Author Archives: Oliver Domleo

  • 0

CAB News 16 August 2019

Friday 16 August 2019

The HuffPost has published a comment piece written by Gillian Guy that calls on the new Prime Minister to make changes that would improve the lives of the people we help.

National

Advocy

A Message To Boris Johnson: Lift The Gloom For People Struggling On Benefits

HuffPost, 09/08/2019

An opinion piece by Gillian Guy written to the new Prime Minister about the changes we would like to see the new government make to help the people we see was published in HuffPost.

In the piece, Gillian called on the PM to address issues raised by people on Universal Credit, those in debt, and those affecting consumers.

“In our 80 years of existence we’ve seen how political changes can bring opportunity to tackle intractable problems in new ways,” Gillian wrote.

“We’ve worked with the governments of 16 prime ministers to help solve these problems and achieve tangible change for people.

“We want to turn the attention of the 17th to matters beyond Brexit, to help millions of people across the country sleep better at night.”

Consumer

How cancelling your direct debit can leave you with a big bill

Daily Express, 15/08/2019, Lloyd Johnson

Our advice on finding the best deal for your car insurance was quoted at length in the Daily Express.

The paper warned that some motorists have been caught out when cancelling their direct debit.

Our website says: “Cancelling a direct debit does not cancel your insurance policy.

“If you do this you will still owe your insurer the premiums. You must contact your insurer to cancel the policy.”

Energy

Are small energy suppliers safe to use?

The Mirror, 14/08/2019, Emma Munbodh

Citizens Advice is “a good place to start” when considering switching energy supplier said The Mirror in an article looking at smaller gas and electricity firms.

The paper also used research from our Picking up the Pieces report which says households could face a £172 million bill after the collapse of a dozen domestic suppliers.

Our energy star rating which evaluates energy companies on a range of measures including customer service can be found here.

Advice

One in six families ‘cut back on essentials’ to pay for school uniforms – how to claim up to £150 from your council

The Sun, 11/08/2019, Hollie Borland

Our advice on how to get help with the cost of school uniform has been featured on The Sun’s website in an article which says that the number of parents struggling with the cost is on the rise.

There is help available from some local authorities, and you can find out if your council offers a grant by checking its website, says the report.

It adds that Citizens Advice also recommends asking the school for help, as they may be aware of local charities that can offer assistance.

Debt

Mental health issues and debt: kindness is not good enough

The Observer, 11/08/2019, p.56, Emily Reynolds

Our research which found that mentally ill people pay on average £1,110 to £1,550 more for services per year was quoted in The Observer.

The article said understanding of how depression and similar difficulties can contribute to money problems has increased, but people still aren’t always able to access the help they need.

Andrew Dickens, who had depression, told the paper: “It all became a nasty circle: my debt fuelled my illness, my illness made me build up more debt, and so on. The problem was, my mental health issues prevented me from confronting it.”

Travel

Gatwick Airport strikes called off this weekend amid union update on other August walkouts

Express Online, 09/08/2019

Our advice on what rights you have if your flights are cancelled due to strike action were covered by the Express Online.

“If your flight has been cancelled due to airport staff striking, it’s unlikely you’ll receive compensation as it would be considered ‘extraordinary circumstances’. These are outside of the airline’s control,” the advice read.

“You should contact your airline as you should be offered the choice between a refund and a replacement flight.”

In other news

Major retailers call on chancellor to save high street.

National Grid ‘had three blackout near-misses in three months’.

There has been a huge rise in complaints about gambling companies.

Shackles and restraints have been used on hundreds of people deported from the UK.


  • 0

Citizens Advice responds to collapse of Solarplicity

Friday 16 August 2019

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

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Solarplicity customers can be reassured that their electricity and gas supply will continue as normal. Ofgem will appoint a new supplier who will be in touch in due course. Customers should take meter readings and avoid switching right now as they may risk losing any refunds they might be entitled to.

“Solarplicity is the 12th domestic energy company to collapse in the last two years. Our research shows these failed companies left behind £172 million in unpaid industry costs, which will likely be picked up by other consumers through higher bills.

