Category Archives: Money & Debt

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CAB News 18 October 2019

Friday 18 October 2019

As Boris Johnson attempts to win round MPs to his Brexit deal, ahead of what is expected to be a knife-edge vote in the Commons tomorrow, one of our drop in centres for EU residents applying for settled status has featured on a regional tv news programme.

National

Immigration

Drop in centre to apply for EU settled status

The Granada Debate, 17/10/2019, (about 3’25” into clip)

Rebecca Potts-Jacobs from Citizens Advice Bury and Bolton has been interviewed by The Granada Debate on itv in the north west.

Rebecca was shown working at a drop in centre for EU citizens seeking settled status. She said to say people were “anxious” about the effects of Brexit was “an understatement.”

“I’ve had clients who are very, very upset,” said Rebecca. “It is affecting people’s lives, massively.”

Debt

Celebs ‘irresponsible’ for promoting debt firm

The Sun Online, 11/10/2019, Hollie Borland

Our advice on how to manage debts has appeared on The Sun’s website. The paper listed our top six tips for taking action on large amounts of debts. It also urged people who were struggling to seek our help to prioritise and negotiate with creditors.

The advice appeared in an article highlighting what the paper called the “insta-sham” of celebrity social media posts offering prizes or cash for signing up with a private debt management company.

Fraud

Cyber fraud techniques evolve into confidence trick arms race

Finaniclal Times, 14/10/2019, Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan

‘Spear phishing’ and other sophisticated new scams are the subject of an article in the Financial Times examining how social engineering techniques are being used by fraudsters.

As the public has grown more wary, fraudsters have raced to catch up, resulting in a confidence trick arms race.

“Not only are we seeing online scams become more prevalent, they’re also becoming more sophisticated,” Gillian Guy told the paper.

Insurance

Millions of loyal customers ‘overpay on car and home cover’

BBC News, 04/10/2019,

The BBC News website covered the Financial Conduct Authority’s interim report on the car and home insurance market by featuring someone we’d helped to get a better deal for his elderly mother.

Paul, from Staffordshire, said: “She is an 89-year-old lady and doesn’t have the capacity to sort all of that out herself. I feel like she’s been cheated. And I think it seems like common practice, to rip off the people who are most vulnerable.”

Gillian Guy said “it’s great to see the FCA acknowledging that the insurance market isn’t working”.

But she cautioned that the FCA’s report set out proposals only. “The FCA must now follow through on these bold ideas to stop loyal insurance customers being penalised,” she added.

BBC Breakfast also spoke to one of our case studies. Diane said: “I thought I was getting a good deal, but this year my premiums went up to £3500.”

Watchdog considers ban on UK insurers charging loyalty premium

Financial Times, 04/10/2019, Caroline Binham

The Financial Times has also covered the FCA’s finding that the home and car insurance market “is not working well for all consumers.”

Gillian Guy told the paper:  “We’re especially happy to hear the regulator say that everything is on the table to make sure customers are getting a fair deal

“This includes tackling gradual year-on-year price increases and making companies automatically switch their customers to better deals.”

She added: “At the moment these are just proposals. The FCA must now follow through on these bold ideas to stop loyal insurance customers being penalised.”

The Sun also quoted Gillian in its coverage of the story.

Regional

Energy

The heating benefits you can get before winter sets in

The Liverpool Echo focused on the benefits available to help with energy costs.

Citizens Advice also highlighted a range of grants from charitable trusts, but told the paper: “When you apply for a grant, you’ll have to provide detailed information about your financial situation in your application.

“It could take a while to complete, and it might be worth getting help applying.

“Charitable trusts like you to show that you have received debt advice before you apply.”

Do I have to get a smart meter fitted?

Westmorland Gazette, 15/10/2019

Citizens Advice South Lakes answers a reader’s query about smart meters after their gas and electricity contract has come to an end.

Citizens Advice South Lakes says that it’s always worth shopping around and Citizens Advice has a tool on its website which shows how well suppliers perform on a range of measures, including customer service and price.

It advises that you don’t have to accept a smart meter. However, it might mean you’re not eligible for all the deals on offer, like cheaper tariffs.

In other news

Westminster rough sleepers evicted after complaint by Commons chaplain.

‘12,000’ Asda staff currently face sack in bitter contract dispute.

Unemployment figures should be millions higher, says research.


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Loopholes in renter reform proposals could keep tenants at risk of unfair eviction

Friday 18th October

Changes to tenancy rules, aimed at helping renters, could unintentionally leave vulnerable groups at continued risk of being unfairly evicted says Citizens Advice.

The national charity wants to see an end to section 21 ‘no fault’ eviction notices. They’re blamed for so called revenge evictions where tenants are forced out because they’ve complained about issues such as poor maintenance.

But proposals being considered by the government include a six-month break clause, enabling landlords to evict tenants who have paid their rent and not broken any of the terms of their contract.

Citizens Advice, says unless legislation is watertight and issues such as these are resolved, there’s a chance this could lead to section 21 “by the backdoor.”

Our research has found almost 3 in 5 tenants (57%) who have received a section 21 eviction notice had made some kind of complaint or request for repairs in the six months before receiving it.

Citizens Advice believes this means some of the most vulnerable people – who are already disproportionately likely to have problems with their rented accommodation – will continue to face an increased risk of losing their home.

The charity helped 57,854 people with problems connected to the private rental sector in the last year:

  • 24% were disabled or had a long-term health condition – compared to 18% of the general population

  • 25% of those also had a mental health problem

  • 22% were Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) – compared to 14% of the general population

  • 61% were women.

The proposals also include provision for landlords to evict tenants if they have one month of rent arrears at the time of a possession hearing in court. Currently it’s two months of arrears.

Citizens Advice says this would affect people who have even small and short-term rent arrears, leading to further and more serious problems with debt.  Just under half (46%) the debt issues people ask Citizens Advice for help with are related to paying household bills, such as rent, council tax and energy.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Tenants in private rented accommodation come from all walks of life. They need to feel secure in their homes.

“Like anyone else, they want to put down roots, give their children a consistent education and get on with their careers, without the constant stress of wondering when they might be forced to look for a new place to live.

“We’re fully behind the government’s plan to end to section 21. At the same time, we’re deeply concerned that some of the proposals to scrap it contain loopholes.

“This risks the unintended consequence that tenants who complain about disrepair, or struggle to make ends meet, remain just as vulnerable to losing their home at short notice.”


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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.