What's hot and what's not?

Rebecca Atkinson's picture

In case you’ve missed all the other signs, a quick glance at the headlines of most national newspapers should make the penny hit home. Yes, it’s Christmas, a time for over-indulging and celebrating with your family. It is also a pretty slow time for news and therefore papers fill up white space with seasonal stories about albino robins and turkey shortages.

But when you turn to the personal finance sections the news keeps on coming – especially this year as firms continue to battle with the credit crunch. So, here’s my roundup of what’s hot and what’s not in the world of personal finance.

Hot: Following a week of accusations that mortgage lenders are ripping off consumers, it may seem strange to place this strange breed of financial institution here. But personally, I don’t think lenders are half as bad at the moment as many make them out to be. Yes, there are some rogues out there but most are doing their best to offer competitive deals while trying to keep their heads above water.

Getting Warmer: Borrowers hoping for a late Christmas present from the Bank of England could be in luck if predictions of an interest rate cut in January prove true. Having said that, not all mortgage lenders have passed on December’s cut yet so people on SVRs should look to remortgage sooner rather than later. And if you’re a saver then perhaps you should consider opting for a fixed rate now.

Room Temperature: Norwich Union has been fined by the FSA for failing to protect its customers from scammers. This story is yet more evidence that fraudsters will do anything to get their hands on your money. It’s scary that through no fault of their own these NU customers were left exposed to fraud. But at least NU says it has improved its security following the incident.

Cooling Down: We might all have to turn our thermostats down next year if predictions of 15% rises in energy prices in early 2008 are correct. British Gas has already warned its customers that bills might increase next year, and although as yet no other firms have followed its “honesty is the best policy” lead, the prospects are not looking good. Perhaps the glow of knowing my carbon footprint has reduced will keep me warm this winter?

Freezing: Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, is considering banning cashback mobile phone deals. About time too! While I’m sure there are people out there who have managed to get their money back, it seems that they are in the minority – and probably had to fight pretty hard before they saw the cash. I have serious beef with the mobile phone industry – and my wrath isn’t just limited to shops and network providers. For example, why is it so hard to claim on some mobile phone insurance? I hope that more dubious mobile phone practices will come further under the spotlight in 2008. Share your gripes in our forums and maybe together we can hold this industry to account in 2008.

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