“The collapse of these firms revealed a major gap in consumer protections. The administrators of failed firms have not been subject to the same debt collection rules as energy suppliers. The government must take action and fix this problem.”

Toto energy customers

Last month Toto Energy took over the accounts of a number of Solarplicity customers, those customers should be unaffected by today’s announcement.

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.


  • 0

CAB News 09 August 2019

Image result for boardmasters festival

Friday 09 August 2019

The cancellation of Boardmasters festival appears across many outlets, with many referring to advice on our website.

National

Boardmasters refuses to say if it’ll offer refunds for last minute cancellation

Mirror.co.uk, 07/08/2019, James Andrews

Boardmasters festival in Cornwall has been cancelled just hours before it was due to open. The 53,000 people affected are still to hear whether they’ll be refunded.

Citizens Advice says if you bought your ticket from an official seller you can get a refund if the organiser cancels, moves or reschedules the event. The organiser will tell you how to get a refund.

Our advice also appeared in the Sun and the Evening Standard.

Energy

15 million households could see gas and electricity bills drop as Ofgem cuts price cap on some tariffs.

Channel 5, 08/08/2019

Director of External Affairs, Katie Martin, spoke to Channel 5 about Ofgem’s planned cuts to price caps. The segment states that if you’re part of the carbon-friendly ‘district heating’ energy scheme you may not notice much difference.

Katie said: “The problem with heat networks is that they’re unregulated, so the services can be really variable. For example some people experience really poor service standards and there’s very little they can do to complain about this.”

The costs of decarbonisation must not hit those who can least afford it

Utility Week, 02/08/2019, Gillian Guy

An op-ed in Gillian’s name has been published in Utility Week. She writes: “The UK’s decision to legislate for a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050 has major implications for the people we help every day.”

“At the moment, most of the costs of the UK’s existing efforts to decarbonise are paid for through people’s bills, not taxes…By choosing to pay for these policies in this way, the costs disproportionately fall on the poorest in society.”

Citizens Advice recommends that “the Treasury establish an independent commission that would work through the implications of how low-carbon transition should be paid for, and present recommendations to government on how to proceed.”

Housing

Letting fees ban: Renters confused after change in law

BBC Online, 05/08/2019, Lora Jones

The BBC used our data and advice in a story about the renters’ experience with tenant fees following the ban on letting agent charges on June 1.

Enquiries to Citizens Advice about tenant fees rose by 54%, to 430, in the month after the law was introduced, the article reports.

Rachael Gore, our Housing Expert, told the BBC that tenants should question all upfront payments and ask for receipts from their landlord or letting agent.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit and the Managed Migration Pilot

BBC Radio 4, You and Yours, 02/08/2019, 12:51:30

Minesh Patel, Principal Policy Manager for Families, Welfare and Work, appeared on BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme to talk about Universal Credit and the Managed Migration Pilot.

Minesh says that Citizens Advice is “working closely with DWP to help shape the early stages of the Managed Migration Pilot.” He continues, explaining that the charity has “shared evidence into the challenges people face with Universal Credit.”

Regional

Welfare

Pensioners urged to claim benefits to save free TV licence

Sheffield Star, 06/08/2019, Lucy Ashton

Image result for Pensioners urged to claim benefits to save free TV licence

Sheffield Citizens Advice says many over the age of 75 are reluctant to claim Pension Credit.

Chris Walker, Office Manager of Citizens Advice Spital Hill, told a council meeting that pensioners would boost their own finances, adding “There’s quite a large proportion of people who don’t claim it and that equates to £3 billion a year nationally.”

Settled Status

York’s EU citizens told to take action to secure rights post Brexit

York Press, 03/08/2019, Mike Laycock

Citizens Advice York says it is ready to help about 8,000 EU citizens in the city achieve ‘settled status’ after Brexit.

Chief Executive, Simon Topham, has warned that EU nationals could suffer a range of problems if they don’t get such status including the potential loss of services and benefits: “There are around 8,000 EU-born citizens living in York and most of them will need to take action to secure their rights.” Simon added: “If we leave without a deal, the deadline for this is December 31, 2020.”

