George Osborne delivered his sixth Budget today, which included new measures on savings and annuities, plans for superfast broadband in rural areas and a win for our Sneaky Fees and Charges campaign…
Following calls from more than 45,000 of our supporters, at the end of last year George Osborne used his Autumn Statement to announce that the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) would work with us at Which? to come up with practical solutions to end mortgage confusion for consumers.
And, as referenced in today’s Budget, we have jointly published an interim report with proposals to simplify the wide range of complicated fees and charges in the market. From lenders sharing common terms for fees, to better explanations of whether fees are compulsory – the proposals will help stop people from paying over the odds for their loan.
We will publish our firm conclusions in July, and the Government expects the majority of the industry to have made the necessary changes by the end of the year.
We look forward to all mortgage providers making these changes so that people can get the best deals more easily. CML director general Paul Smee comments:
‘This collaboration with Which? has helped lenders focus on practical and simple ways to help customers by making information more transparent and consistent. We hope customers themselves will find it easier and less daunting to make informed choices about their mortgages as a result.’
New measures on savings and annuities
The Budget has brought good news for struggling savers and pensioners who have been let down in the past.
The tax break and new flexibility on savings will prove popular with the millions who have got a raw deal on their savings in recent years. But there are still many savers whose money is languishing in extremely poor paying accounts so the financial industry must now play fair and help people get a better return.
People who feel trapped by a poor value annuity will welcome the chance to take advantage of the new pension freedoms. But as pensioners have been failed miserably before, in the past so the Government must keep a firm grip to ensure people aren’t ripped off again.
We want to see strong regulation of sales practices and for anyone considering selling an annuity to have access to guidance through Pension Wise, especially given the high tax bill they could face. The Government should also consider whether consumers should have to take regulated advice, and whether using an existing savings and investment provider, like NS&I, could deliver security for people uncertain about the wider market.
Ultrafast broadband in rural areas
Faster broadband speeds in remote areas is welcome news for consumers, but millions of people are continuing to pay for advertised speeds that they may never get.
Action needs to be taken by the advertising watchdogs to pull the plug on confusing adverts and ensure broadband providers show the speeds the majority of customers will actually get.
Protecting vulnerable people from nuisance calls
It’s also good news that the Government plans to invest £3.5m to protect vulnerable consumers from nuisance calls. We fully support plans to give vulnerable people call blocking technology and a Government-backed campaign to raise awareness of how to reduce and report nuisance calls.
But it shouldn’t all be up to consumers – we also need to see regulators punish firms that break the rules and senior executives held to account if their company makes unlawful nuisance calls.
You can read a summary of the Budget 2015 highlights here. What’s your verdict on the Budget?