Friday, December 9, 2011

Barclays increases charges on basic accounts

By  James Hall, 6:26, Thursday 8 December 2011 Yahoo News
Barclays Bank (NYSE: BCS-PA - news) has trebled the potential fines that around a million of its poorest customers will pay if they try to withdraw money they do not have.

Under changes that will come into force next March, holders of Barclays’ most basic Cash Card bank accounts will be charged up to £24 a day if they have insufficient funds to cover direct debit withdrawals from their account. The maximum daily fine is currently £8.

Consumer groups said that the new rules could put people off opening bank accounts and mark a “backward step” for hard-pressed savers.

The bank’s Cash Card account is a no-frills account designed for savers on low incomes. The accounts do not have an overdraft facility. Although Barclays does not disclose how many Cash Card customers it has, industry experts estimate the figure to be around 1 million.

Under current rules, a customer is charged £8 a day if there are insufficient funds to cover direct debit payments going out of his or her account. This £8 is the daily maximum fine, no matter how many direct debit withdrawal attempts are made on the account.

From the spring, Barclays (LSE: BARC.L - news) will lift the cap so that customers are charged £8 every time that a withdrawal is attempted, up to a maximum of three times. This takes the total possible daily fine to £24.

In other changes, Barclays will stop sending out monthly paper statements and replace them with statements four times a year. However at the same time it will stop charging for text message alerts telling customers when they are running out of money. At the moment these cost £2 a month.

Oliver Morgans, financial services expert at Consumer Focus, the watchdog, said that the changes are a “backward step” that could increase financial exclusion among the poorest people in society.

“The Government already faces an uphill struggle to persuade customers to sign up to a bank account when many people distrust banks and the charges they make. These changes will make that hill even harder to climb,” said Mr Morgans.
“Living without a bank account can make it hard to live in the twenty-first century and can create financial penalties for the households who can least afford it,” he said.
Consumer Focus said that banks need to introduce minimum standards on their basic accounts to stop the UK’s poorest savers being hit by further changes. Recently Royal Bank of Scotland changed its policy so that its 1.1 million basic bank account customers can only withdraw cash at RBS’s cashpoints and not those of other banks.
A Barclays spokesman said that the changes have been made so that running the accounts remain “financially sustainable” from a business point of view.
The spokesman said: “Barclays Cash Card account is and remains the leading basic bank account in the market across the range of features it offers and levels of charging. We want to ensure this product remains financially sustainable so that we can continue to help those at risk of financial exclusion gain access to banking.”
He added that the changes it is making are based on “solid research of our customer base and Citizens Advice Bureau clients”.

More finance stories from

Wednesday, June 22, 2011



I Bernard Elia Kihiyo, the Executive Director of Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society (TCAS); would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank the CI, Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Hong Kong Consumer Council (HKCC) for paving the way for my organization to attend the 19th CI World Congress (CIWC) in Hong Kong. Personally I felt honored to have been selected for this sponsorship and profoundly humbled to meet Consumer leaders from over 700 delegates from more than 60 countries.
The generosity of the host (HKCC) and the dedication to train, support and empower professionals in the field of “Empowering Tomorrow’s Consumers’’ by all facilitators were beyond compare, to me the experience at CIWC is fantastic!, so powerful, so growthful in-me, in a way it is indescribable and hard to compare to other experiences I had on consumer movement since TCAS was established in July.2007.

For instance I attended various hot topics/fringe sessions/key addresses/ plenary/sub plenary; and I learned so much from observing and being a part of a wide variety of discussions as per below;-

1. Empowering consumers in the green economy
2. Sustainable Consumption - Time for action
3. National campaigning workshop on junk food
4. Should all roads lead to Rio 2012?
5. Consumer rights and corporate responsibility
6. Safe and nutritious food for all
7. Food safety: defining our campaign targets
8. The role of standards in providing consumer protection
9. How ISO 26000 can be used by consumer groups
10. The fight for fair financial services
11. Consumer over-indebtedness: the search for effective solutions
12. Consumer rights in the digital world: privacy, access and activism
13. CIWC Gala dinner

