PayPal offers Irish customers new way to share bills or fundraise together

PayPal Holdings, the global online payments company, is extending Money Pools – its online community savings product – to Irish consumers.

Money Pools allows users to set a group fundraising goal and then share that goal with a group.

“We created Money Pools because we felt that there was a need for this type of service, and certainly from an Irish perspective, our research shows that there is high demand,” said Louise Phelan, vice-president of PayPal in Continental Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

“Everyone knows what it’s like to be left short after buying a birthday present on behalf of a group of friends or after settling a bar tab for your colleagues.

“You end up wasting time chasing up everyone’s share of the bill and even then, you might not be repaid in full.”

Ms Phelan said research conducted by PayPal shows that a large majority (86pc) of consumers support the concept of a ‘group purchase,’ but almost one-third (32pc) find it difficult to get everyone involved to pay their fair share.

With alternative banking, and bill splitting, options such as Revolut on the market, Ms Phelan said that PayPal monitors its competitors closely and “make sure that we continue to innovate our products.

“Fintech is such a dynamic and fast-growing industry, rife with opportunity, so new market entrants and innovation are both natural and welcome. PayPal has always had competition, that’s nothing new,” she said.

Read more: ‘Do you have that fiver for me?’ – PayPal gets personal in new push

“[As regards Money Pools] there really is no other solution out there that tackles group purchases this way, and with over a million PayPal customers in Ireland, we’re best positioned to drive behaviour change amongst consumers.”

PayPal scrapped fees for euro transfers last year, having previously charged a fee of 3.4pc plus 35c on euro transfers.

There are no fees charged for chipping in euros to Money Pools, but fees may apply if a currency conversion is involved.

“Our focus is on solving real problems for Irish consumers, rather than launching new features just for innovation’s sake,” said Ms Phelan.

PayPal’s research shows that work colleagues are amongst the worst culprits for parting with their hard earned cents; workplace relationships can get tense as 21pc of kitty leaders report their co-workers are the slowest to cough up.

Almost two thirds (64pc) of respondents in the PayPal survey said they would rather use money-sharing apps to pay collectively and settle a kitty.

Free to set up, PayPal users can create their Money Pool via the company’s app or website, and invite friends, family or colleagues to chip into the digital kitty by sharing a short URL on social media, in messenger apps or by email.

The decision to ‘name and shame’ is also at the pool’s owner’s discretion as contributions can be made either private or public.

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Some insurance products ‘may no longer be available to Irish consumers in no-deal Brexit’ – Central Bank

Some insurance products may no longer be available to Irish consumers if there is a no-deal Brexit, the Central Bank has warned.

Deputy Governor Ed Sibley said this morning that the supply of “niche” products may reduce or end altogether.

That’s because policies underwritten from the UK or Gibraltar will face more regulatory friction after a hard Brexit.

Though the Bank does not comment on individual products, products with smaller markets like gadget insurance or pet insurance would be more likely to be affected.

Certain existing policies underwritten from those jurisdictions will be able to continue, if legislation being drafted comes into force. But those policies can’t be renewed under the legislation.

Mr Sibley said the Irish financial system should be able to withstand even a hard Brexit.

“I am satisfied that from a financial stability perspective that the most material and immediate risks are now manageable.

“This is not to say that a hard Brexit will not be bumpy for the economy, and for the financial system.

“Indeed, some level of market disruption would be inevitable, but the system as a whole should be resilient enough to withstand these bumps.”

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Employers shy away from people who have had short-term jobs

Two thirds of employers have opted not to interview someone who has had short-term jobs in the past.

This is according to research from global job site Indeed.

In seeking to define “job hopping”, on average employers consider six months to be a short-tenure to spend in a job, and employees consider 11 months a short period of time.

In addition, in the minds of most employers, a period having four short tenure jobs on their CV would qualify a candidate as a job hopper, while 44pc feel that three such roles would.

Job hopping is more of a concern in smaller companies with less than 10 employees, with one in four such employers admitting to not interviewing a candidate for that reason.

