5 top tips for borrowing at Christmas

Last week, I spoke about making cents this Christmas. The expression ‘things are tight at Christmas’ resonates with many of us at this time though the lockdowns have precluded many from spending and there have been sizeable savings locked away.

Bernard Manning once quipped: “For Christmas this year I gave my kids
a set of batteries with a note attached – toys not included…” 

Some families simply cannot afford life’s little luxuries while some
will just borrow and worry later. Those who haven’t saved during the
year for their Yuletide expenditure or simply haven’t got the money have
little choice but to borrow if they choose not to spend.

With four weeks to go to Christmas, John Lowe of Money Doctors gives
his top five tips when it comes to borrowing if you have to…

1.  Work out what you have to spend, only borrow that amount and ensure you repay within 12 months
Bundle all your presents costs, the extras ( tree, decorations, cards,
etc ) plus food and drink – not forgetting entertainment. The total is
the amount of money you are going to spend. So, where are you getting
this from? If borrowing, how are you going to repay?

It’s important to know how much you need and where you are getting it from if you haven’t saved it. Christmas comes around every year so ensure that the loan is repaid within 12 months. Ideal of course to save at the same time so you are not put in the same position next Christmas. 

2.  Make sure you have the capacity to repay the loan you have taken out
Income is your number one asset and it has to cover this loan and all
other expenditure in the household. Absolutely no point in taking a loan
out that you cannot afford to repay. So it’s back to that budget again
and working out precisely what it costs to run your home on a monthly
basis. Planning is the buzz word…

3.  Check the interest rates
Financial institution interest rates differ when it comes to borrowing.
There are four levels between overdrafts and personal unsecured loans.

Main street banks – they can charge up to 16%+ on overdrafts
(an authorised loan on your current account that you MUST put back in
credit for at least 30 days in a calendar year) exceeding overdrafts
attracts a “surcharge” in some cases an EXTRA 12%. The cost of just
negotiating an overdraft is €25. Their personal loans (unsecured) can
range from 12% to 20%+ …not the cheapest and attract some of the highest
interest rates.

Credit unions & An Post Money – probably the most flexible
and cheapest. Credit unions are individually independent and you can
only open one where you live or work. Normally they require one month’s
membership before applying for loans. Virtually all credit unions are
part of the Irish Credit Bureau ( www.icb.ie ) and the
www.CentralCreditRegister.ie  so your credit standing is checked for
every loan applied for by the 142 institutional members of both these
credit agencies. A €2,000 loan over 12 months at 7.5% interest rate will
cost you €177 per month.

Authorised money lenders – There are 37 money lenders
authorised by the Central Bank of Ireland. They can charge interest
rates of up to 200% and generally only provide short term (up to 6
months) loans of up to €500. They should be avoided if at all possible.

Unauthorised money lenders and pay day lenders – these should be avoided at all costs. A well known UK TV pay day loan advertisement had the temerity to display its APR at the end of the advert covering 25% of the screen on the bottom right hand corner. That APR was 1,294.1%. Doing without or seeking the help of St Vincent de Paul Society / Simon Community is preferable to taking out these kinds of loan.

4.  Credit cards – be careful with them
It is very easy to use your flexible friend when you have a limit not
fully utilised. “Maxing out” your credit card will only confirm that
come January, you can only afford to pay the minimum payment. That is
generally 2% of the total owed. When you are being charged 22% + ( more
if you are taking cash from ATMs ) it is no wonder that whatever your
balance, it will take you 20 years to repay the debt completely.

There are four credit card providers that will allow you to transfer
your card balance at 0% …  An Post Money is the best of them allowing
you to transfer your balance to them at 0% for a whopping 12 months. You
have to have good credit of course – email me for details.

5.  Think bigger picture
If you are one of those people who never plan, go from year to year
stumbling in and out of Christmas, now is the time to stop and reassess.
Start a plan. If you know the total of all Christmas expenditure, then
divide that by 12 and start saving in January. Best regular saver
account – saving between €100 and €1,000 per month for up to 12 months –
is 1% ( 0.67% after DIRT Tax ) from both AIB Bank and Bank of Ireland.
Couldn’t be simpler. Take care of yourselves.

