The financial news you need to know with Sarah Pennells – January 3rd 2019

Sarah Pennells is a personal finance journalist and the face behind 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.

Your rights when shopping in the sales

It’s sale time (well, to be fair, these days it’s sale time most of the year) – so you may be shopping online or heading off to the high street. If you’re going shopping, how do you make sure you’re getting a real bargain? And what are your rights if your bargain turns out to be faulty?

With shops having so many flash sales, it can be hard to work out how much you’re actually saving. The shop might say 30’% off, but 30% off what, exactly?

There’s no straightforward rule about what shops can and can’t do in relation to sale prices. But there are certain things that they shouldn’t do. For example, they can’t say a TV was £1,000 and is now £399, if its most recent price was £500. They have to say what the previous price is (although they can mention the original price if they want to).

An item should also be available at the higher price for longer than it’s on sale at the reduced price.

When it comes to your consumer rights, it doesn’t matter whether you buy something in the sale or pay the full price. That means you have to up 30 days to reject an item if it’s faulty to get a full refund. After that, EU rules mean that if there’s a fault within the first six months, it’s up to the shop to show the fault wasn’t there when you bought the item, rather than for you to show the fault was there.

Your rights extend beyond the first six months, but you’d have to show that the item was faulty when you bought it, rather than a result of wear and tear or you using it incorrectly. You should contact the shop or retailer, not the manufacturer as your contract is with them.

If a shop has a sign by the till (or online) saying ‘no refunds on sale items’, it’s breaking the law. The only exception is if you buy something that’s marked down as faulty, and the fault is pointed out to you when you buy.

Santander Bank fined £32 million

Santander Bank has been fined over £32 million by the financial regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, for delays in paying money to relatives of customers who’d died. The regulator said that Santander didn’t have good enough processes in place to make sure that the accounts of deceased customers were closed and the money paid to those who were entitled to inherit it.

Relatives and legal representatives of over 40,000 customers waited for many months (and in one case 21 years) for money to be transferred. Santander has apologised for its failings and has contacted most of those affected and transferred the money they’re owed. In some cases, they’ve paid interest as well.  But what should a bank do if you want to sort out the account of someone who’s died?

The process of dealing with the legal and financial affairs of someone who’s died is called ‘probate’ (or ‘confirmation’, in Scotland), but you may not need to get probate in order for the money to be paid out.

This is what you need to know:

  • Banks and other financial companies have specialist bereavement teams who should be trained to help you.
  • If you have a joint account with someone who dies, the money that’s in the account becomes yours. The bank will change the account so it’s in your name only.
  • Depending on the amount of savings that the person who died had, and whether they owned their home solely in their own name, you may not need to go through the formal probate process.With some banks, you can have up to £50,000 with them (in total, not per account), and you can arrange for money to be paid to the legal representatives or beneficiaries without getting probate. Other banks and building societies have a much lower limit.

SAVVY TIP: If you don’t need to get probate, the bank will ask for a certified copy of the death certificate and the will, if there is one. Once it has this information, it should arrange for the account to be closed and money to be paid.

  • If you need to get probate, banks will only let you close an account once you have a ‘grant of probate’ document. Banks will often ask you to come into a branch to close the accounts of the person who died.

Unclaimed prizes

Just before Christmas it emerged that a self-employed builder claimed a £76 million Euromillions jackpot. Apparently, he’d been driving around in his van for six weeks with the winning ticket stuck behind the sun visor. Luckily for him, he hadn’t lost it!

If you play the National Lottery and win, you have just under six months from the date of the draw (180 days) to claim your prize. After that, you’ve lost your chance forever. You can look up the numbers of winning tickets on the National Lottery website.

  • Prizes up to £500 will be paid direct into your National Lottery account.
  • Prizes of between £500 and£30,000 will be paid to the debit card registered to your account, once you’ve confirmed the details.
  • If you win between £30,000 and £50,000, you’ll be paid by cheque once you’ve claimed your prize.
  • If you win more than £50,000,you need to claim your prize in person.

If you have NS&I Premium Bonds, you’ll be told if you’ve won a prize if you’ve registered for its online and phone service. You’ll normally get an email which just tells you you’ve won something, but you have to log in to find out whether you’ve won £25 or £1 million (or something in between!). If you prefer, you can download NS&I’s Premium Bond prize checker app to your iPhone or Android phone.

If you get a prize of up to £5,000, it will be paid into your bank account automatically, although you can ask for your prize money to be used to buy more Premium Bonds, if you prefer. If you win more than £5,000, you’ll be sent a form that you have to fill in to confirm how you’d like to be paid.

If you win the million pound jackpot (yay!), you’ll be visited in person by ‘Agent Million’.

Action Fraud scam website alert

Watch out if you’re thinking of looking up information on the fraud reporting website ActionFraud. Action Fraud says that it’s discovered two scam ‘lookalike’ websites.The genuine website address is, whereas the fake websites end in .com and .eu. These sites also ask for personal information, which the genuine website doesn’t.