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Are fixed overdraft fees fairer?

Cash and bank cards
BBC Radio 4's Money Box
Saturday, 27 November 2010 at 1204 GMT on Radio 4 and Online

It is 12 months since the Supreme Court ruled on the biggest personal finance court case for many years. It was seven banks and one building society versus the Office of Fair Trading - did overdraft charges have to be fair?

The banks won and saved themselves a potential £10 billion payout - leaving millions of customers frustrated and disappointed.

Since then, a new approach to overdraft charges has emerged - the fixed fee. The banks adopting this flat daily or monthly rate charge for being overdrawn say it is clearer for customers - but it can be more expensive.

Ruth Alexander looks at whether customers are going to be better or worse off as a result of the changes, and compares the costs of having an unauthorised overdraft with the different high street banks.

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Regulator to look at energy price rises

The energy regulator Ofgem is to investigate recent energy price rises and higher profits to see if more action is needed to protect consumers.

Customers with British Gas, Scottish and Southern Energy and Scottish Power face bill hikes this winter.

The regulator says it will be looking at whether utility companies are 'playing it straight with consumers' after the latest figures showed a rise of almost 40% in profit margins from a typical dual-fuel customer in the last three months. Energy companies blame movements in the gas wholesale markets for the price rises.

Audrey Gallacher, head of energy policy at Consumer Focus joins the programme.

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Does your postcode unfairly influence the cost of car insurance?

The former cabinet minister Jack Straw tells Money Box he is concerned many people in his Blackburn constituency, who have a good driving history, are paying way over the odds for their car insurance simply because of the postcode they live in.

Mr Straw believes the insurance industry is giving too much weight to postcodes when deciding what individual customers should pay.

The cost of car insurance has seen a huge jump this year - up on average by almost 40% compared to last year, according to the AA.

Nick Starling from the Association of British Insurers responds.

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Lenders warned about threatening to force home sales to recover small debts

The Office of Fair Trading is clamping down on lenders who have been threatening debtors with the loss of their homes for relatively small sums of money.

Financial companies can apply to a court for a charging order to recover credit card debts or loans. This turns them into debts secured on the borrower's property.

Over the past five years, the number of charging orders granted by the courts has more than doubled, from 49,218 to 111,311.

The OFT has told four associated companies of major lenders to address the way they use orders.

We hear from a listener who has been affected, and Ray Watson from the OFT.

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Where is the £7bn Irish aid going to come from?

The Prime Minister said this week that Britain is prepared to play a "very big part" in helping to stabilise the Irish economy. The Chancellor George Osborne has indicated this financial support could total around £7 billion.

But given the UK is trying to address its own spiralling debt problems, where is this money going to come from? Ruth Alexander finds out.

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BBC Radio 4's Money Box: Saturday 27 November at 1204 GMT and Sunday 21 November at 2102 GMT.



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