Article Source: 5 tips for borrowing at Christmas – RTE – John Lowe

Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000

Traffic light system proposed for non-EU air travel

A draft report from the Oireachtas Transport Committee has
recommended that a traffic light system for countries outside the EU be
developed before Christmas.

The draft report, on issues affecting the aviation industry, has
recommended 19 actions in total. It is due to be formally published
later this week.

Among the changes recommended is to develop a traffic light system
for countries outside the EU, such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and
the US, ahead of Christmas, which would provide clarity to those living
abroad.

The committee also wants to see the roll-out of rapid antigen tests for people arriving from all countries.

Members believe that this would complement current testing requirements in place for orange and red countries. 

At present, Ireland is currently in the orange zone of the EU traffic light system.

Passengers from orange regions who have a negative test result for
Covid-19 up to three days prior to departure do not need to restrict
their movements on arrival in most countries.

Among the recommendations is for Government to consider extending the Airport Charges Rebate Scheme beyond March 2021.

This move would benefit airlines and would, according to the report,
make it easier to maintain connectivity to airports during the summer
season.

The draft report also calls for the Government to seek a derogation from State Aid rules for emergency funding to Irish airports.

Travel agents, according to the report, should have access to the
“Covid Restrictions Subsidy Scheme [CRSS]” at all levels of Covid-19
restrictions.

This is due to the “severe limitations” placed on their businesses.

The report also recommends that the wider tourism and hospitality
sector continues to be addressed “in any future supports for businesses
impacted by Covid-19”.

Article Source: Traffic light system proposed for non-EU air travel – RTE – Tommy Meskill

Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000

Government to extend Credit Guarantee Scheme and redundancy provisions

The Government has decided to extend two measures which were brought in to help businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme (CGS) will now stay open for new
applications until the end of June. It had been due to close at the end
of the year. 

The suspension of redundancy provisions relating
to temporary lay-off and short-time work, which arose as a result of
Covid-19, will also be extended until the end of March 2021.  

The €2 billion Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme, launched in
September, was brought in to provide low cost loans to businesses from
€10,000 to €1mn. 

The scheme was originally due to close at the end of December, but
with an average of 180 businesses now drawing down loans each week,
applications will remain open for another six months. 

The risk of the loan is borne 80% by the State and 20% by the financial institution. 

For a company to avail of the scheme, it must have sustained a
minimum 15% fall in profits or sales due to the fallout from the
pandemic. The loan can be worth up to 25% of a company’s 2019 turnover
or twice its wage bill. 

This extension has been made possible due to a change in the rules under state-aid at EU level, the Government said today.

Leo Varadkar, the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and
Employment, noted that the Covid-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme was the
biggest state-backed loan guarantee in the country’s history. 

“It is part of a larger package of grants, wage subsidies, tax
reductions and other low-cost loans, we have put in place to help
businesses during this exceptionally difficult time,” Mr Varadkar said.

The Minister said the extension of the scheme will give business a
level of certainty that if they need liquidity, the Government can
help. 

He also said the scheme will see some new, non-bank lenders,
including credit unions, joining in the coming weeks which should
increase its accessibility and visibility. 

Meanwhile, the suspension of the redundancy provisions has been extended until March 31.

This will help avoid further permanent job losses at a time when some
350,000 people are in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment
(PUP) and 41,200 employers have registered for the Employment Wage
Subsidy Scheme (EWSS). 

The Tánaiste said he wanted to acknowledge how difficult this year has been for businesses and their staff. 

He said he knows today’s news will be really disappointing for some
staff who were hoping to take redundancy before the end of the year. 

“This was a really difficult decision for the Government to make and
not one which was taken lightly. It was taken in the best interests of
society as whole in order to avoid the triggering of further business
failures and job losses,” Mr Varadkar said. 

He also said that the first quarter of 2021 will be particularly
challenging for many businesses which apart from dealing with
considerable trading difficulties due to Covid-19 will also be facing
the added disruption and uncertainty of Brexit. 

“We want to help businesses to survive this period so that we can
protect as many jobs as possible and get people back to work as soon as
it is safe to do so,” he added.

