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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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Queen’s speech: consumer bill of rights to cover faulty apps or downloads

Category : Business

Business ministers want to consolidate consumer rights and extend them to non-traditional internet or online purchases

Consumer rights covering products such as cars and white goods are to be extended to apps and music downloads in a consumer bill of rights to be unveiled in the Queen’s speech on Wednesday.

Jo Swinson, the consumer minister, said the government would update the law to make it “fit for the 21st century” by ensuring consumers can secure refunds or replacements if web-based products fail.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills estimates that the changes could save up to £4bn over 10 years by consolidating consumer rights in one place. These are currently split between eight pieces of legislation while powers giving trading standards officers the ability to investigate breaches of consumer law are spread across 60 pieces of legislation.

The changes will lead to:

• An updating of the law to give greater protection to consumers who download films, music and games – a £1bn industry. The bill will make clear that a consumer must receive a refund if an online game freezes or if a film stream is unwatchable even if the broadband connection is fine.

• New protections for consumers making it easier to apply for compensation for breaches of competition law and new powers for trading standards officers to seek court orders requiring compensation to be paid.

Swinson said: “Stronger consumer protection and clearer consumer rights will help create a fairer and stronger marketplace. We are fully aware that this area of law over the years has become unnecessarily complicated and too confusing, with many people not sure where to turn if they have a problem. We are hoping to bring in a number of changes to improve consumer confidence and make sure the law is fit for the 21st century.”

Richard Lloyd, executive director of the consumer rights organisation Which?, said: “A consumer bill of rights is a welcome step towards ensuring that we have consumer laws fit for the 21st century. This bill is about making it easier for people to understand their rights and giving consumers power to challenge bad practice. It should also mean that both consumers and regulators have the tools they need to challenge unscrupulous businesses that breach the law.

“There are many welcome proposals in this bill, including extending the power of collective redress in competition cases and reforming the law on unfair terms and conditions. We urge the government to go further and to extend civil remedy powers to allow private enforcement bodies, like Which?, to take action against rogue companies and force them to put things right for consumers.”

JP Morgan makes record profit

Category : World News

JP Morgan’s first quarter profits rise by a third to a record $6.5bn and the bank says there are signs the US economy is “healthy and getting stronger”.

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‘Stronger growth’ for big economies

Category : Business, World News

The world’s major economies will see stronger growth this year, but Europe’s recovery will continue to be slow, the OECD says.

Excerpt from: ‘Stronger growth’ for big economies

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US trade deficit points to growth

Category : World News

A narrowing in the US trade deficit during December raises hopes that the economy was stronger in the final quarter of 2012 than first estimated.

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Can Cisco make a comeback?

Category : Business, Stocks

Cisco Systems reports earnings next week. The company has a lot of cash and a healthy dividend. But investors are hungry for stronger sales and profit growth.

The rest is here: Can Cisco make a comeback?

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New EU fishing deal criticised

Category : Business, World News

EU ministers agree to channel more funds into reducing overfishing – yet critics say the original EU plan was stronger.

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Olympics effect expected to lift UK out of recession

Category : Business

Relief for George Osborne in official figures – but economists warn that the comeback will be short-lived

George Osborne will receive a boost this week from official figures confirming that the Olympics effect helped to bounce Britain out of recession in the third quarter of 2012.

City analysts believe the economy expanded between July and September, after shrinking for the previous three quarters in the longest double-dip recession since the second world war.

That would mark the official end of the recession, and allow the chancellor to present a relatively upbeat picture of the economy in his autumn statement on 5 December, following news that unemployment has started to decline.

The respected National Institute of Economic and Social Research has forecast a healthy third-quarter growth rate of 0.8%, and Osborne is likely to seize on the upturn as evidence that his policies are starting to bear fruit.

However, economists are already warning that the comeback will be short-lived, with growth in the third quarter artificially inflated by temporary factors including Olympics spending and the recovery from the extra jubilee bank holiday in June. The Office for National Statistics has decided that all spending on Olympics tickets will be “scored” in third-quarter GDP, whenever the payments were actually made.

Rachel Reeves, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “This one-off boost from the Olympics is not a long-term strategy and it should not breed yet more complacency from ministers, however big it is. Even growth of 1% would simply mean the economy is the same size as a year ago. The big questions are what is the underlying level of growth in our economy, what growth can be generated in future quarters, and whether and how we can catch up all the ground we have lost over the last two years.”

Howard Archer, of consultancy IHS Global Insight, said: “We believe that the economy has exited recession and is now eking out very limited underlying growth helped by reduced inflation, rising employment and an edging up of earnings growth from early-2012 lows boosting consumers’ capacity to spend.”

