Category Archives: Consumer Issues

  • 0

CAB News 17 May 2019

Image result for vulnerable energy customers fall behind on bills

Friday 17 May 2019

Our report into how energy companies treat vulnerable customers who have fallen behind on their bills has been picked up by national, local and trade media.

A copy of the national press release can be found here.

National

Energy

Ofgem ‘must set ambitious vision’ for vulnerable energy customers

ITV News, 17/05/2019

Our report into how energy companies deal with vulnerable customers who fall behind on their bills was covered by ITV News.

It reported that we helped 43,232 people with energy debt last year, a 12% increase compared with 2017. Some 48% of those given help had long-term health conditions or disabilities.

Gillian Guy said: “The regulator needs to set an ambitious vision for how suppliers should support and protect vulnerable people who fall behind on their bills.

“Both Ofgem and suppliers need to take action and help people get over the barriers that stop them from seeking help and getting the right advice and support.

“The package of support that’s on offer needs to be sensitive. Aggressive collection practices and demands for unaffordable payments only serve to make people’s lives more difficult.”

 

Labour’s vow to nationalise the National Grid wipes £1billion off value of its shares

The Sun Online, 17/05/2019, Steve Hawkes

We were approached by the Sun for a comment on Labour’s plans for nationalisation of the energy industry, which its website included in a story this morning.

We reinforced the point that our focus is on how to protect the customer, whichever economic model is in place.

Gillian said: “As the official consumer watchdog for energy, our focus is on how to protect customers, ensuring they pay the fairest price possible for a high-quality essential service – regardless of the economic model used to deliver that service.

“It’s also vital that the decarbonisation of energy happens as quickly as possible.”

Loyalty Penalty

Broadband, TV and phone firms must warn customers their contracts are ending and offer them better deals, under new rules

Daily Mail, 16/05/2019, Grace Gausden

The article mentions that the news rules, the latest in Ofcom’s Fairness for Customers programme, means up to 20 million customers could save up to a fifth on the cost of their bills.

Citizens Advice responded by saying the watchdog’s measures did not go far enough and more change was needed to ‘solve the problem’.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “We are encouraged that Ofcom will make companies send a reminder to their customers when their contract is about to end. But, given the scale of the loyalty penalty, this won’t be enough to solve the problem.

“Almost nine in 10 people think that charging loyal customers more is unfair, and we agree. We look forward to hearing about the concrete actions Ofcom will take to end this systematic scam.”

Our statement also appeared in Moneywise.

Phone and internet users to get end-of-contract alerts

BBC, 15/05/2019, Leo Kelion

Broadband, pay-TV, mobile phone and landline customers must be told when their contracts are about to end and be informed of their providers’ best alternative deals, under new Ofcom rules.

It’s hoped that these new rules will help customers avoid overpaying as an estimated 20 million people have stuck with subscriptions beyond their lock-in, often without realising.

Lindsey Fussell, Ofcom’s consumer group director says: “This will put power in the hands of millions of people who’re paying more than necessary when they’re no longer tied to a contract.”

Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice’s Chief Executive says: “Almost nine in 10 people think that charging loyal customers more is unfair, and we agree. We look forward to hearing about the concrete actions Ofcom will take to end this systematic scam.”

Our statement also appears in The Sun.

Consumer

Festival ticket scams are leaving revellers £179 out of pocket

i News, 12/05/2019, Laurie Havelock

Our advice about how to be buyer beware when getting tickets for the summer festivals was featured in i News.

“Citizens Advice also recommends using sites that bear a red, black and white kitemark provided by the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers, the industry’s regulatory body,” the advice reads.

Future of Advice

Gillian Guy: Citizens Advice looks ahead in its 80th year of service

Civil Society, 15/05/2019

Gillian Guy talks about the charity’s plans for the future in an op-ed for Civil Society.

Gillian says: “We’ve set a new vision for 2022, which remains true to our roots. When we say we are here for everyone, whoever they are and whatever their problem, we mean it. Not everyone is the same and we never judge anyone who comes to us.

“We are committed to reaching as many people who need our help as possible and understand that different people require different kinds of information and support. Equality, diversity and inclusion are at the very heart of this new framework.”

A separate news article in Civil Society also covers the launch of Future of Advice.

In other news

MPs have demanded details of the DWP’s Universal Credit PR campaign.

