All posts by Mark Scott

About Mark Scott

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited. He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.

House Prices – Biggest Fall in a Decade, Why?

Britain’s housing market is valued at approximately £7 trillion. Just recently London real estate prices experienced the biggest drop in 10 years. The recent drop came in the wake of Theresa May’s efforts to deal with criticism over ever-increasing prices and lack of housing. In case you are wondering what the recent fall means in regards to employment, investment, housing consumption, government deficit, etc. here’s what you need to know.

The ”Greater fool” mechanism

London’s real-estate prices have been fuelled by what is known as the ”greater fool” mechanism. Although London’s real estate buyers have known that property prices were ridiculously high for a long time, they continued to buy counting on the
fact that they would sell the property at a profit to a ”greater fool”. This phenomenon has been displayed in many instances the most notable being the free markets crisis. Although the ”greater fool” mechanism works, the upward usually reverses violently if the prices show the slightest indications of a fall. This happens when property investors start trying to sell in a hurry before property prices fall further. In the ”greater fool” mechanisms, property values which have been built over decades can collapse in months, and the slum is based purely on expectation.

London relies heavily on international property investors who view property as a commodity which can be sold readily for the sole purpose of maximising profit. International property investors accounted for approximately 82% of London’s property activity back in 2013. The ”greater fool” mechanism is a real threat in London now that the expectations are set.

Housing consumption and the Wealth Effect

Although real-estate prices in London are subject to the ”greater fool” mechanism, it’s important to note that most properties belong to households, mostly families who don’t need to sell. Nevertheless, a fall in property prices means that pension funds, as well as investment bonds, will suffer since they rely heavily on the property market to generate returns.

It’s also important to understand the Wealth Effect. Economists have shown that there is a strong relationship between spending behaviour and perceived real estate wealth. What this means is; property owners feel more financially secure if they believe their property is worth more. As a result, such property owners spend more and save less. This is evident given the number of people willing to subsidise their retirement using property generated wealth.

Considering 64% of England’s homes are occupied by owners, the negative effects of the wealth effect are dire if households start spending less. The Wealth Effect is crucial in most developed countries more so the UK which is heavily dependent on ever-increasing consumer spending for growth. A small drop in the value of homes/properties in the UK would result in a catastrophic loss of wealth. With the housing prices experiencing the biggest drop in 10 years, things don’t look good for UK households.

Ripple effects (Trade deficit and foreign direct investment)

The falling housing prices come with additional problems for the UK. Britain has been having a trade deficit for over two decades now. The effects of the deficit haven’t been dire since Britain has been enjoying hundreds of billions of pounds as foreign direct investment channelled to the property market over the same period. In a nutshell, the trade deficit has been manageable.

According to Bank of England statistics, over 50% of all commercial real estate deals since 2013 have been done by overseas companies. Since international investors expect a fall in prices, foreign direct investment inflows may slow down or stop soon. Britain may also see a sharp decline as foreign property investors choose to sell property instead of holding when there is a clear expectation of a decline.

A drop in foreign direct investment in the long-term will have a negative effect on the UK GDP and trade deficit. Britain will no longer have a cushion against its longstanding trade deficit when foreigners stop buying property. Britain’s credit rating would also fall which would, in turn, make UK government debt more expensive to refinance. When this happens, the UK government may be forced to tax its citizens more to handle an increasing deficit. Increased taxation would cause other effects such as increased unemployment.

Policy issues

The recent fall in housing prices has created a need for new policies to reduce Britain’s property addiction. There is also need to boost confidence in this single asset class considering it accounts for approximately two-thirds of Britain’s wealth. Theresa May’s efforts to push for more affordable housing are a step in the right direction although it has been politically challenging trying to push for such policies. The effects of targeting the UK real estate market are huge currently. Theresa May risks scaring away investors and triggering the ripple effects discussed above. Considering Brexit has introduced many risks, Britain may face a long period of economic stagnation.

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.

Data Protection Laws Set to Tighten in the UK

The British government has proposed a data protection bill meant to give the British people more power and control over how their personal data is used. The bill proposes a number of changes to the current data protection laws the most notable being; easier access to all data held by companies, increased ability to withdraw access as well as the ability to request data deletion.

