Tattoo Removal Update

We’ve been banging the drum for the future potential of tattoo removal as a business opportunity for some time now, and there’s no let up. According to Market Watch the tattoo removal industry is still growing and expected to hit $83.2 million over the next four years.

The fact that tattoos are a fashion item in themselves, and different styles and designs of tattoo go in and out of fashion, guarantees an ongoing market. In  addition, relationship break-ups and job-hunting has led to an additional  surge in tattoo removals. Heightened unemployment in the recession has led to increased demand from job seekers who need to cover up tattoos in order to obtain employment.

There are currently a number of tattoo removal franchises around at the moment, as well as training courses for people who want to buy their own equipment and start on their own. Needless to say, this is hardly a ‘start tomorrow’ business, but the long term ongoing potential seems to make it very worthy of investigation.

The Payment Protection Insurance

The Payment Protection Insurance, PPI, scandal rumbles on. Fact is, most policies have been mis-sold. About 80 per cent of cases that go to the Financial Ombudsman, FOS, go in the clients’ favour. Here’s a quick, can-I-get-a-refund guide for you…

Was It Mis-sold?

Decide whether you were mis-sold the policy. To make a successful PPI claim, you just need to show that you were ‘mis-sold’ the policy – in short, you should not have been sold the policy. Whoever sold the policy has certain responsibilities towards you. They needed to ensure that you understood what you were buying. They should also have made sure it was appropriate for your needs.

As an example, you should have had the exclusions pointed out to you. And, if the policy would be null and void if you had certain pre-existing medical conditions, such as a history of heart trouble, the seller should have checked to see if that was the case.

As another example, if you pointed out that you already had cover via your job but the seller said you should have this PPI anyway, that’s mis-selling. If the seller didn’t ask you any relevant questions, perhaps about how many hours you worked, that could be mis-selling as well if you don’t work enough to qualify.

Did You Understand?

Did they make you understand what you were buying? First things first, did you know exactly what PPI was when you took out the policy? You should have done if you were buying it and the seller had a responsibility to make sure that you did. You should have been aware of what you had to do – pay the premiums etc. You should also have been made aware of what the seller would do in return – if you fell ill, your payments would be covered by the policy etc (at least in theory).

Of course, there is a wider context to this – all of those ‘ifs, buts and maybes’. If you had a pre-existing medical condition, you’d probably not get that payout, and so on. If you had, say, cancer one would expect that you would be excluded if you needed to claim as a result of something relating to that. The seller should have covered those ifs, buts and maybes – in effect, gone over the small print with you – before you took out the policy. You should have known what you were getting yourself into with this policy.

Was It Appropriate?

Did they make sure it was appropriate to your needs? Generally speaking, PPI is a product that should really be sold only to those people who are working, can afford repayments and want PPI just in case they become ill or unemployed and can’t maintain the repayments. So the seller should really make sure you are working when you took out the policy.

Note though that the definition of ‘working’ can vary. Typically, it may be that you are working ‘more than 16 hours per week’. If, or example, you worked less than that and took out a policy, you’ve probably been mis-sold as, in the event of a claim, they would normally not pay out as you did not work 16 hours or more a week. They should have asked you.

If you were self employed, you need to check to see if the PPI covered you and would pay out if you were taken ill, had an accident or your business failed. Often, PPI does not cover the self-employed so if you took out such a policy it’s not appropriate to your needs. The seller should have checked that and not sold PPI to you.

Anything Underhand?

Did they do anything underhand? A common complaint is that the seller stated that you must take out PPI through them to get the mortgage, the loan, the credit card or whatever. According to the Banking Code (replaced in November 2009 by the wider-reaching Lending Code), a lender will not insist that you purchase insurance from them.

Even though the seller may not have actually stated that their PPI was compulsory, you can still pursue a refund using this angle if; it wasn’t stated that the PPI was optional (i.e. the unspoken implication being that it was compulsory); it was implied that your application would be more likely to succeed if you took out the policy; it was suggested that the mortgage, loan or other borrowings would be more costly if you did not agree to the PPI. You could even pursue this line if you felt pressured into agreeing to the PPI against your wishes.

Sometimes, you may have taken out PPI without actually realising it. Not so long ago, some agreements had boxes which you had to tick to opt out of the PPI whereas nowadays you need to tick a box to opt in.

What To Do

Know how to complain. If you have, or have had, PPI, it’s worth complaining. Even if you were happy with it (most likely because it gave you a sense of security and you never put it to the test by claiming on it), have a go anyway. After all, you could get all your money back. Reminder: But, please note, if you have or have had PPI and have received a payout from it, you cannot claim your money back as you can’t say the policy was mis-sold!

The ‘how to’ of reclaiming is fairly simple. To start, you need to get all your paperwork and facts and figures together. Once you know how much you have paid out and have decided why you think you should get your money back, you write to the PPI provider. Ultimately, you can go to the Financial Ombudsman Service who, you’ll recall, favours the clients in 80 per cent of cases. The Financial Ombudsman Service is at Financial-ombudsman.org.uk.

