Simon Read: Are all challenger savings brands doomed?
So financial firm ING Direct has been bought by Barclays bank. That's a decent deal for the bank – it will add an extra million and a half or so savers to its book, plus several thousand mortgage borrowers.
How will it be for ING customers? Logically Barclays will – eventually –end up merging all their customers to offer them the same deals. After all, it would be a bit of a nonsense to have different classes.
The risk would be that some would end up as second-class customers, getting worse rates than others. Of course, that already happens with the many different deals that all financial institutions offer.
But people end up in worse deals because they don't know that there may be better ones available.
But the idea that a bank could deliberately treat whole sections of its customers as second-class citizens is just not likely (although it's perfectly easy to believe that banks treat all their customers as second-class citizens).
So whatever attracted the more than a million people to ING Direct will disappear. Most likely it was the endless advertising promising market-leading rates and great deals. Whoever bought into that will soon find that they've ended up at Barclays with market- desultory rates and ordinary deals.
But, then, we've seen this happen time and time again with new entrants into the financial marketplace in recent years. A big and expensive splash and fine words about "challenging" traditional brands promotes a sudden massive market presence with millions rushing to sign up.
A few years down the line and the new challenger brand is gone, often sold off when its owners realise how expensive and profitless it is offering market-leading rates. Or the owners get into financial difficulties and are forced to flog the business.
"It seems that too often these competitive brands get swallowed up by the banks," says Charlotte Nelson of Moneyfacts, which monitors the interest rates charged and paid by financial firms.
Do you remember Egg? That was launched with a massive ad campaign by the Prudential at the end of the 1990s as the future of online banking.
It had a market-leading credit card deal and great savings rates, as well as interesting mortgage deals. But the bank was sold to Citibank in 2007 and the US giant hoped it would give it a major foothold in the UK. The time was, sadly, off as the credit crunch soon followed and Citibank put Egg up for sale.
The credit card operation was sold to Barclaycard in early 2011 and the savings and mortgage customers to the Yorkshire building society later in the same year. Do those customers who brought into the seemingly exciting Egg concept really feel happy being part of a building society?
Meanwhile, who remembers Standard Life Bank? That was another brand set to shake up the market place. It was bought by Barclays back in 2010 and since then, frankly, the only thing I've heard from Standard Life Bank customers is complaints about lost money or poor rates.
Off the top of my head, I can't think of any new challenger brands that have actually achieved what they claimed to set out to do, to shake up the market. All of them seem to simply build up a reasonably large customer base – and then flog it on to a rival.
Will that happen with some of the newer banks hoping to make a mark this decade? Apart from the supermarket banks – which have a much greater hope of success with the backing of the retail chains – I can't say that I'm feeling positive about any.
Like ING, Egg and all the others the pomp and PR at launch will end with a quiet sale a few years later. The only real losers will be the customers.
We've been waiting for the announcement of British Gas's next price hikes for months since bosses intimated there would be an autumn rise at the beginning of summer.
But the timing this week of news of a 6 per cent increase could not be worse for those already worrying about how to afford their heating as the weather turns bitter.
Ever since its Big Six rival SSE revealed that it would increase prices by 9 per cent for its 5m customers from Monday 15 October, it's only been a question of time before the others would follow. Indeed, after British Gas's announcement yesterday, Npower quickly followed with its own hike of around 9 per cent.
But British Gas remains the UK energy giant, with about 12m homes using the firm, so its price hike will affect the most people.
The fact that the price increase was signalled by the firm before summer, won't reduce hardship for the millions who are already facing a winter of distress. A 6 per cent rise will add around £80 to the average dual-fuel bill. That would push average bills up to £1,318.
The higher prices rise, the more people turn down their heating because they can't afford it. More that turn down heating, means more risk illness or worse. Five years ago, when bills cost less than half what they are today, less than half as many pensioners died from hypothermia.
Last winter, Age UK reckoned that two million older people were so cold that they took to their beds in an attempt to keep energy bills down. Two-fifths admitted turning their heating down because of the high cost despite the fact they were feeling cold.
It's estimated that the number of unnecessary winter deaths this year could soar higher than 3,000.
So while many will moan at higher prices, the problem is fatal for some. But the blame for that cannot just be laid at the door of profiteering energy firms. The current coalition government's cutbacks – particularly on benefits and reducing the Winter Fuel Alliance from £300 to £200 – have had an equally disastrous effect.
But while vulnerable people are forced to choose between heating and eating – often with fatal consequences – wringing your hands about rising prices is simply not enough.
It's time for the energy firms – in partnership with Government and local authorities – to take responsibility for ensuring everyone can afford adequate heating.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download
Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason
Liam Neeson's Downton dreams
Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist
Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama
Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas
- 2 Scottish independence: Learn from Quebec's mistakes and beware of promises. Vote Yes.
- 3 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 5 Have you heard about the film Singapore has banned its people from watching? Well, you have now
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Portuguese academic says British are 'filthy, violent and drunk'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
iJobs Money & Business
£70-90,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client a London Market Insurer are seeking a Pro...
£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...
Day In a Page
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
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony