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Miliband: Consumer groups to help fix 'broken markets'

Labour leader Ed Miliband said consumer groups would be given a greater role in identifying and fixing "broken markets" if his party won the next General Election.

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband. Credit: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Mr Miliband told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show he would legislate to ensure Which? and Citizens Advice would be given a say in setting the agenda of the Competition and Markets Authority.

He claimed Labour would be "the party of the consumer" and the plan for an annual competition audit of the economy would help ensure that areas where regulators were failing would be identified and tackled.

The Labour leader said: "Unless you bring the consumer into the heart of these things, we are not going to get the change we need, we are not going to get the change we need, we are not going to shine the light on these broken markets."

He added: "The Competition and Markets Authority scrutinises competition across the board. They will be working with Which?, the CAB and others to say 'where are the areas where competition isn't working, what are your members telling you about where we need to act?'

"They will be sending a report to Parliament and it will be framing the work for the year ahead."

Read: Miliband vows a 'reckoning' with the banks

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Which? says Govt 'will tackle' helpline ban loopholes

Alex Neill
Alex Neill from Which? Credit: DaybreakITV

The Government will "tackle" the high cost of some of their helplines, as bans on expensive 084 and 087 numbers go forward, according to a consumer campaign group.

Head of campaigns for Which? Alex Neill dubbed the initial ban "a huge victory" for consumers:

"Actually, what we have heard from the Government is that they are going to tackle this. They have said it's out of order. So we would expect them to lead by example and make sure they issue guidance to public bodies not to do this."

Swinson: 'We want customers to be confident to shop'

Consumer Minister Jo Swinson said the Financial Conduct Authority was committed to considering whether it could introduce measures to limit costs for those calling banks, insurance companies and investment brokers, along with retailers.

Consumer Minister Jo Swinson. Credit: Press Association

She said: "For too long, some businesses have been trying to extract every extra penny from their loyal customers.

"From next year, if something goes wrong with a cooker, or commuters want a refund on their season ticket, they will now pay the same to phone a helpline as they do to call friends or family.

"We want consumers to be confident to shop with a range of traders. The new rights announced today will mean consumers are entitled to the same level of protection whether they are purchasing goods or services online, at home or in a shop."

Expensive calls to consumer helplines to end

Customers calling helplines to complain about faulty items or incorrect orders will no longer have to pay more than the basic rate, the Government has announced.

The new rights will end expensive premium 084 and 087 numbers for customers. Credit: Press Association

Consumer Minister Jo Swinson said the new right would end expensive premium 084 and 087 numbers for customers calling airlines, train operators and major high street and online retailers.

Many firms already offer freephone or basic rate numbers but consumers can find that some traders provide an 0800 or freephone number for pre-contract calls to attract new customers but then only offer expensive premium rate numbers when the product or service has been paid for.

The measure is to be included in the regulations implementing the Consumer Rights Directive, which is due to come into force in June 2014.

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Prices set to rise for BT customers

Around 10 million BT customers are being told that phone and broadband prices are to rise by up to 6.5% in another blow to households struggling with soaring utility bills.

BT is hiking its prices from January 4, but denied the move was linked to its push into sports broadcasting.

The increases follow the group cutting the price of broadband to £10 for copper and £15 for fibre, and giving away BT Sport for "free" with broadband.

  • Line rental will go up by 54p, or 3.5%, a month to £15.99, and other prices such as set-up fees and price-per-minute rates will increase by around 6%.
  • The main calls packages BT sells now will remain the same price but existing customers on older tariffs will see a rise of around 6%.
  • The formerly free BT Answer 1571 and BT Privacy with Caller Display will cost £1.75 a month.
  • Broadband prices will increase by up to 6.5%, although the current broadband offers will remain at the same price including broadband and weekend calls for £10 and Infinity and weekend calls for £15.
  • Mobile calls will be unaffected.

Six carpet and furniture retailers under investigation

Six high street carpet and furniture retailers are under investigation for using artificially high prices to exaggerate sales and price cuts.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said it opened the investigation after finding that many retailers in the sector were misleading customers into thinking they were getting a bargain by artificially inflating the original price.

It found "systematic" examples of artificially inflated reference pricing within the industry, through the use of 'was' prices formerly charged by the retailer, 'after sale' prices that the trader intended to charge in the future, or recommended retail prices (RRPs) set by the manufacturer.

CBI forecast for the economy

According to the CBI's latest outlook, the British economy will slowly improve over the next year:

  • Household spending in the second half of 2013 will slowly strengthen, and continue to do so through the following year.
  • Better spending power will coincide with a fall in inflation, a rise in disposable income and a stable labour market.
  • However, unemployment is likely to remain high over the medium term, falling from 7.8 percent in 2013 to 7.6 percent in 2014 as the number of hours worked increases.
  • Business investment will fall by 2.8 percent this year but grow by 7.3 percent in 2014.

British Retail Consortium: 'Growth figures are strong'

The British Retail Consortium has welcomed the latest growth figures describing them as "very strong".

British retail sales rose at their fastest annual rate in over two years in July, with the hot weather leading consumers to buy more food and outdoor products.

John Munro from the British Retail Consortium, told ITV News that the high street was offering the right deals to tempt consumers.

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