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The Harrington Brooks Blog

News, comment and views from the team at Harrington Brooks.

Making Customer Feedback Count

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

One of the key aims of the One Advice Group is to provide the best customer service in the industry. We place a lot of emphasis on continual improvement, and one of the tools we use to identify strengths and areas in which to improve is customer feedback.

At key milestones in a financial management plan (FMP) and IVA, customers are sent surveys to encourage them to feed back how they’ve been getting on, and to share their opinions on the journey they’ve undergone so far. We want to make sure customers are treated with integrity and in a way that is fair and so we monitor service levels and the delivery of value for money. The aim is to meet, and hopefully exceed customer expectations.iStock_000008262729XSmall

Last year Harrington Brooks received over 7,000 completed surveys from FMP and IVA customers enabling the tracking, monitoring and analysis of trends in feedback. The surveys provide customers with the opportunity to feedback specific comments using a scale of responses ranging from “agree strongly” to “disagree strongly” to statements such as;

  • I am satisfied with the service from Harrington Brooks.
  • The “FMP or IVA” was explained to me clearly.
  • I receive regular updates regarding my plan.
  • My adviser was helpful.
  • I now feel more in control of my finances.
  • I would recommend Harrington Brooks to friends or family.

We also measure the awareness and response to changes we make. Last year, 79% of those who responded said they would recommend us to a friend or family member.

Each week, the senior directors and managers meet to discuss survey results, to assess them and decide up on any appropriate actions required. This can be on a purely micro level, for instance, the rapid response team might contact a customer to resolve an issue they have reported within their individual survey, or it can result in wider change within the company as a result of more macro trend analysis.

Some of the changes we have made as a direct result of customer feedback include;

  • an increase in the number of pre-paid envelopes we send out as standard to customers, so that they can easily forward any creditor communications.
  • the introduction of 0330 numbers. Calls to 03 numbers are charged as calls to normal landlines; and are included in minutes allowances and call plans.

Within survey feedback, it is clear that communication is extremely important to customers – though the level of communication desired was varied. Some preferred to only be contacted when strictly necessary, whilst others wanted regular updates and reassurance as their plan progressed.

To allow us to be more responsive to customers’ communication needs, investments have been made in a number of initiatives, such as:

  • a £50,000 email software system has been integrated to make our e-communications more efficient
  • our Live Chat tool, so customers can get real time advice online from trained advisers.
  • The improvement and re-launch of our My Online Account tool for customers on debt management plans, so that they can access the details and progress of their plan 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Customer feedback does count. We do listen, read and analyses the responses we receive – it’s integral to the group’s ongoing commitment to continuous development and improvement.

Consumer Borrowing Over £ 1bn

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

Consumer borrowing leapt up from £655m to £1.1bn between June and July, Bank of England figures have revealed.

Borrowing on credit cards doubled over the month. Some have speculated this demonstrates a rise in consumer confidence, whilst others have cited it as indicative of the public’s need to borrow money to cover their costs.

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Borrowing on credit cards doubled between June and July

A recent study by Shelter has revealed 880,000 working parents across England have had to make ends meet by cutting out some of their meals. One in 10 parents also admitted to putting off buying new school uniforms for their children in order to put the money towards house payments.

The housing charity has also reported a 100% increase in the number of calls they receive from people struggling with rent arrears, stating they were “fighting to meet the demand”.

Credit card, unsecured or short term finance can tide people over when they fall short at the end of the month. However, this can create a spiral of borrowing, which some struggle to escape from.

If you find yourself struggling to pay back your unsecured debts, give our advisers a call. They can help talk through your circumstances, and access the best course of action to take to get you back on track.

Complaints Against Credit Broking Websites Doubles

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

More than 10,000 people have complained to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) since the start of 2014 regarding middleman websites that take large sums from customers for credit deals that do not materialise.

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Ask Finance advise avoiding any credit brokers that charge upfront fees.

In some cases, the consumer’s bank details were passed on to other credit broking websites, resulting in their bank accounts being debited multiple times without warning.

Many people were unaware that they were on a credit broking website, instead believing that they were applying for a loan directly. In a third of cases the fees had been refunded, and in the remainder the ombudsman agreed that the consumer had been treated unfairly.

Senior ombudsman Juliana Francis commented:

“It’s disappointing that people who are already struggling to make ends meet are being misled into thinking that these websites will get them a loan.

In too many of the cases we sort out, no loan is provided and people’s bank accounts have been charged a high fee, often multiple times.

If money has been taken from your account unfairly or without warning, the good news is the ombudsman is here to help.”

This kind of case is not uncommon, as Amanda Smith of Ask Finance describes:

“Sadly we hear stories of these practices on a daily basis. Consumers are duped into thinking they are directly on a lenders website and think entering their bank account details will be safe. It’s not until they have been charged a fee, sometimes multiple times, they realise their mistake.

