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Extra fees hit elderly and low-income families

A charity has called for the government to step in to help people hit hardest by extra fees on bill payments.National money education charity Credit Action says government intervention is urgently needed particularly by low-income families and the elderly.The calls come as companies such as BT and Virgin Media, start to charge extra fees for those who pay their bills in cash in a drive to make customers set up direct debit accounts.Chris Tapp, spokesperson of Credit Action, said that while the business argument for charging administration fees was understandable, it was unfair that those already struggling to make ends meet should be charged extra for paying bills with cash."The obvious negative implication is the very people who will be hit hardest by this will firstly be the people who are financially excluded as they don't have a bank account because they’re not very high income," he explained. "The elderly as well, need to be taken into account. They want to be able to go into the post office to pay in cash, and the idea of setting up direct debits is firstly complicated and secondly, makes them slightly nervous as it feels like they've lost control of it a little bit."If the companies themselves won't take the financial hit by allowing people to pay by cash without paying any extra charge, then I think there is a real case for saying the government should step in," he added.The comments came as Save The Children and the Family Welfare Association published a report, entitled The Poverty Premium: How poor households pay more for essential goods and services, as part of their End Child Poverty campaign."It is a matter of gross injustice that the families who are struggling most to get by from week to week are being forced to pay more for essential things like heating their homes," Colette Marshall, UK director of Save the Children, said in an interview with the Guardian.Save the Children claims the poorest families in the UK pay a 'poverty premium' of around £1,000 for basic necessities like gas, electricity and banking.

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