Free-to-use cash machines are disappearing from the poorest communities.

Thousands of drivers will be automatically hit by £100 fines and penalty points for ignoring warning signs on a new generation of smart motorways.

Inequalities in pay and opportunities in the UK are becoming so extreme they are threatening democracy, the Institute for Fiscal Studies says.

Four million Britons are in poverty despite having jobs.

Councils will have the legal duty to provide secure homes for victims of domestic abuse in new plans announced by Theresa May.

 

 


  • 0

Citizens Advice response to Ofcom’s announcement on end of contract notifications

Friday 17 May 2019

In response to Ofcom’s announcement on end of contract notifications Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“We are encouraged that Ofcom will make companies send a reminder to their customers when their contract is about to end. But, given the scale of the loyalty penalty, this won’t be enough to solve the problem.

“Almost 9 in 10 people think that charging loyal customers more is unfair, and we agree.

“The CMA was clear in its response to our super-complaint that regulators must report on their progress by June. We look forward to hearing about the concrete actions Ofcom will take to end this systematic scam.”

Background:

Citizens Advice submitted a super-complaint on the loyalty penalty 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 by Citizens Advice found that across 5 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).

  • 8 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 is, on average, £877 per year – equal to 3% of the average household’s total annual expenditure.

  • The loyalty penalty for broadband is, on average, £113 per year

  • The loyalty penalty for mobile is, on average, £264 per year

This is the fourth super-complaint Citizens Advice has made since being given the power in 2002. Its complaint on payment protection insurance (PPI) in 2005 helped to generate a huge win for consumers, with at least £34.4 billion returned to customers in refunds and compensation so far.

For more information contact: Laura Albrey

Tel: 07977 045 587 or 030 0023 1313

Out-of-hours contact number: 0845 099 0107


  • 0

“Banks need to act in their customers best interests”, says Citizens Advice

Friday 17 May 2019

Citizens Advice has responded to the Treasury Committee’s report on consumers’ access to financial services. Its Director of Policy, Matt Upton, gave evidence to the Committee’s inquiry last year.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“It is essential banks provide support to their customers – particularly people who are vulnerable due to their health or financial situation. MPs are right to expect this duty of care to be enforced.

“It’s astounding that banks are not currently required to act in their customers’ best interests or pay attention to their specific circumstances. When they spot warning signs of financial difficulty, banks should provide support and set up a phone or face-to-face debt advice session.

“We also know vulnerable consumers are more likely to pay the loyalty penalty. While it’s a good first step to call on banks to report on the size of the loyalty penalty, stronger action is needed to stamp out this bad practice.”

Background

Each year at Citizens Advice we see over 330,000 people with debt issues. On average, these debt clients have just £14 a month disposable income.

Citizens Advice submitted a super-complaint on the loyalty penalty 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.

The most common health issue among Citizens Advice clients is mental health problems. Our research has found that a third (31%) of our clients with mental health problems are finding it difficult to manage financially, compared with fewer than 1 in 9 (12%) of the general population.


  • 0

CAB News 10 May 2019

Friday 10 May 2019

Our comment on gaps in protection for people using high-cost credit and loyal customers was featured in the Independent.

National

Payday loan scandals

Without financial regulation, payday loan scandals continue to hit the poorest the hardest

Independent/Yahoo News, 09/05/2019, James Moore

An investigation into gaps in protections for consumers using high-cost credit by the Independent featured a comment from our Principal Policy Manager Joe Lane.

“The [payday loan] caps are good where they’re used, but some types of loans aren’t covered, such as doorstep lending. It’s one of the most common forms of high-cost credit problem we see and leads to debt spirals because people often repeat borrow to keep up with repayments,” he said.

“There is also the loyalty penalty, which is where customers are penalised for simply being loyal to their provider. We’ve found this occurs in the mobile phone, broadband, home insurance, mortgage and savings markets and our research shows it’s vulnerable people who are more likely to pay this penalty.”

Consumer

Complaints by households about gardeners and homebuilders have gone up 20%

Western Morning News, 08/05/2019, Elise Faulkner

Our research that showed consumer complaints about homebuilders and gardeners are on the rise was covered in the Morning News.

The story reported that many of the 60,000 issues we hear are about unfinished or poor quality work.

