April 2014

A more cautious approach to spending?

Retail figures for the Easter weekend have been reported as less than encouraging news for the economy.  Visits to high streets were down, trips to shopping centres were even lower and only retail parks – home of the garden centre and DIY stores – showed better footfall figures.

Traditionally warmer weather would see shopper numbers increasing, so what is happening?

The rise in online shopping is one cited reason – and perhaps we are just finding better things to do on a sunny Easter weekend?  

Whatever happened to basic bank accounts?

While banks are promoting current accounts with interest and cash-back deals - and the new fast switching service has encouraged more than 600,000 to change accounts in the past six months - numbers of people without a bank account are rising.

New figures, from Ffrees Family Finance, are suggesting that more than three million British adults do not have a bank account – double previous estimates by the Treasury’s Financial Inclusion Taskforce.

New spotlight on the cost of overdrafts

In the latest of its flurry of announcements after formally taking up the reins as regulator of the credit industry, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has turned its attention to overdraft charges.

It has published research which sets out what many have been saying for some time – that many people don’t realise just how expensive an overdraft can be, and how difficult it is to compare accurately the costs.

The FCA will now look into how banks set and monitor overdraft limits, and their governance and strategies for doing so.

Credit card review "urgently needed"

Credit cards represent the single biggest source of unsecured debt for people who are struggling to pay their bills.  Now the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has announced it will carry out a competition review of the industry later this year.

In a detailed analysis of almost 400 Debt Advice Foundation clients with debts worth £9.1 million, credit cards were the largest category and represented £3.7million – 40 per cent of the total.

Tighter regulation introduced for bailiffs

While the credit industry’s focus has been on the Financial Conduct Authority formally taking over as regulator, major reforms to the way bailiffs carry out their business are also coming into force.

The new rules are designed to outlaw heavy-handed behaviour while still allowing bailiffs to collect debts fairly.

They put in place new mandatory training and certification requirements for bailiffs, and simplify the fees that they are allowed to charge for their services.