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Jersey Consumer Council

Tag: money

When your bank writes to you.

July 6, 2018 Banking No Comments

If your bank writes to you requesting action on your behalf, here are our recommendations;

  • Do not ignore the request; if you are concerned that it may be a fraudulent letter contact your bank directly and ask. But be advised that potentially NO response from you can ultimately result in your account being closed.
  • Once you are sure that the bank contact is genuine follow the instructions or contact the bank if you are unable to provide the requested information by the deadline, explain the situation and ask for assistance as necessary. If this does not work, complain to the bank, then contact the Channel Islands Financial Services Ombudsman for guidance;

Channel Islands Financial Ombudsman (CIFO)
P O Box 114
Jersey, Channel Islands
JE4 9QG

01534 748610

enquiries@ci-fo.org

When responding to your bank’s requests for information – keep copies of your letters, notes of conversations, dates and bank responses.

  • Remember that a bank will never contact you by phone, email or letter to you to ask for your account passwords or your PIN number. If you get a call or email ‘out of the blue’ do not assume the telephone number or the email address, the caller may provide you to contact your bank is in fact your bank’s.  The safest approach is for you to call your bank back on their general number (shown on the back of your debit or credit cards or on your statements).  The bank’s call centre staff can transfer you to the appropriate bank department to resolve the matter.
  • Ensure the bank has your up-to-date address and contact details so that you do not miss any important correspondence.

Other banks can be understandably hesitant to open  a new account for you if they know your account at another bank has been closed.

Having your current account closed creates difficulties, for example with missed direct debits. Be mindful of course when setting up any new account to be vigilant that all your regular payments are set up and are not disrupted.

If your bank wants to close your account, they should give you sufficient time to make alternative arrangements. Be sure to ask for an extension, if you need more time.

 


What is Bitcoin?

March 7, 2018 Money Matters No Comments

Simply put, it’s a type of digital currency, called a cryptocurrency. No notes to print or coins to mint. It’s decentralized — there’s no government, institution (like a bank) or other authority that controls it, but instead is controlled by the software itself.

By using blockchain technology, cryptocurrencies are not subject to any central controls. A blockchain is a global network of computers which can be used to maintain a digital ledger of every owner of a cryptocurrency and the transactions they make. When, for example, a Bitcoin transaction is made (buying, selling, transferring or creating Bitcoin), the record of that transaction is securely encrypted, time-stamped and updated into a block which is added onto the historical record of all Bitcoin transactions. Each block in the chain is unique and it is virtually impossible to remove or change data which has been added to the chain. This means that transactions are verifiable without the need for a central authority, such a bank, to oversee that process. In theory, Blockchain technology allows us to securely transact with one another via a peer-to-peer network without a middleman, such as a bank, charging us for the privilege of doing so.

It isn’t issued from the top down like traditional currency; rather, bitcoin is ‘mined’ by powerful computers connected to the internet, by slowly releasing a predetermined set amount, randomly as a reward to those helping secure the network.

Bitcoin was invented in 2009 by a person (or group) who called himself Satoshi Nakamoto. The stated goal was to create “a new electronic cash system” that was “completely decentralized with no server or central authority.”

Looking back, we began using money as the tool used to exchange value; historically this was gold as it is rare, tangible and worked very well. Although gold is heavy, so then came paper money which originally was ‘gold certificate’ being a piece of paper saying you own some gold sitting in a vault. Trusting in paper was not easy at first.

Nowadays we use what is termed flat money which means that it can’t be exchanged for just a single item. People accept this money in return for goods or services because they know that they themselves will be able to use it at a later date. Money now has no link at all with precious metals. Now we have cryptocurrencies of which Bitcoin was the first, and currently the largest.

What determines the value of a bitcoin?

Ultimately, the value of a bitcoin is determined by what people will pay for it. value of a bitcoin is based on its properties (digitally rare, trustless, secure and predictable issuance), and how much people will pay for it.

In this way, there’s a similarity to how stocks are priced.  The protocol established by Satoshi Nakamoto dictates that only 21 million bitcoins can ever be mined — about 12 million have been mined so far; but as it’s digital, each coin can be divided down to 8 decimal places. Even so there is a limited supply like with gold and other precious metals, but no real intrinsic value. This makes bitcoin different from stocks, which usually have some relationship to a company’s actual or potential earnings.

Without a government or central authority at the helm, controlling supply, ‘value’ is totally open to interpretation. This process of ‘price discovery,’ the primary driver of volatility in bitcoin’s price, also invites speculation and manipulation.

