Debt and money news – May 2017

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This month’s news has been dominated by the upcoming general election, but if you dig beneath the surface there’s still plenty going on in the world of debt and money.

We’ve scoured the web to find the most interesting stories that could have an impact on your wallet, without a mention of the general election to be seen (apart from when I mentioned it just then).

Energy customers sleepwalking into a £400 price hike

The Mirror, using research from Which?, warned that 17 gas and electric fixed plans will end on 31 May, meaning thousands of families face a massive jump in their energy costs – up to £400 a year. This is because, according to Which?, energy customers who come to the end of a fixed deal usually are put onto their provider’s more costly standard tariff.

If you’re on a fixed deal that’s due to end soon then it’s a good idea to look into switching your utility provider now. Rachel in the MoneyAware team recently switched her gas and electric supplier and saved £40 a month without issue.

County Court judgments up by 35%

The Guardian reported this week that almost 300,000 County Court judgments (CCJs) were filed in the first three months of 2017. This is a rise of 35% compared to the same period in 2016.

Our Head of Policy, Peter Tutton, worried that these figures “represent an assessment by those collecting debts that more aggressive enforcement through the courts is an increasingly attractive option”.

If you’ve received a CCJ this is a sure sign that you need debt help.

New debit card scheme to combat fraud

There seem to be daily media stories highlighting scams, rip-offs and general shenanigans from fraudsters, so it’s good to see banks taking steps to fight back.

Barclays have announced updates that increase security on debit cards. The new options limit the potential damage if you’re the victim of a scam or are tricked by a fraudster.

They’ll shortly be allowing customers to set rules to restrict the times of day their cards can be used, and lowering the daily withdrawal limit at cashpoints. These new options will be available through their mobile phone app, so it should be easy for customers to adjust these settings.

Barclays are the first bank to introduce these kinds of features but we hope that other banks will see what they’ve done and follow suit.

This kind of technology could also be useful for compulsive shoppers, as they could set up their account so the bank refuses card transactions at odd times of the day, say in the middle of the night, to stop themselves from making impulse purchases.

1 in 3 using credit to pay for rent

It’s worrying to read reports in the Guardian that one in three tenants are borrowing money to pay their rent, especially as we know that using credit for living expenses is a sign that you’ve got a debt problem.

It appears that renters increasingly need our help. As our 2016 Statistics Yearbook showed, the proportion of our clients who rent their home has grown from 61% to 77.3% in the last five years.

Old £1 coins “could be worth as much as £50”

Last month saw the release of the new pound coins, with twelve sides, two-tone metal and enhanced security features. The old pound coins haven’t had their day just yet though, and you can still use them in the shops until October.

The Independent has details of the rare pound coin designs that could be worth as much as £50 on online auction sites. I did a bit of research myself and it seems that the “Edinburgh” pound coin is the one that attracts the most bids in auctions, but the prices I saw were between £10 and £20 rather than the £50 quoted in the article. So don’t give up the day job if you find one…

That’s it for this month’s debt news. We’ll back with another update on the latest goings on next month.

James Winterbottom has been a debt advisor for six years. Away from work he is an amateur app developer and writes fiction. James is a lifelong supporter of Huddersfield Town football club, which suggests he is either very loyal or very daft. He also likes to talk about himself in the third person in bio pages.

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