The regulation which will bring GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) into UK law is set to be in effect in less than a year according to Matt Hancock, the UK Digital Minister behind the proposed bill. Hancock states that the new data protection laws will offer the UK a more dynamic and robust set of data laws. In a statement issued by Hancock, ”UK citizens will have more control over how their data is used. The proposed data laws will also prepare UK citizens for Brexit.”

The new regulation has caused concern in organizations across the UK given the fines applicable are easier to issue and more damaging to companies which fail to comply. For instance, fines could amount to 4% of a company’s total global turnover which could easily lead to the downfall of many companies in the event of serve fines. Currently, data protection fines can’t exceed £500,000.

Data protection incidents

Data breaches in the UK have increased in the recent past. Hundreds of thousands of UK citizens have been left exposed by data breaches in the past. A notable example is the data breach that hit UK’s leading payday loan lender Wonga. The incident affected approximately 245,000 Wonga customers in the UK and 25,000 in Poland.

The Wonga data breach happened in March 2017. Wonga, however, waited until April 2017 to notify its clients after establishing the extent of the breach. The incident saw Wonga customer’s names, addresses, phone numbers, bank a/c and sort code numbers stolen. Wonga has suffered another data breach back in 2012/13. The identity theft incident saw Wonga customers lose £3 million after scammers made over 19,000 fraudulent payday loan applications.

UK telecom company TalkTalk has also been a victim of a data breach. In October 2015, TalkTalk systems were hacked compromising customer information belonging to 157,000 customers. The company was fined £400,000 which was far from substantial according to many people. The importance of better data protection laws can’t, therefore, be ignored. With the new laws, firms must be more vigilant in protecting customer’s data or face serious repercussions. Research from Veritas indicates that only 9% of companies in the UK have appropriate data protection practices in place today even with the ongoing regulatory changes.

Repercussions/effects

With the proposed data protection laws set to take effect in less than a year, it is important for organizations to take all the necessary steps in the right direction.

Information Technology

Organizations using cloud and automation technology already will find it easier to cope with the new data protection laws. When GDPR comes into effect, all organizations handling personal data belonging to UK citizens will have to comply. The first step towards compliance is getting the right IT systems in place. Safeguards must also be built into all processes from the beginning to the end.

Data migration

Organizations may also be forced to move data. According to Peter Godden, Vice President of EMEA at Zerto, businesses may be required to move critical data in/out of Britain to comply with the new regulations. Many companies stand to struggle to move critical data across various systems without experiencing problems like downtime. Good businesses continuity plans are crucial going forward for companies keen on avoiding data migration problems.

Data storage

The new data protection laws will also introduce data storage challenges. According to Matthew Bryars, CEO of Aeriandi, ”many companies have not considered the impact of GDPR on data storage processes such as storage of customer calls done to improve customer service. The new laws give customers an express right to demand for their personal call information/data to be erased. The laws are also more stringent on backup and storage of voice call data. Businesses must develop the capacity and ability to store and retrieve customer call data faster on request.”

Nexsan COO, Geoff Barrall also shares the same sentiments. According to him, ”CIO’s must evaluate their current IT infrastructure and create purpose-built secure data storage environments to be able to meet the new data protection laws. Barrall stresses the need for either cloud-based or on-site storage customer data storage solutions as long as they are flexible, agile and secure.”

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.

The FCA Keeps the Payday Loan Price Cap in Place until 2020

On 31st July 2017, the FCA published the results of a review it had done on high-cost credit which included an assessment of the effectiveness of its recent payday loan price cap.

The review offers undisputed evidence that the FCA regulation on payday loan lending has worked in favour of consumers as intended given that approximately 760,000 payday loan borrowers in the UK are saving over £150m every year. The review also shows that payday loan firms are now seeing fewer borrowers and debt charities with debt problems arising from expensive short-term credit. For these reasons, the FCA has decided to leave the current payday loan regulation unchanged until 2020.

Other forms of high-cost short-term loans

Besides clearing concerns on payday loans, the review also addresses concerns on other high-cost credit such as overdrafts. According to the review, The FCA feels fundamental changes on overdrafts are necessary in the future. Fees charged on unarranged overdrafts remain high and complex.

Home-collected credit, Rent-to-own credit as well as catalogue credit sectors are also on the spot. Although high-cost products and markets have many similarities, there are significant differences on how these products and markets work as well as how borrowers use them. The FCA is in the process of making tailored solutions to address these issues and is set to give a way forward in spring 2018.

