citizens Advice Hartlepool has urged people not to overspend this Christmas and has provided tips and advice to avoid a Christmas debt hangover.

Joe Michna, manage at Citizens Advice Hartlepool, said: “People can feel an awful lot of pressure on their finances over Christmas. All too often, this gets carried into the new year where they have to play budget catch up. But there are some simple and practical steps people can take to guard against a festive debt hangover, including early planning.”

In other news

Rail fares are set to rise by 3.1%.

The cost of 118 calls will be capped.

A police watchdog has released a new report showing how forces across the country are becoming the default service to deal with mental health problems.


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CMA probe into high funeral costs encouraging, Citizens Advice says

Friday 30 November 2018

Citizens Advice has responded to the Competition and Markets Authority announcement that it is to launch a major probe into the costs of funerals.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“People organising a funeral are being exploited at one of the most emotional and stressful times in their lives.

“Huge upfront costs and unclear fees are far too common, with thousands of pounds of ‘extras’ regularly added to bills.

“We help thousands of people each year who struggle to work out over-complicated fees or who simply cannot afford the cost.

“It’s encouraging to see the CMA taking action in markets where it sees evidence of consumers being ripped off on a massive scale.”


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Online retailers need to offer accessibility options as deliveries fail 3.4 million disabled consumers

Friday 30 November 2018

During National Consumer Week and the busiest shopping season of the year, Citizens Advice is calling on retailers to work with parcel operators to make it easier for disabled people to make their delivery needs known.

The charity found almost 1 in 3 disabled people missed a delivery because they weren’t given enough time to get to the door. It found 1 in 4 postal service users who are disabled say they feel rushed, anxious or irritated when accepting deliveries at home.

Citizens Advice is the statutory consumer advocate for postal services and is calling on  retailers and parcel operators to work together to let disabled consumers explain any additional delivery needs when shopping. This would allow people to outline their accessibility needs such as needing more time to get to the door or to specify places to leave missed deliveries that are accessible.

Over 13 million people in the UK have a disability and together they influence more than £80 billion of spending each year. Citizens Advice found 1 in 10 disabled people in the past year have avoided using home delivery or have items sent to friends or family members because they find it too difficult.

Citizens Advice has developed a delivery charter for disabled consumers that sets out guidelines for retailers and operators to improve online shopping and delivery experiences.

This includes:

  • Retailers and operators working together to ensure disabled consumers can specify any additional delivery needs.

  • Making sure all pick up and drop off points meet the needs of disabled consumers. This means ensuring there is level access at each location, accessibility features are renewed annually, and providing clear information online about the accessibility features available at each pick up and drop off point.

Citizens Advice recently worked with Post Office Limited to ensure accessibility information for every post office in the UK will be listed on its website. Until this work, Post Office Limited did not have any disabled access information on its branch finder.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“During the busiest season for online shopping, we’re calling on retailers to make sure deliveries work for disabled consumers.

“We found some people are missing deliveries, and even avoiding online shopping altogether, because they feel rushed or anxious when accepting deliveries at home.

“This should be an easy fix for retailers who have a duty to take into account people’s accessibility needs.

“As the statutory consumer advocate for post, we’re calling on companies to make sure they’re not leaving disabled consumers behind.”


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Network charging review should bring “more level playing field”, says Citizens Advice

Friday 30 November 2018

Citizens Advice, in its role as the official consumer champion for energy, has responded to Ofgem’s network charging consultation.

Gillian Cooper, Head of Energy Policy, said:

“Today’s announcement should result in a more level playing field when it comes to electricity network charges. Large industry will pay a fairer share, while most people should ultimately benefit from lower costs.

“There are major changes in the way we use energy on the way, including the development of electric vehicles and smart products and services. This review and others are essential to developing a fairer energy system that is fit for the future”.


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CAB News 23 November 2018

Friday 23 November 2018

Today Citizens Advice features in national and regional news about rent-to-own products, smart meters and debt.

It’s also the media launch of National Consumer Week today as we warn consumers about the problems with online marketplaces. There is a template press release to share with local media – available in English and in Welsh.

National

Government will miss smart meter deadline, watchdog warns

The Guardian, CityAM, FT, The Times, 23/11/2018

The National Audit Office has said the government will miss its own deadline for installing smart meters. Our response has been carried.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “If the costs of the rollout continue to rise, as the NAO suggests, it is households who will end up footing the bill. These costs may be offset if people benefit from savings in the long-term, but with no cost-benefit analysis conducted since 2016, it’s not clear that this will happen.”

National Consumer Week

Black Friday danger warning – why you need to beware online marketplaces today

The Mirror, BBC Radio London, 23/11/2018

Our research into the pitfalls of online marketplaces ahead of National Consumer Week was covered in the Mirror and on broadcast.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: “Far too many people are being ripped off on online marketplaces. This National Consumer Week, we want to make sure customers know what to look out for when making a purchase – and their rights if something goes wrong.

“With millions of people trying to find a bargain online on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, buyers need to beware when purchasing items through online marketplaces.

Joe Lane was on BBC Radio London at 7:20am this morning discussing this. Katie Martin and Matthew Upton have also been interviewed for BBC News and Sky News.

