Warning Given to Drivers Over New DVLA Scam


According to the RAC, drivers are being targeted with a new scam which aims to cheat them out of money by promising a VED road tax refund straight to their bank account. The scam starts with a text message with the fraudsters posing as the DVLA, claiming to offer drivers their money back due to a change in road tax legislation.

The text tells drivers to follow a link to a form and share their personal bank details. The RAC said that the cost of driving can be high, so the lure of an unexpected tax rebate can seem promising and tempting. You should always be wary of any unsolicited request which asks for personal information and always be on your guard for any offer which sounds too good to be true.

Changes to the VED system were announced last year. It is a complicated system with different bands and payments required, depending on the emissions of your vehicle, whether it is diesel or petrol, or whether it uses alternative fuels such as electricity. The layered system has led to confusion for motorists, which has meant that fraudsters have taken the opportunity to try and capitalise on this by sending out scam texts. They are promising big refunds but they will actually use your bank details to take money from you or commit identity theft.

The DVLA has issued a similar statement as they did with previous scams. They reiterated that they do not send emails or text messages which request your personal information or payment information.

If you receive one of the scam texts or a scam email, you can report it to the Government’s dedicated phishing facility .


Channel 4 Challenges Jamie Oliver Over Junk Food Advertising

Channel 4 Challenges Jamie Oliver Over Junk Food Advertising

Since the Channel 4 programme “Jamie’s School Dinners” aired in 2005, most people know Jamie Oliver as the person who shut down Turkey Twizzlers. In the end, they weren’t just removed from children’s school dinners, but from supermarket shelves when they stopped being produced. Jamie Oliver has taken part in various campaigns over the years with the hope of improving the diets of British children. His recent “Ad Enough” campaign launched in April. This movement is encouraging the UK government to restrict junk food advertising.

Jamie Oliver vs Junk Food Adverts

According to Jamie Oliver, junk food advertising is a major contributor to childhood obesity in Britain. With the rise of digital media, marketing is more pervasive than ever before. Kids are impressionable and constant advertisements targeting them directly make it harder for them to make the right decisions about what to eat. Adverts for unhealthy foods and drinks high in salt, sugar, and fat, are everywhere. Jamie Oliver is proposing that the government should introduce a 9pm watershed for junk food adverts on TV, so children won’t see them.

Initiatives in schools have been trying to introduce healthier eating for years. But any work done in schools, or by parents at home, is constantly undermined. Kids are growing up in a culture focused on fast gratification. Everywhere they turn, someone is trying to sell them something, and they may not have developed the tools yet to avoid this relentless kind of influence. Jamie Oliver definitely has a point when it comes to the lack of control over the advertising targeted at children. However, many people disagree with his suggested action.

Why Wouldn’t a Pre-Watershed Ban Work?

Despite their partnerships in the past, Channel 4 is not supporting Oliver’s campaign. The chief executive of Channel 4, Alex Macmahon, is hoping that the government will host a consultation on any advertising rule changes. A 9pm watershed on advertising containing junk food would be a huge blow to broadcasters. The Channel 4 commercial chief, Jonathan Allan, estimates that such a ban would cause a loss of up to £200 million. With broadcasters already facing financial struggles, this would be even more bad news for the future of TV.

Of course, nobody at Channel 4 wants to promote child obesity, but a 9pm watershed does not seem logical to broadcasters. It would prevent such advertising on plenty of TV shows which children are not likely to watch. In fact, children rarely watch live television anymore anyway. They are used to consuming media on demand through streaming and platforms like YouTube. While exposure to TV advertising has decreased, obesity has still risen. Online advertising needs stricter regulations much more urgently than television before 9pm does.

Pushback Over Threat to Percy Pigs

For some people, this latest campaign from Jamie Oliver is a step too far. Part of his “Ad Enough” campaign suggests a ban on using cartoon characters to advertise junk food. Cartoon characters designed to appeal to children are likely to affect their food choices. However, if this ban went through, it could be the end for well-loved British sweets such as Percy Pigs. When this rumour quickly spread online, the British public was not happy. Fans of these classic sweets from Marks and Spencer expressed their outrage on social media.

The potential banning of Percy Pigs was the final straw for some, who already seemed to find Jamie Oliver’s crackdowns on junk food annoying. The good news is that Marks and Spencer responded to the rumours to state that they have no plans to remove the best-selling sweets from their stores. However, they did not comment on the proposal for an advertising ban. If the UK government listens to Jamie Oliver and implements a ban on cartoon characters in advertising for unhealthy foods, then brands won’t have a choice.

