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Tesco’s Profits Fall as Consumers Turn to Discounters

Apr 17, 2014

Second annual consecutive fall in retailer’s profits due to confusion and lack of pricing clarity suggest analysts
Tesco Customer ServiceRetail giant Tesco has been forced to admit that its profits have fallen for the second year running. While this would once have been unthinkable, company bosses and investors have heaved a sigh of relief that the results were not considerably worse. The company has suffered from poor performance across Asia, Eastern Europe and in the UK home market.
Here, the retailer has lost consumers both to discount retailers and to its traditional competitors. Commentators have noted that Tesco’s marketing seems confused, and that it needs to deliver greater clarity, especially on pricing, if it is to attract consumers back through its doors. However, one gleam of hope came from a rise in online sales, and this is an area that Tesco plans to develop further. According to Bryan Roberts from retail consultancy Kantar, ‘putting shoppers, rather than shareholders, back at the heart of the business’ would be a start in turning the business around.
Overseas, Tesco has suffered badly due to difficult trading conditions in the Eurozone, resulting in a 28% drop in trading profit there. In Asia, the situation was not as severe, but the company still saw profits fall by 5.6%.

Inflation Dips to Lowest Level in Four Years

Apr 16, 2014

Figures just released by ONS show that inflation fell to 1.6% in March leading to hopes that consumers could finally start to see pay rise in real terms
Inflation RatesThe Office for National Statistics (ONS) has just confirmed that the rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), fell from 1.7% in February to 1.6% in March. This is the lowest level recorded since 2009, and falls well below the 2% target set by the Bank of England. The rate of inflation measured by the higher Retail Prices Index (RPI) has also registered a fall, dropping from 2.7% to 2.5%. Although it brings the risk of interest rates rising ever closer, falling inflation is good for consumers, meaning lower prices in the shops. Statistics that the ONS will release tomorrow are expected to confirm that wages have risen slightly too, meaning that there is finally a real prospect of consumers feeling that they have a little more money in their pockets.
Six consecutive falls in inflation creates longest run in recent history
The drop in inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index is the sixth consecutive monthly fall, indicating the emergence of a clear trend.

MPs Call on Prime Minister to Create New ‘Minister for Complaints’

Apr 14, 2014

Public Administration select committee also recommends that each government department should publish details of complaints received and resolved annually, as well as showing how lessons have been learnt
NHS Complaints UKThe Public Administration select committee has delivered a scathing review of the piecemeal and inadequate handling of consumer complaints across the NHS, government departments and other public bodies. In a hard-hitting report, MPs have slated the way that complaints are currently handled, with a widespread failure to deal with complaints in good time, and numerous incidences of failure to resolve complaints, and the problems at their root.

They believe that a revolution needs to take place in how the public sector handles complaints. As a result, they have recommended a raft of changes to the current complaints handling system, and have called on the prime minister to appoint a cabinet minister with special responsibility for public sector complaints, to help restore consumer confidence and trust in the system.
Another Mid Staffs-scale tragedy likely if complete change to NHS complaints culture does not happen

£40,000 Salary Needed to Get First Mortgage

Apr 14, 2014

Salary requirements and rising property values keeping many first-time buyers out of the market, especially in cities
Homebuyers Face DifficultyTwo different reports published today show very clearly the struggle that young people face in terms of getting on the property ladder. According to figures released by the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML), the average salary that first-time buyers now need to earn to get a mortgage is just under £40,000. As this is considerably higher than the average salary across the country, many buyers are finding that they are priced out of the market.
Indeed, the second report, published by, a search engine, has revealed that nine out of ten homes are too expensive for local and first-time buyers in many cities, including Brighton, Oxford, Chelmsford and Cambridge. Although the Help to Buy Scheme has helped thousands of buyers get their first home, or move to a larger one, many still find it difficult.  However, concerns that property values will rise even further have prompted a huge increase in the numbers of first-time buyers making the leap onto the property ladder.

Barclays Bank Still Tops Naughty List with Most Consumer Complaints

Apr 10, 2014

Good news is that the five most-complained-about banks all received fewer complaints in the second half of 2013 than in the first half
Barclays ComplaintsThe Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has published its latest consumer complaints figures for the financial sector.  The data, which relates to the final half of 2013, seem to show that the banks and other financial institutions are finally starting to get the message that they need to do to undergo a complete transformation and become customer-focused if they are to regain consumer trust and confidence.

