Dodgy debt managers under fire

woman looking worried about her debtsThree debt management companies in London and Midlothian have become the latest targets of an Office of Fair Trading (OFT) campaign to prevent vulnerable, indebted consumers being scammed out of the little money they have.

But if the debt management sector is riddled with poor practice and scams, just where should you go for debt advice?
The debt management sector
Debt managers liaise between people with debt problems and their creditors and supposedly help debt-ridden consumers to get their finances back on track.

Solutions that they can provide include debt management plans, which involve paying off the full amount they owe in manageable monthly payments, bankruptcies and Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs), which are a kind of halfway house between the two.

However, debt management companies have come under fire for charging high fees that eat into the repayments their clients are making to creditors - not to mention a variety of other failings.

Since deciding to crack down on the debt management sector this time last year, the OFT has taken action against 61 businesses.

Its latest move including forcing London-based Money Advice Direct Limited (MADL) to stop using the misleading trading name, 'The UK Insolvency Helpline' after the OFT decided that this failed to make clear to consumers the commercial nature of the business.

Prime Legal and Financial Services (PLFS) of Mile End, London also lost its licence for failing, amongst other matters, to demonstrate the necessary knowledge to hold a consumer credit licence, while Midlothian-based Deric Hamilton Oliver's application for a licence was rejected after the firm was found to have given false information to the OFT.

David Fisher, the OFT's director of consumer credit, said: "We expect commercial debt management businesses to meet the standards that we set out in our guidance. If they do not, we will take action as we have demonstrated here.

"Revised debt management guidance, which is due to be published before the end of the year, will give even greater clarity as to the standards that the OFT expects of businesses that it licenses in this sector."

The FREE alternative
The good news for people with debt problems is that debt managers are not the only option when it comes to getting professional advice and help setting up debt solutions such as IVAs and debt management plans.

In fact, there are a number of free debt advice services available in the UK. So for free, impartial advice, try the Consumer Credit Counselling Service, Money Advice Trust or Citizens Advice Bureau. And give dodgy debt managers a wide berth!
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