Since this was my first CIWC I thought I didn’t know more of what to expect, but maybe I should have guessed because CIWC defies expectation and that is “Empowering Tomorrow’s Consumers’’ and truly, It proved to be a learning experience I could have never predicted, with this I can proudly say I have been empowered hence I will transform/share the same to TCAS’s staff, put the same into day to day engagements and campaigns; definitely tomorrow consumers in Tanzania will be empowered too.
Throughout the CIWC-Hong Kong I met unique individuals from all over the world with various perspectives and ideas different than my own, pushing me to think and feel in ways unforeseen. For instance the unforgotten keynote addresses from the former CI’s president Samuel Ochieng, the current CI President Jim Guest, and CEO of Consumers Union of USA, M/s Connie Lau the CEO of Hong Kong Consumer Council (HKCC), Acting Director General – M/S Helen McCallum, speech by Anthony Cheung - HKCC Chairman, speech by Chief Executive Hon Donald Tsang of HK SAR, the video address by the French Finance Minister and chair of the G20 finance ministers in 2011, Christine Lagarde, Susan L. Rutledge-Consumer Protection WB, Norma McCormick, Chair of COPOLCO, Gerd Leonhard, CEO of The Futures Agency, Former CI President Anwar Fazal, and many others the list is too long.

The price of the CIWC is quantifiable, yet my time in Hong Kong could not be so well defined, I believe the value is beyond the time and the dollars that were typically associated with the Congress. The former CI President Anwar Fazal said "train new people or you will have no future," Thank you for sharing your experience at Congress; this does not go unnoticed or unappreciated; because of this opportunity I will look back upon my adulthood as an old man grateful to you for making me the person I wanted to become a better consumer activist in Tanzania and the world at large.

While CI, Consumers Union of USA, and CHOICE -Australia are 50years and beyond, SNNC – Sweden is 100 years old while TCAS is approaching 5 years old in 12th.July.2011 in TCAS, we still have a feeling that we will never get these types of opportunity in Tanzania, Africa, Europe, America or elsewhere than under the parasol of CI; please accept our utmost gratitude for the opportunity given and for accepting TCAS into CI affiliate membership; TCAS management is working so hard to qualify for a full CI’s membership.

Kindly continue to be essential partners and supporters for TCAS for years to come hopeful, ‘’Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society’’ will celebrate 50 years in consumer movement in year 2057.

Bernard E. Kihiyo

Sunday, April 24, 2011



£1 Stores Can Cost You More

By; Amanda Hall-Davis, 14:14, Thursday 21 April 2011
Yahoo News

More than 700 £1 shops have appeared on the high streets in the UK, but are you really getting value for your coin? These shops are getting plenty of publicity: High-profile footballers like Frank Lampard have been spotted browsing £1 shop aisles; Wag Alex Gerrard wants to work in one and the Feltham branch even has an alcohol licence.

But are consumers just being mislead with inferior products and poor-quality imported brands? Are they even getting value for money? A look at current prices shows a string of products — including Carex hand wash and Radox shower gel — are cheaper at Tescos than Poundland, thanks to discounts at the supermarket. While that's temporary reduction at Tesco, supermarkets always have something discount — and you can check offers online.

So we took 10 top everyday grocery products and compared their value (on both quality and price) in the £1 shops to the major high-street supermarkets.

[See also 17 things you should never spend more than £1 on]

£1 shop price comparisons

The price of groceries is soaring at an alarming pace, and this may be part of what's sending consumers to discount stores. As pound stores continue to expand their selection of goods, battle lines are drawn against the high street supermarkets.

Shoppers at Poundland noted good bargains on items like washing powder and branded shampoo, but many were unconvinced about buying fresh food, produce and clothing.

We compared 10 everyday grocery items in both branded and non-branded products at Poundland against a major high street supermarket. We also compared the quantity, the branding, the sourcing and use-by dates for products at each store.


In shopping at Poundland for staple products like milk, eggs, bacon, bread and cheese, we found selection to be a problem; it was limited to only two choices of semi-skimmed and full fat two litre milk, compared with 49 varieties in the major supermarket.

In Poundland, one non-branded type of egg was sold as nine in a box compared with 21 varieties and the minimum being six in a box at the supermarket. In the supermarket aisles, there was a selection of 38 types of bacon whereas only one type was on the shelves in Poundland - although it cost only about third of what you would pay at the supermarket.

Similarly, more than 300 types of cheese and 200 kinds of bread are on sale in the supermarket. There is one type on offer in Poundland. Sugar and tea bags come in one variety at Poundland - although the teabags are branded. On the supermarket shelves there are 44 types of sugar and more than 70 choices of teabags.

Any major supermarket offers much more variety than Poundland; however, this level of selection may be more than most people need.

[See also: 10 ways to save at the supermarket]


In addition, all the staple products in Poundland come from lesser-known UK — you won't see many of the major brands that are advertised on TV or found in the supermarket.

Use-by dates

In addition to limited variety, the use by dates were slightly shorter at Poundland, although the goods were fresh and the eggs marked with the British Lion Quality stamp, ensuring the highest standards of food safety. Because Poundland tends to put more emphasis on packaged goods, these dates are less of an issue for shoppers.


Assuming that shoppers bought weekly staple items including two litres of milk, one box of eggs, bacon, bread, cheese and teabags, the total difference in price for staple items between the average supermarket and Poundland was around £3.77.

This means that if you were to swap your weekly supermarket staples for Poundland goods you would save more than £190 a year.

Household products from toilet rolls, toothpaste and washing powder were comparable, although the branded toothpaste was over twice the price in the major supermarket.

Better value?

If you aren't too picky about what you buy, Poundland can definitely provide value on grocery items. This comes at the cost of selection and branding, but for budget shoppers who are looking to buy their staples at the lowest possible price, this should not be an issue, as items at store were still of comparable quality and freshness to supermarket items.

David Coxon, trading director of Poundland said that the store "offers its customers value for just £1, on over 10,000 products", including everyday essentials and seasonal products, along with some top brands.

He also noted that Poundland would be opening at least 50 more stores in 2011 to 2012. This suggests that consumers are finding value at these stores as well.

The bottom line

Don't just assume that prices are cheaper at the pound stores. In some cases, it could pay to shop around for supermarket reductions and special offers to compare with pound store items — particularly if you are looking for a specific product or brand.

Pound stores may be a new addition to a budget-conscious shopper's arsenal, but not every item was cheaper or of comparable quality to what you would find at a supermarket, so you still need to keep your wits about you.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Petrol prices surpass £6 per gallon

Press Assoc.
Average petrol prices have gone past the 132p a litre mark, meaning that for the first time the cost has reached £6 a gallon in UK, the AA president Edmund King said.

The average price of petrol at the pumps is now 132.12p a litre, while diesel has also hit a new record at 137.92p a litre. The cost of petrol has risen 6.93p a litre since the start of the year, and 1.68p a litre in the past week, said the AA.

A year ago, a litre of petrol on average cost 114.30p and diesel was 115.31p. For a family with two petrol cars, the monthly cost of fuel has risen from £242.70 in March 2010 to £280.54 now. In the same period, the price of oil has risen from around 85 US dollars (£52.4) a barrel to 113 US dollars (£69.7).

AA president Edmund King said: "£6 a gallon is not just another milestone along the road to higher fuel prices; it marks the point at which the wheels start to come off mobility in 21st-century UK.”Lower-income drivers, poorer rural residents, volunteer drivers, youngsters looking to their first jobs are some of the vulnerable groups struggling to stay on the road.

"The Government must act urgently to reduce the burden of high fuel duty and VAT. In the meantime, drivers are going to have to manage as best as they can, by cutting out journeys, driving more economically and hoping that a stronger pound will cushion some of the blow.

"But these high prices are already leaving casualties among drivers, consumers and business."


Saturday, February 5, 2011

How to Protect Yourself from Unwanted Phone Calls

04th.Feb.2011, 04:27 pm

Yahoo! News

Unwanted phone calls or cold calls are a pain and one of the most despised marketing tactics. Under government regulation, it is illegal for a UK company to call any individual who has indicated that they don't want the calls.

