Wonga has announced that it is to write off more than 330,000 loans which are more than a month in arrears following an investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

On top of this around a further 45,000 customers who are up to 29 days in arrears will be asked to repay their debt without interest and charges.
The payday lender says it will be contacting all customers by 10 October to notify their particular loan is included in the above numbers.

A spokesman for the FCA, said: “We are determined to drive up standards in the consumer credit market and it is disappointing that some firms still have a way to go to meet our expectations. This should put the rest of the industry on notice – they need to lend affordably and responsibly.”

A notice on the Wonga website explained why the actions were being taken, it said: “You may have already read or heard in the news recently an announcement from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regarding changes to our lending criteria.
“We have been working closely with the FCA to agree additional requirements to our lending criteria, which have been implemented as of the 2 October 2014.

“We have also today committed to a major customer forbearance programme for many existing customers whose loans would not have been made had they been subject to the new affordability criteria introduced today.”

 

Latest research from comparison site Uswitch.com shows that broadband speeds across the UK are at their fastest at 5am, but slow by more than a fifth by the time the majority of people are using their PC, laptop or tablet at 9pm.

The range between best and worst speed varies in different parts of the UK with Exeter, Chester and Bath amongst those that saw the biggest difference in speeds, with all three seeing a slow down by more than 50% from peak to trough.

London and Cardiff fare slightly better but still see their broadband speeds drop by around a third.

A spokesman from uSwitch.com, said: “It won’t come as a surprise that your internet is bright eyed and bushy tailed in the early hours when it’s not groaning under the weight of evening demand. What will surprise many people is by how much speeds drop.

“Given that most of us want to use our home broadband in the evening, it may be concerning to find out that the speed advertised when we sign up won’t necessarily be the speed we get at peak hours.”

Most customers are aware of a degradation in service standards with seven out of ten users saying they notice their broadband is sluggish at certain times of the day, with more than half pinpointing the window from 8pm and 10pm as the worst.

Many respondents say the slow speeds have seen them giving up trying to watch films or catch up TV online, while more than a third were frustrated that it had stopped them from working.

The USwitch spokesman suggests “If you think you could do better, consider shopping around for a new deal. People may also find that speedier fibre broadband is worth investing in – particularly for households with multiple connected devices.”

Dwindling levels of disposable income has led to almost a third of people in the UK having to raid their savings each month to help pay for household essential, according to the Scottish Friendly ‘Disposable Income Index’.

It claims that more than nine million people regularly dip into their savings each month to the tune of around £100 just to help cover everyday expenses.

This index is updated every three months and looks at the saving and spending habits of UK consumers.

It reveals that on average, people are left with just eight per cent of their monthly salary or wages as disposable income. This is a slight improvement on six months ago, but for many, it is still a struggle to make ends meet without raiding their savings accounts.

On average, the report suggests people have just £205 left over each month after bills and essentials have been paid for, with one in four saying that they have less than £100 in disposable income left over each month.

A spokesman for Scottish Friendly, said: “The latest index indicates that while the willingness to save is still present among the majority of people in the UK, the capacity to save is on the decline. As the monthly levels of disposable income have remained relatively stable, this suggests that some people in the UK are getting squeezed elsewhere.

“Housing remains the biggest expense for most, so, when rent or mortgage payments go up, disposable incomes naturally reduce. For example, demand for rental properties across the UK increased by around seven per cent since June, while supply fell. This has helped squeeze personal budgets leaving many to dig into their savings to make ends meet.”

Industry experts believe things may deteriorate during the winter months as people need to find extra cash to pay for higher fuel costs and Christmas spending.

 

 

A Building Societies Association survey revealed that one in four mortgage customers claim they will struggle to cope financially if rates increase.

The research in conjunction with Money Advice Trust said that 40% will have to cut back on holidays and meals out to cope with the additional monthly cost.

More worrying was the claim that one in five say that they will be forced to cut back on the basics including food, heating and clothing.

A spokesman for the Building Societies Association, said: “Many consumers are only used to a low rate environment which will change and whilst most mortgage rates are not linked quite so directly to the base rate as they used to be, rates will rise as it increases.

