Huge claims could be brought against unfair ground rents

Back in September last year The Competition and Markets Authority launched enforcement action against 4 of the biggest UK based housing developers.

 

Barratt, Countryside Properties, Permission Homes and Taylor Wimpey are all being carefully investigated by the CMA after they uncovered worrying evidence that leasehold properties may have been mis-sold to homeowners. The CMA is concerned these 4 developers have been mis-leading buyers about unfair contract terms. In March Taylor Wimpy and Countryside Properties were told to change their contracts which forced people to pay increasing ground rents. These people often signed up to contracts but did not know the rents would increase or that leases could be extended without their knowledge.

 

The issue has been highlighted again this week as a woman has brought her conveyancing firm to court over what she says was a failure on their behalf to inform her of the incremental increases in ground rent on her property. She is pursuing a negligence claim against the firm who failed to inform her of this information and because of this her property is unsellable.

 

Carol Patterson said: “I just feel so frustrated that something I worked so hard for and saved for has no value at all now. I bought this flat as an investment for my pension. The ground rent for Buckingham Palace wouldn’t be as much as what I would be paying at the end of my lease.”

 

The Competition and Markets Authority have said they are looking into the following areas in relation to the selling of properties and mis-leading buyers:

Ground rents: developers failing to explain clearly exactly what ground rent is, whether it increases over time, when increases will occur and by how much.

Availability of freehold: people being misled about the availability of freehold properties. For example, the CMA found evidence that some people were told properties on an estate would only be sold as leasehold homes, when they were in fact later sold as freeholds to other buyers.

Cost of the freehold: people being misled about the cost of converting their leasehold to freehold ownership. When buying their home, the CMA found evidence that some people were told the freehold would cost only a small sum, but later down the line the price had increased by thousands of pounds with little to no warning.

Unfair sales tactics: developers using unfair sales tactics – such as unnecessarily short deadlines to complete purchases – to secure a deal, meaning people could feel pressured and rushed into buying properties that they may not have purchased had they been given more time.

Unfair contract terms – ground rents

The use of unfair contract terms that mean homeowners have to pay escalating ground rents, which in some cases can double every 10 years. This increase is built into contracts, meaning people can also struggle to sell their homes and find themselves trapped.

The CMA will publish their findings once the investigation is complete and all the parties mentioned have had time to respond to complaints. If it is found companies have been mis-selling homes with unfair contracts, it could open the doors for a flurry of complaints against developers.

Sub-prime lender closes after surge in compensation claims

Provident Financial, which has been lending money to people for 141 years has announced it is to close its doors or sell its lending business. The firm had been struggling for several years and in 2019 reported losses of £21 million, however figures recently published shows the firm made a £75 million loss in 2020.

There has been a steady decline in the payday loan industry since Wonga and Quick Quid collapsed in 2018 after complaints about lending led to a surge in customers seeking redress. Complaints were based around affordability and customers complained they sold loans that they could not afford which left them with extra interest and charges. Complaints were also made about how companies dealt with customers who were struggling to pay off high interest loans.

Many of these payday loan companies came under fire from The Financial Ombudsman Service, who saw a 250% increase in complaints from disgruntled customers. Many of these complaints were upheld by the service who seemed to favour the consumer. In March this year, Provident wrote to their customers to inform them that they would possibly go into administration because of a surge in compensation claims. They also explained how they were facing regulatory investigation by The Financial Conduct Authority about whether or not the firm carried out affordability checks before lending to people.

What is a sub-prime loan?    

A sub-prime loan is offered to people with a low or poor credit history. They may also have a low paying job or do not make enough money, so they are financially more of a liability to lenders and banks than a person with a higher credit score.

However, this does not mean they cannot borrow money. It simply means as they are more likely to struggle to make repayments, they are usually charged a much higher rate of interest than someone who is more financially stable. In some cases, a sub-prime loan can be a good thing, if an individual has previously had poor credit history, this offers them the opportunity to build their credit rating if the loans are repaid on time and to the figures set in the terms of the loan.

What is the problem with sub-prime loans?

The main issue with sub-prime loans is that they charge incredibly high interest rates. On a car loan, for instance that can represent thousands of pounds and on a mortgage, these can run into tens of thousands.

