The National Living Wage Has Had a Boost in 2018

The UK National Living Wage was officially increased as of April 1st, 2018. The increase has seen many UK workers earn a long-awaited pay boost. The increase was confirmed in the November budget by Philip Hammond. The boost is however reserved for UK workers aged 25 years and above. It is also below the current Real Living Wage, a wage that is independently calculated by the Living Wage Foundation, a voluntary scheme with thousands of employers involved (such as local authorities, retailers, and charities).

Definition: National Living Wage

The UK National Living Wage (formally referred to as National Minimum wage before 2016) refers to the amount of money any UK employee aged 25 years and above is legally entitled to earn. The wage has increased to £7.83 (from £7.50). The £0.33 per-hour increase was officially introduced on 1st April 2018.

The United Kingdom introduced a compulsory national living wage back in 2016. The Labour government set the first ever National Minimum Wage in 1998. Before that, there was no official wage rate in existence although trade unions in the UK have always fought hard for the rights of their workers.

Mr. Hammond wants to raise the National Living Wage consistently to £9 in the next two years (by 2020). The news has been welcomed by many UK workers although only workers with employers who are Real Living Wage scheme members stand to enjoy.

Definition: National minimum wage

The UK National Minimum Wage refers to the amount of money workers aged between school-leaving age and 24 years are entitled to. The amount can vary depending on factors such as age and whether a worker is a member of an apprenticeship scheme.

As of April 1, 2018, workers aged 21 to 24 years will earn a minimum of £7.38, up from £7.05. Workers aged 18 to 20 years will earn a minimum of £5.90, up from £5.60. Workers aged less than 18 years will earn £4.20, up from £4.05.

Apprentices who were entitled to £3.50 (if they are less than 19 years old) are now entitled to £3.70 as of 1st April 2018.

Binding limits

The proposed national wage limits are binding. Any UK worker who hasn’t been getting wages matching the new national limits has the right to complain to their employer immediately. If the employer fails to address the concern, the worker can escalate the complaint to the HMRC for further investigation and action.

Who doesn’t qualify for the National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage?

The new National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage limits aren’t applicable to voluntary workers, self-employed individuals, company directors as well as family members living in an employer’s home or those who do household chores.

Discrepancies by location and industry

It’s also important to note that the pay is the same regardless of location. The pay is the same for workers living everywhere including London. There are however differences in pay for workers in horticulture and agriculture.

Entitlement

All UK workers who were employed before 1st October 2013 are entitled to the wage set in their employment contracts. Entitlement to the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage depends on a worker’s age as well as their membership to an apprenticeship scheme.

Definition: Real Living Wage

The Real Living Wage is a wage independently calculated yearly by Charity organisation, Living Wage Foundation. The wage aims to acknowledge the “real” or “actual” cost of living based on factors like fluctuating prices of groceries in the UK. The scheme has 3000 employers as members. The wage limit is set by Living Wage Foundation. Accredited employers include; construction companies, retailers, banks, NHS trusts, local authorities, and charities.

According to Living Wage Foundation, the Real Living Wage is £8.75 per hour everywhere except London. London’s Real Living Wage is £10.20 currently. The Real Living Wage is calculated yearly (every November). All accredited employers must commit to any increases. The rate applies to workers over 18 years of age in recognition that such workers have to face similar living expenses like everyone else.

Although companies aren’t legally entitled to pay their workers in line with national living or minimum wages, companies which are members of the Real Living Wage scheme automatically pledge to pay their workers as per the current Real Living Wage rates at any given time.

PPI Warning Issued Over Adverts

According to MoneySavingExpert.com founder, Martin Lewis, payment protection insurance (PPI) claimants shouldn’t follow advice on the FCA’s new PPI adverts or risk losing up to 33% of their payout.

The regulator is telling people to search for “FCA PPI” via its new ads encouraging people to check if they have been mis-sold PPI before. However, MoneySavingExpert.com has discovered instances where other firms have charged claimants up to 36% for claiming PPI simply because those firms appear as top results for this search term instead of the official FCA website.

Advising claimants to use a search term (FCA PPI) instead of giving the official FCA website is risky since the regulator isn’t guaranteed a top result

for every search that happens using the “FCA PPI” search term. Although the FCA comes top for organic search results relevant to search terms related to it, paid ads “sit” above the search terms and these ads are what people see first.