Because bitcoin is so new and decentralized, there is plenty of unknowns. Even the technical rules for mining are still evolving and up for debate.

 

 


Who is CICRA and what does it do?

October 27, 2017 Home life, Money Matters, Telecommunications No Comments

CICRA (the Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authorities) is the independent organisation working on your behalf to ensure you receive the best value, choice and access to high quality services but what does that mean in practice for you, the consumer?

Over a series of articles, we will explain a bit more about CICRA’s role across the Channel Islands and particularly here in Jersey.

CICRA is one of several local organisations, including Trading Standards, Citizens Advice and the Jersey Consumer Council, that work to inform and protect the rights of islanders. As individual organisations we are relatively small but in partnership we support each other to ensure the best outcomes for you.

CICRA regulates the telecoms sector, Jersey Post and Ports of Jersey (the airport, harbour and marinas) and is responsible for administering and enforcing the local competition law

CICRA informs–

CICRA provides the information you need to make important purchasing decisions.

We publish telecoms customer satisfaction ratings and undertake independent mystery shopping surveys on the different telecoms providers. We’ll shortly be publishing the results of the first ever check on local mobile coverage as well as the results of the latest mobile mast emissions audit. We’re looking at quality of service delivered by Ports of Jersey at the airport, harbour and marinas and will be reporting on that later this year.

We involve government and local interest groups when changes to policy or law should be considered; for example our work on reviewing the supply of road fuel in Jersey led to a change in the law to require prices to be visibly displayed from the roadside at all outlets ensuring you are in a position to be fully informed and to shop around.

CICRA protects–

CICRA protects local business and consumers from anticompetitive behaviour by enforcing competition law.

We watch out for any businesses potentially causing consumer harm. This may be price fixing between competitors or   unfairly obstructing other providers from serving you. The competition law spans all business sectors and not just those we regulate.

For the telecoms sector, Jersey Post and Ports of Jersey, we have a more active role in setting ‘the rules’ by which the businesses operate as we licence these businesses. We can set prices, quality of service targets and hold these businesses to account when things go wrong – all to ensure that the interests of fair dealing businesses and local consumers are protected. For example, we’ve recently required JT to reduce its landline prices by 13% over the next two years and we’re keeping a closer watch on Jersey Post quality of service after it experienced a dip in performance.

We can prevent or amend proposed mergers and acquisitions where there would be a detrimental impact on choice locally. Recently we made sure Sandpiper’s acquisition of the Costcutter shops was modified to protect consumer choice in St Ouen, St John and Green Island.

While we are able to resolve most issues informally sometimes this is not possible; we have the power to mandate changes and to issue fines. This is very much a last resort. We’ve fined the States of Jersey for breaching the law after it created a monopoly for itself in the emptying of septic and tight tanks by restricting access to another business, Bellozane from operating in the same sector. We’ve also fined JT when it tried to fix the minimum selling price of its pay-as-you-go SIM packs.

CICRA needs to ensure it continues to focus on what is important to you as a local consumer. We’re very grateful for the help provided by islanders recently, through participation in our annual telecoms satisfaction surveys and our focus groups discussing the quality of service provided by Ports of Jersey.

In the next article we will explain in more detail CICRA’s role with the harbour, airport and marinas in Jersey.


Peer-to-Peer Lending Explained

September 6, 2017 Banking, Consumer Skills, Money Matters No Comments

Peer-to-peer lending, also known as Private Lending, involves matching up investors, who are willing to lend, with borrowers – either private individuals or small businesses. We are sharing this article with you to raise awareness that peer to peer lending is a private arrangement and comes bearing significant risks; attractive as a solution but be cautious and understand exactly what you are signing up to.

By cutting out the middleman and not having the overheads of traditional banks, peer-to-peer lending may offer more favourable rates, or help borrowers who have struggled to get a personal loan elsewhere.

What are the risks as an investor?

By being connected directly to someone who wants to borrow, the most immediate risk to your money is if a borrower fails to repay what you’ve lent them (known as ‘defaulting’).

Your money is also not protected by the Depositors Compensation Scheme which guarantees your savings with Jersey banks up to the value of £50,000.

 

What are the risks as a borrower?

