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The Harrington Brooks Blog

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

Top Money-Saving Tips

Posted by Jack Boardman on

Haggling can reduce costs by up to £500 a year on a variety of household expenses, including mobile phone contracts and car insurance, says the consumer body Which?. It surveyed over a thousand of its members and found that 86% of those who haggled over their mobile phone contract, and 85% of those who did the same with their TV, home and broadband package, received a better deal. A further 83% obtained a discount on a holiday abroad when haggling with an in-store travel agent.

Overall, Which? members said they managed to get an average £105 off a mobile phone contract, £191 off a summer holiday, £40 off car insurance renewal and £157 off a broadband bundle.

Then save £240 a year with LED light bulbs

LED bulbs use a fraction of the energy of traditional bulbs but cost a lot more to buy. The running cost of 10 6W LED bulbs is 7.3p per day, 51p a week, £2.19 a month and £26.65 a year so, the savviest buy you could make this year could be a box of new light bulbs.

An investment in the latest expensive but super-efficient bulbs could save you £240 a year and pay for itself within five months.

These bulbs, which are made up of LEDs (light-emitting diodes), are about 10 times more efficient. So, to replace a traditional 60W bulb you need just a 6W LED bulb. LED lights are considerably more expensive to buy but they consume so much less electricity that you will quickly recoup your outlay in lower bills.

If you replace all your traditional bulbs with a 6W LED equivalent, the running costs will be just one tenth – or 7.3p per day, 51p a week, £2.19 a month and £26.65 a year. The savings are therefore 65.7p a day, £4.60 a week, £19.70 a month or £239.80 a year.

 

Cut your Utility Bills – here’s how to do it

1. Switch your tariff with the USwitch Team at Harrington Brooks

Shopping around and switching suppliers is one of the easiest ways to cut bills – yet the average consumer switches only once every 10 years. Energy companies usually change their prices twice a year, and what can be the best deal one year can prove less competitive the next. The cheapest deals are for those who opt for dual fuel (gas and electricity from the same supplier), manage their account online and pay by direct debit.
Call us or use the form at harringtonbrooks.co.uk/switching.

2.Are your roof, walls and windows letting out heat?

Loft insulation is one of the most efficient ways to keep heat from escaping in a home. The thickness of the insulation plays an important role, but it’s easy to top up if there’s some there but not enough. The recommended depth is 270mm. Topping up from 100mm to 270mm can save about £25 a year on heating bills, according to the Energy Saving Trust. A third of the heat in an un-insulated home is lost through the walls. If you have cavity walls (most properties built after 1930 do), it is relatively cheap to have them insulated, at £450 to £500.

Double-glazed windows can save up to £165 on heating bills compared with a single-glazed property.

3.Consider cheap insulating measures

Use curtains across doors, blocking draughts and investing in thermostatic radiator valves all save energy.

4.Check your ECO eligibility

ECO, which stands for Energy Company Obligation, means that the big energy suppliers are obliged to help the vulnerable with energy saving measures. It can be complicated to work out whether you are eligible, since it depends on what measures you need, where you live and if you receive any state benefits. Again the USwitch team at Harrington Brooks can help.

5.Talk to your council

Some local authorities may provide grants for energy saving measures. Check what schemes are running in your area.

6.Ditch the old boiler

Boilers are expensive to replace, but an inefficient one is also costing you money. Boilers have energy ratings, much in the same way as homes. A is the most energy efficient and G is the least. Replacing a G-rated boiler could save about £310 a year on running costs. Make sure you shop around for your boiler rather than take one from your energy provider – it can be considerably cheaper.

Sources:
• Which?
• Comparethemarket.com
• USwitch
• The Energy Saving Trust

Complaints and Customer Satisfaction – How do Harrington Brooks compare?

Posted by Jack Boardman on

Customers made 2.5 million complaints against financial companies in the second half of 2013, with the biggest banks receiving thousands of calls and emails a day from disgruntled consumers.

At Harrington Brooks the level of redress was 0.0023% of turnover. This compares favourably to most companies that typically have rates of 7% to 8%.

As Harrington Brooks do not have more than 500 complaints in any 6 month period, we do not have to publish our data as per the FCA requirement.

Barclays Bank topped the list of companies customers complained about, racking up 309,494 new complaints over the six-month period, which equates to 1,695 a day. This is however down 17%.

Lloyds Bank came second, receiving 256,656 complaints, while Bank of Scotland and National Westminster also feature in the top five complained-about firms.

Figures from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) show that complaints about financial firms on the whole have fallen by 15 % as in the first half of 2012 a total of 2.9 million complaints were made.