Rent to own products

Cap on rent-to-own products positive step 

BBC News, FT, The Times, The Guardian, Yahoo News, Daily Express, 23/11/2018

Yesterday the FCA announced a cap on rent-to-own products and we hailed it as a victory. Joe Lane featured on BBC News Channel and ITV. Matthew Upton was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive, said: “A cap gets to the heart of the problem by stopping costs from spiralling out of control and pushing people into further debt. Our evidence has repeatedly shown that well-designed caps can reduce the harm high-cost credit can cause, as they have done in the payday loan market.”

Debt

BrightHouse and PerfectHomes Black Friday deals cost THREE times more than high street prices

Sun Online, 21/11/2018, Tara Evans

Gillian Guy was quoted in a Sun Online story about the cost of household appliances being sold by rent-to-own companies on Black Friday.

The article also used our research that found a cap on rent-to-own agreements that meant nobody paid more than twice what they borrowed would save customers £62 million.

Gillian said: “People who buy household items using rent-to-own pay huge amounts of interest on products that already cost well over the regular retail price.

“Alongside extras, such as warranties and delivery charges, these agreements can lead to runaway costs that can cause people real financial harm.

“This is why the FCA must act soon and confirm its intention to cap rent-to-own agreements. No one should have to pay back more than double what they borrow.”

Regional

Concern over fuel poverty in Cumbria

BBC Radio Cumbria, 21/11/2018 (1hr 37 mins in)

Andy Auld, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Carlisle and Eden, appeared on BBC radio to talk about the high levels of fuel poverty in the area.

He said: “Eden is the second worst in England and Wales for fuel poverty – nearly 17% of people in Eden are in fuel poverty.

“What we find it’s people on the lowest incomes who are more likely to have problems with meeting their fuel costs.”

He added: “In Cumbria it is much higher than average and it is of concern.”

Citizens Advice Rochdale campaigns for regulator to crack down on badly behaving bailiffs

Rochdale Online, 18/11/2018

Our campaign for an independent regulator to police the bailiff industry was covered in the north west.

Research last week showed that one in every three people visited by a bailiff witnessed the enforcement officer breaking the rules.

Citizens Advice in Rochdale said it dealt with 158 people in the last two years with bailiff issues, including one person who had a £44 debt, to which a £75 compliance charge was added and £235 for “enforcement action”.

Jonathan Yates, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Rochdale, said: “The government must step in and regulate the industry to prevent people suffering at the hands of bailiffs who flout the rules.

“It beggars’ belief an industry that can cause so much damage is not properly policed by a regulator.”

This story was also covered in the Oldham Evening Chronicle and radio station Revolution 96.2.

In other news

Campaigners say new laws going through parliament will not go far enough to stamp out all hidden fees and charges for renters.

The homeless population in Britain has risen to 320,000.

A bank customer lost thousands in a scam, despite the fraudster getting one of her security questions wrong.

 


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Extra Energy customers’ gas and electricity “will continue as normal”, says Citizens Advice

Friday 23 November 2018

Citizens Advice, in its role as the official consumer champion for energy, has responded to news that Extra Energy has ceased trading.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Extra Energy customers should not worry, their gas and electricity will continue as normal. Ofgem will organise a new supplier who will be in touch in due course.

“In the meantime people should take meter readings and avoid switching until a new supplier has been put in place. By switching now people risk losing any refunds they might be entitled to.”

“Today’s news and other recent supplier failures again highlight how essential it is that suppliers operating in the market have sustainable business models.”

Consumer advice contacts

Customers can find more information on Ofgem’s website. Customers unsure of their next steps can contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 03454 04 05 06. Please note, this service operates Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.


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Ofgem supplier licensing proposals “would significantly tighten the rules”, says Citizens Advice

Friday 23 November 2018

Citizens Advice, in its role as the official consumer champion for energy, has responded to Ofgem’s consultation proposing tighter licensing rules for firms wishing to enter the energy supply market.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Today’s proposals would significantly tighten the rules on firms that want to enter the energy supply market. For too long, firms that are unprepared, financially unsustainable or both have been able get a license and start operating as a supplier.

“Ultimately it’s consumers who suffer when unprepared energy companies are able to enter the market. Many customers suffer with poor customer service, long waits on the phone and inaccurate bills. And everyone pays the price, through their bills, when weak suppliers fail.  The collapse of GB Energy cost consumers £14m in total.

“While the proposed new rules will protect consumers from unfit firms getting a license in the future, there are still poorly performing suppliers operating now. Ofgem must take appropriate steps to remove these firms from the market.”


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Mobile and broadband providers found overcharging customers “yet again”, Citizens Advice says

Friday 23 November 2018

Citizens Advice has responded to Ofcom’s announcement today that EE and Virgin Media will be fined for overcharging their customers who have ended their contracts early.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Yet again mobile and broadband companies have been caught overcharging their customers. Anyone who has been affected by this deserves a refund.

“Our own research exposed mobile providers for knowingly overcharging customers for phones they already own by £500 million.

“This is another in a long line of failings in the mobile and broadband industry – we need an independent consumer champion to stick up for customers and stop this from happening.”


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