In contrast, for companies with more than 500 employees, fewer than one in seven employers said they would not interview a candidate that they felt was job hopping.

From an employee perspective, only 29pc felt job hopping would ultimately hurt their career, while 57pc felt it wouldn’t really have any impact.

Meanwhile a small proportion of employees, (14pc), felt that moving among various short tenure jobs was a positive for their career, presenting a chance to learn new skills, demonstrate their adaptability, boost their CV, and make connections to further their career.

When asked what was an acceptable amount of time to stay in a job in order to contribute, gain experience and progress your career, employers and employees shared more common ground, with employers on average agreeing 16 months and employees 19-20 months.

On average employers feel it’s acceptable for a candidate to change jobs three times in a five year period.

When asked their reasons for leaving roles after a short period of time 40pc of employees cited an unhappy workplace as the main reason, while the second most popular reason for leaving a role prematurely was the offer of a better role with another company.

“There remains a perception that moving from job to job too frequently looks bad on a CV, and this is evident in our research among employers,” Chris McDonald, Indeed’s vice president of EMEA, said.

“Times are changing however. It’s no longer uncommon to change jobs, companies and even industries several times over the course of our working lives, and when you combine this with a still-tightening labour market, employees have considerable scope to pick and choose the roles they want, and employers will need to overlook their concerns about job hopping.”

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Capital projects affected by rising costs and labour shortages

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has signalled possible changes to the start dates of major capital projects because of rising costs and labour shortages.

At the Budget Oversight Committee, he said a much faster than expected rise in the number of large scale capital projects by the private sector was causing, leading to competition for skilled construction workers.

“As we move through 2019 this will have to be a factor in capital project decisions we make in 2019 and 2020”, Mr Donohoe said.

He singled out a shortage of electrical engineers in particular, saying “the electrical engineers we need to build primary care centres are also in demand for data centre projects in the private sector”.

He also said a faster than expected roll out of large scale capital projects across the European Union was further squeezing the number of available skilled contractors, which in turn was putting upward pressure on costs.

“One issue we are reflecting on now is whether we need to move the decision point for projects above a certain level to later in the decision process, because we are seeing higher tender prices than expected, and that is having an impact on public budget.”

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is undertaking a review of Public Expenditure Guidelines – the internal rules governing how and when money is spent on capital projects.

This could have implications for the start of large capital projects such as the Dublin Metro.

Mr Donohoe said: “We have a number of highly skilled, complex projects we have to deliver and we are seeing within the private sector a growing appetite for delivering complex projects.

“We are not just competing with the Irish private sector for engineers but with the private sector across Europe. The people we need to deliver projects here are looking at attractive projects across Europe and private projects here”.

“Across Europe we are going to see big projects responding back to the challenge of climate change, and the people needed to deliver them are the same ones we need to deliver projects here, and that is happening at a much faster pace than we saw in 2018.”

The remarks come after blistering criticism by TDs of the cost overruns in the construction of the National Children’s Hospital.

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Pound steady after May’s Brexit deal voted down

The pound steadied early this morning but remained on the backfoot following a volatile overnight session after British politicians defeated Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit divorce deal by a crushing margin.

The British parliament yesterday voted 432-202 against May’s deal, the worst parliamentary defeat for a government in recent British history.

Investors’ short-term focus is now on a confidence vote on May’s government later today.

Sterling had sunk more than 1% against the dollar at one stage yesterday but rallied back after the parliamentary vote, with the sizable defeat for May seen forcing Britain to pursue different options.

However, there are also worries the outcome might trigger political upheaval that could lead to a disorderly exit from the European Union.

The pound traded a shade lower at $1.2846 this morning, caught in a narrow range after gyrating between a low of $1.2670 and a high of $1.2917 during the previous session.

Shortly after 6.15pm the euro was trading at £0.8868 – down slightly on the day against the pound.