According to the C.E.O. of the FCA, Andrew Bailey, high-cost credit products are a key focus for the regulator given the risks they expose to vulnerable customers. Bailey is pleased with the current evidence showing a clear improvement in the payday loan market after a period where payday loan firms used unacceptable business models. Besides the obvious improvement, he feels there is more to be done in terms of identifying other areas where short-term credit consumers may be suffering. Bailey’s focus is now on the nature as well as the extent of problems surrounding unarranged overdrafts without touching on the positive that customers find useful.

Clarifications

Alongside the review are proposals published to clarify FCA rules on affordability and creditworthiness. Most lenders understand the regulator’s rules concerning checks on prospective borrower’s creditworthiness including the products they can afford, however, there are uncertainties in parts of the credit market. For this reason, the FCA is proposing to effect some changes to make its expectations clearer.

The regulator has also published additional details on its motor finance work highlighting the issues it is considering as well as the steps it will take to develop an understanding on the market. An update is expected to be issued in 2018 during the first quarter.

Industry reaction

The FCA review results and comments have been received well in the industry. According to Eric Leenders, Managing Director, ”UK Finance members are committed to responsible lending and serving better those clients who need access to credit regardless of the type of credit product they need.” Leenders affirms the importance of consumer credit in promoting economic growth when used sustainably and recognises the importance of lenders working hard to balance between helping customers and ensuring long-term affordability. Leenders also agrees that transparency is an important issue and UK Finance is doing everything necessary to make overdraft fees clearer. Leenders also stresses the fact that UK Finance members are open to help customers struggling with repayments and welcomes efforts by the FCA to work closely with lenders.

Stephen Sklaroff, Director General of the FLA (Finance and Leasing Association) is of the same opinion. According to Sklaroff, ”the FLA is working tirelessly to make sure its members lend responsibly as well as treat customers fairly. We are aware that the FCA has found that most lenders are addressing affordability appropriately and we look forward to engaging the FCA on affordability assessments as the regulator does more exploratory work in motor markets.”

Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice C.E.O. attests to the fact that the payday loan price cap has protected many borrowers from unmanageable debt. According to Guy, ”many people were subject to extortionate charges trapping them into debt. Since the price cap among other new measures, fewer people are seeking our help.” Guy, however, states that things have improved for payday loans only. ”Other high-cost loans such as guarantor loans, doorstep loans, rent-to-own services and overdrafts are experiencing problems. It’s good to see the regulator recognise this and take the necessary action. We think a similar price cap will help safeguard consumers of these other forms of high-cost credit.”

 

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.

10 Years Later, UK is Getting Ready for Another Debt Crisis

Ten years after the dreaded 2007 credit crunch, the signs of another impending debt crisis have begun to show. Prices are rising nonstop year after year while wages remain the same. Many people have also resulted to loans to survive. Unsecured consumer debt has reached the 2008 levels at over £200 billion and what’s shocking is; it’s rising by over 10% every year. In a nutshell, the UK is back to where it was before the credit crunch. The only difference is, there are concerns about it early.

Concerns

Credit rating agency Moody’s and the Bank of England are among the institutions which have raised concerns about the impending debt crisis. The concerns of these institutions are however focused on the risks the current debt situation has on the economy.

The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) has also expressed concerns and appears to do a better job by breaking the problem down at street level. According to the FCA, one in every six people with credit card debt, personal lending as well as car loans is in serious trouble. This translates to approximately 2.2 million people.

A recent TUC report dubbed ”Britain in the Red” highlighted this issue in 2016. According to the report, 3.2 million UK households were experiencing debt problems with 1.6 million people in serious debt problems i.e. spending over 40% of their monthly income to service debt.

What’s to blame?

The 2007 crash was blamed on reckless spending on luxury as well as household goods. The situation today isn’t much different with the biggest blame falling on cars.

Repercussions

One of the most favourite ways of getting money to spend on luxuries and household goods as a home owner in the past was to remortgage your home. But this only worked for homeowners who had bought homes before the market reached its peak. For those who are buying now, remortgaging isn’t an option. If the interest rates rise by 1%, 18,000 Britons risk going bankrupt according to the Insolvency Service.

