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The only 4 countries where the pound has RISEN in the past year revealed

It’s been a bad year for foreign holidays, after uncertainty around the UK’s fate outside the European Union meant the pound has crashed in value. That makes the price of everything from hotels to pizza, ice cream and beers more expensive to buy. But there’s been a sliver of light – with the latest research showing that in four places you’d actually be better off going on holiday now than at the same time last year. Figures from travel money specialist No1 Currency show holidaymakers heading to Egypt, Mexico, Argentina and Venezuela will get more for their money now than in 2015. The places where the pound has risen against the local currency Source: No.1 Currency, Dec 1 price 2015 vs Dec 1 prices 2016. Research looked at 50 most-common currencies Read More The cheapest month to book your 2017 holiday revealed And where it’s tanked Of course, not everyone can afford to jet off half way around the world to Argentina, Mexico and Venezuela – while concerns around terrorism have put holidaymakers off Egypt. Sadly, that means most people’s 2017 getaways will cost them more. “Sterling began 2016 on a roll but has struggled badly since June’s EU referendum ," said Simon Phillips from No.1 Currency. "Despite recovering a little in recent months, the pound is still well down against many of the most popular foreign currencies." Here are some of the worst performers: How much the pound has fallen against the local currency Source: No.1 Currency, Dec 1 price 2015 vs Dec 1 prices 2016. Research looked at 50 most-common currencies Read More Bargain expert shares insider secrets to finding cheapest plane fares every holidaymaker should know How to get a better deal wherever you travel Of course, exchange rates aren’t necessarily the most important thing when planning a trip. The good news is that, while you might not be able to move the international currency markets, you can get a better deal on the pounds you exchange. Here are FairFX’s tips on getting the best exchange rate you can: Track currency: Set up a currency tracker which will alert you to good rates. Lock-in rates: If you know you’re travelling later this year, plan ahead. Pre-load a prepaid currency card to lock in rates and protect yourself from any potential further decline. If you’re happy with the current rate on offer, buy your currency now to guarantee that rate for your future holiday. Buy wisely: Don’t leave changing your travel money until the last minute. Exchange rates at airports can be over 10% more expensive meaning you could lose £100 of cash for every £1,000 you change. Stay alert: Once you’re abroad, beware of the double exchange rate dupe. If you let the seller in a shop or restaurant covert the price back into pounds, they will choose their own exchange rate and you’re more likely to be on the less favourable end of the dea Cards: Debit and credit cards are good backups but beware of ATM and transaction fees as well as what exchange rate you’ll be forced to use. Instead, use a specialist currency card or a card designed for overseas spending Always use local currency: If you have the option of paying – or withdrawing cash – in pounds rather than the local currency, always say no. This allows the other party to decide the exchange rate, a process known as Dynamic Currency Conversion, and it’s unlikely the rate will be in your favour. Different money habits: Check out any travel money anomalies before you travel. In America, for example, you definitely need to remember your PIN – outlets are migrating from swipe & sign to chip & pin so don’t get caught out. Read More Travel Deals Cheap Holidays Cruise Deals Cheap Flights Last Minute Holidays Legoland Windsor deals Butlins Deals Eurocamp getaways Ski holidays and deals

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Boots discount code deals: Save 50% off Soap and Glory’s limited edition bundle gift set – now down to £30

