Monthly Archives:October 2017

Now you need smart meter to get cheap energy deals

31 Oct 17
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Energy suppliers are launching cheap tariffs that customers can only get if they agree to have a smart meter fitted.

Experts say that this is a desperate attempt to encourage more households to get one of the new digital meters, which automatically send meter readings to suppliers.

Research by comparison site Energyhelpline found that in London, EDF Energy’s Smart Saver tariff costs the average household £1,001 a year.

This is £20 less than its best deal for those who do not have a smart meter.

To get First Utility’s top tariff, the Smart First October 2018 v1, which costs £899 a year, you have to have a smart meter installed within the first six months.

From next year, Eon customers with a smart meter will instead be rolled on to a one-year fix.

Customers without a smart meter will go to its standard variable tariff. These are usually more expensive than fixed deals. Under Government rules, power firms have to offer a smart meter to every household in the UK by 2020.

But one in five households do not want one, making it difficult for firms to meet the target.

Money Mail has previously exposed some suppliers who have been using high-pressure tactics in order to fit more meters. 

These include scheduling appointments to fit the smart meters without being asked to do so.

Eon says that its move is part of a drive aiming to encourage more customers to sign up for a smart meter.

A spokesman for EDF Energy says it is trialling this type of tariff as an incentive to customers who have or want a smart meter.

A spokeswoman for First Utility says: ‘We are looking at a number of ways to engage customers who don’t have a smart meter yet, and this short-term offer was about helping to do that.’

v.bischoff@dailymail.co.uk





Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

Trudeau rebuffs calls to Mention ministers who Employed loophole for Resources

31 Oct 17
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rejected continued resistance demands on Monday to disclose the names of other cabinet ministers who used the identical loophole as Finance Minister Bill Morneau to prevent divesting private investments or placing them in a blind trust.

The Office of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson told The Globe and Mail that a couple of cabinet ministers have been able to retain control of resources they would be asked to divest whether that wealth wasn’t held indirectly through a holding company or similar mechanism.

Ms. Dawson’s office, citing confidentiality rules, declined to recognize the ministers but said “fewer than five cabinet ministers now hold controlled assets {}”

The problem, first reported by the Planet on Monday, dominated the Commons Question Period.

Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer pressed Mr. Trudeau to name another cabinet ministers “using exactly the same loophole. It’s a really simple question. Who are they?”

Mr. Trudeau would not disclose any names despite numerous requests from opposition MPs, calling the line of question nothing but “petty personal attacks.”

“The Finance Minister, all ministers in this House … follow the advice and recommendations of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner,” the Prime Minister told the Commons. “The conflict of interest and ethics commissioner is there to make sure that, above all these petty personal attacks, Canadians can be assured that people follow the rules{}”

The refusal of the Ms. Dawson and the Prime Minister to disclose names make it difficult to know for sure who’s using the loophole.

“This is some type of shell game going on where you must guess at who might or might not be in a conflict of interest,” NDP ethics critic Nathan Cullen told reporters.

Conflict-of-interest filings for Justice Minister Judy Wilson-Rayboud and International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne reveal they have interests in private businesses but their offices say they don’t directly or indirectly hold publicly traded stocks. Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan has publicly traded securities at a retirement account and his filing with the integrity commissioner shows they haven’t been divested or place in a blind trust.

Conflict-of-interest legislation in Canada requires cabinet ministers to divest assets such as publicly traded stocks by selling them in an arm-length transaction or placing them in a blind trust until they leave office. The exception, according to the integrity commissioner’s office, is if these stocks or comparable assets are held indirectly through a holding company or similar mechanism.

Ms. Dawson had requested the Harper government in 2013 to change the law to remove this loophole however, the Conservatives failed to make her proposed change. The bipartisan Commons ethics committee passed a motion on Monday to examine reforms to the Conflict of Interest Act.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau used that loophole to put one million shares of Morneau Shepell at a numbered Alberta firm after his election to parliament in 2015. The minister faced mounting criticism after The Globe revealed Oct. 16 that he hadn’t put his holdings in a blind trust. Mr. Morneau has since reversed course and announced he would put all his assets in a blind trust, sell off his whole portfolio of Morneau Shepell stocks and donate to charity the $5.3-million in gain those stocks had earned because he became Finance Minister.

Ms. Dawson is also reviewing Mr. Morneau’s participation in drafting Bill C-27, which proposes changes to personal pensions which could benefit significant players at the human-resources and pension-management sector including Morneau Shepell.

Mr. Moreneau’s stocks in Morneau Shepell climbed by almost $1-million in value from the first couple of days after he introduced legislation to rewrite federal pension law which he had championed and advocated for some time still in the private sector.

When he was executive seat of Morneau Shepell, the organization sponsored a Public Policy Forum summit on pension reform in October, 2014, that spoke up the steps he included in Bill C-27.

Back then, 1 year before winning office, Mr. Morneau delivered a keynote speech lauding the benefits of moving away from defined-benefit retirement plans to target-benefit plans, which reduced the monetary liability for companies by shifting risk to workers .

“In a world where the wider public sector and a couple of large corporations have [defined-benefit] plans, and taxpayers are feeling very stressed in their financial situation, it’ll not be easy for government to address these plans in their present design,” he explained. “Reducing the costs of those programs, by considering ideas like target-benefit plans or shared-risk pensions, which restricts the guarantee and the decrease the price, may be the best way to prolong the very positive security component of these plans.”

C-27 would enable federally regulated companies to make target-benefit pension plans and the opposition parties assert Morneau Shepell stands to gain because existing customers may want to change to target-benefit programs from defined-benefit plans. Additionally, critics say, the new laws would require actuarial valuations each year, which may also mean more work for businesses like Morneau Shepell.

The proposed law was tabled on Oct. 19, 2016. That day, Morneau Shepell shares opened trading at $19.48. On Monday, the shares closed at $21.44, which means Mr. Morneau’s one million shares are worth in excess of $1.9-million over the afternoon C-27 was tabled.

The same day its former executive chairman tabled Bill C-27 in 2016, Morneau Shepell released a statement praising the bill as a “positive step that could increase the development of these kinds of plans throughout the country.”

Last Friday, Morneau Shepell released another statement saying it didn’t lobby Ottawa on Bill C-27 and claimed that the effects of the legislation is “not expected to have a material impact on the company.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Morneau conflict-of-interest controversy has Ruined the reputation of a Workplace meant to Guarantee Canadians

30 Oct 17
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This is the last time a national politician can attempt to hide behind the integrity commissioner.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau went to see Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson because, he explained, he wanted to reassure Canadians. He sought to kill the allegation he would enrich himself government by asserting that he would donate to charity the proceeds from the sale of shares from the company he once led, Morneau Shepell.

The donation could reassure Canadians. But meeting with Ms. Dawson should not. That is where the problem began.

It was Ms. Dawson’s office that stated there was a loophole in the law that meant Mr. Morneau did not have to sell his shares, or set them in a blind trust. It was bad advice and Mr. Morneau made a terrible decision in carrying it.

Since Mr. Morneau did not hold the Morneau Shepell stocks personally, but instead through a private company, Ms. Dawson’s office stated, the Conflict of Interest Act did not require that he automatically divest them. Mr. Morneau did not legally own them, she concluded, his firm did. That is how Ms. Dawson interpreted the law.

Many experts in corporate law contacted lately think she is wrong and there isn’t any such loophole: If Morneau Shepell shares are “controlled assets” that has to be divested, they said, then so is the private company that retains them. One, Mohamed Khimji, the David Allgood professor in Business Law at Queen’s University, stated Ms. Dawson’s interpretation is problematic.

“You can make that argument. I don’t agree with it,” Prof. Khimji stated. He said he would have advised Mr. Morneau to obey the intent.

It is not just a quibble over legal issues with Ms. Dawson, herself a lawyer. Ms. Dawson wrote a report faulting a CRTC commissioner for not returning chocolates and flowers from a radio station, but the Morneau case revealed a failure in implementing the fundamental intention of the conflict of interest rules. Those principles, and the integrity commissioner, are supposed to guarantee Canadians. They can’t.

Ms. Dawson is the chief compliance officer for the federal conflict of interest regime. She chose, based on a narrow, debatable interpretation, the law has a enormous flaw that defeats its own purpose: A public office holder may dodge the crucial requirement that they divest assets whose worth could grow or shrink due to a government decision, by simply placing the resources in a private company.

Yes, Ms. Dawson supposes that as a defect in the law which ought to be amended, in a 2013 entry to a committee reviewing the laws. But she did not tell Mr. Morneau to comply with the intent of this law. And she could have.

Her office sent Mr. Morneau a letter stating flatly that he did not have any “controlled assets” that must automatically be divested. Again, that is at best a debatable interpretation of the letter of the law.

But the economic reality was that Mr. Morneau possessed the Morneau Shepell shares, which letter should have recommended he sell them to comply with the intent of this law. She should have insisted: The legislation gives her power to dictate an advantage be divested if it produces a conflict.

It’s tough to think Mr. Morneau entered politics to improve himself. Up to now, the allegations he made decisions to boost Morneau Shepell stocks seem stretched. One was that his small-business tax proposals could promote the use of individual retirement programs, or IPPs, sold by Morneau Shepell; however, the company said only $265,000 of its $592-million in earnings came from IPPs. Ottawa gave a loan to Bombardier, a Morneau Shepell customer, but the firm says it’s 20,000 customers, and no one customer will have a material effect on the bottom line.

However, the public is not supposed to have to judge that. The Conflict of Interest Act is supposed to create public office holders divest assets whose value could be affected by government decisions.

Rather than telling Mr. Morneau to do that, Ms. Dawson advised him to put up an ethics “display,” where an aide ensures he is not involved in decisions which could create a conflict, raising those questions. Such screens are not in the legislation; they’re something designed by Ms. Dawson’s office. Worse: Mr. Morneau had to publicly declare he possessed the Alberta holding firm, but Ms. Dawson’s office didn’t require it stipulate what it held was Morneau Shepell shares.

That is not reassuring. Ms. Dawson has been at work a decade and she is soon to be replaced. But no politician could expect Canadians to have confidence when they say they have done exactly what the ethics commissioner advocates — not until the everybody knows the law is crystal clear and the integrity commissioner is obviously enforcing its intent.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Two for £6 Co-op ready meals that aren’t all they seem

28 Oct 17
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  • Buy two, get one for a price you won’t find out until it’s too late
  • Money-making tricks have moved from highway to hi-tech  
  • Their maths is too complicated to calculate when you’re tired

When struggling punk rocker Adam Ant in a moment of clarity in 1981 painted a white stripe across his face and sang about a dandy highwayman while dressed as a pirate, it’s unlikely he would have known that 36 years later, the song Stand & Deliver would turn out to be about my local Co-op. At least, that’s how I see it.

Stand and deliver: Adam Ant as the Dandy Highwayman.

Stand and deliver: Adam Ant as the Dandy Highwayman.

