Category Archives: Legal

Auto-enrolment: The Past, Present and Future

Alexander Tredwell – Leaders in Specialist Professional Recruitment

Auto-enrolment, on the face of it at least, has been a huge success.

Very few employees have chosen to opt out and, five years on from launch, we are seeing its impact. But where did it all start? Back in 2003, the Government had a problem. Defined Benefit pensions in the private sector were in sharp decline as many closed to new members.

By Lydia Fearn, Head of DC at Redington

The new Defined Contribution schemes saw very low levels of contributions, although in fact many employees weren’t saving into a pension scheme at all. All of this meant that the welfare state would have to step in at some point which was likely to be unsustainable – people needed to save more for their own futures.

The Turner Commission report in 2005 had a dramatic effect on Government thinking, and from that the Auto-enrolment policy was born.

So where are we today?

The Department for Work and Pensions confirmed that the latest figures showed more than 8.5m people have been saving into a workplace pension scheme due to automatic enrolment.

Also, according to research from Aegon, over the last five years, an employee earning the average salary and contributing the minimum 2% would have generated a pot of £2,440 . Over the next five years, as levels rise to 5% and then 8%, members will have built a pot of £11,430 .

But, we know 8% isn’t going to be enough for most. Even with the state pension to fall back on, at current levels people are not going to be left with sufficient income to cover their retirement.

So, how do we encourage more contributions?

I think there are two key drivers to focus on. Using technology to make it as easy as possible to see, understand and save into a pension, and secondly creating a stronger emotional connection with later-life savings, like we do with our short-term savings.

Technology as a driving force
Technology, and the creation of apps, has exploded over the last few years. There are now over 2 million apps available, allowing people to translate everyday ambitions to (often) instant action and realisation.

If we need to move money between accounts, check our bank balance, or buy a parking ticket, it can now all be done on the go via our smartphones.

Understanding and realising our long-term savings objectives should also be this easy. The technology exists and it’s time for the industry to embrace it and make engaging with pensions an easier and more enjoyable experience.

Technology could give members the power to make payments straight into their account, find out how much they have saved, or calculate where they are in terms of reaching their retirement goals. This knowledge can not only directly translate to positive actions but will undoubtedly also make them feel more connected to their pension savings.

Creating an emotional connection

However, before they become interested in taking actions, we need people to even think about looking at their pension savings. In order to do this, they need to create an emotional connection to their savings. To know that it belongs to them and they have control over it.

Part of bridging this connection is ensuring that the benefits of long-term saving are as tangible as those of short-term spending.

There are some simple messages we can focus on using the EAST framework:

• Saving into your pension is EASY – it’s taken directly from your monthly pay
• Pensions are ATTRACTIVE – as well as your own contributions you are receiving ‘free’ money from your employer and the government
• Pensions are SOCIAL – millions of people are saving through auto-enrolment
• Pensions are TIMELY – the sooner you start to save the longer you have to increase the amount you will have access to in later life.

Auto-enrolment has already shown itself to be a huge change for good, but it’s far from the finished article. More can and must be done if we’re going to help solve the UK savings crisis and deliver financial security for members.


Commercial drivers win the right to spend a penny

Alexander Tredwell – Leaders in Specialist Professional Recruitment

Transport union Unite has won a long–running campaign giving delivery drivers the right to use the toilets at a business where they are making deliveries.

Thanks to the union-secured deal, employers in control of non-domestic premises are now obliged to allow people who are not their employees but use their premises to access toilets and washing facilities. Unite says the change in the regulations is a result of its campaign to end the problem of drivers having to go to the toilet behind bushes, or needing to continually ‘hold on’ due to being denied access to toilet facilities.

Unite argued this has wide-ranging health implications, including urinary tract infections, damage to the bladder and the bowel, and a build-up of toxins in the body. Women drivers have additional requirements to have access to toilets and face the a risk of developing infections if they are denied such access. Access to washrooms is doubly important where delivery workers are handling food or might be exposed to hazardous materials.