The problem

The FCA launched a series of Arnold Schwarzenegger adverts urging people to check if they have been mis-sold PPI before. Those who suspect they have been mis-sold PPI covers in the past must claim before 29th August 2019. The ad campaign includes two different radio adverts, a TV advert, and two different poster adverts. The TV ad happens to be the only ad that features the full FCA site address. The poster and radio ads urge people to search for the term “FCA PPI” and don’t offer the official FCA website.

When the “FCA PPI” search term is tested on Google among other search engines, MoneySavingExpert.com discovered that there are multiple instances where paid-for companies rank higher than the official FCA site in search engine results. In some instances, the regulator appears 4th in a list of ads and firms ranking

above are entitled to a cut (up to 36%) on every successful claim.

According to Martin Lewis, the FCA must change the call-to-action for these ads because they are misleading. Lewis acknowledges the FCA’s efforts to try and educate the public but goes further to state that the regulator will not reach the intended people with the ads in their current state. According to Lewis, the regulator is targeting individuals who haven’t reclaimed PPI in the past ten years. A majority of such people are not web savvy. They are also vulnerable. Lewis argues that most people won’t be able to differentiate the ad with the official FCA website from those from claim companies which are entitled to take huge “cuts” from every successful claim they process.

In the recent past, Google has made it harder to differentiate between search results and ads on search engine pages. For those who aren’t web savvy, spotting the difference is hard which could lead to mistakes. In his humble opinion, Lewis cautions that the regulator is using public funds to pay search engine giant, Google, to rank higher yet most claim firms have bigger ad budgets having made a lot of money taking a third of people’s payment protection insurance payouts. In simple terms, these firms have the incentives to use a lot of money to dominate Google’s ad ranking for PPI and related terms. This, in turn, makes it easy for the FCA’s ad campaign to be “hijacked.” Clicks meant for the FCA are likely to go to claims management sites. What’s more; people may find themselves paying over 30% to reclaim what could have been reclaimed for free. Furthermore, the chances of a claimant taking action after seeing the cost are very slim.

Why it’s happening

The problem is simple. The regulator chose a search term over the official FCA website to control what a person sees when they search the term “FCA PPI”. This is despite the fact that search engines display paid-for ads as the highest ranking results today. Companies can bid on terms used by people to try and secure top search engine result spots for those terms.

Reclaiming PPI insurance

PPI is a special type of insurance policy sold to individuals who get loans. As the name suggests, payment protection insurance is meant to cover a borrower’s

loan repayments in case of eventualities like sickness, accidents, unemployment, etc. that may hinder their ability to make repayments. PPI is a good insurance cove; however, it has been mis-sold widely. Just recently, a ruling (known as Plevin) has made it possible for people to claim some money back on mis-sold PPI covers in the past. The landmark ruling was inspired by the fact that many people have been paying for potentially worthless PPI cover for years. MoneySavingExpert.com has a mis-selling checklist[1]. You don’t need to pay anyone/any company to reclaim mis-sold PPI.

Act NOW!

You must check and launch your claim before 29th August 2019 if you meet the mis-sold PPI guidelines. Complaints received before the deadline will be processed accordingly. However, some people may be able to claim after the deadline i.e., those who bought PPI policies after 29th August 2017. The deadline may also not be applicable for individuals disputing rejected PPI policy claims.

It is estimated that approximately 5.5 million people were victims of mis-sold PPI between years 2013 and 2015. Majority of these people haven’t launched claims.

The FCA’s take

According to an FCA spokesperson, auctions for PPI related keywords are extremely competitive, and the regulator can’t guarantee its ads will enjoy a 1st place position every time. The regulator is, however, monitoring this development carefully and working on an approach focused on increasing the value of its ads. Nevertheless, the regulator is confident about the campaign’s call-to-action given website traffic has increased significantly since the campaign launched.

Quick Guide to Debt Management Plans (DMPs)

What is a Debt Management Plan (DMP)?

A debt management plan or DMP is simply; a plan or program meant to help you repay your debts comfortably. DMPs are recommendable for people with non- priority debts such as store card debt, credit card debt, overdrafts or personal loans. Debt management plans are usually prepared by debt management companies. Your DMP provider will work with you and your creditors to come up with the most affordable debt repayment schedule for you that is agreeable to your creditors. A typical DMP will involve a borrower making one payment monthly to their DMP provider who in turn, pays creditors as per the agreed plan. Typical DMPs run for 3 to 5 years. They are part of debt consolidation plans designed to help individuals in debt regain control of their debt/finances while decreasing unsecured debt.