Highwaymen traditionally lurked in the dark recesses of pre-supermarket-lined dirt tracks waiting for unsuspecting commuters to stray into their path and hopefully hand over their money for very little in the way of an exchange of goods and services. 

Now they lurk indoors, men and women in dark rooms in the tech department.

I’m sick of getting ‘robbed’ at checkouts as my quest for a bargain-based, dinner-related easy life is held in check by automatic overcharging at the till. It’s rife and it’s not just the Co-op – but that happens to be where this episode took place.

‘Two for £6’, screamed the proud Co-op ready meal advertising. 

‘100% British meat, apart from when we use European meat, says the small print’ – so not strictly 100% British. 

‘Microwave in four minutes’, so not strictly ready either. 

Should I really be trusting these people with my six pounds? 

'100% British meat, excluding continental meats?' Eh? That's not 100%, according to maths.

‘100% British meat, excluding continental meats?’ Eh? That’s not 100%, according to maths.

But I was off guard and felt the offer was too exciting to pass. I picked up two £3.59 chicken chow meins for £6 – or just £3 each.

Discounts tend to be worth having when they’re around 15% and this came in at a generous £1.18 off the normal price of £7.18, or 16.4%. I was as impressed as I was naive.

I picked up a bunch of bananas, slightly green like I like them, some other fruit and bits and joined the back of the queue, where my fellow commuters and I shuffled past Christmas decorations, next year’s Easter eggs and Qatar World Cup memorabilia towards the ONE open till. It would be a long wait.

Spot the difference? The serving suggestion on the right omits the bin.

Spot the difference? The serving suggestion on the right omits the bin.

Shortly before what felt like Christmas Eve my turn to pay had arrived – and drama ensued.

When the till operator tried to scan my ‘meals’, the upturned plastic tray revealed one of those confusing stickers that obliterates the original bar code. Apparently, one of my glorified pot noodles was now on an even more special offer!

A further 90p had been knocked off. Suddenly it felt like it really was Christmas. 

The catch was that in a few hours the meal itself would also be off. It may have been Christmas Eve but it was also Use-by Eve.

For festive maths fans, it meant that the two meals were no longer £6 but a mere £5.10 – a romantic dinner for two for less than the price of two cups of Starbucks coffee.

Of course, the easy life doesn’t work like that. The highway-people in the price programming unit had seen to that. The deal, I was told, was ‘two for £6’ whether I chose two fresh meals or one fresh one and one almost off one.

I was offered the chance to hold up the queue and fight back through the crowds to forage for a second fresh one.

I wondered, what would Adam Ant do?

The 90p off wasn't added to deal because the dish was almost off.

A potential £2.08 saving was reduced to 28p because one meal was at its use-by.

The total saving should be £1.18, increasing to £2.08 with the additional discount. At the till it was revealed to be a mere 28p because one meal was approaching its use-by deadline.

Adam Ant would probably slap on the face paint, pirouette back to the chill zone, singing ‘Prince Charming, Prince Charming, ridicule is nothing to be scared of’ to an unimpressed, frankly irritated audience of bargain losers, and claim his rightful double fresh meal deal while singing the highwayman song on the way back to the till, vindicated!

But I’m too kind for that. The quarter of a billion people behind me in the queue had bedsits to go to.

I’d been scammed and the highway-geeks had won again. My discount was now only worth 28p – or 4.4%, which is rubbish.

I went home and zapped my almost off, four-minutes-from-being-ready meal for four minutes, took one taste and threw it away. It was more off than almost off.

I offered the fresh one to my daughter but she’d seen the packet and just gone vegetarian, she said.

Highwayman.
Hi-tech woman.

Slide me

From horseback to electronic horse trading, from highway to hi-tech. It’s clever manipulation of supermarket deals from the tech department that we need to be wary of these days.


Money saving tips 

1. Don’t shop tired. 

2. Always check the dates, check for sneaky stickers and check the receipt.

3. Microwave chow mein is not a great Christmas dinner, even if it’s not really Christmas.

How have you been overcharged at the till? Do tell. Or enjoy some Adam and the Ants.

 





Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

After knocking on 10,000 doors in Lac-Saint-Jean, Liberals eyeing more Quebec Chairs

28 Oct 17
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From the 2011 election, the federal Liberal candidate hardly registered in the Quebec riding of Lac-Saint-Jean with 4 percent of the vote. From the 2015 election, the Liberal vote climbed to 18 percent, but it was still far behind the Conservatives — the party’s worst result east of Saskatchewan.

When the Liberals won Lac-Saint-Jean with 39 percent of the vote at a by-election Monday, they made it clear that they have expansionist designs in the state.

On the floor, the effort revealed that the Liberal Party’s favourite strategy — knocking on as many doors as possible — is taking hold in Quebec, where it was less popular than in the rest of Canada. Liberal officials stated they hit 10,000 addresses throughout the by-election and pledged to keep on using the strategy to a greater extent across Quebec.

“Our work’s far from over,” said Christine Poirier, the party’s director of operations in Quebec. “We will continue to knock on as many doors as possible — to talk to as many Quebeckers as possible to hear their priorities and keep connected.”

Concerning policy, the success showcased the Liberals’ ability to be successful in the ballot box with a Quebec lieutenant or maybe a plan specifically designed to cater to the state’s political sensitivities.

Liberal officials said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is making it “a point of pride” that his offering at Quebec is essentially identical to what he’s doing across the nation, with a focus on families, jobs and infrastructure spending.

Part of this comes from his lineage: Mr. Trudeau’s father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, consistently opposed the constitutional recognition of Quebec as a distinct society. But, senior advisers said, the Prime Minister also believes that his political style, which is heavy on public consultations and optimism, can win over voters in each province.

