Kate Hughes: Cash-strapped Brits stay on the straight and narrow
Fears of a growing 'compensation culture' are unfounded as households seek extra, legal cash
Sunday 14 October 2012
You would expect that the longer the economic lull continues, the looser our financial morals would become. We start claiming on the insurance for fictitious photography equipment, the crack in the pavement quickly becomes an opportunity to claim for compensation and the really unscrupulous among us may suddenly develop crippling whiplash after setting up the merest kiss with the bumper in front.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and integrity goes out the window. Little old ladies and taxi drivers start lamenting the erosion of our collective decorum, the stiff upper lip and this island nation's inherent sense of fairness. We're all going to the dogs.
Actually, no. We're not.
Despite record levels of complaints, Natalie Ceeney, the chief executive and chief ombudsman for the Financial Ombudsman Service, the UK's financial services complaints referee, argues that this belief that we're somehow in the midst of a compensation frenzy is completely groundless.
"Alongside concerns about the banks' sales approach and incentives, I've noticed more talk of 'fraudulent claims' – with some reports that people are claiming for policies they never actually had. All this fuels the argument that society's in the grip of 'compensation culture' – and that this culture is growing in financial services.
"I'm not seeing anything that suggests that consumers are more likely to make a speculative claim now than in the past."
The ombudsman actually upheld slightly more complaints last year than the year before, she notes.
"Despite having and using it's right to throw out frivolous or questionable claims, the FOS is upholding roughly the same proportion as we always have."
So what's fueling all this? The answer lies partly with financial businesses themselves, Ceeney believes. "Faced with considerable evidence of bad practice – and hefty costs to put it right – it's tempting to deflect some of the responsibility back onto the consumer. Add to this the ever-present advertising by claims management companies – which bolsters the idea that people will willingly 'have a go' – and the picture is complete.
"As long as we're still getting those text messages telling us to claim money back from the PPI policy we've never even heard of, this idea that we're in the grip of compensation culture is unlikely to go away."
Despite the excuse, albeit unfounded, that everyone else is doing it, we're largely holding it together without reverting to fraud. Not only that, we appear to be increasingly helping ourselves. All of a sudden we've discovered things like the tax-free benefits of renting out the spare room. The number of people taking in lodgers has doubled this year to almost one million, and homeowners are using the extra cash to pay off mortgages, household bills and personal debt in these income squeezing times, says LV=.
Meanwhile, 60 per cent of holidaymakers are strategically timing their bookings in search of better value for money, ABTA reckons. Hell, most people I know can now calculate the cheapest baked beans by weight in their sleep - including the BOGOF offers I might add. It's a wonder to behold.
So why do we do nothing when we get hit by three massive energy price hikes from npower, SSE and British Gas, adding between 6 and 9 per cent to our already breathtakingly high average bills just as winter gets started?
The difference between the cheapest and most expensive fuel tariffs on the market today is £300, according to uSwitch.com, that's a quarter of the average annual bill. And yet six in every 10 households have never switched their supplier, according to Ofgem, the energy watchdog.
This upward spiral is not going to go away, so forget the 2p difference on four tins of Heinz, find a decent fixed-price dual fuel deal, switch stuff off at the wall and get your hands on all the freebie energy monitors and cut price insulation deals you can.
With perfect timing, Big Energy Saving Week runs from 22-27 October. For more information about saving on your fuel bills go to: bigenergysavingweek.org.uk.
Independent Partners: See how much you could save by switching credit cards. Compare now
Geoffrey Macnab reviews American Hustle, also starring Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
newsFormer soldier taped 33 of the animals to the floor and then stamped on them one by one
Michelle Nijhuis' daughter insists (s)he is, and she learnt a valuable lesson on gender in books
news Opponents claim it would stop performers such as Beyonce and Madonna appearing on TV
It takes a platoon of chefs, litres of brandy and rum, and almost 100kg of dried fruit
newsThat most ancient of crimes is on the rise, threatening farmers' livelihoods, community trust – and human health
food + drink
sportIf you thought the London Olympics and Wiggins' Tour glory made last year best, don't forget Murray's Wimbledon win and Farah's double
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 4 Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£500 - £650 per day: Harrington Starr: Harrington Starr is working with a Glob...
