Less threatening debt recovery letters could save lives, says MP

Debt letters must be made less intimidating to avoid a rise in suicides as more people face financial difficulties due to the pandemic, an MP has warned.

Labour’s Jeff Smith (Manchester Withington) said there is a concern “millions more” will get into debt as a result of coronavirus and evidence suggests intimidating letters from a debt collector can lead somebody in financial hardship to suicide.

He said a change in law to “simplify the language” of such letters could “save lives”.

Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg agreed that letters sent to individuals in financial trouble “ought not to be threatening”.

Mr Smith told MPs: “Every year in England over 100,000 people in problem debt attempt to take their own life.

Distressed man
Distressed man

“Now we know it is complex and that there are a range of factors that can lead to somebody who is in debt becoming suicidal, but research shows that one key factor is the intimidating letters they receive from lenders.

“And it is a real concern that millions more are facing debt as a result of the crisis.

“So will the Leader of the House encourage the Chancellor to make a statement outlining how we make provisions for a small change to the rules contained in the Consumer Credit Act on the content of debt letters in order to simplify the language and signpost people to advice?

“I understand that it can be done quite simply by statutory instrument and it could save lives.”

Responding, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “I understand the point he is making about changing the wording.

“Letters sent out by debt collectors ought not to be threatening, that is quite clear.

“And I understand his point and I will pass it on to the Chancellor.”