“He never bought the notion you had to do politics differently in Quebec. That came out of his own nomination in Papineau, which he won by pounding the pavement, knocking on doors, persuading individuals and signing them up. It is conservative, but hard work in the area pays off anywhere,” said a Liberal officer who agreed to discuss electoral strategy on the condition of anonymity.

The other national parties took note of their by-election success, which left them wondering if there are any ridings at this stage which aren’t inside the Liberal Party’s grasp.

After digesting Monday’s results, NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice said there “was no cause to celebrate” his party’s fourth-place finish. Conservative MP Gérard Deltell said losing the chair and finishing in 2nd place “wasn’t the outcome we hoped for,” adding voters had clearly opted “to side with the party in power.

“In two years’ time it’ll be an entirely different story, as the people of Lac-Saint-Jean, Quebec and all of Canada will have a opportunity to pass judgment on this government’s wretched management of major issues,” Mr. Deltell added.

However, a new Léger poll, done between Monday and Wednesday, indicates the Liberals haven’t suffered from recent missteps by Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly. The Liberals are top with 44-per-cent support in Quebec, well before the Conservative Party (19 percent), the Bloc Québécois (18 percent) and the NDP (13 percent).

The Liberals now have 41 of 78 seats in Quebec. The amount could even increase in the short term if former NDP leader Thomas Mulcair retires and opens his Montreal seat of Outremont into a by-election.

The Liberals spent months preparing for Lac-Saint-Jean. Whenever Conservative MP Denis Lebel announced his retirement in June, the Liberals ran a poll to judge their support in the riding. The results revealed they had an 18-point lead.

By coincidence, one of the best Quebeckers from the Prime Minister’s Office, deputy director of operations Claude-Éric Gagné, hails from the riding. He affirmed to his colleagues that, in his opinion, the race was winnable, sources said.

In late July, Mr. Trudeau showed up for a huge street festival in Roberval, just before an international swimming competition across Lac-Saint-Jean, where he was mobbed for hours by locals searching for pictures and handshakes. The Liberals chose to go big, sending half a dozen organizers from Montreal to conduct two campaign offices at the large riding.

Running for the Liberals was Richard Hébert, a local mayor. To boost his visibility across the riding, the party held a Quebec caucus summer meeting in Alma ahead of the by-election launching and frequently sent cabinet ministers to campaign.

Subsequently Mr. Trudeau returned two days under a week before the vote.

“Our leader is truly popular — people like him a lot,” Ms. Poirier said. “Additionally, his policies are extremely appreciated, and we found in Lac-Saint-Jean that people like things such as the Canada Child Benefit and tax cuts for the middle class. That’s the major key to our success{}”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Tribunal to review discrimination allegations in Canada Research Chair choices

27 Oct 17
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The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal is set to examine whether there is discrimination in how Canada Research Chairs are handed out.

Professors from two universities filed complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission about the federal program, which provides $265-million in funding to 1,600 top academics each year. The commission has now sent those cases to the tribunal, which is similar to a court of law.

Amir Attaran, a law professor at the University of Ottawa and one of the complainants, says the chairs have not been awarded in a way that is fair to all academics.

“The Canada Research Chairs program, historically, has not given opportunities to excellent women, visible minorities, aboriginals, persons with disabilities, which is illegal because it’s discriminatory,” Dr. Attaran said. “The government has been funding white men and not the four groups I just named, which is to say they’re subsidizing a system of discrimination rather than subsidizing a system of equality.”

The other complaint is from Lynda Gullason, an adjunct research professor at Carleton University. Dr. Gullason could not be reached on Thursday.

A spokesperson for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, which helps administer the research program, declined to comment as the case is now before the tribunal.

In a filing sent to the commission in July, the federal agency says the program’s recipients should reflect the diversity of Canadians, but argues it needs more time to enact reforms.

“Achieving a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Canadian research enterprise is essential to creating the excellent, innovative and impactful research necessary to seize opportunities and for responding to global challenges,” the government submission said.

The response also cited media attention and public pressure as one of the reasons that universities had come closer to meeting their equity targets since 2015.

The equity targets for the Canada Research Chairs program were established after a 2006 settlement with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Those targets for representation are based on the availability of researchers for the positions. The four designated groups and their targets are women at 31 per cent; visible minorities at 15 per cent; people with a disability at 4 per cent; and Indigenous scholars at 1 per cent.

Universities have generally failed to meet their hiring targets in the decade since and they have not faced repercussions from the government until recently. Universities nominate academics for the chairs, which are then approved by the government.

Last year, the Canadian Human Rights Commission took the unusual step of asking the Federal Court of Canada to give extra legal weight to the 2006 ruling by making it an order of the Federal Court. On May 3, 2017, the court granted the request.

On May 4, the federal government said universities would have to improve their equity performance or risk the loss of their research chairs. Universities have until Dec. 15 to make action plans, and another 18 to 24 months to meet the targets.

Universities have already taken some steps to improve the diversity of their researchers. Several institutions have begun to put term limits on some positions to encourage more opportunities for other scholars.

Universities Canada announced on Thursday it would collect and make public demographic data of faculty, staff and students from schools across the country as part of a five-year plan.

Dr. Attaran said he would like to see the equity targets increased to be closer to the overall Canadian population, that the government follow through on its threat to withhold funding from schools that miss targets and some form of compensation for academics from the affected groups who may have been denied opportunities in the past.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Best TV packages for watching Sky without a Sky contract 

26 Oct 17
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As the nights draw in and we’re drawn towards our TVs, it’s a good time to consider how much you’re forking out for your viewing pleasure.

