The UK Money Blogger Villains of 2015
Some of the top money saving and personal finance bloggers in the UK have joined up as part of UK Money Bloggers to name and shame the
money villains of 2015.
Below they explain how we reached our decisions – and why you should care.
You can see who our heroes are in our 2015 Money Heroes blogpost.
Villains 1: Pizza Express and the restaurants that didn’t share tips
Lauren writes over at The Shrewd Life
In August this year, Business Secretary Sajid Javid insisted that restaurant tips should reach waiting staff’s pockets after popular eatery chains like Pizza Express, Prezzo and Café Rouge were accused of pocketing a percentage of their staff tips, whilst French restaurant chain Cote’s 12.5% service charge directly lines the pockets of head office.
Rumour has it some companies are even using service charge to cover the cost of staff wages, claiming it allows them to pay more than the minimum hourly wage.
Trade union ‘Unite’ were so enraged by it all that they held a demonstration outside Pizza Express’s flagship branch. Months later the company finally agreed to drop the 8% admin fee from staff tips. Let’s hope more follow suit.
To show your support please pay any tips you leave in cash directly to staff, ensuring it doesn’t fall into the wrong greedy hands. Bah Humbugs!
Villains 2: Smart Pig – selling payday loans to students
Sara Williams blogs about all-things debt-related at Debt Camel
Smart Pig’s business is lending payday loans to students. Now I’m not a fan of payday lenders at all, but Smart Pig are exploiting a community that is broke and has no experience with money – not good!
Their website makes them sound student-friendly: “ethical”, “set up by students” etc, but actually they have pretty much the same interest rates and charges as other payday lenders. Smart Pig do have a lower “cap” on interest than other lenders, but because of their limits on how long they will lend, for most of the year this never cuts in!
In England and Wales, student loans are paid termly which makes it hard for students to budget, the Scottish monthly payments system is much better. But payday loans aren’t the answer. If you have to borrow £300 this term, with say £100 interest added, how will you manage with £400 less next term? Well you will probably be back borrowing yet again from Smart Pig…
Villain 3: Martin Shkreli – the AIDS drug guy (AKA the most hated man on the internet)
Rebecca Smith blogs at Keene on Saving
Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals purchased the rights to the Aids drug Daraprim in August 2015 for $55 million. After his purchase, he tried to raise the price from $13.50 (around £9) per tablet to a massive $750 (around £500) per pill, an increase of 5,000 percent.
His excuse? He said that his company “needed to turn a profit”.
This wasn’t the first time Shkreli had tried such a move – previously when working for Retrophin, he tried to increase the price of kidney pulls from $1.50 per pill to $30 per pill. Whilst we aren’t opposed to a company making a profit, this 5,000% increase brings Shkreli onto our villains of 2015 list.
By the end of the year it looked like karma might have come back to haunt him, with a late December arrest for fraud.
Villain 4: Philip Davies – the MP that won’t stop talking
Andy Webb runs Be Clever With Your Cash and UK Money Bloggers
A law that requires landlords to make their properties fit for human habitation sounds a good idea, doesn’t it? Well, Tory MP Philip Davies disagreed.
A landlord himself, Mr Davies and fellow conservative Christopher Hope were so opposed to the legislation they spoke for an hour in the Commons as to why it shouldn’t be passed. But that wasn’t because they had so much to say. They were deliberately “filibustering” – talking until the bill runs out of the allotted time in Parliament and then can’t be voted for. Pretty sneaky.
It’s not the first time Davies has done it either. In 2015 he also blocked a bill to give carers free hospital parking, a bill to give all school children first aid training, a bill to protect the government aid budget, and a bill to ban wild animals being used in circuses. Way to go Democracy.
Villain 5: TalkTalk – Hacking the final straw for disgruntled customers
When news of TalkTalk’s cyber attack broke earlier this year, everyone was shocked to hear that it was their third attack within a year.
TalkTalk were slow to alert customers to the attack and once customers knew about it they couldn’t log into their accounts to remove personal and payment details. Even now, months after the attacks, some are facing difficulty logging into their accounts and checking their bills.
What’s more, TalkTalk usually offer a 10% discount for logging into their account and paying their bill within 24 hours of receiving it. With customers still unable to log in, they have lost two months of this speedy payment discount to date.
TalkTalk now state that the attack wasn’t as big as first thought and they are offering their loyal customers free perks…but of course they are still charging an exit fee for those who wish to terminate their contract early because they have lost faith in TalkTalk.
Villains 6: Next and the Living Wage opponents
There are lots of companies across the UK not paying their employees enough so they can even have a basic standard of living. Despite strong support for a living wage, Next were among the big businesses speaking out against it.
Their chief exec Lord Wolfson called the living wage “irrelevant” and damaging to the economy and their business, saying it would cost them £27m a year. The problem with this is Next reported pre-tax profits of £347m in July. It doesn’t seem fair does it?
And it’s not just Next who won’t join the living wage party. Many employees across the country are living in poverty due to the limitations of the minimum wage.
Even George Osborne’s “National Living Wage”, though a welcome increase, doesn’t solve the problem. In fact, by appropriating the language but not the rate, it could suggest the problem is solved. It’s not.
Do you agree? Who else do you think should have been on the list?