How was the storm where you were at the beginning of the week? Not half as lively as the debate in the House of Lords which Baroness Deech launched on Tuesday by asking the Government what they are doing to protect our vulnerable consumers!
Viscount Younger of Leckie, Under-Secretary of State for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, responded that the Government was accelerating broadband roll out and there were free schemes to encourage people to learn online skills, but the groans from the Lords indicated they agreed with our point – that not everyone is equipped to, or wants to go online, and they should not be penalised for that choice.
Baroness Oppenheimer-Barnes also mentioned the added cost to those not online of having to ring organisations and listen to incessant music for long periods because the operators are “experiencing a high volume of calls at the moment” (yes, we’ve all been there) – but it was cheering to see how many other peers agreed with our campaign aims.
The chorus of rousing “hear, hears” that greeted their points – that 16 million people don’t have sufficient internet skills to operate their finances online, that people shouldn’t be penalised for having paper bills, that it’s not a question of lifestyle choice for many but a question of poverty (thanks to Baroness Bakewell for that latter one)- showed the strength of support.
For me, the Lords debate showed that our message is getting through to the policy makers, and we may start to see some real progress.
Already I’m hearing on the grapevine that the campaign is reaching the right ears. One of our partners mentioned that a bank had told him “this Keep Me Posted thing” looked like an issue they couldn't avoid. We’re working hard to make that statement true, with your help.
We also welcomed two new organisations to our steering committee last week – pfeg, the personal Finance Education Group, and Independent Age. Both brought with them exciting new ideas and contacts, so I’m going to be working them hard in the next weeks and months to ensure the consumer’s voice is heard at all levels. And a news flash from me - Money Saving Expert has agreed to sign up to support the campaign. Respected by millions, they may be Keep Me Posted’s equivalent of Gareth Bale!