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Vodafone fined €13,000 at Dublin District Court over customer complaints

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Vodafone has been fined €13,000 for massive delays in transferring landline numbers and unlocking mobile phones for customers.

The Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) prosecuted the broadband and phone service after looking into customer complaints in 2020 and earlier this year.

Vodafone pleaded guilty at Dublin District Court on Thursday to 12 sample counts in two prosecutions brought by the telecom regulator.

It also agreed to pay an additional €20,000 towardin ComReg’s costs.

Shelley Horan BL told Judge Anthony Halpin that the first batch of charges was for delays encountered by new customers who transferred to Vodafone’s landline service but wanted to keep their original numbers.

Counsel told the court the second set of charges related to hold-ups in providing unique handset unlocking codes to customers who needed them to switch to another provider.

The telecom watchdog received numerous complaints.

ComReg billing specialist David Murphy told the court that “porting” or transferring a landline number to a new service provider should take one working day.

The sample charges were a subset taken from a significant number of complaints by frustrated customers.

He said a woman, who had switched to Vodafone in late August 2020, had a panic button that required a landline.

Despite being still billed, she had no service for three months, and she was “isolated” during the covid lockdown.

Another customer complained to ComReg after 25 attempts to get Vodafone to resolve the problem.

After three months, he moved back to his previous service provider but was still billed €500 by Vodafone. However, he got a refund later.

It took another new customer with underlying health conditions two months to have his phone service with his original number working.

He depended on his landline because he lived in an area with a poor mobile signal.

Similar issues arose in the remaining two cases about transferring landline numbers to Vodafone, and one of the complainants suffered business interruption.

Mr Murphy added that these issues syphoned competition by making customers less likely to switch providers.

ComReg compliance manager Miriam Kilraine outlined how a significant number of customers had problems obtaining their mobile phone handset unlocking codes from Vodafone.

There were two sample counts.

She explained that these unique codes were necessary to switch and make their phones work on a new network.

She said the problem heavily disincentivised customers to change service providers. ComReg believed it caused some of them to abandon the process or change their minds.

Vodafone assured customers it would take no more than 20 days as in some cases they needed to contact handset manufacturers to get codes.

On average, it took 45 days, and customers felt “ignored in the process”.

Vodafone had a record of previous offences in four prosecutions by ComReg and five brought by the Data Protection Commissioner.

Defence solicitor Michael Twomey asked the court to note complaints about both types of issues dropped by about 70 per cent in the last year.

He said the company, which had two million customers, had improved its processes, co-operated with the investigation, and contributed to costs.

Judge Halpin described the offences as serious and rejected the defence plea to apply the Probation of Offenders Act.

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London home of singer Boy George is for sale for £17million

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Get me out of here! INSIDE Boy George’s home that includes colourful artwork and designer furniture – and is up for grabs for £17million

  • Spectacular London home of Boy George includes plenty of colourful artwork and designer furniture
  • The semi-detached house features a central staircase in an impressive triple height central hall
  • The stunning six-bedroom property overlooks Hampstead Heath and is on the market for £17million 

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The spectacular London home of Boy George has gone on the market and is up for grabs with a price tag of £17million.

The hitmaker recently appeared in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and will no doubt be pleased to have returned to the luxury of his Hampstead home after appearing on the TV show, sleeping amid snakes and plenty of jungle foliage.

During his time in the jungle, Boy George treated his camp mates to a rendition of his most famous 1980s tune, Karma Chameleon – something he can also do now he is back home as he has a dedicated entertainment room that includes a DJ set up.

The spectacular London home of Boy George has gone on the market and is up for grabs with a price tag of £17million

The spectacular London home of Boy George has gone on the market and is up for grabs with a price tag of £17million 

Boy George’s home forms the central part of a Grade II listed building that was built around 1868 and sits in a quarter of an acre overlooking desirable Hampstead Heath.

It is a semi-detached property, with fellow high profile celebrity Sam Smith having moved in next door in 2015.

