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MSE to advertise ‘free PPI reclaiming’ on Google

MSE to advertise 'free PPI reclaiming' on Google

MSE to advertise 'free PPI reclaiming' on Google

There’s no need to pay to reclaim payment protection insurance (PPI). However due to spam texts, cold calling, saturation TV ads and huge per-click fees to advertise on Google, many people give no-win no-fee claims management companies 30% of their repayment without knowing that.

We’ve teamed up with Which? for nearly a year now to get the "you can do it for free" message out.

This included a massive PPI summit where we called the banks, the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Financial Services Authority (FSA) together for a series of meetings to discuss how to get the message out and the banks needed to change to make it easier.

Why paid ads are so important

While the TV ads create awareness – often it’s of reclaiming itself, rather than the specific brands. I still get questioned regularly by people asking which company to use, as they think they NEED to do it via a claims firm.  

Many people, however, do what we all do these days when we need info – they Google. Currently, if you Google "PPI reclaiming", while the MSE Reclaim PPI for Free guide often comes top of its natural search, it’s swamped with claims company adverts all around it. 

Search experts say to really be effective, you need a presence in both natural and paid searches.

How the ads will be paid for?

As PPI is so lucrative for claims firms, and the cost of getting high up on Google is extortionate, sometimes it’s a few pounds per click. They can afford to pay it, as the PPI claims industry is likely to make well over a billion pounds.

Neither us, nor Which?, nor other consumer groups can justify shelling out the huge amounts to compete at any volume with claims firms, as we all provide PPI info for free and it doesn’t generate revenue.

During the PPI summit we asked the banks to put their money where their mouths are – and to back up their call that they want people to reclaim for free.

Sadly, they didn’t reply as loudly as we hoped, but fair play to Lloyds Banking Group. It proposed to me it’d offer an experiment to test putting paid ads up for MSE.

I suggested this should also be done for Which? and Citizens Advice, and it agreed.

Of course, we’re not conceding control, even for a micro-second:

  • The ad text is directly controlled by the individual consumer group.
  • There is no mention of Lloyds, and it gets no special treatment.
  • The links go through to each group’s PPI reclaiming guide.
  • The guides won’t be altered in any way and remain entirely editorially independent.

This is a really interesting experiment for the short term. The free PPI campaigners have risked being crowded out of the market by the paid-for companies, and simply don’t have the financial clout to compete – but this may help level the playing field.

Of course some may still choose to use claims companies for convenience, and provided they understand they’re making a choice to pay, that’s fine (see my 10 things you need to know if using a PPI claims firm blog).

“Gambling Introductory Offer Loopholes board” – consultation results

"Gambling Introductory Offer Loopholes board" – consultation results

"Gambling Introductory Offer Loopholes board" – consultation results

A few weeks ago, I launched a user consultation into the future of the forum’s Gambling Introductory Offer Loopholes board. The board was originally set up to discuss taking advantage of risk-free intro loopholes, but over recent years their growing complexity has made it difficult for the forum team to manage.

You can read the full explanation of the issues we face and our concerns about the board here – GIOL consultation. I’m going to write on as if you’ve read that…

The consultation included the option of shutting the board. We received a large amount of mostly constructive feedback, primarily arguing for keeping the board open, though some did believe it best closed.

I’d like to thank the large numbers who took part for taking the time to respond and for some clever and thought-through solutions. It’s really appreciated and it’s changed our views. (Of course there were also a small minority who were rude and aggressive, who did themselves no favours, as we simply skipped past their posts.) 

Our proposals after the feedback

There were many very useful ideas. Overall, we decided those who use the board care about it greatly and derive benefit from it. So we focused our time on trying to work on a system to keep the board open while protecting users. There are two areas…

1. More clear guidance for users of the risks

– The board will be renamed "Matched Betting board"

– We will add an interstitial page for first time users (by default, existing users will also see it once). This will clearly state what "matched betting" is about, that caution and attention to detail is required to ensure that it’s risk-free, as well as reminding users that posting gambling deals themselves is strictly against the rules. The user will need to read and agree to this (via a tick box) before they may visit the board.

– There is already a warning on top of every page of the board. This will be cleaned up and updated.

2.  New super-user ‘report a risk’ system

- We will add a "report a risk" button [although this name may change] for a group of selected experienced users. They can click the button if they believe the post falls foul of the site’s "no risks" policy. If a certain number of those users click it, the thread will be temporarily deleted, pending a decision by our Forum Team. This works in much the same way as the current spam reporting button.

– We will ask those super-users to err on the side of caution. If it could be risky, then report.

– The Forum Team will also err on the side of caution, and things will only be reactivated if we are sure they don’t constitute a breach of the rules.

– This "report a risk" system will work alongside the current system which allows anyone in any board to report a post to the Forum Team for breaching the rules.

– We’re aiming to add one more board guide to this board to support the current guides.

We will listen to any further constructive suggestions, though obviously we need to get this system under way first. We aim to do that as soon as possible (though some of it requires technical adaptation, which can take time). 

I’d ask all users of this free resource to work with us on this – and understand the ‘erring on the side of caution’ stance. We want the board to continue and are working towards that. However, if this system doesn’t work, we will have to look again at closing the board rather than exposing the site and its users to undue risks.


Consultation over the Gambling Introductory Offer Loopholes board

Consultation over the Gambling Introductory Offer Loopholes board

Consultation over the Gambling Introductory Offer Loopholes board

For the result of this consultation see the “Gambling Introductory Offer Loopholes board" feedback results blog.

