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Millions of families now face punishing broadband and phone bill hikes as telecoms giants cash in on price rises.

Firms are inflicting increases of around 10 per cent in the spring, despite inflation hitting a 30-year high of 5.4 per cent.

Mobile phone companies are ramping up bills even higher — by using an outdated inflation measure that could push up prices by more than 11 per cent.

Hikes: Telecoms firms are inflicting increases of around 10 per cent in the spring, despite inflation hitting a 30-year high of 5.4%

Hikes: Telecoms firms are inflicting increases of around 10 per cent in the spring, despite inflation hitting a 30-year high of 5.4%

Critics say the demands are unacceptable as families face a soaring cost of living crisis while telecoms firms rake in huge profits.

It is estimated the move will cost households an extra £104.5 million a month — or almost £1.3 billion a year.

Pressure is now mounting on watchdog Ofcom to intervene, with campaigners accusing firms of exploiting the small print to allow them to raise prices mid-contract, which customers cannot escape without paying hefty penalties.

And today they back Money Mail’s call for firms to scrap these punitive price hikes. Here, we explain what the increases mean for you — and how you can still slash your bills.

Sneaky contracts

Major providers began sneaking annual price hikes into customer contracts in 2020. The clauses give them the right to raise bills once a year, usually in March or April.

Most increase bills in line with inflation as measured in December by the consumer price index (CPI) — plus an extra 3.7-3.9 per cent. 

Telecoms firms say the additional percentage increase is needed to ensure investment in their networks.

Martyn James, from complaints service Resolver, says: ‘It’s already appalling that telecoms providers are allowed to increase prices mid-contract without giving customers the option of walking away without penalty. 

Small print: Major providers began sneaking annual price hikes into customer contracts in 2020. The clauses give them the right to raise bills once a year, usually in March or April

Small print: Major providers began sneaking annual price hikes into customer contracts in 2020. The clauses give them the right to raise bills once a year, usually in March or April 

‘But to push up prices above and beyond inflation is deeply unfair, especially now given their profits and when many people are struggling.’

With most contracts typically 24 months long, many households will have little choice but to pay the increase because those who try to leave before their deal ends face hefty early exit fees. 

If you switch away mid-contract, you often have to pay for the remainder of the deal — which could be hundreds of pounds plus VAT.

Ofcom says firms must set out price increases clearly when customers sign up and cannot bury them in the small print.

Money Mail found that TalkTalk did not mention the annual price rise option until the fifth page of its terms and conditions, while Sky customers must read right to the bottom of ‘the legal bit’ on its website where it says ‘prices may go up during your subscription’.

Sarah Coles, from investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown, says: ‘When you sign up to a contract, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that the price will stay fixed while you’re locked into it. 

But that’s not how an awful lot of telecoms companies work. They argue it’s in the small print and that increasing prices with inflation is fair, but that’s not how it feels.’

Virgin Media is the only big provider not to include annual price hikes in its terms and conditions. Under Ofcom rules, it can still raise prices midway through a deal, but customers are allowed to cancel without penalty within 30 days of the announcement.

Last week Dan Sellick, from Earlsfield in South-West London, received a letter from Virgin Media to say his broadband bill would go up 12 per cent from March.

The 29-year-old, who works in theatre production, says: ‘Telecoms firms should be committing to the price customers signed up for rather than increasing prices months in. 

‘There is already a huge amount of pressure on families, given the rising cost of living, and it would be an easy win for providers to cancel this year’s increase.’

Haggling for a cheap deal revealed secret customer discounts

By AMELIA MURRAY

Can you really haggle your way to a better broadband and phone deal?

A report by consumer group Which? this week claimed you can make significant savings by simply making a nuisance of yourself and threatening to switch supplier.

It said half of customers who have haggled reported average annual savings of £85 on broadband, £128 on TV and broadband packages and £35 on mobile bills.

And this is exactly how I bagged a better deal for a cheaper price late last year.

I’ve been a Sky Broadband customer for almost four years. When my (very) cheap £13.50-a-month deal ended, my bill rose to £25 a month — £138 more a year for the same service.

After calling to barter down the price, I was eventually offered a superfast connection that usually costs £33 a month discounted to £24.

A modest £12 a year saving for a faster service. Admittedly, it wasn’t all smooth sailing.

When I was put through to the manager to approve the deal, he tried to say it was a mistake and that the lowest he could go was £28 a month. But after standing my ground and making a formal complaint, I got the deal I’d been promised. Success!

Curious to see if my haggling power would work on other suppliers, I gave BT, Talk Talk, Sky and Virgin Media a call this week to see if they would beat the prices advertised online.

It was here I discovered that many firms offer a secret discount exclusively to customers who call up to negotiate — unusual given so many companies these days typically reserve their best prices for internet users. The friendly call handler at BT told me it does not match rivals’ prices but that he could offer ‘special prices’ that are not available online.

If I went for its Full Fibre deal I would get a £10-a-month discount — a £240 saving over the 24-month contract. And its basic Fibre Essential bundle would be reduced from £27.99 a month to £24.99.

However, he said there was no guarantee these offers would be available if I called another day.

TalkTalk also offers over-the-phone discounts. Its Fibre 65 package is advertised as £24-a-month online. But when I called it was cut to £22. And its Fibre 35 deal was reduced from £22 a month to £21.

