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Thursday, 15 December 2016

Thursday, December 15, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, December 15, 2016 with No comments | Labels:

Taxpayers foot £50m bill for Southern rail strike
Because of a deal struck with Southern by the Government, the cost of the disruption will be borne by the taxpayer. Under the seven-year deal, the Government pays Govia more than £1 billion a year to run the service. Ministers agreed to bear the financial risk of running the railway because of the significant disruption caused by the redevelopment of London Bridge station. In return, the fees that Southern collects in fares are passed to the Government. It means that during the 20 days lost to strikes this year – when there are no fares to collect – the Government must bear the cost of £38 million in lost revenue. The deal also states that the Government will pick up the tab for compensation claims likely to be filed by passengers who have paid season ticket fares but have no services to catch – an estimated £15 million. Nick Herbert, the Conservative MP for Arundel and South Downs and a former minister, said:  “Because of the way the franchise is structured, there isn’t proper accountability. It should be the company bearing the cost of compensation and failure to meet targets.” Meanwhile, Govia Thameslink Railway, the company that runs Southern, is saving an estimated £1.1 million in pay for train drivers and conductors who are out on strike this week. Govia could still be hit with financial penalties totalling tens of millions of pounds for delayed and cancelled services. However, it is claiming that disruption caused by strikes and staff sickness is a force majeure and it should therefore not have to pay the fines. TELEGRAPH

How Britain's biggest shops are pocketing YOUR delivery fee refunds on unwanted items and making up to £4.1bn
Online stores including Asos, Boohoo and Topshop routinely pocket the postage and packaging costs - often called delivery fees or charges - when customers return goods. A Money Mail investigation reveals that these online retailers could be breaking a little-known consumer law. According to the Consumer Contracts Regulations, introduced in 2014, customers who return items should get a refund for the price of the goods and the standard postage costs they paid for home delivery. Lawyers say the original delivery fee should be handed back automatically as part of any refund if the items are returned within a set period. Yet our research found many shops hold on to the cash - typically around £3 per delivery - unless you ask for it. Often your rights are buried in the smallprint on retailers’ websites. Then customers are made to jump through hoops to get the money they’re owed, such as filling in extra forms or making phone calls. For example, the press office for online clothes shop Asos, which made £1.4 billion in sales in the past financial year, says it does refund its £3 postage charge if a shopper asks. But when Money Mail contacted its customer services, an email came back saying the fees were a ‘non-refundable cost’ and made no mention of the law. Experts say most shoppers fail to claim because they are unaware of their rights or do not have time. In the UK, some 1.38 billion items were returned last year, says consultancy Clear Returns. It means shops could be sitting on £4.1 billion of postage fees. The Consumer Contracts Regulations 2014 state that if you return items bought over the phone or internet within 14 days of receiving them, you should receive a full refund. There does not have to be anything wrong with the goods: it’s enough simply to have changed your mind. The rules state that as well as a refund for the item, customers should get back their original, standard delivery costs if they return the whole order at once. DAILY MAIL

Families 'left at the mercy of fraudsters' who cost us £15bn a year after number of trading standards officers is cut by 56% since 2009
The National Audit Office (NAO) says consumer protection is suffering following massive cuts to trading standards services. Trading standards officers point to the horsemeat scandal, problems with exploding hoverboards and the fires linked to tumble dryers as evidence of what is going wrong. 'Some services now have only one qualified officer,' said the NAO. 'Despite this lack of funding, local trading standards teams are expected to enforce 263 different pieces of legislation for different government departments with little direction from government on the priority of these.' The NAO pointed to problems such as mass marketing scams, often involving bogus prize drawn, which are widespread and impact on the elderly and vulnerable. It said a typical postal scam victim, who is 74 years old and lives alone, will lose around £4,500. 'Many experience psychological problems,' said the NAO. The watchdog said e-crime is becoming a huge problem with, among other things, criminals defrauding wealthy individuals of large sums of money by selling non-existent investments. There is a problem of unsafe goods, which can cause injury and fatalities. Common recent examples include make-up that contained carcinogens, counterfeit medicines, and electrical items which caught fire when charging. And there is a burgeoning black market in counterfeit items. The NAO pointed to problems such as mass marketing scams, often involving bogus prize drawn, which are widespread and impact on the elderly and vulnerable. It said a typical postal scam victim, who is 74 years old and lives alone, will lose around £4,500. 'Many experience psychological problems,' said the NAO. The watchdog said e-crime is becoming a huge problem with, among other things, criminals defrauding wealthy individuals of large sums of money by selling non-existent investments. National audit office chief  Amyas Morse said Consumer protection bodies have shown they can make good impacts with limited resources. National audit office chief  Amyas Morse said Consumer protection bodies have shown they can make good impacts with limited resources. There is a problem of unsafe goods, which can cause injury and fatalities. Common recent examples include make-up that contained carcinogens, counterfeit medicines, and electrical items which caught fire when charging. And there is a burgeoning black market in counterfeit items. DAILY MAIL

