Citizens Advice responds to Queen’s Speech 2017
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:
“The contents of this Queen’s Speech will go some way toward tackling some of the biggest challenges facing our clients and consumers.
“Too many people are being denied their rights at work and others are struggling with rental fees and high energy bills, so it’s good to see that this will be a focus for the parliament and government over the next two years.
“With the single financial guidance body there is a real opportunity to make sure people are getting the independent and impartial guidance they need to plan and manage their finances.
“It’s also important that, as the Queen’s Speech sets out legislation that will lead to the UK’s exit of the EU, the government provides information and advice to people about the impact of Brexit on them and their family, and protects workers' and consumers' rights.”
On Workers’ Rights
Gillian Guy said:
“Bad businesses are depriving workers of their rights and threatening their financial security.
“Citizens Advice helps people with 340,000 with problems at work a year, ranging from being underpaid to discrimination, and we welcome the government’s commitment to ensuring employers honour their responsibilities towards their employees.
“At the moment, people who are being treated unfairly at work have no clear or simple way of raising their concerns. The government should also create a single Fair Work Authority to help people who are being exploited to get their rights enforced.”
On action in consumer markets - including energy
Gillian Guy said:
“Energy firms have been taking advantage of loyal customers for too long, so the government is right to consider ways to help cut energy costs for more people.
“Gas and electricity are essential for people to heat and light their homes - but it is often the worst off pensioners and families who have to pay more on their supplier’s standard variable tariff.
“Switching energy supplier can save people hundreds of pounds off their annual energy bill, so it is important that more people are helped to do so - but action needs to be taken to help those who simply aren’t switching year on year.
“One of the ways that an energy cap could be introduced is to extend the prepayment cap to all those eligible for the Warm Home Discount - which would help an additional 2.6 million of the poorest households. This would still allow for healthy competition between suppliers on prices.
“We will be keeping an eye on the progress of the government’s proposals for intervening in the energy market to make sure they deliver lower bills for consumers.
On the Draft Tenants Fees Bill:
Gillian Guy said:
“The government’s ban on letting agency fees could help 4.5 million households save hundreds of pounds each year.
“Citizens Advice has long called for a ban on letting agent fees with people paying an average of £400 to letting agents for standard administration, such as carrying out references and credit checks. It’s important that this ban covers all fees.
“Seventy-four per cent of private renters with children have experienced problems with the quality of their home, including broken heating and no hot water. So we’d also like the government to look at improving the quality of housing in the private rented sector, by introducing maximum timescales for landlords and letting agents to carry out repairs. ”
On the Financial Guidance and Claims Bill
Gillian Guy said:
“The right guidance can be an essential part of a secure financial future.
“We help people with 1.7 million money queries a year and know that people’s finances are often complex, with people keeping on top of day-to-day finances while planning for their futures, and some also managing debts.
“The creation of a single body is a welcome opportunity to bring guidance on money, debt and pensions together, giving people more holistic advice that cuts across all areas of their finances.
“The new body should also consider the best way to deliver the advice and guidance people need. Giving people the option of how they get support - whether online, on the phone or face to face - and offering it at key moments in their lives will help people to access the guidance they need to plan for their futures.”
“Setting an overall cap on the amount claims management firms can charge people in fees will help consumers keep more of the compensation they are due.
“We’ve helped people who’ve been charged hundreds of pounds in upfront fees by firms handling simple financial claims, such as mis-sold PPI. In some cases people who pay large amounts upfront are then told they don’t have a valid claim, but struggle to get a refund.
“Proposals to hold directors of firms that persistently cold-call personally to account for the actions of their businesses should also act as a strong deterrent against this type of behaviour.”
On the Good Mortgages Bill
“It’s good that the government will introduce greater protections for borrowers who take out a logbook loan to protect them from having their car taken away if they don’t meet repayments.
“Laws covering logbook loans are currently patchy and outdated, and borrowers face high interest rates and aggressive debt collection tactics.
“People who buy a second-hand car without knowing it has a logbook loan attached can have their vehicle seized or be made to to pay off the debt themselves - so better protections for these consumers are also welcome.”
Notes to editors
- The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
- The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
- To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
- You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
- Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
- Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.