The Grade II listed Gothic Villa was built around 1868, and it sits on an a quarter of an acre plot overlooking Hampstead Heath

The Grade II listed Gothic Villa was built around 1868, and it sits on an a quarter of an acre plot overlooking Hampstead Heath

The hitmaker recently appeared in I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and even sang some of his iconic tunes to his fellow camp mates

The hitmaker recently appeared in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and even sang some of his iconic tunes to his fellow camp mates

The impressive property has a grand entrance hallway

Aston Chase estate agents is handling the sale

The impressive Hampstead property for sale has a grand entrance hallway and is being sold via the estate agent Aston Chase

The villa forms the central part of a mansion that boasts an eccentric mix of modern, Gothic and Italianate architecture

The villa forms the central part of a mansion that boasts an eccentric mix of modern, Gothic and Italianate architecture

Inside, the property has plenty of period features, including the ceiling in this seating area which has been painted in a similar tone to the walls

Inside, the property has plenty of period features, including the ceiling in this seating area which has been painted in a similar tone to the walls

Guests visiting the house can be treated to a music session from Boy George in this large entertainment area with its own DJ set up

Guests visiting the house can be treated to a music session from Boy George in this large entertainment area with its own DJ set up 

The house has been extensively refurbished and includes a central staircase in a triple height central hall.

The staircase leads to the main bedroom suite, which overlooks Hampstead Heath and features a bathroom with a giant skylight as the ceiling. 

And there is a landscaped garden at both the front and back of the property, as well as off-street parking for several vehicles.

The refurbishment and extension of the home took three years

The house features a central staircase in a triple height central hall

The refurbishment and extension of the home took three years and features a central staircase in a triple height central hall

The luxury property has six bedrooms, including this one with plenty of interesting artwork

The luxury property has six bedrooms, including this one with plenty of interesting artwork 

As well as six bedrooms, the house also boasts a significant number of bathrooms - five in total - including this modern one

As well as six bedrooms, the house also boasts a significant number of bathrooms – five in total – including this modern one

Boy George is known for his sartorial style and several of his hats are on display in this living room, along with photos of iconic singer David Bowie

Boy George is known for his sartorial style and several of his hats are on display in this living room, along with photos of iconic singer David Bowie

The colourful artwork continues in this large bathroom which also boasts a roll top bath and some exposed brickwork

The colourful artwork continues in this large bathroom which also boasts a roll top bath and some exposed brickwork

The area provides good access to public transport via Hampstead Underground station, which is on the Northern Line, and Hampstead Heath Overground.

The six-bedroom property is being sold for £17million and Aston Chase estate agents is handling the sale.

The average price of a property sold in Hampstead in the last 12 months is £1,806,748. It compares to £327,693 for the country as a whole, according to property website Zoopla.

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Age of first-time buyer edges towards 40-years old amid cost of living crisis says First Direct

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Leap for the property ladder! Average age of a first-time buyer reaches 37 amid cost of living crisis – as new homeowners edge ever closer to 40

  • Average buyer predicts they will be 37 years old when they buy their first home
  • The average age of a first-time buyer is up from 32 years old two years ago
  • Study by First Direct says the cost of living and high mortgage rates are to blame

The average age of a first-time buyer is edging ever closer to 40 years old, new data suggests.

The average prospective buyer predicts they will be 37 years old by the time they finally step on the property ladder, up from 32 years old two years ago.

The study from First Direct is based on responses from 1,500 homebuyers and 500 prospective buyers.

The average first-time buyer predicts that they will be 37-years old when they buy a property

The average first-time buyer predicts that they will be 37-years old when they buy a property 

The prospect of getting on the property ladder has become further out of reach for many first-time buyers amid the cost of living crisis.

Inflation means saving for a deposit can be more difficult, along with securing a mortgage.

The data revealed that nearly eight in ten – 77 per cent – of prospective home buyers are concerned about their ability to get on the property ladder.

And the majority of prospective buyers – at 86 per cent – identified the cost-of-living crisis as a notable obstacle to getting on the ladder, with not being able to save as much for a deposit cited – at 59 per cent – as a major reason for any delays to their plans.

The study went on to find that the average first-time buyer will take 7.5 years to save for a deposit. It compares to just five years for those existing homeowners who were surveyed.

When it comes to funding this costly purchase, a total of 28 per cent of people who are waiting to get on the ladder believe the only way they’ll be able to secure a home is through an inheritance – which they are yet to receive.

