JEFF PRESTRIDGE: It is time for these murky continuous payment traps to be regulated 

At parties, gatherings of family and friends, or even on occasional visits to various doctors or consultants, I am often used as a sounding board for people’s latest financial traumas.

Usually, it is a beef someone has with an energy supplier (an unexplained hike in a direct debit payment); an insurer (an alarming premium increase); or a friend bemoaning the fact their bank will no longer automatically send them a new chequebook when their old one runs out (NatWest). 

I listen attentively, take notes when necessary, and some of the tales eventually end up in these pages – my mother’s experience with British Gas and its wish to jack up her HomeCover premiums being a case in point. 

Costly: Many of my friends, looking for later life love or companionship on dating websites, have been caught out by these nasty, vicious financial agreements

Of course, continuous payment authorities are not the exclusive domain of dating website operators. 

As we report, their financially intrusive tentacles have twisted their way into many aspects of our lives, from paying for gym memberships through to magazine subscriptions.

We passionately believe it is high time the regulators probed into the murky world of continuous payment authorities. 

It is why we have today launched a campaign to stop this sneaky cash grab. We are demanding greater consumer protection so that people are informed of their right to cancel ahead of any automatic renewal date – instead of being blindfolded as they are now.

We also argue that these payments should be better described on bank or card statements, preferably with the renewal date given. 

This would act as a reminder to anyone caught up in the fishing net of continuous payment authorities that they can escape by cancelling their subscription so it does not auto-renew.

If you have a view on this controversial payment mechanism – akin to legal pick- pocketing – we would love to hear it. Email: [email protected]

Stay invested and think long term 

When stock markets are heading south or going nowhere, I am often asked what investors should be doing. My urologist was all such questions last week as he carried out my latest annual check-up.

My response was to quote some numbers given to me that very same morning by JP Morgan. 

Over the last 20 years, long-term investors have enjoyed average annual returns from the stock market (FTSE All Share) of 5.1 per cent. 

But if they had missed the market’s best ten or 30 days, those annual returns fall to 1.7 per cent and minus 2.1 per cent respectively.

As I told the eminent Chris Ogden, you can’t second guess the market. The best strategy is to stay invested and think long term.