Unite national officer Adrian Jones said: “Finally drivers have won the right to access toilet facilities when making deliveries. This reform would not have occurred without Unite’s continued campaigning on this matter. This change in the application of the regulations is highly significant as it restores the dignity of drivers by giving them the right to use an employer’s toilet and hand washing facilities.”

He added: “If employers continue to refuse our members access to toilets we will pursue them through all avenues open to us and that will include naming and shaming companies that deny drivers the right to spend a penny.”


Npower to pay £26m over billing and complaint failures

Alexander Tredwell – Leaders in Specialist Professional Recruitment

RWE-owned (RWEG.DE) utility npower has been fined 26 million pounds for failing to treat customers fairly, Britain’s gas and electricity market regulator Ofgem said on Friday.

The largest fine ever levied by the regulator against one of Britain’s ‘big six’ energy companies relates to billing issues which affected more than 500,000 customers and the company’s failure to handle complaints properly.

Ofgem said many of the problems related to the introduction of a new IT system in 2011 which led to some customers receiving inaccurate bills.

“The payment of 26 million pounds sends a strong message to the industry that we expect them to act quickly and effectively to ensure a good customer experience,” Ofgem Chief Executive Dermot Nolan said.

The money will be divided between some of the worst-affected customers and charity, Ofgem said.


Volkswagen’s UK sales fell in October

Alexander Tredwell – Leaders in Specialist Professional Recruitment

Sales of Volkswagen brands including VW, Seat, and Skoda all fell last month in the UK amid the carmaker’s emissions scandal. The motor group has been embroiled in controversy over the level of emissions from its diesel and petrol cars. Sales of VW branded cars fell 9.8%, Skoda dropped 3% and Seat sales sank 32.2%. However, sales of Audi, Porsche and Bentley cars all rose.

Overall, UK car sales in October fell by 1.1%, the industry body said. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said October’s decline followed a record 43 consecutive months of growth. The VW brand sold 13,970 cars in October, down from 15,495 in the same month last year. Of the Volkswagen Group brands that SMMT collects figures for, sales fell overall by about 6%. However, Volkswagen was by no means the only carmaker to see sales fall on October. New car registrations for Vauxhall dropped 16%, and Ford’s sales fell by nearly 9%. Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, told BBC Radio 5 live: “Given the issues they’ve [Volkswagen] been experiencing over the last six weeks or so, some small adjustment is to be expected. “He said that the fall in Volkswagen car sales could be down to the “overall market levelling off”, but also that the emissions scandal “invariably will cause some people to think again about purchasing, or just to find out more information, which can delay sales”

TalkTalk says around 20,000 bank details accessed in cyber attack

Alexander Tredwell – Leaders in Specialist Professional Recruitment

A cyber attack on British telecoms company TalkTalk accessed the bank details of more than 20,000 customers, the company said on Friday, describing it as a much lower figure than originally feared.

TalkTalk shocked customers last week when the broadband, TV, mobile and fixed-line service provider said it had been hacked, potentially putting the private details of its 4 million customers into the hands of criminals.

The company has since said the attack was smaller than originally expected. It said less than 21,000 unique bank account numbers and sort codes had been accessed. Less than 28,000 obscured bank details were accessed while less than 1.2 million customer email addresses, names and phone numbers were accessed.

TalkTalk said credit and debit card details could not be used for financial transactions. “Today we can confirm that the scale of attack was much smaller than we originally suspected, but this does not take away from how seriously we take what has happened and our investigation is still on going,” Chief Executive Dido Harding said. “On behalf of everyone at TalkTalk, I would like to apologise to all our customers.” Two teenagers have been arrested in connection with the attack.


