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  1. Hi I am hoping someone can help me. In 2006 I took out a loan with blemain finance, this was organised through a brooker being relax finance. The original loan was £10,000, I did get into difficulty with the loan due to three periods of maternity and other personal circumstances. I managed to get all the loan paid off with the interest. 5 years of payments of roughly £250. However once I had finished paying the loan I was advised that I still owed £5000. I am currently struggling financially, I have been throughout the loan and I have advised them of this. They agreed a payment plan of £60 per month. I made a £100 payment the end of June and i didn't pay July as I had made a large payment in June and then I paid in August. They have been sending me "loan past term" letters today I rang them. They have told me that my account is being passed for litigiation and unless I can pay half of the amount owing there is nothing else i can do except await a court date. I have concerns about the advice I was given at the onset as I have heard that Relax finance is linked to them and I feel the charges are unfair as they have been aware that I have been in financial difficulty. If they try to take me for reposession can HSBC dispute this as my mortgage is with them and there is no equity in the property. i am not in any arrears. Is there any point in trying to fight this, or should i try to borrow the £5000 from family members. Any help appreciated, Becki
  2. The FSA and the Bank of England have outlined a series of regulatory changes designed to make it easier for new banks to set up in the UK. The changes have been the result of a review into the banking sector looking at the barriers new entrants face. Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Kramer, who is a former vice-president of Citibank in Chicago and an ex-MP, said today’s changes are a “game changer”. She says: “For 100 years the regulator has rejected almost every new bank, leaving us with a banking system dominated by just four institutions, many of whom have abused that power by failing to serve the customer.” Both regulators have today set out changes to regulatory requirements and the authorisation processes which it says will ease the pressures on start-up banks. In terms of the prudential regime, start-up banks will be subject to reduced liquidity and capital buffer requirements. The additional capital requirements, known as add-ons and scalars, which were previously applied to new entrants to reflect uncertainty are being scrapped.Start-up banks will be required to hold a 4.5 per cent minimum Core Tier 1 capital requirements rather than the 7 per cent to 9.5 per cent requirement asked of existing banks. All new banks will benefit from a recent reduction in liquidity requirements and there will no longer be an automatic new bank liquidity premium. FSA chairman Adair Turner says: “This has been a comprehensive review and we have made some bold changes, ones that respond to the difficulties faced by applicant firms. We believe the changes will make a significant difference to the ease with which new firms can enter the UK banking system and, as a result, enable an increased competitive challenge to existing banks.” In terms of the authorisation process, start-ups which have completed the application will have the assessment by the Prudential Regulatory Authority and Financial Conduct Authority completed within six months. Significant levels of up-front support will also be provided during the pre-application stage. Applicants which are unable to meet the six-month timetable for the authorisation process, either because they cannot fund the up-front investment required or due to longer lead times for raising capital, will have access to an alternative route. This three-stage route to authorisation will offer the same pre-application support but with a shorter application which focuses on essential elements. The FCA recognises business case, capital, liquidity, and key senior appointments as essential elements. The authorisation granted will come with a restriction that will enable the firm to then mobilise the remaining requirements such as capital, personnel, IT and other infrastructure. The changes which have not yet been implemented will come into effect from 1 April when the PRA and the FCA both come into existence. Link: http://www.mortgagestrategy.co.uk/latest-news/fsa-and-boe-relax-the-barriers-to-entry-for-new-banks/1068482.article
  3. Contracts at Bannatyne Fitness, David Lloyd Leisure and Fitness First deemed 'unfair' by OFT Three of Britain's biggest gym chains have had to change their contracts to make it easier for people to cancel, after the Office of Fair Trading ruled their terms and practices were unfair. Bannatyne Fitness, David Lloyd Leisure and Fitness First have all been forced to change their contracts after they were found to be making it difficult or impossible for people who were injured or made redundant to exit their gym agreements early. Members of the gym groups are now able to cancel their contracts early should their circumstances change in a way that makes attendance at the gym difficult or unaffordable. The gym groups have also had to reduce the notice period needed to cancel contracts that are longer than one year, and will no longer be able to describe membership as being of a fixed duration if the contract automatically continues on a rolling basis after the initial membership period has expired. Bannatyne's was also singled out for chasing gym-goers with "misleading" debt collection letters that sometimes threatened recipients with what appeared