Thursday 23 April 2015

Thursday, April 23, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, April 23, 2015 with No comments | Labels:

UK supermarket “deals” dupe shoppers out of hundreds of millions, says Which?
The consumer group Which? claims supermarkets are pushing illusory savings and fooling shoppers into choosing products they might not have bought if they knew the full facts. Examples raised by Which? include Tesco flagging the “special value” of a sweetcorn sixpack when a smaller pack was proportionately cheaper, and Asda raising the individual price of a product in order to make the multi-buy deal more attractive. The cumulative impact of all these different pricing tactics is that it is impossible for people to know if they are getting a fair deal, the consumer group says, particularly when prices vary frequently, consumers are in a hurry or are buying numerous low value items. About 40% of groceries in Britain are currently sold on promotion, according to the retail analysts Kantar Worldpanel. With £115bn spent on groceries and toiletries in 2013, Which? said consumers could be collectively losing out to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds. This is the first ever super-complaint Which? has lodged against the grocery sector after compiling a dossier of “dodgy multi-buys, shrinking products and baffling sales offers” and sending it to the Competition and Markets Authority. Which? has previously made super-complaints on care homes, credit card interest rates, Northern Ireland banking, private dentistry and the Scottish legal profession. GUARDIAN

Jail: France convicts Nina Ricci perfume heir of HSBC-assisted tax evasion
The heir to the Nina Ricci perfume dynasty has been sentenced to three years in prison, two of them suspended, after being convicted of hiding money from the French taxman with the help of HSBC. A Paris court also fined Arlette Ricci €1m (£722,000) after declaring she had shown a “particularly determined willingness for more than 20 years” to hide money left to her by her father in Swiss bank accounts. “The seriousness of the facts are an exceptional threat to public order and the republican pact,” read the judgment, seen as an important precedent for as many as 50 other cases of alleged tax fraud involving HSBC in France. Judges also ordered the seizure of a house in Paris and a property in Corsica with a total estimated value of €4m, that it said had been transferred to family trusts in an alleged attempt by Ricci to “organise her own insolvability” and escape financial penalties. Ricci, 74, is the first of around 50 wealthy French nationals being pursued in the courts for allegedly placing money in Switzerland to avoid taxes. During the high-profile trial, she was accused of hiding €18m from the French taxman. She had fiercely denied the accusations, insisting the measures taken to optimise her tax bill were legal. Ricci’s tax adviser Henri-Nicolas Fleurance was given a one-year suspended prison sentence and a €10,000 fine for attempting to organise her insolvency, and Ricci’s daughter an eight-month suspended sentence for fiscal fraud. The Geneva-based branch of HSBC is accused of having hidden around €5bn for nearly 9,000 wealthy French customers. As well as French investigations, the Swiss branch of HSBC is facing charges of fraud and money laundering in Belgium after the Brussels authorities claimed it had “knowingly eased and promoted fiscal fraud by making offshore companies available to certain privileged clients”. GUARDIAN

Survey: inheritance and gifts the only way for 50% of young people to get on the property ladder
Nearly half parents, or 49 per cent, think their children will be able to buy their first home only after receiving an inheritance, a survey of more than 1,000 parents suggest. Highlighting the generation gap when it comes to home-owning aspirations, nearly a third of 25-to-34 year olds surveyed had used cash gifts for a deposit. One-in-six aged between 25 and 34 relied on inheritance from a relative to buy their own house, compared to just one-in-20 people aged over 55, housing charity Shelter said. The asking price for the average UK house is currently a record £286,133, beating a peak reached last June. This rises to £594,585 in London – a 49 per cent increase compared to five years ago, property website Rightmove said, blaming a shortage of housing and growing demand for the increases. In England, the proportion of young people aged 25 to 34 who are privately renting has more than doubled since 2003/04 to 48 per cent. Over the same 10 years, owner-occupation levels in this age group have fallen from 59 per cent to 36 per cent, according to the English Housing Survey. Shelter said: ‘Rather than pumping more money into schemes like Help to Buy, which just push prices up, politicians should instead give back hope to the priced out generation by making a real and lasting commitment to building the affordable homes we desperately need.’ DAILY MAIL