The problem

The UK is just about to get into another debt crisis because of several factors. One, zero-interest deals are in abundance again. Many people are managing their credit cards by simply transferring debt. According to recent statistics, 43% of all credit card users in the UK have zero-interest deals. This may appear favorable to borrowers on face value, however; it has left many in persistent debt. Lenders love customers who manage to meet their minimum monthly repayment objectives. There are millions of such borrowers in the UK.

Personal loans are also a problem. Before the 2007 crash, the payday loan industry in the UK wasn’t as big. Nevertheless, people had begun depending on payday loans for survival. Statistics indicate that approximately 250,000 people were using short term loans such as payday loans as of December 2006.

The demand for short-term loans is also a problem. The recent payday loan regulations have made it harder for payday loan lenders to exploit vulnerable borrowers. However, the regulation can’t deal with the demand. Today, few people can be able to survive without debt. In 2017, debt is being taken for basic necessities as opposed to luxuries.

The reasons behind this are obvious. Wages have stagnated, yet prices keep rising. After the 2007 debt crisis, households cut off spending on new items. With time, however, spending is inevitable since things become old or get damaged. Most personal loans today are on rent-to-buy deals. Modern necessities i.e. white goods are being acquired more and more this way today.

What’s more is; people don’t save to buy such goods anymore. The low-interest rates have discouraged saving. As a result, fewer households have funds for catering for emergencies, let alone white goods when they are needed.

The biggest problem of them all is Britain’s skewed economy where wages don’t match the cost of living. Although low wages have been a problem for a long time, there were incentives like tax credits before. Today, the welfare state is being used to punish people. Individuals who are dependent are forced into accepting poor pay/conditions as well as debt simply because they don’t have an alternative.

Unsecured loans replaced Government tax credits after the crash.

The effects of this is; the poor will get poorer while the rich get richer. All signs show that the UK is getting into another debt crisis soon, unless something drastic is done to boost wages.

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.

UK Household Debt in Figures as of 2017

The latest official government statistics indicate that UK household debt has increased by 7% since 2012 with consumer credit and student loans being the worst hit. The 7% increase has been adjusted for inflation. Back in 2012, the total UK household debt stood at £1.52 trillion. The debt has increased to £1.63 trillion as of March 2017.

The Bank of England and Student Loan Company statistics for individual household debt segments show that mortgage loans increased from £1.2 trillion to £1.33 trillion from 2012 to 2017. Student debt increased from £46.9 billion to £100.5 billion while consumer credit increased from £159.6 billion to £197.3 billion during the same period. Although the UK government plans to reduce its yearly deficit going forward every year until 2025, UK households are headed in the opposite direction. The household debt and GDP ratio is set to heat the peak as was the case before the financial crash.

The wage growth has grown by a mere 0.7% when adjusted for inflation minus bonuses over the same period. This growth figure clearly shows that UK consumers have turned to loans to buy essentials. Incredibly low interest rates have managed to keep mortgage loan costs down. However, this is a cause of concern since a small increase in interest rates may pose serious financial challenges to many borrowers given the current debt climate.

Borrowing on second mortgages and credit cards has increased drastically making things worse. Most UK households have increased their debt uptake twofold by getting into arrears on monthly bills such as council tax. Let’s take a close look at unsecured credit, car finance, mortgages, student debt and arrears.

Unsecured credit

UK consumer credit levels have increased by 19% since 2012. The consumer credit levels currently are the same as those experienced back in September 2010. Unsecured consumer debt was at 45% of the total household income in 2007. In the years following the economic recession, UK households were forced to deal with bad credit habits which resulted in a decline in borrowing and an increase in savings. Unsecured debt levels were at 35% of the total household income in 2012, but since then, UK households have failed to clear store and credit card bills. Charges on those cards have increased unsecured credit debt drastically. According to the Office of Budget Responsibility, unsecured household debt in the UK is set to hit 47% of the total household income by 2021. In the past year (July 2016 to July 2017), the debt has increased from £192bn to £201.5bn when adjusted for inflation (a 4.9% increase).

Car Finance

The latest statistics show that auto finance dealers issued more than £30 billion as new credit in 2016 alone. These types of loans have become increasingly popular because they are cheaper than regular car loans. Borrowers can also make lower monthly repayments. In fact, this type of car finance currently controls 86% of the new car finance market. Over a million cars are being bought in Britain using auto finance dealer loans. The main cause for concern is this form of lending isn’t highly regulated which poses serious risks in the future.

