Money

Use these six clever hacks to reduce your electricity bill during lockdown


EVERY Saturday, The Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.

Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Amanda Cable will give you the best advice for buying your dream home, Maddy Tooke rounds up the best coupons to save you money and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.

Jane Hamilton, property expert

 Jane Hamilton gives tips to help you reduce your bills during coronavirus lockdown

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Jane Hamilton gives tips to help you reduce your bills during coronavirus lockdownCredit: Stewart Williams – The Sun

EXPERTS are warning that households are likely to face bumper energy bills due to children, and workers, staying home all day.

Comparison site uSwitch.com estimates we will burn through 25 per cent more electricity and 17 per cent more gas during lockdown – pushing up prices at a time when many are feeling the pinch.

To help, we’ve teamed up with the Energy Saving Trust to reveal hacks to cut your “quarantine bill”.

Laura McGadie, head of consumer advice at the Energy Saving Trust said: “By undertaking small changes, we can make a difference to our bills.”

 It is more important than ever that we make an effort to cut our energy consumption
It is more important than ever that we make an effort to cut our energy consumptionCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Get your timing right – Reset heating to follow your new lockdown routine. Can it come on later if you aren’t out of bed early for work? And layer up with extra jumpers instead of keeping the heating on.

Turn it down – If you turn down your main thermostat by just one degree, you can save ten per cent on your energy bill.

Fix it – Draught-proofing windows and doors and blocking cracks in floors and skirting boards can slash £20 a year off energy bills. Draught seals cost from just £4 at Wilko.com, and fixing a dripping tap saves more than 5,300 litres of water a year.

Be water wise – Use a bowl to wash up and only fill the kettle with the water you need. If you can reduce your washing machine use by one cycle a week, that’s £36 a year saved.

Natural light – Lighter nights mean you don’t need lights on for so long. Switch off to save £14 a year.

Spend one minute less in the shower – A family of four could save £75 a year. And save even more by turning off the tap when you clean your teeth.

Switch it off – Turn off appliances, instead of leaving them on standby mode, to save £30 a year. Don’t leave laptops and phones on charge unnecessarily.

Buy of the week

IT MIGHT be mocked as the home town of TV hit The Office but Slough, Berks, is a top property performer, with prices soaring 76 per cent in the past decade.

This one-bed starter home is a good entry-level buy, on offer at £225,000 at zoopla.co.uk/for-sale/details/54189226.

 This one-bed starter home is a good entry-level buy
This one-bed starter home is a good entry-level buy

Don’t leave your home unprotected

MONEY might be tight right now but don’t leave your home unprotected.

One in seven UK homeowners may be breaching the terms of their mortgages by ­failing to take out buildings insurance, according to new research by insurance comparison site Quotezone.co.uk.

As mortgages are secured on the building, lenders usually include a buildings insurance clause in their loan agreements.

Greg Wilson, founder of Quotezone.co.uk, said: “Car insurance is usually seen as the only mandatory type of insurance, but if you’re a homeowner and you have taken out a mortgage to buy your home, there’s a very good chance you will have a contractual obligation to insure the building itself.”

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Deal of the week

 Brighten the mood at home with this rainbow cushion
Brighten the mood at home with this rainbow cushion

KIDS across the country have been placing pictures of rainbows in house windows to brighten the national mood.

Do the same inside your house with this H&M £8.99 rainbow cushion at bit.ly/2Jy6vY5.

SAVE: £10 on similar items elsewhere.

Judge Rinder

 Judge Rinder helps a reader with debt issues

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Judge Rinder helps a reader with debt issues

Q) MY son foolishly signed to be a guarantor for his girlfriend on a £4,000 loan, payable over four years at a total of £9,489.

They have since separated and she has defaulted on loan payments.

My son cannot afford to make these payments because she has also left him with debts from their gas and electric companies.

The loan company is now chasing my son for money.

I have a letter she wrote me saying it was her loan and she would pay this. Where do we stand?

Catriona, Lincoln

A) The answer is not a happy one, I’m afraid. Your son became legally responsible for the loan as soon as he agreed to be a guarantor and his ex-partner failed to make the repayments.

This is a common problem, I’m afraid. Nobody should ever agree to act as a guarantor unless they are happy and able to pay the money back in the event that the principal borrower defaults.

The letter your son’s ex-girlfriend sent to you is of no legal use whatsoever in this ­situation, as it is not an enforceable contract.

Your son needs to write to the loan company and explain what has happened, and ask whether, in the circumstances, it would be prepared to waive the interest or accept a smaller amount.

He should also get in touch with National Debt Advice UK.

Waitress woe

Q) MY 18-year-old daughter has been working as a waitress at a catering company for a year and a half but it had to shut because of Covid-19.

Then it phoned all staff who had been there less than two years and told them they had lost their jobs.

But I thought workers should not be laid off, as the Government will pay 80 per cent of their wages.

John, Kent

The difficulty is that the entire business appears to have shut down. If your daughter’s employer has effectively gone out of business, there may be little she can do except claim Universal Credit.

If your daughter’s employer has only temporarily closed, it is not entitled to treat her differently from the other staff, even though she has only been there for 18 months.

Her employer should use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to pay her.

As your daughter was on the payroll before February 28, she is entitled to know why her employer is not applying to the scheme and could take legal action against them.

Get her to write to the company as soon as possible, asking for an explanation, and keep all the correspondence.

Q) A COURT order was issued in December 2015 which meant my ex-husband had to sell the marital home he was living in and pay off the mortgage. Funds would then be split equally.

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It also ordered marital debts to be paid out of the equity and a share of his pension to be transferred into my name.

He has yet to do any of this. He wants to stay in the marital home but does not have a job income from which to buy me out and take my name off the mortgage.