Payday regulation crackdown pushes Wonga into its first annual loss ever
The reversal of fortunes for the UK’s biggest payday lender — after years of profits — reflects the costs of a large-scale clean-up prompted by a dramatic tightening of regulation. Wonga, which reported a loss after tax of £42.8m for 2014, does not expect to be profitable again this year. The Financial Conduct Authority expects all but a handful of Britain’s 400 payday lenders to be wiped out by a cap on the total amount they can charge, which came into force at the start of the year. For Wonga, the cap has already pushed margins down by two-thirds on a per customer basis. Its customer base of one million has fallen to under 600,000. Wonga has drawn fierce criticism from politicians, consumer groups and debt charities for charging high interest rates and hefty charges to struggling borrowers. Andy Haste, executive chairman, said he was introducing sweeping changes that he warned would substantially dent the group’s profitability in the short term. He has not ruled out dropping the Wonga brand altogether, although said he would not rebrand in the immediate future. FINANCIAL TIMES

Stiffer regulation means HSBC could move headquarters away from UK, hints bank's chairman
The bank – along with others based in the UK – is being required to ringfence its high street business from its investment banking operations to comply with the reforms set out by Sir John Vickers in his review of banking. The bank is relocating 1,000 staff to Birmingham where it intends to put the headquarters of its ringfenced operation. The bank’s shareholders are also said to be questioning its London headquarters in Canary Wharf because of George Osborne’s bank levy, which cost HSBC £750m last year. The chancellor’s levy is calculated on the size of a bank’s balance sheet. To comply with global rules, banks such as HSBC are also being required to hold more capital. Standard Chartered, another bank headquartered in London but with much of its activities outside the UK, is also facing questions from shareholders. GUARDIAN

Worst year in Tesco’s history puts staff pensions under threat
Tesco staff are being sent details of a plan to replace its "generous" pension scheme, following other big names which have cut back on the employer benefit. The plan comes after the retailer announced the worst results in its history - a statutory pre-tax annual loss of £6.4bn. Tesco wants to close its defined benefit pension scheme - which guarantees a pension based on earnings and length of service - to new members and for existing members' future accrual. This means that, should the change happen, all entitlements to date would be preserved, but staff would then move to a defined contribution scheme. These schemes are generally less generous and the size of the pension pot depends on the success of the investments the money is put into. Hardly any defined benefit schemes are available to new staff joining the biggest companies in the UK, unlike the public sector. More than 80% of large employers offered a defined benefit scheme for new hires 15 years ago, a report by pension consultants Towers Watson found. Now, 97% of the FTSE 350 companies surveyed only offer a defined contribution scheme to new staff members. BBC NEWS

98% of cars don’t match or beat their miles per gallon (mpg) claims
Consumers are being misinformed about their cars’ fuel consumption in advertising and at point of sale, which means they’re likely to end up spending more on fuel. The official test used by carmakers is outdated and contains a number of loopholes that lead to unrealistic figures. Manufacturers are allowed to reduce results by 4% at the end of the test, can opt to only test in a car’s ‘eco’ mode, turn off lights and air-con, and increase tyre pressures above the recommended levels to reduce rolling resistance. It also doesn’t accurately reflect real-life scenarios, such as motorway driving. The consumer organisation Which? tested 200 new cars across 2013 and 2014 and found that all but three of them fell short of their official mpg figures by 13% on average, resulting in drivers spending £133 more a year on fuel. The car that performed worst compared to its official mpg figure was the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (a plug-in hybrid), which overstated its mpg by a staggering 120%, costing £459 a year in unexpected fuel costs. But the car that hit its owners’ pockets the hardest was the Jeep Grand Cherokee - based on Which? tests, drivers will shell out up to £854 a year more on fuel. Other cars that will cost owners a lot more to fuel are the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupé (£421), BMW X4 (£419) and Volvo V60 Plug-In Hybrid (£352). An improved test, which closely mirrors the one used by Which?, is due to be introduced from 2017, but the European Commission is facing heavy pressure from the car industry to delay this change until 2020 and any further delay will only end up costing consumers. WHICH?

Fifteen million credit card holders have their limit increased without asking
The findings comes as a series of studies and economic surveys suggest that households are taking on increasing levels of debt, which may become unsustainable as interest rates eventually start to rise. Limits were increased by an average of £750, although more than a third said their limits had gone up by over £1,000. As many as 41 per cent of credit card holders – the equivalent of 15 million people – have seen their credit limit increased in the past year, even though they have not requested a rise. But while some borrowers who are confident at their ability to repay may be grateful for an increase, 19 per cent of those questioned said they felt nervous they would spend the money and not afford to repay. Anyone who has their credit limit increased against their wishes can phone up their credit card provider to ask for it to be reduced again. A quarter of those given higher limits have contacted their lender to reject it, the poll found. Already some households are depending on credit for essential items, particularly 35 to 44 year-olds, with close to 20 per cent borrowing simply to make ends meet. If household debt continues to grow at its current level it could hit £10,000 per household by the end of next year - an unprecedented level of borrowing. DAILY MAIL


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