Mortgages

The Mortgage debt levels have increased by 2% since 2012. This household debt segment isn’t as marked as the others although there are concerns of borrower risks if the Bank of England raises rates in the near future. The UK government has done a lot to revive the mortgage industry such as giving subsidies to 1st time home buyers. Some critics argue that this has encouraged unhealthy borrowing, i.e., people who wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage normally getting easy access. Furthermore, over 40% of all mortgage borrowers in the UK today haven’t been forced to deal with an interest rate hike which makes repayment obligations harder triggering cutbacks on spending and foreclosures in worst case scenarios. Considering there is a looming Bank of England interest rate hike by the end of 2017, the mortgage industry is set for tough times ahead.

Student debt

Student debt levels in the UK have surpassed other forms of debt. Since 2012, the student debt levels have doubled to £100.5 billion. This is raising concerns on how UK students should be funded considering the recent hike in fees to £9,250 this year. Furthermore, the slow growth in wages coupled with increasing taxes is bound to make it hard for UK graduates to meet their student debt obligations.

Arrears

Utility bill arrears are usually an indication of financial distress. Council tax arrears in the UK have increased by 12% between 2012 and 2017. UK households have arrears on water bills, power bills and gas bills. A continuation of this trend could make it impossible for UK households to enjoy basic services.

International perspective

UK households are the 2nd most indebted among the G8 nations. The UK also has a large trade deficit and a government spending shortfall. This can only make the looming debt crisis worse if drastic action isn’t taken.

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.

Tips on Household Budget Planning

Maintaining a household budget is very important. However, it takes more than a budget to manage your finances accordingly. Let’s face it! Most budgets don’t work. The reason behind this is simple. Most budgets concentrate on typical monthly spending ignoring other small but significant expenditures like daily coffee, weekly shopping, annual holiday, etc.

Here’s a great budgeting guide to help you manage every single penny, but first things first.

Why should you budget?

The main reason for budgeting is to ensure you don’t spend more than you earn. You need to determine the amount of money you can afford to spend every month to be able to move ahead financially. Budgeting also helps you find out where your money has been going which is the first step to adjusting your spending habits/priorities.

Typical budgets fail because they underestimate the real expenditure missing costs that have a significant effect. Using broad categories when preparing a budget makes it easy to miss those small expenditures that can add up to large amounts of money every year. For instance, most people usually indicate fuel and service costs when preparing car budget sections. Very few people remember to include insurance, breakdown, and new tyre costs.

Effective household budget planning

Step 1: Gather your latest payslips and find out how much you earn

To create a manageable household budget, you need to know how much you make first. Most people earn less than they think (after tax and other deductions) which creates avenues for overspending. To avoid this, take your payslips for the last three months and establish how much money is deposited into your bank account after all applicable deductions.

Step 2: Gather all your credit card and bank statements

Before you draw up your household budget, it’s also important to get your bank/credit card statements for the last three months. This statements list all direct debits, standing orders and many other expenditures giving you an accurate picture of your spending habits. This step will help you find out how much you spend on every category such as food. Don’t forget to consider every possible expense. You can follow the paper trail to find out your actual expenditure.

Step 3: Determine your income/expenditure patterns

Once you determine how much you make and how much you spend, it’s easy to determine the correct status of your finances. At this stage, it’s extremely important, to be honest with yourself. If you spend more than you earn, you need to take drastic measures to avoid getting into a debt spiral if you are not in one already.

Step 4: Start saving painlessly

If you are spending more than you earn, you need to start cutting back on unnecessary expenses to build your savings account. This should be done painlessly otherwise it won’t work. It’s not advisable to make drastic lifestyle changes. You can start by looking at possible savings on energy bills and credit cards and then move to other saving avenues like childcare. In simple terms, don’t focus on the obvious. There are many ways to save painlessly if you look carefully.

Step 5: Draft a new budget incorporating expected savings

The reason why most initial household budgets don’t serve people well is because they don’t highlight the real income and expenses. After going through step 1 to 3, this should no longer be a problem. Incorporate the new income, expenses and expected savings.

Cutting back

If you need to cut back on your spending, focus on starting small. You can also do less every month and consider selling things you don’t really need until you start living within your means. You should also focus on cutting back on things like magazines, chocolate, cigarettes, alcohol, movies, etc. that aren’t needs.

