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coldcall

This week’s roundup includes news that a long-awaited ban on pension cold-calling has come into effect, energy suppliers are to face tighter rules and deposit demands are getting harder for first time buyers. 

Pension cold-calling ban takes effect 

A ban on nuisance calls, texts and emails about pensions has now come into force but people are still being urged to be on their guard. 

Cold-calling has been used by fraudsters trying to steal life savings or persuade people to invest in high-risk schemes.Some 10.9 million unsolicited pension calls and messages are made a year. 

Any firm found flouting the rules faces a fine of up to £500,000. Certain types of cold calls, including those involving mortgages, are already banned. 

Lesley Titcomb, Chief Executive of the Pensions Regulator, said: "The cold calling ban sends a very clear message - if anyone calls you about your pension, it's an attempt to steal your savings. 

Energy suppliers to face tighter rules 

Energy regulator Ofgem is to tighten up the rules for new suppliers of gas and electricity after nine new entrants ceased trading. 

The latest to collapse was Economy Energy, which ceased trading on Tuesday and Ofgem is now looking for a new supplier for Economy Energy’s 235,000 customers. 

Mary Starks, Ofgem's Executive Director for Consumers and Markets,said in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “we do think there is room for improvement in the licensing regime and we are conducting a review of our licensing arrangements at the moment.” 

One of the areas that would be looked at, she said, was the "readiness [of firms] to weather the challenges in this market", particularly when wholesale prices of energy go up. 

Deposit demands worsening for young buyers 

House prices continue to rise and difficulties remain for those wanting to buy their first home, according to the UK's biggest mortgage lender. 

Halifaxsaid that property values rose by 1.3% over the course of 2018.This took the average cost to £229,729 and the lender said cost remained a key issue for young potential buyers. 

The lender added that the requirement of a "significant deposit" acted as a "restraint" on those who wanted to buy. 

According to Halifax, house prices rose by 2.2% in December. Over the whole year, they rose by 1.3% - within the lender's prediction at the start of the year of a rise of up to 3%. 

UK household debt hits new peak 

Household debt in the UK has hit a fresh high of £428bn, according to an analysis by the Trades Union Congress (TUC). 

Excluding mortgages, average debt per household rose sharply in 2018 to a new peak of £15,385, up £886 in a year, the research says. 

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Household debt is at crisis level. Years of austerity and wage stagnation has pushed millions of families deep into the red. Our economy is not working for workers, they need stronger rights and bargaining powers.” 

Howeverthe TUC's figures include student loans, while Bank of England figures, excluding student loans, give a debt total of half the TUC's estimate.The Bank says growth in consumer credit has been gradually slowing since the end of 2016.