These companies are very clever with their websites often showing the relevant licence numbers. Consumers need to check those numbers on the regulated bodies website before proceeding.
These are appalling practices which can leave consumers in a desperate situation. Taking the last funds from a persons’ account leaving them unable to pay important bills, such as mortgage or rent.

At Ask Finance we always advise consumers never pay any upfront fees. Any reputable company will be able to source you a loan without the need for you to make any upfront payment.”

Customers Still Owed Billions in PPI Compensation

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

The amount still to be claimed from the scandal surrounding payment protection insurance (PPI) mis-selling could run into the tens of billions, according to Financial Claim Services (FCS) which officially launches its new website today.

Recent analysis of PPI redress in recent FOS and FCA publications revealed that approximately £50 billion of PPI polices has been sold over the last 10 to 15 years. With £15.1 billion already paid out to claimants, and estimations for eventual redress believed to total approximately £24 billion, there is still so much more to be claimed.

In launching its new website, FCS, a subsidiary of Castle Keep Law Ltd, will be better placed than ever to ensure that consumers are compensated for what was wrongly sold to them. To date, FCS has helped nearly 5,000 people claim back over £14 million in PPI claims, with the average amount per claim for its customers totaling £2,900.

Concerned that the vast majority of paid for package banking solutions were mis-sold in some way, since January 2014 FCS has been helping customers make claims against mis-sold packaged bank accounts. Its average claim value is around £1,000. Though, the banking industry is still reticent to accept claims, with eight out of ten claims that have been denied at first stage going on to be upheld by the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Darren Smith, Head of Financial Claim Services commented: “The number of people we have helped since the launch of Financial Claims Services clearly shows the level of support that we can offer to consumers who have been treated badly and been sold a product that they never needed or wanted. The new website will mean that consumers will have access to an easy-to-use portal to ensure that they can seek redress for the bad behaviour of the institutions they once trusted.”
Notes to editors

Part of Castle Keep Law Ltd, Financial Claim Services is fully authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Being part of a law firm, FCS complies with much higher standards of professional conduct than other claims management companies are required to.

FCS is also part of a bigger group of companies, the One Advice Group, which employs over 650 people in the North West of England. The service offered by FCS adds to the comprehensive suite of professional financial services offered by the Group, which includes debt management services through its Harrington Brooks brand and legal services through Castle Keep Law.

For further information please visit:

http://www.financialclaimservices.co.uk/

Or contact:
RalphJ@lansons.com
Tel: 020 7294 3667

Renters and Landlords Ripped off by Agents

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

New research has revealed that “double dipping” – charging landlords and tenants for the same services – is a common practice among letting agents.

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Direct Line For Business recommends shopping around to get the best rates from letting agents.

One letting agent was found to have charged a landlord £670 to change the date on a contract, alongside charging £90 for the same service to the tenant.

The figures, published by Direct Line for Business (DL4B) showed a staggering disparity between charges set in place by agents, including inventory charges ranging from £65-£300 and property visits at £20-£100.

Fees for landlords also vary markedly, from 5% to 17%. Whilst the average is 11%, charges take the annual expense much higher.

Direct Line comment:

“Taking into account agents’ fees, taxes and unbudgeted costs such as emergency property repairs, landlords can easily pay out expenses of 25% of their annual rental income for a property.”

Additional research from website Spareroom has found a renting costs around 10% more than 5 years ago, whilst renters’ budgets are down by 0.5%. This gap is even wider in Scotland, where rents have risen by 24% but budgets have shot down by 22%.

If rising living costs and personal circumstances have driven you into difficulty, Harrington Brooks are here to help. Our advisers can help you find the best financial solution for your debts, whilst our legal team are on hand to help you deal with any contractual disputes you might have with your landlord or letting agent.

CCJs Up 40% from Last Year

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

The number of County Court Judgments issued has risen from 245,424 to 344,109 over the past year, Registry Trust Limited (RTL) statistics confirm.

The total value of consumer CCJs now stands at £797.9m. However, the average value of a CCJ has dropped to £2,319. Chair of the Registry Trust Malcolm Hurlston puts this seeming paradox down to lender and collector behaviours:

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Chair of the Registry Trust has linked the rise in CCJs with the increase in the amount of debts sold to collection companies.

“Lenders have increasingly been selling debt to specialist companies who are more likely to go for judgements, even for smaller sums. As a result the average judgement value has fallen while the number of judgements has leaped.”

Conversely, the number of CCJs against businesses has dropped by 10% compared with the same period last year, with total value of £194 million. This, Hurlston argues, is more demonstrative of the wider state of finances in the UK:

“The number of CCJs against businesses has halved in the five years since the recession bit. The economy appears to be set fair.”

If you have received a CCJ or are worried with your personal debt, give our advisers a call today. Our financial advisers are on hand to help you make sense of your financial circumstances, and to help you decide the best course of action for you to take.

Should Your Children Be Included In Financial Discussions?

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

A recent study by family support charity Home-Start has revealed 31% of adults felt general money discussions were inappropriate for children to be included in. But is keeping quiet healthy for your household?

