MoneySavingExpert.com today launches its 50 word manifesto, letting consumers tell politicians their agenda for the upcoming general election.
All three major party leaders have already agreed to consider your ideas (see the 50 word manifesto guide).
The 37-item list includes: ending debit card payment surcharges, banning retrospective energy price rises, and making council tax payments monthly not ten times yearly (full details below, plus see the Cheap Gas & Electricity and Council Tax guides).
One idea on credit scoring has already seen a full Treasury select committee investigation (see the Credit Rating guide).
The aim is to find simple solutions to problems that make life difficult — so simple they can be explained in just 50 words.
Party leader statements
Prime Minister Gordon Brown says: "Consumers have the right to expect a no-nonsense approach from businesses, and this Government is always open to new ideas that put the consumer in the driving seat. We will look closely at good, practical ideas suggested by MoneySavingExpert users."
Conservative leader David Cameron says: "We recognise that when it comes to protecting consumers, we don't have all the answers, so we're looking forward to reading your ideas in the weeks ahead."
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg says: "The Liberal Democrats will look carefully at each proposal and will be campaigning for common sense measures like these at the coming election."
We opened up suggestions to the four million recipients of the site's weekly e-mail; then the shortlist was drawn up by site founder Martin Lewis and his team. It includes:
- Savings statements must list current interest rates. Every online & printed statement should state your current interest rate, or how can you monitor it. Often, the only way to find your rate is going to a confusing online page with scores of similarly named accounts.
- Make council tax payments monthly, not 10x yearly. This would help people budget much better rather than the current system where, for a strange reason, you often default to pay over ten months, and then pay nothing for two.
- Stop profiting from credit and debit card additional charges. Companies that charge for credit and debit card payments should not be allowed to profit from them. They often pay fees to take your plastic payment but you should be charged exactly what they are charged.
- Ban psychic parking meters. People should be allowed to pay afterwards for parking they've used, and not fined for failure to correctly predict the future. Say you pay for 30 minutes but get held up in a shop, and it takes 40 minutes, you should be given the option to pay on return for the extra.
- Stop energy companies' retrospective price rises. Energy companies should notify customers of increases in tariffs in advance. At the moment, an energy company can notify you in March that all the gas you used in the previous Dec, Jan and Feb will now be charged at a higher price.
- Airline prices must be all-in. Airlines must put all their charges into the main price and stop the ridiculous extras added once you've already chosen that airline, such as card payment fees and charges to check yourself and your luggage in.
- Right to know the rate you'll get before applications go on credit files. Apply for a product and it puts a mark on your credit file, which hits your credit score. Yet many products are 'rate for risk', which means that without applying you won't know the rate you'll be offered. This is a vicious circle that should be stopped as many are unaware that applying can harm them.
- Water rates should be challengeable. Unlike council tax, where if your property is overvalued you can be rebanded, water rates are set and are now over twenty years old, and haven't moved with the times. People need a right to challenge unfair water rates.
- Give consumers the right to terminate regular payments. If you terminate a contract made using a regular payment on your credit or debit card, rather than via a direct debit, you have to rely on the company you are paying to cancel it.
Martin Lewis, MoneySavingExpert.com founder, says: "The aim of 50 words is simple: politicians often seem to focus on legacy issues — things they believe will leave their mark — however, most people are more concerned with day-to-day issues that annoy them.
"I wanted to launch 50 words so we could marry the two and make the Westminster classes realise that sometimes small, sensible change will actually have more impact.
"Whether it's tighter controls on door-to-door sales people, making mobile phone companies responsible when their cashback deals go wrong or making restaurants display what they do with their tips, tidying up the little issues that annoy may actually show the political process can deliver. I just hope they listen."
See the full 37-item manifesto here: www.moneysavingexpert.com/50words
Further reading/Key links
Sort your finances: Money Makeover, Budget Planner
Get help: Debt problems