Weekly Money: The personal finance stories you might have missed 8 to 12 June

Our round-up of some of the interesting and fun money news from the last five days

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The Independent Online

This week: Fair Tax Pledge; pension freedom problems; turning rebellion into money; nuisance calls rise; motor fraud soars; savings interest up; mortgage interest down

12 June

A Fair Tax Pledge has been launched today aimed at people who oppose corporate tax dodging, after the latest estimates suggest that it’s now costing the UK £120bn a year.

Anyone signing the pledge at www.fairtaxpledge.uk commits to never trying to dodge paying taxes. One of the first to sign is Green MP Caroline Lucas who said: “Paying tax is something I do because I believe in the redistribution of wealth, in giving something back, and in the principle that we are all collectively responsible for making society work for everyone.”

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Organised car insurance fraud increased 28 per cent last year to £38m, Aviva has revealed. Motor injury fraud – including bogus claims, cash for crash and organised fraud – is the biggest problem area and now accounts for three-fifths of all claims fraud, the company said.

It has more than 15,000 suspicious claims under investigation, 6,000 of which are motor injury claims linked to known fraud rings.

* * *

A typical home owner in England and Wales will have splashed out nearly £10,000 on stamp duty in the last 16 years, says Lloyds Bank.

It says someone who bought their first home in 1999 and went on to move up the property ladder, buying a detached home in 2015, will have paid around £9,644 in stamp duty, The property buyer’s tax raised £7.7bn in the last year, the bank says. 

* * *

Good news: the number of problems reported to Citizens Advice about payday loans has almost halved since the charge cap was introduced. The charity helped with 5,554 payday loan problems between January to March, 45 per cent less than in the same period in 2014.

11 June

Major problems at financial firms have left people hoping to get access to their retirement cash under new rules that came into force in April stymied by companies’ lack of readiness for the changes.

People are being charged for withdrawals or for switching to rival companies. On top of that they’re being made to wait longer than they should for payouts – up to three months in some cases - while some say they’ve been forced to pay up to £1,000 for financial advice if they say they want their own money.

In the first month of the reforms, pension companies had to deal with an unprecedented 1.13 million phone calls from people wanting to take advantage of the new freedoms. That was an 80 per cent rise in their normal activity leaving many unable to cope with the demand.

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Fed up with attractive mortgages that hide hidden charges? After our Midweek Money feature yesterday on misleading deals with expensive stings, Barclays has today launched a new range of fee-free loans. It means the rate you see is not boosted up by lots of extras.

If you’re buying a home, rates start at 1.79 per cent for a two year tracker if you have a 25 per cent deposit and climb to 3.65 per cent for a two year fixed deal for those with a 10 per cent deposit. For first-time buyers looking to take advantage of the government’s Help to Buy 2 scheme, there’s a two year fixed offer at 4.25 per cent.

There are also fee-free deals available if you’re remortgaging or are looking to buy-to-let.

* * *

Mobile and broadband companies must improve their customer service. The warning will come today from the new boss of media regulator Ofcom. Chief executive Sharon White will tell providers to improve in four areas by giving consumers better information to help them compare deals, ensuring straightforward switching, adopting clear and fair contracts, and handling complaints better.

At a conference organised by Which? she will warn companies that they face action if they don’t improve. “Where markets don’t work well enough - or where competition alone isn’t enough to secure good outcomes for consumers - then we have powers to intervene,” she will say.

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More than 1.5 million people have switched electricity supplier so far this year, reports Energy UK. Interestingly more are turning to smaller suppliers which have attracted a quarter of all switches in 2015. Some 251,318 households chose a new supplier in May, with 65,052 moving to a firm outside the Big Six.

10 June

The average interest rate paid on notice accounts has hit a two-year high. Good news? Not really. They’ve only climbed to an average 0.91 per cent, says Moneyfacts. But it’s a promising trend for savers.