Virgin Media’s Early Exit Fee Deemed Unlawful By Ofcom


If you are a Virgin Media customer who has been hit with an early exit fee for wishing to leave your contract, you could be eligible for compensation. This is because of a decision made by Ofcom, the telecoms watchdog, who has deemed the fee to be unlawful. At the moment, Virgin Media services are available in half of the UK. If a customer moved to an area not supported by Virgin Media before their contract ended, they would need to pay an exit fee of up to £240.

A formal investigation was launched by Ofcom last year. The investigation aimed to look into Virgin Media’s terms and conditions, with the fees for ending a contract early one of their specific concerns. This is because Ofcom has received a lot of complaints from angry Virgin Media customers. The watchdog published a preliminary decision last week which found that exit fees up to £240 which were charged to customers between the 1st September 2016 and 11th September 2017 were in breach of their rules. This is because the fees were too high and put customers off from changing providers, limiting competition in the broadband market. Previously, consumer rights champions had said the charges were illogical and unfair.

If any compensation is owed to customers, Ofcom will release information about it later this year when the final decision is announced. Virgin Media could also face a fine for their actions.

A spokesperson for Ofcom said that the watchdog had assessed all the evidence and they believed that Virgin Media had broken their rules by overcharging customers who needed to leave their contracts early.

Virgin Media now has the opportunity to respond formally to the preliminary decision – any further actions from the company will be taken into account before the final ruling is made.

A representative for Virgin Media said that the company planned to review Ofcom’s provisional rulings ‘thoroughly’. The spokesman also said that Virgin Media makes it clear to customers that early exit fees can apply, and they also offer 30-day flexible rolling contracts for customers who can’t commit to the usual 12-month minimum.

If you’ve been stung by Virgin Media’s early exit fees and you wish to make a complaint, here’s what you should do:

  • Your first step is to complain to Virgin Media themselves. You can do this by calling them or writing a letter/email of complaint.
  • If you’re not satisfied with how Virgin Media dealt with your complaint, ask them for a ‘deadlock letter’ and you can use this to refer the complaint to an independent commission.
  • Alternatively, if more than eight weeks have passed and you haven’t heard from Virgin Media regarding your complaint, you can refer it to the Communications Ombudsman Services.
  • If you’re not sure how to word a complaint letter, there will be lots of templates online.

Railway System Reform for Train Tickets

Railway Fare Reform for Train Ticket Systems

The rising cost of train tickets has been a source of complaints for many commuters for a while now. With millions of possible fares existing in the current system, many customers find the choice confusing. It is difficult to find the best value ticket for a train journey when stations and websites often contradict each other in price. When people are in a hurry or station staff and machines are not up-to-date, it can lead to customers being ripped off. It can be difficult to reclaim any money under the terms and conditions of ticket sales. Even if a new Rail Ombudsman is eventually introduced to handle complaints, it won’t address this problem. The systems for buying train tickets are desperately overdue for a huge overhaul.

Ridiculous Railway Fares

The current regulations for calculating railway ticket prices have not advanced since their introduction in 1995. Changes in technology and working patterns have also changed how people buy train tickets. A lot of people buy online or through apps on their smartphones instead of at the station. Expensive season tickets are not the money-saving option they’ve claimed to be, especially for part-time workers. The rail industry admits to long-standing anomalies in its ticketing systems which provide poor customer service. Even if part of a trip is via an off-peak service, they will charge customers for full peak-time train tickets. “Split ticketing” is the strange situation where customers can buy several separate tickets for each stage of a train journey and still pay less than a single fare for the whole journey. To address these outdated problems, the railway companies are launching a consultation.

Commuter Opinions on the Consultation

This public consultation will run from its launch next month until September. The results will inform a report which the railway companies will use to make reform proposals to the government. They are promising that reforms will not lead to price increases for average train tickets. A reformed system could be much more flexible, integrating tickets for buses and trams. It might also see the introduction of suitable tickets for part-time workers and those with lower incomes. A new computer-based system could automatically locate the cheapest fares for customers. Commuters and transport campaigners alike are in favour of this consultation. Everyone is tired of a tricky system with overpriced tickets and no support from these private railway companies. Customers want to be able to buy fairly-priced train tickets using a system they can actually trust. Any reform proposals after the consultation ends in September will need government backing to come through. It is about time that the unfair train ticketing system changed, but we will have to wait to find out if it actually does.

