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The shoddy corporate practices companies need to change in 2013

  • The Guardian
  • Published: 15:42 January 6, 2013
  • Gulf News

Here’s a list of things which need to be stopped to make life easier for consumers

A cap on bills run up by mobile phone thieves

We’ve seen bills of 9,000 or more sent to customers who didn’t know, for a day or two, that their phone had been nicked. In that time, the thieves run up preposterous bills, which the mobile companies even more preposterously pass on to the customer, making a neat profit for themselves along the way. Bank card losses are limited, so the banks closely monitor unusual behaviour on an account. Why can’t mobile companies to do the same?

Force banks to pay better savings rates

Billions of pounds are languishing in thousands of sub-standard savings accounts paying rates that once were competitive but are now peanuts. Last year David Cameron ordered the power companies to simplify tariffs and automatically shift customers to the best deal appropriate to them. So why, in banking, is it acceptable to offer “best buy” online savings rates to the few while ripping off established, loyal customers? The “read across” from the energy cartel to the banking cartel is obvious, Mr Cameron. Are you prepared to take them on?

How about a minimum rate for Isas pegged to the base rate? Yes, that means only 0.5% for now, but at some point although probably not this year the Bank of England will raise rates.

Ban supermarket fake deals

Not just the daft ones we feature every week. Which? caught Asda selling a Goodfella’s Deep Pan Pepperoni pizza at a standard price of about 1, but when it went on to a multibuy deal, the price jumped to 2.50 for one or 4.50 for two. Half-price and multibuy offers have become less believable the more ubiquitous they have become. They have left both trading standards officers and the law far behind. Tougher action by the OFT is needed and probably a revision to the law around promotions and deals. It could also be an opportunity to redraft permissions for change of use that is allowing the likes of Tesco to take over so many pubs in the teeth of local opposition.

Anger is growing at the gas, electricity and water companies which set direct debits too high and let you build up large positive balances great for them, but not for you. When you request the money back, you tell us they put one obstacle after another in the way. Let’s turn this around 180 degrees. Fine, overcharge us but give us 5% interest on the balance. They’ll be fighting to hand the money back.

Generation Rent is being royally stuffed by Generation Buy-To-Let, who grabbed all the houses. They are being royally stuffed a second time by letting agents who make up any number of fees, knowing that in a tight market young adults must like it or lump it. Pretty soon, millions of families will be renting privately, on shoddy contracts, billed 400 or so for “contract administration” (a few pieces of photocopied paper), 150 for credit checking, 100 for an inventory, payments for an insurance policy stuffed with commission, and, finally, an exorbitant cleaning bill on exit, no matter how well the property has been cared for.

But it’s not just the tenants. As I’ve written before, letting agents try to (a) charge extraordinary fees to first-time landlords, (b) try charging the same fees to the tenant, (c) charge it all again at the end of the six-month shorthold tenancy and (d) disappear as soon as the landlord or tenant needs something done.

If there is one area of the economy that is crying out for the law to be brought up to date, it is the residential lettings industry.

Guardian News and Media 2013

Gulf News

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