Virgin Media cannot yet supply broadband in my area. But it can offer special deals over the phone depending on what customers want.

I tried my luck again with Sky despite renewing my deal with them only recently.

They wouldn’t cut my bills but I was offered a discounted broadband ‘boost’ which guarantees wi-fi in every room, among other perks, for £5 a month.

Sky said it could give me this for £3 a month plus a £36 credit — effectively making it free for a year. As it meant tying into another contract, I declined.

But it goes to show there is never any harm in asking for a cheaper price — because as my experience shows, you just might get it.   

Bumper profits

BT’s latest results revealed pre-tax profits of £1.8 billion, while Vodafone reported gains of €4.4 billion (£3.6 billion). Sky made a £206 million profit before tax according to accounts up to December 2020.

Critics also say telecoms giants are being shown up by smaller suppliers. KCOM, which is based in East Yorkshire and has 250,000 customers, has cancelled its 9.3 per cent price hike this year to help customers it says are burdened by rising household costs.

And Zen Internet, which has 85,000 residential customers, offers a lifetime price guarantee that means the cost of its 12-, 18- and 24-month contracts remain the same for the length of the deal.

SSE also pledges not to hike prices during its 18-month deals. And Cuckoo, which has fewer than 100,000 customers, offers fixed prices for 12 months.

Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com, says: ‘Most households will be bearing the brunt of unprecedented mid-contract rises to their broadband bills this spring.

‘While consumer gas and electricity rates have risen across the board owing to the surge in wholesale energy prices, telecom providers will struggle to justify the hikes.’

Penalties: If you switch away mid-contract, you often have to pay for the remainder of the deal - which could be hundreds of pounds plus VAT

Penalties: If you switch away mid-contract, you often have to pay for the remainder of the deal – which could be hundreds of pounds plus VAT

Watchdog call

Lyndsey Burton, managing director of comparison site Choose, is calling on regulator Ofcom to block or cap the increases.

She says: ‘The pandemic has demonstrated how reliant we are on broadband and mobile services to keep us connected to each other. 

‘Ofcom concede these are ‘essential’ services. Yet they are failing in their duty to support customers’ ability to budget for them.’

Campaigners are also calling for more to be done to help the most vulnerable customers, such as those who rely on a landline and do not use the internet.

Mr James adds: ‘Providers could cancel these annual rises to help struggling customers. They have clearly done well over the past few years with more people dependent on their broadband connection.’

BT says prices for its most financially vulnerable customers will stay as they are. This includes those with its BT Home Essentials, for people on certain benefits, BT Basic or Home Phone Saver deals.

Virgin is also committed to protecting vulnerable customers and has frozen the price of its Essential broadband package for those who claim Universal Credit.

TalkTalk says it is still working through details but is taking into consideration customers’ vulnerability. Vodafone says those who need extra payment support can speak to its specialist team.

When price hikes will hit… and what you can do to save money 

BT, EE and Plusnet customers will be hit by a 9.3 per cent price hike from March 31. This is in line with December’s 5.4 per cent rate of inflation plus 3.9 per cent.

The average BT and EE broadband customer will pay an extra £3.50 a month, or £42 a year. Plusnet customers will pay an extra £2.40 a month, or £28.80 a year on average.

Yet customers with pricier packages face a bigger bill.

Those with BT’s £85.99 a month Full Fibre 900 Halo 3+ broadband deal will pay £96 more a year. TalkTalk is also increasing prices by inflation plus 3.7 per cent, or 9.1 per cent in total.

For families with its £40-a-month Fibre 900 deal, bills will rise by around £44 a year.

Sky customers are yet to hear of any bill hikes, but last year saw prices rise by no more than £6 a month. 

In its key document information emailed to customers it says ‘prices and services may vary including during the minimum term’.

Virgin Media plans to increase broadband, TV and phone prices by an average of £56 a year from March 1. Customers can switch away before February 15 at no cost. 

Vodafone customers who took out a home broadband plan after February 2 last year will see bills increase by around £30 a year from April.

Those who took out a contract before face a price increase based on the RPI inflation rate due to be published in March.

New rules mean phone, broadband and TV providers must contact customers to warn them when their contract is ending and signpost them to better deals.

Lobby group Which? found that Virgin Media customers who switched to a cheaper deal when their broadband offer ended saved more than £190 a year.

Those who switched from BT and Sky saved £160 and £100 a year respectively.

Your first step should be to use a comparison site such as Uswitch or Cable.co.uk to find the best deal in your area.

Consider what internet speed you need. Standard broadband is between ten Megabits per second (Mbps) and 29 Mbps.

Larger families who download films and use multiple devices are likely to need faster speeds of between 35 Mbps and 65 Mbps.

Once you have found a good deal, check cashback sites such as Quidco and Topcashback to see if you could earn extra money by switching via their websites.

Mobile madness

Mobile phone providers are hitting customers with even harsher price hikes. This is because many raise costs in line with the retail price index (RPI) measure of inflation, which is typically higher than CPI. In December, RPI was running at 7.5 per cent.

Virgin says it is raising mobile phone bills on April 1 by RPI inflation plus 3.9 per cent. It will use the January inflation figure, which is yet to be published.