New Look to Shut Down 60 Stores

New Look to Shut Down 60 Stores

The high street fashion retailer New Look has been struggling lately. The brand’s financial losses are in the millions, while like-for-like sales are down 11%. New Look is having to seek help from a CVA (Company Voluntary Arrangement). This rescue plan will help them to save money by focusing on store rent costs. Expensive rent bills for the high street premises are a large contributor to their losses. The company might still be able to climb out of trouble, unlike Maplins and Toys R Us. Both businesses are unable to find buyers to bail them out.

What Will New Look Do to Avoid Administration?

For New Look, the recovery plan involves closing stores that are no longer making a profit. Sixty stores which under-perform are due to close by the end of the year. 393 of the chain’s stores have new lease terms with rent reductions of up to 55%. Together, these measures will help the company to get back on track towards profitability. However, companies like Toys R Us still closed down after attempting CVAs. It’s possible that these actions might not be enough. Executive Chairman Alistair McGeorge says it is a tough but necessary decision.

Why is New Look Closing Stores and Cutting Jobs?

The closure of 60 stores within the next 12 months will be a cause for alarm for employees. These closures put 1,000 jobs at risk. This is a significant amount, as New Look has around 15,000 employees in the UK. Even a cut of 10% of its stores might be too little, though. With almost 600 stores, New Look was already stretching its real estate budget too far. Due to the drop in the pound’s value and wages not keeping up with inflation rates, consumers are not very likely to increase their shopping at New Look just because there are fewer stores.

How Will This Affect Customers and Employees?

The good news for employees at the 60 unlucky stores is that New Look hopes to transfer them to other stores. Rather than surprise 1,000 people with redundancy, the company will look at deploying as many employees as possible to other areas instead. The bad news for customers in these areas is that they will have to travel further if they want to shop at New Look. If shopping in person isn’t so important, customers can still shop online through New Look’s website. The brand will refocus its image on back-to-basics style with a wider appeal.

Thomas Cook Launches New Destinations and Deposit Scheme


Thomas Cook has announced new destinations for 2019, including new routes from Liverpool John Lennon Airport, and a re-launch of flights to Jamaica in the Caribbean.

The package holiday company has decided to re-launch flights to Jamaica as a result of customer feedback. Flights to Jamaica were previously removed from Thomas Cook’s offerings two years ago. The airline will now offer a weekly flight from Manchester to Montego Bay every Monday, from the 6th May until October 2019. Jamaica is the fourth largest island in the Caribbean and is a popular destination for both families and couples, with all-inclusive hotels offering a slice of luxury in the sunshine. Montego Bay, in particular, is a popular resort for pristine white sand beaches, great diving spots and snorkelling.

For the launch of Summer 2019, there are new flights from Belfast and Cardiff to Tunisia. The airline has also extended its flight offerings from Manchester to Marrakech. For the first time in over 10 years, there will be new routes from Liverpool John Lennon airport to areas in Spain, Portugal, Italy and the Canary Islands. The addition of the Liverpool John Lennon Airport provides more choice to customers, with 17 airports to choose from for their summer holiday.

You can book your summer 2019 holiday now, which gives you plenty of time to save up towards it. A spokesperson for Thomas Cook said that the company understands that some people like to travel on the same dates, or to the same hotel each year, so being able to book this early puts them at a serious advantage.

The launch of the Summer 2019 programme comes just after Thomas Cook announced their new buy now, pay later deposit scheme. The new payment plan is designed for customers on a low budget and means that you can book a holiday with £0 deposit. You will then pay the balance using monthly Direct Debit payments. The scheme is available for holidays which are booked at least 14 weeks in advance. The monthly instalment amount will depend on the holiday cost, the date that you booked, the preferred payment date and the departure date.

The price that you pay using the 0% deposit scheme is the same, so there is no extra incentive other than not paying the initial deposit.

Everything We Know About the New Alton Towers Ride


Alton Towers has a new ride, Wicker Man, and it’s due to open this Spring. The ride will combine wood and fire for a terrifying experience, and it is the first wooden roller coaster to be built in the UK in over 20 years. The project was led by Great Coasters International, the leading creator of wooden rollercoasters in the world. The ride cost £16m to make and it has taken four years to be completed.

At almost 58 feet tall and with 2,000 feet of wooden tracks, the new coaster is a sprawling, intricately designed ride which is sure to thrill visitors. Until now, we didn’t know much about it, but Alton Towers has now released drone footage of the ride, filmed in the dark in order to show the full effects of the fire and to keep us excited.