The Government also today agreed to fund outstanding applications to
the closed Restart Grant Plus Scheme, which has now been replaced by the
Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS). 

The Government has approved a total of €685m for over 117,000
applications, at an average payment of €5,800, since the scheme was
launched in May. 

About 11,000 applications are still outstanding for the scheme and
the Government has allocated a further €33m to meet this cost.

Article Source: Government to extend Credit Guarantee Scheme and redundancy provisions – RTE

Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000

Taoiseach remains hopeful Brexit deal can be agreed

The Taoiseach has said that Brexit amounts to the most significant
fundamental economic change the country has faced in 50 years.

Speaking at Dublin Port, Micheál Martin said he remains hopeful that a
deal can be struck, adding it is in the best interests of Ireland, the
UK and the European Union.

He warned that, even with a deal, the seamless trade that has existed up to now will not continue.

The Taoiseach urged small businesses, which either export to or import from the UK, to register and engage.

He said he was concerned there was some complacency in the small and medium-sized enterprises sector and he urged these firms to prepare.

Asked if he was confident that dispute mechanisms in any agreement would be effective, Mr Martin said building trust would be the key priority once a deal was struck.

Earlier, the EU’s Brexit negotiator said “fundamental differences”
persisted in trade talks with Britain but that both sides were pushing
hard for a deal.

“After technical discussions this weekend, negotiations continue online today … Time is short. Fundamental divergences still remain, but we are continuing to work hard for a deal,” said Michel Barnier.

On Friday, it is understood that member states were told that 95% of the text was complete but there were still big gaps on fisheries, the so-called level playing field, governance and how disputes will be solved.

There is concern that the process will not have enough time.

The transition period ends at 11pm on 31 December and any deal will
have to go through a series of time-consuming legal procedures,
including ratification by the European Parliament.

Article Source: Taoiseach remains hopeful Brexit deal can be agreed – RTE – Paul Cunningham – Reuters

Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000

Surprise bounce in consumer sentiment in November

Consumer sentiment showed a significant and somewhat surprising
rebound in November which may signal a stronger outlook for Christmas
spending. 

The latest KBC Bank Irish consumer sentiment index jumped to 65.5 in
November from 52.6 in October, returning the index to its strongest
level since March. 

However, the November reading still remains substantially below both
its early 2020 reading of 85.5 or the average of the 25 year survey of
87.

KBC Bank Ireland said the November bounce may be as a result of a
spate of strong economic releases and several new job announcements
during the survey period. 

It also said that consumers may be focussed ahead on the prospect of
some Christmas light at the end of a pandemic-related tunnel.

But the bank also highlighted the “choppy nature” of survey readings
in recent months as consumers in Ireland and elsewhere attempt to make
sense of an unprecedented and very uncertain environment. 

“It should also be emphasised that the level of the November
sentiment reading still points to a cautious and likely confused Irish
consumer,” KBC Bank Ireland’s chief economist Austin Hughes said.

KBC noted that all five main elements of the consumer sentiment index
showed material improvements between October and November but the gains
were most pronounced in relation to the macro components of the
survey. 

It said the pandemic has imparted a severe macro shock on Ireland and
elsewhere but the intensity of impact across age groups, regions,
employment categories and the income distribution has varied widely. 

Therefore the “personal” elements of the survey have seen a smaller if still substantial weakening, the bank added.

“Although it is vitally important to counter threats to the immediate
outlook and support sentiment and spending over end-year, an economy is
not just for Christmas,” Austin Hughes said. 

“The key task must be to ensure the policy framework develops in a
manner that limits the longer term threat to jobs and incomes as well as
health outcomes,” he added.

Article Source: Surprise bounce in consumer sentiment in November – RTE

Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000

Christmas shoppers urged to be wary of online fraud

Consumers shopping online this week are being advised to be on the lookout for scams.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected to see another increase in online spending this year.

Fraudsters typically target consumers at busy times, but despite that, it looks like card fraud is on the decline.

Debit and credit card fraud is dropping according to banks.

The Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI) said that despite
the fact that debit and credit card usage has increased by almost 30%,
fraud losses were down 49% last year when compared to just three years
earlier.