O2 customers who signed up after March 25 will be hit by the same rise. Those who joined before will see prices increase by RPI inflation alone.

Tesco Mobile says it does not hike prices mid-contract. But customers will be charged more than double for calls made outside their allowance from February 9.

It currently costs 25p per minute plus a 10p minimum charge to make phone calls above your usage limit. This will increase to 55p per minute plus a 27p minimum fee.

Ms Coles says: ‘It’s especially cruel to hit people with hikes linked to RPI: an out-of-date measure of inflation that isn’t used for any of their income.’

broadband

An Ofcom spokesman says: ‘Companies do need to invest in their networks, but this is a difficult time for many people to deal with price rises. So we expect firms to promote cheaper social tariffs for eligible customers and make it swift and simple to sign up.’

A BT spokesman says: ‘As usage across our networks continues to increase and with our customers relying on us for connectivity more than ever, it’s crucial we continue to invest in our networks, services and the latest technology. 

‘As such, and in line with our terms, our prices for existing customers will be increasing from March 31.’

Virgin says with rising costs and customers using their services more than ever, it reviews its pricing to fuel further investment in its network and services.

A Vodafone UK spokesman says: ‘The prices reflect the rising costs we continue to face in running our network.’

TalkTalk says it is still working through the details of the increases and will update customers in March. Sky declined to comment. 

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Nvidia’s £30bn takeover of Arm on the brink of collapse: So will British chip designer now return to London stock market?










Nvidia is set to ditch its £30billion swoop on British chip designer Arm after a fierce backlash from regulators worldwide.

US semiconductor giant Nvidia is understood to have conceded that the deal is unlikely to complete.

Arm owner Softbank is now stepping up preparations to list the Cambridge company on the public markets, according to Bloomberg.

Thwarted: US semiconductor giant Nvidia is understood to have conceded that its £30bn swoop on British chip designer Arm is unlikely to complete

Thwarted: US semiconductor giant Nvidia is understood to have conceded that its £30bn swoop on British chip designer Arm is unlikely to complete

That could pave the way for the pioneering firm to return to the London Stock Exchange, where its shares were listed before its £24billion takeover by Softbank in 2016.

But the UK faces a fight to persuade Softbank to chose the City over New York. Analysts said Britain was ‘Arm’s natural home’ and Rishi Sunak recently vowed to make the City ‘an incredibly attractive place’ for companies to list ‘whether it is Arm or anyone else’.

Arm chief executive Simon Segars could be in line to get a payday ‘well in excess’ of £74million if the Nvidia deal goes through, an expert told the Mail. He would still receive a bumper, though smaller, payout if the group floated.

Nvidia agreed to buy Arm in September 2020. It would be the biggest-ever semiconductor industry takeover if it is successful but Nvidia faces losing a £950million downpayment for Arm if the deal falls through.

The swoop has triggered uproar from Arm’s customers and is under scrutiny in China, the US and the EU, adding months of delays to a process that was due to complete in March 2022.

In November, UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries intervened on competition and national security grounds, piling more delays on the deal. 

She believes it is crucial for the UK’s national security to maintain reliable access to Arm technology and that there are fears the Nvidia takeover could remove this.

Arm’s customers include Google, Samsung, Apple and Apple. Softbank licenses Arm’s designs to more than 500 companies who use them to make their own chips, which are used in 95 per cent of the world’s smartphones and other devices – from cars to fridges – that are connected to the internet.

In the UK the takeover is being investigated under the Enterprise Act of 2002. That was replaced this month by the National Security and Investment Act, giving the Government greater power to intervene in the sale of sensitive firms.

Even if the deal was waved through under the Enterprise Act, the new law could be invoked retrospectively to scrutinise the tie-up again. 

Nvidia’s approach came at a critical time as a global shortage of microchips is sending shock waves throughout the manufacturing sector and slowing down production lines.

Arm co-founder Hermann Hauser, who spun off the company from Acorn Computers in 1990, recently said he believed Arm would be better off as an independent company listed in London than part of Nvidia.

Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates, said: ‘If they go down the listing route, the UK is Arm’s natural home. 

‘It was born here, developed here, for the nation. This is our largest tech business in an area that so many countries at looking at on a strategic level.’

He added: ‘Scrutinising the deal will put off some future overseas investors in UK tech but it also says, “Hey, we’re really serious about our industry”. Arm’s expertise demonstrates that the UK no longer competes with Paris and Berlin. It is right up there with Silicon Valley and Shanghai.’

Nvidia and Arm are still pleading their case to regulators.

Nvidia said: ‘This transaction provides an opportunity to accelerate Arm and boost competition and innovation.’ Softbank said: ‘We remain hopeful the transaction will be approved.’

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Veteran fund boss Martin Gilbert seals comeback with takeover of asset manager River and Mercantile Group










Fund management veteran Martin Gilbert has struck a deal to take over asset manager River and Mercantile Group.

The man who set up Aberdeen Asset Management and oversaw its merger with Standard Life, has agreed to buy River through his investment vehicle Assetco.

Gilbert, 66, is chairman of Assetco, a former shell company he and colleagues from Aberdeen Asset Management have used to buy stakes in businesses in the wealth management sectors.