Everyone loves a beauty bargain, or a way to save on everyday toiletries like toothpaste and shower gel, which is why we love spotting the latest bargains from popular high street chain Boots. This week’s latest ‘star buy’ offer is this limited edition Soap & Glory set, filled with ten of the brand’s most coveted products, including the Sugar Crush Body Wash and The Righteous Butter moisturiser. The great value bundle, which comes in a cute carry case, is now £30 – saving shoppers 50% off, and we’re expecting it to fly off the shelves as customers stock up on Christmas presents. Pick up cheap beauty treats in Boots daily deals in the countdown to Christmas (Photo: Rex) Elsewhere there are plenty of savings as the brand offer limited daily discounts in the countdown to Christmas. We’ve spotted 25% off luxury make up, skin care and fragrance gift sets, 3 for 2 on mix and match items and up to 50% off selected Philips electric shavers. You can browse all the latest Read More Find more voucher codes Dominos Currys Argos Tesco Amazon Debenhams Boots Next More ways to save at Boots 1. Search for discount code deals For those of you who can’t get enough of the online savings, try visiting one of these discount code sites for the latest promo code offers before heading to checkout: Voucherbox Voucher Codes HotUKDeals Savoo 2. Check the latest Boots offers When the sale isn’t on, your first port of call should be Boots offers section. Here’s where you’ll find the latest BOGOF deals, multi-buy offers and Advantage Card discounts. Right now there are a number of clearance sale deals, with price drops on everything from digital cameras to perfume and kids’ toys. On the mobile app You can also download the Boots App where you’ll also find a huge selection of offers to shop from or sign up for a Boots Advantage Card. Don’t forget to sign up to the Boots newsletter to get the very latest news from the high street favourite. 3. Get a Boots Advantage Card If you’re a regular Boots shopper it’s in your interest to get a reward card – you can sign up here. You’ll be able to collect points, earning four points for every £1 as you spend, which you can use to purchase items online or in-store. If you’re a parent with a child under three or expectant parent with a Boots Advantage Card join the Boots parenting club and get personalised extra discounts and savings on baby essentials as well as other top benefits. Over 60? Sign up to get your Advantage Card and you can get even more deals plus discounts off Boots Opticians, invites to exclusive in-store events and more. 4. Look for free delivery offers Free click and collect from store with no minimum spend – items are held for up to 14 days at your chosen store. Free returns in-store – just remember to take your receipt with you as proof of purchase. Boots have a 28-day returns policy. If you order make up online you can return it but it must be unused. Standard delivery costs £3.50 or is free when you spend over £45. Next day delivery costs from £4.75. Full delivery information can be found on the site. Read More Beauty essentials Lash-lengthening mascaras The best hand creams Best primers Best fake tans The best night creams Best Foundation Best Body Lotion The best Anti wrinkle creams Best concealers The best eye-liners Cleansers Best lipsticks

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House prices face 2016 hangover – with confidence hit expect a sluggish market at best next year

The housing market is likely to get off to a slow start in 2017 amid a continued lack of properties for sale, according to surveyors. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said a net balance of 30% of surveyors reported house prices rising rather than falling in November – the strongest figure seen since April. Demand from home buyers also picked up, with 13% more surveyors reporting a rise in new buyer enquiries rather than a fall. But a combination of tight supply conditions and a growth in the volume of houses being snapped up has led to a further erosion in the supply of homes for buyers to choose from, Rics said. Read More The secrets to getting on the housing ladder Are you ready to be a first-time buyer? Secrets of successful first-time buyers How to compare mortgage brokers First-time buyer mortgages explained Where you can buy an AFFORDABLE home 3 schemes to buy your first home How I bought my first house at 25 You can buy with NO deposit – here’s how Its report said that surveyors across most parts of the UK "highlight the supply shortage as a very dominant feature of the market at present". The volume of new properties coming on the market was flat in November, with a 0% overall change recorded as an increase in homes coming to market in some parts of the UK offset falls seen elsewhere. The growth in buyer demand led to a rise in sales being agreed, with a balance of 9% of surveyors reporting sales increasing rather than falling. Looking ahead, a balance of 14% of surveyors across the UK expect house prices to increase rather than fall over the coming three months. And a net balance of 40% of surveyors expect to see house prices increase rather than fall over the coming year. Read More How to sell your home for more How we added £280k to our house price How to save £4,621.85 when selling What buyers REALLY value 10 ways to add £10,000 to your home  Helping with homework can add £100k How to sell your home for more in winter Boost your kerb appeal Write your own property description Simon Rubinsohn, chief economist at Rics, said although there are signs that sales activity may edge up towards the New Year, the ongoing shortfall in the supply of homes and recent tax changes affecting buyers suggest that any pick-up will be "relatively modest". Changes to the structure of stamp duty have made the tax more expensive for some people buying top-end homes, and there have been suggestions this has impacted on the London market in particular. Meanwhile, a stamp duty hike for buy-to-let investors, which was introduced in April, has also affected the market. Rubinsohn said: "This is significant not just for the housing market itself but also for the wider economy given how much of consumer spending is tied in with home purchases." Read More Housing Mortgage Broker Advice No Deposit? No Problem. First House at 19 How Shared Ownership Works Rightmove Secrets Add Value to Your Property Self-employed Mortgages Can I get a First-time Buyer Mortgage?