“Some of the actions borrowers say they would take may not be within their control, for example working additional hours. Our advice to those concerned about interest rate rises is to start thinking about how they will manage the increased costs.”

A spokesman for the Money Advice Trust, said: “Our message to borrowers is clear – interest rates will rise and that day is coming soon, so now is the time to prepare. Draw up a budget, speak to your lender, and if you do find yourself struggling to repay, seek free debt advice as early as possible.”

Premiums for car insurance are too high, the competition watchdog has said.

The competition commission’s investigation of the £11bn motor insurance market found it was not working well for motorists . Too many drivers were footing the bill for unnecessary costs that were needed during the claims process for accidents and that this is adding between £150m and £200m a year to motorists’ premiums. These costs are initially for the drivers who have been in the accident but always end up feeding through to everyone else’s policy.

The commission is deciding whether to make a driver’s own insurer responsible for providing a replacement vehicle or to give insurers that are at fault a greater opportunity to take control over managing claims.

There could also be caps on the costs of providing a replacement motor and on the costs the repair peoples cars. This goes along with compulsory audits of repair quality, this is after the watchdog found that many repairs have not been completed to the required standard.

Other findings where with the sale of add-on products it is hard for customers to find the best value products.The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said it hoped the commission’s work would lead to lower premiums for customers.

Its head of motor insurance, James Dalton, said: “As an industry we remain absolutely committed to improving the car insurance market for hard-pressed motorists.”

 

Barclays has just announced that its business customers will be able to access their accounts via high-tech finger-recognition technology from 2015.

By scanning their finger with a VeinID device, customers will be able to log on to their accounts instead of having to rely on PINs, passwords or secret log ins.

It is hoped the technology, which picks up a customer’s unique vein patterns, will reduce the level of identity fraud experienced by businesses within the UK.

Barclays claims that vein patterns are extremely difficult to copy, making it a far more secure and accurate method of identifying a customer correctly.

The state of the art technology is already used by banks as a password replacement system and at ATMs in Japan, the States and some areas of Europe.

A spokesman for Barclays said: “This solution is at the leading edge of innovation and is in direct response to client concerns about the threat of online fraud while making our customers’ lives easier through its convenience.

“We have shown the technology to a range of businesses and the interest and enthusiasm for the product is tremendous. The technology has also been tested by Hitachi for many years and it will be game-changing for UK businesses and consumers.

 

 

Two-thirds of workers approaching retirement intend to continue doing some form of paid or voluntary work once they are in ‘retirement’.

Two-thirds of workers aged 50+ plan to do some form of paid work during retirement, with nearly a third doing so because they enjoy working, rather than for financial reasons. A quarter of workers (26%) plan to do voluntary work in their retirement to help the local community or charities, according to a new report from wealth adviser Towry.

Retirement is no longer a point in time, but may be staggered, or phased. As such, some financial products that have historically been used to fund retirement, notably annuities, may have less relevance in this context.

A spokesman for Towry, said: “With people living and staying fitter for longer in retirement – in many cases well into their 80s – those who have carefully laid financial plans for their future now have the flexibility to choose whether they continue working during retirement.

“This survey has shown that many who have planned well for their retirement are keen to continue playing some part in the working world, be this in a paid or voluntary role. If you seek financial advice early, you may even be able to realise some lifelong dreams during retirement, pursuing the ultimate vocation that you always desired.”

 

As the Bank of England becomes increasingly likely to increase interest rates, almost half of UK mortgage holders are unaware of their current interest rate, according to new reports.

More than a third were stunned to learn that if the base rate rises by just 1%, it could add £91 to the average UK variable mortgage payment.

With this in mind, a third of UK mortgage holders (31%) believe they would either have to make significant sacrifices or think they may struggle to make ends meet.

Two thirds of UK mortgage holders would prefer to be notified of a change to their mortgage rate via a printed letter – rising to three quarters of older borrowers.

People believe that a printed letter is most likely to prompt them into taking action and shopping around for a better mortgage deal.