A total of 1.4 million PPI complaints were made during the same period, representing a fall of 22% on the previous six months. However, PPI still accounted for 56pc of all complaints.

What else did we all complain about?

  • Hargreaves Lansdown was the most complained-about investment firm, with 3,171 complaints. This coincided with the company’s technical failure during the flotation of the Royal Mail
  • Complaints about the big 6 energy giants tripled in a year.

Martin Wheatley, chief executive of the FCA, stated:

“No firm wants to top this particular list and they all should be striving to ensure that customers are being treated fairly and not given cause to complain… there is clearly more for us all to do to show consumers their interests come first.”

Launch of My Online Account Receives Great Customer Feedback

Posted by Peter Kelly on

Thank you to all our customers who have provided some great positive feedback and constructive comments regarding the new My Online Account service which Harrington Brooks launched on 8th April.

Since the launch of My Online Account, visits to the dedicated customer area have increased by 540% in the space of just 1 week. We are really pleased that you find it so helpful and you can use it at your convenience 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Many of you have also commented about how useful the video tutorial is in helping you to make the most use of and navigate around the new area, understand what information is available and how to access it within your own personal account.

There are loads of reasons to visit the My Online Account area regularly as it’s designed to give you, our customer, better access to information about your plan and provide greater visibility about your payments, creditor information / balances and important income and expenditure details.

Not only is it important to keep this information up to date so that we can ensure your plan runs smoothly, but as many of you have fed back, it’s great to be able to see your debts coming down with each payment you make. Great peace of mind!

Did you know that you can also use the My Online Account area to?

  • View and update or amend your address and contact details
  • Add or amend your email address – don’t forget to add your mobile number if we don’t already have it
  • Request a call or chat live to an adviser
  • Request that your statements be provided my email – go paperless
  • View and amend information about any budget, income and expenditure changes that you may be experiencing
  • Check that creditor references are all correct and up to date – essential for efficient payments to creditors
  • Make additional payments and set up direct debits
  • Track and view transactions
  • Request a pre paid envelope
  • Request advice about possible legal issues and state benefits
  • Earn £100 in Tesco Vouchers by referring a friend
  • And access to discount codes that provide money off your shopping

View screen cast explaining these features further



Please keep visiting the My Online Account area regularly to keep track of your plan and payment activity and we’ll make sure you are kept up to date with useful news and advice.

My Online Account – it’s our way to help you countdown to becoming debt free.

Positive Reaction To Fee Changes under new FCA Regulation

Posted by Peter Kelly on

Harrington brooks financial management customers have reacted positively following changes to the fee structure under new FCA regulation.

On 1 April 2014 the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) took over the regulation of around 50,000 consumer credit firms from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), including Harrington Brooks.

The new regulations affect anyone who has taken out a loan, used a credit card, had difficulties repaying debts or looked for advice on debt problems. The new regulations promote consumer interests beyond the basic requirements of the law and mirror Harrington Brooks own ethos which is about “putting the customer first” and “at the heart of everything we do.”

The interests of the customer are the focus of the new regulations.

The interests of the customer are the focus of the new regulations.

Since the 1st April 2014, when the new FCA regulations came in to force, Harrington Brooks have emailed and/or sent letters out to each individual customer advising them of the changes.

The response we have experienced has been very positive on the whole, with just one person requesting to cancel their plan and one complaint to the customer service team.

From the feedback we have received, most customers think that the move to have a flat monthly fee structure is a definite change for the better and that it’s easier to understand and calculate. Many customers have experienced a reduction in their fees as a result, and have been keen to let us know how pleased they are.

Savvy as ever, our customers have also been quick to comment about how it compares in the market place and appreciate that it’s not only competitive and fair, but also one of the best value structures.

Thank you to all our customers who took the time to give feedback, it is important and we do appreciate your comments.

An explanation of the new few structure applicable to customers on Financial / Debt Management Plans from April 2014 is available at financial management – key information

Positive Creditor Responses

It also worth noting that a number of Creditors we work with on your behalf have expressed positive feedback as a result of the changes we’ve made to the fee structure and distribution of payments.

Our top 30 creditors account for nearly 72% of the total debt Harrington Brooks have under management. Going forward we also hope that these positive changes will help us to negotiate even more favourable reductions and/or freezes in interest and charges. Reductions and freezes can’t be guaranteed but we hope to better our current statistics which show that we currently get *91% of creditors to freeze interest and to stop charges.

If you would like to provide feedback please contact us or even easier, log in using your own personal user name and password in the My Online Account area – you can access it from the Harrington Brooks home page in the top right hand corner.

