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.
Simon Read: Frozen in time - the expat British pensioners who deserve a better deal
Donald MacInnes: My wasted hours in the retail deserts of Dixons-Carphone
Bargain Hunter: From The Outsider to 1984, catch a cut-price classic, read it in the rye
Pension firms must ask consumers more questions, says City Watchdog
Money Insider: Smart alternatives to the pensioner bond
- 1 Asteroid narrowly scrapes past Earth: how to watch the closest space rock for decades as it flies by
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
- 5 Watch Richard Dawkins read his own hatemail: 'I hope you do get sodomised by satanic monkeys in hell'
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
30,000 reasons why the rhetoric on immigrants claiming benefits can stop now
iJobs Money & Business
£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...
£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...
Day In a Page
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village