Hello and welcome to the first Research and Campaigns blog post!
Citizens Advice commits to campaigning on issues that affect people’s lives. Each week, we’ll be writing about a different Research and Campaigns issue and what we are doing to try to fix it. We will also give tips for what you can do if it affects you.
This week’s blog post is on Council Tax debt. Council Tax debt is the most common debt issue we see. It has risen by a third in the last 3 years.
Due to this rise, Citizens Advice launched a campaign called Council Tax Protocol. As part of the campaign, local Citizens Advice offices are working together with local councils. This is to have fair debt collection processes and stop people getting into debt in the first place. It is one of the primary campaigns we are working on here.
Are You Struggling to Pay Your Council Tax?
During the coronavirus pandemic, Sandwell Council has suspended all court action for Council related debt. This means you may get an initial letter telling you about the debt, but they will take no further action. It is important to remember that this is only during the pandemic. The council expects you to pay the debt back once the pandemic is over. The usual recovery process will then resume.
If you cannot pay your bill, you should inform the council as soon as possible and then talk to one of our debt advisers.
If you are on a low income, you may be eligible for Council Tax Reduction. You can check your eligibility for Council Tax reductions or exemptions here. You can also talk to one of our generalist advisers. They may be able to determine your eligibility, and help you with an application. They can also check your eligibility for other benefits. This will be especially useful if your income has dropped recently due to the pandemic!
We do not have a face-to-face service currently due to quarantine. But you can still get advice over webchat or call our Adviceline service on 0300 330 9017 (local rates apply). Check the opening times for these services on our website.
Cancelled Flights and lost luggage drove almost 700,000 views of Citizens Advice guidance last year.
Citizens Advice is offering travellers some guidance and advice when your holiday plans meet a problem.
There are also some top tips to help your holidays run more smoothly.
Lots of useful information on :
Airline goes under
Follow the link below for more details and stories and those important Top Tips.
Mobile Phone Users can now SWITCH providers with one simple text
Previously customers had to phone their mobile phone provider when they wanted to switch to a new firm.
They were then given a porting authorisation code ( PAC ) code to give to the new provider if they wanted to keep the same phone number
But watchdog Ofcom says the need to SPEAK to a provider was one of the main factors stopping people from switching and customers often find themselves dealing with unwanted attempts by companies trying to persuade them to stay.
How to Switch by Text
1. Customers who want to SWITCH and keep their existing phone number text “PAC “ to 65075 to begin the process.
2. Their existing provider will respond by text within a minute.
3. They will be sent their switching code (PAC), which will be valid for 30 days.
4. The provider’s reply must also include important information about early termination charges or pay-as-you-go credit balances.
5. The customer then gives the code to their new provider and this company must arrange for the SWITCH to be complete within one working day.
6. While most people want to keep their mobile phone number, about one in six do not. These customers can text “STAC” to 75075 to request a “service termination authorisation code.
What is persistent debt?
Persistent debt applies to your credit card balance. If you’ve paid more in interest, charges and fees than you have repaid on your credit card balance over an 18-month period, you’ll be classified as being in persistent debt. Then your credit card provider has to get in touch with you to let you know and offer you help.
They also have to:
ask you to consider whether you can afford to repay more quickly
make you aware of the potential implications of continuing with low repayments which can include the possibility that your card could be suspended, and possible impacts on your credit file
let you know that if you cannot afford to repay more quickly, you can get in touch with them to discuss your circumstances so that they can help or, if necessary, you can get free debt advice.
I’m making minimum repayments, isn’t that enough?
Minimum repayments are set by credit card companies subject to minimum legal requirements. It’s the smallest amount the credit card company is happy to let you pay back per month. Paying only the minimum repayment over the short term can help you spread the cost of more expensive items. But minimum repayments long term become an expensive way to repay your debt.
Here’s the example in a table compared to paying back £150, £175 and £200 every month. These are worked out assuming you don’t spend any more using the credit card.
Interest paid in total
Total paid back
How long it takes to repay the £5,000 loan
Minimum payment – First month £132.92, reducing every month after
18 years 10 months
£150 every month, fixed
4 years 1 month
£175 every month, fixed
3 years 4 months
£200 every month, fixed
2 years 9 months
The easiest way to deal with being contacted by your bank or credit card company is to increase your repayment to a level that’s still affordable for you. Making small changes can save you hundreds or thousands of pounds.
Don’t think of it as a demand for money.
New rules mean credit card companies have to let you know when you could save money by changing how you’re paying back your credit card bill. It’s also a chance to look at your credit card balance and see if it’s costing you more than you want.
However, if you don’t do anything or haven’t sufficiently increased your repayments on your credit card after a further 18-month period, your credit card provider has to help you by offering ways of repaying more quickly, such as proposing a repayment plan.
If you don’t get in touch with them, can’t afford to repay your credit card debt faster or decline a repayment plan, you could have your credit card suspended.
Always Good to Talk speak to your bank about the best option for you
Compare Domestic Energy Suppliers Customer Service
HOW GOOD IS YOUR ENERGY SUPPLIER? Citizens Advice launches new energy tool which ranks firms based on customer service
Price isn’t the only thing to think about when choosing an energy supplier. It might be worth choosing a supplier that gets the fewest complaints, or one that’s easy to contact – even if they’re a bit more expensive.
To help you make that choice, we’ve compared suppliers across 5 different categories and ranked them according to how good their customer service is.
We’ve given them an overall rating out of 5 – 1 being poor and 5 being excellent..We have measured Complaints, Ease of Contact, Bill clarity, Ease of switching and Switch guarantee to give an overall score.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “We hope the tool will encourage suppliers to improve their level of customer service with customers now able to scrutinise their performance across a range of different service factors – from complaints to ease of switching “ Follow our link below
BT Basic is a low-cost service for people on low incomes who may otherwise find it difficult to afford a home phone line.
BT Basic (line rental and calls) costs £5.10 a month including a call allowance of £1.50.
BT Basic + Broadband: line rental and broadband cost £9.95 a month including a call allowance of £1.50.
Monthly price cap. BT Basic customers can now make as many calls as they like to local and national numbers (starting with 01, 02 and 03), UK mobile numbers (starting with 07) or 08 numbers and pay a maximum of £10 a month. This means that customers will not pay any more than £15.10 a month for line rental and calls (subject to fair use and keeping within the eligible call types for the call allowance and price cap). The £10 price cap is automatically given to all BT Basic customers.
Option of monthly billing to help with budgeting.
To get BT Basic, applicants must be getting one of these means-tested benefits:
Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
Pensions Credit (Guaranteed Credit)
Employment and Support Allowance (Income related)
Universal Credit (and on zero earnings).
Different benefits with similar names exist, so please check carefully.
To apply for BT Basic, customers just need to fill out a one-page form. BT checks directly with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to confirm eligibility.
For more details on BT Basic, to understand the call types included within the call allowance, the price cap or the application process, go to bt.com/btbasicdeal where you can also download a booklet on the scheme.
Eligible customers can get a BT Basic application form by calling 0800 085 7478.