In other news

Developers have been accused of holding back on building tens of thousands of homes a year despite a relaxation of planning laws designed to address the housing shortage.

The price of energy is set to fall for millions of British households this October after Ofgem has announced lower price caps.

Virgin Media has announced it will freeze prices and always give best deal to over 100,000 vulnerable customers.

The UK’s retailers have reported the worst July on record.

Facebook has been urged to shut groups seeking fake Amazon reviews.

EU citizens are being made destitute after being turned down for Universal Credit despite having the legal right to reside in the UK.


  • -

CAB News 26 July 2019

Friday 26 July 2019

Our work raising awareness of scams has been featured in the national and local media.

National

Scams

‘Have you ever been scammed?’

Loose Women ITV1 (account required), 25/07/2019 (approx. 12.53pm, about 23″ into clip)

Our advice on how to spot a scam was used by the Loose Women team on Thursday’s show.

Presenter Saira Khan said: “Citizens Advice have calculated up to four million people could be scammed each year and many scams go unreported.”

Her co-presenter Gloria Hunniford added: “They’re more clever these days than ever before.”

Advice

What is Critical Illness Insurance? How long is waiting period?

Daily Express, 25/07/2019, Jess Sheldon

The Daily Express used the advice from our website in an exploration of different types of critical illness insurance.

Citizen’s Advice points out that some policyholders will need to wait a period of time before they submit a claim, said the article.

This amount can vary, with the Citizens Advice website explaining that people should check their individual policy and that there’s usually a wait of at least a month before you can make a claim.

Our website advice, featured in the paper, goes on to say: “It may cost less for illness insurance if you get sick pay from your employer or have savings you can use for the first few months.

“You can arrange illness insurance to start paying out when your other income runs out.”

Debt

New regulation proposed for IVA lenders

You and Yours (account required), BBC Radio 4, 24/07/2019 (at 12:40pm, about 32’30” into clip)

Listeners to the consumer programme You and Yours were advised to seek help from “trusted sources of advice, such as Citizens Advice”, before taking out an Independent Voluntary Arrangement – known as an IVA.

These arrangements can help people with debts. However, they are marketed and sold by big commercial companies and bad practice in the industry has led the government to look at bringing in new regulations.

Body cams made compulsory for bailiffs to tackle aggressive behaviour

BBC Breakfast News, 22/07/2019 (about 1’35” into clip)

The news that bailiffs will in future have to wear body worn cameras – and our comments on the development – continued to be covered widely in the national media.
Principal Policy Manager for Consumer and Public Services, Joe Lane, told BBC Breakfast: “Currently we see bailiffs routinely breaking the rules that govern their behaviour… Without an independent regulator to oversee the use of these cameras… that won’t protect these vulnerable people when bailiffs do mistreat them.”

Radio 4’s News Briefing, Radio 5 Live, The Independent and The Big Issue were among those who also covered the story.

Employment Advice

Your legal rights to time off work in a summer childcare emergency

Daily Mirror, 23/07/2019, Emma Munbodh

The Daily Mirror has featured our advice on what to do if you have problems with childcare over the summer holidays.

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

“Your employer can’t refuse you dependent leave if you have no other choice, and you can’t be disciplined or sacked for taking the time off.”

It’s important to note that while your employer has to authorise your absence – it will, in most cases be unpaid.

“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,” added Tracey.

Consumer

Three resists watchdog’s call for ‘fairer’ mobile phone fees

BBC News Online, 22/07/2019

Ofcom, the UK’s telecom regulator, has said Three is the only major UK mobile network to have “refused” to automatically cut its customers’ monthly charge at the end of their contract’s lock-in period.

The charity network Citizens Advice – which has long campaigned against what it has described as being a “loyalty penalty” – welcomed the development, reported BBC News.

Gillian Guy told the BBC website: “Most mobile phone providers have now realised the game is up.

“Three needs to step up and if it doesn’t, then stronger action is needed to make these changes compulsory. If Ofcom is unable to do this, then government needs to intervene.”

The story was also covered by The Mirror.

