Money News: Mobile firms cut 'roaming' costs to pre-empt clampdown

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The Independent Online

Mobile phone companies have begun to cut the price of calling home from overseas ahead of an anticipated EU crackdown.

Vodafone said last week that it would chop the cost of a one-minute "roaming" call for all users across Europe by 40 per cent - from 90 cents (61p) to 55 cents - by next April. For UK customers, Vodafone currently charges around 75p a minute to ring home.

O 2 said it planned a 35p-a-minute roaming tariff, while T-Mobile revealed last week that it was to introduce lower overseas charges, with a proposed uniform 55p-a-minute rate for all calls from Europe and North America.

Orange also recently announced its intention to cut the cost of international calls.

The flurry of activity has been prompted by the threat of tariff regulation by Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner for information, society and media.

Her warning in March reflected her frustration that the price of overseas calls hadn't budged six months after the launch of an EU website highlighting the costs.

A consultation on how the market could be regulated has so far looked at the possibilities of a "home price" - where you pay as if on a domestic tariff - and an end to paying to receive calls.

Endowments: Pru deadline for mis-selling claims

The Prudential has become the last big UK insurer to introduce time-barring on mortgage endowment mis-selling complaints.

Its decision last week means that some customers who think they have a valid mis-selling claim against the company, but have done nothing about it, must now lodge a formal application within six months.

Letters explaining this have been sent to the 110,000 Pru endowment holders who received their first "red" warning letters - those indicating a high risk of their policy failing to pay off the mortgage at the end of the term - at least three years ago.

However, those who received their letters after May 2003 will still have, as rules allow, three years in which to make a complaint.

Of the 110,000 customers, some 52,000 are policyholders with the Pru-owned Scottish Amicable.

Nick Prettejohn, the chief executive of Prudential UK, said it was time for the company to "draw a line" under the potentially high expense of future payouts.

It follows the same decision by Nationwide last week and Legal & General in March.

Life firms have been desperate to achieve "closure" on mis-selling claims because of the possible drain on financial resources - and customers' money.

"We don't think an open-ended complaints procedure for mortgage endowments is fair for our 4.5 million with-profits policyholders who will have to bear the brunt of [mis-selling costs] for many years to come," said Mr Prettejohn. "We believe this is the right time to introduce a deadline."

Chip-and-pin: Shell shocked by £1m card fraud

Shell stopped motorists from paying for petrol with chip-and-pin cards at its filling stations last week after it discovered customers had been defrauded by £1m.

The decision affected some 600 forecourts but had no immediate effect on customers, who paid by signature.

An investigation into the fraud, which led to a handful of arrests, detected a weakness in the chip-and-pin pads.

According to Apacs, the payments body that helped design and set up the chip-and-pin system, pads that should have been resistant to tampering weren't - allowing fraudsters to skim details from the card's magnetic strip and learn the customer's pins.

Cloned cards were then used at overseas ATMs to withdraw money. Unlike in the UK, cash machines on the Continent and elsewhere won't reject clones.

Although fears were raised that consumers were at risk of a new wave of chip-and-pin fraud, Apacs said it was confident it was not a "systemic issue".

A Shell spokesman said it was still unclear when its chip-and-pin terminals would be up and running again. Users of the company's filling stations should check their bank and credit card statements for fraudulent transactions.

Pension credits: Two million miss out on benefit

Up to four in 10 British pensioners are still failing to claim their entitlement to the pension credit.

The Department for Work and Pensions has released details for take-up of the credit - an income top-up for some of the UK's poorest elderly - in the 2004-05 tax year. These reveal that only 61 to 69 per cent of eligible households claim the credit; at least two million people don't.

The figures fall short of the Government's own target of a 73 per cent take-up.

Blame has been laid on the scheme's complexity, a lack of pensioner awareness and an unwillingness by many to subject themselves to means testing to qualify.

"Take-up has slowed to a crawl," warned Anna Pearson, a policy officer at Help the Aged. "A new way must be found to get this money to poorer pensioners."

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