Debt and money news – January 2016

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It may be a brand new year but it seems that many of last year’s debt and money issues are far from resolved. It’s also time to fill in your online tax return if you haven’t done so already. No one wants that ugly £100 fine for sending it off late!

On a brighter note, it looks like the bankruptcy application process may be a little bit simpler from April onwards. It also seems that annoying cold-calling firms are finally being taken to task by the powers that be. This should hopefully mean a dramatic reduction in unwanted contact this year.

Also, if you’re a former customer of Cash Genie or its sister companies, you may be owed a refund now that the firms have gone into liquidation. Read on for more details…

Bust payday lender seeking customers to hand money back

The liquidators of payday loan lender Cash Genie and its sister companies www.txtmecash.co.uk and www.paydayiseveryday.co.uk want former customers to get in touch. These customers may be owed money for unfair fees, may not have received an annual statement, or may have had loans that were rolled over without the customer asking, the Mirror reported last week.

Liquidators have set up a dedicated phone line to assist with claims – customers who think they may be owed compensation should call 0333 366 0023 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, or email customerredress@cashgenie.co.uk

Bankruptcy applications are changing

If you live in England or Wales, the application process will be changing in April. The application will become a completely online process. This means you’ll no longer have to complete lengthy forms or attend your local County Court. The process is also changing for residents of Northern Ireland, but not until November.

You can read more about it on our dedicated bankruptcy changes page on our main website.

It’s a taxing time…

If you’re self-employed or a sole trader, you’ll need to file a tax return online by 11:59pm on 31 January if you haven’t already done so by post. If you miss the deadline you’ll be fined £100, even if you don’t owe any tax or are due a refund.

You’ll need to register online before you can complete your online self-assessment. Make sure you sign up soon, as it can take HMRC up to seven working days to send you an activation code. Do this now to avoid missing the deadline.

Last year’s premium

Until recently, insurers have not had to tell their customers how much they have been paying on their insurance premium by the time they need to renew. This can make it difficult for customers to tell whether their new premium is competitive or not.

A change in the rules however may force insurers to tell their customers how much they paid the previous year, according to This Is Money. There should make it easier for households to check if their premiums have increased significantly.

A study conducted in December revealed that few customers are aware what they had agreed to pay a year earlier and many just agree to roll over and pay for another year.

Nuisance call fines increase threefold

The amount of fines issued against cold-calling firms have increased threefold, according to this article from the BBC.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) imposed fines totalling £1.14m for nuisance calls and texts. This is quite an increase from the £330,000 of penalties dealt in 2014. The biggest fines were for companies who cold-contacted people to sell pharmaceuticals, call blocking services, or payment protection insurance (PPI).

In November we issued a press release in response to a fine imposed on Oxygen Ltd. Our Head of Policy Peter Tutton said at that time:

“Nuisance calls are a serious problem that causes considerable anxiety and stress, so we are pleased that the ICO has identified such practices and is penalising the offenders. While this fine is welcome, there is still much more to be done”.

Biggest 2016 house price increases revealed

The Express recently reported that Britain’s house prices will keep accelerating faster than wages in 2016. Some people may be surprised to learn that London’s house prices may not be in the lead, for once.

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) believe that home values will grow by an average of 6% this year. East Anglia house prices will expand by 8%, according to the trade body’s forecast for 2016. In contrast, North East properties are predicted to see the smallest rises at 3%.

In addition to this, industry experts say the lack of available housing is set to be a problem for years to come.

Cash machine spewed out double the money over Christmas

Festive revellers and students hurriedly getting ready for Christmas were delighted when a Manchester cash machine gave them double the amount of money they withdrew, according to The Daily Star.

The glitch resulted in hordes of happy students queueing up outside the cash machine in Fallowfield, Manchester. One user tweeted: “Can’t believe a cash machine in Fallowfield was giving out £20 notes when you asked for £10 and I missed it.”

While the ethics involved in this timely glitch are dubious, we’re not surprised to read that many people enjoyed the cheeky Christmas bonus until the cash machine ran out of festive cheer (also known as money).

Our busiest day of the year…

Monday 18 January is predicted to be our busiest day of the year. We’re expecting 20,000 people to get in touch for with their debt, be it by phone or via our website. They’re forecast to report debts totalling over £50 million (this figure includes unsecured, secured and other debts reported from callers to our Helpline and Debt Advice teams, and via our online Debt Remedy tool).

To highlight this, we’re running #DebtDay, a social media event where we’ll endeavour to reach as many people as possible who are in desperate need of free and confidential debt advice. We’ll report each hour on the amount of debt we’re dealing with that day, post stories from the front line, run debt clinics and lots more.

We need you to help us highlight that free debt advice is available. Visit our #DebtDay page for more information. We’ve also set up a Thunderclap campaign to spread the word as quickly and loudly as possible. Make sure you get involved!

Rachel Connor has been with the charity for over 8 years, starting in Helpline before joining the MoneyAware team in 2012. Rach enjoys travelling, video games, watching anime, reading and creative writing in her spare time (currently writing a Young Adult fantasy series). She had a previous life as head writer on Cartoon Network's Ed Edd n Eddy and as a copywriter for LivingSocial. She's also written comics and graphic novels for the animated series Regular Show.

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