90% of card fraud takes place online, on the telephone or mail order rather than in store.

Despite the decline last year over €22m was stolen through card frauds in Ireland.

260,000 fraudulent transactions took place in 2019.

Chief Executive of the BPFI Brian Hayes said the drop is easily explained.

“Consumers are becoming more aware of the risks of card fraud and the
ways in which they can protect themselves from falling victim,” he
added.

More people are shopping online, in particular with Christmas
approaching and Level 5 restrictions closing many stores and restricting
people to online purchasing or click and collect.

Six in ten people say they will do more online shopping this Christmas.

Here are some simple steps to reduce the risk of being scammed using your debit or credit card:

– Only use secure websites. Addresses should have ‘https’ before the purchase is made, indicating a secure connection

– Make sure a padlock symbol is shown beside the website address

– Never use public Wi-Fi when making payments; switch to 3G/4G instead

– Avoid clicking on social media or pop-up adverts, instead independently visit the website of the online sales company

– Be cautious about claiming outrageous offers in particular on social media. If it sounds too good to be true it usually is

– Stick to well-known websites or websites that you are familiar with or websites associated with high street retail outlets.

Article Source: Christmas shoppers urged to be wary of online fraud – RTE – Fran McNulty

Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000

Saving Ireland – how Covid-19 turbo-charged deposits

We like to save money in Ireland and much and all as we’ve generally
disliked ‘lockdown’, and all that it has meant in terms of an erosion of
our personal freedoms, it has enabled many people to put even more
money aside.

According to the Central Bank, deposits in banks and credit unions
soared this year, by as much €4.5 billion in March and April alone at
the height of lockdown. In the first nine months, households put €11
billion on deposit.

Collectively, we now have over €120 billion in savings and deposits in various institutions.

A recent survey of savers by Bank of Ireland indicated that people are likely to continue saving over the next 12 months.

The irony, though, is that the return to be made on amassing piles of
cash is negligible at the moment because of the interest rate
environment.

Blame Europe

Rates have been at rock bottom since the middle of the last decade as
the European Central Bank launched numerous stimulus measures –
including interest rate cuts – in an effort to stimulate the euro zone
economy as it recovered from the last downturn, and to nudge inflation
upwards.

The intention of rate cuts was to encourage corporates and households
to borrow money at reduced rates and to spend the money that they have
rather than saving it.

By cutting rates to zero, the return on hoarding cash is zero. The
general thesis is that there’s no point in keeping it, so the logical
move is to spend it, and in turn help stimulate the economy.

Since the pandemic, Europe has doubled down on that message with the
ECB launching even more accommodative measures in an effort to further
stimulate economic activity.

That’s great news for governments that can borrow and run deficits, as they’re being told to do by the European institutions.

It’s also good for mortgage holders, who are seeing some – arguably
limited – benefit from low rates, but it’s not so good for a growing
sector of the population who appear to be building significant cash
piles.

So why are we collectively squirrelling away money when policy, and logic, dictates that we should be doing otherwise?

Once bitten, twice shy

There are two intertwining elements at play in the enhanced savings
environment at the moment, according to Austin Hughes, chief economist
with KBC Bank Ireland.

There’s ‘forced savings’, arising from fewer spending opportunities
because of pandemic restrictions, and there’s fear, borne mainly of a
trauma that’s still fresh in the national psyche.

“The pain of the financial crisis has taught people that credit is not an easy way towards improved living standards,” he said.

“There’s been a very significant shift in attitudes among Irish consumers that reflects that pain. That’s a long-term trend that will remain in place and it’s aggravated by different elements. You have the more cautious approach from lenders and you have a population that’s slightly older and more inclined towards saving.”

He said the ‘fear factor’ had been reignited to a certain extent by
the pandemic, resulting in more people putting even more money aside
and, until there is a clear path back to ‘normality’, that would likely
persist.

There’s also a theory among economists that when interest rates are low, people will paradoxically put more money on deposit.

They have a savings target in mind and they realise that, with rates
at all-time lows and showing no signs of increasing soon, they need to
put more money aside to compensate for that lack of compounding.

Is depositing money just the lazy option?