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Seven in ten people paying hundreds for a TV service they could get free – don’t be one of them

Millions and millions of Britons are paying for a TV service they could get either for free or for a fraction of what they’re currently paying – and it’s increasingly unjustifiable. Research from uSwitch.com shows a shocking 71% of people who pay for TV packages don’t watch half the channels they subscribe to, but are spending more than £500 a year (£42 a month) on them. However, with the advent of new services, there’s no reason you can’t get exactly what you want to watch, contract free, either with no monthly bill or one that’s less than £6 a month. “If you’ve found yourself sitting on the sofa questioning whether you’ve made the wrong decision to sign up to a bells and whistles pay TV package, you know it’s time to look at other options,” said uSwitch TV and broadband expert Ewan Taylor-Gibson. Read More TV Licences – How to legally stop paying for one (and when you absolutely have to) What we’re watching – and how to do it for less How much of what you ACTUALLY watch is on pay TV? TV series and box sets are the most popular thing to watch on pay TV, followed by films, uSwitch’s research shows. However, TV box-sets and movies are available on services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and NowTV – for a fraction of the cost. Cost of a year of TV *source: uSwitch People who care about sports have fewer options to save, but the likes of NowTV offers full access to Sky Sports from £6.99 a day or £33.99 a month without a contract – letting you tune in to the events you want, and not pay for things you don’t care about. Video Loading Video Unavailable Click to play Tap to play The video will start in 8Cancel Play now Watch NextTeenagers caught on CCTV in brutal metal bar atta Watch this video again Watch Next Gangsters rap and flash the cash0:40 Royals dressed up in festive knitwear at Madam Tu1:08 Deulling road rage motorists almost wipe-out inno0:34 MI6 chief warns of ‘unprecedented terror attack’1:39 Magical moment Santa has sign language conversati0:50 Pervert snared hoping to meet child in Newcastle 1:01 Video will play in  Share this video Watch Next “There are households who would get the most out of a full on premium pay TV package – big families or young professionals sharing are prime examples – given the need for content to suit different tastes and requirements,” said Taylor-Gibson. But even these can save money. “Consider your viewing habits and look out for good introductory deals,” he advised. “It’s also wise to note when your contract ends so you can switch package or provider to take advantage of another deal.” Here are some of the cheaper options and what you can still get for your cash: Pay nothing Freeview offers a huge selection of channels for no cost at all . There are 13 HD channels, 58 entertainment channels, 5 children’s channels, 7 news channels and a load more regional, local and radio channels. Any digital TV should already be able to receive all these channels at no cost at all (bar your TV licence). With the addition of a freeview plus box, you can pause, rewind and record live TV as well as setting a planner and series link just like you would with a Sky or Virgin plus box. The box costs less than £100 and once it’s yours you need to pay nothing else to access all the TV mentioned above. Just pay for a box (no subscription) (Photo: Mirrorpix) If that’s not enough for you, you can get even more with Freesat . From less than £70 you can get access to satellite TV, with more than 200 channels and on-demand TV from the likes of the BBC and ITV. Just like with Freeview, if you get the right box you can also pause, rewind and record live TV and set up a TV planner and series links. Just the content Did you know with a simple £30 dongle or plug in smart box you can beam content from your laptop to your TV – or even connect straight to the internet – meaning you can get iPlayer, YouTube and more from your phone, laptop or tablet straight to your TV. More, that means any online video service you sign up to can be watched on the TV – so you can get access to movies, TV shows and more from the likes of Netflix or Amazon Prime . That means, from £5.99 a month plus a one off charge for a dongle, you effectively have Sky Movies on Demand as well as a host of TV shows. We’ve rounded up the best TV streaming services here. NowTV If you want access to the likes of Sky One, Sky Atlantic, box-sets and the all important sports, then NowTV will let you in for a fraction of the cost . There are 13 channels you won’t find on Freeview (shown above) that you can gain access to for £6.99 a month (or less in a package deal), you can get Sky Movies for £9.99 a month (and switch it on or off as you like, rather than be tied in to a contract) or grab the latest football games with all seven Sky Sports Channels for £6.99 for a day – alternatively you can get a week or month-long pass for more , there’s currently a deal letting you see a single game, or a week, for one-off fees . Add it all up and you’re not saving a lot, but the advantage is you aren’t tied into a contract and don’t pay for anything you don’t want. A NowTV box costs just £14.99, and can be bundled in with some of the other offers for a discount, and it also lets you catch up on shows with access to iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5. Bundle The final way to save on TV subscriptions is to wrap them into a bundle with other services . Virgin, Sky and BT all let you combine phone, internet and TV deals into combination packages. That means, if you’re happy to combine two providers, you can get broadband and TV from Talktalk for £28.95 a month , BT (including sport) for £29.99 a month at the moment , with Virgin media you can get broadband, TV (including some Sky channels) and even a mobile SIM card thrown in with bigger discounts the more you buy while Sky offers free broadband for a year with its TV packages, letting you save there if not on TV. To see if there’s a bundle deal for you, have a look here .