Important household budgeting facts/tips

1. Self-discipline is key: You can prepare the best budget in the world, however, if you don’t stick to it, you won’t get far.

2. Focus on affordability: To get back on track with your finances, you must focus on the most affordable way of doing something as opposed to the cheapest way. A cheap item can still be too expensive for you, so it’s important to focus on how much you have and then plan your spending around that.

3. Set up different accounts: To budget effectively, it’s important to categorise expenses. Ideally, you need different accounts for different expenses, i.e., a mortgage account, big purchases account, holiday account and a savings/emergency account to avoid missing expenses. Your main bank account should be separate from your bills account. However, pay attention to the charges and open accounts with minimal to no charges.

4. Set up standing orders: To make your budgeting process seamless, it’s important to have standing orders to feed your different accounts. Most people overspend when they see they have a lot of money in their main account when this isn’t the case in reality.

Household budget planning is easy when you have an accurate picture of your income and expenses. Some discipline is also important as well as a seamless/painless process. Luckily, you have all the information you need now to budget successfully going forward. Don’t forget to use budgeting tools/technology to your advantage.

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.

Smart Meters – Are They Worth the Hassle?

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters are electronic devices which track as well as record electricity consumption in customer’s homes. Electric utility companies in the UK have been replacing old meters (analog meters) which require manual reading with new high-tech smart meters. The meters capture electricity consumption information automatically and then transmit this information back to electric companies. Some of their most notable benefits of smart meters are; speed and accuracy. Smart meters eliminate the need to estimate monthly electricity bills. Furthermore, there is no need for the power company to send staff to conduct home visits to take meter readings. Smart meters are expected to save homeowners money as well as reduce carbon emissions. The UK government plans to roll out smart meters this year in a 4-million pilot project. But is it worth it?

Is it worth fitting a smart meter?

According to a Public Accounts Committee report on smart meters published recently, the £11.7 billion smart meter scheme will cost every household at least £350 to install yet the same report projects a household savings of £23 per year in reduced fuel costs. What’s more interesting is the savings is dependent on a number of factors such as changed behaviour since the meters are expected to offer useful information on reducing energy costs. Households which don’t use this information prudently may not enjoy any savings.

On the other hand, energy companies have guaranteed savings of approximately £9 billion per year from getting accurate meter readings. Consumer savings aren’t guaranteed by any means. According to many industry experts such as consumer policy expert, Zoe McLeod, UK households which have already taken steps to reduce energy consumption, i.e., households which have switched to energy efficient appliances won’t enjoy significant benefits.

It’s worth noting that similar poorly executed smart meter schemes introduced in countries like Australia and the Netherlands have been rejected because they proved to be a waste of money. In Australia for instance, the Australian Energy Regulator findings showing that Australian households would endure a £61 to £149 increase in their yearly bill between years 2011 and 2015 to cater for smart meter costs sparked public outrage.

A survey carried out by British Gas also paints a negative picture. Out of 700 customers who already have smart meters, 25% expressed concerns about effectiveness after using the meters for a year. Consumer groups have also expressed concerns about the smart meter scheme with some of them (consumer group like, ”WHICH”) calling for the scheme to be stopped.

Other concerns include privacy. The DECC (Department of Energy & Climate Change) can’t guarantee the privacy of UK households which install the meters. Under current plans, UK household energy data is pulsed electronically to utility companies on an hourly basis. There are privacy concerns if third parties have access to this information which highlights daily habits, shows when there is no one in a household, etc.

There are concerns that UK households may start receiving energy offers like those received in Japan after the implementation of a similar scheme. Will UK households be receiving offers from utility companies making use of their commercial data? such as offers to get more energy efficient appliances. What are the regulations regarding the use or sale of energy consumption data?

Also, will it be easy to switch suppliers? According to WHICH energy campaigner, Jenny Driscoll, there is evidence that households may find it difficult to switch energy suppliers after installing smart meters. This information has been acquired from the early smart meter roll-out phase. If such concerns have a basis, it will obviously be unacceptable to many.

Also, there is no mechanism currently for capping energy bills if the cost of the scheme spirals out of control. There should be protections in place according to the Public Accounts Committee to protect consumers since they are expected to shoulder the £11.7 billion smart meter installation cost. There is also need to make smart meter complaints public. Currently, all the public knows is that complaints are registered with Ofgem. No complaints data has been published yet.