For those saving up to buy a house or with other financial goals in
mind, it’s good practice to put the money aside in an account where,
even though it’s not making any return, it’s safe and accessible when
needed.

For those just simply building a nest egg, or saving towards old age
or for educational needs, it generally pays to be a bit more
adventurous.

“Banks are paying lower than the rate of inflation at the moment, so
the capital that you’re putting on deposit is decreasing in value
because of inflation,” Frank Conway of Moneywhizz and founder of the
Irish Financial Review points out.

“You have to invest to grow.”

He recommends that people aim to have between three and six months of
living expenses at their disposal in the form of a ‘rainy-day fund’.

Beyond that, there’s what he refers to as the 50:30:20 rule – 50% of
take-home pay going towards life’s needs, 30% on ‘wants’ and 20% into
savings.

What could you do if you’re lucky enough to have excess cash?

Leaving excess money sitting in a deposit account doesn’t help anyone, according to Frank Conway.

For the saver, the money is losing value because it’s effectively being eroded by inflation.

When it comes to banks and credit unions, they’re getting hit with
negative interest rates when they deposit that money in the wider
banking system, a development that has prompted some credit unions to
write to customers telling them that they are limiting deposits to a
certain threshold, in some cases as low as €10,000.

Banks have started levying negative interest rates on corporates
and some larger SMEs. Wealthy individual customers with large deposits
are being warned that they too may be hit with negative interest rates
in the future.

Frank Conway suggests that there are numerous ways of making better
use of spare money, from investing it, to paying off a mortgage or
putting it into a pension fund.

“Pensions are a great way to get your money to work. You can get up
to 40% tax relief on your contributions. An employer can match your
contributions and that doesn’t eat into your tax limits,” he explained.

For those who don’t have access to an occupational pension scheme, the same benefit applies to a Personal Retirement Savings Account, or PRSA.

Paying off a mortgage is particularly attractive for some, he pointed out.

“I wouldn’t be doing it for a tracker, but for a standard variable
rate, you can pay down any amount once you let the lender know.”

“It’s a great way of reducing the mortgage, especially if you pay a
rate as high as 3.5 or 4%. You can save quite a bit of money over the
lifetime of the mortgage,” he explained.

Not everyone is hoarding cash

This is an important point that can often get lost in the headline
figures from official bodies like the Central Bank and the Central
Statistics Office.

While the overall level of savings is on an upward path, not everyone is in a position to put money aside at the moment.

In fact, the latest Central Bank household wealth figures indicated a
mismatch between those doing the saving and those who are struggling to
make ends meet at the moment, reflecting the ‘K-shaped’ economic
recovery that’s been spoken of widely in recent months.

The report noted that the unemployment rate had increased to 5.2% in
June and overall pay fell by €2.1 billion in the second quarter of this
year as people were laid off in large numbers due to the pandemic. 

There was a €4.4 billion rise in Social Transfers, largely accounted
for by the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), and subsidies – the
Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) – in the three-month period.

“The savings rates are a one figure summary of what’s happening right
across the spectrum of consumers and businesses,” Austin Hughes said.

“This is definitely an unequal opportunity economic shock. People are
struggling and they’re dipping into their savings and they are
borrowing more because of what’s happened, just to keep their heads
above water.”

Will cash piles gradually reduce as the economy reopens?

Launching the July stimulus earlier this year, the Taoiseach and the
Tánaiste referred to the significant amounts of money in the economy
that people had saved during the early days of the pandemic
restrictions.

Some of the stimulus measures contained in the summer package were
designed to release some of those ‘pent-up’ savings, they said,
including the Stay and Spend Scheme that offers a tax credit of up €125
on hospitality related spending up to a value of €625.

The measure came into effect in October but didn’t get the chance to
take off due to new waves of restrictions that came into effect across
the country later that month.

There was also the reduction in the 23% VAT rate to 21% for a period of six months, a measure designed to encourage retailers to drop prices and entice consumers to spend, which was followed in the budget by the cut in the VAT rate for the hospitality sector from 13.5% to 9%.

“‘Pent-up’ implies that people can’t wait to spend that money,”
Austin Hughes said. “You will only get people to spend by convincing
them that the worst is over.”