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Chinese, Indian or pizza… Get a FREE takeaway, worth £15, from Hungryhouse all this month

Whether you want a Friday night blow-out, or plan to dine in with friend over the weekend, why not fill up with a free takeaway offer? We’ve blagged our readers a great deal with cashback site Quidco who are offering all new members £15 cashback bonus on Hungryhouse takeaway orders – and there’s no minimum spend. Don’t miss your chance to dine in on a tasty pepperoni pizza or a fiery curry for absolutely nada. Simply order using online food delivery service via the tracked Quidco link before midnight on 31st December to qualify for the cashback bonus and you’ll get your cashback by 7th January 2017. Fill up on your favourite curry for free (Photo: Getty) How to claim Join Quidco for free . Click this link to Quidco and go to Hungryhouse.co.uk and purchase your favourite food. Quidco will credit £15 into your account. You will receive your cashback by 7th January 2017. What’s the small print? The £15.00 cashback is awarded on transactions on or over £0.01 at Hungryhouse only. This offer is available for new members with no previous purchases or cashback through Quidco. The offer is available to new members from 10:00am 1/12/2016 to 11:59pm 31/12/2016, or until 2,000 redemptions have been claimed on a first come first serve basis. Cashback will be put into the member’s account before 7/1/2017. The offer can only be redeemed once per household and fraudulent or duplicate claims will not be paid. poll loading What’s your favourite takeaway? 1000+ VOTES SO FAR Italian Indian Fish and chips Kebab Korean Thai Chinese Japanese Another option Read More Takeaway deals, discounts and offers Domino’s deals Cheap pizza offers Free takeaways Pizza Hut voucher codes

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Aldi’s bargain port crowned best of the rest in post tipples award – as supermarket reveals £600 MILLION profit on own-brand range this year