I am therefore wasting money by renting. It is all affecting my mental health.

The solicitor who dealt with the case originally has quoted £7,000 to 8,000 to deal with it, which I don’t have.

I emailed the court asking for the forms I need to return this case back to court, because he is not adhering to the ruling, and they have told me to go back to my solicitor. Can you help?

Liz, Cambridge

A) I don’t know what your solicitor is playing at. You have a perfectly clear court order and should be able to enforce it.

It certainly should not cost you close to £8,000 in fees to make this happen.

It’s going to be tough to get a court hearing at the moment, but demanding that the original judge’s order is followed is not that challenging and the court should assist you.

See if you can download the enforcement forms online. You will need to enclose the original order, and evidence that your ex-husband has failed to comply.

Before going down that route, you must write to your ex-husband – as kindly as possible – reminding him of his legal obligations.

He may not be able to action this in the next couple of months but he needs to know that you mean business when this coronavirus crisis has settled down.

Contact

  • Judge Rinder regrets he cannot answer questions personally. Answers intended as general guidance. They do not constitute legal advice and are not a substitute for obtaining independent legal advice.
  • Got a question for Judge Rinder? Email judgerinder@thesun.co.uk

Mel Hunter, Reader’s champion

 Mel Hunter advises on consumer issues

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Mel Hunter advises on consumer issuesCredit: The Sun

Q) I received an email from PayPal saying I had made a £679.99 purchase from a fashion firm.

I contacted PayPal, stating I did not order anything from this company, and raised a claim against it.

PayPal has investigated and denied my claim, but I neither ordered nor received anything from this company.

I had never even heard of it until I received the email from PayPal saying my account was having £679.99 deducted from it.

I just want my money back, as I cannot afford to lose such a large amount.

John Dalgliesh, Annan, Dumfries

A) Millions of payments go through PayPal without a problem, but we should all be vigilant to make sure that none of our online accounts are hacked or mis-used.

In your case, losing nearly £700 was glaringly obvious, but fraudsters can sneak through smaller amounts on any of our online accounts often ­without people noticing.

I asked PayPal to look at this again as it was fairly clear you weren’t at fault and fortunately I managed to get a full refund for you.

A PayPal spokesperson told me: “We never lose sight of the fact we are entrusted to look after ­people’s money, and we take this responsibility very seriously.

“On the rare occasion cases like this occur, we investigate the circumstances closely with the ­customer and any involved third parties.

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“In Mr Dalgliesh’s case, his claim was mistakenly denied, and we have provided a refund.”

 Mel Hunter helps reader with travel insurance questions for his EasyJet flight
Mel Hunter helps reader with travel insurance questions for his EasyJet flightCredit: MEN Media

Q) I booked an easyJet flight via Directline Flights for myself and my wife, costing £407.

Unfortunately, I did not think about insurance. I was feeling well and it was only a couple of weeks before we travelled.

Two days later, I developed a kidney infection, I spent eight days in hospital and I could not fly.

Directline told me to contact easyJet and I tried – but it is impossible to get hold of them.

I have my hospital discharge notes and a letter from my doctor but they may as well be blank pieces of paper.

All I am asking for is a credit note so I can travel as soon as I am well enough.

Mike Crysell Taunton, Somerset

A) It is less than a month since I was in touch with easyJet for you but so much has changed and it has now grounded its fleet.

I appealed to the airline well before this to consider your case, under its “special circumstances” rule where it can offer a credit note because of illness, and am glad they agreed to give you a voucher so you can take your break later.

A spokesperson for the airline said: “easyJet is sorry to hear of Mr Crysell’s situation. We always recommend travel insurance.”

I sympathise with thousands of other out-of-pocket readers trying to get answers from easyJet.

They can change their flight online without a fee or get a refund. Refunds will be available for 12 months after the date of the cancelled flights, says easyJet.

Maddy Tooke, Coupon Queen

 Maddy Tooke shares her best deals

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Maddy Tooke shares her best dealsCredit: John McLellan
  1. Save an extra 20 per cent off selected orders at Science In Sport. Expires April 8. See bit.ly/20sis.
  2. Save 50 per cent on selected paint orders at Wickes. Offer expires April 19. Visit bit.ly/wickespaint50.
  3. Save ten per cent on two Tesco grocery shops a month. Join Tesco Clubcard Plus for £7.99 a month and save up to £40 a month. Also get ten per cent off F&F clothing, Tesco Pet products and Fox and Ivy homeware in-store. Sign up at bit.ly/tescoplus.
  4. Get 25 per cent off selected orders from Waterstones or save 15 per cent on orders over £30. Expires April 5. Visit bit.ly/waterstones1530.
  5. Save up to £300 on selected Acer orders. Includes laptops, projectors and desktops. Expires April 15. Go to bit.ly/300acer.
  6. NHS staff get 20 per cent off in Superdrug stores. Register for its free Health and Beauty card and show with your NHS staff ID card at the till to claim. Ends June 16. bit.ly/superdrugnhs.
  7. Stay at home and stay inspired with up to 60 per cent off at Photobook UK. Offer ends April 30. Visit bit.ly/photobookuk60.
  8. NHS staff get 25 per cent off takeaways from Just Eat. Visit bit.ly/justeatnhs to get your voucher code. Available until April 13.
  9. Get £10 off orders over £80 at Gar-dening Express. Ends April 14. Go to bit.ly/10gardeningexpress.
  10. Save £150 on orders over £1,500 at Mamas & Papas. Ends April 21. Go to bit.ly/150mamaspapas.
How to prepare as energy firms warn of blackouts plunging coronavirus lockdown Brits into darkness



 





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