Scams awareness month

July is scams awareness month.  These pages are for you and millions like you. People who want to find out more about scams, share their stories and learn how to protect themselves, their families and friends against these cruel crimes and predatory practices.

Make this your place to find out about all kinds of scams, how they operate and how to protect yourself.

Share your experiences, by word of mouth, social media or whatever your preferred way.  With growing awareness, you won’t be flustered and rushed by scammers into taking decisions you’ll later regret. Or persuaded to stay silent on scams because you feel personally ashamed or that your experience doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t and it does.

You can also visit our Scams Awareness Month campaign page at scams.citizensadvice.org.uk.

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Dialling down debt

Campaign win! We worked with MPs and Peers to support an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill. The amendment was passed and the law has been changed so that all mobile phone providers will need to give customers the option to put a cap on their monthly bills.

Need advice? Get help if you can’t pay your mobile bill.

We’re campaigning to improve the debt collection practices of mobile phone providers. This includes letting customers put a cap on their monthly spending

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View our grid comparing providers.

Mobile phones are now a central part of life. Approximately 95% of households own one and for an increasing number of people, they only have a mobile phone (no landline or broadband).

This is especially true for lower income households who are 5 times more likely only to have a mobile phone than the highest earning group.

Despite these changes, the mobile phone industry lags behind other essential markets – such as energy and water – when it comes to working with customers who have fallen into debt.

Our advisers help approximately 40,000 clients a year with mobile debt issues. In 2014/15 our specialist debt advisers helped clients resolve debts totalling almost £11 million.

Our report Falling Behind found systemic failures in how debt is collected across the industry. We found that people who come to us for help and our advisers routinely face processes which stop them resolving debt problems. Communication is seen as poor, and advisers often reported that mobile phone companies are the most difficult and inflexible of all private sector creditors.

As people depend more and more on their mobile phones, the implications of mobile phone debt and disconnection become more severe.

What we want to achieve more!

We want mobile phone providers to sign up to our debt collection charter.

It’s based on best practice across other regulated markets, and contains 5 commitments to help customers in debt. We want mobile phone companies to:

  • Direct their customers to sources of free debt advice and collaborate with debt advisers acting on behalf of their customers.
  • Proactively make contact with customers who are experiencing payment difficulties.
  • Make it easier for customers to contact companies about their bill and negotiate repayment rates which reflect their ability to pay.
  • Suspend collection action when the customer reasonably disputes the debt.
  • Help customers avoid debt by allowing them to set a cap on the monthly cost of their bills.

View our grid comparing mobile phone providers.

What we’ve done so far

Case studies

Shreeta* was shocked to get a bill for £405. Her mobile phone provider said it was for call charges abroad. £405 was more than she earned each month, so she couldn’t pay the bill immediately. This resulted in the bill increasing by over £180 due to additional charges.

Dennis*, who is in his 80s, was shocked to find his monthly mobile phone bill was £124.81 instead of his normal fee of £8. His provider said it was because he had called an expensive service number. His mobile phone was disconnected until he paid a reconnection fee.

 A cap on bill limits would help to ensure that consumers are not hit by unexpected debt that they are unable to pay back.

*Names have been changed to retain confidentiality

We’ve been working with the main UK mobile phone providers to improve their debt collection practices by signing up to our debt collection charter.

Most have signed up to the first 4 commitments, but one remains a major challenge – letting customers cap their bills.

It’s really important that we change this. Unexpectedly high bills – usually because of people inadvertently using services not included in their standard monthly tariff – can make it harder for people to budget, especially if they’re on a low income.

Unexpected bills can also make existing debt problems worse – 70% of people who come to Citizens Advice for advice on mobile phone debt, also need advice on other debts.

Some mobile phone companies already offer a ‘bill cap’ to customers – but we want the whole market to give their customers the power to manage their spending.

To help do this, we’ve been working with MPs and Peers to support an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill which will mean mobile phone companies have to provide all customers with the option to put a cap on their monthly bills. Our amendment was passed and the law has been changed so that all mobile phone providers will need to provide bill caps.

Citizens Advice campaign successes

Over the years we have campaigned on a range of different issues in order to improve the policies and services that affect our clients. These are just a handful of the campaigns we are most proud of.

Employment and Support Allowance

What was the problem?

Ill and disabled people were being let down by Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) – the benefit that is intended to support people while they are too ill for work.  Many people were facing charges for the medical evidence they needed to support their claim, enduring poor customer service and low quality decision making, and then being left without any financial support if they decided to challenge poor decisions made as a result of this flawed process.

What happened?

Now, if an ill or disabled person needs to apply for ESA, changes to the form they fill in and the guidance provided around medical evidence should help them get the supporting information they need – for free. The Department for Work and Pensions and a new assessment provider have committed to further training and support to improve the assessment experience and decision making, so claimants should have a better experience and more decisions should be right first time.

Find out more about the Fit for work campaign.

Payday loans

What was the problem?

Payday loan companies were not treating their customers fairly. The payday loan industry was breaking its promise to clean up its behaviour. We called for payday lenders to be properly regulated and to stop irresponsible advertising.

What happened?

From the 1 April 2014, the Financial Conduct Authority introduced tough new rules on payday lenders. More about our payday loans cam     

Bailiffs

What was the problem?

Every year, tens of thousands of people experience unacceptable and sometimes aggressive harassment at the hands of bailiffs. We campaigned for tighter regulation of the bailiff industry and to increase awareness of people’s rights regarding bailiffs.

What happened?

Following our campaign the Government published new guidance for local authorities on collecting council tax arrears. This means 1.5 million residents are better protected from aggressive bailiffs and millions more could be once the Government implement mandatory training and certification for all bailiffs in April. More about our bailiff campaign.

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/campaigns/campaign-successes/

Know your new rights

More than one in five people in the UK experience problems with goods and services.  A quarter of them spend more than four hours trying to sort out these problems, one in ten having to take time off work to do so.

So new laws which clarify rules around  such thorny issues as refunds, repairs or replacements are to be welcomed by consumers and their representative groups.

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 came into effect on October 1 and streamlines eight pieces of legislation into one. This should make life a little easier for shoppers who encountered more than 18 million problems with consumer goods and services over a 12 month period.

 

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/campaigns/current_campaigns/know-your-new-rights/keep-calm-and-carry-on-complaining/

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