Judith Donovan CBE, Chair of the Keep Me Posted campaign, the company behind the findings said: “There’s no doubt that at present, a large number of people stand to be affected significantly if the base rate rises, meaning many may be left struggling to afford their monthly mortgage payments. What was particularly shocking to us was the number of people that currently aren’t aware of their mortgage rate. It is also clear from our research that homeowners are more likely to react to any changes if notified via a posted letter. Companies should be aware that digital channels may not be suitable for all their customers and should be careful not to take a one size fits all approach.”

 

Six out of ten people who have moved up the property ladder in the past five years and taken out a bigger mortgage did not increase their life insurance cover.

A survey of 2039 adults by Sainsbury’s Bank Life Insurance revealed that four in ten did not think it was necessary to review their cover while alarmingly 37% said they could not afford to pay higher premiums.

The poll also revealed that 44% of homeowners who had a mortgage did not have any life insurance whatsoever..

Meanwhile, official figures revealed that UK house prices rose by almost 10% in the year to April 2014, with the average property now costing almost £260,000.

A spokesman for Sainsbury’s Bank Life Insurance, said: “Moving home can be an exciting but stressful experience and with such a long checklist of things to do, it appears that life insurance is often forgotten about.

“We would encourage anyone who is moving home or may have just moved to take some time to check their policy and the level of cover they have and make sure it’s suitable for their change in circumstances.”

 

Many cynics said peer to peer lending would never work in the UK; but with savings rates from banks and building societies stuck firmly in the doldrums for the foreseeable future there’s growing evidence that this new sector is starting to become very attractive to consumers.

With traditional savings rates having fallen by more than forty per cent in the last two years, returns on offer from the peer to peer providers are looking more tempting than ever.

Compared with mainstream banking, peer to peer may still in its formative years with Zopa, launching as the UK’s first peer-to-peer marketplace in 2005, but a continued lack of respect for the UK banking sector and rock bottom savings returns has seen the peer to peer market flourish.

Zopa remains the biggest player and to date having arranged more than £612 million in loans over the last eight years and now has over half a million members on its books. The projected return after any charges and defaults is currently up to 5.2%.

Another key player in the peer to peer sector and acting as the middle man for individual savers and borrowers is RateSetter.

Launched just under 4 years ago RateSetter may be considered a relative newcomer, but has already matched over £330 million for its lenders and borrowers, with around £250 million of this achieved in the last 18 months alone.

RateSetter currently offers a range of lending options (for savers), paying 3.5% fixed for a one year bond up to 6.1% fixed for a five year income bond.

It’s not surprising that they’re seeing a spike in business when you realise that the equivalent best buy savings bonds from the banks are paying just 1.85% (Kent Reliance) and 3.20% (Shawbrook Bank) respectively.

There is even a monthly access account paying 2.3% – and if you’re a little nervous or unsure if this is right for you, you can dip your toe in the water and try it out with a minimum deposit of just £10.

However, consumers shouldn’t see this alternative banking concept as a soft touch, as a strict credit scoring regime is absolutely vital to ensure defaults are kept to a minimum to give people confidence to continue to deposit their savings with the peer-to-peer companies.

RateSetter for example states that fewer than 15% of loan applications ware approved, so whilst it may offer a simpler and fairer way to borrow money, if you don’t have a top notch credit profile you’re going to have to find your finance elsewhere.

One of the main concerns with people depositing their cash with peer-to-peer providers is that although the returns far outweigh those paid by the banks, they don’t offer the cast iron guarantee to savers that bank customers enjoy under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Even though tough credit scoring criteria is in place, there is still an element of risk, albeit very small, that you don’t have with a bank or building society.

As long as you fully appreciate and are comfortable with this, lower overheads of not having to run a nationwide network of branches, means you can obtain better returns on your cash in the peer-to-peer market.

Providers have their own methods of trying to mitigate the risk to depositors. RateSetter for example offers a ‘provision fund’ which is built up from borrower fees, and reimburses lenders in the case of late payment or default. This safety net has ensured that to date, every penny of capital and interest has been returned to every single Lender. Zopa now operates a similar model with its Safeguard feature.

Peer to peer is here to stay and as long as providers keep rates competitive and bad debt levels under control, the forthcoming regulation pencilled in for this spring means there’s every chance P2P will become an even bigger thorn in the side of the high street banks – isn’t it time to take a closer look?