“While the margin of May’s loss was a surprise, the defeat itself was something the market had been pricing in for a long time and it appears that participants covered shorts in the pound after the vote,” Yukio Ishizuki, a senior currency strategist at Daiwa Securities, said.

“The market is now factoring in the March Brexit deadline being extended. In the longer run it may boil down to two scenarios – a no-deal Brexit or no Brexit at all,” the strategist said.

The date set in law for Brexit is 29 March, but with the clock ticking down quickly an extension of the deadline now appears more likely.

Meanwhile, sterling extended its gains against the euro this morning to its highest level since November.

Expectations that the scale of yesterday’s defeat might force lawmakers to pursue other options has lent some support to the currency although a high degree of uncertainty remains.

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Taiwan objects to Britain’s trade plans post-Brexit

Taiwan objects to Britain’s proposed rules for managing its trade in services after it leaves the European Union and has requested negotiations at the World Trade Organization, according to a document seen by Reuters today.

The EU has spoken for Britain on trade matters ever since the WTO was founded in 1995. As part of the Brexit divorce, Britain needs its own WTO membership texts, known as schedules, to set out how it will treat its trading partners in goods and services.

Last month, Britain formally submitted its proposed new services schedule to the WTO. Trade Minister Liam Fox said the process would replicate existing arrangements as far as possible and was “only a technical exercise”.

In a document circulated to other WTO members today,Taiwan raised objections, saying the new text made more than purely technical changes.

Taipei looked forward to “entering into consultations expeditiously with the United Kingdom in order to reach a satisfactory resolution to this matter”.

It cited eight sections where it had objections, mainly clauses that were no longer relevant or necessary.

But in financial services and aircraft leasing and rental, Taiwan said the new schedule would leave it with less market access than it had previously.

“Current European Union commitments require European Union Member States to allow airlines to lease aircraft registered anywhere in the European Union. However, the United Kingdom has changed this obligation to require United Kingdom airlines to lease aircraft registered in the United Kingdom,” it said.

“This appears to reduce market access, as the scope of where aircraft may be registered has been reduced. The United Kingdom should delete this limitation.”

Similarly, in financial services, there were several areas where the EU schedule included a requirement for establishment in the EU, Taiwan said.

“The United Kingdom changed ‘EU’ to ‘UK’ for these entries in its draft schedule. This would appear to reduce market access, as it reduces the geographical scope of establishment.”

If Taiwan and potentially other WTO members press Britain for improvements to the text, Fox may need to offer them compensation by opening up trade in other areas, although any such liberalisation would apply across the WTO.

Britain is facing similar objections to its goods schedule, with widespread dissatisfaction among agricultural suppliers.

Failing to reach rapid agreement may be a bureaucratic headache and add to criticism of the Brexit process, but it will not affect the Brexit timetable; many WTO members trade without finalised schedules, on the understanding that they are trying in good faith to reach an agreement in the meantime.

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Higher costs for air fares and restaurant prices sees inflation rate rise

Higher costs for air fares and rising restaurant prices saw the inflation rate move up slightly.

The annual inflation rate crept up to 0.7pc in December compared with the same month in the previous year.

The annual rise was 0.6pc in November.

The slight rise in the inflation rate was despite falls in petrol and diesel prices, and hotel accommodation costs, according to the Central Statistics Office.

Prices were unchanged in the month, compared with a monthly decline of 0.5pc in November.

In the last year consumers have been hit by higher rents and mortgage interest repayments, in addition to an increase in the price of electricity, home heating oil and gas.

Restaurants and hotel prices increased primarily due to higher prices for alcoholic drinks and food consumed in licensed premises, restaurants and cafes.

These rises came ahead of the move to restore the valued added tax (VAT) rate for the hospitality sector to 13.5pc.

The tax for the sector was cut to 9pc to stimulate the tourism industry in 2012, but was restored from January 1 as part of Budget 2019.

The cost of cigarettes rose in December, the CSO said. The Budget saw the excise duty on cigarettes rise again.