Sky customers can pay more than £900 a year for their TV services alone, according to new research by Freesat, the subscription-free satellite TV service backed by the BBC and ITV.

But its analysis has found at least 95 per cent of the most popular shows across Sky and Virgin are actually available on free channels, with only a few unique to the provider – such as Game of Thrones – pulling in big audiences among their customers.

Game of TV providers: Game of Thrones is one of the few programmes among the UK's most popular that appears on paid-for TV

Game of TV providers: Game of Thrones is one of the few programmes among the UK’s most popular that appears on paid-for TV

The One Love Manchester tribute concert, Britain’s Got Talent and the Great British Bake Off were the most watched shows across both platforms between June and August – and all aired on free-to-watch channels. 

And of the 300 most-viewed programmes most watched by Sky customers, only five per cent were on paid-for channels. Among Virgin customers, this figure dropped to one per cent. 

Earlier this year, Freesat put the amount the average pay TV customer spends a year at £670, with some Sky customers paying well over £900 a year. However, viewing figures showed that it was programmes on the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 that Virgin and Sky customers were most likely to watch.

In fact, only one show among Sky TV’s top ten most viewed over the summer required a Sky subscription – Game of Thrones. 

What we watched: These were the most-viewed programmes between June and August

What we watched: These were the most-viewed programmes between June and August

If you are a GoT fan, there are two ways to save on the cost of watching your gory favourite as each new episode is broadcast without resorting to illegal streaming. If you haven’t reviewed your existing TV package or TV, broadband and phone bundle for some time, it’s possible you could switch to a cheaper Sky deal that still gives access to the Sky Atlantic channel that airs the programme.

Or you could switch to Sky-owned contract-free Now TV and buy the ‘Entertainment Pass’, that includes 11 on demand channels, including Sky Atlantic, Sky One, and 250 box sets. It costs £7.99 a month, and you’ll need either a smart TV, streaming stick or games console to access Now TV, or you’ll need to buy the Now TV set-top box for £14.99. 

Vix Leyton of Broadbandchoices.co.uk says: ‘Sky has all the bells and whistles that come with Sky Plus and Now TV is a more stripped down package that gives you access to the Sky Atlantic shows, such Ray Donovan and The Deuce.’  

If you’re not bothered about having Sky Atlantic, there are lots more options to watching your favourite Sky shows than simply paying for a Sky deal. 

The table below has a round-up of Broadbandchoices.co.uk’s top TV and broadband bundle options on offer from other providers as well as Sky’s most attractive deals.

Broadbandchoices.co.uk’s top TV and broadband bundle options 
Provider and package

Offer

Offer end date

Speed (up to)

Calls

Contract length

Upfront costs

Initial monthly cost

First year cost (inc line rental)
TalkTalk TV with Fast Broadband and Sky Sports Flexible Sky Sports TV boost, no long-term commitment – remove at any time 2 Nov  17Mb Pay as you go 12m £25 First 12 months at £52.95, £61 from month 13 £660.40
Now TV Entertainment Pass + Sky Cinema + Brilliant Broadband Combo Get Sky Atlantic and Sky Movies Ongoing 17Mb Pay as you go 12m  £22 First 12 months at £29.98, £42.97 from month 13 £381.76
Sky Sports Bundle Complete Pack + Broadband Unlimited Get All Sky Sports Channels 9 Nov 17Mb Pay as you go 18m £29.95 First 12 months at £58.00, £68.99 from months 13-18, £70.99 from month 19 £725.95
BT Starter + Unlimited Infinity 1 + Weekend Calls Exclusive offer: Includes BT Sport + £125 BT Reward Card + £50 cashback 26 Oct 52Mb Weekend Calls 12m  £79.99 First 12 months at £33.49 £431.87
Virgin Media VIP TV Bundle Sky Sports, BT Sport and Sky Movies all in one place! Ongoing 300Mb Day, Eve & Weekend 12m  £20 First 12 months at £90, £53.49 from month 13 £1,100.00
Sky Original Bundle + Broadband Unlimited New big screen drama every month on Sky Atlantic! 9 Nov 17Mb Pay as you go 18m £29.95 First 12 months at £38, £48.99 from months 13 to 18, £50.99 from month 19 £485.95
Sky Box Sets Bundle + Broadband Unlimited New big screen drama every month on Sky Atlantic! Discover over 350 Sky Box Sets plus over 50 channels in HD 9 Nov  17Mb Pay as you go 18m £29.95 First 12 months at £49, £59.99 from months 13 to 18, £66.99 from month 19 £617.95
Sky Complete Bundle + Broadband Unlimited New big screen drama every month on Sky Atlantic! On Sky Atlantic! Entertainment, sports, movies and Sky Box Sets – all in HD 9 Nov 17MB Pay as you go 18m £29.95 First 12 months at £92.50, £103.49 from months 13 to 18, £110.49 from month 19 £1,139.95
Source: Broadbandchoices.co.uk, 24 October 2017           

But if you’re not looking to move your broadband, here’s a quick guide to where you can find access to top Sky channels outside of Sky.

Best for films

Sky Cinema has all the latest releases, so if you’re serious about movies, it’s the one to go for. This service is not exclusive to Sky, and is available via all pay-TV providers, although you need BT Infinity fibre-optic broadband to get live channels with BT.

The cheapest way to access the Cinema channels (there are 11 in total) is via Now TV (£9.99 per month), but you do lose out on the bells and whistles of other packages – such as the ability to record. There are also fewer channels outside of movies – although you can use on demand.