Types of debt that can be paid off using a debt management plan

Debt management plans are ideal for non-priority debt which includes; personal loans, overdrafts, building society loans, bank loans, money borrowed from family/friends, payday loans, credit card loans, store card debt, home credit, and catalogue or in-store credit debt.

Examples of debt that CAN’T be repaid of using a DMP include; council tax, court fines, utility bills (electricity and gas bills), child support, TV license, high purchase agreements, National insurance, income tax, VAT, rent, mortgage and any other loans secured using your home. Basically, all kinds of priority debt can’t be settled with a DMP.

Getting a debt management plan

Getting a DMP is easy. Many debt advice organisations in the UK offering free advice can help you get a debt management plan. Free debt advisers offer expert debt advice to many people in the UK every year. They are among the best-suited organisations to go to for advice when you find yourself in financial problems.

Before you choose a specific debt management provider in the UK, it is worth noting that all reputable providers have FCA authorisation. You can check for authorisation on the official FCA Financial services register. [1] This is particularly important when dealing with fee-paying providers.

Once you have identified a suitable provider, the next step is agreeing on a suitable monthly budget. This step is important for determining the amount of money you can afford repaying comfortably. After setting a budget, your provider will go ahead and negotiate with your creditors on new repayment terms. A good provider will be able to secure a good DMP that is agreeable to all parties. Most creditors don’t have a problem with people who owe them money as long as you show gestures of goodwill.

Important considerations

A debt management plan will help you take charge of your finances again. However, it doesn’t guarantee you “peace of mind”. Some creditors may still contact you. Also, as mentioned above, DMPs are available for non-priority debt only. It’s also worth noting that DMPs may affect your credit history.

What’s more; creditors are not obligated to accept DMPs. Creditors may also continue adding charges and interest which can increase the total debt repayment amount. A good provider should be able to negotiate great terms that offer safeguards against such practices. Lastly, it’s good to recognise the fact that DMPs may extend the amount of time it takes to repay your debts. Debt repayment methods such as contractual payments are faster.

Main advantages of DMPs

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Although DMPs attract some cons, they have notable advantages. One, you get debt consolidation without taking on additional loans. A DMP will also make you more organised with your finances. You could also improve your credit score and credit report over time. Last but not least, you stand to enjoy some reprieve from creditors or debt collectors because they have an incentive to stop pursuing you.

Why do you need a DMP?

You can choose to repay your debt on your own; however, this isn’t a good idea if you are in debt in the first place. Instead, you should focus on finding professional help externally. People who let debt overwhelm them before they can seek help face serious financial problems. For instance, no one may be willing to lend you by the time you decide to seek help. Your finances may also spiral out of control. Furthermore, taking long to seek help extends the amount of time you need to become debt-free. You can also get free debt advice in the UK!

Reference

[1] https://register.fca.org.uk/

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GDPR – What you need to know as a consumer

Overview: GDPR

Data Protection Regulation has been a sensitive topic for the past several years. Conversations on the topic have been going on since consumers realised the effects of a data breach. There have been countless data breaches in the recent past globally ranging from large-scale website security breaches to consumer privacy violations involving large companies entrusted with sensitive consumer data. As consumers continue to learn about the implications of their data falling into the hands of “the wrong people”, data protection regulation will continue to be a hot topic.

The United States has lead in data protection regulation with most states now having regulation on data breaches. Almost all states have laws on one or more forms of consumer data protection. Europe has had data protection regulation covering its residents for over two decades now. However, most of these regulations are outdated.

The world has experienced massive technological changes. These changes informed the European Union’s decision to refresh its former regulation dubbed Data Protection Directive with more robust regulation i.e., the GDPR. Here’s more on what the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) entails for consumers.

What is GDPR?

The GDPR is an update to former EU regulation on consumer data after considering the latest technological changes and new consumer data threats posed by e- commerce, online advertising and general growth in data-driven marketing. The new law focuses on achieving three primary objectives. One, to give consumers more say/control over what companies do with their personal data/how they process/store it. The new law also focuses on standardising rules for reporting data breaches in European countries. Lastly, the GDPR aims to make accountability and transparency a priority for all companies dealing or entrusted with consumer

Data.

