27 October 2009


Government adopts common sense approach to credit crunch and interest rates

It was announced today that the government would revise credit card terms including importantly stopping the unfair practice of forcing people to pay off the lowest interest rate first, leaving them on a potentially crippling high rate until the entire balance is cleared. Long recognised as unfair, I proposed this to the Department for Business last year and they rejected the idea. Here is the response received.

I'm glad to see that a year later, common sense has finally prevailed.


Dear Mr Cockburn

Thank you for your enquiry regarding the regulation of financial
services interest rates.

The Government has no plans to make regulations regarding the repayment
of loans having differing rates of interest. However, the Government
has introduced strengthened information requirements under the Consumer
Credit Act 2006. Lenders will be obliged from October 2008 to give
their customers clearer and more regular information on the state of
their credit accounts in order to help them identify potential problems
before it is too late. From October 2008, statements must also include
information about the consequences of failing to make payments or of
only making minimum repayments. In addition, lenders are already
required to provide a summary box, as part of the pre-contractual
information, giving consumers a consistent and succinct summary of the
key features of the credit card they are considering and enabling them
to compare different products more easily. The summary box includes APR
and other rates; the interest free period; interest charging
information; allocation of payments; minimum repayment; the amount of
credit; fees; charges; and default charges. Furthermore, lenders have
agreed voluntary post-contractual information guidelines for summary
boxes to be sent with monthly credit card statements. This means that
consumers will be better informed about their financial commitments and
able to check the features of their credit card on a monthly basis.

The OFT recently conducted a study which rejected the idea of forcing
lenders to move to a standard system for interest rate charging.
Instead, it recommended the establishment of a comparison website to
enable consumers to compare the costs of different credit cards based on
their likely patterns of usage and the way different providers calculate
and charge interest. FSA have agreed to host this site on their
'MoneyMadeClear' website, http://www.moneymadeclear.fsa.gov, alongside
existing price comparison functions for insurance and other products.
Furthermore, APACS, the UK trade association for payments and for
institutions that deliver payment services to customers, has set up a
website at http://www.choosingandusing.com/ to help consumers understand
how credit cards work, the factors that they should consider when making
their choice and the best ways to use their card.
I trust this response is helpful.

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03 September 2009


End My Credit Crunch campaign


The End My Credit Crunch group has now launched, please visit the group, check out what we're about and watch the group for imminent news of our launch. Free prizes, no purchase necessary and we help charities too.

many thanks


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08 June 2009


Scotland is the place

My recent interview with Scotland is the Place, Scottish government website.

Hope you like it, the space was a bit limited. There's so much more I'd like to say.


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23 October 2008


Estate Agents and the no commission model

So the property market is now at the point where estate agents are selling houses with no commission charges (This is London; 20th October 2008)

Hardly news for me however, I wrote about this in the Linlithgow Gazette on 17th October and on this very blog almost 5 months ago.

How many more estate agents will go bust before they realise the commission model driven on a low number of high profit sales is no longer viable?

These days the main source of house sales is the Internet. If websites didn't run a closed shop estate agents only model, then members of the general public could sell their own homes for a tiny fraction of the present commission driven cost.

The longer that estate agents cling to the 1%+ sales commission model, the more incentive there is for some real competition from the likes of House network - commission free selling.

I should not more have to pay an estate agent several thousand pounds for picking up the phone and sending a seller my way than I should pay autotrader a commission for selling my car. Even eBay don't charge a commission for selling property.

Conventional estate agents pay attention! Time to wake up and smell the coffee.


Letter from Linlithgow Gazette 17th October 2008:

A challenge

Sir,— I have lived in Linlithgow for over seven years and during that time have seen businesses close in the High Street and seen a reduction in diversity in the High Street, including no toy shop, more sandwich shops and properties lying vacant. Coming from the other side of the argument, I worked for Tesco and was IT manager of the grocery website at their corporate HQ in Hertfordshire last year. Yet I feel that another out of town shopping centre is the last thing the town needs – I would rather have Tesco where it is than a larger supermarket that you need to get in a car to drive to.

The £10 minimum charge levied by retailers on credit cards doesn't apply at Tesco and if the small retailers don't want to alienate people they need to drop this requirement – even small retailers can use credit card clearing facilities that charge a flat amount per month (just like Tesco) rather than a per transaction fee.
My job as an e-commerce consultant takes me all over the UK. When I work in London, I see that small traders get more passing custom yet seem much more willing to capitalise on the internet to supplement their passing trade.

With online shopping continuing to rise, the efforts of the Linlithgow High Street to reach out to anyone wanting to shop on line are woeful by comparison. Even something as basic as a one page website listing the company name, address, email address, products and services and opening hours is missing from most of the High Street traders and instead people searching often find traders in Livingston or Falkirk instead – for example enter Linlithgow Plumber in Google and the first site returned says there are none.

Enter West Lothian computers and Google maps returns nothing for Linlithgow either. Most of the time entering generic search terms, for example Linlithgow pubs or Linlithgow restaurants such as tourists would use, simply results in generic listing type sites over which local businesses usually have little or no control – actually returning the site belonging to a local business or Linlithgow.com would be far more useful.

Whilst Linlithgow.com is a useful first step, in times of a credit crunch and competing with out of town shopping, the woeful presence of Linlithgow on the Internet does not help businesses reach out to new customers who would rather look online.

Indeed even those with the most developed websites, that is estate agents, now face challenges from online-only estate agents who list property for sale on the same websites and at a tiny fraction of the price charged by Linlithgow High Street agents. Even the might of Tesco.com can't tell me what's in stock at my local shop in Linlithgow.

The challenge of out of town shopping, online searching for businesses and online shopping presents a problem for businesses from local high street shops to major retail groups, and the people of Linlithgow. In difficult economic times we need to come together and do everything possible to reach as many customers as possible.
Not having an adequate Internet presence in this day and age is like not having a phone number 30 years ago.

Making Linlithgow at the heart of Silicon Glen fully connected with modern shopping trends would not only complement Cittaslow status, but would help businesses of all kinds to combat the challenges posed not only by Springfield's development but also global shopping trends.—Yours etc.,
Chartered IT Professional

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19 August 2008


How Africa can be richer than the Middle East

I was reading about the completion in Dubai of the world's tallest skyscraper. Evidently no shortage of money in Dubai then to build tall or extravagant structures, funded of course by oil. Oil being of course a valuable commodity sold worldwide. Africa has a very valuable commidity, available in almost limitless quantities throughout most of the continent - solar power. Why can't we get our acts together and bring forward schemes for solar power in Africa, this one being even cheaper than oil with the potential to power Europe and 2/3 of the Middle East and North Africa countries. That's just one power station as well and using just 0.3% of the desert space. Why is the EU dragging its feet on this? Surely being able to generate electricty from a green source of energy and sharing the profits in Africa then Africa can not only enjoy the sort of spending power Dubai currently has, we can begin to address issues such as poverty in Africa, famine and disease - none of which seem to be major factors in Dubai.

With such a valuable resource, maybe Africa will become the New Middle East, not only in terms of power and wealth, but also wars and conflict involving the West.


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