Our statement can be found here.

Tenants who complain often victims of ‘revenge evictions’

Money Box, BBC Radio 4, 20/07/2019 (about 13’35” into clip)

Citizens Advice research which showed nearly half of tenants who complained about disrepair faced a ‘revenge eviction’ was quoted on Radio 4’s Money Box programme. The figure was used in a discussion about government plans to protect tenants from being evicted for no reason.

Our response, back in April, to the government’s announcement that it will consult on scrapping section 21 “no-fault” evictions in the private rented sector is here.

Regional

“Trust your gut instinct,” if you think you’re being scammed

BBC Radio Cumbria, 25/07/2019 (approx 8.13am 2’13” into clip)

Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Carlisle and Eden, Andy Auld, was asked to talk about scams on BBC Radio Cumbria’s Breakfast Show.

Andy said a list of firms that other people had already complained about was available on the FCA’s (Financial Conduct Authority) website, and stressed the importance of reporting scams.

If you report a scam to Action Fraud, said Andy, “that will increase the database of these dodgy firms and dodgy individuals.”

Andy added: “Trust your gut feeling: if you’re not sure, don’t sign up for anything, don’t hand over any money.”

In other news

Banks are closing branches in deprived communities in England four times faster than in wealthy areas.

British Airways pilots back August strike.

Whirlpool launches recall of fire risk tumble dryers.


  • -

Citizens Advice named as preferred option in new telecoms consumer advocate proposal

Friday 26 July 2019

Today the government has published its consultation on a new consumer advocate role for the broadband and mobile industries.

Citizens Advice is named as the preferred option to be the new statutory consumer advocate for telecoms, replicating the arrangements in energy and post.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Despite broadband and mobile services being essential to our daily lives, right now consumers lack a voice when things go wrong. A dedicated telecoms consumer advocate will finally bring this in line with other industries and will help the regulator do its job holding providers to account.

“Loyal customers who stick with their broadband and mobile providers pay hundreds of pounds more a year.

“But it’s not just people being left out of pocket. People rely on broadband and mobile services for keeping in touch with family and friends, as well as for work and business. Too often they struggle with poor service and bad practice. Evidence shows millions of people face problems every year with these services.

“It’s time for consumers to have someone on their side for mobile and broadband services, which have for too long been dominated by the interests of big business.”


  • -

Citizens Advice responds to Ofcom’s announcement on mobile phones

Friday 26 July 2019

In response to Ofcom’s announcement on mobile phones Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Today is a good day for loyal mobile phone customers who will save millions on their contracts each year.

“We submitted a super-complaint back in September as the loyalty penalty is simply unfair – and 89% of people agreed with us.

“Most mobile phone providers have now realised the game is up – they cannot take advantage of their loyal customers.

“Three needs to step up and if it doesn’t, then stronger action is needed to make these changes compulsory. If Ofcom is unable to do this, then government needs to intervene.”

BACKGROUND:

Citizens Advice submitted a super-complaint on the loyalty penalty – in the mobile, broadband, home insurance, mortgages and savings markets – to the CMA in September 2018 calling for the regulator to consider how the problem can be fixed. The CMA’s response to our super-complaint in December said it agreed and had found damaging practices by firms which exploit unsuspecting customers. The CMA said it wanted to see urgent action.

Research in 2018 by Citizens Advice found that across five essential markets (mobile, broadband, home insurance, mortgages and savings):

  • British consumers lose £4.1 billion a year to the loyalty penalty (or £11 million a day).

  • Eight in 10 people are paying a significantly higher price, in at least one of the markets, for remaining with their existing supplier.

  • The loyalty penalty across the five markets is, on average, £877 per year

This is the fourth super-complaint Citizens Advice has made since being given the power in 2002. Its super-complaint on payment protection insurance (PPI) in 2005 helped to generate a huge win for consumers, with at least £35.7 billion returned to customers in refunds and compensation so far.


  • -

Bailiff body cameras meaningless without industry regulator

Friday 26 July 2019

The introduction of compulsory body cameras will do nothing to protect people from rule-breaking bailiffs while the industry is not regulated, Citizens Advice has said.