Majority of the provisions existing in previous regulation have been restated in the general data protection regulation. However, companies face more stringent fines for non-compliance. The GDPR also makes it compulsory for companies to report any breaches to regulators as well as consumers. The new law also allows people to find out what companies they do business with or work for are doing with their personal data.

The GDPR qualifies more as an evolution of the Data Protection Directive as opposed to a revolution. The new regulation, however, introduces crucial changes and reduces country-specific laws. The GDPR is a crucial regulation considering the nature of the world today. The world has become increasingly connected boosting the volume, prevalence, and value of personal data.

Who will be affected by the GDPR?

The GDPR will start being enforced on 25th May 2018 so, being well versed about the regulation’s impact is important. The GDPR has a broad personal data scope which covers online identifiers i.e., IP addresses and social identities to typical name and contact information (work and personal information in the EU). The regulation includes anything which is traceable back to an individual. The scope aims to enforce personal data protection as a human right. GDPR protects EU residents’ data in line with today’s data protection needs.

It’s worth noting that the regulation applies to all companies operating (collecting data) globally provided they serve EU customers. Any company conducting business with EU customers must meet specific requirements including implementing specific technical and organizational measures aimed at guaranteeing personal data security.

According to GDPR guidelines, companies must review how they collect as well as store consumer data. The law requires companies to keep special types of records (i.e., consent records) as well as maintain 100% transparency on how they utilise personal data. The regulation touches on data processors and controllers.

Under the new law, EU residents have the right to question companies on any issue regarding their personal data such as how it was obtained. EU residents also have the right to opt-out of marketing campaigns and in most cases, request for their personal data to be deleted.

Preparing for GDPR

With approximately a month before the GDPR takes effect, companies must be informed and prepared. The same applies to European Union customers. Companies must review their practices ensuring they are compliant with the regulation. Information regarding the regulation is readily available on the European Commission website. [1]

Consumers also have a role to play i.e., they must familiarise themselves with the rights accorded to them by the GDPR. This is important for consumers to be able to ask questions/place consent requests on data collection activities. An informed consumer will also be able to notice data breaches faster.

It may take a while before the GDPR takes full effect, however; it is a step in the right direction since companies are more liable in case of data breaches. Companies must tread carefully when it comes to all matters relating to customer data going forward.

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4-Must Have Insurance Policies For Your Family Besides Health/Medical Insurance

The main aim of insurance is to protect you against risks. There are insurance covers that can protect you from just about any risk you can imagine today. But given the nature of risks, i.e. there are too many risks, it is impossible to cover yourself against all of them. This leads us to a very interesting question; which risks should you consider first?

Eventualities like sickness can unsettle your finances. Many people take emergency loans to cover unexpected medical bills. Short term loans like payday loans can cover a small medical bill. What happens when you or a family member has to undergo an expensive medical procedure? We’ve gone through the trouble of selecting the most important insurance policies below.

Here are the 4-must have insurance policies for your family besides health/medical insurance.

1. Life insurance

Every family should have life insurance coverage for both parents/spouses. Life insurance is crucial for ensuring the family doesn’t suffer financially in case a breadwinner dies. Life insurance is crucial because it covers for funeral expenses, which can be very high. Life insurance also replaces the income of a spouse or parent for a long period allowing the family to go on with life as usual. You should have coverage amounting to at least a year’s salary. If you earn £50,000 for instance, you should have a £500,000 policy or more. The same applies for your spouse/partner. If your partner or spouse doesn’t work and you have children, it is still important to cover them because of their contribution to childcare among other chores which can take a huge portion of the family budget when they are gone. It is also a good idea to cover children as well if their demise will have a significant effect on the family’s finances. There are many types of life insurance covers for families in the UK covering all kinds of risks/expenses. Take your time an pick a cover that works well for your family.

2. Disability insurance

This is another essential insurance policy for your family. Life insurance coverage should come first due to the devastating nature of eventualities like death. Disability is equally devastating. Even though a parent/partner may still be there, disability can render one jobless as well as drain the family’s budget in regards to healthcare costs. Disability insurance policies protect from loss of income among other related expenses arising. This type of cover may be more important than life insurance to some people since it can render a person jobless for life and introduce costly expenditures till death. Some people overlook disability covers because of the mere fact that they are healthy and disability looks farfetched. The most important thing to note is anyone can become disabled in an instance i.e. in case of a car accident.