Motor insurance prices fell by 7pc, the statisticians said. This is despite many people saying the cost of their motor cover continues to rise.

But home insurance premium rates rose by 3.5pc, with fuel prices down by almost 6pc in the year.

Potatoes prices rose by 14.6pc, as the dry summer caused the yields of the crop to plummet.

Food and non-alcoholic beverages prices fell due to lower prices across a range of products such as meat, bread and cereals, sugar, jam, honey, chocolate and confectionery and fruit.

Rental costs were up by 6.2pc,as the supply shortage continues to put tenants at a disadvantage when trying to negotiate leases.

Mortgage interest costs rose by 1.3pc, despite a number of lenders cutting their fixed rates. Existing mortgage holders may not be doing enough to seek out better deals, financial experts said.

Electricity prices rose in December as a raft of suppliers put up their tariffs. And home heating oil costs were up 7.2pc in December compared with a year ago. However, the is a lower rate of increase than previously, as heating oil prices were rising at a rate of 30pc at one stage last year.

Looked at over longer period, prices have gone up for households in a number of areas.

Between last year and 2014 education costs are up almost 12pc.

What the CSO classifies as housing, water, and energy costs are up 8.5pc over the same period.

Prices of restaurants and hotels, alcohol and cigarettes are also up.

The largest decreases were for furnishings, household equipment and routine household maintenance, clothing and footwear and food

The overall increase in the consumer price index over this period was 0.6pc.

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Petrol prices plunge but the taxman takes 64pc

Car fuel prices have dropped to their lowest level in almost 18 months, according to an AA Ireland survey.

The drop is due to a global fall in the cost of crude oil as a result of greater supply.

AA said the fall was no thanks to the State which takes 64pc of the cost of a litre of petrol in taxes. It said pump prices were “excessively taxed”.

A litre of petrol is now 132.9c countrywide, the lowest price it has been since August 2017.

Diesel costs an average of 127.9c per litre, the lowest price recorded by the AA since April of last year.

Fuel prices trended downwards for the second successive month, after the previous year was largely dominated by high fuel costs.

AA Ireland director of consumer affairs Conor Faughnan said many drivers had become resigned to what he called unrelenting price rises last year.


“So it is certainly reassuring for motorists to see prices trending in the opposite direction to start the new year.

“However, it’s important to remember that we are not seeing this drop as the result of an act of kindness from Government or an easing of taxes, but as a result of international factors which are always vulnerable to reversing in the opposite direction.”

Mr Faughnan said “excessive tax placed on both petrol and diesel means motorists are still paying more than they should be for their fuel”.

The AA estimates that 64.42pc of the cost of each litre of petrol and 57.71pc sold in Ireland is made up of various taxes.

Crude oil prices were as high as $85 (€74) last year, but have come down as to as low as $55 (€48) this year.

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Charlie Weston: ‘Escape the banking ‘confusopoly’ and get yourself a better mortgage rate this year’

Central Bank changes that came into effect on mortgages at the start of the year represent a missed opportunity to tackle some of the worst excesses of our dysfunctional home-loans market. Now lenders will have to tell customers if they can make savings on their mortgages. Lenders will also have to let variable-rate mortgage customers know every year whether or not they can move to a cheaper interest rate.

The changes to the Consumer Protection Code will mean consumers on a variable rate will have to be told every year by their lender if they could get a cheaper interest rate due to a change in their loan-to-value ratio.

This comes in the context of a situation where banks have long been accused of fleecing mortgage holders – Ireland has the highest interest rates in the eurozone.

The average new business mortgage rate in this country is 3.06pc. That compares with an average in the eurozone of 1.77pc. On a €200,000 mortgage, an Irish borrower is repaying €510 a month. The average repayment across the Eurozone works out at €295, a difference of €215 a month.

Variable and fixed-rate mortgages in this country are excessively expensive. However, huge numbers of mortgage holders could get a better deal without even switching lender.