Fund management veteran Martin Gilbert has agreed to buy asset manager River and Mercantile Group through his investment vehicle Assetco

Fund management veteran Martin Gilbert has agreed to buy asset manager River and Mercantile Group through his investment vehicle Assetco

He led Aberdeen through its merger with rival Standard Life in 2017, creating the company that is now Abrdn, before leaving in 2020. Gilbert also currently sits on the River board as deputy chairman.

The deal will see investors receive 0.073 Assetco shares for each River share they hold – valuing it at £99million. 

River shareholders will also receive £190million in cash from the sale of the company’s solutions business to rival Schroders which was agreed in October.

The proceeds of the sale take the value of the entire deal to £289million.

Following the merger, expected to complete in the second quarter of this year, River investors will own over 40 per cent of the combined group. 

he tie-up is now subject to shareholder approval. River chairman Jonathan Dawson added that the merger offered ‘good value to shareholders’, and encouraged investors to back the deal.

Assetco was left as the front-runner after rival bidder Premier Miton pulled out this month.

At the time, Premier Miton boss Mike O’Shea said a tie-up had ‘insufficient commercial merits’.

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Wolseley restaurant firm Corbin & King forced into administration in ‘power play’ by its Thai owners










Two of London’s best known restaurateurs face a battle for their empire after it was forced into administration in a ‘power play’ by its Thai owners. 

Chris Corbin and Jeremy King run top London restaurants including The Wolseley, which is popular among celebrities

They have been in business together since buying La Caprice in 1981, and in 1990 opened The Ivy, one of London’s most popular venues. 

Chris Corbin and Jeremy King (pictured with his wife Lauren) run top London restaurants including The Wolseley, which is popular among celebrities

Chris Corbin and Jeremy King (pictured with his wife Lauren) run top London restaurants including The Wolseley, which is popular among celebrities

The Corbin & King restaurant group has been fighting Thai hotelier Minor, which has had a 74 per cent stake, since 2017. 

King is thought to have opposed openings abroad and sought to bring in outside creditors. 

Minor opposed this and called in a £35million loan, effectively forcing it into insolvency. 

King said that was a ‘power play’, and that he and Corbin will buy it out of administration. 

King said last night: ‘There is absolutely no need to go into administration, we are trading extremely well and all suppliers, staff etc continue to be paid.’ 

Minor said: ‘Since 2017, Minor has put a number of commercially attractive expansion proposals on the table only to see them blocked by Mr King. 

As the majority shareholder, we refute in the strongest possible terms any suggestion Minor has anything less than the success of Corbin & King Ltd and the interests of all its stakeholders at heart.’ 

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As Britain settles into the post-Brexit era, it would be wrong to judge the UK’s world-beating financial sector and the strength and creativity of the economy by appearances.

Covid and working from home have left the normally packed alleys of the City of London and crowded plazas among the towers of Canary Wharf looking forlorn.

But the jobs and earnings catastrophe for the City and UK plc, predicted so loudly in the Remain camp, never materialised.

Sign of the times: Anti-Brexit campaigners on a march in London.  But the jobs and earnings catastrophe predicted so loudly in the Remain camp, never materialised

Sign of the times: Anti-Brexit campaigners on a march in London.  But the jobs and earnings catastrophe predicted so loudly in the Remain camp, never materialised

Instead of 100,000 jobs being lost to the Continent, employment in UK financial services is improving. 

As a survey by professional services firm EY shows, 87 per cent of global financial firms are planning to extend operations in Britain. That is the highest level of optimism since 2016, the year of the referendum.

This in spite of the fact that unlike other sectors of the economy, such as car making and farming, Boris Johnson’s government failed to put in place any long term ‘equivalence’ measures designed to make sure the vibrancy of the Square Mile and the jobs it creates across the economy are protected.

Compared with the few thousand jobs that have migrated to France, there are many more thousands being created – spanning the new frontiers of financial technology, trading in green bonds and raising fresh capital for the UK’s biotechnology, life sciences and artificial intelligence revolution.

When, in the first hours of Britain’s divorce from the EU, some £5billion of trading in shares denominated in euros moved to Amsterdam, the event was treated as a defining moment for Brexit by the pro-EU opinion formers.

The reality is that much of trading is still conducted on a British technology platform and the infinitely more important £75trillion (yes, trillion) trading of foreign currency and complex products based on currencies and interest rates is as firmly rooted here as it ever was.

It is no accident that in the last year investment bankers Goldman Sachs demonstrated commitment to London as its European and global headquarters, with the opening of a spanking new £1billion home for its 6,500 staff.

The pandemic may have cast a baleful shadow over the national mood but it has also demonstrated the resilience and depth of talent of UK plc. 

Our great science-based universities, together with Britain’s life sciences giants Astrazeneca and Glaxosmithkline are making an enormous contribution to saving lives.

The Oxford Covid vaccine garnered the headlines but recent months have also seen big breakthroughs from British-based research and development in the treatment of malaria, meningitis and HIV.

City revival: Instead of 100,000 jobs being lost to the Continent, as some predicted, employment in UK financial services is improving

City revival: Instead of 100,000 jobs being lost to the Continent, as some predicted, employment in UK financial services is improving

The creative sector, from film production to gaming and advertising, is booming. The UK has also demonstrated that it can be at the forefront of the digital revolution with the launch on the London markets of companies as different as Cambridge-based cyber security pioneers Darktrace and tech platforms such as Deliveroo and Freddie’s Flowers.