Aldi’s cheapest port has been named the best drink in the business at Britain’s biggest wine tasting contest – against the likes of Lidl and the big four supermarket chains. The discount retailer – who has revealed a £600 million own-brand profit this year – has been handed a gold medal at the prestigious International Wine Challenge for its £8.95 Maynard’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2012. It ranked alongside a £29 bottle of Berry Bros. & Rudd William Pickering 20-Year-Old Tawny Port. The supermarket’s other gold medal winner was a £5.99 bottle of Berton Vineyards Botrytis Semillon. Read More Budget supermarket chain Aldi takes on posh rivals with low-cost luxury hamper for festive season Judges said: "It’s sweet spice and raisin fruits have all the right ingredients to develop into something wonderful." The dessert wine was also described as having "a stunning aromatic nose full of raisins, lemon, rosewater, bitter orange and lemon curd". Aldi’s Maynard’s Late Bottled Vintage Port has been voted the best in a blind taste test Picking up 43 gongs at the blind taste test awards, Tony Baines, Joint Managing Director of Corporate Buying at Aldi, said: "It’s a testament to the work of our talented buyers and dedicated suppliers, who work tirelessly to deliver exceptional products at a great price. "It’s great to see our sweet and fortified wines performing so well – the products have been exceptionally popular over the years with our customers during the festive period, and we are pleased to be offering our biggest port range to date this year." Read More Need to book your Christmas shopping delivery slot? It might already be too late Sales of Aldi’s premium Specially Selected products are on course to top £750m next year following a 25% sales surge during 2016, which saw its own-brand range top profits of £600m, the supermarket giant said. The Exquisite hamper costs just £98.37 compared to the Fortnum and Mason version at £225 It’s also taking on premium stores Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and Fortnum & Mason this Christmas with its largest line up of festive products – including wines, dry-aged steaks and some of the world’s finest cheeses. Read More Budget supermarket chain Aldi takes on posh rivals with low-cost luxury hamper for festive season Aldi’s Specially Selected and Exquisite Christmas range is also 11% bigger this year and comprises of almost 200 products – it was recently crowed the cheapest ‘one stop shop’ for Christmas food in the 2016 Good Housekeeping blind taste test. Aldi’s Exquisite festive dinner, as revealed it its 2016 Christmas advert It boasts handmade products sourced from specialist producers including a range of luxury Christmas hampers, Rope Hung Boxed Smoked Scottish Salmon, and a Jewelled Layered Pork Pie. Read More The 12 saves of Christmas: How to avoid a financial hangover in the New Year Tony Baines, Aldi’s Joint Managing Director of Corporate Buying, said: "This has been achieved by providing shoppers with award-winning, outstanding products for a fraction of the price charged by other supermarkets.” "At Christmas we know that people want to treat their family and friends to luxury food and drink. Yet many shoppers are unaware they are spending more than they should for certain products sold by many retailers and supermarkets," he added. The cheapest supermarket for your Christmas dinner Video Loading Video Unavailable Click to play Tap to play The video will start in 8Cancel Play now Watch NextPeter Capaldi returns at Dr Who for the 2016 Chri Watch this video again Watch Next The car that has been parked in the same place fo1:13 Alan Shearer feared he had killed his team mate d3:19 Nine-year-old boxing girl puts her fists through 0:46 Facebook launches year in review videos1:09 Get ready to re-live 90s gaming, Crash Bandicoot 0:40 Actor suffers from such bad body dysmorphia and O6:01 Michelle Thomson MP discusses her reasoning for r0:46 RSPCA receives an unusual call to help sheep with0:15 Video will play in  Share this video Watch Next In its annual Christmas shopping basket cost survey, Good Housekeeping tracked the price of 11 Christmas dinner essentials across 10 supermarkets and found prices had actually dropped 10.8% since 2009. Aldi was the cheapest supermarket for buying the entire list, with Christmas dinner for eight costing just £22.03. Aldi’s basket is 11% cheaper than last year’s winner, Iceland, which this year falls to third place (£24.81), behind Lidl in second place (£24.57). Sainsbury’s meanwhile, came in at £35.40, followed by Waitrose at £40.02 and Marks & Sparks at £49.40 for a table of eight. Read More Christmas 2016 Gifts Jumpers Christmas Decorations Songs Markets Countdown Movies When to put the Christmas tree up? Coca-Cola Christmas truck tour 2016 Christmas TV Christmas on Netflix Norad Santa Tracker Christmas pudding recipe Christmas cake recipe Christmas drinks How to cook Christmas Turkey

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The incredible amount councils are cashing in from parking fines – your rights if you’ve been sent a penalty

