Monthly Archives: September 2017
Competition in any market place is all about providing greater choice for consumers. It generates innovation, efficiency and enterprise amongst businesses, which means that consumers inherently get to enjoy more competitive pricing and improved quality. And it’s protecting and promoting the interests of consumers that the Jersey Consumer Council is concerned with.
Competition, by its very nature, puts businesses under constant pressure to offer the best possible range of goods, at the best possible prices. If they don’t, consumers have the option to buy elsewhere. However, in Jersey, as with many other small Island communities, competition can sometimes be lacking. This means that consumers have limited opportunities to buy elsewhere, which can be extremely frustrating.
Our pivotal role at the Consumer Council is to help minimize these frustrations and boost competition on the Island, by giving consumers a voice and businesses a greater understanding of what consumers need. We do this through ongoing consumer research and collaborative ventures, with our contemporaries at CICRA (Channel Island Competition Regulatory Authority) and Trading Standards; businesses; industry bodies and other community groups and charities.
Regulation seeks to apply rules to make sure that businesses and companies compete fairly with each other and, in Jersey, this is overseen by the CICRA. But somebody needs to be looking out for the little guy and that’s where agencies like the Consumer Council and Trading Standards come in.
The Jersey Consumer Council is a unique body, in that it is independent from government and can act freely as the consumers’ champion. Our role is to encourage businesses to give themselves a competitive edge by putting consumers’ interests first. We investigate and publicise anomalies in consumer affairs. We provide consumers with accurate and timely information, to help them make informed purchasing decisions. And we are dedicated to creating greater transparency amongst businesses competing in the market place.
Transparency can be difficult in a market which lacks competition, but it is essential for giving consumers the opportunity to genuinely compare services and prices. Cast your minds back to petrol stations where, only a few years ago, you were unaware of the price of fuel per litre until you had actually arrived at the pump!
Effective collaboration between the regulatory authorities, the Consumer Council and the fuel providers, there is clear signage, displaying pump prices at the road. Jersey Consumer Council also hosts Jersey Fuel Watch, a website www.jerseyfuelwatch.com on which we display both road fuel and heating oil prices, giving consumers a one-stop price-comparison shop.
One of the most confusing market sectors for consumers is telecommunications. In a bid to improve transparency here, amidst a limited number of highly competitive providers, the Consumer Council established TelCoWatch, a one-stop comparisons website, to help Islanders make informed choices about how and where they best spend their telecoms budget.
This site, which is supported by the telecoms companies, cuts through industry jargon and lays out the product offerings and cost structures available, so that consumers can choose the provider, product and contract which best fits their personal needs. It is collaborations like these, established and driven by the Consumer Council, that serve to create a culture of positive, fair, consumer-led competition on the Island.
Competition isn’t just based on price; the provision of customer care can be a key area of differentiation. This was evident when the Consumer Council conducted some research within the competitive arena of Primary Health Care. Our aim was to challenge providers to be more transparent with their pricing structures, but our findings also revealed that consumers have a strong desire to feel valued – good customer service can be a significant factor in driving their choices.
In a noteable OXERA report, Professor Sir John Vickers noted that ‘in small-island economies, such as Jersey, it is just as important that markets work well, as it is in larger economies. But in smaller jurisdictions competition policy and regulation, where competition is not possible, faces particular challenges.’ The consumer is a key player in keeping businesses competitive – they do their talking with their £££s, which can be just as powerful as regulatory efforts to control competition.
What is clear is that the consumer voice needs to be heard. Looking after their interests is a crucial aspect within a successful, competitive market place and the Consumer Council continues to work with, and behalf of, Islanders to make a positive and valued influence on our local economy
Thinking about Life Insurance… but not sure which policy is right for you?
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:
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?
- Loans are usually granted on an interest-only basis (meaning you repay no capital) and for a short duration, typically 1 to 3 years.
- 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).
- 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?
- Interest rates can vary, depending on the lender and their appetite or consideration of the risks involved.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”
Eating on a budget, finding time and having the confidence to prepare meals from scratch, are why sometimes many find it difficult. With a bit of planning, using leftovers and just giving it a go, it does get easier.
A good place to start is a weekly menu plan and a budget, which will help you get into the habit of knowing what your weekly shop will cost. Allocate one or two days for a pasta dish, they are cheap, quick with many variations, such as meatballs and spaghetti, ham and pea or simply fresh tomato sauce, all of which should cost under £5.
Sunday is a great day for a roast as you will have more time, plus you can use the leftovers for a dish or two during the week. Why not buy a bigger chicken and strip the carcass down to create a chicken and leek pie on Monday, or a chicken curry with some simple flat- breads another day?
Once you become confident with creating really simple dishes, you’ll find yourself building several weekly meal planners which you can just use time and time again. Because after all, we need these things to be simple.
Caring Cooks have a range of cost effective recipes allowing you to try your planning, shopping and cooking skills. Caring Cooks are treating us all to a Cookery demonstration 27th September Coop Grande Marche St. Helier 12:30 – 13:30 pm.
Let’s get started…
- Work out your weekly grocery budget (planners available by post or https://www.jerseyconsumercouncil.org.je/money-matters/budget-planner/).
- Plan out a weekly menu (recipes available by post or http://www.caringcooksofjersey.com).
- Write out your shopping list; including weight of ingredients.
- Be disciplined when you shop and stick to your budget. Where possible ‘Shop the Offers’. Get familiar with your supermarket’s offer cycles.
- Allow planning and preparation to be a priority. This gives you time to batch-cook and freeze where appropriate. There is no need to feel guilty about time spent planning and cooking.
- Enjoy your cooking, keep budgeting and planning.
If you would like to learn new skills and confidence in the kitchen, and are over 16, please get in touch with Caring Cooks to find out more.
Recipes which share ingredients and are simple to make can be found here on Caring Cooks website: