The Financial News You Need To Know with Sarah Pennells – August 2015

Sarah Pennells is a personal finance journalist and the face behind SavvyWoman.co.uk. We think she does a great job at explaining financial subjects in a very clear and accessible manner. You can find her column below where she writes about the latest financial news, and helps you get more from your money.

Mobile phone calls cap

From next month, if your mobile phone is stolen, you’ll only have to pay for the first £100 of calls made by the thief, thanks to a new voluntary scheme. The big mobile phone companies: Vodafone, 02, EE and Virgin Mobile have all signed up to the scheme. Three has offered this for some time and Tesco Mobile has been running a similar scheme of its own, but it has a £50 cap.

But there are some conditions. For a start, you have to report that the phone’s missing to your network provider within 24 hours of it being stolen or lost. You normally have to do this by phone. Also, phones taken out on a business contract and pay as you go phones are excluded.

SAVVY TIP: Make a note of the number you have to report a stolen phone on, especially if you’re going abroad on your holiday. If you’re in doubt, it’s better to get the phone and SIM blocked as it can always be unblocked if it turns up.

Card protection compensation

Up to two million people will be getting letters in the next few weeks, telling them they could be eligible for compensation after they took out card protection insurance. These policies, from a company called Affinion International, were sold by 11 major banks, under brand names such as Card Protection, Sentinel and Sentinel Gold.

The policies were £25 a year, on average, and promised to pay the costs from a fraudster using your stolen credit card. The problem is that credit card providers cover these costs anyway, and the most you’d ever be liable for (unless you were grossly negligent) is £50.

If you want to claim compensation from the scheme, called AI Compensation Scheme, you must fill in and post the claim form so it arrives by March 18th next year. If you’re successful in getting compensation, you’d receive your premiums back plus 8% interest.

SAVVY TIP: Last year a similar compensation scheme, set up for customers of a company called CPP, only saw a third of the seven million people who were eligible for compensation apply for it. Don’t miss the deadline!

Ryanair loses court case

In my last column I mentioned that thousands of people were missing out on compensation for delayed flights because they didn’t realise they had a claim or didn’t get round to claiming.

Last week Ryanair lost a court case where it wanted to limit the amount of time people had to claim from six years to two years. It had introduced this clause in its terms and conditions, but the court said the airline couldn’t rely on it.

If you want to claim compensation for a delayed flight, you can find some basic information about what you’re entitled to claim on the Civil Aviation Authority’s website. All the major airlines have information on their own websites as well.

Pension scams

The government funded Pensions Advisory Service is warning that fraudsters are using detailed personal information they’ve obtained online to make themselves look more credible. Fraudsters and scammers often use some personal information to help them target their victims, but the Pensions Advisory Service says it’s heard from a number of people who’ve been contacted by scammers who appears to have a lot of information about their workplace and pensions.

SAVVY TIP: If you’re cold called, you’re put under any pressure to act quickly or the caller starts talking about an investment scheme before they’ve found out anything about your circumstances, it could be a scam. If you’re in any doubt, hang up, and contact the Pensions Advisory Service to talk it through. They’re on 0300 123 1047.

Live in a leasehold flat? Do you have insurance?

Do you have contents insurance for your flat? Some people don’t but without it you’d have to pay for your possessions and furniture to be replaced if they were damaged or stolen.

It’s estimated that there are over five million leasehold flats in England and Wales and almost a third of people living in one don’t have contents insurance. If you buy a leasehold flat, the freeholder (which may be an individual or a company) generally has to buy the buildings insurance, although you as the leaseholder have to pay for it.

But they don’t have to provide contents insurance.

Here are my tips for getting the contents cover you need:

  • Don’t just buy the cheapest contents insurance policy.
  • A good policy should include ‘matching items’ cover. This means you’d get money to replace a matching sofa and chairs if one item was damaged and you couldn’t replace it because it had been discontinued, for example.
  • It’s also worth looking for ‘trace and access’. This means that your policy would pay for you to find the cause of a problem (such as a leak in a kitchen). Some policies have a low level of cover, and ripping out the kitchen units or digging up the floor probably won’t come cheap!
  • Check how the policy pays out. Some policies will let you choose whether you get paid in cash, by a replacement or with a voucher. Others tend to prefer vouchers. Vouchers can be a good option because you don’t have to spend them on the item that was damaged, but they may not be a good idea if the item you want to replace is a particular brand that’s not stocked by the retailer, or a one-off piece of jewellery, for example.