Councils in England are cashing in three quarters of a BILLION pounds a year in parking fees and fines, new research has found. This figure has risen by more than £60 million in the past year, according to the RAC Foundation. In the 2015-16 financial year, the 353 local authorities in England generated a combined ‘profit’ of £756 million from their on- and off-street parking activities – that’s 9% up on the previous year. The figures are calculated by taking income from parking charges and penalty notices and then deducting running costs. The largest surpluses were seen in London with the 33 London boroughs making £332 million between them – £55.9 million in Westminster alone. Read More Millions of parking tickets ILLEGAL – how to get yours cancelled Meanwhile outside London, the biggest profits were reported by Brighton & Hove (£20.1 million) followed by Nottingham (£13.6 million) and Milton Keynes (£10.8 million). Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation described the numbers as "eye wateringly large" but said it reflects growing competition for space in towns and cities. "In 1995 there were only 21.4 million cars on Britain’s roads, today there are 30.7 million," he said. "Parking charges are one of the tools councils use to keep traffic moving whilst also allowing people reasonable and affordable access to high street shops and other facilities. "The good news is that any profit generated by councils from on-street parking must by law be spent on transport-related activities, and as every motorist knows there’s no shortage of work that needs doing." The Local Government Association (LGA) – the body which represents councils in England and Wales – insisted councils do not make a profit from parking – but said local authorities must "strike a balance" when setting charges to ensure there are parking spaces available and traffic is not held up. The Department for Communities and Local Government said it was supporting a private member’s bill by Conservative MP David Tredinnick to make it easier for English councils to lower parking charges at short notice. A spokesman added: "We’ve been clear councils shouldn’t use parking as a cash cow and many recognise the benefits that reduced or free parking has on encouraging footfall on the High Street." Top 10 councils in England with the largest surpluses Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea have reported the biggest numbers in London Westminster (£55.9m) Kensington and Chelsea (£34.2m) Camden (£25.2m) Hammersmith and Fulham (£22.7m) Wandsworth (£21.2m) Brighton and Hove (£20.1m) Islington (£15.5m) Haringey (£14.9m) Nottingham (£13.6m) Hackney (£12.9m) I’ve been issued a parking ticket – what should I do now? If you have received a parking ticket, the person who issued it has determined that you have parked your car somewhere you’re not allowed to. Firstly, you should work out if it’s from the council, or a private company (these tend to look alike) . Read More Millions of parking tickets ILLEGAL – how to get yours cancelled Once issued with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) you will be expected to pay a penalty charge of £130 for a serious parking offence or £40-80 for a less serious offence – although this can vary by council. You can reduce your fine by paying within 14-days. poll loading Have you ever refused to pay a parking or speeding fine? 0+ VOTES SO FAR YES NO I want to appeal my case: If you think the PCN has been issued wrongly you must make your reasons known as soon as you can by writing to the address on the notice or getting in touch online . Your appeal will then be reviewed and you will be made aware of the outcome. You have 28 days to challenge a PCN. If you do it within 14 days and your challenge is rejected, you may only have to pay 50% of the fine. If you’re appealing your ticket, hold on to any photographs from the scene (e.g. unclear lines), letters you’ve received, mitigating circumstances and any statements if possible. This also includes: A valid pay and display ticket A letter from someone who was with you saying what happened – write ‘Witness statement’ at the top of this A repair note, if your car broke down Make sure you include: The date the ticket was issued Your address Your vehicle registration number The penalty notice number According to MoneySavingExpert , councils offer an amnesty whereby you won’t get a ticket within 10 minutes of the meter, pay and display, pay-by-phone or voucher parking paid-for period ending, as long as you’re parked in a council bay. To appeal your case, you’ll need to prove your innocence. You can appeal if the traffic signs were wrong, the council has made an error on the ticket, you’ve already paid the fine, the signs are misleading or confusing, you didn’t own the vehicle at the time or you’ve been overcharged. To start your appeal online, you’ll have to enter your postcode at Gov.uk’s ‘Challenge a parking fine’ page here.

