Weekly Money: Round-up of the personal finance stories you may have missed 24-28 November

 

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The Independent Online

Pension liberation schemes; Home loan wars; Credit card problems; Mortgage woes for those in their 30s and 40s; home delivery problems; the stories we noticed this week

28 November

The Pensions Regulator has taken legal action to stop five pension liberation schemes in which more than 1,400 pension members had transferred more than £134m on the promise they could take advantage of a tax loophole.

But the loophole didn’t exist and the schemes - known as the LPA Umbrella Trust 1-4, and the Palace Pension Fund - have now been wound up.

Pension liberation schemes entice savers by claiming to help them access their pension before age 55 or that people can already take more than 25 per cent of their pension as cash. But most offers are bogus and victims will lose most, if not all, of their savings.

The financial advisers recommending the LPA schemes pocketed around £14.7m in fees for pushing people into them.

Anyone who may have been a victim should call the Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047.

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Pensioner, poverty and climate action groups will target energy trade association Energy UK today to protest at the high number of unnecessary winter deaths caused by high energy bills.

Age UK estimates that one elderly person will die every seven minutes this winter due to cold homes. Today’s action coincides with the publication of official government figures relating to the number of Excess Winter Deaths in 2013-14.

Mary Smith from Fuel Poverty Action said: “It is utterly scandalous that year after year we learn of thousands more deaths from cold homes, while the government sits idly by and the Big Six continue business as usual.

“We are calling on people to join us in expressing sadness, anger, solidarity and to point the finger at those who have made huge profits while thousands of people have died.”

We need affordable, sustainable and publicly and community owned energy, mass home insulation and Energy Rights- what we don’t need is greedy profiteers represented and defended by Energy UK.’

27 November

The Government has asked the advertising watchdog to investigate imposing greater curbs on TV and radio advertising for payday loans, after members of the House of Lords raised concerns yesterday about the impact of advertising on children.

The Children’s Society is one of several organisations campaigning for a ban on payday loan advertising on TV and radio before the 9pm watershed. Its chief executive Matthew Reed said: “Children are routinely being exposed to advertising that makes high-risk, high-cost loans seem fun or normal. And the majority of British parents support a pre-watershed ban.

“Children should learn about borrowing and debt from their school and family – not from irresponsible payday loan advertising which encourages families to fall into problem debt.”

* * *

Barclays Bank is the latest to join the mortgage battle, which has seen ever-lower interest rates from a range of lenders in recent weeks. Today the bank is cutting rates on a number of its deals, including trackers.

Mark Harris, boss of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: “While a mortgage rate war has broken out in the fixed-rate arena, borrowers should not forget base-rate trackers.

“Barclays has a cracker of a tracker at just 0.79 per cent over base rate, giving a pay rate of just 1.29 per cent, for those remortgaging who don’t need the certainty of a fixed rate. Borrowers do require a 40 per cent deposit but the fee is a reasonable £999 considering the great rate.”

* * *

Some 3.2 million households are eligible for support from their energy supplier, according to new research published today.  Call the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99 for details.

26 November

The credit card industry was thrust back in the dock today after the City Watchdog announced details of its market study into the £150 billion market.

The Financial Conduct Authority is concerned that credit cards are being marketed too aggressively pushing consumer to run up debts they can't afford to repay.

It pointed out that there are around 30 million cardholders who have £56.9bn of outstanding debt, although with many people holding two to three cards, the debt as spread among many fewer people.

Meanwhile UK consumers hold around 70 per cent of all credit cards in Europe.

* * *

Members of the House of Lords have been urged to back an amendment to the Consumer Rights Bill today which would put similar restrictions on payday loan ads to those for gambling, alcohol, tobacco and junk food, Backing the campaign, money saving expert Martin Lewis said: “Payday lenders want to financially groom the next generation of borrowers. They’ve plastered their adverts on children’s TV channels and family TV shows, used puppets and kid-friendly slogans, and even had people in Disney-esque costumes handing out lollipops in the streets.

“There’s a lot of unprincipled money being spent in this area – and we can’t rely on lenders’ goodwill, we need legislation to cut it dead and protect our children.”

* * *

House price inflation will slow down next year, reckons Halifax. It predicts property will rise by around 3 to 5 per cent across the country in 2015 as the supply of homes for sale will start to match the number of house hunters.

Annual property inflation peaked at 10.2 per cent in July but by last month had fallen back to 8.8 per cent. A typical home now costs £186,135, the Halifax said.

* * *

There are 2 million unbanked consumers in the UK who are unable to shop online as they do not have debit or credit cards, or even a bank account, according to Pockit and the Centre for Retail Research. It means they miss out on online deals.

25 November

Borrowers in their 40s are being turned down for mortgages by lenders running scared that future financial regulators could accuse them of mis-selling.

Even people in their 30s could be turned down for a home loan if they were to apply for a longer-than standard loan.

The warning has come from the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association which has examined the world of post-financial crisis mortgage regulation.

It warns that that there’s a growing army of older borrowers who don’t fit into lenders’ standard terms, and consequently could be refused.

* * *

More than 3.3m still owe an average £780 for last Christmas reckons Pay4Later. Frighteningly, around 660,000 adults say they still owe more than £1,000 they spent during last year’s festive period.

* * *

The drinks comparison site Bringabottle.co.uk is well worth a look at this time of year. It not only tells you which shop has the current best offers on booze, it also informs you at what price bottles of wine, beer and spirits have been sold recently to give you a better idea whether the latest deal is a bargain or not.

For example, Moët & Chandon champagne can currently be snapped up for £25 a bottle, more or less the lowest price it has been since last Christmas, when it was sold at £22.99. The highest price it reached in the last 12 months was when it was sold at just under £30 in July.

* * *

One in six adults has fallen victim to cybercrime, according to Experian. It warns the biggest rise is in device fraud with mobile phones and tablets being targeted.

24 November

One in five of us who had problems with deliveries last Christmas have been put off ordering items online this year. Four in ten plan to use a click and collect service, get deliveries sent to another address or order items earlier to avoid a last minute panic, reckons Which?

The consumer group has launched a campaign to Stamp Out Dodgy Deliveries, targeting shops to improve the delivery service they provide.

It wants retailers to: provide specific time-slots for deliveries on a named day; inform customers of the estimated delivery time on the day of delivery by phone, email or text; and ask customers to specify at the time of purchase what to do if the delivery is unsuccessful.

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This week is Financial Planning Week, launched by the Institute of Financial Planning to encourage us all to sort out our financial future. To help retirees plan ahead, financial adviser reviews website VouchedFor.co.uk is offering a free pension check this week with an Independent Financial Adviser in locations across the UK.

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This year's university leavers will have bought their first home by the age of 30, reckons Endsleigh. By the same age they'll be married with a child, the insurer predicts.

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The first website that allows travellers with pre-existing medical conditions planning a cruise to compare policies and buy cover has been launched at allclearcruise.co.uk. Cruise is one of the only areas of travel where insurance is obligatory.

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British consumers spend an average of £30,240 on impulse purchases, such as takeaway coffees, snacks, games and music, over their working life. That's according to True Potential, whose managing partner David Harrison warned: “Small purchases soon add up. With the popularity of online shopping and the many temptations we face to buy on impulse during daily life, it has become far too easy to get into debt.“

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