Category Archives: Consumer Issues

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CAB News 13 September 2019

Friday 13 September 2019

Citizens Advice Scams Action has been featured in an ITV documentary about fraud.

National

Consumer

Citizens Advice Scams Action ready to help

Fraud: The Public Threat, Tonight, ITV1, 12/09/2019, 7.30pm (about 20′ into clip). Helen Skelton

Our new service Citizens Advice Scams Action was featured on ITV’s Tonight programme yesterday.

The programme showed our website in detail and interviewed Martin Lewis, whose payout from Facebook, after his image was used in a series of online scams, has funded the service.

Martin said it would provide “one on one help” for people worried they had been victims of a scam. He also outlined what to look out for to avoid being scammed.

Martin said “urgency and secrecy” were the two biggest red flags a scammer might be at work.

Advice

Struggling to make ends meet? Go to your local Citizens Advice

The Asian Network (registration required), 12/09/2019, 10pm (about 1’20” into clip), Mobeen Azhar

People seeking advice on Universal Credit and other financial problems were urged to seek our help by the presenters of a programme on the BBC’s Asian Network entitled ‘Struggling to Make Ends Meet.’

Raji Osahn said of one man, who’d had numerous issues trying to claim Universal Credit: “He absolutely needs to go to a local Citizens Advice.”

Debt

Surge in councils using bailiffs to chase debts, including parking fines

The Independent, 11/09/2019, Vicky Shaw

Councils across England and Wales sent 2.6 million debts to bailiffs in 2018-19, a 7 per cent rise on the year before.

Despite this, the Money Advice Trust, who carried out the research, said it has found evidence that more councils are adopting best practice on affordability and vulnerability. It found 64 councils have now signed up to the Citizens Advice and Local Government Association’s council tax protocol, which is an increase from two years before.

Cut bailiff use for non-payment of council tax, say charities

The Guardian, 11/09/2019, Ben Quinn

Our council tax ‘good practice protocol’ is helping to improve the way local authorities collect arrears.

There were still 1.4 million referrals to bailiffs for the collection of council tax last year, according to new figures from the Money Advice Trust. But the report shows 51% of local authorities had reduced their bailiff use during the last two years.

The Local Government Association said the findings showed that there had been a positive impact from the work it had been doing with Citizens Advice on a council tax arrears good practice protocol.

Sixty-four councils have signed up to the Citizens Advice/LGA council tax protocol – up from 50 two years ago. A further 23 councils are considering signing up the protocol which, for example, obliges local authorities to give careful consideration before passing debts to enforcement agencies where potentially vulnerable household are involved.

Universal Credit

DWP extends the claims period by a month

i News, 09/09/2019, Serina Sandhu

Image result for dwp

The government’s announcement that parents on Universal Credit will now have an extra month to claim back childcare costs was covered by i News.

Gillian Guy told the paper “It’s good to see Government help parents on Universal Credit… This kind of flexibility needs to be applied to more of the new benefits system.

“Our evidence shows some people are having difficulty meeting the upfront costs of childcare, which can run to hundreds of pounds on already tight budgets.

“To really make sure parents can get the support they need on Universal Credit, the Government should look at paying childcare costs in advance or direct to providers.”

Energy

Eversmart Energy collapse hits 29,000 customers

The Times, 07/09/2019, p.49, Emily Gosden

Image result for eversmart

A small energy supplier that courted controversy by encouraging households to pay for a year’s gas and electricity usage up front ceased trading on Friday. Our response, in our capacity as the official consumer watchdog for energy, was widely featured in the national press.

Gillian Guy told The Times: “Eversmart is the 13th domestic energy company to collapse in the past two years. Our research shows this unlucky baker’s dozen of failed companies has left behind at least £172 million in unpaid costs. These will be picked up by other consumers through higher bills.”

She called for Ofgem to “act to reduce the cost of supplier failures and protect customers”.

The story was also covered by The Independent which noted: “Last year, Citizens Advice sounded the alarm about the company after it began offering a tariff where advanced payments of about £1,000 were paid by households.”

In other news

Domestic violence murders surge to five-year high.

In-game spending should be regulated by gambling laws, MPs say.

Ministers have been forced to publish documents predicting public disorder, rising prices and disruptions to food and medicines in Operation Yellowhammer papers.

TUC and Amnesty come out in support of student climate strikes.