The charity has been campaigning with its partners in the Taking Control coalition for the introduction of a regulator to enforce rules set out in government reforms in 2014.

Research by Citizens Advice and debt charity Stepchange found one third (850,000) of the 2.2 million people contacted by a bailiff in the two years to November 2018 experienced them breaking those rules – such as forcing entry into a home or removing goods needed for work.

The research also found nine in 10 people back an independent regulator for bailiffs.

The latest figures from Citizens Advice reveals 44,000 people sought help on bailiff issues in the past 12 months – more than one every three minutes.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Bailiff body cameras will do nothing to protect people while there is no industry regulator to oversee how they are used.

“While it’s encouraging the government has committed to further action, its next step must be the creation of an independent regulator to crack down on rule-breaking bailiffs.

“At Citizens Advice, we help one person every three minutes with a bailiff problem. We hope the government will take full consideration of our recommendations in its upcoming response to its call for evidence.”


  • -

CAB News 19 July 2019

Image result for youtility home finacies website

Friday 19 July 2019

Research into energy pricing discrepancies across the country has been published by home finances website Youtility.

National

Energy

Utility prices vary across Britain as regional pricing reveals discrimination

Mirror.co.uk, 18/07/2019, Graham Hiscott

Families in Liverpool typically pay £81 a year more than those in Leeds for energy, home finances website Youtility has found.

It explains the different pricing depends on how much suppliers are charged by Britain’s 14 distribution networks operators.

The article refers to Citizens Advice’s finding that network firms are making £7.5 billion in excessive profits. While it recognised that there were different costs to build the infrastructure and transport energy in some parts of the country to others, it said the “excessive profits we’ve identified are not reflective of the underlying network costs.

More than half of UK public “don’t trust energy suppliers”

Energy Live News, 18/07/2019, Jonny Bairstow

According to the latest Public Attitude Tracker from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy “more than half of the UK public say they do not trust energy suppliers very much or at all.”

The results of the survey do show however that levels of trust were highest for Citizens Advice and Trading Standards.

Experts call for heat networks to be regulated

This Is Money, 16/07/2019, Fiona Parker

Households reliant on heat networks – hot water to heat multiple households through insulated pipes, removing the need for boilers – for their hot water and central heating must be given greater protection.

Citizens Advice has called on Ofgem to commit to regulating the sector by July 2022 amid rising complaints, often involving billing errors and high standing charges.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy says it will consult on how to better regulate the sector.

Consumer

‘We’ve been charged £7-a-month for a Sim card my autistic son never received’: O2 customer left unable to cancel a contract due to GDPR

This Is Money, 18/07/2019, Grace Gausden

An O2 customer claims the telephone provider has been taking money from her son’s bank account for the last seven months – even though he had never received the Sim card promised.

The article refers to information on Citizens Advice website on what to do if you’re paying for something you haven’t received. The advice states that if you bought something from a business to be delivered, it’s the seller’s responsibility to make sure the item is delivered to you.

You can also report the seller to trading standards if you think they have broken the law, for example, if they took your money and refused to deliver the item.

Scams

Facebook launches tool to shutdown online scams

FT.com [paywall], 16/07/2019, Madison Darbyshire

Facebook has launched a new tool aimed at shutting down online scams following a lawsuit filed by Martin Lewis.

The tool will allow users of Facebook UK to flag advertisements on the social media site that link to scams. Facebook has also dedicated £3 million to anti-scam initiatives run Citizens Advice.

Martin Lewis said: “Millions of people know a scam when they see it, and millions of others don’t. So now, I’d ask all who recognise them to use the new Facebook reporting tool to help protect those who don’t — which includes many who are vulnerable.”

Gillian Guy said: “This project means we cannot only support people who have been targeted, but also raise awareness of what to look out for to help prevent online scams happening in the first place.”

News of the new service has also appeared in the the Sun (page 28), Metro (page 8), Daily Mail (page 20), Guardian, BBC, Sky.

Katie Martin, Director of External Affairs spoke with BBC Radio 5 Live about the new service saying: “We want to help people identify what a scams is, ideally we want people to not fall victim to them in the first place.”