3. Homeowners insurance

A home is a priceless family possession. As a parent, you don’t want your family to be rendered homeless by any eventuality whether it is natural and manmade. A fire can destroy your home. Your home can also be destroyed by harsh weather, an earthquake, etc. Homeowners insurance covers the cost of replacing the structure as well as contents. Homeowner covers can also cater for the cost of buying a new home in case your current one is destroyed completely. Other related costs included in homeowner covers include the cost of living elsewhere while your home is being repaired. It is important to have coverage for such costs since they are significant and can easily plunge your family into financial problems. Although the chances of your home being destroyed are very slim, this eventuality can force you to take loans and living in distress. A homeowner’s cover allows you to live in peace knowing you won’t lose your home in case of anything. There are many types of homeowner’s covers available today that cover anything you can think of including the cost of upgrades, special features and injuries that may occur on your property. Consider getting such a cover. If you are renting, you should take renters insurance instead.

4. Identity theft insurance

In this current era where everything revolves around technology and the internet, it is important to protect yourself against identity theft. This kind of coverage may seem unnecessary but take some time and think of the consequences of identity theft. If you take payday loans, use credit cards or have a genuine online presence of any sort, you are at risk. Someone can steal your identity online and use your name to orchestrate crimes. You need money to protect yourself against losses arising from such eventualities. An identity theft policy can also cover legal fees involved when restoring your name. We are all at risk of identity theft today provided we use computers, Smartphones and online products/services. Payday loan giant Wonga suffered a significant customer data breach in April 2017. The incident saw the personal details of 270,000+ customers stolen including bank account details. Any victim with identity theft insurance would have been covered in such an instance. Get the above insurance covers first before considering any others. Motor insurance is equally important although it is mandatory in the UK and most, if not all countries in the world.

No. of UK Pensioners Seeking Payday Loans Has Risen by 200% in 2 Years

According to the latest statistics from payday loan company CashLady, 1.4 million Britons have joined the poorest 10% in Britain. The new shocking figures indicate a 95.2% increase (since 2015) in the number of Britons aged 65 years and above relying on loans to boost their monthly pension.

Hard-up pensioners have increased their borrowing by £157 (from; £1,478 to £1,635). The latest statistics show that this age group is now borrowing approximately £400 in payday loans (now dubbed Grey Day Loans) monthly to survive.

For the first time in Britain, charities have warned of the disproportionate number of seniors seeking financial aid for subsistence purposes. A record 1.4 million pensioners have joined the poorest 10% in Britain. Only 1 million pensioners were part of this statistic in 2015.

The statistics indicate a 26% rise in the number of loans requested despite a 10% increase in monthly income for pensioners. This shows that the average pensioner is struggling to cope with the increasing cost of living. In just two years (2015 to 2017), the average loan amount requested has risen from £302 to £382.

According to the MD of CashLady Chris Hackett, the figures show there is an increasing number of seniors struggling to get by solely on their pension. According to Hackett, inflation levels are primarily to blame. Inflation has reached a historic high. Although pensions have increased, there is still a growing shortfall between the cost of living and pension income.

Personal Finance Society statistics

This new data follows a recent report released by the Personal Finance Society showing that the poorest pensioners receive 75% of their pension income from the state pension. The Personal Finance Society report shows that millions of seniors in Britain are about to become entirely reliant on the £7,000 per year basic state pension for survival. Numerous charities have come forward urging the UK government to do more to support the elderly who are struggling.

Charities’ take

According to Caroline Abrahams, Age UK Charity Director, the UK is at risk of assuming all elderly persons are living comfortably when that isn’t the case. The recent pensioner poverty statistics clearly show that elderly pensioners are at risk once again.

According to Abrahams, surviving in Britain on a low income/wages is hard enough for individuals in any age bracket but extremely stressful for older persons, especially those living on their own and struggling buy food and pay utility bills.

Abrahams believes the State Pension is more important now, more than ever as a tool for fighting against pensioner poverty. She is however of the thought that there is more help for those in dire need. For instance, elderly pensioners can claim benefits they are entitled to. This can make a great difference according to Abrahams given the fact that a record £3.8 billion in benefits goes unclaimed by elderly people every year in Britain. Before seeking alternative income such as taking out payday loans to pay for utility bills or buy essential goods and services, elderly pensioners are advised to exhaust their cash benefits.