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CAB News 23 August 2019

Friday 23 August 2019

A report by the Children’s Commissioner has revealed that there are more than 210,000 homeless young people in England, some of them are living in shipping containers.

National

Advice

One in eight employers still hesitate over hiring women they think might get pregnant

Huff Post, 22/08/2019, Sophie Gallagher

The Huff Post has featured our advice on what constitutes discrimination when you’re pregnant or on maternity leave.

The website was reporting on a survey of employers showing one in eight would still think twice about hiring a woman who they thought might have children.

Advice on our website about pregnancy and maternity discrimination can be found here.

Employment

Bank holiday working rights: Can your boss force you to work the bank holiday?

Express Online, 21/08/2019, Emily Ferguson

Image result for bank holiday rights

Our website advice about employment rights around bank holidays was featured in the Express Online.

“If your place of work is closed on bank holidays, your employer can make you take them as part of your annual leave entitlement,” it read.

“Some employers might give you bank holidays off and pay you for them on top of your annual leave entitlement. This will be outlined in your contract.”

Debt

Queen of the Bargains

Women’s Own, 26/08/2019, p40, Rebecca Gamble

Our figures on the number of people who came to us for advice on guarantor loans was featured in the Queen of Bargains feature in Women’s Own.

The news in brief revealed that we helped 3,000 people last year with guarantor loan issues.

Consumer

Mr Money

The Sun, 18/08/2019, p38, Daniel Jones

Our research that shows people with mental health problems pay an extra £1,550 a year for household bills was featured in a story in The Sun on Sunday.

The article focused on Virgin Media’s pledge to move “vulnerable” customers onto cheaper deals. The company said it has 100,000 customers who have an illness or issue that affects their ability to stay on top of their bills.

Regional

Charity

‘Clients will benefit from a greater range of services’

Bury Times, 19/08/2019, Rosalyn Roden

Richard Wilkinson, Chief Officer at Citizens Advice Bury and Bolton, spoke to the Times about the benefits the new merger between Citizens Advice in the two towns will bring to people.

The story reports that since December last year, the number of employees across both sites has almost doubled, following three successful tenders and the expansion of services.

“One of the key drivers for the merger was enabling services that previously only took place in one location to be rolled out across both areas,” he said. “Clients will be able to benefit from a greater range of services.

“This expansion is due to the success of three tenders, which will enable us to support EU nationals, as well as deliver specialist immigration advice and help people with universal credit.”

Debt

More than 1,000 people become insolvent in Stoke-on-Trent in one year

Stoke Sentinel, 20/08/2019, Phil Corrigan

Simon Harris, the Chief Officer of Citizens Advice Staffordshire North and Stoke-on-Trent, spoke to the Sentinel about the growing number of insolvencies in the city.

He said the rising rate is not necessarily bad news.

“It shows that more people are taking steps to manage their debt problems. We have seen more people make use of debt relief orders, which is a positive step. For people on a low income, DROs are a relatively quick and simple way to deal with their debt.

“Ideally though, you’d rather not be in that situation in the first place.

“Household debt in Stoke-on-Trent is not getting better, but the problem is changing. It used to be that people would get in a lot of debt due to a big trigger event, such as losing their job, or a bereavement.

“Now we are finding that more people have smaller levels of debt, which is the result of them not being able to make ends meet because of low income.”

Gambling

Gambling addict who hid £60k debt from pregnant wife shares his story

Derby Telegraph, 19/08/2019, Rhea Turner

Greg Stenson, the Project lead for the Gambling Support Service at Citizens Advice South Derbyshire and City, spoke to the Telegraph about problem gambling.

The service in Derby is one of 10 in England and Wales run by local Citizens Advice with funding from Gamble Aware.

“Gambling is getting more and more prevalent in society and we are trying to get people talking about it. We need to break the stigma,” he said.

“It can affect people of all ages and people on low income or high income and there has been a shift in the way people gamble.

“You don’t have to walk into a bookies now to put down a bet, it is even easier to do it on your mobile phone.”

In other news

Microplastics have been found in UK tap water.

Plans to cut off free movement have alarmed EU nationals.

Ofgem has launched an investigation after National Grid said lightning strikes could have caused the major power cut that affected parts of the country earlier this month.

Student loan overpayments worth £28m are going unclaimed.


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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.


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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.


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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.