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The truth behind energy price cuts

BBC Radio 4's Money Box
Saturday, 14th January 2012 at 1204 GMT On Radio 4 and Online

Four of the big six power companies have now announced small and limited cuts in energy prices.

The others are likely to follow. But why are the cuts so limited - 5% or less typically on just gas or electricity - when last year's rises were so large - up to 19% in the autumn alone?

Furthermore not all utility customers stand to benefit from the headline price cuts anyway.

Joe Malinowski of the comparison site,, joins the programme.

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Paying off family debt

If you have a grown up son or daughter and they get into trouble repaying a loan you may want to help them with the debt - perhaps pay it off as long as they promised not to do it again.

But Money Box has heard from one mother who did this and ended up paying off future loans her son took out. Bob Howard's been talking to her:

Freelance debt expert Nick Lord also joins the programme.

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The cost of paying by cheque

Last July cheque users breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Payments Council announced the cheque would continue for as long as consumers need them.

But some listeners have contacted Money Box to say they are being forced to pay more for services if they opt to pay by cheque - and in some instances that option isn't available at all.

Ben Carter reports. Paul Lewis talks to James Daley from Which.

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When tracker funds fall short of the index

If you want to hitch your investment wagon to the stock market a cheap and safe way is supposed to be using a tracker fund.

These simply follow an index such as the FTSE100 or FTSE all share index and as they rise and fall so does the value of your portfolio - in theory.

The index they follow is called the 'benchmark' and one Money Box listener Duncan Martin was concerned that his tracker fund fell well short of the index it was tracking.

The programme hears from Duncan Martin and also from Tom Stevenson, Investment Director of Fidelity.

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Self-assessment deadline

If you are one of the nine million people in the self-assessment system and haven't yet filed your online tax return you have just about two weeks to do so or face a series of new penalties.

If you miss the 31st January deadline, you will be charged a £100 penalty whether you owe the Revenue any money or not. Ultimately if you delay filing for a year you will be charged £1600 in fines.

John Whiting of the Chartered Institute of Taxation explains all the changes.

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BBC Radio 4's Money Box is broadcast on Saturday at 1204 GMT.

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