Thursday, 7 July 2011

Action to stop scourge of silent calls

The phone regulator, Ofcom, says the energy company, Npower, and the emergency plumbing and boiler company, Homeserve, may have broken rules governing large scale phone campaigns.

It is investigating the firms, which have over 9 million customers between them, for subjecting members of the public to too many silent or abandoned marketing calls.

Ofcom says it believes they "persistently misused an electronic communications network" by making an excessive number of abandoned calls.

Call centres use automatic diallers to contact large numbers of people. But the person at home can find there's no one on the line if there aren't enough staff at the call centre.

It added that Homeserve repeatedly called people within a 24 hour period and that Npower played recorded marketing messages if no one from the call centre came on the line.

Ofcom can impose fines of up to £2m. It is considering whether to take further action.

Homeserve admitted to the BBC that it had been in breach of the regulations for a very short period, but a spokeswoman said the company was now fully compliant.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Savers desperate for rate rise

A group of campaigners working on behalf of savers has called on the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee to raise interest rates to help pensioners and encourage saving.

Save Our Savers says a country without savings is a country without a future.

And it warns that those on fixed incomes, such as pensioners, are suffering terribly from the combination of extremely low interest rates and above target inflation.

The group has written to all nine members of the Monetary Policy Committee, who are expected to leave the Bank's base rate at its historic low of 0.5% after meeting today and tomorrow.

The letter complains that the real value of the nation's cash savings has fallen by £50 billion over the last 12 months as a result of high inflation and low rates.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Public sector pay is 7.8% higher

Critics of the public sector will be grinding their teeth at the sight of the public-private pay gap widening even further.

This is extra ammunition for those calling for public sector cuts and lower pensions.

However, the bald figures come with a health warning.

After years of contracting out, staff are more likely to be teachers or nurses than cleaners and caterers and many more have degrees.

Statisticians have to try to adjust for that.

Plus, they warn that most private sector bonuses and perks aren't counted in the comparison and nor are self-employed lawyers, businessmen and entrepreneurs.

Monday, 4 July 2011

How will I save to pay for care?

Andrew Dilnot is encouraging insurance companies and other firms to come forward with new ways of saving, so that people can prepare to cover the cost of buying care in old age.

He's hoping that by capping the bill for care at £35,000, savers will be more confident that they can build up an effective way of meeting the bill.

In today's report, Dilnot suggests that pensions, Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) and houses will be the favoured ways of saving, because they all benefit from tax breaks.

And he points to some specific products which could be beefed up by providers.

They include equity release, where a homeowner takes out a new mortgage on his or her property in order to fund some additional income, and critical illness policies from insurers.

He's also interested in making disability-linked annuities available. This would be a form of pension income, designed to increase sharply when the policyholder's needs became acute.

A big question hangs over the proposals, though: will people opt to save more, given that Andrew Dilnot is proposing to make care provision more generous than before?

He admits that few people are interested: they don't understand the care system and don't want to think about the day they'll need the care.

Paying for care - how it might work

Here's Andrew Dilnot's example of how his new system would work:

"Alice lived alone in her own home worth £175,000. She had dementia and needed to go into a residential care home when she was 83 for the last five years of her life.

  • Under the current system, she would have to pay for all her care and living costs in full until she died. To cover this she would have to sell her home and would end up spending over £90,000.
  • Under our reformed systemAlice would contribute in full to her care and general living costs for two years. At this point she would have reached the £35,000 cap and from then on the state would pay her care costs of £18,500 per year and Alice would just pay for her general living costs out of her pension income. She would keep 80 per cent of her wealth (£140,000)."

What this appears to mean:

*free or partly free care in England for those with savings and property worth less than £100,000 (up from £23,250)

*A cap on what you pay (once you're above that threshold) of £35,000 for care (washing,dressing, moving etc), while you pick up the hotel costs (food and accommodation)

*once you reach the £35,000 cap the care comes free, but you continue pay what you can for the hotel costs out of your income. The contribution would be up to £10,000 a year, or £190 a week, which means that people relying just on the state pension would have to dip into savings.