Most first-time buyers – at 71 per cent – however, intend to use their savings, and four in ten – at 35 per cent – are planning to use Government programmes such as the Help to Buy and shared ownership schemes.

First-time buyers are sceptical about their ability to buy a house on their own as buying with a partner can help secure a mortgage

First-time buyers are sceptical about their ability to buy a house on their own as buying with a partner can help secure a mortgage

Pooling assets with a partner, close relative, or friend can be an alternative way to secure the cash needed for a mortgage.

However, more than half – at 56 per cent – of those who currently own a property did so without the assistance of a partner or sibling.

By contrast, first-time buyers are sceptical about their ability to buy a house on their own, with only 35 per cent citing this as a financial possibility, implying that a significant majority are unable to shoulder the financial burden alone.

Chris Pitt, of First Direct, said: ‘Getting on the property ladder is a distant dream for many today.

‘The rise in house prices relative to incomes is well documented, as is the difficulty in saving for a deposit while at the same time paying rent. What this study shows is the time it takes to save and realise the dream of home ownership – it is a long time and getting longer. The state of the economy will only make this situation worse.’

Mortgage approvals for house purchases fell by more than 10 per cent to 59,000 in October, suggesting homebuying appetite is dissipating amid rising mortgage rates

Mortgage approvals for house purchases fell by more than 10 per cent to 59,000 in October, suggesting homebuying appetite is dissipating amid rising mortgage rates

It comes after it was revealed that Britons are increasingly putting their home buying or moving plans on hold and stashing their cash in fixed term savings as the cost of living crisis bites.

Net mortgage borrowing by individuals fell from £5.9billion in September to £4billion in October, according to the latest figures from the Bank of England.

Mortgage approvals for house purchases also fell by more than 10 per cent to 59,000 in October, down from 66,000 in September, suggesting homebuying appetite is dissipating amid rising mortgage rates.

Mark Harris, of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: ’The deposit tends to be the biggest barrier to getting on the housing ladder so it is little surprise that the average age of a first-time buyer is in their late thirties. With wage growth failing to keep up with property prices, it can be extremely difficult to save up enough to get on the housing ladder, particularly if you have to pay rent in the meantime as this continues to rise too.

’Many first-time buyers rely on parents and even grandparents for financial assistance in getting on the housing ladder. Lenders have cottoned onto the demand for products which help first-time buyers, with the Nationwide Helping Hand scheme offering higher loan-to-income multiples, while Barclays SpringBoard, Family Building Society Family Offset and Generation Home are all worth a look. There is also the Government-supported Mortgage Guarantee Scheme, or joint borrower sole proprietor mortgages, which are increasingly popular.’

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Viewers all say the same thing about King Charles’ £45m Grand Designs restoration of stately home

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Viewers of A Royal Grand Design, which followed the King’s multi-million pound restoration of a stately home in Ayrshire have joked it is just like Channel 4‘s Grand Designs – but without the budget constraints.

The hour-long programme, which took over a decade to produce, told the story of Charles’s ambitious plan to restore the Dumfries House, a 2,000-acre property in which faced a long descent into decrepitude.

It charted how the King (then the Prince of Wales) led a consortium which paid £45 million for the dilapidated estate in 2007 in a bid to save it from ruin and help regenerate the deprived local community.

While watching the programme on ITV this evening, viewers joked the project would probably go to plan much more closely than homeowners on Grand Designs, who often face setbacks and money issues as they aim to build their dream homes.

King Charles (pictured) featured in an hour-long special episode of Grand Designs tonight, in which he admits he enjoys the 'most difficult challenges'

King Charles (pictured) featured in an hour-long special episode of Grand Designs tonight, in which he admits he enjoys the ‘most difficult challenges’

One viewer said: ‘Doubt [Grand Designs host] Kevin McCloud is going to tip up & they’ve run out of money on this one…’

Another joked: ‘The naughtily titled A Royal Grand Design on ITV at 9pm is no assemblage of palte glass or all-timber kit from Germany, but the saving of Dumfries house.’ 

In the programme, Charles showed Her late Majesty, who died on September 8 aged 96, the walled garden in the Scottish estate at its opening in 2014, while he showcased the completed outdoor centre to then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2013. 