to be official-looking court documents, or making other unsubstantiated claims about action that had been taken. It will now stop sending these letters and is reviewing its other debt collection letters. "Millions of people are members of gyms, and a membership contract can easily be a financial commitment of more than £500 per annum," said Cavendish Elithorn, senior director of the OFT's goods and consumer group. "We were concerned that contracts could unfairly lock people in if their circumstances changed, forcing them to continue paying even if they had lost their job. "We welcome these changes from Bannatyne's, David Lloyd and Fitness First. As well as making contract terms clearer, the revised contracts also grant members, and prospective members, more flexibility." The action taken against the three gym chains is part of an ongoing investigation the OFT started in January 2012, and stems from a court case involving Ashbourne Management Services, which draws up agreements and collects payments for gyms. The judge in that case concluded a contract was unfair if it ran for longer than 12 months and did not allow the consumer to cancel with 30 days' notice and a moderate penalty. The OFT is looking at gym contracts in light of this ruling. It confirmed it is continuing its investigation into some other companies, believed to include LA Fitness, and will provide an update in the next few weeks. In January 2012, LA Fitness caused a storm of protest after an article in the Guardian told the story of Hannah, a reader from Billericay in Essex, who was seven months pregnant and wrote to the paper after her husband lost his job, leaving the couple living on benefits. Hannah and her husband, who were about to move 12 miles away from their nearest gym, had been LA Fitness members for seven years and asked the gym chain to reconsider their two-year contract. But the gym insisted the couple pay the remaining 15 months, a total of £780. A protest by thousands on Twitter helped persuade the company to back down, and raised further questions about the fairness of long-term gym contracts. Some gym chains made changes to their contracts once the OFT investigation started. The watchdog closed its investigation into Virgin Active in April 2012 after concluding the gym chain was not using any unfair terms. However, Virgin did agree at the time to give members who lose their jobs longer to cancel their contracts, and reduced the notice period for former Esporta customers on two-year contracts following discussions with the OFT. A spokesperson for Bannatyne's said: "Bannatyne Health Clubs are uniformly operating under contracts that meet the OFT recommendations with regard to length of contracts and provisions relating to cancellation due to illness. "As a major national operator we have never used external debt collecting agencies and our contracts have never been greater than the 12-month maximum term proposed by the OFT." David Lloyd Leisure said: "Following extensive discussions with the OFT, DLL introduced improvements to the flexibility of its membership contract terms and conditions from December 2012. "Primarily, DLL simplified – and further clarified – the ability for members to join either with short- or longer-term commitments and to switch between the two, as well as expanding those circumstances in which membership can be suspended or ended." A Fitness First spokesman said: "We have happily accepted all recommendations from the OFT to make contract terms more transparent, allowing more flexibility for our members." Linl: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2013/mar/08/gym-chains-forced-relax-terms-contract-oft
  4. Metro Bank founder and former chairman Anthony Thomson has called for the FSA to go further in its plans to remove barriers to new entrants in the banking sector. Speaking at a Westminster Business policy forum on retail banking today, Thomson said the FSA must do more to reform its capital rules for new banks. The FSA is publishing a paper on removing barriers to entry in the coming weeks. Last week, FSA chairman Lord Turner said it will include plans to cut capital requirements for new entrants in half. Currently new banks are forced to hold 9 per cent capital against their predicted assets after three years. If a bank estimates it will have £1bn of assets after three years, it must hold £90m in capital from its first day of operation despite the assets not yet being accumulated. Thomson said: “It is incredibly capital inefficient. Why would you put your money into a business that has to hold £90m in reserves against no business? “I know Lord Turner said he wants to reduce the capital to 4.5 per cent from 9 per cent, but it is still far too much money. It is not the quantum but the proportion of your balance sheet and if you have no balance sheet it is still far too much money, whether its 4.5 per cent or 9 per cent. “What the FSA needs to do is look at how much capital banks need in the first year, then they can hold more capital in the second year, and so on.” In 2010, Metro Bank was the first firm to gain a UK banking licence in more than 100 years. Thomson left the bank last year as it made plans to launch on the stock market.Thomson described Metro Bank’s authorisation process, which took two years, as “very, very long” and “Kafkaesque”. He recommended reductions in authorisation times, greater access to the payments system and better bank infrastructure as ways to encourage new entrants. Link: http://www.mortgagestrategy.co.uk/latest-news/metro-bank-founder-fsa-must-further-relax-rules-for-new-bank-entrants/1067345.article
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