A month in the life of MSE Campaigns – February

As I’m still responsible for updating several guides on the site, such as the new and improved FAQ section of the PPI Reclaiming guide, this has taken some of my focus this month. My range of campaigning work has also consisted of:

Working alongside Which? on Payment Protection Insurance reclaiming

The Payment Protection Insurance projects with Which? have been developing nicely in the background. Martin and I met Which?’s executive director Richard Lloyd along with Lucy from its campaigns team to plan more of the strategy during one of our quarterly meetings.

Feeding into the Royal National Institute of Blind People’s Banking Experience booklet

Due to be officially launched in April, this good practice guide for the banking industry has tips and case studies to help financial companies assist their blind and partially sighted customers access their bank. Martin also contributed the foreword to the booklet, and MSE is working with RNIB’s Accessible Online Service Project to improve the accessibility of our own site.

Briefing colleagues on changes to the benefits system

Next month will see some of the biggest benefit cuts in the UK for years, affecting many of our site’s users. As well as watching the progress of the Welfare Reform Bill, I have summarised the main changes to my colleagues so everyone in the editorial team who may need to write about the changes is up to date.

Meeting with our forum team and the development and editorial teams at Citizens Advice to discuss it having space on our forum to give advice

Citizens Advice is looking at ways of developing the online support that it is able to give to individuals in England and Wales. As we’re one of the UK’s biggest social networks, discussions are under way with Citizens Advice about piloting a CAB-branded section within our forum for trained CAB advisers to respond to questions from the public.

Liaising with the Consumer Action Group about changes to the Lloyds Banking Group pet insurance

At the start of February, Lloyds Banking Group stopped renewing its pet insurance policies, leaving customers owning a pet with a pre-existing medical condition unable to get new insurance elsewhere. We have been sharing evidence with the Consumer Action Group on how Lloyds sold the policy as "life-long" cover, to help affected consumers complain.

Sharing ideas on the Cabinet Office’s public services Open Data project with various organisations

The Cabinet Office is working to increase access to public sector data via its Open Data project, which it hopes will improve transparency and consumer choice in public services. I attended a meeting along with other consumer groups and organisations to discuss the issues surrounding using public sector data for these purposes.

Highlighting the result of the Department for Business’s student loans early repayment consultation

After submitting a response to the consultation last year, we were very happy to receive the conclusion on whether students going to university from September this year should be allowed to repay their loans early without penalty. The outcome was, as we had suggested, that penalties would not be introduced. I issued a press release explaining our view, and spoke on local radio about the result.

Campaign-style meetings from other members of the editorial team

News editor MSE Guy attended a pensions and retirement saving partnership forum to help the Government formulate the way it communicates its new pensions regime, which starts later this year.

Web editor MSE Dan spoke to the risk department at the Financial Services Authority about what information providers of payment protection products (such as PPI) should provide to consumers to help them decide what to buy.

Campaign of the Week

This month’s campaigns have covered bailiffs, Fairtrade shopping, cash machines and young people and money. If you’re a charity, community group or organisation with a top campaign coming up, don’t forget to send us a Campaign of the Week suggestion.

  • National Debtline’s ‘#bailiffblag’ campaign: Hundreds of tactics used by bailiffs were tweeted and shared with the debt advice helpline, such as “they say it’s the address, not the individual that has to pay”. Not true!

  • Texting tips for teens via the Respect Yourself guidance site: Hundreds of top financial facts were posted by MoneySavers for non-profit site Respect Yourself to text on to teens.

  • Citizens Advice survey on access to cash: The quick survey looking at how we access our cash will help shape recommendations for CAB’s research project later this year.

  • Taking a step for Fairtrade: Fairtrade isn’t always MoneySaving. But during this fortnight, we were asked to take one step to help promote fair terms for developing world workers.

And finally…

Bank accounts remain one of those products that consumers fail to switch. Even though there are some really good products out there, competition is limited as too many consumers stay with bad accounts. The Move Your Money campaign aims to improve the banking system through strengthening one aspect of the market, the ethical banking sector.

While it’s not a topic we’d usually cover on MSE, I’d like to welcome this campaign as a way to improve the social responsibility of all organisations in the UK through consumers’ buying power.

Comment and discuss: A month in the life of MSE Campaigns – February