You can compare Sky Movies versus Now TV here.   

Best for sport

There are two options for sports fans: BT Sport and Sky Sports. Which to get depends entirely on which sports you want to watch. For example, if you are looking for golf or F1, then Sky is your only option.

Similarly, if you want Champions League or Aviva Premiership rugby, it’s BT only. BT Sport is a £3.50 add-on for broadband customers – you must have BT broadband to watch BT TV. 

Premier League is split between both, but not equally. Sky has more games by far, but BT has first pick for some big ones. 

Sky introduced new flexibility into its sports packages earlier in the year, letting you subscribe to individual channels (from £18 per month in most cases), so if Premier League is all you care about, you have the option to just take that, compared to other providers who currently only offer the full package.

Quick money saver: Compare TV, broadband and phone deals 

As we explain here, navigating your way through the TV, broadband and phone maze can be a tricky task.

In fact, many customers might suspect that the big gun providers deliberately make it awkward to tot up the cost of exactly what you want and compare it.

To help you work out the right deal for you and get the best possible package at the keenest price, This is Money has teamed up with Broadband Choices to offer readers a tool here to compare TV, broadband and phone deals quickly and easily.

TalkTalk and Now TV are super-flexible. TalkTalk is 30-day rolling contract, while Now TV lets you choose between a day, week or month pass. These are definitely the lowest-risk options if you’re not sure you want a full year of super-expensive sports.

BT Sport is available with most providers, but can only be bought directly from BT or Virgin Media. To get it on Sky or TalkTalk, you have to order it from BT instead of your provider. 

Currently, the only provider to offer all sports channels directly (as in buying them in one place with one bill) is Virgin Media, but it is worth weighing up all your options before committing to this.

‘We had spent £3k on TV, which felt obscene’

Thomas Gunn has saved money by ditching Sky for Freesat

Thomas Gunn, a 35-year-old civil servant living in Birmingham, cut his bills by switching from Sky to Freesat.

‘We were paying over £50 per month for a TV package with Sky, which we’d had for around five years. When our daughter was born, we felt we should review our finances and worked out we’d spent well over £3,000 on TV – which just felt obscene.

‘I still love TV and films but can watch on demand and record tonnes of stuff on my Humax HDR-1100S HD Box. The Freesat free mobile app is helpful too.

‘While we haven’t spent the extra money on any specific large purchases, reconsidering our expenses has helped us re-evaluate our priorities and our approach to childcare. 

‘It’s also allowed us to save more for our daughter’s future. Changing to Freesat alone won’t make you rich, but it can be a significant step towards freeing up money for more important things…even if we did spend a lot of it on baby wipes and nappies.’

Best for entertainment

Freeview and Freesat are, unsurprisingly, the cheapest – once you have the box (or tuner in your TV), you’re good to go. 

You get far fewer channels than pay TV providers but the ones you get are some of the most popular. For example, as well as all the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 spin-offs, with Freesat you get channels such as Dave, Really, The Food Network and CBS Drama. 

Most other Sky entertainment channels are available on other services (including Sky One, Arts, and Living). As a rule, if you want the maximum number of channels, then Sky or Virgin Media have the most comprehensive offering. If you want affordable packages with box sets and a few more channels than standard Freeview, BT, TalkTalk or Now TV are your best bets.






Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

Morneau urged to enact stronger ethical screen to prevent conflicts of interest

26 Oct 17
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Finance Minister Bill Morneau is facing calls for stricter moral oversight of government activities affecting his financial interests as he attempts to sit down on Thursday with the national ethics czar and talk about his belated decision to place considerable private holdings in a blind trust.

Deputy Conservative leader Lisa Raitt told The Globe and Mail which Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson should not allow a situation to continue where the Finance Minister’s chief of staff is the only track of the ethical screen to prevent conflicts of interest arising from his link to giant human-resource and pension-planning company Morneau Shepell.

Before he was elected in 2015, Mr. Morneau was executive chairman of the firm founded by his father and still possesses one million shares in the company that are worth just more than $20-million.

“His chief of staff is responsible for the ethical display, but that appears to be sort of like the fox guarding the hen house because [that individual is] dependent upon the minister for the job,” Ms. Raitt said.

The Finance Minister should demonstrate to Canadians that he is above reproach and should include the non-partisan deputy minister of finance as the ethical overseer of conflict of interest within his section together with the chief of staff, Ms. Raitt said.

When she became transportation minister in the former Harper government, Ms. Raitt said both her chief of staff and the department’s deputy minister, a civil servant, acted as moral screens to make sure that she didn’t have any knowledge of actions between the Hamilton Port Authority, where her husband was president.

“It’s about the integrity of this procedure for department officials. They don’t need to have anything that will be called into question concerning policy making in order that they will always err on the side of caution,” she said.

“Of course, maybe that’s the issue, that Mr. Morneau was not interested in having discussions about whether his stocks of Morneau-Sheppell were likely to become a problem when talking pension-plan changes{}”

Mr. Morneau told reporters on Wednesday that he did not enter public life to benefit himself financially and he believed that his chief of staff, Richard Maksymetz, did all that was needed to prevent any conflicts of interest.

“My opinion is that the conflict-of-interest display that’s been set up for the previous two years as recommended by the ethics commissioner has worked,” Mr. Morneau said.

The minister said the integrity display only involves Morneau Shepell since his various private corporations and family trusts don’t hold shares in other publicly traded firms.