Age UK is one of UK’s top charities which helps elderly pensioners get unclaimed benefits. Before pensioners become so desperate to the extent of seeking help to pay for essentials and insolvency costs, they should consider contacting charities like Age UK.

Turn2Us is another charity that offers similar help. The national organisation helps the needy/poor access charitable grants and welfare benefits among other types of financial help. A statement from Turn2Us shows that there is an increasing number of female pensioners seeking Turn2Us’ help.

Many pensioners in the UK don’t get the government assistance they are entitled to like Winter Fuel Payment and Pension Credit. This is because many people have been able to live all their lives without needing these benefits before so they only naturally consider credit which is readily available whenever they need help.

In an interview with The Mirror, Pritie Billimoria, Head of Communications at Turn2Us stated that; most people who have been comfortable most of their lives risk being financially week after retirement. According to Billimoria, struggling financially when you are older can be very distressing which is why elderly pensioners need all the support they are entitled to.

Age UK offers FREE financial advice and help to elderly persons with financial problems. Contact 0800 169 6565. Website: www.ageuk.org.uk.

The FCA Poised to Protect UK Consumers from High-Cost Credit

Since 2017, the FCA has been demonstrating an urgency to come up with new rules aimed at protecting Britons from high-cost credit. According to the latest reports from the regulator, UK borrowers could soon have better laws protecting them from doorstep lenders as well as household appliance rental companies. According to a statement released by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) on 31st January 2018, the regulator has concluded a review of the financial market. The review which has been ongoing since July 2017 shows an urgent need for intervention.

The FCA has promised to intervene although it will take actions that don’t compromise access to credit to individuals who can afford repayments. The regulator is planning to publish proposals and conclusions in Spring.

The Regulator’s take

According to Christopher Woolard, Executive Director for Strategy & Competition at the FCA, the regulator must address the variety and availability of credit. The regulator also needs to find ways in which the credit market works better for consumers.

Besides proposing new rules/laws where there is clear evidence of consumer exploitation, the FCA is also looking at solutions revolving around alternatives to high cost loans.

The FCA has identified specific consumer segments that are most vulnerable. One such segment is the rent-to-own consumer segment. The FCA’s analysis finds this particular segment extremely vulnerable given the outstanding debt of this segment doubled in the recent past from November 2014 to November 2016 (£2,000 to £4,300 respectively). Customers most affected are those who pay for household goods such as television sets and fridges over time.

The FCA is also concerned with customers who use overdraft facilities. The regulator is concerned about the high fees associated with unarranged overdrafts especially in comparison to the amount lent. The FCA is seeking more data from lenders who offer doorstep loans (loans offered in people’s homes).

According to the latest statistics, 700,000 Britons took out home-collected credit loans in 2016. The same statistics show that 1.6 million Britons had outstanding home-collected loans by the end of 2016 which translates to a record $1.1 billion pounds.

Doorstep loans aside, the FCA is also concerned about catalogue credit particularly, the complexity of fees/charges structure as well as the variety of repayment options available. Catalogue credit is offered to people buying things from catalogues on credit.

FCA efforts

Back in 2015, the FCA introduces a cap on the amount of interest charged on payday loans. The move has had a positive impact on the payday loan industry. Payday loan borrowers no longer have to pay more than the loan amount total in fees/charges. The cap has been deemed effective in getting rid of unscrupulous lenders who were thriving in a poorly regulated environment. Borrowers can now rest assured they won’t be exploited when taking payday loans which are supposed to assist in times of emergency and not act as a gateway to debt. The payday loan cap was introduced after widespread complaints and criticism from legislators, the clergy and public on the high interest charged on payday loans taken by the most vulnerable customers.

Protecting yourself from high cost loans

Although the FCA has done a lot, more needs to be done. The FCA will review the current payday loan cap in 2020. In the meantime, you need to protect yourself from high cost loan segments that are yet to be regulated adequately. Here are some tips to consider.