Michael Saunders, UK economist at Citi, warned that even once the recession was over, the economy could face several more years of weakness. “We’ve got all of these headwinds. It’s everything: austerity; the euro crisis; the health of the banks; household debt – all of them.”

He added that living standards – measured as real GDP per head – had still not recovered to pre-recession levels, reversing a long-term rising trend. “We’re below the peak, and I don’t think we’ll get back to where we were for at least five years.”

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said: “This doesn’t feel like a recovery to the millions of workers whose wages have now been falling in real terms for several years and who can’t get enough hours to make ends meet. And it certainly doesn’t feel like a recovery to the 2.5 million people out of work, a third of whom haven’t had a job for over a year.”

Despite the expected upturn in the second half of 2012, the economy remains far weaker than most analysts anticipated at the start of the year.

In its budget forecast in March, the Office for Budget Responsibility predicted 0.8% growth for the whole of 2012 – already a sickly pace, but considerably stronger than the 0.4% contraction now expected by the International Monetary Fund.

The Bank of England’s monetary policy committee is widely expected to expand its unprecedented £375bn quantitative easing programme next month, unless the economy shows clear signs of a stronger recovery.

Burberry confirms weak Asia sales

Category : Business, World News

Burberry confirms sharply slower demand growth in China, although stronger sale results elsewhere lift the fashion house’s shares.

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Housing market ‘lifts US economy’

Category : World News

The US economy has expanded “modestly” in the past six weeks thanks to a stronger housing market, a survey by the US Federal Reserve suggests.

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Community banks can fill weak spots of traditional lenders

Category : Business

MPs Gareth Thomas and Chris Leslie set out their wish list for greater transparency in the banking sector, including more space for credit unions

Forcing banks to be more open and transparent about their lending, their customers and their level of risk will help transform their culture and governance and begin to tackle the sense of disconnect with the British people.

Yet, just as George Osborne and David Cameron are watering down key parts of the Vickers commission’s proposals, so ministers seem determined to let the banks continue to hide important details of their local record.

Bank lending has dropped every month since the coalition came to power and too many people either still do not having a bank account or face higher prices for loans. We need to create incentives for greater competition to provide financial services across all communities. Expanding the reach of credit unions and community ‘banks’ and encouraging stronger relationships with mainstream banks will be essential, but would be easier to achieve if high street banks disclosed more of their key data.

Despite all the websites offering comparisons of banks’ products, the Centre for Responsible Credit has highlighted how little data banks actually release about their lending – to both businesses and personal customers.

Information about lending to small businesses and third sector organisations at neighbourhood level or by postcode, as well as statistics about deposits, is not routinely available in the UK, even though much of this information held by banks.

Similarly, details of where to find free-to-use cash machines, the levels of fees for unpaid direct debits, and overdraft and credit card charges are not available in a standardised format. Publishing this data would foster competition by allowing better comparisons to be made between banks’ services. It would reveal the differing levels of access to financial products for businesses and individuals in particular communities and would also help to ensure policy makers can better direct support to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and tackle poverty and financial exclusion.

Customers also need stronger information about the fees and charges they pay if they move their accounts. Hidden charges and surprise penalties create scepticism among customers, many of whom feel aggrieved at incurring more costs after years of loyalty to their bank.

Banks should also open up to scrutiny their internal policies on managing the risks around their investment and interest rate setting decisions. After recent scandals we need to be able to see what bank staff are expected to do when they have important decisions to make on how to use the money we invest with them.

The need for more openness has long been accepted in the United States, where the financial services community now routinely discloses what banks lend, where, and to whom – albeit in anonymised form. This has encouraged the emergence of alternative financial institutions, such as credit unions and community banks, which can provide vigorous competition in the places where traditional bank lending has been weak.

Britain’s major banks are global leaders and a vital source of domestic jobs and tax revenues. Greater openness will be part of the solution for reconnecting capital to place and for rebuilding the relationship between banks and their customers, whose savings and investments help provide the capital for lenders to do business around the world.

The banks are not always wrong to reject applications for loans. But there are too many tales of reasonable requests being turned down, of staff in remote locations rejecting applications and of the closure of bank branches that once provided serious advice.

We need consistent disclosure of anonymised data on what banks lend, to whom and in which parts of the country. Stronger incentives for major banks to work in all communities, including with community lenders and credit unions, will help them to be more accountable to the communities they serve. Over time it will help to plug the gaps in the market for access to financial products and improve customer services.

Having benefitted from around £1tn of capital and guarantees, greater transparency among the banks is a must-have for customers.

Gareth Thomas is MP for Harrow West and shadow minister for civil society. Chris Leslie is MP for Nottingham East and shadow financial secretary to the Treasury

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