On 1 February, new rules by Ofcom came into force to prevent consumers being harassed by repeated silent calls from the same company. To protect yourself even more, here are six practical measures you can take to prevent both silent and nuisance calls.

1) Get removed from sales call lists
This may seem the obvious way to prevent you from being contacted by cowboy companies, but when an unwanted caller contacts you, don't immediately say 'sorry, I'm not interested' and then slam the phone down. Remember that the first and last thing you should firmly ask them is to be removed from the company's sales call list.

Under the Data Protection Act, a company is by law prohibited from calling you again for marketing purposes if you've made a request not to be called, even if you're one of their customers.

2) Join the Telephone Preference Service
British communications regulator Ofcom advises that a victim of unsolicited and silent calls should register with the Telephone Preference Service. This is the official central opt-out service, which means it is illegal for unsolicited sales and telemarketing companies to call you once you're registered. The service covers landlines as well as mobile telephone numbers.

Companies have a responsibility to check whether the people on their call lists are signed up to the TPS. According to research, consumer watchdog, Which? found that signing up for free to the TPS cuts the cold calls people receive on average by one third.

The Telephone Preference Service recommends that before registering it is worth reflecting on the fact that doing so may well prevent you from receiving relevant and worthwhile information. So make sure you contact the companies who you do not wish to hear from and ask them to remove your details from their call lists. However, the service doesn't cover companies contacting you for market research purposes, or not-for-profit organisations, like charities or political parties.

Click here to register with the Telephone Preference Service, or phone 0845 0700707. It takes about 28 days after registering for all calls to be stopped. The service is completely free so if a company ever tries to scam you by making you pay for this service, refuse and inform the TPS.

3) Make your telephone number ex-directory
Companies may add phone numbers that are publicly listed in the phone book or listed online to their call lists. This is the easiest way for them to find potential customers and target their annoying sales calls. By getting your number excluded from these directories, rogue marketing companies will find it more difficult to obtain your details.

4) Make a formal complaint
When it's absolutely necessary, complain to Ofcom via their online complaints form or by phone on 0300 123 3000. Report the name and number of the company that is making the calls, plus any other details you may have (including how many times you have been called by the same number and over what period of time). If you are unable to identify the caller you should contact your phone company which can trace the caller.

Ofcom continually monitors complaints about silent calls, and has the power to investigate any company which it believes may not be complying with its guidelines. Ofcom can fine companies that are found to be leaving silent and abandoned calls. For example, one of the worst silent call offenders, Barclaycard, was fined a maximum penalty of £50,000.

As of 1 February, Ofcom said it intended to use the full extent of the new financial penalty of £2 million on a company responsible for silent calls. Ofcom's chief executive, Ed Richards, warned: "Silent and abandoned calls can cause significant consumer harm. Ofcom has given sufficient warnings to companies about silent calls and is ready to take appropriate action against those companies which continue to break the rules."

You can also report problem calls, such as silent calls, to your phone provider which is responsible for tackling them. Most phone companies have a nuisance or malicious calls team, who will be able to give you advice on what to do.

Report TPS rule breaches to the TPS, who will contact the company and pass complaints to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which can take action against repeat offenders.

5) Blocking and screening calls
Phone companies can offer their customers a variety of services such as call blocking and anonymous call rejection to help them deal with unwanted calls. Contact your provider to subscribe to a call barring service for unwanted phone calls. However, you may be charged for using this service.

Many cold calls come from abroad, so unless you need to receive international calls, ask your phone provider to block calls from international numbers. You can also block calls from withheld numbers, though this may prevent some calls you want to receive, such as a friend or relative calling you from their workplace on a withheld number.

If you have caller display and an answer phone, consider only answering calls from numbers you recognise. Legitimate callers are likely to leave you a message.

There are also call screening devices you can invest in, for example Truecall (as seen on 'Dragon's Den') is a £99 unit designed to reduce the number of nuisance and telemarketing calls that you receive. It plugs into your regular home phone, and is able to create lists of welcome and unwelcome callers.

