Julian Knight: Never mind the PR, postal gold is a mug's game

Now, 2010 may only be just over three weeks old, but there is already a frontrunner for The Independent on Sunday bare- faced-cheek-of-the-year award.

This dubious accolade looks like it's headed to Cash4Gold for its press release entitled "Which? Study finds Cash4Gold pays 60 per cent more than other mail-in gold buyers." Wow. 60 per cent and the Which? seal of approval – something to shout about.

Here, though, is the real story. Which? mystery-shopped the gold buying firms – often seen in daytime-TV ads. It sent three pieces of new gold jewellery to each of four mail-in gold buyers, three independent jewellers and three pawnbrokers. The results should give anyone thinking of using the mail-in gold firms pause for thought.

The consumer group said CashMyGold offered the lowest prices – just £38.57 for three pieces purchased for £729. In one case, CashMyGold offered just under £10 for a £215, 9ct bangle, while an independent jeweller quoted £54. The generous souls at Cash4Gold quoted £14.57 for the same bangle. That is indeed around 60 per cent more than the other firms, but it's only a fraction of what you could get down the road at an independent jeweller. Such firms argue that the values they give are based on the melted value of the gold rather than the resale potential of the jewellery. However, the Office of Fair Trading is to investigate several of the firms (it would be good if the OFT for a change actually named them) and is to invite users of mail-in gold firms to let it know when they feel short-changed – the OFT may be quite busy

Perhaps Cash4Gold sees its press release as positive spin, but it wouldn't fool a five-year-old. My advice would be to keep schtum rather than crowing about how it is the best of what looks like a very bad bunch.

Mutual understanding

There is real anger over Skipton Building Society's decision to raise its standard variable rate (SVR) for mortgage customers. Rates will jump from 3.5 per cent to 4.95 per cent, breaking an agreement that the society has with its borrowers that its SVR will not exceed the Bank of England base rate by more than 3 per cent.

The Skipton has done this by enacting an "exceptional circumstances" clause in its mortgage contract, with its chief, David Cutter, saying it could not keep the SVR at 3.5 per cent and still pay enough to savers to attract sufficient deposits. This is part of a trend we've been following for months; banks that couldn't care less about savers' cash in the boom years are now competing hard for deposits and, in the process, squeezing small and medium-size building societies.

I'll harrumph at any financial institution, but many building societies are in a tough place – definitely, in my view, "exceptional circumstances". It's deeply ironic that the banks that caused this mess could pick up lots of business from the mutuals – which, while not blameless, are worth preserving.

As for Skipton's borrowers, yes, look at remortgaging away – rates are more likely to rise later this year due to worrying signs of inflation (see page 89). But bear in mind that even at the new higher rate, it's still only around the industry average, and is 1.3 percentage points below the most expensive, from the Chesham Building Society.

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

    £450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

    Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

    £450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

    Manager - SAS - Data Warehouse - Banking

    £350 - £365 per day: Orgtel: Manager, SAS, Data Warehouse, Banking, Bristol - ...

    SQL DBA/Developer

    £500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer
 SQL, C#, VBA, Linux, SQL Se...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?