“Caution is going to remain and, while there was an element of
pent-up demand when outlets opened in the summer and you had queues
outside Penneys, for example, the second wave of restrictions led many
people to view this as a lasting feature of the economy and that
precautionary stance is going to be significant.”

Mr Hughes said it was likely that some of the money would be
gradually eased back into the economy over time, but in light of a more
cautious consumer, and with a trend towards higher savings overall, it’s
likely the pandemic will just serve to amplify an existing trend.

Frank Conway believes confidence will return over time and that people will spend once they get their economic bearings again.

“We’ve had two traumatic events in the last decade and that makes
people more wary, more conservative and this behaviour is showing, not
just in Ireland, but everywhere else.”

He said the best way to entice people to spend is to incentivise them to do so.

“That is buying homes, moving homes and buying goods and services and
incentivising them through tax mechanisms. That’s the only way you can
do it.”

He suggested that there were state measures that the government could
introduce to encourage people to invest in the future of the country,
such as public infrastructure bonds, of which there are many historical
precedents.

In the meantime, people continue to wait for certainty and those that have the cash are holding on to it.

Article Source: Saving Ireland – how Covid-19 turbocharged deposits – RTE – Brian Finn

Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000

New Brexit loan scheme for small businesses now available

A new loan scheme to help small businesses to prepare for Brexit has been launched through Microfinance Ireland.

Loans for between €5,000 and €25,000 will be available to companies
whose turnover has dropped or is likely to drop by 15% or more because
of the UK’s departure from the EU.

Firms with a short term cashflow need because of Brexit will also be
able to apply for the loans, which will be available for between six
months and three years.

“Businesses need to urgently start planning for the consequences of Brexit,” said Garrett Stokes, Microfinance Ireland CEO.

“While the impact will be greatest on exporters, importers need to
determine their supply chain and source of imports and plan for any
delays or changes required.”

“Many businesses will be negatively impacted by Brexit or suffer a short term cashflow impact.”

The new Microfinance Ireland (MFI) Brexit Business Loans will attract no fees, charges or hidden costs.

To be eligible for the scheme, the sole trader, partnership or
company must have less than 10 employees and annual turnover of up to
€2m.

They must also be unable to secure finance from a bank or commercial lending provider.

Launching the scheme, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the loan scheme is just one way the Government is helping business to prepare.

“77% of MFI’s lending is to businesses outside of Dublin, which is
important as businesses all over Ireland will feel the negative effects
of Brexit,” he said.
 
“If you are a business owner and are wondering where to start, I’d
recommend filling out our Brexit Readiness Checker first and having a
look at what needs to be done in your business. Then please reach out
and use the help that’s there,” he stated.

Article Source: New Brexit loan scheme for small business now available – RTE – Will Goodbody

Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000

500 businesses, trade groups in open letter to Taoiseach

Nearly 500 businesses and trade associations involved in the tourism,
hospitality and events industries have signed an open letter to
Taoiseach Micheál Martin calling for the sector to be allowed reopen or
reopen to a greater extent than currently from December.

The signatories say they recognise that although it will not be
business as usual this Christmas, it does not mean they cannot open in a
smart, planned and sustained way, as they are regulated and have proven
responsible through the Covid-19 crisis.

Among the groups that signed the letter are Drinks Ireland, the Irish
Hotels Federation, the Licensed Vintners Association, the Vintners
Federation of Ireland, Ibec, the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation,
the Event Industry Association of Ireland and the Association of Visitor
Experiences and Attractions as well as 471 individual businesses.

Together they highlight how the so-called experience sector employs
330,000 people directly and indirectly in Ireland and is worth €4.5bn in
wages, salaries and employment taxes to the economy each year.

The letter also claims the sector can play a crucial role in the
economic recovery after the pandemic, but only if firms survive.

Critical of the Government’s response to the pandemic, the
signatories say its actions have disproportionately impacted the sector,
without proper evidence to back those actions up.

They warn that the impact of these decisions has had and will go on
having major long-term consequences for businesses across the country.

The firms and organisations pledge that if they are allowed to resume
trading next month, they will play their role in ensuring Covid-19
rules are strictly adhered to.