Peppa Pig may be widely mocked as a symbol of the prime minister’s incompetence after his stumbling appearance before the denizens of business at the CBI.

What the critics have failed to recognise is that the British creation, in all its forms, has become one of the country’s great brands, sold for £3billion to US toy giant Hasbro in 2019.

In sport, British-created franchises ranging from F1 motor racing to the Premier League have become the most highly valued sporting enterprises on earth. 

There is a tendency to measure Britain’s success by the number of cars built and sold, and the containers arriving and departing from Felixstowe.

As important as manufacturing is, we should never forget that more than 70 per cent of national output consists of services, powered by the country’s native creativity and intellectual property.

Yes, physical trade with the EU has suffered as a result of the pandemic and nitpicking behaviour by European bureaucrats at the borders. 

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility has predicted a profound shock to the nation’s balance of payments as a result of the loss of some EU trade.

Nissan has chosen to build its new EV battery plant in the UK and the Mercedes super-range electric car is using technology developed in the West Midlands/Oxfordshire engineering shops of ‘Motorsport Valley’. 

To listen to the Remain fanatics you would think the nation is heading for an economic catastrophe of unprecedented proportions.

Sure, the country like the rest of the world, faces a cost of living calamity as a result of supply chain bottlenecks and rocketing energy costs. 

Yet the International Monetary Fund, which once predicted that Brexit would be ‘pretty bad to very, very bad’ for Britain and the world, is forecasting that the UK will be among the fastest-growing of the advanced economies in the current year, with a 4.7 per cent expansion.

A recent Deloitte survey of finance directors found 37 per cent said capital expenditure would be a priority in 2022, which is the highest figure since the study was inaugurated in 2009.

Some 59 per cent of respondents reported that demand for products and services was back to or exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

The optimism of large slices of the business community, the resilience of the City and the creativity and innovation of British commerce are not subjects we hear much about amid the endless gloom from the broadcasters and opposition politicians.

It is time that the critics lifted their eyes and recognised that Britain’s flexible economy is powering back.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Tesla boss Elon Musk to scoop £26bn shares windfall despite the electric car maker’s stock tumbling










Elon Musk is in line to receive £26billion in Tesla share awards this year despite the electric car maker’s stock tumbling.

The world’s richest man is set to secure five tranches of shares worth around £5.2billion each in the coming months, according to analysts. 

The awards are linked to a controversial pay package for the Tesla boss, who does not take a salary from the firm.

Tesla boss Elon Musk is set to secure five tranches of shares worth around £5.2bn each in the coming months, according to analysts

Tesla boss Elon Musk is set to secure five tranches of shares worth around £5.2bn each in the coming months, according to analysts

In 2018, the 50-year-old was given the opportunity to access 12 sets of 8.4m shares if the company hit a combination of market value, revenue and profitability milestones. 

He has already gained access to seven of these – with five remaining. Musk is the world’s richest man according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, with a £178billion fortune. 

He is still Tesla’s biggest investor despite selling almost £12billion of shares in November and December to settle tax bills.

Tesla is the world’s most valuable car company having seen its shares skyrocket in 2020 and 2021

So far this year a rout among tech stocks on Wall Street has seen its value tumble by more than 23 per cent.

Microsoft beat analyst forecasts as its cloud services division was boosted by businesses switching to hybrid working during the latest Covid waves. 

Turnover hit £38billion in the second quarter to December 31, compared with £32billion in the same period of 2020, while profits rose by a fifth to £14billion.

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Few of us enjoy going through our bank statements at the end of the year, but for Poppy Brown it was particularly painful.

A lunch out, a takeaway coffee, a midweek shop and a taxi ride for a distance she could have walked all added up to £100 of unnecessary costs in a single day.

It was this discovery that convinced her to commit to a radical budgeting challenge: ‘no-spend January’.

Frugal: Money blogger Emma Jackson has always watched her spending, but after committing to ‘no-spend January' she found there were still plenty of areas where she could cut back

Frugal: Money blogger Emma Jackson has always watched her spending, but after committing to ‘no-spend January’ she found there were still plenty of areas where she could cut back

Despite what the name implies, you can (of course) spend some money during the month. But you must commit to paying only for essentials such as bills, groceries and transport.

And the ‘no-spend’ trend has taken off this year, as households worried about the rising cost of living look to cut back. Hundreds of people have joined Facebook groups dedicated to helping splurgers go cold turkey.

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, says: ‘I suspect far more people signed up to “no-spend January” in 2022.

‘Energy bills are at the top of everyone’s mind and many of us will be looking to save more to prepare for higher costs in the months ahead.’

Cutbacks: Poppy Brown saved £950 by ditching takeaways, switching to Aldi for groceries and making coffees at home among other measures

Cutbacks: Poppy Brown saved £950 by ditching takeaways, switching to Aldi for groceries and making coffees at home among other measures

Poppy, 21, expects to have squirreled away an extra £950 this month. The wedding planner earns around £2,500 a month and is saving for a deposit on her first home with her boyfriend Nathan.

