UK watchdog to review inflation-busting rises on mobile and broadband bills

The UK telecoms regulator has launched an investigation into the industry-wide practice of hitting broadband and mobile customers with inflation-busting price rises of up to 17% and could bring in tougher protections against hefty mid-contract increases.

Ofcom, which in December launched a separate investigation into the sales tactics used by telecoms companies, said it could intervene to ensure consumers struggling with the cost of living crisis have “greater clarity and certainty” over how much they are likely to pay over the course of their contract.

The UK’s biggest companies in the sector – including BT, EE, Vodafone, Virgin Media O2 and TalkTalk – are all preparing to implement above-inflation mid-contract price increases in the spring which mean they will make billions of pounds more annually.

The companies calculate the increases using various mechanisms, usually inflation measured by either the consumer prices index (CPI) or retail prices index (RPI) plus an … Read more

Scottish salmon has become UK’s biggest food export

Scottish salmon was the UK’s biggest food export in 2022, new HMRC figures have revealed.

Sales of the nutritious fish grown in cold waters off the Highlands and islands reached £578 million in the calendar year, with France leading the global demand.

European destinations dominated as the sector continued to bounce back from Brexit. Scottish salmon was exported to 54 countries, with North America and Asia reporting strong demand.

Overseas Scottish salmon sales outperformed all the UK’s other main food exports including bakery goods, chocolate, cheese, cereals and lamb.

Farm-raised salmon directly employs 2,500 people in Scotland and a further 10,000 jobs are dependent on the sector.

Fresh, whole Scottish salmon export sales of £578 million were down just six per cent on 2021 (£614 million) and a similar rate below the record £617 million in 2019.

The EU accounted for almost 64 per cent of sales, with the US … Read more

Britain pays £2.3bn fine to EU over cheap Chinese imports

Britain has paid a fine of more than £2.3 billion to Brussels for allowing Chinese gangs to flood Europe with cheap clothes and shoes.

In an announcement slipped out before the parliamentary recess, the Treasury revealed it had paid the European Union to settle a long-running dispute over lax customs checks when Britain was a member of the bloc.

The sum, which would be enough to give nurses a pay rise of about 3.3 per cent, has been paid in three instalments over the past seven months, and includes hundreds of millions of pounds in interest because the government did not settle earlier. Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the public accounts committee, described the sums involved as “shocking” and said MPs would demand answers from ministers and officials “about how this was allowed to happen”.

An EU fraud investigation found that over a six-year period HM Revenue & Customs failed to … Read more

65,000 customers use HMRC app to pay their Self Assessment bill

Almost 65,000 customers have paid their Self Assessment bills, totalling nearly £67 million, via the HMRC app since April 2022, HM Revenue and Customs has revealed.

In December 2022, 14,170 customers paid via the app – the highest number of app payments in one month since the facility was launched in February 2022.

The Self Assessment deadline for the 2021 to 2022 tax year is 31 January and HMRC is urging customers not to delay completing their tax return and paying any tax owed. For customers who need some extra help with their tax return, there are a wide range of resources available to help them complete it, including guidance online, webinars and YouTube videos.

Customers are encouraged to check online for help before calling HMRC during what is the busiest time of the year. The HMRC app is a quick, free and secure way to view their National Insurance … Read more

New innovation department could be a ‘gear change’ for tech growth, industry chiefs say

The creation of a new government department for technology and innovation could be a “gear change” for growth in the UK’s tech sector, industry chiefs said today.

Downing Street announced this morning that the government would carve up the existing department for business, energy and industrial strategy into three distinct bodies including department the department for science, innovation and technology. Ministers say the newly spun out department will hone in on turning “scientific and technical innovations into practical, applicable solutions to the challenges we face”.

The move has been hailed as a significant one by tech chiefs who claimed it could shift the weight of Whitehall behind the UK’s tech businesses.

Speaking about the changes, Russ Shaw, chief of Tech London Advocates, said: “Clearer focus on technology and innovation from the top down can only be good for the UK’s thriving tech sector, and it’s important this departmental focus is … Read more