It features our advice on shopping around, being strict on quotes, and keeping copies of receipts and other communications.

Being smart with your phone can save money

Grazia, 08/05/2019, p.95, Laura Whateley

Fashion magazine Grazia has featured our advice on how to choose a phone contract.

Debt

Government tackles bailiff bad practice

Your Money, 08/05/2019, Cherry Reynard

Our response to the official public statement on improving fairness in debt collection practices across central and local government by the Cabinet Office Fairness Group was featured on several consumer websites including Your Money and Credit Strategy. Our full reactive statement can be seen here.

Energy customers miss out on £5.1 million compensation they’re owed

The Mirror, 03/05/2019, Josie Clarke

Our research that revealed energy customers have missed out on an estimated £5.1 million in compensation over the last three years was covered by the Mirror.

Energy network operators are required to meet 39 guaranteed standards of service set by regulator Ofgem, including how they respond to emergencies, their complaints procedures, and the speed of reconnection after bad weather.

Gillian Guy said: “This money should be in customers’ pockets. We want Ofgem to get tougher with the energy network companies so that customers automatically receive all the compensation they’re entitled to.

“Guaranteed standards should mean guaranteed compensation. At the very least there should be a system of financial penalties for those energy firms who still don’t proactively pay people what they’re due.”

This story also featured on BBC Radio 4’s news bulletins and was reported by trade mag Utility Week.

Citizens Advice

3 things we are saying

1. Rule-breaking bailiffs push people into more debt.

Our Principal Policy Manager Joe Lane told the Justice Committee that 1 in 3 people contacted by bailiffs see them break the rules, such as bailiffs taking goods that someone needs to do their job. This can force people to fall behind on bills and get into a “debt spiral”. We want government to introduce an independent regulator to stop bailiffs breaking the rules.

 2. We’ll continue to work with government to end unfair tenant fees.

The Tenant Fees Bill passed through the House of Lords last week. During its journey through parliament, we raised concerns around a paragraph on damages. We welcome the government’s strong assurances on this, and will continue to work to make sure guidance on this is as clear as possible.

3.  Switching energy suppliers can take just a few minutes.

This week is Big Energy Saving Week, we are encouraging people to check, switch and save on their energy bills. Our price comparison tool can help.

Regional

Universal Credit

Help with Universal Credit benefit applications available from Citizens Advice Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight County Press, 09/05/2019

The launch of Help to Claim at Citizens Advice Isle of Wight has been covered by the County Press.

The story said the team at Citizens Advice Isle of Wight offers face-to-face support and advice at Ryde and Newport Job Centres, and at other outreach locations throughout the Island.

In other news

The government said it will foot the £200m bill to replace Grenfell-type cladding on more than 150 privately owned tower blocks.

Benefit cuts have made private renting unaffordable.

More than 5,000 people were victim to holiday booking fraud last year.

A local authority has criticised the slow response to Universal Credit errors.


  • -

CAB News 05 May 2019

Friday 05 May 2019

Our research showing customers have missed out on £5.1 million in compensation for poor service from the energy network companies has appeared in several newspapers and online news sites.

National

Energy

Bad Energy: Households miss out on £5.1million in compensation for power cuts

The Sun Online, 03/05/2019, Alice Grahns

Households have missed out on millions of pounds in compensation over the past few years.The payments should have been made for power cuts and poor service said The Sun, quoting our new report into missed compensation by the network companies – the firms which run the energy infrastructure

Gillian Guy said: “This money should be in customers’ pockets. We want Ofgem to get tougher with the energy network companies so that customers automatically receive all the compensation they’re entitled to.

“Guaranteed standards should mean guaranteed compensation. At the very least there should be a system of financial penalties for those energy firms who still don’t proactively pay people what they’re due.”

The story included a comprehensive guide on how to claim compensation from the network companies, how much people might be entitled to, and what they should do if they’re unhappy about how their complaint was handled.

The Metro also ran the story, and itv news featured it on its website.

The itv news article illustrated the problems people face in claiming the compensation they’re due by using one of our case studies: an electricity customer with a one-year-old baby who rang our customer helpline following numerous power cuts over a two-week period.

Despite repeated calls to their network company, the family was never contacted or sent promised information about how to make a complaint.

