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Money digest: today’s need-to-know financial news

10 March 2016

9:07 AM

10 March 2016

9:07 AM

If you’re a customer of one of the ‘big six’ energy firms, then you’re probably paying too much for your gas and electricity. That’s the conclusion of an 18-month investigation by the competition authorities.

In an eagerly awaited report by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), it has emerged that households and small businesses have overpaid to the tune of £1.7 billion a year in total. The ‘big six’ energy companies are Centrica (which owns British Gas), SSE, Iberdrola’s Scottish Power, RWE npower, E.ON and EDF Energy. Today’s findings mean that up to four million households on pre-paid meters could see their energy bills cut thanks to a proposed cap by the CMA.

‘Today’s recommendations from the CMA are a positive step towards helping UK households save more money on their energy bills.’

It has also proposed that the regulator, Ofgem, keeps a database of customers who have been on a standard rate for three years so that the information can be shared, allowing these consumers to be targeted directly by other suppliers. Stephen Murray, energy expert at MoneySuperMarket, said: ‘Removing the four-tariff rule should provide consumers with more choice, clearer differentiation between suppliers and increased switching possibilities.’

Meanwhile, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) predicts today that the UK housing market will slow down over the next three months due in part to the imposition of a 3 per cent stamp duty surcharge on new purchases for landlords and second home owners. Jeremy Leaf, a former RICS chairman and north London estate agent, said: ‘There is every chance that we will see property prices levelling off over the next few months, particularly one or two-bedroom properties that would normally attract first-time buyers.’

And there’s bad news for millions of workers who could end up paying more National Insurance under proposals by government advisers. According to experts, the changes, outlined in a report which described the current system ‘as no longer fit for purpose’, would leave more than six million workers worse off. The move, proposed by the Office of Tax Simplification, involves HM Revenue Customs calculating National Insurance the same way it does Income Tax.

Despite last week’s news that there will be no radical reform to pensions in this month’s Budget, it comes as little surprise that people’s biggest financial fear is not having enough money to live on in retirement. Research by TopCashback, a leading cashback site, shows nine out of ten people are worried about this. It coincides with a new study from British Seniors Insurance Agency which finds that many people are failing to prepare adequately for the financial implications associated with their death. The research shows that nearly half of the population have made absolutely no provisions at all, and a third of over 50s have no financial provisions in place.

If this news gives you the chills, then you might want to look away now. A major new study from the Money Advice Service reveals that renters, young people and those with large families are most vulnerable to problem debt. It goes on to say that one in six people are struggling with debt worries. Caroline Siarkiewicz, head of debt advice at the Money Advice Service, said: ‘This research breaks new ground, providing us with the most up to date look at levels of problem debt across the UK. We estimate that 8.2 million UK adults suffer with financial worries — with younger adults, larger families and single parents noticeably at higher risk.’


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