Let me know what you think and I'll do my best to help


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The Independent Online

Here's a plea to all of you – please keep your emails and letters coming this year. Finding out what you think of our features is crucial. Otherwise, how can we know which financial subjects are vexing or confusing you?

In fact I've been looking back over the responses you sent me last year. They range – as you'd expect – from the downright rude to the highly complimentary.

At one end of the spectrum the rudest messages have come from people working for payday lenders or claims-management companies who have made all sorts of ridiculous and unfounded accusations about me.

Rather than wasting time trying to scare me off, I wish they'd concentrate on improving their products, cleaning up their industries and stop ripping off vulnerable people.

At the other end of the spectrum have been the heartfelt messages of thanks from readers who we've been able to assist. We're not always successful, but we do try to give a helping hand to struggling readers where we can –and, of course, report on the issue if it may help other readers.

Now I don't want to be too self-regarding about this, but frankly, some of the dealings I have with readers are inspiring. In particular, I received a really charming, hand-written card from one reader this year.

I won't mention her name as I know she would prefer to remain anonymous, but I received her letter back in May and it has inspired me since then.

She wrote: "After experiencing a prolonged period of great financial difficulty following life-changing events that were completely beyond my control, it was advice and recommendations mentioned in your column on more than one occasion that heralded a financial turning point for me.

"A year on and having worked hard to change things there has been help (just as you recommended) on several fronts and my financial stresses have eased."

That was great news and receiving her note renewed my ambition to fight financial injustice and unfairness and help shed light on some of the darker practices in the financial services industry.

I would like to express in return my thanks to her and acknowledge her inspiration to me and, of course, hope that all continues in a positive vein in the future.

In 2012 I've written a lot about unfair energy prices and unscrupulous payday lenders and I plan to continue tackling these issues as we move into 2013.

I'll also be looking in greater depth in the coming months at unfair investment charges, especially in light of the changing financial regulations which come into force from 1 January and effectively outlaw commission in the selling of investment-related products.

Another issue I want to examine further is the link between borrowing and gambling. Borrowing cash to make a bet sounds like a sure road to financial ruin, but it's easy to do so, especially online where you can use a credit card to play online poker.

Do we need tighter restrictions on credit and gambling? That's one thing I want to research further and would be interested in your views.

Because our editorial campaigns are often driven by the messages and notes we get from readers, I would like to express my thanks to you all.

Even if you haven't been in touch with me this year I appreciate you taking the time to read this column. And I trust you will be in touch in future, if only to correct me!


Twitter: @simonnread

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