Review of 2013: what happened in the news in March


British Gas prices

March started with an 11% profit climb for British Gas. A survey suggested the energy player was making around 4m cold calls to British households every year.

But British Gas wasn't complaining having bagged £600m profits the previous year...

Spanish surprise

March also saw ex-pat Spanish tax worries climb. Spanish authorities wanted all residents, including Britons, to come clean with information on overseas assets worth more than €50,000. Thousands of Britons were at risk from draconian new fines.

BEKB07 Ibiza view with nice Mediterranean sea and boats

Cash-strapped Spain was clearly looking at ways to tighten up their tax regime. And the Spanish tax authorities had a large number of tools to hand to track down tax dodgers.

Spain's tax authorities had linked up with the land registry plus utility companies that could provide information on the electricity usage of each property, plus the names on invoice and bank account payments.

Detached dreams

Money no object, would you really live in Spain? A new survey asked 3,500 Britons and the answer was clear: No. The dream is South West England in a large detached Victorian house with garage plus big garden.

England, Devon, Traditional thatched cottage....

In contrast, the North East was picked by just 1.3% polled. But living the Devon dream didn't come cheap.

We looked at the pretty, popular seaside resort of Salcombe. A fairly ordinary terraced cottage, on sale through PrimeLocation, was on sale for £1.1m. Madness.

Then, bring on the drab and ditch the branding. Plain packaging for cigarettes was coming, as was a ban on smoking in cars that contain passengers under 16. The news followed a radical shift in policy from Australia, forcing cigarette makers to adopt olive green packets along with graphic images - rotting teeth, smoke-damaged hearts and gangrenous toes.

"Truly moronic"

The Chancellor''s Budget then struck. A new mortgage guarantee Help to Buy scheme was trumpeted by Osborne, supposedly helping those without larges deposits to climb on the housing ladder. The news was certainly good news for house builders, with the share prices of house builders rising sharply.

Highgate views - London

A great deal of concern remains though over the scheme with some industry commentators fearing a return to boom-and-bust.

Even the fairly staid Institute of Directors described Help to Buy as "very dangerous". Oh, and Albert Edwards from French bank Société Générale described the policy as "truly moronic".

Price stupidity

The middle of the month bought on a price promise spat between Sainsbury's boss Justin King and key rival Tesco, with King threatening to report his arch rival to the Advertising Standards Authority. King was furious that Sainsbury's non-brand products were being compared with Tesco's.

"How on earth do you compare non-brand products?" King was quoted in the Guardian. "We don't think you can compare the strength of our own brand label with the cut price versions at Tesco and Asda."

16,000 jobs in store at Sainsbury's

But honestly, who really cared? Price Promises were all over the shop, we pointed out: Asda had its Price Guarantee. Morrisons had its Price Crunch campaign. Sainsbury's has its Brand Match. Even Waitrose has a Brand price match.

Wouldn't most people just prefer good value and quality across the range without all this Promise-Price-Crunch carry-on?