Verdict

Although smart meters are set to offer advantages to electricity companies in the UK, electricity users and the environment, there are obvious shortfalls like cost. UK electricity consumers must make an expensive long-term commitment under the smart meter scheme. Public perception is also an issue. There are issues around privacy and restrictions. UK households with smart meters have already expressed issues on flexibility. Smart meter issues have also been kept a secret. Before all the current smart meter concerns are addressed, including policy issues and smart meter reading verification, it may not be a good idea to fit a smart meter in your home.

 

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.

5 Important Tips to Keep You Safe From Fraud

Cybercrime incidences have increased drastically over the past decade. According to the Financial Fraud Action UK, online fraud incidences have increased by 53% over the past year alone. The latest statics show that someone is scammed online, in the UK, every 15 seconds. Most of these cases are affecting credit and debit card users who divulge their personal/bank details online making it easier for scammers to use this information in cases of data breaches. Short term loan borrowers like payday loan borrowers have also been victims of online fraud in the UK since such loans are acquired online.

There are a few quick steps you can take to avoid being part of this shocking statistic. One, you must trust your gut feeling when selecting offers or submitting personal information online. If an offer seems dodgy or too good to be true, it probably is. Two, you should never open unsolicited emails. Lastly, keep your pin/s and passwords secret/safe. Never divulge pin/password information online. Here’s a more in-depth discussion avoiding fraudsters.

Create ”perfect” passwords

You can’t afford to use regular words or obvious number combinations as passwords today. Hackers can ”break” such passwords. You should never use obvious words as passwords, i.e. your middle name, children’s names, etc. as name passwords are the easiest to crack. The ”perfect” password today consists of; random words that are unrelated to your life. The password should also have many digits preferably six or more that are random but easy for you to remember. Stay away from birth dates. Your ”perfect” password should also include symbols such as $, #, %, etc. Ideally, the symbols should be inserted randomly between the numbers and letters/words that make up your password. Lastly, use both capital and small letters. A great example of a perfect password would be You1r7Kin9gSh88ip05$$!! You can use password testing tools to analyse the strength of your password.

Maintain unmatched social media safety/privacy

Social media has made it easy to acquire a person’s personal information without their consent. If you don’t set the appropriate security/privacy setting on all your social media accounts, you don’t have control over who views your personal information such as; your real names, date of birth, personal address, etc. which can be used to hack your online accounts. Don’t add people you don’t know to your social media profiles or disclose too much personal information on social media. Disclosing your pet’s name for instance can make your online accounts vulnerable if you have used your pet’s name as a security question.

Maintain unmatched email safety

Anyone can send you an email provided they know your email address. Considering emails are used to send viruses/malicious software, you should never open unsolicited emails as well as unknown attachments or click on links whose source can’t be verified. You should also be wary of emails sent from sources you assume to know, i.e., your bank. Many people have fallen for spear phishing in the UK where fraudsters send automated emails appearing to originate from people/institutions you know such as your bank/credit card company. If you open and click on links on such emails by mistake, change applicable passwords immediately. You should also pay attention to the email safety information your bank sends to you as well as familiarise yourself with the official email address of your bank/credit card company.

Invest in a good anti-virus software

You can save yourself from all the trouble of keeping up-to-date with the latest online scams by investing in the best anti-virus software you can get. A good anti-virus will offer you all kinds of protection online giving you a stress-free experience. Never use free anti-virus software if you use your computer to do online banking transactions among other online transactions involving sensitive personal information. Free anti-virus software offers basic protection which isn’t enough to detect and deal with threats effectively.

Don’t forget to protect your phone

You should also invest in a good Smartphone anti-virus. Smartphones have substituted personal computers and laptops. Many people make payments and submit sensitive personal information over their phones. To avoid exposing yourself to fraudsters, make sure you Smartphone has an anti-virus. You should also restrict the data/information you share with websites. It’s also advisable to disable features such as autofill and unsolicited notifications. You should also avoid performing sensitive transactions over your Smartphone. Lastly, make sure your phone has a strong password/passcode. Your personal information should not be at risk if you lose your phone.

Is the Company Director of Swift Money Limited.
He oversees all day to day operations of the company and actively participates in providing information regarding the payday/short term loan industry.