6) Be sparing with your personal details
Become a proactive consumer and carefully manage the way you distribute your personal information. Be wary of how much information you give out during consumer transactions, and read the privacy policies of each company or organisation you deal with. Inform companies that you do not want your personal information distributed. There are certain companies which gather personal information for databases and sell them onto a third party for purposes of B2B data, mailing lists and sales leads for marketing purposes.

Opt out of as many lists as you can, including those companies you deal with on a frequent basis.

Written by Gaby Leslie


What is the situation in Tanzania - Your comment Please

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Do Banks Routinely Take Unfair Advantage of Their Clients’ Ignorance?

Written by Admin
The Business Times: Friday, 24 December 2010 06:23

CONSUMERS in the financial sector can only get their own voice and protection against abuse from product-and-service providers in the sector if the Government will suitably amend the Bank of Tanzania Act 2003, which established the central bank (BoT), the Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society Society (TCAS) has observed.

Speaking to Business Times through wire communication this week, the Society's executive director, Bernard Kihiyo, said there is a real need to amend the Act. This is with a view to making clear the rights and responsibilities of banks – and also the rights and responsibilities of consumers of financial products and services.

"This means that every person should get his right, and whenever a problem arises we would be able to monitor where and who is responsible," Kihiyo said.

Noting that “there are a number of cases of violation that are done by commercial banks against their customers, mainly in on-line banking,” Kihiyo said this was in large measure due to consumers signing contracts without having full knowledge of their implications.

Asked if a consumer can take legal action against a bank for violation of his rights, Kihiyo said "it depends on the line of violation; it may be something to do with transfer of money – may be money has been transacted without the customer's authority – or a violation which happens in the area of loans..."

Speaking on the matter, the chief executive officer of Twiga Bancorp, Hussein Mbululo, said “there is a need to look at this issue of violation of consumer rights because they are many (such violations). Consumer organizations overseas know about their rights, and they protect their people well. I do not know much about the BoT Act (2003); but, once I have gone through it. I will be able to point out the problems in it. ”

All that notwithstanding, Mbululo mentioned some of the challenges that consumers are faced with include unilateral and arbitrary changes in interest rates; high bank charges, service charges, funds transfer etc without prior knowledge or acquiescence of account holders!

James Guest is the president and CEO of Consumers Union of US Inc, the vice-president for Consumer Organizations in G-20 countries – and also Consumers International (CI). Speaking to Business Times on the issue, Guest said there is a need of commitment from the most powerful nations in the world to protect citizens from abusive financial services and other industry malpractices.

"The global nature of banking means that countries around the world are now facing the same challenges. It is common sense that they work together to develop solutions," he said.

In the event, CI urgently wants to see the establishment of an Experts Group on Consumer Financial Protection which would report to the G20 Summit in 2011.

This would be a first step to ensuring that consumers from both developed and developing nations have access to stable, fair and competitive financial services. Samuel Ochieng, the CEO for CIN-Kenya says "getting this right is not only vital to consumers, but also to the ongoing stability of the world economy."

In that regard, Ochieng says “Consumers International – which represents 220 consumer organisations in 115 countries – is urgently calling for the needs of everyday consumer of financial services to be pushed to the top of the agenda.”

Furthermore, “poor financial consumer protection – as exemplified by US sub-prime mortgages – was a key catalyst for the financial crisis... “The interconnected nature of global banking then spread the crisis rapidly from country to country, threatening livelihoods, savings and social stability.”

According to Ricardo Nasio, president of ProConsumer in Argentina, said people around the world will live with the consequences for years to come. "For many consumer organisations, the financial crisis highlighted what is an ongoing emergency in financial services. Consumers International members in large and small, rich and poor countries are dealing with complaints about financial products and services every day...

"And, each year, the global economy creates up to 150 million new consumers of financial services, many of whom are in countries where consumer protection and financial literacy are woefully inadequate," Nasio noted. “Last month, the G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors issued a statement detailing the progress they have made in finding “policies conducive to reducing excessive imbalances and maintaining current account imbalances at sustainable levels,” Nick Stace, CEO for Choice of Australia, says.

“This is, of course, important; but, once again, there is barely a mention of the consumer – a crucial element that remains conspicuous by its absence from these international discussions.”