View more on these topics

10 million below poverty line paying more for services

Exactly a year since the NCC lifted the lid on a hidden Britain where millions struggle to afford essential household utilities, the independent consumer policy expert is launching an initiative to tackle the injustice that leaves the worst off getting the worst deal.

The NCC&#39s dossier of the double disadvantage inflicted by poverty will be presented later today to an audience of MPs, voluntary groups, regulators and providers by a government minister, and Deirdre Hutton, NCC chairwoman.

The dossier points out that many of the essential goods and services we all need to play a full part in today&#39s society are increasingly provided by the private sector – companies and professionals serving consumers directly, or in mixed models of public service provision.

But, says the NCC, the market and competition fail to meet the needs of the most disadvantaged in our society.

Hutton says: “Lack of money isn&#39t the only problem with being poor. They face a double disadvantage. The poor pay more because life on a cash budget is more expensive. You pay more if you can&#39t bulk buy or afford a weekly shop. And if you can&#39t get around because of a disability or limited transport, you can&#39t shop around for the best deal.

“Our dossier is a call to action against market exclusion – a call we hope will have a positive impact on the lives of at least half a million disadvantaged consumers over three years.

“Commercial imperatives encourage companies to cherry pick the more profitable and better-off customers. Those more costly or troublesome to supply are charged more or excluded by the market. And while new technology can be a cost-saver for business and some consumers it can raise further barriers for customers who lack confidence or basic skills.

“Call centres for utilities, welfare benefits and pensions are especially daunting. Increasing market complexity &#45 mobile phone packages and more choice of energy suppliers for instance is another trend that excludes disadvantaged groups.

The NCC&#39s new report exposes the staggering extent and nature of market exclusion, explores why it happens and – most importantly – looks at where the responsibility should lie for ensuring all consumers are included in the market for essential goods and services.

It is a call to action for government, public services and regulators, to the private sector, non-profit and advocacy groups through to social enterprises – the wide range of key players the NCC is keen to engage in a collaborative quest for solutions.

The NCC itself suggests some practical solutions and outlines where the responsibilities could lie for ensuring a fairer deal for the worst off. But it recognises that the issues are so huge, that tackling double disadvantage will need co-operation between government and business at the very least. The NCC also recognises that by co-operating with those who already work with disadvantaged groups in their communities, learning from and building on successful ideas, making a positive impact on the lives of the poorest could finally become reality.

The NCC&#39s analysis suggests a new role for government in setting a framework for funding essential items and how private companies deal with the poorest.

The dossier published today looks in depth at the problems with household utility services, healthcare, financial services like bank accounts, insurance and saving schemes. Separate sections also discuss broader questions that are central to the issue – defining essential goods and services, ways to fund affordable services and who should pay.

Recommended

Trustguard receives official authorisation from the FSA

Nick Battersby, group compliance director, says: “We&#39re delighted to receive this permission from the FSA. “Our network will be very small compared to some of the other players in the market, but we&#39ve put a lot of effort into this, and to see this hard work rewarded is good news for us and for our […]

HBOS not to bid for Abbey

Further to the announcement made on August 2 in respect of a potential combination with Abbey, HBOS plc says it has now concluded its analysis. Notwithstanding the very substantial opportunity to create synergies, and a strong competition case with which to engage the regulators, HBOS has decided not to proceed with an offer for Abbey. […]

CACI launches email database eAppend

The product has been designed to make it easier to talk to customers immediately and efficiently at a fraction of the cost. A range of leading internet service providers and online data providers supply the unique data pool of addresses stored within eAppend. This information is cross-referenced against customer name and postal address, and matches […]

Lenders move to slash fixed rates

IF and Norwich and Peterbrough have both recently launched fixed rate mortgages that are more competitively priced than previous deals. Jennifer Blackwood, spokeswoman for IF, says: “We felt it was the right time to cut the rate to 4.95%, down from 5.49%.” Details of the product include: a discounted rate until October 31 2007 with […]

Top seaside property hotspots revealed

Like to let beside the seaside? The latest research from LendInvest looks specifically at coastal towns to find which areas offer the top average rental yields to landlords. Where are the top seaside postcodes for landlords? The interactive map below looks at the highest rental yields along the UK coast. According to the data, Hull, […]