Energy regulator to review costs of smart meters

Utility Week, 01/05/2019, Adam John (subscription charge may apply)

Gillian Guy was quoted in authoritative industry magazine Utility Week, putting the consumers’ perspective on Ofgem’s new consultation process. It’s part of a review of how the costs of the smart meter rollout will affect the energy price cap.

Gillian said: “We’re all paying for the smart meter rollout through our bills. It’s essential that Ofgem has up-to-date information on how much it’s costing consumers when it sets the level of the price cap.

“There have been significant changes to the smart meter programme in recent years, but the last cost benefit analysis was published in 2016.

“The lack of new information means there is little transparency over the costs of the rollout. This is now beginning to impact on other key decisions that need to be made”.

Loyalty Penalty

Mail Online,This is Money, 02/05/2019, Grace Gausden

Our findings that loyal home insurance customers are paying nearly twice as much as new customers were featured again by the Mail Online, along with our call for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to identify permanent solutions to the loyalty penalty as part of its insurance market study.

The story concentrated on new promises by some of the big insurance companies that they will keep prices down as part of changes to their policies designed to retain existing customers.

Scams

Warning over rise of fake watches, trainers and handbags on eBay, Facebook and Gumtree

The Sun, 30/04/2019, Helen Knapman

Image result for fake watches handbags

More than 13,000 problems with purchases from online marketplaces were reported to Citizens Advice last year said The Sun, in an article which also included advice on how to protect yourself when shopping online.

Gillian Guy told the paper: “While online marketplaces can be a great way to bag a bargain, far too many people are being ripped off.

“Part of the problem is that if things go wrong with a purchase, it can often be confusing what you can do.

“We want to make sure customers know what to look out for which includes checking who they are buying from. Your rights can differ depending if it’s an individual or business.”

Debt

HMRC quadruples spending on private debt collectors

Financial Times, 28/04/2019, Emma Agyemang (subscription charge may apply)

The Financial Times reported that HM Revenue and Customs spent £26.3 million on debt collection in 2018.

The paper noted that debt management issues have been coming under increased scrutiny. It said Citizens Advice research had found the portion of people reporting debt problems relating to public sector organisations doubled from 21 to 40 per cent in the five years to 2017-18. The story on its website included a link to our press release on the subject last year.

The FT also covered what it called the UK’s debt crisis in an article which featured our Principal Policy Manager Joe Lane.

Joe said: “If deductions from universal credit are not counted in statutory debt repayment plans, people’s finances will still have the features that pushed them into vulnerability. In our view, the way these debts are being collected is making people’s debt problems get worse.”

Harsh collection methods adding half a billion in fees to people’s council tax debt

BBC One O’Clock News, BBC News Channel, 26/04/2019, Colletta Smith

Our new research showed missing an average council tax payment of £167 in the first month of the financial year, can escalate to a debt of over £2,065 in just 9 weeks.

Principal Policy Manager Joe Lane told the BBC One O’Clock News: “Last year around £500 million of additional fees and charges were added on to people’s council tax debt.”

He added that this didn’t help people repay their debt, and it didn’t help local authorities either as they had to recover this extra money as well as the original debt.

The report was repeated throughout the day on the BBC News Channel.

The BBC News Channel also interviewed Head of External Affairs Katie Martin on Afternoon Live.

Katie said the current legislation meant councils’ hands were tied and “they don’t have the flexibility to talk to people about affordable re-payment plans.”

The story also appeared in The Daily Mail, The Sun and the The Mirror.

In other news

A group of 80 MPs has referred the Home Office to equalities watchdog over the Windrush scandal.

Children’s services in England are at breaking point and need a £3.1bn minimum funding boost by 2025 says an influential committee of MPs.

Ministry of Justice figures reveal more than 2,500 prison staff have been subject to disciplinary action in the last five years.

Victims of crimes, including those alleging rape, are to be asked to hand their phones over to police – or risk prosecutions not going ahead.

Provision for children and young people with mental health problems is ‘worse than in much of eastern Europe’ according to a new report.

It’s been suggested that over 50’s should pay a higher National Insurance rate in order to fund a ‘fairer’ social care system.


  • -

Energy networks fail to pay out £5.1m compensation for customer service failures

Friday 03 May 2019

Energy customers have missed out on an estimated £5.1 million in compensation over the last 3 years, says a new report by Citizens Advice.

