Two items in the weekend press caught my eye, both pieces relate to my theme of vulture Britain (see this previous post). Reading them left me seething inside and almost turned me into a clone of forthright political blogger Obnoxio The Clown
The first press item related to the latest service offered by Every Travellers Best Friend, Michael Ryan of the eponymous Ryanair. Always quick to respond to complaints, his latest offering answers his many critics who quibble with his entirely reasonable credit card charge of £6 per flight. (Does he not provide alternatives for those wishing to avoid these charges? Such as the ability to pay for your flight by personally visiting the Ryanair customer service centre in Letterfrack, County Galway which is open 11.30am to 12.15pm, alternate Thursdays, in leap years only, and paying for your flight in cash – Zimbabwean dollars only please)
He has now introduced the Ryanair credit card, known as Cash Passport, or passport to your cash for Michael. Using this marvellous card, no admin charges will apply to any booking of Ryanair flights. But, as usual, the devil is in the detail: It costs £6 (a familiar number !) although this amount will be returned to you as a voucher to redeem against future flights on
Satanair, Ryanair. Then after six months if the card is not used, an “inactivity fee” of £2.50 will be debited from your balance each month. If this fee should take your card into the red , then a monthly “negative balance Fee” of £10 will be applied. Finally cancelling the card will attract a “cash out ” fee of £6. Gotcha always up as usual.
But in the UK, everything would appear to be legal if you sign up for it. If you agree to the terms and conditions then Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware) you have given your assent. For all those potential Cash Passport customers you will be glad to know that there is no clause in the T’s and C’s that states that Mr Ryan can enter your kitchen and eat all the food in your fridge….
The second article in the press this weekend highlighted the campaign by the Labour MP for Walthamstow, Stella Creasey, against legal loan sharking. The article specifically namechecked Wonga, the company with the 4215% payday loans, the doorstep lender Provident whose loans typically cost £82 in interest per £100 borrowed and Brighthouse, the supplier of household goods now with over 220 stores. You probably have not noticed this last company unless you happen to live in such places Harpurhey, Longsight or Wythenshawe. Brighthouse are a company that gives “easy terms” or offers “rent to own” plans for a wide range of consumer goods. Such bargains as a Samsung TV with a retail price of £740 that will cost over £2000 on their 3 year deal.
Creasey is trying to get a bill passed into law which will basically cap or limit the amount of charges made by credit companies like these. Frequently the poor and low earners are the ones that find themselves trapped in these cycles of debt. The high street banks don’t want their custom (probably too busy selling their branches in Wythenshawe and Harpurhey to Brighthouse and The Money Shop), they can’t get ordinary credit cards or loans and see these legal sharks as the only realistic alternative to the real gangsters lending on the estates.
The passage of her bill though is undergoing a rough ride and has been subjected to amendments that will merely “urge” the credit companies to “consider” capping the charges ( This amendment from Tory MP for Worcester, Robin Walker, whose connections to the Financial PR company, The Finsbury Group, are entirely coincidental, I’m sure) Interestingly, five years ago, Liberal big guns Nick Clegg, Ed Davey and Danny Alexander signed an early day motion condemning doorstep lending and other legal loan sharking but they seem too busy these days to use their positions in power to now do something about it.
With so many the victims of these companies, The government could make a great deal of political capital ( and perhaps win itself some friends and votes with minimal effort) by supporting this bill. An easy fix that could effect a wide range of social and economic benefits.