Making money a taboo subject can have a negative effect on your child's financial abilities in the future.

Making money a taboo subject can have a negative effect on your child’s financial abilities in the future.

75% of children aged 5-10  don’t think so, instead believing they should be involved in decisions about what their family spends money on, yet  29% of adults said they would feel awkward discussing their earnings with friends and family.

Whilst you don’t need to let your 10 year old read your old bank statements, it can be very beneficial to make money an open, safe topic in the home.

However, it can be daunting to discuss money matters as a family. For a lot of people, keeping quiet about money is learned behaviour, with half of those polled admitting they never had discussions about personal finances with adults during their own childhood.

Managing Director of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Glenn Kurlander calms the fears of parents worrying that talking about money is opening Pandora’s Box:

“If we try to force the lid down, we’re really teaching our kids that there is something inside the box to fear; something so dangerous and harmful that we don’t even talk about it. If that’s the lesson we teach our kids, we’re not starting them off on the road to forming a healthy relationship with wealth.”

The Money Advice Service concur:

“Some parents worry about exposing their children to money too early because they want to protect them from adult pressures. But helping your child to understand and respect money from an early age will help them manage it better when they’re an adult.”

Children are naturally very inquisitive and perceptive, so your financial circumstances are probably evident in your lifestyle. If your children go to a private school and you drive a new Audi, they certainly won’t be oblivious to the fact you are wealthy. Equally, if you are struggling to make ends meet and have a lot of contact from creditors, chances are they will notice.

Talking with your children is a good way to gauge what their thoughts are on finances, and take control with how they handle their own accounts in the future. For example, you might live a lavish lifestyle, but are worried your children won’t know the value of money. Or, you might be struggling to make ends meet and panic that your child is going without, or will feel afraid. Unless you take action, you can’t be sure that your anxieties won’t become real.

There are simple ways to involve your children in money making decisions. For instance, if you’re on a tight budget, let your children be involved in money saving. When you go to the supermarket, let them help you work out which is the cheapest cereal, or bread, and see if you can beat your “score” next time you do a shop. If you’re worried they don’t appreciate the luxuries they are allowed, make them manage their own budget on a trip – give them a set allowance (£10 for example), and make sure that’s all they spend that day.

Walk the talk?

A crucial piece of advice from Kurlander is to “walk the talk”. Learning by example is a key part of a child’s development, so it’s essential that what you want to teach your children about money lines up with how you behave – otherwise the sentiment is meaningless. Sometimes this in itself can make it challenging to bring up the topic of finance, but for some it can be the very mirror needed to make us take action and iron out our bad habits.

For more tips on opening up the lines of communication with your children, read our guide to teaching your children about money.

If you’re struggling with your finances and want to talk to one of our friendly, professional advisers, give them a call today.

Another Price Hike For TalkTalk

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

Telecoms provider TalkTalk has increased the cost of its value line rental for the second time this year, and the firm say they have not ruled out additional increases.

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Harrington Brooks’ switching service ensures our customers always get the best deals.

Their initial price rise in April took their costs from £126 to £141 per year. This has now risen to £172 per year – a rise of almost £50 in 4 months.

The value line rental allows customers to pay a year’s bills upfront in order to get a cheaper deal. Thus, existing customers will only be affected when they come to renew their deal, though for new customers the effects of the price hike are immediate.

No other packages are affected by the change in price as yet, but TalkTalk say they have not ruled out increases for other packages in the future.

We know a rise in bills can be tough when you’re on a tight budget, and it can be confusing working out the best deal for your needs. That’s why at Harrington Brooks we offer a free comparison and switching service for all our customers, to save you money and time while you work towards becoming debt free.

Solicitors for the Elderly Acceptance for HB Legal Service

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

Kerry Blackhurst Head of My Care Claim and Director of Harrington Brooks’ in house solicitors Castle Keep Law has been accepted as a member of the national association ‘Solicitors for the Elderly’ (SFE).

The aim of this national association is to improve the knowledge and service provided on legal issues including, tax planning, wills, enduring powers of attorney, long-term social and health care and other retirement issues.

The aim of this national association is to improve the knowledge and service provided on legal issues including, tax planning, wills, enduring powers of attorney, long-term social and health care and other retirement issues.

The aim of this national association is to improve the knowledge and service provided on legal issues including, tax planning, wills, enduring powers of attorney, long-term social and health care and other retirement issues.

Castle Keep Law provides a variety of specialist legal services at reasonable prices.

Within Castle Keep Law is My Care Claim, who specialise in legal issues for the elderly, particularly the reclamation of fees that should be covered through the NHS.

Kerry’s membership of SFE will provide clients with the assurance that Castle Keep Law has wide ranging expertise in providing legal services for older people.

Kerry said:

” I have been specialising in legal services for the elderly for (several/many) years, and am looking forward to continuing my development in this area so that I am able to give my clients and colleagues first class legal advice in a field of law which is constantly evolving, as the requirements of the elderly population change.”