We all know the dangers of older people being scammed by unscrupulous individuals, but they could be equally at risk from many of the leading companies in the UK - blue chip names that we all deal with everyday.
My own mother has recently had a very bad accident and has had to go into a care home. As a result, I registered my existing power of attorney with her bank so that I could manage her affairs. What I found there was shocking.
There were three monthly payments going our to a well-known satellite television company, One of which was for £100 and the other two were just £8 short of that. When I contacted the company, they said the first charge was legitimate,as my mother had never contacted them to negotiate a lower price. I got the monthly cost down immediately to just over £30. The other two charges were a mystery and apparently their systems could not pick up that there were three direct debits going out from the same person from the same bank account. They have eventually offered some compensation for the overcharging.
Another household name - a telecoms company - was charging over £400 a month for her telephone. They told me she was paying for both broadband and BT Sport, neither of which she had. She didn't even have a hub. They told me that they would make no retrospective payments, even though they were clearly charging well over an acceptable rate.
A third company - a very well-know private health company - was charging my mother for two policies at the same time - which is now allowed - one of which was double the rate of the other . It was this one which was erroneous. They agreed to refund the second policy, which amounted to over £5000.
In addition to all of the above, there were a host of other, smaller direct debits leaving her account, which were either obsolete or unnecessary.
Most older people are fiercely independent and do not appreciate the suggestion that they may not be managing their money to the best of their ability. However, unfortunately, as we age, we do not necessarily keep on top of everything as we should and this leads to overcharging. Many companies will not overtly offer to reduce tariffs, seeing the higher rates as a windfall, and even if they do, older people may ignore such mail or calls. So, whilst it's a difficult conversation to have, it's worth discussing. Ask your older relative what they are paying for basic services and utilities and if they don't know, get them to check. Tell them what they should be paying ideally to provide a reference point. If you can, look over the bank statements with them, so that you can get a clear overview.
Companies need to be more proactive and open with their older customers and regularly review their charges. It is not good enough to make older people pay way over the market rate just because they have not had the wherewithal to question the payments. It's common decency to help older people understand what they are entitled to and what it should cost. Ofcom and other governing bodies need to do more to ensure this happens. In the meantime, keep checking. It's worth it.