• From The BBC:

    The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is delaying its plans to combat the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI).Criticism from the financial industry has forced the FSA to extend its consultation by another six weeks. The FSA’s own consumer panel said this pressure was to blame for delaying the fair treatment of consumers. PPI is supposed to help people repay their loans if they fall ill or lose their jobs. In September 2009, the FSA proposed a comprehensive overhaul of the rules not only on selling PPI, but also of the way that lenders and insurance brokers should deal with complaints about past mis-selling. The FSA was responding in part to a huge upsurge in complaints filtering through to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Consumer organisations have welcomed the suggested rule changes, but not the lenders and insurance brokers for whom PPI sales are very lucrative. “We are disappointed that the industry has responded so critically to our proposals but we remain 100% comm…

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  • From The BBC:

    Further rises in house prices may be held back by more properties coming on to the market, surveyors have said.The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) says new instructions outpaced inquiries from new buyers in February. It was the second month in a row that this had happened. The rise in house prices during the past year has been attributed by many commentators to a shortage of stock for sale. Despite the suggestion that the balance between buyers and sellers may be changing, Rics still found more surveyors reporting rising prices than falling prices last month. “There was a resumption of interest in the housing market following the fall that took place in January, which was due partly to the extreme weather conditions during that month and the reversion back to the previous stamp duty regime,” said Rics spokesman Jeremy Leaf. “The magnitude of the gains going forward is likely to continue to ease, reflecting the fact that new supply coming on to the market is starting to…

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  • From The BBC:

    Low morale and poor leadership is affecting performance at HM Revenue and Customs, a report by MPs has said.A staff survey carried out in February 2009 brought “dire results” for the tax authority, the Treasury Committee said. It found that only 11% of staff felt that change was well-managed in the department. The poll also found that only 57% of calls made by the public to the Revenue’s contact centres were answered in 2008-9. During the peak period for calls, during July, the response rate was lowest, at just 33%. Review”We are particularly alarmed by the low of staff morale and engagement at HMRC, and its effect on performance,” said Michael Fallon, the Treasury committee chairman.
    “We are deeply troubled by the apparent absence of any plan to ameliorate the situation, and call on HMRC management to re-double their efforts here.” But a spokeswoman for the tax authority said its senior managers were addressing the causes of low morale. “The department’s new business plan includes a…

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  • From The BBC:

    A sharp cut has been reported in the deficit of final salary pension schemes in the private sector, figures show.The deficit was reduced from £51.9bn at the end of January to £15.1bn at the end of February, the Pension Protection Fund said. The value of pension funds can be volatile especially on a month-by-month basis. But the 7,400 schemes covered by the scheme were in a stronger position than a year ago. At the end of February 2009, the deficit stood at £204.7bn. Stock marketThe healthier position for pension funds has been led by the improving picture with shares and gilt yields.
    “During the month of February there was a 2.5% increase in assets due to rising UK and global equities,” the PPF said. At the same time, improved yields on government bonds meant that the cost of paying for pensions fell by 2%. A change in actuarial assumptions in October 2009 also reduced the estimated liabilities of schemes by around £70bn during the past year. “Funding positions…

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  • From The BBC:

    Energy company Npower is to cut domestic gas bills by 7% from 26 March, following price cuts by other suppliers.The company has become the fourth of the “big six” energy suppliers to announce a reduction in prices. Customers will see an average fall of £50 on their annual bill as a result of the change, the company said. Wholesale gas prices have fallen over the last year, prompting the latest flurry of cuts in domestic bills. “We always aim to offer competitive prices to our customers and we have lowered our gas prices although our profits halved in 2009,” said Kevin Miles, chief executive of Npower Retail. ChangesThe company is also making changes to its discount structure for those customers who pay by direct debit.
    For dual-fuel customers, the discount remains at £100 after 12 months using the payment system. But for gas-only customers, the discount rises from £20 to £50, and for electricity-only customers the discount doubles to £40. The announcement…