Letting them open in a sustained way but with restrictions next week
would provide what may end up being a final lifeline for many firms in
the sector, they argue.

Those who signed the letter also
claim that available research and data, internationally and at home,
provides no clear evidence for the sector to be treated
disproportionately with regards decisions to open or close, compared
with other parts of the economy.

“If regulated hospitality venues remain closed, it’s reasonable to
conclude that people will be driven to unregulated environments and
households, where Covid-19 measures may be ignored,” the letter states.

The businesses and associations also seek an approach which protects
our health but also enables the experience economy to operate and
criticise the absence of a reopening plan.

“We are also concerned about the continued lack of clarity from
Government and call for comprehensive engagement with the business
community going forward,” they argue.

“The failure to provide certainty around decisions must stop, and we need clear plans that our sector can follow.”

Meanwhile, the Irish Hotels Federation has repeated its call on the
Government to include hotels in its plan for reopening society on 1
December.

“Hotels can help to ensure a safer reopening thereby minimising the
risk of increased infection rates,” said Tim Fenn, chief executive of
the IHF. 

“Hoteliers are calling for people to be allowed to travel outside
their county and for in-door dining in hotels, including for
non-residents, to be permitted as part of the reduced restrictions from
2nd December.”

He added that Irish hotels are proven to provide safe, controlled environments.

“This five week trading period around Christmas can act as a life
buoy in terms of sustaining many hotels for the early few months of next
year so it is imperative for hotels to be able to open as fully as
possible for the benefit of their guests and their teams,” Mr Fenn said.

Meanwhile, the chief executive of the Vintners Federation of Ireland
says all pubs need to be allowed open for indoor drinking and dining in
December, without distinction between the different types of pubs. 

Padraig Cribben told Morning Ireland that December is an important
one for the trade and while members realise that December 2020 is
different to a normal year, people are going to socialise.

He said the Government must ask themselves do they want people socialising in a controlled setting or unregulated domestic environments. 

Mr Cribben said there is quite a bit of pent up demand for social and
the broader that demand is spread, the better it would be for public
health. 

The distinction between food and non-food pubs is not a good idea in
terms of fairness and of spreading the load for social demand, he
stated.

He said it was important that the Government, and not NPHET, make the
decision because NPHET has already indicated that it would advise
against pubs re-opening.

Article Source: 500 businesses, trade groups in open letter to Taoiseach – RTE – Will Goodbody

Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000

Businesses urged to take action on UK direct debit changes

Businesses and other organisations here that use a UK based payment
service provider to process direct debits are being urged to check they
are ready for important changes that will apply after January 1. 
 
According to the Banking and Payments Federation Ireland (BPFI), if they
want to ensure smooth and uninterrupted continuation of the processing
of their direct debits following Brexit, certain businesses must take
action now. 

The organisation estimates that as many as 140,000 recurring direct
debits are at risk after the UK becomes a third country when the Brexit
transition period comes to end. 

“A wide range of businesses in Ireland, from utility companies to
membership organisations, use Payment Service Providers (PSPs) based in
the UK to process the direct debits of their customers,” said Brian
Hayes, chief executive of the BPFI.

“However, when the Brexit transition period ends on December 31,
businesses must ensure that any additional information required is added
to the direct debit transactions provided to the UK based PSP so as to
ensure the seamless processing of direct debits between the UK and
Ireland,” Mr Hayes said.

“The information typically required will be the address of a customer,” he added. 

BPFI thinks 80% of impacted transactions meet the new requirements,
but has advised that organisations and businesses behind the remaining
ones need to act now. 

If they do not then they risk a scenario where banks will be forced
to reject consumers’ direct debits from the start of next year. 

“In
recent months BPFI has written to over 150 businesses and
organisations, who use a UK-based PSP, encouraging them to provide the
necessary additional information on their direct debit transactions,” Mr
Hayes added. 

“In parallel, BPFI and our members have been actively engaged with
the relevant UK PSPs to ensure the required engagement with their
business customers in Ireland.” 

The federation has urged anyone who has concerns or needs more
information about this matter to contact their payment service provider.

Article Source: Businesses urged to take action on UK direct debit charges – RTE – Will Goodbody

Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000