  1. Loans are usually granted on an interest-only basis (meaning you repay no capital) and for a short duration, typically 1 to 3 years.
  2. You would normally still need to have a deposit, or a stake in whatever property you’re putting up as the asset (sometimes called the security).
  3. At the end of the term, the loan is either paid off by some means, such as replacing with a conventional bank mortgage or selling the property, or in some cases the loan can be renewed for a further period. Take care, if you have struggled to obtain a traditional mortgage and your financial situation has not improved you have no guarantee of obtaining a traditional mortgage at the end of the term to enable you to continue to live in the property. What will you do if the value of the property goes down?
  4. Interest rates can vary, depending on the lender and their appetite or consideration of the risks involved.
  5. While the rate of return may be favourable to the investor/lender, the interest rate for the borrower can be higher than high street lending and much higher arrangement and early redemption penalties.
  6. Borrowers may intend for the loan to be a short term, interim solution before moving to mainstream mortgage lending but if they are still in the same circumstances at the end, the loan can be rolled over (and over) which just continues the difficulty.
  7. We strongly recommend that you ask any lender about the Jersey Code of Consumer Lending; this is a voluntary or ‘self-regulatory’ code, which sets standards of good lending practice. These standards seek to ensure that Jersey consumers are treated fairly and that the opportunities for taking on excessive financial commitments are reduced. The Consumer Council is working hard with industry, Jersey Financial Services Commission, Citizens Advice, Trading Standards and the Financial Services Unit, Chief Minister’s Department to update the Code and to raise awareness of its importance as it provides various safeguards for consumers. The Financial Ombudsman will take codes of practice into account when determining a complaint. The Code exists even whilst it is being updated, it can be found at this link gov.je/tradingstandards/consumerlending and remains fully relevant.
  8. The Channel Islands Financial Ombudsman (CIFO) is an independent organisation that resolves complaints about financial services with powers to investigate complaints and award compensation. If you take a loan from an individual, rather than a lending business, you may not be able to complain about them to CIFO. Contact details ci-fo.org and 01534-748610.

What advice do we have for consumers?

Ask yourself why it is important for you to take on additional risk with peer-to-peer lending?

Will your financial situation improve with hard work over time so you can access the traditional mortgage market?

Do you have other housing options? Possibly rental

Our advice is to get professional, qualified and independent legal and financial advice before making any decisions. Don’t let the excitement of a new home cloud your judgement on such a large long term financial commitment. This may be the largest financial decision you ever make – don’t let it be the worst!

Make sure you have a professional valuation on the property you are thinking of buying. Consider if your property will be adequately insured – life insurance, critical illness, building and contents?

Terry Vaughan, Director, Head of Risk and Compliance at The Mortgage Shop and Henley Financial highlighted that If you’re a borrower, your lawyers need to make sure the person granting the loan has the authority and legal right to do so. Your professional adviser will also check on source of funds for the loan being proposed. You also need to ensure the terms are suitable for you. You need to be aware of the repayment schedule and be sure that it is within your budget”

 

Reference

http://www.which.co.uk/money/investing/types-of-investment/guides/peer-to-peer-investing/peer-to-peer-lending-explained


The importance of taking professional financial advice

August 30, 2017 Consumer Skills, Home life, Money Matters No Comments

 

Your financial circumstances might sometimes mean that you require professional advice to make sure that you make the correct decisions and take the correct actions.

A professional adviser will help you to prioritise your financial goals and give you an understanding of the bigger picture, taking into account other important factors such as any potential tax implications and investment risk. There are thousands of different financial products and investments available and choosing the right one for you can be difficult and at times confusing.

Do you need financial advice?

You may find it helpful to speak to a financial adviser if you are not sure what you need to do or are feeling confused about the options available to you. Financial advisers can help you with a variety of things, such as:

  • Providing an income after you stop work
  • Saving and investing your money
  • Buying and insuring your home
  • Insuring yourself and your family against illness, disability or premature death
  • Passing your assets on to the next generation tax efficiently
  • Changing personal circumstances such as starting a family, redundancy, divorce or bereavement

Once your financial adviser has recommended a plan to help you achieve your financial goals it should generally be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure it remains appropriate to your circumstances and accommodates any changes to your priorities.

What does professional financial advice cost?

Financial advisers usually charge for their services in one of (or a combination of) the following methods:

  • an hourly rate – typically averaging around £150 – £250, but can be higher for specialist advice;
  • a percentage of the money invested – this can vary depending on the size of the initial investment and will typically be 0.5% to 3%. An annual charge for reviewing an investment portfolio is likely to be 0.50%-1%;
  • a fixed project fee – typically £1,000 – £5,000 for a specific piece of research and advice work;
  • some firms may also charge clients a monthly retainer fee of between £50-£100.

Fees vary depending on the experience and qualifications of the adviser and the geographical location of the business.

Advisers are no longer paid commission, except for certain non-investment product recommendations, and they have to explain to you how much the advice will cost you. You will need to agree this and how you will pay for it before any advice is provided.

What should I be looking for when dealing with an adviser?