But for borrowers there’s slightly more to cheer. Bank of England figures show that the average mortgage interest rate edged down to its lowest levels since 2007 in the first quarter of 2015.

The overall average home loan rate in the first quarter was 3.01 per cent, down from 3.26 per cent, according to the official figures.

* * *

You’ll be able to buy Lottery tickets through your smartphone or tablet from July. Camelot has linked with Barclays’ mobile payments service Pingit to allow National Lottery players to pay for Lotto, Thunderball and EuroMillions by Lucky Dip using mobile payments.

Numbers will be randomly selected, but you’ll be able to have winnings of up to £50,000 paid automatically through the service. Anyone can sign up to Pingit, not just Barclays customers.

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People left stranded by debt management companies which have gone out of business because of new tougher rules are to be offered extra help. The Money Advice Service and StepChange Debt Charity have linked to ensure people still have somewhere to turn for help.

Anyone affected by the closure of a debt manager should contact the Money Advice Service helpline on 0300 330 2222.

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Renewing a UK driving licence is free for drivers aged 70 and over. But older people are being targeted  by scamsters looking to cash in on confusion by charging a fat free. Websites offering to sort a licence are a scam. “The DVLA pages are on the gov.uk website,” points out Deborah Stone of myageingparent.com. You can find out how to renew at gov.uk/renew-driving-licence-at-70

9 June

Old punks are being targeted by Virgin Money with its new Sex Pistols-linked credit cards launched today. The cards feature artwork from either the Never Mind the Bollocks album or the Anarchy in the UK single. The company said the launch “celebrates Virgin’s heritage and difference”.  But its 36-month interest-free balance transfer card has a 2.5 per cent fee and reverts to a expensive rate of 18.9 per cent.

* * *

In the last six months there have been around 61,500 official complaints about nuisance calls and texts, despite an official task force recommending tougher rules in December.

Now Which? is demanding Government, regulators and businesses to crack down on the annoying communications. It wants the Government to make senior executives accountable by law for their company’s nuisance calls, and require businesses to show their number when calling. 

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Only a third of us reckon big companies pay their fair share of tax. New research from SSE and ICAS also shows only one in 10 think it is acceptable for companies to move their head office abroad just to avoid paying corporation tax in the UK.

8 June

The Halifax Clarity credit card is a good way to pay abroad as it has no hidden currency loading fees or transaction charges. But at a stroke, the bank has made it much less attractive. It has raised the interest rate from a competitive 12.9 per cent to a relatively high 18.9 per cent.

 “The reduction in revenue from interchange fees has already seen credit card rewards being slashed or withdrawn by some providers and I’m sure this is part of the reason that we’ve seen this massive increase in pricing from Halifax,” says Andrew Hagger of Moneycomms.co.uk.

It means on a balance of £2,000, existing Clarity customers – who keep the low 12.9 per cent rate – would be charged £21.91 interest in a month. New customers paying the higher rate will be charged £32.10.

So if you can’t afford to pay off the balance, it may be better getting a lower-charging  card, despite the benefits when spending overseas.

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Possessions are stolen from your garden every eight minutes, LV reckons. It analysed police figures to come up with the fact that there were more than 60,000 thefts from gardens last year.

Bicycles and power tools are the most commonly stolen items, as well as garden furniture, ornaments and plants.

More obscure items reported stolen last year included a window, turf, fireworks, gold bullion and a headstone.

***

The paper part of the photocard driving licence is abolished today leaving those hiring cars abroad needing to go to the DVLA’s ‘Share Driving Licence’ service before they leave to submit their driving licence number and national insurance number to generate a unique code.

But research suggests four out of five drivers are so confused about the changes, they will arrive at an overseas car hire office with the wrong documents.

Hannah Maundrell of money.co.uk warned: “With language barriers to overcome, we do not want to see holidays ruined and people stranded because they can’t pick up the hire vehicles they’ve booked.”

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