The payments are for poor customer service, such as power cuts due to bad weather which take a long time to rectify, and should have been made by their network providers. These are the companies who run the energy infrastructure as opposed to firms who supply gas and electricity to customers.

The Citizens Advice report, Standard Issue, found that very few domestic and small business customers claim the payments they are entitled to when energy network companies fail to meet their obligations.

According to the charity, this is due to a mixture of customers not realising they qualified for compensation, people forgetting to claim, or not applying within the 3-month time limit.

Energy network operators are required to meet 39 guaranteed standards of service set by the regulator Ofgem. These include how they respond to emergencies, their complaints procedures, and the speed of reconnection after bad weather. In one case, 99% of compensation due for not meeting a specific requirement went unclaimed.

In general, the report shows the network companies, in particular those providing electricity, are doing well at meeting these ‘standards.’

Guaranteed standards should mean guaranteed compensation

A compulsory compensation scheme covers some of these obligations and automatically pays out when companies fail to meet their commitments. But others, including when people suffer interruptions to their electricity supply or are due notice on planned interruptions, are subject to voluntary arrangements.The electricity network companies paid out just under £5.4 million in compensation, including voluntary payments. However a further £2.5 million would have been paid if all customers had claimed the compensation they’re entitled to.

The gas networks refunded more than £11 million in compulsory and voluntary compensation payments between 2015-18. Consumers would have received £2.6 million more if all the guaranteed standards were controlled by a compulsory compensation scheme.

In its role as the official consumer watchdog for energy, Citizens Advice is calling for Ofgem to tighten its current regulations and work towards the implementation of automatic compensation across all standards.

In addition, the charity wants the regulator to introduce financial penalties for poor performance.

Citizens Advice says network companies need to work harder to make customers more aware of the compensation they are entitled to, as well as continuing to work on improving their levels of service.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“This money should be in customers’ pockets. We want Ofgem to get tougher with the energy network companies so that customers automatically receive all the compensation they’re entitled to.

“Guaranteed standards should mean guaranteed compensation. At the very least there should be a system of financial penalties for those energy firms who still don’t proactively pay people what they’re due.”


  • -

CAB News 26 April 2019

Friday 26 April 2019

Today we have published research revealing that outdated and punitive council tax regulations are encouraging local authorities to collect arrears aggressively – causing people serious financial harm.

National

Debt

How a missed council tax bill of £167 can cost £2,065

BBC, 26/04/2019, Kevin Peachey

The article reports on our calculations finding that if a resident misses their first bill of the financial year (typically £167 in England) they could see the cost increase to £2,065 in just 9 weeks.

We have called for the rules to be changed to ensure people whose finances are stretched do not receive a big bill. The government is also reviewing the rules surrounding the way local authorities collect council tax.

Mark, a Citizens Advice client who is unemployed and has mental health problems, is one of those who has faced such a situation: “Last year was not a good year in terms of my health or finances. I had so many debts that it became very stressful and hard to find a way to make my money stretch to cover them all. In August, a letter arrived from a bailiff. I had become liable for the full year bill and my council tax debt was now with them. I felt really intimidated.”

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “council tax regulations make it harder for people to pay their original debts instead of helping them to get their finances back on track.”

The story is also covered in The Mirror, The Sun, BBC Radio 5, and the i.

Breadline Britain: New figures show the full extent of the UK’s payday loan addiction

Mail Online, 19/04/2019, Will Kirkman

Our call for tighter affordability checks by payday lenders was featured in a story on Mail Online about the increase in loans over the past year. FCA figures showed lending reached £1.2 billion in 2018.

Gillian Guy said: “It’s even more critical that affordability checks on payday loans are tightened as lending rises. We see evidence of companies handing unaffordable amounts of money to people, many of whom are vulnerable or already have multiple debts. We want the FCA to take action. Rules must spell out to lenders what these checks should include – most importantly, proof of income and usual spending.”

Energy

Should the smart meter rollout deadline be scrapped?

Utility Week, 23/04/2019, Adam John

The latest findings from BEIS show that smart meter installation activity by large energy suppliers was down 16 per cent in the final quarter of 2018 compared with the same time a year earlier. The article questions that with this in mind, should the 2020 deadline be scrapped?