As always, we welcome your feedbacks and comments especially if we can re-use them, anon of course, to benefit other members.

admin@streetwisenews.com

PPI Update

I’ve contributed to a guide on reclaiming PPI and the message that came across loud and clear when I did my research was this – you can do it yourself, you don’t need to use a claims management company. I’ve spoken to lots of people in the industry and some of the stories relating to some – some – of these firms is shocking. It’s a sector that has attracted its share of dodgy dealers.

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) says that market share between d-i-y’ers and claims management companies is changing. These companies used to handle 76 per cent of claims; that’s now at 59 per cent.

FSCS chief executive Mark Neale says, ‘Claims management companies take a sizeable chunk of any payout. Consumers who make a claim directly to FSCS keep every penny of their compensation. Some people may prefer to use a claims management company, but it is important that they understand the charges from the outset and are happy to pay them.’ If you are interested in going it alone, drop me a line and we will sort out some introductory material for you to start you off.

Get Paid £20 To Check Your Free Equifax Report

If you want to check your credit report (and you should!) Equifax offer a 30 day free trial. And there’s even better news – if you go through website Topcashback, you can get £20.20 for taking up the trial. The offer lasts until Sunday. After the 30 day trial  is up, the fee is £8.99 a month, so unless you want to take the service on an ongoing basis, you’ll need  to make sure you cancel at least 24 hours before the free 30 days is up. To cancel, just call 0844 335 0550 and quote your product reference. It isn’t often you can get twenty quid for free. There’s no real disadvantage to taking advantage.

Insurance Get Wise!

We’ve just had to replace the wooden flooring in our orangery as part of the glass roof came loose during a storm and we returned home from a short break to find the floor flooded and badly stained. We were, according to the insurance inspector, ‘lucky’ as most claims of this type are rejected by insurers as homeowners have either left a window open by mistake (and don’t have accidental cover) or have failed to maintain and repair as they went along (and have the claim rejected).

‘Maintenance’ is the key. According to AXA, six out of ten householders don’t know that they cannot make a successful claim if any damage is down to poor maintenance.

James Barclay at AXA summarises, ‘Consumers need to understand that an insurance policy is there to protect customers’ homes against the unexpected and not cover for general wear and tear. There are some claims that we simply have to turn away as they are caused by obvious neglect and lack of investment in the property rather than the weather.’ Food for thought.

Heating Checks

The AA has offered some advice on household heating off the back of the report from the AA Home Emergency Response Service that between September 2011 and November 2011, the number of customers with boiler problems more than doubled.

If you haven’t already done so, turn your heating on for a few minutes each week to check it’s working properly.

Make sure that your pipes are properly insulated – this will help protect them from freezing in the winter.

If your pipes do freeze, thaw them out gently using hot water bottles or a hairdryer.

Keeping your heating on a constant, low heat throughout the day could reduce the chance of a breakdown and help maintain a consistent temperature.

Leave your loft hatch open slightly to allow warm air to circulate if you’re away.

Locate your main internal stopcock so you can switch it off in the event of an emergency. It is usually under the kitchen sink or where the service pipe enters the building.

Heating Tips & Tactics

The Heating Helpline at www.heatinghelpline.org.uk is offering some money-saving tips.

If you have less than 10cm of insulation in your loft you’ll be wasting energy. Top the insulation up to 27cm and you could save around £150 a year.

Since the 1930s, most houses have been built with an air cavity between two outer walls. If you get this gap filled with insulating foam you could save well over £150 on your heating bills.

Floorboards lose a lot of heat – insulation seal between the gaps can save you about £25 per year.

Insulate your hot water cylinder. Fitting a jacket at least 75mm thick costs very little and you could save more than £50 each year. Lagging all your hot water pipes could also save you over £25 a year.

Badly fitted doors and windows mean avoidable heat loss. Draught-proofing doors and windows by sealing gaps will help you save energy.

Unused fireplaces are one of the biggest causes of lost heat. If you’re not using your chimney but don’t want to board it up try a chimney balloon – they’re easy to inflate and last for years.

There is a free helpline at 0800 810 8303 or you can go to www.heatinghelpline.org.uk.

Wombling Free

In the spirit of bringing you everything and anything that may make you some money, allow me to introduce you to ‘wombling’. Apparently this works very well, but I’d be disappointed if you couldn’t find a more interesting use for your time. Anyway, here goes.

The first thing you need to do is go to your local Asda or Tesco supermarket and find a bin. Look through the bin and dig out as many receipts as you can (I can sense your excitement growing!). Take the receipts home and log on to the supermarkets price check websites., and enter the product codes to see whether the same items are available cheaper at the competitive supermarket. Both Asda and Tesco offer price guarantees, promising to refund the difference in price if the product is being sold cheaper elsewhere. This is usually paid in vouchers.

Tesco pays double the difference in vouchers if a basket of goods you buy there is cheaper at Asda. Asda pays the difference plus 1p if a basket there is not at least 10% cheaper than the nearest rival out of Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.

Apparently both Asda and Tesco accept that this is completely legal, and seem pretty relaxed about it all. Hardly surprising really. Even if you’re not a customer, all they’ve given you is vouchers to spend in the store. While you’re there, you’re highly likely to spend the vouchers and a great deal more, meaning any profit they lost from handing out the vouchers is more than recouped