It is important to understand whether your adviser is regulated to provide investment and financial advice in Jersey.  A regulated advisory business needs to have in place professional indemnity insurance, which would provide their clients with an additional level of security.

A professional regulated adviser will be able to draw your attention to the potential pitfalls of what may seem a fool proof way to get a much better return on your assets. This is becoming more common place because traditional methods of generating returns on your capital such as bank deposits and low risk investments are currently providing little or low returns than in previous times.

The following list is a prompt for some of the questions you can ask your financial adviser.

  • Are you regulated to provide financial advice?
  • What is you experience?
  • What types of clients do you work with?
  • What are your qualifications?
  • Do you offer an area of expertise?
  • How much will the advice cost?
  • What information will you need from me?
  • What are the risks associated with the recommendation?

Financial planning involves revealing detailed personal financial information and can involve divulging information about your goals and ambitions, so you need to be comfortable in the company of an adviser. It is worth meeting a few to determine who you are most comfortable working with in an ongoing professional relationship.

And finally..

There are two great truths when considering investments

  1. If it looks too good to be true it generally is
  2. Don’t put your investment eggs in one basket

 


What type of Life Insurance Policy should I buy?

August 30, 2017 Insurances, Money Matters No Comments

Most people have two or three main protection needs that can be covered by Life Insurance (often known as Life Assurance):

 

  • Paying off large debts such as your mortgage in the event of your death.
  • Family protection, where you leave behind money for your family to live on after you’ve died.
  • Funeral expenses

Different types of insurance policies are good for different protection needs:

 

Term Assurance

The most basic type of life insurance is called term insurance, where you choose the amount you want to be insured for and the period for which you want cover. If you die within the chosen period, the policy pays out. If you don’t die during the term, the policy doesn’t pay out and the premiums you have paid are not returned to you.

 

There are three main types of term insurances to consider: level term, decreasing term and family income benefit. Sometimes a combination is the best answer.

 

  • Level Term Life Insurance

A level term policy pays out a lump sum if you die within the specified term. The amount you’re covered for remains level throughout the term – hence the name. The monthly or annual premiums you pay usually stay the same, as well.

 

Level term policies can be a good option for family protection, where you want to leave a lump sum that your family can invest to live on after you’ve gone. It can also be a good option if you need a specified amount of cover for a certain length of time, e.g. to cover an interest-only mortgage.

 

You might also consider including an automatic annual increase of the sum assured to counteract the effects of inflation or increasing expenses. There are even budget versions where the monthly cost is lower during the first few years.

 

 

  • Decreasing Term Life Insurance

With a decreasing term policy, the amount you’re covered for decreases over the term of the policy. These policies are often used to cover a debt that reduces over time, such as a repayment mortgage.

Premiums are usually significantly cheaper than for level-term cover as the amount insured reduces as time goes on.

 

  • Family Income Benefit Life Insurance

Family income benefit life insurance is a type of decreasing term policy. Instead of a lump sum, though, it pays out a regular income until the policy’s expiry date if you die.

 

The upside of family income benefit is that it is easier to work out how much you need. For example, if you take home £2,000 a month, you can arrange for the same amount to be paid out to your family if you die.

 

 

Whole-of-Life

As the name suggests, whole-of-life policies are ongoing policies that pay out when you die, whenever that is. Because it’s guaranteed that you’ll die at some point (and therefore that the policy will have to pay out), these policies are more expensive than term assurance policies, which only pay out if you die within a certain timeframe. These are often used when cover is required for funeral expenses.

 

The good news is that Life Cover in general is now more affordable, and most importantly can provide you with  peace of mind, knowing that your family will be financially protected in the event of your passing away.

 

 

For and on behalf of Cherry Godfrey Insurance Services (Jersey) Ltd  

Regulated by The Jersey Financial Services Commission in the carrying on of investment and general insurance mediation business

 


Trading Standards credit card warning: online payments where you lose protection

August 30, 2017 Banking, Home life, Money Matters No Comments

A little-known flaw in the Consumer Credit Act may put Jersey shoppers at risk of losing their money if things go wrong.

 

Under Section 75 of the UK Consumer Credit Act, shoppers who make payments between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card can get their money back if the goods turn out to be faulty, not as described or don’t arrive. The UK law makes the retailer and credit card company jointly liable. Jersey consumers usually benefit from this protection due to terms and conditions reflecting the UK Consumer Credit Act.

 

However, a little-known loophole revealed by a MoneySavingExpert means that consumers will only be reimbursed if there is a direct link between the customer, their credit card provider and the supplier. If the payment is processed by a third-party company then the protection under Section 75 does not apply.