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  • From The BBC:

    Bank accounts which charge fees for extra benefits such as insurance may be being mis-sold, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) has warned.It says the danger lies in people buying packaged accounts with insurance that is too expensive or inadequate. The FSA says about 15% of the adult population already have these accounts, so large numbers of people might be disadvantaged by them. The warning comes in the FSA’s Financial Risk Outlook for 2010. “Packaged accounts may offer value for money for some consumers, but they may not benefit all,” the FSA said. “Consumers could be better off purchasing products individually or not at all. “And some may find that where the add-ons are insurance products, they do not provide the expected level of cover,” it added. ‘Unfair treatment’The central point of the Financial Risk Outlook is that the financial system, and the firms that operate in it, are going to be under considerable pressure in the coming years because of the lingering effects of the…

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  • From The BBC:

    Thousands of top-earning public sector workers, including judges, GPs, NHS managers and senior civil servants, are to have their pay frozen in 2010/11.The Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB) said there was “no justification for general pay increases”. It did propose rises for some NHS managers and civil servants, but they were rejected by ministers. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the “tough approach” to public sector pay would save £3 billion by 2013/14. The SSRB is independent of the government, but its recommendations are not binding and ministers will have the final say.
    In a speech on Wednesday, the prime minister said: “Part of our tough approach to spending will be our tough approach to pay in the public sector. “So today I can say that after the reports of the review bodies we will also freeze the salaries of senior staff in the civil service, senior staff in the military, the judiciary, senior managers in the health service and the pay of consultants, GPs and dentists.”…

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  • From The BBC:

    Insurance firm Standard Life has reported better-than-expected profits in 2009 and unveiled plans for an extra £100m of cost-cuts by 2012.Operating profit at the Edinburgh-based firm fell 1.5% to £919m, but the result beat expectations thanks to its Asian unit and rising investor confidence. The firm, which employs 10,000 people, made £47m of cuts last year towards its target of £75m by the end of 2010. Standard added it would spend more than £200m to develop and promote products.
    “The year 2009 was a successful year for Standard Life in which we delivered against our strategic objectives and built a strong platform for future profitable growth,” said chief executive David Nish. The cost reductions achieved during the year included outsourcing some IT development and restructuring some European service operations. The results were also boosted by reducing risk in its existing business, analysts said. Without these risk reductions, the profit figure would…

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  • From The BBC:

    Fraudsters are continuing their switch from traditional card fraud to raiding online bank accounts, according to new research.Fraud losses on UK credit and debit cards totalled £440m in 2009 – a drop of 28% compared with the previous year – the UK Cards Association said. But the number of “phishing” attacks rose by 16% in the same period. This is when fraudsters trick people into entering their personal details on a website or in an e-mail. Fraud kitsThe fall in card fraud is the first recorded for three years, with criminals now using a series of methods aimed at targeting online banking, which has risen in popularity.
    The UK Cards Association said that criminals were hoping to avoid banks’ own security controls by tricking people out of their personal details through scams, or by infecting home computers with software that gathers these details. As a result, the total amount of online banking losses reached £59.7m in 2009, a 14% rise compared with the previous year. Mela…

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  • From The BBC:

    Travellers who book holidays on the internet could receive more financial protection if things go wrong, under plans in a European review.Consumers who make up their own packages of flights, hotels and car rentals on one website or partner sites could get more protection. Currently, only those who have booked specific package deals have rights to cancel or refunds if operators go bust. A review will consider help for passengers if airlines collapse. “We need tough protection that gives all consumers booking a package holiday the peace of mind they deserve, and we need a level playing field so businesses compete on equal terms,” said EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva. The consumers’ association Which? welcomed the review. “The Package Travel Directive was drawn up almost 20 years ago, and while useful at the time, it doesn’t go far enough to protect today’s holidaymaker,” said Rochelle Turner, of Which? Holiday. “A significant number of people book hotels from a direct link on an…

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