These include large numbers of Bank of Ireland customers who are paying 4.5pc on variable rates. These homeowners could cut their rate to 3pc by fixing for one year. That would be a saving of €250 a month on a €200,000 mortgage, according to calculations by consumer advocate Brendan Burgess.

Those who go the extra mile and switch lender could do even better. Moving to Ulster Bank could mean benefiting from its two-year rate of 2.3pc. That would mean a monthly saving of €350 on a €200,000 mortgage.

This begs the question as to why there is so little switching to cheaper lenders, or even cheaper products, with the same lender.

It is because most people find mortgages difficult to understand. They don’t get finance and percentages, and interest rates seem to be a particular problem.

Burgess reckons Irish banks operate a ‘confusopoly’ – they make it very hard for customers to understand the best deals.

They require customers to be proactive.

The Central Bank should have gone much further when altering its Consumer Protection Code. It should have forced banks to stop offering cash-back deals.

If they were banned from giving cash back, they would have to reduce their rates to match the 2.3pc offered by Ulster Bank.

That alone would have been a huge statement of intent. What a pity the Central Bank bottled it.

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Lower property tax for homes of rich: minister

A Government Minister wants lower property tax rates for those in affluent areas.

The Local Property Tax (LPT) was based on valuations of house prices after the economic slump.

Those valuations expire later this year and the property market recovery could leave families facing €500 tax hikes.

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan, a rising star within Fine Gael, wants lower rates of property tax in affluent areas like her own constituency in south Dublin when the LPT review is completed by the Government.

“I would like to see a lower rate in areas with the highest house prices. Residents of south Dublin, for example, should be entitled to reliefs as they could be most affected,” she said.

The minister was responding to last week’s Irish Independent analysis that showed some homeowners could face tax hikes of up to €500 under new property tax rates.

But Ms Madigan has been accused of showing “phenomenal bias to wealthy people”with her proposal, which will prove divisive.

Property prices around Ms Madigan’s constituency office in Churchtown, Dublin 14, have soared in value over the past five years suggesting a potential average increase of about €400 per year.

The average price of a house in Churchtown now stands at €632,000, up from €336,000 in 2013.

The LPT rate in this area could rise to €956, up from €585 in 2013.

Nationally, the average price of a home reached €256,000 in 2018 – up from under €150,000 in 2013. That suggests taxes could go from a national average of €225 to €495.

David Hall, of the Mortgage Holders Organisation, told the Irish Independent that Ms Madigan was “showing phenomenal bias towards wealthy people”.

“If there’s a pound-for-pound increase, it’s her constituents that are going to be hit hardest and it sounds like she thinks they should be exempted or should be getting some special exemption,” Mr Hall said.

“The natural line is that if people are living in more expensive houses and are naturally wealthy, the reason it’s attached to property is that all property is a different value.

“There’s no point in having it attached to property and then just pick a figure and bill everyone the same. It defeats the whole point.

“It’s politics not budgeting. General acceptance is that people in more expensive houses have more money. It’s not always the case, but it is in the vast majority of cases and she seems to be trying to favour those well off people.”

Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Darragh O’Brien said it doesn’t want any increases in property tax and said the rate needs to decrease nationally.

“It’s obvious that one area, south Dublin, can’t have a different multiplier, a different rate than the rest of the country, that’s a ridiculous suggestion,” he said.

He added that the Government needs to publish the findings of the review.

A spokesperson for the minister said Ms Madigan believed in an alternative way of calculating the property tax because areas such as her constituency will be disproportionately affected by re-calculated figures, due to the significant rises in house prices since rates were first estimated in 2013.

The spokesperson said increases could hit older people on fixed incomes and people whose incomes have not risen in proportion to house prices.

People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett said if Ms Madigan “is concerned about it she should oppose it root and branch”‘. He said her comments were made for electoral purposes.

The Government has already said the system will be changed but they have only given a general assurance that any increases will be “modest”. Officials have said a review begun last year will be published later this year.

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