My quest to track down the tricksters who targeted my mum in cruel lottery scam

Mail Online, 14/07/2019, Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge – whose 83-year-old mother was targeted by a lottery scam – goes in search of the people allegedly behind the scam. Prestridge has little luck going to the addresses listed on the scam letters, one being a building site and another not existing at all.

Citizens Advice said 38 per cent of all mail scams it received details of last year involved fake lotteries. Gillian Guy said: ‘Lottery scams are worryingly common and usually target people who are isolated or in vulnerable situations. Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.’

Housing

Renting: How landlords can refuse to let to tenants with children

BBC Online, 12/07/2019, Kevin Peachey

Tom Dedynski who has two children, aged nine and five, found a two-bedroom home to rent in Peterborough with enough room for his children but was unfortunately turned down by the landlord.

“I was honest with the letting agent that the kids would visit,” the 33-year-old says. “I was told the landlord did not want children – and that was that. I was disappointed. It felt a bit harsh. This was a small family home.”

There is nothing in law across the UK that compels a landlord to have to rent to tenants with children despite 1.7 million families raising children in rental properties across England. The article points to Citizens Advice toolkits prospective tenants can use if they think they’re being discriminated against.

In other news

Water bills in England and Wales are set to fall by an average of £50 between 2020 and 2025, under plans published by the industry regulator.

More than 600,000 members of so-called ‘Generation Rent’ are facing an “inevitable catastrophe” of homelessness when they retire.


  • -

Protection for customers must keep pace with rapidly evolving energy supply market says Citizens Advice

Friday 19 July 2019

Citizens Advice says radical reform of the energy supply market is needed to protect customers as new technologies are introduced in a fast-changing industry.

The charity, official consumer watchdog for energy, warns customers in vulnerable circumstances are particularly at risk as the need for decarbonisation accelerates the rate of change.

In a new report looking at how we access gas and electricity, Citizens Advice says new ways of buying energy will be increasingly available to householders and small businesses.

These could include consumers being able to trade power locally, agreeing to a fixed price for a set level of comfort, or getting a better deal by only using appliances at certain times.

Citizens Advice argues that with its local offices already helping 80,000 people with energy supply problems every year, it’s vital consumer protection keeps pace with changing technology.

The charity says its research shows three main barriers for people trying to access the energy technologies of the future:

  • Upfront costs: some future energy services will involve installing new equipment like battery storage, an investment too expensive for many people

  • Digital exclusion: 5.3 million British adults are not online. Many more don’t feel confident in using apps and websites

  • Lack of trust: people are wary of appliances like smart meters accessing their energy data.

Citizens Advice says a forthcoming consultation document from the energy regulator Ofgem and the government, is an ideal opportunity to lay the groundwork for reforms.

The charity’s new report, Future for all, says the future energy retail market should be set up to reflect four important principles, and has suggested ways these can be implemented:

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“The government’s recent adoption of a net zero carbon emissions target means big changes in how we access energy are on the way.

 “New innovations in the way we heat and light our homes will bring benefits for many. The danger is that some of the most vulnerable in society end up excluded from these exciting developments.

“How much you earn, or whether you’re confident with a smartphone, shouldn’t prevent anyone from getting the best out of this rapidly evolving market.”


  • -

CAB News 12 July 2019

Image result for decarbonisation of homes

Friday 12 July 2019

Our report, Keeping Warm: The Future of Heat, was published this morning, looking at the decarbonisation of heating homes and businesses.

Coverage has been picked up by a number of national broadcast and online media.

National

Energy

Government must protect consumers during decarbonisation – Citizens Advice

Mail Online, 12/07/2019

Our warning that a lack of credible plan to decarbonise the way homes and business are heated risks failing consumers was picked up by the Mail Online.

We are calling on the Government to establish an independent commission to determine the fairest way to pay for the energy transition, including the shift to low-carbon heat.

Gillian Guy said: “The way we heat our homes needs to undergo a major transformation. How we manage that process, and fairly distribute the costs, needs the urgent attention of government.