As a result, there was a pleasing 15% drop in the total number of complaints received, compared with the previous six months. Even though Barclays Bank saw the number of customer complaints received plummet by an impressive 17%, it still received more complaints that any other bank – 309,494. Clearly, the consumer view is that it, and other banks, must try harder.
PPI complaints still root cause of over half consumer complaints received, but they dropped by 22% on first half levels

Toyota Recalls 6.4m Cars over Safety Concerns

Apr 09, 2014

Car maker has been forced to recall more cars in the past 30 months that it has sold!
Toyota RecallIn one of the biggest vehicle recalls to date, Japanese car manufacturer Toyota has announced a recall of 6.4m cars globally over possible safety problems. Although it has found no evidence of fatal accidents due to any of them, the company has found five different types of fault in 27 different Toyota models. Some 50,000 of the vehicles concerned are owned by consumers in the UK. The latest recall brings the number of vehicles recalled by Toyota in the last two-and-a-half years to 25m, considerably more than the 21m cars that it has sold in the same period. The recalls have been part of Toyota’s drive to restore consumer confidence in its products, which were once a by-word for safety and reliability.
Recalls are double-edged sword in fight to restore consumer trust and confidence in Toyota brand
However, while recalling vehicles to rectify potential problems is an effort to show that the company puts issues right, even if it does sometimes make mistakes, this is something of a double-edged sword.

Consumers Warned Microsoft Ends XP Support Today

Apr 08, 2014

Estimates suggest that 20%-25% of all users still running the old operating system, leaving them vulnerable to cyber-attack; all consumers advised to upgrade immediately
XP Support EndsAlthough it should be neither surprising nor unexpected that software giant Microsoft is today ending support for one of its most successful operating systems, which was first released way back in 2001, it seems that many consumers, businesses and even governments have been unprepared for the change.  Industry experts estimate that up to a quarter of all users, including consumers, are still running the old operating system, even though it has been superseded by three new product releases, Vista, Windows 7 and the much-maligned Windows 8.
Microsoft estimates that infection rates among XP users will rise by 66% from today
However, analysts have been aware for some time that a higher level of cybercrime is targeted at these XP users than at any other group, partly because each new generation of operating system shipped with updated security.

Consumer Complaints about Energy Companies Rocket

Apr 07, 2014

Ombudsman Services reports consumer complaints increased three-fold in a year with most complaints related to billing problems and poor customer service
Big 6 Energy ComplaintsOmbudsman Services, which handles all consumer complaints about the energy sector that have not been satisfactorily dealt with by the complaints handling section of customer’s own energy provider, has reported a dramatic increase in the number of complaints that it has received from members of the public.

Although customer dissatisfaction with the country’s energy suppliers, particularly with the Big Six, British Gas, SSE, npower, EDF Energy, E.ON and Scottish Power, has been a constant theme for the past few years, it seems that it has now boiled over. The Ombudsman noted that 224% more complaints were received between January and March this year compared with the same period last year. Consumers’ main complaints related to problems with billing and poor customer service.
Huge jump in number of complaints in just two years, with high levels of complaints in most months of 2013

End of Consumer Bullying by Bailiffs?

Apr 04, 2014

Major overhaul of bailiff sector takes effect on Sunday; bailiffs will be prevented from entering homes at night or when only children are home; ban on threats of violence and excessive charges
Bailiff Notice On Sunday 6 April, new regulations will come into force to protect consumers from threatening and unfair behaviour shown by a significant minority of bailiffs. As the situation currently stands, the industry is something of a free-for-all due to confusion about different types of enforcement official and what they are allow, or not allowed, to do. In future, they will be banned from entering a home when children are present without a carer, or at night.

They will be prevented from threatening violence and from adding excessive charges to the original debt. With bailiffs being involved in the collection of four million debts per year, it is a large market, so the changes should have a beneficial effect on a considerable number of consumers.
Citizens’ Advice currently deals with over 1,000 consumer complaints or enquiries about bailiff-related problems every week

Consumers Can Now Register for New Paym Mobile Payment Service

Apr 03, 2014

System will launch later this month, allowing registered members to transfer money with just a mobile phone number
Paym Mobile PaymentsThe Payments Council has announced that a new, easy, secure, mobile payment system is to launch in the UK on the 29th April. It will allow consumers to send small payments to friends or other contacts by use of just a mobile phone number, making it very easy for situations like paying someone back for lunch. The 30m customers of the first nine banks to participate in the Paym (pronounced ‘pay-em’) have been invited to start registering from today. Other banks will join the scheme later this year or early next year.
Instant transfer of money without need for bank account details
The convenience factor of using the new payment system is expected to be a big attraction for consumers, who will not need to have someone’s sort code or account number to make a transfer. Although many of the transactions are likely to be for very small sums of just a few pounds, customers will be able to transfer at least £250 per day, but each bank will be able to set limits for its own users. Payments will normally go through immediately and will be processed under the Faster Payments system.

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