Data roaming charges will be abolished

Alexander Tredwell – Leaders in Specialist Professional Recruitment

Extra costs of using a mobile phone in countries across the EU are to be scrapped, MEPs have agreed, after years of negotiations. The ban on data roaming charges from 15 June 2017 has received a final green light in the European Parliament. Roaming charges are added by mobile operators for calls, texts and internet browsing when phone users are abroad. An interim cap on charges will take effect from 30 April next year, prior to the full ban across the EU.

That means telecoms operators will be able to add a surcharge of no more than:

  • €0.05 (3.5p) extra per minute for calls
  • €0.02 extra per SMS sent
  • €0.05 extra per megabyte of data used

The cap would make roaming within the EU 75% cheaper during the interim period, the European Commission has said. Some 665 MEPs voted in favour of the deal. The aim of the ban, in part, is to prevent consumers being caught out by huge bills when downloading films or other data during their European holidays. There have been a number of cases when mobile users have been landed with bills for hundreds of euros or pounds. From 15 June 2017, users within the EU will be charged the same as they would in their home country.

Critics of the ban suggest the loss of revenue for mobile phone companies could push up prices in general, including prices for non-travellers. There have been lengthy negotiations between EU officials and the mobile phone operators over the plans, which are also tied into proposals affecting how internet traffic is managed. Yet there has been some opposition to the move in the European Parliament, partly for political reasons after the UK government used the proposals as evidence for supporting EU membership. This was the final vote on the matter, as the majority of member states have already provisionally agreed to the plan.

Starbucks and Fiat Chrysler tax deals ‘illegal’

Alexander Tredwell – Leaders in Specialist Professional Recruitment

Starbucks and Fiat Chrysler have been told they must pay back between €20m (£15m) and €30m in taxes after European tax deals were ruled illegal.

Tax deals that Starbucks had with the Netherlands and Fiat’s financing firm had with Luxembourg were state aid, European competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said. “All companies, big or small, multinational or not, should pay their fair share of tax,” Ms Vestager said. Further investigations are continuing.

“Tax rulings that artificially reduce a company’s tax burden are not in line with EU state aid rules. They are illegal. I hope that, with today’s decisions, this message will be heard by member state governments and companies alike,” Ms Vestager said. The Luxembourg Ministry of Finance said the Commission had “used unprecedented criteria in establishing the alleged state aid”.

“Luxembourg disagrees with the conclusions reached by the European Commission in the Fiat Finance and Trade case and reserves all its rights,” it said.


Amazon Sues to Stop Fake Product Reviews

Alexander Tredwell – Leaders in Specialist Professional Recruitment

Amazon is taking legal action against more than 1,000 people it says have posted fake reviews on its website. The US online retail giant has filed a lawsuit in Seattle, Washington. It says its brand reputation is being damaged by “false, misleading and inauthentic” reviews paid for by sellers seeking to improve the appeal of their products. It comes after Amazon sued a number of websites in April for selling fake reviews.

Amazon says the 1,114 defendants, termed “John Does” as the company does not yet know their real names, offer a false review service for as little as $5 (£3.24) on the website, with most promising five-star reviews for a seller’s products.

“While small in number, these reviews can significantly undermine the trust that consumers and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers place in Amazon, which in turn tarnishes Amazon’s brand,” the technology giant said in its complaint, which was filed on Friday.

Amazon said it had conducted an investigation, which included purchasing fake customer reviews on Fiverr from people who promised five-star ratings and offered to allow purchasers to write reviews.

It said it had observed fake review sellers attempting to avoid detection by using multiple accounts from unique IP addresses.Amazon said the lawsuit was not targeting Fiverr, which is not a defendant in the complaint. Fiverr said it was working with Amazon to resolve the issue. “Amazon is bringing this action to protect its customers from this misconduct, by stopping defendants and uprooting the ecosystem in which they participate,” the lawsuit says. Anyone, whether they are a customer or not, has the ability to review products sold on Amazon’s online store, but the rules of the site forbid paid-for or fictional reviews.