Riders will twist and turn through the tracks before passing through a wooden structure on fire, which is half a ram’s head and half a human head. The twelve trains will pass through the tracks three times before coming to a dizzying halt.

A spokesperson for Alton Towers said:

“We are hoping that visitors will be blown away by Wicker Man’s breathtaking size, whilst the primal essence of the wooden coaster and amazing effects will leave them wanting to ride again”

The ride is not based on the 1973 film the Wicker Man, nor the American sequel starring Nicholas Cage. In the original film, a policeman attempts to find a missing girl before realising that the island he is searching for her on, practices pagan rituals.  We were first introduced to the idea of the Wicker Man via Alton Tower’s Halloween mazes – one of which focused on a mysterious group of people in the woods.

After the Smiler crash a few years ago, it’s understandable that some visitors will be concerned about safety. However, Alton Towers has stated that not only have they used the latest innovations in safety technology, the ride is also undergoing rigorous testing – which you can see in another video of drone footage released on the Alton Towers Facebook account as part of a live video. Operators will also have to undergo hundreds of hours of training before the ride is open to the public so that visitors can enjoy the ride with the utmost level of confidence.

If you’re looking forward to visiting the park for the Wicker Man ride and you’re hoping for a ticket promotion, you’re in luck. Seabrook Crisps is set to run a promotion on both multipack and single packs of their new Fiery Woodsmoked BBQ flavour, which has been developed specifically for the promotion in mind. The promotion will offer customers 2 for 1 entry, worth up to £55. The flavour is limited edition and will be available from April this year, to coincide with the launch of the ride.

Are you looking forward to riding the Wicker Man coaster?

New Rail Ombudsman to Escalate Train Complaints for Commuters

New Rail Ombudsman to Escalate Complaints for Commuters

After consultations on how to improve customer satisfaction for railway passengers last autumn, changes will be coming later this year. More than half of customers aren’t happy with the way that train companies handle their complaints. The introduction of a new rail ombudsman service is going to help commuters get the resolution they deserve. Until now, train passengers with a dispute had to contact the independent watchdog Transport Focus. While Transport Focus can demand a response, they have no legal power to make the train company take action. The customer would have to take the train company to small claims court to get compensation. This obviously causes a great deal of hassle for the individual.

The Trouble with Train Companies

Previously, the only complaint which could result in a refund was a delay. Paying the customer back was at the train company’s discretion, depending on the severity of the complaint. This is still true, but in the last couple of years, the law has changed. Since October 2016, an extension to the Consumer Rights Act allows passengers to claim their money back for other issues. This could be anything from health and safety concerns to staff misconduct or service failures. The problem is that several train companies did not update their complaints or refund processes on their websites. Many customers did not know this new information about their entitlement to a refund and missed out as a result.

Mandatory Scheme Registration

The Office of Rail and Road confirms that when they launch the scheme later this year, all train companies must participate. This regulator of the railways will make registering for the ombudsman a requirement. Having this be a requirement for an operating license will give the ombudsman the power of a statutory body. The ombudsman will be able to make legally binding decisions for railway complaint cases. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute will help to approve and monitor the standards of the scheme. Customers will still have to wait 8 weeks after making a complaint to a train company before escalating to the ombudsman. According to the Office of Rail and Road, this could be sooner in some cases.

How Will a Rail Ombudsman Help?

When it launches, the ombudsman scheme will be able to deliver appropriate responses to customers with complaints instead of just support. The service will be free, and customers can use it to make compensation claims. The Rail Delivery Group is developing the scheme to meet the legal standards of the Ombudsman Association. The ombudsman will improve standards across the rail industry, as its investigations will uncover any failings. The railway companies will have to take action to avoid legal consequences. At the moment, customer surveys show that poor experiences are damaging trust in the companies. The ombudsman will help to restore this trust in the train industry and keep customers using the railways.

TalkTalk Mobile Closing Down: Customers Offered O2 Contracts

TalkTalk Mobile Closing Down Customers Offered O2 Contracts

TalkTalk Mobile is contacting customers to tell them that they will not renew their contracts when they expire. Now in partnership with O2, TalkTalk Mobile will instead offer customers a discounted O2 contract. TalkTalk intends to close its mobile business to save money, and focus on its broadband services instead. So what does this mean for the 900,000+ SIM customers with TalkTalk Mobile? If you also have TalkTalk broadband, you can get a 25% discount on an O2 bundle. Otherwise, you will have to switch to another provider when your contract ends. TalkTalk Mobile will no longer be an option.