 

So, if you bought a concert ticket through an agent on a credit card, you may not be able to get your money back using Section 75 if it doesn’t arrive.

The same may apply if you booked a holiday through a travel agent. However, the travel industry may very well have their own financial protection schemes in place.

 

You may also not be covered for credit card transactions made through online payment platforms, such as PayPal, because it breaks the chain between customer and supplier.  However, if the firm you’re buying from has a “Commercial Entity Agreement” you’ll be able to make a claim under Section 75 even if you use PayPal. PayPal has its own Buyer Protection scheme. This covers online purchases made on eBay and other websites if the item does not arrive or match the seller’s description. Property, vehicles, custom-made items and industrial machinery are among some items that are not guaranteed.

 

Amazon is another firm where Section 75 may not apply. Shoppers who buy items on a credit card from third-party suppliers on the online marketplace will not be covered. If you buy directly from Amazon then you could make a claim.

 

Confused, it is not surprising! Trading Standards offers the following advice:

  • Know who you are buying from and who will take your payment
  • Wherever possible put payments on your credit card
  • If you are entitled to protection, you are still covered even if a small proportion, part payment or deposit was paid using your card
  • When things go wrong, don’t delay. If you don’t have Section 75 protection you may alternative protection through platform buyer protection schemes, but these are often time limited.

 

Free confidential consumer advice is available from Trading Standards on 448162 or email tradingstandards@gov.je. You can also drop in, they are in the Central Market under the clock.

 


Occasionally when we buy goods or services we’re asked to pay a deposit… but what are our rights?

August 30, 2017 Consumer Skills, Home life, Money Matters No Comments

When we pay a deposit, we are committing to a binding contract with the outstanding payment to be paid at a later date. The natural position of the Law is that the deposit will not be refunded should you decide you do not want the goods or services. You should be aware that the trader may be in a position to pursue you for the outstanding money.

 

For example, when ordering a wedding dress or prom dress, we are usually required to pay something upfront. It is always recommended that you ask whether the amount it is refundable or not, and if it is, ask the person to indicate the term on the receipt or by email.

 

For further advice on this matter or any other consumer issues, please contact Trading Standards on 01534 44160.

 


GST and the De-Minimis Waiver

May 19, 2017 Money Matters No Comments

Customs Explain that the De Minimis Waiver is intended to benefit an individual making a single purchase worth under £240 and shipping it to Jersey

All goods are liable to GST on import regardless of value. The de-Minimis waiver under which GST is not charged is not a right but an administrative concession designed to manage the overwhelming numbers of consignments and letter packets that would otherwise have to be charged up. The cost of handling such high volumes of low value goods outweighs the amount that would actually be collected. The de-minimis waiver ministerial decision can be found by clicking https://www.gov.je/government/planningperformance/pages/ministerialdecisions.aspx?docid=0995E584-AA0F-4CA0-96A9-A5BDF532FB64

 

The de-Minimis waiver was intended to benefit an individual making a single purchase worth under £240 and shipping it to Jersey. It was not intended to allow individuals, or indeed businesses, to make several purchases all under £240 from the same supplier on the same day hoping they will arrive separately. The Customs & Immigration Service web page on gov.je https://www.gov.je/TaxesMoney/GST/GSTCustomers/Pages/DeclaringPaying.aspx#anchor-1 clearly states that “If you order multiple items (consignments) that arrive as one shipment, we will treat this as a single delivery.”


Funeral costs comparison

March 28, 2017 Money Matters No Comments

Funeral costs comparison


Death should not be a topic which we all avoid discussing – it is best to talk about death regardless of your age; remember it is a fact of life and your funeral service shouldn’t leave your family in debt.

We would recommend that you visit each of the Funeral Directors in Jersey to view their premises
and meet the staff who would be caring for your family. Each business offers bespoke personalised services and your relationship with the Funeral Director is really important throughout the planning and service stages.

“Understandable lack of shopping around by consumers at their lowest ebb, and an industry where costs can be opaque; the reality is a huge range in pricing, which could potentially save consumers hundreds of pounds”

Simon Cox, Consumer Protection Proposition Lead, Royal London Group1 SunLife’s annual 2016 report titled ‘The Cost of Dying’ is the fastest rising of any fixed cost in the UK – rising much faster than living costs, such as rent, food, utilities, insurance or clothing: ‘the funeral – which makes up 44% of the cost of dying – has soared by 5.5% in a single year. The average funeral in the UK now costs £3,897 which is more than double what it was when SunLife first started tracking funeral prices in 2004’.

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