In principle, and if used correctly, a sub-prime loan can benefit a person who is looking to improve their credit score, however, a lot of lenders have been accused of offering unaffordable loans to people who were not assessed for their ability to repay them. This would be based on an assessment of their income and outgoings, something Amigo is accused of doing.

Did you take out an unaffordable sub-prime loan?

If you have already paid off your loan debt in full you can still make a claim – if you struggled to repay the money at the time.

If you are still paying off your loan, you can make a complaint if you are struggling to make repayments, if your claim is successful, it could lower the amount you have to pay back.

You can also still claim if the firm has ceased to operate, you will have to complain through the firm’s administrators. But even if your claim is unsuccessful, it could mean you paying back less money if you owe any.

Consumer champion Martin Lewis says, “Fraudsters are getting off scot-free”

Television personality, money expert and consumer champion Martin Lewis is asking parliament to act now and introduce an online safety bill to protect consumers and stop fraudsters from getting away scot-free.

He told The Observer: “There is an epidemic of scams in the UK. It’s been exploding for the past three or four years, and it’s been exacerbated due to the pandemic.” He is calling for new measures to be introduced in the bill of online safety which is due to be introduced in parliament next week. He is calling ministers to include measures to force big tech companies to vet all the adverts they publish on their platforms to stop people being scammed.

Martin has been campaigning for this for years and to highlight the scale of the problem he launched a lawsuit against Facebook in 2018 after his name was used to promote an advertisement for a fraudulent scheme. Facebook failed to take the advert down. Incredibly Lewis’s face was used in over 1,000 adverts which were paid for by criminals and used to con people into scam investments. Facebook settled the case and agreed to pay £3 million to The Citizens Advice Bureau. However, since then, Lewis says little to nothing has been done by big tech firms to stop this from happening.

So far nothing has been done to force tech companies to vet their advertisements, something which is required from television and radio stations, but Tech companies have been left to their own devices and have failed to act. They are paid to publish articles sometimes hundreds to thousands of pounds, the problem is they do not know or make any attempt to find out who is paying for them. Fraudsters often use Google and social media sites to scam people and UK citizens are losing billions annually because of it.

Lewis told The Observer: “When I was suing Facebook, I met a senior member of the government. I said, ‘can you not regulate?’ And I got this semi-flippant response that, ‘well, it’s really difficult for us to do, which is why we really want you to take the court case’. I think the government and the Westminster classes are absent at the wheel when it comes to scams. And it’s just outrageous that nothing is being done.”

The numbers of people scammed since the pandemic started has skyrocketed as scammers target more and more people. Less than 1 percent of the police budget is spent on investigating online fraud and when an individual is affected, they are encouraged to report it to Action Fraud. Lewis said: “When I do my day job, I of course encourage people to report to Action Fraud too. But I need to be honest – I think that is potentially a futile thing for most people to do. Because Action Fraud is outrageously under-resourced.

“I’m not blaming the individuals at Action Fraud. But very, very few cases of fraud are ever investigated. We have an open charter now for scammers and fraudsters that they can pretty much always get away with this scot free. And that simply isn’t acceptable.”

The impact of fraud on victims is appalling, Lewis said. “As well as potentially being life-destroying financially, it has a huge impact on self-esteem and mental health.”

 

Big tech companies failing to remove scams

Scams are everywhere and if you have been caught out by one already chance is you are a bit more aware of what to look out for. But did you know that as the government and regulators work hard to stop scams and protect us, the same cannot be said for some of the biggest tech companies out there. Unfortunately, there are not the same rules that govern advertising on television and radio on the internet. Because these companies are so large and the internet has been largely ungoverned for so long, it has provided a ripe breeding ground for criminals to target people and often companies are slow to act if at all.

 

An investigation by consumer advocacy group Which? Has revealed that Facebook and Google have failed to remove scam adverts even after victims have reported them. The study by Which? Reported that Google had failed to remove 34% of the scam adverts that were reported to them by members of the public and Facebook failed to remove 26%. Which? Also said that 15% of the people they surveyed had been caught out by scam adverts and reported it. Incredibly 43% of victims said they had not reported being the victim of a scam online and the main reasons where victims did not believe tech companies would act or they would get their money back. Which? Also stated that victims of scams from Google search engines did not report incidents as the reporting process was unclear and too hard to find. Which? Is calling for a better response of big tech companies in acting to remove scam adverts quickly so people are not victimised.

