The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has told ten companies to stop debt management cold calls.
The action has come after the OFT and Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) received complaints about the companies’ activities. These included unsolicited calls or calls to individuals who had registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).
Recorded calls without prior consent or to consumers who have registered with the TPS are illegal under UK law and the EC Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.
Some of the calls misled consumers into thinking they were part of a government scheme to eradicate consumer debt. Others claimed to transfer to a not-for-profit adviser but actually went to a commercial debt management company. This contravenes OFT Debt Management Guidance, updated in September 2008, which says that adverts and other promotional material from debt management companies must not mislead, whether intentionally or not.
Consumers who have concerns should contact the ICO in the first place.
Help with debt
Which? Money advises taking the following steps to control debt:
- Always pay secured and priority creditors in full. Secured debts include loans and credit agreements under which the creditor has a hold over an asset
- Try not to obtain further credit while experiencing difficulties
- Maximise your income and claim all the benefits and grants to which you’re entitled
- Try to make lifestyle changes to cut spending
- Check your employer is using the correct tax code and that you’ve taken advantage of all available tax allowances, including the child and working tax credits
- Consider remortgaging your home
- Minimise other costs
- Get independent advice early from Citizens Advice, National Debtline or the CCCS
For practical help, read the Which? guide on how to deal with debt and on coping with the credit crunch.
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