A Great New Service for Customers – My Online Account

If you haven’t yet visited the My Online Account  we urge you to do so.

There are loads of reasons to visit the My Online Account area regularly as it’s designed to give you the customer better access to information about your plan and provide greater visibility about your payments, creditor information / balances and important income and expenditure details.

Not only is it important to keep this information up to date so that we can ensure your plan runs smoothly, but as many of you have fed back, it’s great to be able to see your debts coming down with each payment you make. Great peace of mind!

Please keep visiting the My Online Account area regularly to keep track of your plan and payment activity and we’ll make sure you are kept up to date with useful news and advice.

My Online Account – it’s our way to help you countdown to becoming debt free.

Notes: (91% of total value of debt under our management on behalf of clients)

New Laws Change Bailiffs’ Tactics

Posted by Jack Boardman on

In effect from 6th April, 2014, changes to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act, 2007, will change the way in which bailiffs can enforce the repayment of debts.

If you are dealing with creditor contact, which may have led to bailiff enforcement, there are some new rules that you should know about. Steven Emerson, director and chairman of the Civil Enforcement Association said examples of aggression in the enforcement industry have been “isolated”, but that “the new regulations should make everything far more professional, giving benefits to not only debtors but to creditors and the enforcement industry”.b

The new laws prevent bailiffs entering homes at night, the use of physical force, and entering homes when only children are present, as well as taking essential household items.

The Citizens Advice chief executive, Gillian Guy, said: “We help with 1,000 bailiff problems a week. People have reported bailiffs giving debt letters to their children and threatening violence. These new rules reflect just how out of control the industry is and are a welcome step towards protecting people in debt.”

The new regulations also:

  • Ban landlords from using bailiffs to seize property for residential rent debts without going to court first
  • Introduce mandatory training and certification for bailiffs
  • Ensure vulnerable people get assistance and that bailiffs are trained to recognise them
  • Introduce clearer rules detailing when a bailiff can enter a property and what goods they can take
  • Bring in restrictions on when bailiffs can sell goods
  • Require bailiffs to tell the court the likely means of entry, goods involved and amount of force required before a warrant is granted to force entry, as well as provide details of how the premises will be left in a secure state afterwards
  • Force bailiffs to give seven days’ notice before taking possessions, unless they have specific permission from a court
  • Introduce fixed fees, ending the ability of bailiffs to add excessive charges to the amount debtors had to pay

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, said: “People will still have to face up to their debts but they will no longer need to fear their home being raided at night, the threat of violence or having their vital household equipment seized. We are stamping out bad practice and making sure bailiffs play by the rules. Those who don’t will be banned.”

If you are concerned about creditor contact or bailiff action, contact Harrington Brooks today, free of charge and we’ll explain all of the options available to your unique circumstances and give you the most suitable advice and information you need.

New regulation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) comes into force 1st April, 2014

Posted by Jack Boardman on

What’s it all about?

On 1 April, 2014, the FCA take over the regulation of around 50,000 consumer credit firms from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT); this includes Harrington Brooks. The new regulations affect anyone that has taken out a loan, used a credit card, had difficulties repaying debts, or looked for advice on debt problems.

The interests of the customer are the focus of the new regulations.

The interests of the customer are the focus of the new regulations.

The FCA has stronger powers and more resources than the OFT to regulate the consumer credit industry. It’s a move that Harrington Brooks welcome. Much of the OFT guidance will be converted into FCA rules and the DEMSA Code of Conduct also continues to apply, which promotes consumers’ interests beyond the basic requirements of the law.

Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have three operational objectives:

  • To secure an appropriate degree of protection for consumers.
  • To protect and enhance the integrity of the UK financial system.
  • To promote effective competition in the interests of consumers.

So how will this affect you, the customer?

The interests of the customer are the focus of the new regulations, which reflects Harrington Brooks’ belief and ethos, putting the customer at the heart of all that we do, helping people to manage their money and become free from debt in a way that is supportive, empathetic, efficient and professional.

It also means that we will work even harder to deliver our Customer Promise, which  is to be honest, transparent and trustworthy in everything we do and the services we provide.

This becomes most apparent when we say:

  • we aim to provide the most suitable, affordable advice, based on open communication and a diligent assessment of a customer’s financial circumstances, which is in their best interests and is appropriate to their circumstances,
  • with fair and open pricing,
  • delivered by colleagues that are well-trained, knowledgeable, compliant and understanding.

In practical terms, we have increased the protection for client money, and have changed to a more simplified, flat administration fee structure (http://www.harringtonbrooks.co.uk/financial-management/key-information) and guarantee that payments will be dispersed from month one to creditors and lenders.

