Consumer affairs

Lucy Warwick-Ching

We have launched a brand new interactive personal finance page, where you can find top tips, beginners’ guides and advice across the whole sector. From tips on the best way to sell your home, to guides to help you check and improve your credit scores, Money Matters will cover the topics from your perspective.

We’ll also have live Q&As with experts and audio interview podcasts linked to the latest news stories.

You can read and comment on the latest Money Matters blog posts, and we are also adding the newspaper columns to this page so you can also comment on these columns each week. Don’t worry – you will still be able to view or search for previous posts on this page.

Tanya Powley

You may not have paid much attention before to what the Liberal Democrats’ policies on tax consist of but now that they’ve taken a surprise lead in the polls it’s worth knowing exactly what they have proposed and how it might affect you. If a hung parliament is the outcome of the upcoming general election then the Lib Dems’ manifesto will be all the more significant.

Lucy Warwick-Ching

It’s not often that a press release offering discount vouchers causes a stir in the FT Money office but this morning’s note about the launch of Groupola was interesting enough to command a second look.

Claiming to use “the power of group-buying to save consumers up to 90 per cent off the best things to do, see, eat and buy”, this site is introducing a new angle to the discount voucher website. 

Matthew Vincent

There are some financial mistakes you only make once. Being sold an endowment mortgage, and forgetting to sell my Northern Rock shares, spring to mind. But they pale in comparison with telling a woman that Valentine’s Day is (and, to my shame, I quote): “…a wholly artificial construct, devised solely to give the retail and leisure sectors a much-needed boost in the traditionally quiet first quarter.”

This really is not advisable. Trust me. Not only does it quadruple the cost of what could have been a straightforward visit to KFC via Clinton Cards, but it also results in an annual reminder that sufficient cash needs to be parted with this year – and, indeed, on every subsequent February 14th.

However, it seems that going to the other extreme in the pursuit of true love can prove even more costly. A few days ago, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) issued a warning about “common internet dating scams that can leave you heart-broken and out of pocket.” Not a good combination. Trust me.

According to the Cupid Cops:

“The increased potential to meet new people online is being used by scammers to con people out of their money. Scammers target singles columns and dating websites to search for potential victims. They create fictitious online profiles or send out unsolicited emails or letters, often with fake photographs. Scammers use the trust gained to persuade victims to part with large sums, with some frauds going on for years.”

I know the feeling – every time I read the special St Valentine’s Day menu, for the 6.45-7.15pm sitting, at my fifth-choice restaurant.

So what’s the OFT’s advice? “If you receive any requests for money, be suspicious.”

More easily said than done. Trust me. Most men, when faced with requests for money from retailers and restaurateurs, end up spending up to five times as much as women on “romantics gifts and treats”, according to Tesco Bank. And 7 per cent of lovelorn fools lavish more than £200 on the objects of their affections.

It can’t buy you love – but it can buy you peace and quiet for another 12 months.

Lucy Warwick-Ching

Last week’s news that Air France could start charging obese fliers for the cost of a second seat if they are unable to fit into the standard seats has re-ignited the debate over whether airlines should charge a ‘Fat Tax’ or not.

There was an uproar when the news came out it, with many saying that the move would be unfair, it seems that in reality the majority of Brits would be behind the introduction of such a tax.

Three quarters of 550 people surveyed by  travel site said people should be charged with just 22 per cent disapproving of such a move.

It found the worst offenders were those from the Pacific island of Nauru, which is currently classified as the world’s fattest country by the World Health Organisation, with 94.5 per cent of the population being overweight.

But while we may be feeling quite smug about that fact that the UK ranks quite far down the scale, as the 28th fattest country, there is still a hefty 63.8 per cent of Brits who would test the airline’s scales.

Lucy Warwick-Ching

Christmas is here again and charity campaigns are working hard to make us part with our money. But it seems they will have to work even harder as total giving by individuals is down 11 percent in 2009, which means we have given £1.3bn less than last year.

But while some people are battening down the hatches and hiding their money under the mattress there are others who do still want to give to charity. Here are twelve ways to make your donations to charity go further:

1. Tick the Gift Aid box – If you’re a UK taxpayer making a donation to charity in the UK, you can add Gift Aid.  This means Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will give an extra 28p to the charity for every one pound you donate.  If you’re a higher-rate taxpayer you can also claim the difference between the basic and higher-rates of tax on your donation. 

Lucy Warwick-Ching

Following on from this morning’s surprise victory for the banks on overdraft fees on personal bank accounts Sharlene Goff, retail banking correspondent, talks about how the OFT will act and the future for overdraft charges.