£27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Consultant (Excel, Financial Spread...
£500 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Quantitative Developer - Contract ...
£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Technical Operations Analyst (UNIX, Linux,...
Day In a Page
A four-bedroom chalet bungalow with three bathrooms and a spacious garden, £525,000
A two-bedroom flat with an open plan kitchen and two balconies, close to Arsenal station
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A Grade II-listed home with six bedrooms, secluded landscaped gardens and views across Hadley Green
A Grade II-listed mansion with two apartments and a cottage, near Gretna Green
A three-bedroom Grade II-listed mews house with vaulted ceilings and roof garden
A spacious Grade II-listed family home with annexe and equestrian facilities among four acres of land in Itchingfield
A four-bedroom home with exposed brick walls and open fires in the picturesque village of Northill
A Grade II-listed property with five bedrooms and unique tower, overlooking Hastings Old Town
A charming five-bedroom detached family home, set within half an acre in Kew
A two-bedroom maisonette set on the top two floors of a period building, close to Kentish Town Tube.
Take advantage of the extra space provided by former stables and outbuildings at this five-bedroom farmhouse.
This three-bedroom Victorian terrace is near to Queen’s Road Peckham station, Nunhead station.
A five-bedroom modern house with terrace, swimming pool, Zen treehouse and large carp pond
An unexpected gem with four bedrooms, remarkable vaulted reception and a galleried study area
A five-bedroom house in one of Lymington's most sought after tree lined avenues, moments from the marinas and sailing clubs
A grand early 19th century B&B close to the historic harbour, with four en suite bedrooms
A four-bedroom, 17th century home with walled gardens, a landscaped terrace, cellar and open fires
A six-bedroom house with five bathrooms and four reception rooms spread over 4,000sq ft of luxury living space
A stunning three double-bedroom apartment with two decked terraces in the exclusive gated community, Bromyard House
A 10-bedroom period, family home amid beautiful surroundings in the centre of the Wentworth Estate in Longcross village
A stylish three-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms and private landscaped garden, moments from Fitzroy Square
A Grade II-listed Elizabethan barn with landscaped gardens, exposed elm beams and four bedrooms, all with lovely views
A six-bedroom family home, dating back to 1280 with four reception rooms, barn, swimming pool and tennis courts in Harwell
A spacious two-bedroom flat, refurbished to a very high standard with private landscaped garden, close to Kentish Town station
An exceptional two-bedroom apartment with balcony and underground parking in the centre of Richmond
A one-bedroom, luxury, duplex apartment in the grand landmark building, Imperial Hall
Run a fabulous boutique shop, live above it in a one-bedroom flat and let a second one-bedroom flat that comes part and parcel
A Grade-II listed, thatched cottage in Hundleby village, with five bedrooms, a coach house and three and a half acres
A spacious two-bedroom flat in the heart of Hoxton Square with wooden floors and roof terrace
A five-bedroom family home with stunning pool and gym complex set among two acres of land
A six-bedroom period house with heated swimming pool and a separate two-bedroom annexe cottage in Townlake, £795,000
A spacious and contemporary two-bedroom flat arranged over three floors, with garden patio close to St George Square, £600,000
A one-bedroom flat in a beautiful Regency building opposite the beach in Kemp Town, £190,000
A two-bedroom flat with London skyline views close to Surrey Quays. £395,000.
A seven-storey tower with three bedrooms and a stunning roof terrace. Guide price: £850,000.
A 16-bedroom country pile with nine reception rooms, four self-contained flats and a 13th century Peel Tower. £850,000.
A classic six-bedroom Victorian Manse house 10 miles from Edinburgh. £495,000.
John Lennon's childhood home in Liverpool to be sold at auction. Guide price: £150,000-£250,000.