The "Gambling Introductory Offer Loopholes" board was originally set up to allow discussion on risk-free introductory loopholes.

E.g. "Free £20 to play at an online casino". So you put £9.50 on red, £9.50 on black, £1 on zero and then took your money out.

This soon evolved, firstly into the relatively simple area of matched betting. This followed strict rules against encouraging gambling itself. With a careful and accurate approach, it allowed users to make risk-free money by following a clearly-defined method. It was a typical MoneySaving loophole and many members supplemented their incomes with this.

Then companies began to wise up. They presented more hoops to jump through to achieve the same results. Undeterred, our forumites – being the canny operators that they are – adapted their methods and broadened their horizons to maximise profits.

It’s now so complex we have serious concerns

The systems are now incredibly complex and have strayed far from the original remit. My senior forum team members tell me:

When people report a supposed breach of the rules, it is incredibly difficult to understand – never mind assess – if it’s breaking our guidelines by not being risk-free." 

We also receive contradictory reports from our regular users, who live and breathe this sort of thing, about what is risky or not. 

Of course complexity is nothing new on MSE forums. But when this happens in other areas, my forum staff can ask my specialist editorial team to help.

Yet we don’t cover gambling, nor is gambling itself MoneySaving. The level of expertise now required to police this forum is causing us concern that we no longer have the ability to do so on a day-to-day basis. 

I’m not convinced we can risk keeping the board going

My biggest concern is that people could find incorrect info on there, and they’ll think that because it’s on MSE it must be OK – and may then damage their finances on the back of it.  

Of course we have the risk of that elsewhere. But gambling can be particularly predatory and is outside our main stable. One user may mistakenly suggest incorrect credit card info to another in our forum – that isn’t against our rules. Promoting risky gambling is, though – so the fact we are now struggling to differentiate between risky and risk-free is a concern.

This leaves me torn. I don’t want to take away a helpful discussion forum that people rely on, yet I don’t know how to keep it safe for people. I don’t want to risk the board damaging the work MSE does elsewhere.

My thoughts and options include:

  • A phased shutdown – giving a few months to allow people who want to discuss this to go elsewhere.
  • If we do shut the board down, we are left with the question of what to do with the existing content.
  • We could hide the board so only registered users can see it – although I’m concerned that wouldn’t help.

So it seemed logical to me to consult with those who know best about how people view this board and what we should do from here. I’m open to a wide range of suggestions – please let me know your thoughts below.


There are more savers than debtors

There are more savers than debtors

There are more savers than debtors

With all the talk of the nation’s finances creaking (or crashing depending on where you read it) it’s easy to think everyone is mired in debt. This week’s site poll belies that though, with 54% net savers, to 41% net debtors (and 5% in the middle).

Now some may be shocked at this, especially as it’s a poll, and many assume our users are primarily in trouble. Actually that’s a common misunderstanding about the site demographics – we tend to closely map the make-up as internet users in general – rather than favour any group. After all some come as they need help, while others enjoy saving money and are good at it, hence having cash.

The poll excludes mortgages

It’s important to note this site poll (view the latest results) did ask people to exclude mortgages and student loans, as I thought it would be a fairer measure of the state of the nation.

Mortgages are a form of investment debt that results in an asset and offsets the necessary cost of housing – though of course there will be some who have a big struggle with covering their mortgage debts. Student loans can’t really be included as you only have to repay it if you’re earning – so it doesn’t hang over you (and currently most shouldn’t try to repay more quickly than they need to – see Should I pay off my student loan?).

Of course, there are people who have both savings and unsecured debts – for a few who are savvy, this is fine if they’re stoozing. Yet for many it’s an absolute waste of cash – what’s the point of having debt on a credit card at 20%, just so you can say you’ve some savings which are only at 3%. Most should simply pay off debt with savings.

However, I think we will re-run this poll without the exclusions in a month or so to see how the two compare.

Far more big savers than big debtors

At the extreme ends the stats are even more polarised. A quarter of respondents have over £25,000 saved (and 8% over £100,000), compared to just 8% with over £25,000 debts (2% over £100,000). 

For those with jaws dropping open wondering where on earth all these supersized savers are, I suspect there’s a big age differential going on here. Some older people who are mortgage free, can build savings relatively quickly. Others will have taken the 25% tax-free lump sum from their pension fund and are sitting on that.

In fact, I once heard a note that there are six times more savings accounts in the UK than debt accounts. Though I’ve no idea if it’s substantiated (and of course there are more iterations of savings, e.g. multiple cash ISAs, than debts).

A democratic recession – hitting both savers and debtors

It’s worth noting both groups have been hit by this recession. Of course everyone is affected by rising prices and the necessary squeeze on disposable incomes – though of course the less income you have the more disproportionately hard rising fixed costs like energy, petrol and food hit you.  

Also, while lower interest rates should’ve benefited those in debt, the credit crunch means while best-buy rates are lower, lending criteria has tightened like a noose, meaning it’s difficult for many to cut the costs of their existing debts – leaving interest rapidly accruing.

Yet savers too have been hit, with interest rates limboing substantially under the prior two hundred year lows. Worst still, the net effect of high inflation and low interest rates is that many savings are in reality losing’s, as the spending power of the money in them is shrinking (one reason why repaying a mortgage with savings, then finding the top savings deals are so popular).

PS. This blog was written after just over 9,500 poll votes, though the poll is open for a few more hours, so the exact percentages may change slightly.