“The Ethics Commissioner’s view and the recommendations she made to me was that there should be a conflict-of-interest display [for Morneau Shepell] and there were no other conflict of interest displays required as I did not hold any other stocks and did not do any trading and would not do any other trading within the course of the time,” Mr. Morneau told reporters.

University of Toronto Professor Andrew Stark, who’s an authority on ethics and conflict of interest, ” said Mr. Morneau should just have the deputy minister of finance act as the conflict-of-interest display until the blind trust is set up and the trustee sells the one million Morneau Shepell shares owned by the Finance Minister.

“I think it’s much better to have the deputy minister do it with no chief of staff,” he said. “The blind trust is supposed to be the gold standard and it’s not necessary after a certain period to get any other remedy [like an ethics display].”

For 2 years as Finance Minister, Mr. Morneau had left the impression that his assets were in a blind trust. The wealthy Toronto businessman only chose to place those assets, such as the one million shares of Morneau Shepell, in a blind trust a week after The Globe and Mail disclosed he had prevented placing his substantial personal holdings into such a blind hope.

At the House of Commons Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dismissed continued questions about Mr. Morneau’s behaviour and accused the opposition of being envious of the Liberal government’s performance. “The members opposite have nothing to do but attack, as they’ve been shown — within the economic growth that we’ve created over the last two years — which they had been completely wrong in the previous election, and the Canadians were right to select a better government{}”

Mr. Morneau defended his ethics on Wednesday, telling reporters that he had been “powerful” in the private sector along with his election to public office was a “huge opportunity” to assist Canadians.

“So I think it’s well understood by those who look towards people like me that we do not come into office for private gain. We come into office to make an impact on the nation. That’s certainly my motivation,” he said.

Opposition MPs have raised concerns that Mr. Morneau was the host of Bill C-27, which might enable federally regulated companies to make “target benefit” pension plans that reduce the monetary liability for companies by shifting risk to workers. The proposed law would require actuarial valuations each year for this sort of plans, which may also mean more work for companies like Morneau Shepell.

The integrity display called for Mr. Morneau’s chief of staff to inform the Finance Minister when he had to recuse himself from discussions that involved his former business. Mr. Morneau’s office said he has recused himself from cabinet discussions on two occasions but his office wouldn’t say if that involved Bill C-27.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Why Trudeau has incentive to go easy on Quebec’s controversial niqab law

25 Oct 17
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Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded with more restraint than might have been expected to Quebec’s new legislation forcing women to unveil before receiving public services, based on his past willingness to take a strong stand against such policies.

To start this week, Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals won a by-election in the sort of Quebec riding where the controversial bill is likely to enjoy overwhelming support – that is, if local voters think it goes far enough.

There is a connection to be drawn here, and it’s about much more than just one relatively inconsequential vote between elections. It’s about why Mr. Trudeau may believe he needs to moderate his views on one of the country’s most divisive issues – anti-niqab laws he called a “cruel joke” while in opposition, but has now said it’s not Ottawa’s job to challenge – to maintain a strong hold on power.

That’s because Quebec ridings such as Lac-Saint-Jean, which the Liberals claimed on Monday after the retirement of Conservative MP Denis Lebel, offer some of their best hopes for seat gains in the general election two years away. And depending on how things shake out elsewhere, those constituencies – most of them in rural areas, small towns or Quebec City – could decide whether they win a second majority government.

That majority is more tenuous than it might seem. To hold onto it, without pickups elsewhere, the Liberals could afford to lose no more than 14 of the 184 seats they won last time.

Even if they go into the 2019 campaigns with generally encouraging poll numbers – controversies such as the current ones involving tax reforms and their Finance Minister’s personal affairs having blown over – there will still be a good prospect of erosion here and there. There are at least a few ridings (Kelowna-Lake Country, in the B.C. Interior, is often held up as an example) usually so disinclined toward Liberals that it may not be possible to repeat their 2015 success. Jagmeet Singh’s ascent to the NDP’s helm should make their lives more challenging in a handful of urban and suburban seats in the Toronto and Vancouver areas, at a bare minimum. Presumably, they won’t be able to win every single seat in Atlantic Canada in perpetuity.

In English Canada, offsetting any such losses won’t be easy. After the last campaign, the Liberals were optimistic about building off their Alberta beachheads, but unless the resource sector looks much better in two years, they might be lucky to win back the three seats they hold there now. Other Western provinces – notably Saskatchewan, where they have only one seat – might be more promising. But in much of the country, the Liberals are close to maxed out.

Quebec is a much different story. After Monday’s vote, they still hold only 41 of its 78 seats. And if they could claim Lac-Saint-Jean – a riding northeast of Quebec City where they had not won since 1980, and finished in a tie for third last election with 15 per cent – they have to see most of the rest as accessible to them.

The 16 NDP seats in the province, down from 59 after the 2011 election, could be up for grabs if Quebeckers don’t take to Mr. Singh. The Conservatives, who now hold 11, seem to be as unpopular in Quebec as ever. The Bloc Québécois has a little life in it, but also just proved unable to reclaim a riding once held by Lucien Bouchard. Meanwhile, whatever antipathy toward Mr. Trudeau’s last name lingered through the last election seems to be even less of a factor now; if his act is wearing thin with some other Canadians, Quebeckers still seem to be warming to him.

As he tries to close the deal with voters in ridings with strong anti-niqab sentiments, Mr. Trudeau’s position on the issue – which remains that it’s not the government’s role to tell women how to dress – will obviously not be a selling point. But if he can avoid inserting himself too directly into the debate, and avoid being accused by nationalist Quebec politicians of attempting to interfere with provincial jurisdiction, he might be able to avoid it being a deal-breaker (not to mention it putting off Quebeckers who overlooked differences on the issue to vote for his party last time).