She used to spend up to £30 a week on coffees and £300 on regular weekend trips to London with her friends.

But since January 1 she has not spent a penny on anything she doesn’t absolutely need.

Poppy now takes homemade coffees into work, plans her journeys to avoid last-minute taxi rides and cooks for her friends instead of eating out.

Swapping from Morrisons to budget store Aldi has also cut the cost of her weekly shop from £50 to £30 — and she now makes a meal plan to avoid buying groceries in midweek.

Liquid assets: Pierce Holland spent £700 on takeaway coffees in a year

Liquid assets: Pierce Holland spent £700 on takeaway coffees in a year

Poppy, from Maldon, Essex, says: ‘It has been tough, but I have a calendar on the wall and I cross off each day and put a £1 coin in a jar to keep myself motivated.’

Her love of clothes shopping, which can set her back up to £200 a month, has been harder to curb. To avoid temptation, she unsubscribed from emails from all of her favourite retailers and even unfollowed them on Instagram.

Poppy has also made £80 by selling old clothes on the second-hand marketplace Depop.

She says: ‘Due to the cost of living crisis, it makes sense to have a bit of money put aside. I love seeing my friends but I’d like to cook for them more and eat out once or twice a month, rather than every week.’

Pierce Holland is a seasoned saver and has completed three ‘no-spend Novembers’ in previous years. 

The public sector worker began paying more attention to his outgoings after he worked out that he had spent £700 on takeaway coffees in a year. 

Since then, he has kept detailed spreadsheets of his everyday spending, and recently saved £10,000 in his Lifetime Isa — enough to put down a 5 per cent deposit on his first home.

This month he is determined to spend no more than £200, which will cover petrol, parking, groceries and the £100 he pays his grandparents in rent.

However, the frugal 24-year-old always allows himself two ‘cheat days’ when he can spend money on things he doesn’t need.

This month he has treated himself to a £21 ticket for an ice-hockey match and a coffee with a friend. 

Shop smart: Switching to a budget supermarket and avoiding buying groceries mid-week can result in sizeable savings over the course of a month

Shop smart: Switching to a budget supermarket and avoiding buying groceries mid-week can result in sizeable savings over the course of a month

Pierce, from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, says: ‘While I’ve got enough for my deposit, I know I’ll have a higher interest rate than someone who has a larger one.

‘I also want to put aside between £1,000 and £2,000 for costs I’ll have to pay when I buy my house, such as solicitor’s fees.’

Money blogger Emma Jackson has always watched her spending carefully and, at 27, has already paid off her mortgage.

But after committing to ‘no-spend January’ this year, she found there were still plenty of areas where she could cut back.

Leftover chicken pasta lunches have replaced £5 meal deals, and the £200 she used to spend on going out with friends and her partner Hannah has been temporarily cut to zero. 

Emma, who works in HR at a hospital, has also been shopping around for better deals. So far she has reduced her broadband bill from £40 to £20.

She has also moved £10,000 of her savings from an account that paid 0.3 per cent interest into another which pays 0.7 per cent.

Emma, who lives near Sheffield, says: ‘Avoiding buying lunch at work was one of the most difficult things to do, as I had to be so organised the night before.

‘I usually spend £50 a month on takeaways and there were a few occasions when I was really tempted, but I managed to stay strong and cook one of my favourite meals instead.’

f.parker@dailymail.co.uk

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Money Mail readers have come forward in droves to tell of heartbreaking losses to the cruel new ‘mum and dad’ scam.

Last week we reported how parents were being bombarded with text messages from criminals posing as their children and pleading for money.

We have since been inundated with emails from readers who have lost up to £10,000 after being duped into believing their loved one was in financial trouble.

Conned: Jackie Taylor and husband James paid out almost £2,000 to a fraudster purporting to be her son who had lost his phone

Conned: Jackie Taylor and husband James paid out almost £2,000 to a fraudster purporting to be her son who had lost his phone

Your tales have also revealed how major banks are wriggling out of paying refunds, and how top-up card accounts are now becoming the favoured tools of fraudsters.

Using information from readers about the scam accounts, we have compiled a dossier of evidence and sent it to the police, the financial regulator and major banks for investigation.

In the new ‘mum and dad’ con, scammers pretend to the parent that their child has lost their phone and is using a new number. 

The reasons the fraudsters give for needing money are also often highly sensitive — such as for an embarrassing medical issue that needs urgent, private treatment.

Parents’ pain

For Elaine Hodges, 71, there was nothing strange about receiving a WhatsApp message from her son as he ‘never rings and only ever texts’.

So when he told her he had broken his phone and this was his new number, she dutifully saved it and engaged in chit-chat.

But the person texting her was not her son but a fraudster who conned the loving mother out of more than £2,200 to pay off an urgent home repair bill.

Elaine, a retired HR worker from Camberley, Surrey, says: ‘I was gutted when I realised I had been scammed. It was a real shock.’

Her bank, Halifax, has refused to refund her. A spokesman said she did not check the number that had contacted her and ignored warnings before making the payment.

Mitchell Ward lost more than £8,000 to a scammer he believed was his 24-year-old son. The messaging started with a simple ‘Hi dad’. As he only had one child, Mitchell didn’t ask the fraudster to confirm his name and instead saved the new number.