Unpaid benefits at record level
A total of £1.7bn in benefits was not paid to those entitled to the money in 2015-16, a new record rate of underpayment. Nearly 65% of underpaid benefits - the equivalent to about £1bn a year - was the result of inaccurate information from claimants. The government said it was providing more help to claimants to provide accurate information. But David Samson, the welfare benefits project manager at the Turn2us charity, said that this support was not always easy to get. "People are finding it harder and harder to access face-to-face help with completing these forms, which is why this problem goes unnoticed. This is a particular concern for people living with a mental health problem or who have learning difficulty who may need the extra support when completing them. The latest figures showed the biggest rise in benefit underpayments was in Pension Credit, a top-up to the state pension for low-income pensioners. With this benefit, the DWP admitted that the biggest cause was official error. A year ago, the work and pensions select committee said that, while many parts of the welfare system worked well, underpayments needed a higher priority. Benefit problems "often led claimants to face difficult decisions over whether to pay their rent or provide essentials such as food, gas and electricity for their household", it concluded, with many becoming reliant on food banks as a result of underpaid benefits. Overpayments of benefits totalled £3.3bn, the equivalent of 1.9% of benefit payments, the DWP figures show. BBC NEWS

Completely fee-free basic accounts for the poor: millions are still paying fees
Basic bank accounts are designed for people who do not already have a bank account and are ineligible for a standard current account. While eight million people have basic accounts, around half of them are still liable to pay fees for failed payments. Completely fee-free basic accounts have been available since January 2016, following an industry agreement. Vulnerable customers who have such accounts are not charged for failed payments, or for going overdrawn. The Treasury figures show that 3.7 million people have accounts that do not conform to the agreement, struck between the government and the banking industry, in 2014. Of those, 3.6 million bank with Lloyds. Only 4% of those who have basic bank accounts with Lloyds have access to the cheapest banking terms, the figures show. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is the only other bank where some basic account customers have to pay fees. At the other seven big High Street banks, all basic account holders receive the best deal on offer. BBC NEWS

Abandon net migration target, says CBI
The employers group, the CBI, is calling on the government to abandon an immigration target which was set by David Cameron and which then proved part of his undoing. Britain's biggest business group is attempting a very difficult balancing act. The CBI needs to acknowledge public concern over immigration while at the same time warning about looming labour shortages in key industries like agriculture, care and construction. The CBI insists that immigration has had little impact on wages, particularly in low-skilled areas. But privately, many bosses acknowledge that immigrants, who often sleep several to a room, and often leave their families back in Eastern Europe, are prepared to work for lower wages. And that depresses wages at the bottom of the pay scale. A Bank of England study found that although small, there was a "statistically significant" negative impact on wages in some unskilled occupations which had high concentrations of immigrant workers. The CBI raises some very real challenges facing UK businesses and the economy as a whole. There are serious questions about who will build Hinkley C nuclear power station, an expanded Heathrow airport, the HS2 railway project, and hundreds of thousands of new homes. An ageing population will need more carers, and turnips don't pick themselves. The government has been making some conciliatory noises. Speaking to business leaders in Cardiff, Brexit Secretary David Davis said that while freedom of movement will end in its current form, the government does not want to end up with damaging labour shortages in key areas. That raises the potential for work permits or visas to be issued on a sector-by-sector basis, as required by particular industries. BBC NEWS

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