Category Archives: Consumer Issues

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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.



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.


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.”


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.


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.


‘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.


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.”


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.”


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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CAB News 16 November 2018

Friday 16 November 2018

EE and Virgin Media have been fined £13.3m by the Telecoms regulator for overcharging customers wanting to leave broadband and phone contracts early. We are issuing a response to this.

In other top news, our post research continues to receive media coverage and, a study commissioned by Gateshead Council shows universal credit is bad for health and wellbeing.



Can the Post Office really plug the gap as bank branches are shut down?

Which? (Web), 16/11/2018, Unattributed

The UK has lost two-thirds of its bank branches in the past 30 years, sparking warnings that communities are losing access to mainstream financial services.

Gillian Guy said: ‘Research from Which? echoes our own – we also found relatively few people know post offices provide basic banking services. And of those who did know, only about one in two said they’re using them. We want the government, the Post Office and banks to raise awareness, and help improve the banking services post offices offer, to ensure they meet consumer needs.

The issue has also been covered by the Yorkshire Post.


Promise to curb rogue bailiffs after MP tells of disabled woman’s ordeal

The Guardian, 14/11/2018, p18, Peter Walker

Wolverhampton MP Emma Reynolds highlighted our research in yesterday’s Justice questions and referenced the experiences of a disabled constituent who had a shocking bailiff encounter.

Reynolds also cited a study by Citizens Advice that said a third of people visited by bailiffs said the debt collectors had broken rules of conduct.

Reynolds asked: “When is the government urgently going to review the rules, and introduce an independent body to police the rules?”

850,000 people have had a bad experience with a bailiff – with forced entries top of the list

Mirror Online, 13/11/2018, Emma Munbodh

The article says since 2016, more than 2.2 million people have come into contact with a bailiff in Britain. Citizens Advice said 850,000 of this number have reported experiences such as forced entry or having their tools for work removed.

Gillian Guy said: “The 2014 reforms were well-intentioned but sadly have had little effect on improving the behaviour of some bailiffs.”

‘Bailiffs contributed to my son’s death, we must protect others’

ITV News, 13/11/2018

Senior Policy Researcher Joe Lane was interviewed on ITV lunchtime news alongside Tracey Rogers, who is campaigning for bailiff reform after her son Jerome killed himself following bailiff harassment.

Joe said: “Citizens Advice helps about 40,000 people with bailiff problems each year. Today’s research shows that experience is far more common. There are a set of rules bailiffs are supposed to follow but far too often, those are being broken.”

Head of External Affairs Katie Martin was also interviewed on LBC with Nick Ferrari yesterday morning. The research was also covered by the Independent and Money Saving Expert.



Disabled people can be £300 a month worse off under Universal Credit

Rochdale Online, 12/11/2018

Our research that revealed disabled people could be £300 a month worse off under Universal Credit when compared to legacy benefits was covered by Rochdale Online.

The article revealed Citizens Advice Penine West – which overseas Rochdale, Oldham and Trafford – had helped more than 2,600 people with Universal Credit since it was rolled out in the area.

Jonathan Yates, Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Pennine West, said: “We see the toll that Universal Credit can have on disabled people in Rochdale, Oldham and Trafford.

“They can be hundreds of pounds worse off than under the previous system – even when they do get the support meant for them.

“This money is desperately needed to cover key costs including essential bills and stop people falling into serious financial difficulty.”

Citizens Advice – Universal Credit means local disabled people are hundreds of pounds worse off

Oldham Evening Chronicle (Web), 09/11/2018, Unattributed

Citizens Advice Pennine West is calling on the government to make changes to the design and the amount of financial support in Universal Credit to make sure disabled people aren’t penalised when they claim the new benefit.

Jonathan Yates, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Pennine West, said: “We see the toll that Universal Credit can have on disabled people in Trafford, Oldham and Rochdale. They can be hundreds of pounds worse off than under the previous system – even when they do get the support meant for them.”

In other news

Universal credit has become a serious threat to public health.

NHS ‘could be short of 350,000 staff by 2030’.

A survey has revealed the UK’s “worst” online retailer.

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CAB News Friday 09 November 2018

Friday 09 November 2018

Today Citizens Advice has been picked up by a variety of news outlets including the Daily Mail, the Guardian and local media.


Broadband Loyalty Penalty

Sticking with your broadband provider costs an average of £230 a year, research shows

The Daily Mail, 09/11/2018, p.10, Amelia Murray/Sean Poulter

Our call for a consumer champion for the broadband market has been included in the Daily Mail’s coverage of new figures that show the price customers are paying for the internet. Our super-complaint into the loyalty penalty was also referenced.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “No one should be penalised for their loyalty. It’s clear the industry needs more scrutiny which is why the Government should set up an independent champion for consumers as is the case in other essential markets.”

UN investigation into poverty

Life on the poverty frontline: UN turns its gaze on UK

The Guardian, 08/11/2018, Robert Booth

Image result for poverty uk food banks

Citizens Advice Newcastle was listed as one of the places the UN investigation into poverty visited during its investigation into poverty in the UK. A local client was quoted.

Sharon Morton said: “I wash in what I call a birdbath – a little hot water in a basin and have a spruce down. To keep warm I wrap up in layers and layers. I never thought I would be 48 and in this position.”

Energy price cap designed to protect 11 million households to come into force from January 1

Metro, 07/11/2018, p.28, Holly Williams

Our response to the energy price cap details announced by the regulator Ofgem yesterday was included in the Metro’s coverage.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “This price cap will finally offer some much-needed protection for loyal households on default tariffs, who have been exploited for too long.”

Our response was also picked up in the Sun, the MailOnline, Evening Standard and the Guardian.


Citizens Advice Sheffield

BBC Radio Sheffield, 08/11/2018, 12:11:15

Francis Potter, Citizens Advice Sheffield, took calls on BBC Radio Sheffield on the roll-out of Universal Credit across the city.

“Most of Sheffield is effected but it’s only for new claims. If you’re already on legacy benefits, you won’t have to do anything… Only those who have a change of circumstances will be moved over to Universal Credit.”

In other news

High Street Shops are closing at a rate of 14 per day.

MPs have have found single parents, care leavers and people with disabilities and health conditions were “disproportionately vulnerable” to benefit sanctions.

Today the state pension age rises to 65 for women and some campaigners are concerned the pace of equalisation has left some retirees facing poverty.


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Energy price cap “offers some much needed protection for loyal households”, says Citizens Advice

Friday 09 November 2018

Citizens Advice, in its role as the official consumer champion for energy, has responded to Ofgem’s announcement confirming the level and timing of the price cap on default tariffs.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“This price cap will finally offer some much needed protection for loyal households on default tariffs, who have been exploited for too long.

“While the cap will mean that people pay a fairer price, it will not be the best deal on the market. By shopping around and changing tariff or supplier, people are likely to be able to make much greater savings on their energy bills.

“Households may also be able to reduce their bills and make long-term savings by improving the energy efficiency of their homes. Simple steps, such as better insulation or heating controls, are a good place to start.”

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