  1. Shop around: Although most people who consider taking out short term loans are usually in financial distress, it is advisable to shop around just to make sure you are getting fair terms. Shopping for loans in the UK is easy today. You can use loan comparison websites to find suitable and affordable loans fast and easy.
  1. Start an emergency fund: The main reason why people turn to lending institutions when in distress is because they don’t have their own funds to use in emergency situations. An emergency fund will reduce your overreliance on short term loans which will in turn reduce your exposure to high cost credit risks.
  1. Borrow from reputable lenders only: Lastly, borrowing from licensed and regulated lenders only can shield you from unfair fees and charges. The short-term lender you choose should be regulated by the appropriate body such as the FCA. You should also check online reviews to see what existing customers are saying about a lender before you take out any loan.

UK Gambling Regulator Warning on Gamblers’ ”VIP status”

The Gambling Commission has issued a stern warning to online bookmakers on upgrading gamblers to the highest gambling status i.e. VIP status. According to the regulator, online bookmakers must carry out extensive affordability checks before upgrading their customers to VIP status.

Gamblers who are deemed VIP enjoy benefits such as free bets, bonus schemes and special offers when they bet with larger stakes. The gambling regulator warning comes in the wake of numerous complaints about gambling companies tempting problem gamblers to gamble recklessly.

According to information obtained by BBC via the Radio 4 ”You and Yours” program, gambling addicts are encouraged to gamble away their winnings after being given VIP status. Many addicts have been on record on BBC about their increasing gambling debts after gaining VIP status.

One such gambler, Joe, was on record recently accusing Vernons.com of encouraging him to gamble away his winnings. Joe, who is currently suffering from depression, won £60,000 on betting website www.vernons.com. Instead of getting an instant payout, the company delayed paying his winnings while purporting to verify his account. Meanwhile, Joe was made a VIP member on the site.

Joe believes Vernons encouraged him to gamble away his winnings by sending him betting prompts after making him a VIP member. Joe confesses to visiting the Vernons site over 100 times a day and placing bets at 3.00am sometimes on league matches he knew nothing about. In his correspondence with BBC, Joe admits to feeling out of control with everything.

After winning £60,000, Joe lost everything and ended up accumulating £30,000 in debt. Vernons.com has since paid off all his debt after his story was aired by ”You and Yours”. According to Betsson Group (the company that owns Vernons.com), Joe’s case predated the company’s acquisition of Vernons.com. The company, however, settled Joe’s gambling debts but failed to discuss the specifics of his case.

VIP status

Gambling companies usually offer VIP membership to players who gamble large amounts of money. VIP members get perks such as a VIP manager who manage their accounts. VIP membership also comes with benefits such as free tickets to concerts and football matches.

Joe isn’t the only problem gambler who has been on record. Another gambler, James, developed a gambling problem after Bookmaker 888Sport gave him VIP membership one year after opening his account. James is currently in debt after his gambling behavior spiraled out of control. James ended up £40,000 in debt after taking out payday loans to fuel his gambling habit.

According to James, 888Sport had a reward scheme for its VIP clients that would see him earn £500 for every £20,000 spent. James confesses to feeling very exclusive as a VIP to the extent of gambling irresponsibly. Although James alludes to feeling ”encouraged” to gamble, 888Sport has been on record stating that they enquired on his spending on multiple occasions. According to a 888Sport spokesman, James confirmed he was comfortable with his bets and activity levels multiple times.

James confesses to lying about his comfort levels because he feared 888Sport might close his account.

Gambling commission stance

According to the Gambling Commission, online gambling firms aren’t doing enough to stop irresponsible gambling habits among their customers. According to Sarah Gardner, Executive Director of the Gambling Commission, gambling operators are capable of doing more to protect customers given the fact that they collect a lot of customer data such as; failed deposits and cancelled withdrawals. Gardner believes operators have a responsibility to use such information to protect customers as opposed to merely facilitating their gambling.

Fines

The Gambling Commission is taking a tough stand on operators who may have violated the commission’s guidelines in the past. Such companies may face penalties in the future. According to a recent statement by the commission, safeguarding consumers isn’t optional. The commission also stressed the fact that VIP programs must not come at the risk of causing gambling-related harm.

Other developments

The Gambling Commission isn’t the only body taking a tough stand on gambling operators. The CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) has announced tougher restrictions on gambling ads which offer free bonuses and urge gamblers to bet during live events. These measures have been announced to protect vulnerable gamblers.

The new measures will take effect on 2nd April 2018. According to the committee, ads which encourage repetitive play or create an unnecessary sense of urgency i.e., those with ”bet now” messages will be restricted.