Well, it looks like autumn is upon us. This is one of my favourite times of year…the leaves are changing colour, the evenings are drawing in, kids are playing conkers (or is there an app for that now?!) and everyone’s getting rugged up in their winter woollies.
So grab a cuppa, settle in under the blanket, and have a read of what’s been happening this month in the world of debt news.
A good time to switch
If you were thinking now’s a good time to be checking you’re getting the best deal when it comes to energy, you wouldn’t be alone. The energy switching market has gone into overdrive recently and is about to enter its busiest month ever, with a 30% more people looking to switch their energy provider than in August.
There’s good reason for it too. Many of the big companies have tariffs that are due to expire in September or October, and after that customers will automatically put on more expensive standard rates, which could cost 14% more.
On 30th September, a number of energy tariffs from companies including EDF, Scottish Power and M&S Energy will end. Other tariffs from companies such as Npower, British Gas and Sainsbury’s Energy will expire at the end of October.
If your energy tariff is expiring soon, enter your postcode into our Utility Checker and we’ll let you know if you could save by switching.
Banks to open 2.5m PPI claims
Banks and card companies are to re-open 2.5 million payment protection insurance (PPI) claims, which could be good news for anyone who’s recently had their claim rejected.
PPI is sold alongside loans and is designed to cover repayments that are missed because of redundancy or illness. However the insurance was widely missold, with many people not knowing they were paying it. Back in 2007 a compensation scheme was set up, and since then financial firms have paid out over £16 billion to customers who were wrongly sold PPI.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which regulates banks, said that firms will be looking into claims between 2012 and 2013 where claimants may not have been treated fairly.
If you think you’ve been missold PPI, take a look at this blogpost about how you can reclaim PPI for free.
Minimum wage increases!
As of today (1st October 2014), the minimum wage is set to rise by 3% for adults. This could mean 1 million people across the UK could see their pay rise by as much as £355 per year.
The new hourly wages are…
- £6.50 if you’re 21 or over
- £5.03 if you’re aged 18 to 20
- £3.79 if you’re under 18
- £2.73 if you’re an apprentice
A change in the law also means your employer will face tougher sanctions if they don’t pay you at least the minimum wage. They’ll now have to pay a fine of £20,000 for each employee who isn’t paid the new rate.
Farewell to the tax disc
For the first time in 93 years, from Wednesday 1st October you’ll no longer need to display a tax disc in your car, which is one less thing to remember…hurrah! But before the celebrations begin, it’s worth pointing out you’ll still need to tax your vehicle.
Until now drivers had to pay for six or twelve months of road tax at a time. A recent poll showed that 34% of drivers struggle to pay vehicle tax, and as many as 17% use an overdraft, borrow from family and friends, or turn to payday loans to cover the up-front expense.
The shake-up of the system now means motorists can pay for their tax in monthly instalments, which will help spread the cost over the course of a year, making less of a dent in your bank balance. That should make taxing your vehicle less taxing. Sorry.
Phones 4U goes into administration
Phones 4U announced they had gone into administration earlier this month. Phones 4U’s collapse has meant the company have permanently closed 362 of its stores and have made 1697 staff members redundant.
Customers with phone contracts through Phones 4U won’t be impacted, but others may find they are affected. PwC, Phones 4U’s administrator, has said that customers who are owed a gift, such as a tablet or a watch, cashback from an order or who pre-ordered the iPhone 6 through the retailer will not get their gift or their money back.
If you bought an iPhone 6 from Phones 4U on a credit card, you should contact your credit card company to ask for a refund. If you used a debit card then you could get a refund through the Chargeback scheme, if your card provider has signed up to it. This would need to be done within 120 days from 14th September, when Phones 4U went into administration.
If you were a customer or employee of Phones 4U and are worried about the impact this will have on your financial situation, get in touch with our advisors for free advice.
Benefits rules are changing
New benefits rules which will affect people who are starting to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) came into force this week.
The newly unemployed will now have to wait a week until they can make a claim for the benefits, rather than the current three days. New claimants who are in financial trouble can apply for an advance, but this will be deducted from their benefits later.
It’s thought that this will save £50 million from the welfare budget, but Frank Field, the government’s anti-poverty adviser, predicts it’ll push nearly 300,000 people to turn to payday lenders to make ends meet.
If you’ll be affected by these changes to the benefits rules and are worried about money, we can help.
BrightHouse faces scrutiny
BrightHouse is among a number of ‘rent to own’ furniture and household goods chains to be investigated by an all-party parliamentary group. The inquiry will consider whether consumers should be given more protection from the high interest rates charged by the companies.
Like payday loans, these companies offer a form of high-cost credit. For example, the 69.9% APR on many of BrightHouse’s items mean that a washing machine worth £399 could end up costing £1560 when paid in £10 weekly instalments.
Last year, BrightHouse opened one new store every two weeks, and now have over 270 stores across the UK. They are the biggest company to face scrutiny, but similar companies, including PerfectHome and Buy As You View, will be investigated by the group too.
Design the new £1 coin and win £10,000!
Last but not least, the Royal Mint is set to put a brand new £1 coin in our pockets from 2017. The new £1 coin is going to look a bit like a £2 but with 12 sides, which sounds edgy! Sorry…
However, it appears the royal minters’ creative juices are running low. They’re running a competition to design the new coin, and it’s open to the public.
If you come up with the winning design, you’ll be invited to the Royal Mint to see your dream £1 coin made a reality, ready to be carried in the purses and pockets of the masses. Oh, and did I mention you’d get a nifty £10,000 prize too? Ready, set…design!
See you next month for more debt news!