“An independent commission is the only way to make sure the pathway to net zero is assessed in a rigorous, transparent and timely way.

“Consumers must be at the heart of the process, with the right protections built in for them now.”

The story was also picked up in the Daily Mirror.

It revealed there are currently 14,000 heat networks in the UK, which serve 500,000 customers.

The story included our concern that handling complaints such as high or incorrect back bills from the 2% of households who already use the unregulated networks.

Gillian said: “We need to get these decisions right now to prevent the bad practice of today becoming the standard practice of tomorrow.”

Consumer

The loyalty penalty

FT Adviser, 10/07/2019, Jeff Prestridge

An opinion piece in the FT Adviser about the loyalty penalty praised Citizens Advice and featured comments from our Chief Executive Gillian Guy.

It mentioned little had been done about the loyalty penalty for years “before the good people at Citizens Advice decided to intervene”, firing off a super-complaint to the CMA with research that showed consumers were overpaying by £4.1 billion.

The author then referred to Gillian’s opinion article in the Mail on Sunday in which she expressed her disappointment in the lack of progress in tackling the issue.

“Time is ticking. The FCA and Ofcom need to step up and show us how they are going to stop companies exploiting their loyal customers and put an end to this systematic scam.”

Mortgages

FCA ‘not brave enough’ to tackle mortgage prisoners

FT Adviser, 10/07/2019, Imogen Tew

Our Principal Policy Manager Morgan Wild was quoted in an FT Adviser story about mortgage prisoners.

Speaking at the Westminster Business Forum on Wednesday, Morgan said the Financial Conduct Authority had not done enough to tackle the issue, but the threat of legal action was a constraint.

Morgan said: “There is a massive fear of regulators being taken to court, and that has a chilling effect on pro-consumer enforcement and action that could take to address some problems.”

Citizens Advice: FCA should make providers responsible for expensive SVRs

Mortgage Introducer, 10/07/2019, Ryan Bembridge

Morgan’s appearance at the Westminster reception was also covered by mortgage trade press, which focused on our call to make service providers responsible for ensuring customers are not switched to high-cost tariffs.

“Too often all the onus is put on the consumer,” Morgan said.

“These are firms who have a responsibility to treat customers fairly and we have been so far disappointed by the lack of regulatory action to point that point across, to really examine what they are doing to improve outcomes for loyal customers.”

Scams

How to avoid marketplace rip-offs

Women’s Own, 15/07/2019, p38, Rebecca Gamble

Our advice on how to protect yourself when shopping online was featured in Women’s Own magazine.

The article also featured our statistics that revealed 12,000 problems were brought to us in 2017, an increase of 35 per cent in four years.

Our advice says: “Check the product details, including photos, the description, cost of the item, delivery charges, contact details for the seller, and any cancellation rights.

“Also, is it being sold by a trader or private seller. You’ll have fewer rights buying from the latter.”

Our advice on tax relief on pensions was included in an article in the Express Online.

“You can get tax relief on pension payments you make into a company (occupational) pension, personal pension or stakeholder pension, as long as HMRC has approved the pension scheme,” our advice states.

Government scheme to recover unpaid council tax launches

Credit Connect, 08/07/2019

A story on a new pilot scheme by local councils to deduct people’s council tax debt from their income has included a comment from our Chief Executive, Gillian Guy.

“Our research shows harsh collection methods added half a billion pounds in fees to people’s council tax debts in 2016/17 alone,” Gillian said.

“It’s encouraging to see local authorities trying to reduce bailiff use but any collections must be affordable and should not leave people on low incomes with too little to live on.

“The government needs to fundamentally reform the regulations governing how local authorities collect debts and give them more flexibility.

“People should not be charged a full year’s bill after a single monthly payment is missed or threatened with imprisonment.”

In other news

Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd has said the benefits system for terminally ill people will be reviewed.

Danger fridges “should be removed from stores”.

The NHS has teamed up with Amazon to provide health advice via the company’s Alexa voice assistant.

Waiting lists for routine surgery have risen by up to 50% in England because senior doctors say they cannot afford to work extra shifts.