 

Which? Said: “The combination of inaction from online platforms when scam ads are reported, low reporting levels by scam victims and the ease with which advertisers can post new fraudulent adverts even after the original ad has been removed suggests that online platforms need to take a far more proactive approach to prevent fraudulent content from reaching potential victims in the first place.”

 

Which? Wants the government to step in to help protect people. They are asking that online platforms take legal responsibility to identify, remove and fraudulent content on sites. They have launched a free scam-alert service to warn consumers of the latest tactics used by fraudsters. You can check it out here: Scam Alerts | Which?

 

Social media scams are not always easy to spot. They look legitimate and are designed to fool you, they use real brand logos and when you click on them this sends your personal details to the scammer. When you click on them this also triggers the share feature so your social media contacts will also see the fake advert or post and could mean they click on the link too.

 

There are some simple steps you can take to avoid social media scams like inspecting the URL. If you check the URL against the company website URL you may see some slight differences, this means the page has been cloned and is a fake. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. If it offers a great deal or huge discount, check on the company’s website to see if they are actually advertising it. Finally, check the branding. If the logo looks different or is an older version or by clicking on the link it does not take you to their genuine page, then it’s fake and you should avoid it. You can learn more about how to spot a social media scam on Which? Where there is lots of helpful information about what to do if you fall victim to a social media scam: How to spot a social media scam – Which?

What is the problem with Solar Panels?

Well, the quick answer is not a lot, they generate Green Energy and help the environment and for those who have them installed benefit from smaller household energy bills.

 

So why are there so many complaints regarding solar panels? Unfortunately, it is not the solar panels that are at fault here it is the way in which they have been sold and misrepresented to people who purchase them. We often hear from people who complain that they were promised their Feed in Tariff would cover the loan repayments and that the panels would be ‘self-funding’, but people are often left out of pocket.

 

When Green Energy incentives were introduced by the government many companies started selling solar panels as investments. Often people were persuaded to purchase after long sales pitches and promised the panels would lower electricity bills, improve the value of their home, reduce carbon footprint, combat rising electricity bills, and earn money back through the ‘Feed in Tariff’.

 

Solar panel companies sprung up all over the country and started mis-selling the benefits of having them installed. They told consumers that they would save money in the long run by making a small investment but for those who could not afford to purchase them outright, were persuaded into taking out high interest loans with unaffordable monthly repayments.

 

In 2011 a consumer watchdog investigated the mis-selling of solar panels and discovered that 9 out of 12 companies gave consumers inaccurate information regarding their purchases and how much energy they would produce. They also found that many of these panels were not even installed correctly meaning they were not installed in areas that would provide enough light for the panels to work and generate enough electricity. This along with the aggressive nature of the sales process, meant that many people who purchased solar panels were in fact mis-sold them and they could be entitled to make a claim against the company that sold them, even if that company has since ceased trading.

 

If this has happened to you or anyone you know, then get in touch with our expert team to see if we could help you make a claim today. If the person or company who sold you solar panels gave you mis-leading information about them or told you would make a certain amount of money from them by selling energy back to the National Grid or you feel they were not installed correctly then you could make a claim. We may be able to help return the money you have paid to date for the system, recover interest on those sums and write off your future repayments to the finance provider.

Financial Watchdog investigates 52 cryptocurrency firms.

The financial Conduct Authority has launched investigations into 52 companies after claims that mis-selling, fraud and pressure selling from people being mis-sold bad cryptocurrency investments.

The FCA has received a flurry of complaints to its consumer helpline. In October 343 calls were made from people who had been ripped off from bad investments. Cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin has increased in value and is continuing to hit record highs, attracting investors but also scammers who are increasingly targeting people looking to make some money.

At the beginning of the year the FCA warned that consumers should know what they are doing when investing in cryptocurrency or be prepared to lose all their money if not. They urged consumers to understand what they were investing in and the financial risks involved and that if they invested in a company that goes bust, they would be unlikely to receive their money back. They went on to say that a large number of companies were overstating the returns people could make on investments, and to stay clear of companies and advertisements offering high returns on investments.

