The Financial News You Need To Know with Sarah Pennells – November 30 2016

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.

New anti-fraud measures for banking

Bank customers will have better protection in the future to reduce the risks of paying the wrong person by mistake or being tricked into paying a fraudster. That’s the good news. The bad news is that these changes won’t take effect until 2018 at the earliest.

They’re part of a big shake-up of the organisations that operate card, bank transfer and Direct Debit payments. At the moment, if you pay someone by mistake through an online or phone payment, it can be difficult to get the money back – and impossible if the person you’ve paid by mistake wants to keep the money.

And if you’re tricked into paying a fraudster, the bank has no obligation to refund your money.

The new changes would let you see whose account you were actually about to transfer the money to – and not who the fraudster has told you the account belongs to – before you confirm that you want to pay them.

Co-operative Energy takes on GB Energy Supply’s customers

On Saturday it emerged that GB Energy Supply had stopped trading due – it says – to the swift rise in the wholesale price of gas. GB Energy Supply had 160,000 customers and the regulator Ofgem announced that they’ll be supplied by Co-operative Energy in the future.

So, what does that mean for you?

  • Co-operative Energy has said it will charge GB Energy Supply customers the same price as the deal they were on with their old supplier – whether that’s a fixed or variable deal. The rules that say what happens when a supplier goes bust does let the new supplier charge more, but for this deal, that won’t happen.
  • If you want to switch to a new deal, you won’t be charged any exit fees, even if the deal you were on with GB Energy Supply charged them.
  • If you stay with Co-operative Energy and your account is in credit, you’ll be able to offset that against your future energy use. If you were owed money by GB Energy Supply as you were switching away, you’ll get that money back from Co-operative Energy.
  • You’ll be contacted in the next few days by Co-operative Energy and told how much you’re in credit by, if you’re owed money by GB Energy Supply.
  • If you’ve already cancelled your Direct Debit, you can set up a new one with Co-operative Energy.

Autumn statement

So, now we know that Philip Hammond’s first Autumn Statement will be his last as we’ll have to get used to Spring Statements and Autumn Budgets from next year. But, while the government ‘giveaways’ such as the fuel duty freeze were widely reported, the rise in insurance premium tax (IPT) didn’t get nearly as much coverage.

It’s not surprising. Let’s face it; insurance can be dull at the best of times! But this – in my view – is a bit of a sneaky tax rise. And it will generate almost as much revenue for the government as the fuel duty freeze will cost them. So, what does it mean for you? Here are four things you need to know about insurance premium tax:

  1. Insurance premium tax is charged at different rates on different policies, and some policies are free of this tax. Life insurance, mortgage insurance and – oddly – insurance for spacecraft are exempt from IPT.
  2. Insurance premium tax was introduced in 1994 at a rate of just 2.5% but successive governments have increased the rates.
  3. Not all rates of insurance premium tax are rising. At the moment, you pay IPT at 10% on pet, home, motor and medical insurance. From June next year that will go up to 12%. Insurance premium tax is already 20% on travel insurance policies and warranties for electrical items and that won’t change.
  4. You’ll pay the higher rate of IPT if you take out a home, pet, car or medical insurance policy on or after June 1st

Christmas shopping? What kind of gifter are you?

Come on, own up…are you a regifter (someone who recycles old gifts), or a guilty gifter (you feel guilty after you’ve handed over the present)? According to new research, over half of us (51%) are ‘saintly gifters’ – as we put a lot of thought into the Christmas presents we buy.*

But almost one in five of us (18%) are casual gifters – which means we put a enough thought into the present so we don’t feel guilty. Hmm! Whatever gifts you’re buying, it’s worth knowing your Christmas shopping rights:

If you’re buying a present for someone, get a gift receipt if you want them to have the option of getting a refund if they don’t like it. It also means they can take it back to the shop if it develops a fault. Although you don’t have to have a receipt if you’ve bought faulty goods, it’s makes it all much easier if you do.

SAVVY TIP: Many shops let you exchange or get a refund on things you’ve bought that aren’t suitable. Generally you have 30 days to do this but over Christmas you may get up to three months (the Christmas returns period often kicks in during November and lasts until the middle or end of January).

Who’s the better driver, men or women?

Hmm…this might mean opening a can of worms! Who do you think wins the gender battle of the sexes? According to one insurer*, which questioned driving instructors, women are more focused when learning but men learn more quickly. Women are also more likely to pass the theory test first time but men are more likely to pass the practical.

But, once they’re on the road, men are far more likely to have an accident than women, and accidents that young men have cost almost twice as much as those involving young women. Before 2013 insurers could – and did – charge younger women less for car insurance because they said women were less likely to have an accident, but gender pricing was outlawed following an EU ruling.

*Source: Sainsbury’s Bank
** Source: Admiral