Harrington Brooks is totally focused on securing appropriate solutions to free customers from debt and, where appropriate, delivering those solutions in a user-friendly, supportive way.

The rule changes announced will give consumers additional protection and puts the onus on credit providers  to ensure that they treat customers fairly at all times. Consumer credit providers will need to ensure that they give customers the right information to make informed choices, that their services meet consumer nees, and that people in difficulty are treated fairly.

Harrington Brooks remains a leading member and supporter of the Debt Managers Standards Association (DEMSA), which is a robust Trade Association that since it was established in 2000, has been responsible for promoting good practice in the debt management industry, and for protecting the interests of the public and the lenders to whom they owe money.

Under DEMSA, Harrington Brooks have been audited several times by independent third-party compliance analysts and continue to support DEMSA’s hard work and their role in supervisory governance.

In summary, we want the changes to make more customers happy, relieved and cared for with well-informed, suitable and appropriate debt management solutions so that Harrington Brooks can create more of the same:

  • “A very helpful and understanding company. I would highly recommend Harrington Brooks to anyone finding themselves in any kind of debt problems.”
  • “Friendly staff treat you as a human, not just a number.”
  • “No exaggeration to say Harrington Brooks saved my marriage and my sanity.”
  • “For the first time we have peace of mind knowing not any of the companies can contact us. We feel we have got back our freedom.”
  • “Harrington Brooks are efficient, professional, very prompt and courteous.”
  • “I was being chased by phone, email and letters with threats to come to the door. This has all stopped since I turned to Harrington Brooks.”

Source: Selection of Trust Pilot Reviews 2013/14

Independent Review Of Money Advice Service Commissioned By Government

Posted by Jack Boardman on

The Treasury Select Committee has published a letter from the government responding to its report on the Money Advice Service, confirming that it will commission an independent review of the service www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk.

The government made a commitment to review the service when setting out a programme of fundamental reform for financial services regulation. It was back in December, 2013 that the Treasury Select Committee recommended the Money Advice Service be reviewed.

In the letter, Sajid Javid said that the government will announce further details shortly and follows on from an initial commitment to review the service in October 2010.

Sajid Javid is a British Conservative Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament for Bromsgrove since 2010. He has been the Financial Secretary to the Treasurer since October, 2013.

SSE announces freeze in household bills until January 2016.

Posted by Jack Boardman on

The announcement comes amid the ongoing controversy over energy bill price hikes for consumers and businesses. SSE Energy Supply Limited, one of the so called big six provider has announced it plans to freeze household bills until January 2016.

SSE is a trading name of SSE Energy Supply Limited, voted “”Best for Customer Service” every year since 2006 in the uSwitch Customer Satisfaction Reports.

SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies stated: “We’re setting out a positive agenda for customers, including our price freeze to 2016. We’re making sure our own house is in order for the future by streamlining and simplifying our business and we’re making clear we wish to work with people to find more ways of taking costs out of energy bills.”

In order to afford the price freeze, SSE also announced a swathe of measures to keep its overheads down and reduce capital and investment expenditure, retaining a commitment to keep some planned operational efficiencies.

SSE will reduce costs by £100m in the coming two years, including a staff reduction of 500 and will scale back and exit some other projects to concentrate on its deepwater wind farm, located 12 miles off Scotland’s Moray Firth, north-east of Inverness.

The big energy providers have come under sustained fire over profits, with critics saying that although retail earnings may be modest the firms’ wholesale and distributions margins are too high.

SSE said it expects to report a full-year annual pre-tax profit of around 9% when it releases its results on May 21. However, as householders become more aware of reducing energy consumption, SSE expects to see a retail profit reduction of about 25%.

Chief Executive Alistair Phillips-Davies and Group MD, Retail, Will Morris, explain how SSE listened to customers before freezing energy prices to 2016.

“We understand our customers are concerned about the prospect of energy prices rising over the next two years. So we are taking action to make a difference, protect our customers and give them peace of mind. No other supplier has ever offered a price guarantee on its standard price for this length of time.

“We are pleased that the Government has listened to our call to lower taxes on bills, and as a result we’ve been able to reduce our prices by an average of £38 a year for a typical dual fuel customer* from 24 March 2014. We’re now calling for the cost of the remaining government schemes to be removed from bills altogether.”

The price freeze applies to all customers who are on or who move to the Standard tariff between 26 March 2014 and 1 January 2016.

Sources: www.news.sky.com and www.sse.co.uk

92% of Debt Management customers find their Welcome Call helpful and 98% agreed they had been spoken to respectfully.

