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Blogs Spectator Money

Financial data, housing, business rates and customer service

23 January 2017

10:58 AM

23 January 2017

10:58 AM

Some worrying news from consumer group Which? this morning regarding trading of personal and financial data on a ‘huge scale’, sometimes illegally and in breach of guidelines from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

The BBC reports that after contacting 14 companies that sell data, undercover Which? researchers were able to access personal information on approximately half a million people over the age of 50, including details about their salary and pensions, sometimes for as little as 4p an item.

Information like this can be instrumental in helping scammers who con people out of their pension savings, or persuade them to move money from their bank accounts.


The Guardian reports on new research from Halifax which found that ‘house price growth in Britain’s new towns has outperformed the national average over the past decade’.

Milton Keynes, which is now half a century old, was identified as the best-performing new town for property price growth over the past 30 years. New towns generally have seen house prices go up by 32 per cent over the last 10 years, increasing by just over £55,500, from £173,337 in 2006 to £228,902 in 2016.

By contrast, house prices across the UK have, on average, risen by 26 per cent over the past decade, from £200,059 to £251,679 – an increase of about £51,600.

In other housing news, The Telegraph reports that stamp duty is having an adverse effect on Britain’s housing crisis by distorting the market and harming long-term development,.

Christian Ulbrich, global chief executive of Jones Lang LaSalle, said homebuyers were ‘paying for nothing’ in a system that penalised landlords and second homeowners while doing little to address a lack of housing supply.

Business rates

Rural enterprises will be among the biggest losers in the most radical reform of business rates for a generation, according to The Times. The paper reports that ‘riding schools, livery yards, stud farms, vineyards and livestock markets are facing some of the steepest business rate rises in England’.

The paper adds: ‘Kennels and catteries, polo grounds, racecourses and racing stables will also be among the worst hit, when the new rates come into effect in April. The biggest winners include photo booths, bingo halls, cement and steel works and oil refineries, which will all receive a reduction in their bills.’

Customer service

According to the BBC, customer satisfaction is rising. But a study by the Institute of Customer Service found that while businesses were improving, half of consumers with problems had to complain more than twice to get them sorted out.

Cash machine fees

Following the news last week that consumers could be charged to withdraw their own money from cash machines, MPs have signalled that they could intervene if banks fail to resolve the ongoing dispute.

The Times quotes Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Treasury select committee, who said that the impact on bank customers, in particular poorer ones, would be ‘considerable’ if the 39 members of the Link network were unable to reach an agreement this week on how to share the cost of running the country’s cash machines.


In yesterday’s Mail on Sunday, Jeff Prestridge had advice for how savers can seek out returns that will beat inflation. He said: ‘The only way deposit savers can beat inflation is by opting for a regular savings account, a high interest current account or a fixed-rate savings bond. A number of accounts aimed at children’s savings are also paying rates above 1.6 per cent.’ All have catches though, said Prestridge.

Fraud and cyber-crime

For the first time, fraud and cyber-crime were ‘the most commonly experienced offence’ according to official figures published last week. The Sunday Times reported that ‘one of the fastest-growing and cruellest scams involves conmen contacting often elderly victims by phone and persuading them to transfer their life savings to “safe” accounts to protect them’.


The Government must do more to make sure that carers don’t miss out on National Insurance credits that could increase their state pension, says Official figures show that 95 per cent of carers are missing out on state pension Carer’s Credits.

Carer’s Credits are available to those who care for someone for at least 20 hours a week, if the person they are caring for gets certain benefits. However, only 5 per cent of carers who are eligible currently claim these credits.

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