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Personal Finance: Bargain Basement

The Lambeth Building Society has launched the first-ever Home Buyers and Sellers Costs Insurance, a scheme designed to protect home buyers and sellers when a purchase or sale falls through.

For a pounds 30 premium, the policy will pay buyers up to pounds 300 to cover lost legal fees, up to pounds 400 to cover lost arrangement, valuation and survey fees, and up to pounds 300 of non-refundable insurance costs.

For a premium of pounds 20.80 sellers can reclaim up to pounds 300 of lost legal fees and up to pounds 300 for lost estate agents' fees. Anyone buying one property and selling another can insure both deals for pounds 45.

London & Country Mortgages is offering three-year mortgages capped at 6.95 per cent until 1 October 2001. Until then, the rate can fall but cannot rise. When the cap expires, borrowers will qualify for a competitive market rate and there will be no redemption penalties at any time.

Discount broker Charles Schwab Europe is offering the customers the chance to access and trade in their own General PEP via the Internet. Customers with General PEP, MarketMaster or Frequent Traders Club accounts can switch between them while logged on. Historical information and a portfolio valuation are available on-line.

City law firm Charles Russell has produced a new guide to maternity rights with flow chart diagrams to illustrate the different options available to pregnant employees. The guide is available by phoning 0171-203-5333.

The Office of Fair Trading has launched a free plain-language guide to personal finance to help consumers through the pitfalls of financial planning. It contains information on bank accounts, mortgages, investments, insurance and pensions, and pointers on financial planning, but it is not a substitute for shopping around or getting professional advice. Available from PO Box 366, Hayes UB3 1XB, tel 0870- 6060321.

The Which? Guide to Divorce offers couples advice on recent changes to divorce law, legal procedures and financial implications of decisions, as well as tips on finding a lawyer who will take a conciliatory approach and help minimise costs. It includes sections on the interest of children and the Child Support Agency. Available on Freephone 0800-252100 at pounds 10.99.

National Savings launched its new-look Web site this week (www.nationalsavings.co.uk). It includes a savings selector, a savings calculator, a database of unclaimed Premium Bond prizes, on-line application forms and information on the impact of tax on investments.