Before long, he was being asked to pay thousands of pounds for a private medical operation his ‘son’ claimed to have undergone.

For Mitchell, 53, from Leicestershire, many of the details of the messages rang true as his son had recently lost a bank card on a night out and he had also recently undergone a medical procedure.

After making several transactions, he only realised it was a scam when Santander blocked the final instalment. He says: ‘You would do anything to help your family. Scammers prey on that.’

Santander initially refused to refund Mitchell the money, but now says it will review the case.

Fraudsters can use cruel tricks to make their lies believable.

When other victims asked which of their children they were speaking to, crooks often replied ‘guess who?’ or ‘your eldest’ if they did not know their name. 

And when parents asked to speak to their son or daughter, the conmen claimed they could only text as the microphone on their mobile was broken.

Accountant Jackie Taylor, 63, was last week tricked out of £1,830 by a fraudster purporting to be her son who had lost his phone.

Jackie, from Hampshire, says: ‘You only pay out because it’s your flesh and blood and you’re worried about them. You wouldn’t do it for anybody else.’

Luckily her bank, Lloyds, agreed to refund her.

Tactics: When some victims asked which of their children they were speaking to, crooks often replied ‘guess who?’ or ‘your eldest’ if they did not know their name

Tactics: When some victims asked which of their children they were speaking to, crooks often replied ‘guess who?’ or ‘your eldest’ if they did not know their name

Card tricks

Money Mail compiled the details of 32 scam accounts where victims had been asked to send money. Of these, 14 belonged to a firm called Prepaid Financial Services and a further 12 to Prepay Technologies.

The companies provide easy-to-use cards which can be loaded with money and then used in stores and at ATMs. But they are used almost exclusively by businesses, who then dish them out to their customers.

For instance, energy companies may send the cards to customers who need to top up their gas and electricity meters. Households receiving benefits are also often given prepaid cards by governments and councils.

A Prepaid Financial Services spokesman told Money Mail its cards are issued to a wide range of clients ranging from travel firms to governments.

Experts say the accounts are popular with scammers because they offer minimal traceability and do not have as many safety checks in place as high street banks.

And while most financial services are signed up to the fraud prevention membership organisation Cifas, Prepay Technologies and Prepaid Financial Services are not. 

This means they do not share their fraud intelligence with the other major banks and financial bodies in the not-for-profit network.

So how have scammers managed to sign up for these accounts? We put this question to Prepaid Financial Services, which has since been taken over by Australian firm EML.

A spokesman says it sells only to businesses, adding ‘we apply an identity verification solution that delivers protection to our customers and us’. This includes facial recognition technology.

When Money Mail attempted to sign up for a card, a customer service representative said new applications were currently on hold.

Fraud expert Jack Buster, of ActionScam, says: ‘It is far too easy to open up a bank account with no credible checks in place.’

He says that digital services have become a favourite with scammers because they do not use the Confirmation of Payee (CoP) system.

This was introduced in 2020 and it acts as a name-checking service when transferring money between accounts. It means customers are alerted if the name and account details do not match. 

But there is no obligation for smaller banks to implement the system. The ‘mum and dad’ con has exploded at a record rate — with all major banks saying customers are increasingly falling victim.

Refund lottery

Some readers told Money Mail their bank had helped prevent them losing thousands to a scam after blocking their payments.

But others are furious their bank had allowed multiple unusual payments to go through without so much as a phone call.

Some victims report being refunded quickly, while others have been flat-out refused.

We found banks trying to wriggle out of refunds by claiming the victim should have called to check their ‘child’ was who they claimed to be. 

But Charlie Shakeshaft, of the fraud-fighting body Individual Protection Solutions, says: ‘Banks offer stop warnings before transactions. 

But with a sophisticated and highly emotive scam like this, the victim believes they are trusting a family member so these warnings become meaningless to them.’

An EML spokesman says: ‘We cannot discuss the operations of our specialist anti-fraud investigators (who work directly with law enforcement) or our anti-Fraud/AML [anti-money laundering] procedures with any outside party for confidentiality and security reasons and so as not to prejudice any cases of alleged fraud, which may exist in the court system. 

‘I can advise that a stringent complaints process is supported by the relevant regulatory bodies, which we fully adhere to and notify third parties as necessary.’

A spokesman for Action Fraud says: ‘We work with the banking industry to clamp down on accounts used for fraud and share information with them where possible. We also have an initiative that alerts banks to accounts used in fraud and nearly 7,000 alerts have been sent so far this financial year, with the aim of getting funds lost returned to victims involved.’

A Financial Conduct Authority spokesman says: ‘If people suspect, or fall victim to, payment fraud, we urge them to report this to their bank and Action Fraud. Scams can also be reported on the FCA website.’

h.kelly@dailymail.co.uk

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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Fresh setback for Credit Suisse as it reveals investment bank arm is set to rack up more losses










Credit Suisse said its investment bank was on course to rack up further losses

Credit Suisse said its investment bank was on course to rack up further losses

Troubled Credit Suisse said its investment bank was on course to rack up further losses in yet another setback.

The Swiss lender, left reeling when chairman Antonio Horta-Osorio resigned this month for breaking Covid rules, blamed ‘the usual seasonal slowdown’ and said it would report a fourth-quarter loss.