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"It feels like blackmail" – the property lawyer using CHRISTMAS to squeeze an extra £200 out of families

Christmas is an expensive time and if you’re trying to move house as well, the cost and stress can soon mount up. So clients of Advantage Property Lawyers (APL) Ltd will have been doubly distressed by a letter that landed on their doormats this week inviting them to pay an extra £200 to be prioritised during the busy festive month. “We are writing to you as a formality to our clients who may anticipate completing before the Christmas period/end of December,” the letter reads. “We kindly wish to inform that as you may appreciate we have a high volume of files that to complete before this time. Although we endeavour to respond to any correspondence including post, emails and calls within our standard turnaround time, this may not be possible on occasions due to this increase.” In short, they promised to prioritise those customers who were willing to pay £200 more, offering to “deal with all correspondence the same day it is received” while those who did not use the service would have to await their “earliest opportunity”. The letter, which APL has now distanced itself from and says was sent in error, asked customers to “appreciate the reasoning behind this due to the time of year to try provide fairness relating to the transactions wanting to complete in December”. It came as a severe shock to one family who had not been warned of any additional Christmas fee. Read More Meet ZEDpod – the £65,000 house that doesn’t need land ‘It feels like blackmail’ The letter in question “This is a really expensive time of year,” said the customer, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear their house purchase might be affected. “All our money is tied up in the house move and the associated costs, but we still want our children to enjoy themselves. “We had worked out a budget that meant we could just about afford to do it all. Then this letter arrived on December 1 and suddenly it looks like we will have £200 less than we thought – that’s a massive amount. “Why the hell should they get £200 extra just for doing their job while my children go without so that we can afford it? Not once were we warned that we would have to pay extra and now it’s pretty clear that if we don’t pay then we’ll be at the bottom of the pile for weeks. “It feels like blackmail, like they know they have us over a barrel.” Read More Undercover first time buyer – one man’s quest to buy a home of his own Why I’m desperate to escape my landlord Getting £800-a-month closer to my dream The bizarre test they made us take What I’ve learnt about estate agents  7 things you’d better get used to After months of rejections, I’m buying Why I still don’t have the keys  Why we almost ditched our first home ‘An error’ Mirror Money contacted APL’s director Rob Lewis who described himself as “horrified” that such a letter had been sent. He reassured us that it was the result of a member of the team acting on their own initiative and that just a handful of customers had received the letter. “The letters referring to the £200 expedition fee went to 14 clients out of over 3,000 files,” he explained, adding that they had been sent by a junior assistant. “The letters were produced without the consent of the managers of the firm. All 14 clients have been called. Apologies have been made by this firm and all clients have received an explanation as to the error that has been made. “No additional fees have been billed or will be billed.” Read More Record numbers buying their first home… how YOU could join them ‘Unscrupulous’ The wrong sort of Christmas post Paula Higgins, chief executive of the Homeowners Alliance, said she had never come across a Christmas conveyancing fee before. “If it is a shocking way to do business – charging customers extra just to do the work they were originally instructed to. It’s not the customers’ fault if the firm in question has taken on too much.” Other property lawyers were even less impressed. Omar Hadi, conveyancing manager at Gorvins Solicitors, said that the professional response was to prioritise cases based on clients’ specific needs with no additional charging or threats to inconvenience other customers. He said: “Whilst we appreciate that the run up to Christmas and New Year is extremely busy, for many reasons, the letter detailed appears to be an unscrupulous attempt at charging additional legal fees for work that should be done within the fixed fee agreement that the clients have already agreed to pay.” If you’re reading this because your conveyancer has attempted to charge more to expedite your case then it is important to understand your rights. Francis George of the Swindon-based law firm Francis George Solicitor-Advocate says that customers who are faced with such charges should check their paperwork carefully to see if their conveyancer can make new demands. “It is hardly good customer service and arguably unlawful to introduce a new contractual term for such a significant amount in a conveyance. “I suggest that the client check their introductory terms and conditions. There should be clear and precise turnaround times for responses to e-mail and correspondence.” The Homeowners Alliance has guidance for buyers whose solicitor tries to charge them more than was agreed. You can see it here . Read More Have a stress-free Christmas Best cheap Christmas buys Cheapest train tickets How many days left?! 10 Christmas gifts under £1 How to make Christmas crackers How to make your own gifts Make Christmas cards and wrapping paper How to untangle Christmas lights