Category Archives: Employment

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CAB News 07 June 2019

Friday 07 June 2019

Our comment on the Financial Conduct Authority’s announcement that banks will be banned for charging more for unarranged overdrafts has appeared in a number of outlets.

National

Debt

Regulator pushes ahead with overhaul of UK’s £2.4bn overdraft market

Financial Times, 07/06/2019, Caroline Binham

The Financial Conduct Authority has confirmed that from April 2020 banks will be banned from charging more for unarranged than planned overdrafts and will be required to advertise the products in clearer ways, including with annual percentage rates to help compare them against other products.

Gillian Guy said the FCA rules should “help thousands of people from getting trapped in a debt spiral”. Gillian enercontinued: “Many people who seek our help with overdraft problems have had trouble understanding the way the fees are calculated. The FCA’s changes will simplify charging structures and lower the cost of these products for consumers.”

Our statement also appeared in the BBC.

Trade

Energy

Setting the bar for RIIO2: How low can networks go?

Utility Week, 06/06/2019, Tom Grimwood

After Ofgem’s announcement that baseline returns will fall to the “lowest ever” level during the RIIO2 price controls, Utility Week seeks the response from energy networks.

The article mentions that Citizens Advice has pushed for regulators to limit the excess profits that energy networks have been able to make.

Head of Energy Networks and Systems, Stew Horne says: “What we’ve been advocating for is regulators to stop forecasting and use the market evidence that’s available and that’s what Ofgem has done. What’s really important now is they hold their nerve in the face of what’s likely to be quite formidable industry lobbying and actually deliver on this for consumers in the next price control.”

Money

Are insurance proceeds taxable income

Express Online, 05/06/2019, Jess Sheldon

Our web advice on taxable income was used for a feature on the Daily Express’s website about whether an insurance payouts count.

“You only pay tax on your taxable income so you do not want to include any non-taxable income in your calculations,” it read.

Our advice says insurance benefits if you are sick, disabled, or unemployed, are non-taxable.

Legal help

In-house legal team plays key role in launch of free domestic violence legal advice service

Local Government Lawyer, 03/06/2019

The in-house legal team at Barking & Dagenham Council has provided a grant to set up a service providing free, independent and confidential advice to residents who are experiencing or are affected by domestic violence. The council will work jointly with Citizens Advice on the delivery of ‘DV FLAG East.’

Pip Salvador-Jones, Chief Officer Citizens Advice Barking & Dagenham said: “The importance of DV Flag East service is that it’s local – local family solicitors are advising local people on domestic abuse issues every day, they know our local community and how the local police and court systems work.”

Housing

Renters to save hundreds as letting fees banned

Sky News, 01/06/2019

The Tenant Fees Act means renters will no longer have to pay fees that add up to £13 million every month in England, meaning potential savings of hundreds of pounds for individuals and families.

Citizens Advice is hoping more laws will follow to further aid renters, including a reduction in the amount of cash required for a deposit from six weeks of rent to five weeks.

Gillian Guy said: “The end of these uncompetitive and unfair letting fees is a real win for renters.The new law means families and other renters don’t have to hand over hundreds of pounds every time they move home. We look forward to working with the government to further strengthen the hand of renters in a market where they have little bargaining power.”

The article also appeared in Independent (p.20), The Sun (p.22), i (p.16), Metro, Guardian, and City AM, as well as a range of broadcast.

Regional

Does my ex-employer have to give a reference?

Carlisle News & Star, 31/05/2019, p.25

Andy Auld from Citizens Advice Carlisle and Eden advises on whether employers have to give references. Andy advises your employer doesn’t have to give you a reference unless your contract says they will. Andy also warns that “if you’ve lost out on a job because your employer gave you an unfair reference, you might be able to take them to court.”

In other news

Domestic abuse survivors ‘more at risk of serious mental illness.’

A study has shown an “alarming rise” in self harm.

Rising rents mean young people are less likely to move to UK cities where average salaries are higher, a report indicates.

Sure Start centres, aimed at improving early years health and education in England, brought “big benefits for children’s health” but face large cuts.


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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.

 

 


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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.