Simplifying TalkTalk

The move to get rid of the mobile platform comes as part of an effort to overhaul TalkTalk. Previously, TalkTalk relied on Vodafone as a mobile network operator since 2010. Last summer both TalkTalk and Vodafone were among the telecoms companies customers complained about the most. According to Which? TalkTalk has been voted the worst internet service provider in the UK five times in a row.

With this track record, the company desperately needs to shake things up. Apparently, TalkTalk believes the answer is scrapping TalkTalk Mobile. A spokesperson said that the agreement with O2 is great news for TalkTalk Mobile customers. They will now have access to a wider range of 4G services for great value. Shifting Mobile customers to O2 will also allow TalkTalk to invest more time and money into improving the landline, broadband, and TV services on its fixed network.

Changing Providers

With the closure of TalkTalk Mobile, customers have few choices. If they take the offer and switch to a discounted O2 tariff, they still have to keep TalkTalk broadband. Alternatively, customers can choose to switch to a different mobile provider entirely. They could still keep a TalkTalk package of other services such as broadband if they chose to. However, the attraction of “quadplay” services is the convenience of not having separate bills.

In withdrawing from the quadruple play market, TalkTalk might lose some of its customers. Additionally, the hassle involved in changing providers might not make staying worth it. Either way, even if they accept the O2 offer, customers will have to get a new SIM and request a PAC code to keep their TalkTalk phone number. As they will effectively be O2 mobile customers, they will have to contact O2 with any problems. If they are still on TalkTalk broadband, they will have to deal with separate customer services all the time.

What Should TalkTalk Mobile Customers Do?

TalkTalk states that business will continue as usual for Mobile customers until their contract runs out. The company will contact every customer in advance to offer them the O2 deal. At the moment, there is no cut-off date which customers have to make a decision by. Even the O2 deal is liable to change, so while it is currently 25% off, this isn’t a permanent discount. For this reason, TalkTalk Mobile customers might be better off looking for a deal elsewhere.

Since switching mid-contract incurs termination fees, even if it’s to O2, customers should wait until their contract is about to end. Around this time, take a look at the packages and prices available across multiple mobile providers to compare them. Sale prices often change throughout the year and only last for a fixed term. Just because it’s cheaper for the first year doesn’t make it worth it to have to switch providers again later. Customers should also take into account local network coverage, customer service quality, and any other incentives before choosing a provider.

Increased Train Fares Leave Commuters Out in the Cold

Increased Train Fares Leave Commuters Out in the Cold

Happy New Year, railway commuters! Your travel costs just went up again. Unions and Labour politicians are protesting this increase in train fares at around 40 stations across the country today. As of the beginning of the year, average train fares increased by 3.4%, with season ticket costs rising by 3.6%. This is above the consumer price index inflation rate and the biggest increase in train fares since 2013.

Many commuter routes have increased by over £100 a year, such as Maidenhead to London and Liverpool to Manchester. For many people, train fares pushing up to £4,000 a year are just too much. Plenty of commuters to London are searching for new jobs outside the city to avoid these high transport costs. Even with lower wages outside the capital, workers will still save money without the expensive train journeys.

Protesting the “Pricing Off” of Commuters

The general secretary of the Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers Union, Mick Cash, noted that people who rely on trains are being pushed out of using the services by the mounting costs. The union advocates for public ownership of the railways. Privatisation led to poor and unreliable services, with customers still expected to pay more for them.

As a result of the price increase, protests are happening outside major train stations across England and Wales. As today is a bank holiday in Scotland, protests will take place there tomorrow instead. The shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald joined protesters at King’s Cross in London earlier today. In an interview, he pointed out that fares have risen three times faster than wages since David Cameron was first Prime Minister.

McDonald was also meant to speak at a protest in Leeds later today, but was unable to make it after his train ironically broke down. According to reports, train services in the north of England are actually the worst in the country. You might already know this, in the likelihood that National Rail has let you down before.

The Defense of Rising Train Fares

The chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, Paul Plummer, tried to explain the price increases. He said that the fare costs will go towards much-needed upgrades and service improvements. Whereas fares used to cover around half of the cost of running trains, this has also risen. Now 70% of the money to run train services comes from ticket sales.

After “decades of underinvestment” fares are rising to support “massively required” railway developments, according to Plummer. He emphasized this by speaking from London Bridge station, where five newly opened platforms will double the station’s passenger flow. Most of the money from fare increases will go towards multiple projects across the country.