Posted by Charlotte Campbell on

When new customers were asked recently about the level of service received from Harrington Brooks in relation to their Debt Management Plan (DMP), in all instances they rated elements of their Welcome Call very highly.

operator

263 completed responses were received (14%) with customers asked to rate a variety of aspects of the service provided at the Welcome Call. Here’s how we faired:

  • 92% customers surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that they found the Welcome Call helpful.
  • 95% felt the advisor understood their situation.
  • 96% felt the advisor was knowledgeable.
  • 95% clearly understood what had been explained.

&

Importantly 84% then went on to say that they felt more reassured about their finances as a result. One customer commented “I found the company very welcoming and easy to talk to, I am so much more relaxed knowing my finances will be getting back on track, I had two welcome calls. I am very happy with Harrington Brooks and feel I have made the right choice. Thank you”.

&

“It’s a hard decision to contact a stranger about your personal life in fear of being judged, but the gentleman I spoke to should have a pat on the back as he was helpful, seemed a normal Joe Blogs who wasn’t condescending or judgemental. He explained everything in layman’s terms and ensured I was happy and understood the plan”. Miss N Morris, who was recommended by her friend and would recommended Harrington Brooks on again. Thank you.

 

Harrington Brooks  deploy customer surveys at regular intervals during the customer journey to gauge levels of service and satisfaction. We understand that it exposes some negative comments as well as positive, but all feedback is welcome. Harrington Brooks operate a policy that ensures issues reported as outstanding or which require improvement are acted upon and it’s worth noting that all comments are feed back to individuals, the team and respective managers.

 

This is just one of the initiatives launched in the last 12 months to ensure that Harrington Brooks operate with a clear, customer focused approach that aims at continuous improvement, monitoring and development – all with the customer experience in mind.

Our COO Terry Sweeney comments:

terry_sweeney

“We understand that our customers come to us at a time of distress, and it is vital that we provide advice that is knowledgeable and helpful, and delivered in a friendly and supportive manner. The survey results show that we have excellent staff and that the commitment to customer care is shared throughout the business.”

Survey conducted 07.02.2014, with 267 responses from 1845 invitations. Overall Likert scale average 144 (Jan 2013) and 145 (Feb 2014).

Unravelling The Mystery Of Your Credit Score

Posted by Jack Boardman on

“Credit score”: two words you probably hear a lot of, and perhaps they are weighing on your mind, what with a variety of applications dependent on the state of them. If you’re feeling a little bewildered, we’ve comprised a basic outline of the “to knows” when it comes to your credit score.

Unable to meet your monthly repayments, but want to get back on track and improve your credit score? Call us today on 0800 048 1764.

Unable to meet your monthly repayments, but want to get back on track and improve your credit score? Call us today on 0800 048 1764.

So, what is a credit score?

When you apply for credit, the lender’s responsibility is to ensure that you can comfortably manage your borrowing. To be sure you can afford your application for credit, a credit score is calculated to reflect your financial history, in terms of credit repayment and financial commitments, to measure the likelihood that you will be able to make repayments to the lender.

Which information is included on your credit score?

  • Electoral roll information
  • Credit account information
  • County court judgments or decrees – these are held on your credit report for six years from the date of the judgment
  • Previous credit checks – held for one year
  • Shared financial commitments

Which information is not included on your credit score?

  • Mortgage repossessions
  • Loan or credit card accounts that were opened before 1994
  • Student loans
  • Savings accounts, fines, child support, medical history, criminal records

What credit score do I need to apply to a lender?

Generally speaking, the higher your credit score, the better – in terms of increasing the chance of a successful application and as an indication of your general financial health.

However, different lenders have different thresholds for accepting an application, and so there is no blanket minimum credit score needed to apply.

How can I boost my credit score?

  • Open new accounts, for example a store card, but  make sure you are able to pay them back responsibly to show lenders you are capable of managing credit
  • Register on the electoral roll at your current address with your local council
  • Make all of your payments on time and in full
  • Close any accounts that are not in use
  • Correct any incorrect information on your credit report

What if I’m unable to make my current repayments?

If you feel that you are unable to meet your monthly repayments, but want to get back on track call one of our advisers today on 0800 048 1764 to discuss organising your debts into regular affordable payments to your creditors.

Entering into a debt management plan means the terms of your current credit agreement are broken, which technically results in defaults that could appear on your credit report.
However, if you are concerned that your debts are affecting your credit rating, the worst thing you can do is ignore them. Building a record of regular, affordable payments towards your debts through a debt management plan is more favourable than avoiding payment, incurring interest and charges, or eventually entering into insolvency.

Source: Equifax, Experian