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Smart meters will provide benefits for customers, but with the rollout beset by technical problems, the current timetable is unrealistic.

“There’s little chance that the 2020 deadline will be met, it should be extended to 2023.”

Are the energy minnows out of their depth?

Daily Mail, 17/04/2019, p40, Samantha Partington

A Daily Mail story on the effect on customers when a small energy company collapses has featured a comment from us.

Gillian Guy told the paper that long waiting times for refunds, difficulty switching and debt chasing practices when firms fail have prompted a large number of calls from the public.

Also in the Mail, columnist Victoria Bischoff had high praise for the Citizens Advice Energy Star Ratings as she bids to find better ways of finding a new energy supplier.

“I switch energy provider every year and I admit that, up until now, I have been pretty cavalier when it comes to choosing supplier. My mantra was: ‘Cheapest is best,'” she wrote.

“Now, I’ll be paying far more attention to how a firm’s customer service is ranked by Citizens Advice.”

Section 21 changes in full: landlords finally to be banned from unfair evictions

Daily Mirror, 15/04/2019, Emma Munbodh

The Mirror’s report into the government announcement on potentially scrapping section 21 evictions used our statement in full.

Gillian Guy said: “Scrapping no-fault evictions is a groundbreaking shake-up of the private rented sector and will better protect the almost 5 million households who live in it.

“It means renters – including families – will be able to put down stable roots where they live and prevent landlords from evicting tenants for simply complaining.”

Government plans to ban no-fault evictions

The Week, 15/04/2019

Current affairs magazine The Week featured our response as well as our data that showed almost one in two people who formally complained about their home were evicted within six months.

“Citizens Advice said the proposed change was a ‘groundbreaking shake-up’,” The Week’s report said.

In other news

Half of motorists think charging loyal car insurance customers more should be illegal, Go Compare research finds.

Food bank network hands out record 1.6m food parcels in a year, reports the Trussell Trust.

Labour says it would scrap a government scheme that allows offices and industrial buildings to be converted into homes without planning permission.

GCHQ are to announce they will help banks fight fraud by detecting stolen credit cards on the dark web.

Almost 2 million people will lose more than £1,000 a year following the switch to universal credit, with those claiming disability benefits the worst affected, according to research by IFS.


  • -

CAB News 12 April 2019

Friday 12 April 2019

The cross-party House of Commons justice committee has said that bailiffs in the UK should be independently regulated and forced to wear body cameras when visiting debtors’ homes.

National

Debt

MPs call for bailiffs to be independently regulated

Financial Times (subscription required), 11/04/2019, p.3, Naomi Rovnick

Members of the justice committee said debt enforcement was “under-regulated” and reforms introduced in 2014 to ensure bailiffs were not acting aggressively were not fit for purpose.

The report states: “There should be a regulator, which should be able to stop unfit enforcement agents and companies from practising.” It adds that because bailiffs are paid by debtors, who are “some of the poorest people in society”, it is “vital that [they] are proportionate”.

The article references Citizens Advice client, Mark Davey, who is unemployed and has a mental health condition. He reports that bailiffs had threatened and verbally abused him over the phone after he fell behind with council tax payments last year.

Gillian Guy said “bailiffs regularly break the rules, as our evidence has proved.” She added it was “excellent to see MPs from across all parties call for a regulator to crack down on the bailiff industry” and urged the MoJ to “introduce these reforms as a matter of urgency”.

This story was also picked up in BBC News, Mirror, Guardian, and HuffPost.

Bailiffs could be forced to wear body-cams when they visit homes

Mail Online, 11/04/2019, George Nixon

Our response to the Justice Select Committee’s call for an independent bailiff regulator and an complaints process that’s separate from enforcement firms was featured in the Mail Online.

Gillian said: “It’s excellent to see MPs from across all parties call for a regulator to crack down on the bailiff industry. They’ve also rightly called for a complaints process to be established so problems are dealt with independently of the bailiff industry and outside the court system.

“Bailiffs regularly break the rules, as our evidence has proved. In the past year we’ve seen a 16 per cent increase in bailiff-related issues. All eyes will now be on the Ministry of Justice, which must introduce these reforms as a matter of urgency.”

This story was also covered by the Huffington Post.

