According to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), even higher earners are  falling foul of payday lenders nowadays.

Martin James of the FOS – quoted by Holly Thomas in the Sunday Times on 2 June –  said that “in some cases, lenders (that’s both payday lenders and mortgage providers – Ed.) were found to be unsympathetic with borrowers on higher earnings, assuming they were not in financial difficulty because of the high value of their homes. Many asset-rich people are cash-poor.”

In cases of payday lenders “assuming they were not in financial difficulty”, that sounds like a good excuse. But I don’t imagine too many people would seek funds from a payday lender unless they were in financial difficulty, even if it were only a temporary cashflow problem. And the lenders must know that.

Holly Thomas’s article continues with advice from a variety of impartial experts on how to clear debts:

  • Don’t prolong the situation.
  • Consider downsizing your home if it’s feasible. (That of course assumes you can sell in today’s market.)
  • Ask your lender to vary the terms of the loan; e.g. to extend a mortgage term, or even switching to interest-only. (but the latter only for a period – Ed.)
  • Negotiate a debt management plan with the help of one of the free advice services. (National Debtline, Citizens Advice or StepChange)


For the full Sunday Times article (but note there is a paywall), click HERE.




More on that Sunday Times Money story, urging the new regulator to simplify investment fees. Further to my recent post about confusing investment fees, here’s an insider view.

David Rogerson, from Glasgow, is an equity trader of several years’ standing. He runs investor training courses. You’d think he finds this stuff easy. But no, even he says that investment fee structures are complex.

He says: “It’s not easy to navigate through the various charges. Even for someone like me who works in the business, it can be unclear how much you’re paying. (And to whom)”

If that’s what an industry insider says, we rest our case. The people at Sunday Times Money appear to have a good case in urging the recently-launched regulator (the FCA) to look into this.


For the full Sunday Times Money “demands for the new watchdog” feature click HERE





Yesterday (01.04.13) saw the official launch of the new Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Many people in the UK media have expressed the hope that it’ll be more effective than the FSA that it replaces.

It was unfortunate that the chosen launch date was (a) April Fool’s Day and (b) a Bank Holiday, when it was a good bet that nobody would be at work; neither in the new authority nor in most of the organisations over which it was supposed to be watchdogging.

As I flagged up recently, Sunday Times Money (31.03.13) published a list of ten demands for the new watchdog. I am featuring three of them on this blog.

Unfair mortgage terms

According to Holly Thomas, who wrote the Sunday Times Money feature, the small print in bank and building society contracts is a source of problems.

[It was ever thus! Which of us reads the small print? I know I don’t. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I got into my own financial troubles]

Questionable tactics

Thomas writes that in 2010 a well-known building society (I’m not going to name them, for fear of legal action; my legal budget is not as large as that of the Sunday Times) scrapped the ceiling on its SVR (standard variable rate). By doing that it reneged on its promise that customers would never pay more than 3% over Bank base rate.

And a bank sparked outrage (I’m not surprised) when it announced rate rises for some so-called “lifetime tracker” mortgages … although the aforementioned base rate had stayed unchanged at 0.5%. In some cases rates would double, adding thousands a year!

Happy ending … for some?

There might be a happy ending for the tracker mortgage story; at least for some customers. The impressive Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the Commons Treasury subcommittee, raised concerns with Martin Wheatley, head of the new FCA. As a result, the FCA says that “the bank … volunteered that they would exclude customers from the change where there is evidence … that the customer could have been led to believe that the differential was for the ‘life’ or ‘lifetime’ of the product.”

Back to the ‘small print’ issue. That bank claims that all the affected customers were issued with contracts “clearly stating that it could change the margin.” However, they have declined to show examples of the terms and conditions to the newspaper. I wonder why.

I don’t know as much of this case as I’d like but, if half of this story is true, I’m tempted to ask the bank a variant of the time-honoured question. For example: “Which part of the phrase ‘lifetime tracker’ did we misunderstand?”

What does this mean in practical terms? For example some customers will see their rate jump from base rate plus 1.75 points to base plus 2.49 in May and it will jump again to base plus 3.99 points in October. If that’s true then only one word fits: outrageous.


Of course commercial organisations can charge what they like  … provided they didn’t promise something totally different; and that seems to be what happened here. A class action against the above bank is being pursued by Justin Selig, of law firm The Law Department. So far 170 complainants are being joined to the action.

All of them thought they were on a lifetime tracker and the lawyer says he’s “seen nothing to indicate otherwise.” Enough said.



For the Sunday Times Money article by Holly Thomas, “10 priorities for the new consumer watchdog”:



Last month I wrote about so-called “pension liberation plans”, which are a very tempting way to release funds below the age of 55 but in many cases turn out unwise. Today’s “Sunday Times” urges that they should be banned by a new financial watchdog that will launch tomorrow.

According to the paper, the new Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) replaces the much-criticised Financial Services Authority (FSA), “which failed to prevent scandals involving payment protection insurance (PPI), endowment policies and split-capital* investment trusts.” The new body promises to act fast and ban poor products overnight, which is to be applauded.

As for these pension liberation plans, which have grown rapidly; they promise to release funds from your pension before the age of 55, when it’s normally available, by transferring the funds into another scheme, often offshore. However the fees can be eye-watering and they can attract extra tax penalties of up to 70%.

[* I admit that when I read the article I was worried about the mention of split-cap investment trusts. Over the past year I have become a fan of investment trusts or “ITs”; I hadn’t heard of this particular scandal and I wondered if I had invested unwisely. Turns out I needn’t have worried; the scandal appears to have been unveiled, and cleared up, nearly ten years ago; and it concerned a specific type of fixed-term investment trust.]