More normal business conditions following frenzied deal-making during the pandemic, and a £400million charge, to cover historic legal cases, also played a part. It has been trying to settle cases, so it can move on from a string of scandals.

It was weighed down by the collapse of lender Greensill Capital last year and the implosion of hedge fund Archegos Capital.

Horta-Osorio was supposed to be cleaning up the bank’s reputation, after being appointed in the summer.

But he broke lockdown restrictions in Switzerland and the UK, to attend the Wimbledon tennis finals and the Euro 2020 football tournament.

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The London market rallied after two major banks said now was the perfect time to buy British stocks.

The FTSE 100 rebounded 1 per cent, or 74.31 points, to 7371.46 while the FTSE 250 rose 0.9 per cent, or 193.21 points, to 21,645.71 after JP Morgan analysts said London-listed firms looked ‘exceptionally cheap’. 

Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley said there was a ‘compelling case’ for buying stock in FTSE 350 companies, as UK equities were ‘more defensive’ than global peers.

Stocks rally: The FTSE 100 rebounded 1% while the FTSE 250 rose 0.9% after JP Morgan analysts said London-listed firms looked 'exceptionally cheap'

Stocks rally: The FTSE 100 rebounded 1% while the FTSE 250 rose 0.9% after JP Morgan analysts said London-listed firms looked ‘exceptionally cheap’

The assessment from the Wall Street banks was echoed by AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould, who noted that the lack of tech stocks in the FTSE 100 may now be a blessing amid a sell-off.

He said: ‘The FTSE 100 remains an outlier in global markets due to the construction of its index.

‘For years it was criticised for lacking exciting fast-growth tech stocks. That’s now worked to its advantage. Being dominated by the banking, energy and tobacco sectors means the FTSE 100 has been one of the best performing major indices globally this year.’

Stock Watch – Novacyt

Shares in diagnostics firm Novacyt tumbled to their lowest level in nearly two years after predicting a sharp drop in demand for Covid-19 tests.

It expects sales of the tests to fall by 50 per cent this year compared to 2021, although this would be partially offset later in the year by the arrival of new products.

The sales plunge threatens to severely dent Novacyt’s revenues, 86 per cent of which came from Covid-19 products last year. 

The shares slumped 23.1 per cent, or 55.1p, to 183.8p.

 

The gains followed heavy losses on Monday when the FTSE 100 fell 2.6 per cent and the FTSE 250 3.6 per cent. 

On Wall Street the main indices fell deep into the red before staging a huge comeback to close positively. But uncertainty continues to abound amid fears of interest rate rises and the growing tension between Russia and Ukraine.

Banks were among those leading the FTSE 100 higher in yesterday’s session. Standard Chartered jumped 5 per cent, or 24.3p, to 512.2p after analysts at UBS upped their target on the stock to 580p from 530p. 

The investment bank upgraded Natwest to ‘buy’ from ‘neutral’ and hiked its target to 290p from 230p. Natwest climbed 3.4 per cent, or 7.9p, to 273.8p.

Additionally, UBS upped its target for Lloyds to 62p from 60p, sending it up 3.3 per cent, or 1.64p, to 50.91p, and for HSBC to 590p from 500p, helping drive the shares 3.5 per cent, or 17.25p, higher to 509.4p. Barclays also gained 3.3 per cent, or 6.34p, to 196.7p after UBS raised its target to 265p from 250p.

Shell bobbed up 3.7 per cent, or 64.2p, to 1812p following reports it had struck oil off the coast of Namibia. Rival BP was also up 4.3 per cent, or 15.55p, at 379.65p as crude prices inched higher.

Mid-cap investment fund Baillie Gifford US Growth Trust added 3.5 per cent, or 7.5p, to 220.5p as the value of the assets in its portfolio rose 17.2 per cent in the six months to the end of November. 

However, the fund’s shares have lost around 28 per cent of their value this year amid the plunge in US tech stocks.

Asset manager Abrdn bounced 4.5 per cent, or 10.2p, to 239.4p after Credit Suisse rated the stock at ‘outperform’ with a target price of 290p, saying said it had one of the ‘best asset and revenue mixes’ and they were optimistic about its £1.5billion purchase of investment platform Interactive Investor.

Amur Minerals rocketed 68.7 per cent, or 1.43p, to 3.5p, after confirming it was in talks to sell Irosta Trading, which owns a nickel-copper mine in Russia, for up to £100million.

Pipe and drain maker TI Fluid Systems said chairman Manfred Wennemer will retire in May, to be replaced by independent director Tim Cobbold. It predicted a ‘robust’ performance for 2021 despite supply chain disruption and computer chip shortages. The shares fell 0.4 per cent, or 1p, to 240p.

Shares in egg-free cake maker Cake Box jumped 5.5 per cent, or 14p, to 268p after Jaswir Singh, the chief operating officer, bought 20,075 shares for £50,000, after a dip on Monday. 

Meanwhile, pub group Marston’s sales fell 3.9 per cent from pre-pandemic levels in the 16 weeks to January 12 as festive trading was hit by Omicron and Plan B restrictions. The shares were up 1 per cent, or 0.8p, to 78.9p.

Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.

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