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Your Weekly Commercial Awareness Update – w/c 19th November 2018

Your Weekly Commercial Awareness Update – w/c 19th November 2018

Here are this week’s headlines, brought to you by our Student Commercial Awareness Team:

Capping Cost and Credit Charges on Rent-To-Own Products

Reported by Zara Smith

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) noticed how those who choose rent-to-own products can be paying up to four times more than other shoppers. Places like BrightHouse and PerfectHome are large contributors to the over payment of rent-to own products.

BrightHouse was fined in 2017 and since then the FCA has worked with them to cut costs and interest rates, in order to act in the best interests of their consumers.

Proposals have been put forward to ensure credit charges don’t exceed the price of the product. The idea of a two-day cooling off period for extended warranties was also suggested. This proposal would collectively save consumers almost £23million annually. The crackdown would be applied from April.

Those who use the rent-to-buy scheme are usually those most vulnerable in their financial situation. They will turn to these schemes to help fund necessary household appliances, but these schemes usually lead to them getting in debt – due to the high interest rates.

The chief executive of the FCA, Gillian Guy, said: “These products are aimed at people who have little choice but to resort to this type of credit, yet they come with crippling interest rates on prices that are far higher than anywhere else on the high street.

A cap gets to the heart of the problem by stopping costs from spiraling out of control and pushing people into further debt.”

See here for more.

Amazon Data Leak Occurs Two Days before Black Friday

Reported by Rui Ci Lee

Amazon experienced a technical glitch that left the names and email addresses of its clients exposed on its website. The data breach occurred just two days prior to the Black Friday sales, one of the busiest days for the e-commerce website in the year. The information leak was caused by a technical issue rather than a malicious hack.

Following the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Amazon has to inform the data regulatory body, which is the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK, about the data breach within 72 hours of the incident. Amazon has also emailed the affected customers regarding the leak.

This data leak is the second time in two months where Amazon notified its customers that their email address had been exposed. In October 2018, an Amazon employee was fired for disclosing customers’ emails to an outside seller on Amazon, violating the company’s policy.

Read more at The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal.

Homelessness crisis on the rise in the UK

Reported by Anna-Mei Harvey

New figures released this week in a report by the charity Shelter, show that there may be as many as 320,000 people living on the streets in the UK. If these figures are accurate, that suggests that as many in 1 In 200 people in this country are homeless or are without fixed residence.

The chief executive of the charity Polly Neate blames the crisis on “the perfect storm of spiralling rents, welfare cuts and a total lack of social housing.” Melanie Onn, the shadow housing minister has also suggested that government policies of austerity, that even the United Nations say was designed to hurt the poor, have heavily contributed to the issue.

To add some context, there are currently enough homeless people in England and Wales to populate a city the size of Newcastle which represents an increase of around 13,000 people or 4% on last year. Homelessness has traditionally been a problem faced largely in the South-East however recent figures are showing the issue is rapidly on the rise in the Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber and the North-West.

The report from Shelter is published annually at around this time and worryingly, especially given the fall we are about to see in temperatures, the charity says its figures are likely to be a conservative estimate. This is due to it being impossible to include those who are not known to the authorities or are experiencing other types of homelessness not included in the figures.

Read more at the Guardian, Telegraph, and the Independent.

Police forces urged for further funding after 8 years austerity

Reported by Jutha Cheewat

Five police forces, including the Metropolitan police in West Midlands and Merseyside’s elected leaders, have signed a letter addressed to the Chancellor, Philip Hammond. The letter also gained supports from politicians such as Sadiq Khan.

They call for further funding after enduring the 8 years long cuts. The austerity is said to have a detrimental effect on police resources leading unavoidably to a higher level of violent crime across the country.

According to the Guardian, part of the letter read “Policing should be an issue of national taxation but has increasingly been pushed on to local taxation as the government has refused to increase the police grant.

This is unfair and unsustainable because council tax is a regressive form of taxation that disproportionately impacts the least well off and is insufficient to tackle the scale of the problem we face.”

One of the proposed solutions by the government is to raise council taxes for further funding for police forces.

The response to the matter will be crucial as the police chiefs, earlier last month, also raise similar concerns warning the government about the cuts and its impact on numbers of officers employed. They said reducing forces was the last resort and that they are ready to take legal action should the government put forward further cuts.

Find out more here and here.

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