Consumer

Home insurance BOMBSHELL: Customers ‘paying HUNDREDS of pounds more with loyalty PENALTY’

Daily Express, 11/04/2019, Levi Winchester

The Express Online covered our research that showed loyal customers who have been with their home insurance company for six years or more are propping up firms’ profits.

We found on average, customers were forking out £325 for their sixth year of insurance, compared to new customers who were paying £172.

Gillian said: “What makes this worse is that vulnerable people are likely to be the most loyal to their provider.

“Since we submitted our super-complaint about the loyalty penalty, some companies have rightly promised to treat their customers better, yet many more are still choosing to make their profits off their most loyal and vulnerable consumers.”

Loyalty Penalty

Loyal insurance customers ‘subsidise everyone else’

The Daily Telegraph, 10/04/2019, p4, Katie Morley

The Telegraph ran our insurance story on page 4, revealing after six years a loyal insurance customer could typically have paid £1,596 – £500 more than someone who spends every year as a new customer.

The piece highlighted the case of one 76-year-old woman with arthritis who came to use for help who had been with the same company for more than 10 years. She received a renewal letter increasing her premium from £1,500 to £3,500 a year.

Gillian Guy said: “Since we submitted our super-complaint about the loyalty penalty, some companies have rightly promised to treat their customers better, yet many more are still choosing to make their profits off their most loyal and vulnerable consumers.”

Energy

We’re all missing out on smart meter savings

The Independent, 07/04/2019, Felicity Hannah

Our call to push back the energy smart meter rollout deadline to 2023 was featured in the Independent over the weekend.

The story followed an update last week that revealed energy companies have fallen further behind in their bid to have the meters installed in homes across the country by 2020.

Gillian Guy said: “Smart meters will provide benefits to consumers.

“They put the customer in control – whether that’s by more accurate billing or helping them consider how to reduce the amount of energy they use.”

She added: “The deadline for smart meters to be installed in all homes and small businesses by the end of 2020 remains unrealistic.

Universal Credit

Help to Claim

Universal Credit: People applying for the benefit to have dedicated support from new Citizens Advice service

iNews, 01/04/2019, Serina Sandhu

Image result for help to claim universal credit citizens advice

Citizens Advice will offer prospective Universal Credit claimants support through its “Help to Claim” service, funded by the Department for Work and Pensions.

“Today we’re launching a new service specifically for those who need help applying for Universal Credit,” said Gillian Guy. “We offer free, independent, impartial and confidential advice to millions of people every year, and have already helped more than 230,000 people with Universal Credit. We’ve seen first-hand what can happen when people struggle to make a claim and their payments are delayed. “Delivering this new service will give us even greater insight into people’s experiences. We’ll use that knowledge to continue to call for improvements so the Universal Credit system works for the people we help,” she added.

There has also been a huge amount of local coverage, including Pendle Today, Coventry Telegraph, Plymouth Herald, BBC Radio Humberside (2:35:10), Romford Recorder, Skem News, Banbury Guardian, and Yorkshire Coast Radio.

In other news

A resident who highlighted segregated facilities at his housing development has said he is being punished for doing so.

The Government pledges to improve the way Council Tax debt is recovered.

Carers and families are angry the government’s social care plans have been delayed.

Two-thirds of councils say they cannot afford to comply with the Homelessness Reduction Act.

The UK is planning an independent watchdog to regulate social media companies.

Councils are spending millions on agency social workers amid a recruiting crisis.


  • -

New Ofgem rules on energy supplier licenses “good news for consumers”, says Citizens Advice

Friday 12 April 2019

Citizens Advice, in its role as the official consumer champion for energy, has responded to Ofgem’s announcement of new licensing rules for firms applying to enter the energy supply market.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Ofgem’s new rules are good news for consumers. From June, firms entering the market will need to be set up to deliver good customer service and be financially sound.

“The regulator is right to now turn its attention to the issue of poorly performing suppliers already in the market. Ofgem needs to take steps to identify those companies not delivering for their customers or that may be in financial difficulty and examine if its current approach to resolving problems it identifies is the right one.”

“More firms going out of business remains a possibility. It is essential the regulator acts quickly to better manage future supplier failures.

“We all end up paying through higher bills when energy companies go bust. Without better ongoing monitoring and new rules to manage future supplier failures, consumers will continue to suffer.”

Background

Citizens Advice first called for a review of supplier licensing in 2013.