He could also, of course, wind up contributing to seat losses in the rest of the country, by compromising his image as a defender of civil liberties and minority rights.

That may not be a risk worth taking, even setting aside any weight it might have on Mr. Trudeau’s conscience. Recent electoral history suggests there is absolutely no guarantee any political positioning geared toward Quebec will pay dividends – the province’s electorate tending to move in unpredictable waves, divorced from pre-election speculation, only once federal campaigns begin in earnest.

But in their initial response to Quebec’s latest curbing of religious freedoms, at least, Mr. Trudeau’s Liberals seemed to be trying to preserve the prospect of the next wave going in their direction. If so, what happened in Lac-Saint-Jean won’t dissuade them from continuing to disappoint some of their supporters elsewhere.

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

Brighthouse to compensate quarter of a million customers

24 Oct 17
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  • Shop allows customers to rent goods with interest of up to 99.9%
  • City watchdog says it didn’t act as a ‘responsible lender’
  • Brighthouse will compensate 249k customers a total of £14.8m
  • Fallen into a debt trap using Brighthouse or somewhere similar? Get in touch: lee.boyce@thisismoney.co.uk 

High street shop Brighthouse, which allows customers to rent goods with interest of up to 99.9 per cent, will pay £14.8million in compensation after the city watchdog concluded it didn’t act as a ‘responsible lender.’

The redress will go to 249,000 customers linked to lending agreements which ‘may not have been affordable’ and payments ‘which should have been refunded’ the Financial Conduct Authority said.

Brighthouse provides household goods to customers on hire purchase agreements over a set period of up to three years.

Compensation: The shop which charges interest up to 99.9% for goods has been probed by the FCA

Compensation: The shop which charges interest up to 99.9% for goods has been probed by the FCA

Some examples include an Apple 13.3′ 128 GB MacBook Air, with a product price of £991.60 – but over two years, with 99.9 per cent interest, the total payable is an eye-watering £1,820.

A Hoover tumbledryer with a product price of £337.88 spread over three years with 69.9 per cent interest, along with installation, has a total payable price of £741.

Brighthouse has been working with the FCA since 2014 after the watchdog identified the firm’s lending assessment and collections processes fell short of its expectations.

Some vulnerable customers who use it can find themselves falling into a debt trap with high levels of interest charged.

The FCA said that the group ‘did not always deliver good outcomes for customers, particularly those who were at a higher risk of falling into financial difficulty.’

Brighthouse says it has ‘identified customers that may have been treated unfairly where its processes fell short of FCA expectations’ and has committed to ‘putting things right.’

Where it is determined that customers were not assessed properly at the outset of the loan and may have had difficulty making payments, and providing they handed back the goods, Brighthouse will pay back the interest and fees charged under the agreement, plus compensatory interest of eight per cent.

Customers who retained the goods will have their balances written off. 

This part of the redress totals around £10.1million for 114,000 agreements entered into between April 1 2014 and September 30 2016, covering 81,000 customers.

Those customers who made the first payment due under an agreement with the firm that was cancelled prior to the delivery of the goods will be refunded by Brighthouse plus receive compensatory interest of eight per cent.

This redress totals around £4.7million for 270,000 agreements entered into after 1 April 2010 covering 181,000 customers.

Brighthouse will write to all affected customers from next week, some of whom are affected by both sets of circumstances, to explain the refund or balance adjustment that they will receive.

Brighthouse says it is working with credit reference agencies to establish addresses, or likely addresses, of eligible customers if they have moved. It is also using texts and e-mails.

The FCA added that Brighthouse has worked to improve its lending application assessment to ensure that loans are affordable and customers are treated fairly during the collections process, including revising its late payment fee structure.

A PREVIOUS WARNING

This is Money ran a story in 2012 warning people to think carefully before using Brighthouse. 

Jonathan Davidson, executive director of supervision at the FCA, said: ‘During the time in question, Brighthouse was not a responsible lender and failed to meet our expectations of firms in this sector.

‘I am pleased that it has agreed to provide redress to those customers affected by these historic practices.

‘This scheme continues our work with the rent-to-own sector to resolve the concerns we have previously identified.

‘Responsible lending and the fair treatment of consumers, especially those in financial difficulties or who are vulnerable, are key priorities for us.’

Hamish Paton, chief executive of Brighthouse, said: ‘We sincerely apologise to those customers who were affected. Our top priority is to ensure that they are reimbursed as soon as possible. 

‘We’re absolutely determined that this doesn’t happen again and have made significant improvements over the last 18 months. 

‘The FCA recognised this when they confirmed in April that they are minded to authorise our business, subject to specific conditions.’

SOME OF THE GOODS ON OFFER

Brighthouse offer an array of goods including appliances, computers, mobile phones and furniture. 

Here are some of the examples given on its website along with the interest:

Sony PS4 1TB Gran Tourismo Sport Bundle

Weekly payment: £9.00

Product Price: £559.79

Number of weeks: 130

Total payable with 99.9 per cent interest: £1,170.00

Apple 32GB iPhone 7 – Black

Weekly payment: £14.50

Product Price: £708.11

Number of weeks: 78

Total payable with 99.9 per cent interest: £1,131.00

Hannah Corner Sofa

Weekly payment: £17.00

Product Price: £1,274.51

Delivery and Installation: £60.00

Number of weeks: 156

Total payable with 69.9 per cent interest: £2,652.00 






Courtesy: Daily Mail Online