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Scots feel cash squeeze as bill worries mount about

MORE than one in three households are feeling financially squeezed, while the east end of Glasgow is the most financially deprived area in the country.

Slightly less than a quarter of households say they are living comfortably on their incomes, with energy (80 per cent), fuel (75 per cent) and food (71 per cent) prices the top consumer worries, says a new research from the consumer group Which?.

Around four in 10 consumers say they are concerned about household debt and more than half (53 per cent) are worried about their level of savings.

The top four of the ten most financially distressed constituencies were all in Glasgow, with Glasgow East topping the list, followed by Glasgow South West, Glasgow North East and Glasgow North West.

Head of Which? public affairs for Scotland, Gordon MacRae, said: "These findings pose a real challenge to businesses to ensure they are giving people value for money.

"We want to see renewed efforts to restore consumer confidence and ensure consumers' interests are put first. A big part of this must be action to inject more competition into essential markets such as energy and banking."

The report says that 36 per cent of Scottish households are experiencing financial distress, equating to over 800,000 households.

But despite the squeeze, six in ten (59 per cent) of Scottish consumers say they are satisfied with their standard of living, with seven in 10 (69 per cent) saying they will put more or the same amount of money away in savings in the coming year.

But, worryingly, three in 10 (31 per cent) people who are not retired are not contributing to a pension and have no plans to do so in the next year, while nearly two thirds (64 per cent) say they don't know how much they will need to save to live comfortably in retirement.

Consumers also reported a lack of trust in the big banks oand power companies. Fewer than one in five (17 per cent) Scottish consumers trust providers of long term financial products, like pensions and insurance, to act in their best interest and a similar percentage (18 per cent) say the same of gas and electricity suppliers. This compares to 50 per cent who trust Scotland's water provider and 52 per cent who trust companies in the food and groceries industry.

Mr MacRae added: "It is good that many people in Scotland are feeling confident about their standard of living but the cost of essentials remains high and there remains levels of worry about household debt and savings. It is also clear that businesses, particularly in banking and energy, have more to do to win back consumers' trust.

"In the gas and electricity sectors the three biggest firms have a stranglehold on the market with little incentive to cut costs or keep their customers happy.

"Similarly, we need to see more challenger banks entering the market offering real choice to force the big players to compete for customers on quality, products and service."

Which? surveyed people between December 2013 and February 2014 and asked about their financial experiences.

The study looked at five levels of financial distress, with greater weight attributed to the more severe levels of distress such as defaulting on payments and using unauthorised overdrafts or payday loans.

Other factors included borrowing from friends or family using credit or authorised overdrafts and cutting back and using savings to cover spending.

Contextual targeting label: 
Finance

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