For the full story read the story in full on, Banks in victory on overdraft charges

Matthew Vincent

So there we have it: the Supreme Court has this morning ruled that bank charges for unauthorised overdrafts cannot be investigated by the Office of Fair Trading – effectively closing the door on millions of pounds worth of compensation claims from 1.2 million account holders.

But not because these overdraft charges have been deemed “fair” by the court, simply because, in this case, the legal concept of “fairness” cannot relate to “the adequacy of the price or remuneration, as against the goods or services supplied in exchange”. Or, in other words, “value for money” is not part of the equation.

What does this actually mean? The banks (and the lawyers) are clearly the winners for now. But who are the losers? According to consumer group Which?, “The bank charges ruling marks black day for consumers – this is a bitter blow for the millions of people who have been patiently waiting to get their bank charges back.” It does, however, beg the question: who are these patient long-suffering people? People who borrowed money they didn’t have, without asking permission – and who then tried to claim compensation for being charged!

I can’t help but agree with Justin Modray, the independent financial adviser who now runs “Today’s Supreme Court ruling in favour of the banks is a blow for consumers, but might at least help discourage irresponsible borrowing”.

More importantly, the other winners are the responsible customers who remain in credit. If the banks had lost, we might all have suffered if free-in-credit banking was withdrawn.

It’s only a black day for those in the red.

For full coverage of this story on, see Supreme Court backs banks on charges.

If you’re a bank customer who was waiting for compensation, post your comment on today’s ruling below.

Alice Ross

Some great news today – and it is very, very rare that a press release inspires any positive emotion among jaded journalists. Ed Balls, the secretary of state for children, schools and families, said today that all kids in secondary schools will have to learn about personal finance.

This has long been a sticking point with those who have even the vaguest understanding of personal finance. If people had been taught how to manage debt, credit cards, savings and even investments arguably the credit crunch wouldn’t have happened.

So this is very welcome indeed. It won’t be compulsory until 2011 – as part of the PSHE (personal, social, health and economic education) programme taught in secondary schools, which is currently optional.

I commented to colleagues that it should make our jobs easier, though there was a general response that as the results wouldn’t be felt for the next 10 years or so, it might rather be making someone else’s job easier. But who knows – in the meantime, maybe 13 year olds will start helping at home with the finances rather than the laundry.

Lucy Warwick-Ching

Speaking ahead of the release of tomorrow’s national insolvency statistics Deloitte’s Contentious insolvency Group predicts the figures will break through the records again.

Louise Brittain, partner in the group, expects the number of people filing for personal insolvency in Q3 will exceed the 30,000 mark. She says:

This figure is staggering, and unfortunately the end is not in sight. I fully expect that by the year end, 2009 will have broken all personal insolvency records, with the total number of petitions likely to exceed the 130,000 mark.

The types of people filing for insolvency is also expected to change. There will be mix of sole traders and individuals with high credit card debt and also those who have lost or have had to reduce their income and have struggled to make the repayments on their fixed rate mortgages.

Look out for the piece on insolvency tomorrow on Personal Finance.

The FT’s Money blog is a forum for the latest news and insights from the UK’s personal finance scene. Matthew Vincent, the editor of FT Money and his team of reporters will upload their views and insights on what’s happening in the industry and how this affects people’s finances.

This blog is no longer active but it remains open as an archive.

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About our bloggers

Lucy Warwick-Ching is the FT’s new Money Online Editor and has been a UK Companies reporter covering tobacco, pubs and leisure companies as well as the deputy editor on House and Home.

Matthew Vincent is the FT’s Personal Finance Editor and was previously the editor of Investors Chronicle, where he also devised the award-winning online video The Market Programme, and produced the BBC-FT standalone magazine ‘How to be Better Off’. He presents the weekly FT Money Show audio podcast, and previously worked on the BBC TV programmes Short Change and Pound for Pound.

Alice Ross is deputy personal finance editor of FT Money. She specialises in pensions, investments and investment trusts. Alice joined FT Money in April 2008 - prior to that she was deputy editor at Money Management magazine.

Ellen Kelleher has been a personal finance reporter in the UK for close to four years. Before arriving in London, she worked in the FT's New York bureau where she covered the insurance sector.

Steve Lodge is a personal finance reporter on FT Money specialising in savings.

Josephine Cumbo has written about all aspects of personal finance but currently specialises in insurance. She also covered company news for Prior to working at the FT she was a news reporter for the ABC.

Tanya Powley is a personal finance reporter on FT Money specialising in mortgages and the housing market. Tanya joined FT Money in November 2009 after working in Australia covering personal finance for the Australian Financial Review and its sister magazine Asset. Prior to that, Tanya wrote about mortgages for UK trade newspaper Money Marketing.

Jonathan Eley is editor of Investors Chronicle, and has been with the title for ten years. Before that he worked for newswires and trade journals in London, New York and Hong Kong.