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Money Advice Extra

Money Advice Extra

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Published by: Blackpool Community News at Scribd on Dec 07, 2008
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Despite the current ‘credit crunch’, UK personal debt is still increasing by 1 million pounds every 9 minutes!

December 2008
Issue 6

Cheaper gas & electricity for vulnerable customers!
British Gas introduced the UK’s largest social energy tariff, aimed at reducing gas and electricity bills for 750,000 of our most vulnerable customers. The Essentials Tariff provides additional help to vulnerable customers, particularly those who use pre-payment meters. Essentials Tariff offers the lowest standard gas and electricity prices, which have been otherwise inaccessible to people who don’t have a bank account. British Gas customers who registered for the British Gas Winter Rebate scheme will automatically be moved onto the Essentials tariff. National Energy Action (NEA), the leading fuel poverty charity, has applauded British Gas for introducing a new social tariff. William Gillis, NEA chief executive, said: “A new social tariff aimed at cutting gas and electricity bills for up to 750,000 of British Gas’s most vulnerable customers will see their energy bills drop by around £307 per annum. "NEA has pressed the energy supply industry to introduce social tariffs that actually represent the best deals available. NEA applauds British Gas for the introduction of a social tariff which will ensure that its low-income and vulnerable customers are guaranteed the best deal in terms of the prices they pay for gas and electricity from the company." British Gas priority service team can be contacted on 0845 955 5404 Other energy providers offering additional services to vulnerable customers include: EDF Energy (Priority Service Team) E.ON (Caring Energy) Npower (Warm Response) Scottish Power (Carefree Team) 0800 269 450 0800 051 1480 0808 172 6999 0141 272 6042

Cheaper gas & electricity ! Energy and postal complaints Court advice desk

Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS)

you may get compensation from the FSCS if a bank, building society or credit union fails the amount is limited to a £50,000 maximum (in England, Scotland or Wales) per financial institution

Major changes to the way energy and postal complaints are handled from 1st October 2008
A new organisation - Consumer Focus - has been formed from the merger of the National Consumer Council, Energywatch and Postwatch. The new body will have stronger powers than the three previous organisations and be able to investigate problems across a range of areas, including the postal and energy sectors. Customers will still receive information on their gas and electricity bills advising them to take up any complaints with their supplier in the first instance, but Consumer Direct will take over Energywatch and Postwatch’s services in providing consumer advice and help to progress their complaint. In addition, there will be new ombudsman schemes introduced for the energy and postal sectors, which can take action to help consumers who have problems with their companies. Consumer Direct can be contacted on: 08454 04 05 06 or on the web at: www.consumerdirect.gov.uk

124 properties will be repossessed in the UK today!

Almost two out of three people who take out a loan to consolidate their debts go on to borrow more while still repaying that loan

Money Advice Extra December 2008

Page 1

FREE representation for customers facing possession proceedings
Help is at hand for local people facing the repossession of their home, - the housing possession advice desk at Blackpool County Court. The court desk is a free service funded by the Legal Services Commission and provided by local housing solicitors and specialist advisers from Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and Shelter. The service provides advice, information, assistance and representation for people facing eviction and possession proceedings. People who are experiencing difficulties paying their rent or mortgage and are facing repossession often ‘bury their head’ and fail to seek advice. The arrival of a County Court possession claim is such a frightening prospect many homeowners / tenants fail to attend the court hearings, in many cases leaving the presiding judge with no option but to grant an order for possession. Customers facing possession proceedings should be actively encouraged to seek advice prior to any court dates; even if this has not been done, attendance at the hearing gives the court the opportunity to assess all relevant information before making a decision – often resulting in the home being saved!

The court duty adviser service is available each Wednesday morning; further details are available from Blackpool County Court on 754020.

Following the collapse of the Farepak hamper company in 2006, the OFT was asked by HM Treasury to carry out an awareness programme to help consumers understand their options when saving for Christmas - Save Xmas . What was Farepak? Farepak was a Christmas hamper and voucher company which collapsed in late 2006. Over 122,000 people lost their Christmas savings. How do similar companies work? This type of scheme works by local agents collecting small amounts of money each week from people in their community or work place. The scheme pays out just before Christmas either in vouchers for use in high street stores or Christmas hampers. Why do people save in this way? People use them because of the social aspect of saving with friends, family or colleagues as well as the fact that it is difficult to get at the funds until the pay out — so making it less likely that they are tempted to spend the money on something else. Putting a small amount aside each week gives people peace of mind that they will be able to have a good spread of food and buy presents. For some people it can also be useful to have Christmas food delivered to them. Are there any disadvantages to saving with a hamper scheme? They do not pay interest and can be an expensive way of buying. How safe is money saved with a hamper scheme? Since the collapse of Farepak, the Government has set up the Christmas Prepayments Association. Hamper companies who are members of this association have arrangements in place to safeguard money if the company goes bust. However, the level of cover varies and consumers should check the level of cover before joining a scheme. What other options are available for short term savings for Christmas? There are different ways of putting money aside that offer different things: • supermarket and milkman stamp-saving schemes • Christmas clubs with local shops • credit unions • bank/building society accounts, and their Christmas savings accounts. These have different features – see our briefing attached.

If you would like to comment or contribute to this newsletter, please contact Dean Stockwell (Advice Link Money Advice Team) on 476843 or email advicelink@blackpool.gov.uk Money Advice Extra December 2008 Page 2

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