Charles described the vast project as an ‘appalling risk’ – but he said it was worth it to help the local community, who suffered after the loss of the mining industry.

As well as restoring the main house, the initiative included bringing the walled garden, one of Europe’s largest, back to life, and adding a horticultural and education centre, a cookery school, textiles centre, STEM unit, and adventure playground, creating jobs in the process.

‘I wanted to try and make a difference to the local area. It had many of the worst indices of unemployment and ill health and everything else,’ Charles said.

‘I’m one of those people who rather likes taking on the most difficult challenges. I felt it was worth taking this appalling risk and taking out such a big loan.’

Royal special: During the episode, Charles is seen speaking to apprentices at Dumfries House in Scotland (pictured)

Royal special: During the episode, Charles is seen speaking to apprentices at Dumfries House in Scotland (pictured)

A Royal Grand Design, which was more than a decade in the making, tells the story of Charles’s ambitious plan to restore the 18th-century stately home Dumfries House (pictured) in Ayrshire

He added: ‘This area has been so battered and deprived, particularly since the loss of the mining industry and everything.’

The then-prince – filmed before he became monarch – also outlined his hopes of a similar project elsewhere in the UK in future, saying he was inspired to help people and their families.

‘That’s my problem, I’m frightfully over ambitious. I long to use this model in other parts of the country where I know it can make a big impact on people’s lives and livelihoods and their whole future and their families’ futures, which is what matters to me,’ Charles said.

‘I hope there’ll be another project fairly soon somewhere, which could be quite large, and hopefully there will be other opportunities. We’ll see. I haven’t given up yet… Watch this space, as they say.’

Charles acceded to the throne following the death of the late Queen in September, and the broadcast is dedicated to the memory of Elizabeth II.

During the programme, the King spoke of his passion for the £45 million project which took a decade to complete

During the programme, the King spoke of his passion for the £45 million project which took a decade to complete

The royal, pictured here visiting the site while the Walled Garden was being built, led a consortium that paid £45million for the property

The royal, pictured here visiting the site while the Walled Garden was being built, led a consortium that paid £45million for the property

Today the 18th century stately home houses stunning walled gardens and an adventure centre, as well as a 22 bedroom B&B

Today the 18th century stately home houses stunning walled gardens and an adventure centre, as well as a 22 bedroom B&B

Footage includes Charles showing his mother around the grounds when she opened the walled garden in 2014.

Narrated by the actor Richard E Grant, the documentary is said to capture the ‘real man behind the crown’.

Charles was seen greeting a local and his dog, waving at visitors and trudging around the site in wet and windy weather.

He expresses his fear the 2,000-acre estate, 27 miles south of Glasgow, would have been turned into a golf club.

‘I knew if we hadn’t stepped in and saved it, somebody would have bought it and said they had a great idea, you know for golf courses and things and it would never have worked, so, it would have joined the list of yet more derelict country houses,’ he said.

Priceless Chippendale furniture and other antique treasures, saved from being sold, were kept in the house and restored.

Since buying it 14 years ago, the monarch has overseen a project that has brought one of the biggest walled gardens in Europe back to life

Since buying it 14 years ago, the monarch has overseen a project that has brought one of the biggest walled gardens in Europe back to life

Viewers took to Twitter to joke about the programme's similarities to Channel 4's Grand Designs - but a more successful version

Viewers took to Twitter to joke about the programme’s similarities to Channel 4’s Grand Designs – but a more successful version

Charles was also seen sharing his concern over the 300-year-old ‘Old Sycamore’ tree in the garden when it appeared to be dying.

‘I can’t bear it because it was such a wonderful thing,’ he said. But the tree survived and continued to grow, with a relieved Charles branding the change ‘remarkable’.  

The then-Prince told the programme: ‘I knew if we hadn’t stepped in and saved [the house], somebody would have bought it and said they had a great idea, you know for golf courses and things and it would never have worked, so, it would have joined the list of yet more derelict country houses.

‘The buildings we’ve built, a lot of them have been done by students, live build, learning. 

‘Sustainability, all of that agenda is critical here because there’s a lot of engineering skills, for instance, we are trying to help develop, working on the STEM educational side and the vocational side in order to make this area as a great example of how you can create new businesses and jobs in the green economy.’

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