The Financial Conduct Authority required non-registered crypto businesses to register with the regulator by January 10 this year and businesses that failed to do so would come under FCA scrutiny. The cryptocurrency market is extremely volatile which makes them a high-risk category for investors. It is also a relatively new market which means low levels of regulation are in place to monitor it. Because of this it is too easy for fraudsters to set up bogus companies and even fake currencies.

Cryptocurrency scams the top four:

The promise of immediate high returns can make people eager to take a risk on a cryptocurrency investment. But what happens more often than not is innocent investors are lured in by making small but significant profits on smaller investments, and once they start investing more and more a scammer will leave them with nothing and pocket the lot.

  • Fake exchanges – investment opportunities of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies being marketed on social media and via email – these will send you to fake exchanges which can often disappear overnight. Make sure websites are HTTPS secured – although this is no guarantee the site is genuine – but the most important thing is to do your research and seek out reviews of sites.
  • Fake wallets – wallets are primarily about storing your cryptocurrency and not buying or selling it. Fake wallets are scams for malware to infect your computer to steal your passwords and other personal information. They are not easy to spot but sites like Bitcoin.com, for example, do recommend wallets for mobile and desktop users and provide a simple, secure way to send and receive bitcoin.
  • Phishing scams – phishing is when someone tries to trick you into thinking that a website or company is genuine. Scammers will often encourage you to make a transaction, but this will be fake, meaning you will lose your money as a result. Alternatively, it could be an opportunity for scammers to place malware on your device to steal your personal details.
  • Ponzi scams – Ponzi scams usually involve making strong or unrealistic claims about the returns you can make by investing in cryptocurrencies. They often have referral programmes to encourage investors to sign up their friends and families. In reality, most people will lose some of all their money in these types of schemes.

The best way to avoid these types of scams is to stay safe online, protect your data, do not open unsolicited emails and fully research anywhere or anyone you are thinking of investing your money with. And look out for anyone guaranteeing to make you money, promising big pay-outs, offering free crypto cash, if something sound too good to be true, chances are it is.

Success for our clients

Mis-sold Claims Assist are experts in consumer mis-selling claims. Because we are experts, we have a high level of success in arguing claims for products and services that are mis-sold to consumers.  Our expert team understand that the most important part of our jobs is listening to our clients and making sure we are providing them with the best possible service. This ensures we have all the relevant information to put forward a successful argument in order to claim back your money. We are experts in presenting claims, something that comes with many years of experience. A perfectly reasonable and legitimate claim can be ruined if it is incorrectly pleaded. If a claim has been presented badly it could compromise the opportunity to make a successful claim in the future.

Our recent success story involves some clients who fell victim to a timeshare termination scam after their resort refused to relinquish their contract. In 2016, our clients were persuaded to attend a sales presentation with a company claiming to be able to terminate their timeshare. They were made to believe this would be a short meeting, instead they were kept there for a half day. During this meeting, the sales representatives were trying to persuade our clients to sign up to a concierge and lifestyle package which would provide them with exclusive vouchers and discounts to a number of purchases, specifically holidays, flights and accommodation. They explained that the savings they would make using this package would save enough money that eventually the £15,000 price tag would pay for itself.

After hours of hard selling our clients agreed to pay £14,000 for this package and signed up on the day on the understanding that the offers they would receive were exclusive and they would have discounts on a number of products including holidays and flights. Needless to say, that following the purchase, our clients found it nearly impossible to use this concierge and lifestyle package in anyway whatsoever. In fact, when our clients were directed to Mis-sold Claims Assist, our team undertook some investigation and discovered that some of these exclusive offers were completely fictitious. One such offer was for a break to Tenerife, the company offered this break for £205 per night, we discovered that the same hotel for the exact dates was being advertised online for a mere £33 a night. Not only was this company vastly mis-representing their product, but they were overcharging for accommodation. This was just one of the discoveries we made when investigating this company’s actions. We also learned that the company went into liquidation, ceased trading and the directors were being investigated by Trading Standards for fraud. Thankfully for our clients we have been able to claim their money back through the finance provider, however there are many other companies and individuals to take their place and people continue to be taken advantage of with similar fraudulent schemes. If you or anyone you know has fallen victim to such a fraud, get in touch with us today. We have great success in arguing these types of claims and could help win you your money back.