Government must grasp opportunity to end ‘debt threat’ letters
25 March 2019
- A new report by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – the UK’s financial services regulator – has said that the government has an opportunity to change the rules on intimidating creditors’ letters, which are contributing to people in problem debt becoming suicidal.
- The FCA report comes as a boost to campaigning by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, which is calling on the government to change these rules and make creditors’ debt letters less intimidating
The rules on the ‘prescribed content’ of creditors’ debt letters are set out in the Consumer Credit Act (1974), which stipulates that creditors must include wording that is complex, intimidating and out-of-date in letters to people in debt.
Recent research by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute shows that the distressing nature of the ‘prescribed content’ of debt letters can contribute to people in problem debt becoming suicidal. It also showed that over 100,000 people in problem debt attempt suicide each year in England.
Today, the FCA has published its review of whether the Consumer Credit Act should be scrapped, and its provisions instead incorporated into the FCA’s rule-book.
It says that it is possible for the government to move the regulations on ‘prescribed content’ into the FCA’s rule-book while maintaining existing customer protections — and that doing so would be an opportunity to change these regulations, to make debt letters works better for both consumers and firms.
Responding to the FCA’s review, Helen Undy, Chief Executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: “Today’s announcement by the FCA shows there is no reason for the government not to take action to change the rules on debt letters. These rules force creditors to send intimidating letters to people in debt, written in obscure language and often featuring threats of court action right at the top. Receiving these letters on a daily basis is contributing to some people in debt becoming suicidal.
“The government now has a critical opportunity to change the out-of-date rules on lenders’ letters, and make them easier to understand, less threatening and more clearly signpost to help and support. We urge the government to act now. Not only will that help people climb out of problem debt, it will save lives.”
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Notes to Editors
- The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute was set up by Martin Lewis in spring 2016, registered charity number 1166493.
- It conducts research and develops policies for essential services firms, regulators, the health service and government to help people with mental health problems protect themselves from financial difficulties and get out of debt.
- Martin Lewis OBE, Money Saving Expert, is an award-winning campaigning broadcaster, newspaper columnist and author. He founded MoneySavingExpert.com in 2003 for £100 and remains its full-time Editor-in-Chief. It is now the UK’s biggest money site, with more than 14 million monthly users. Martin has his own prime-time ITV programme – The Martin Lewis Money Show – and is resident expert on This Morning, Good Morning Britain and BBC Radio 5 Live’s Consumer Panel, among others.
- Helen Undy is a passionate mental health campaigner and became the Institute’s Director in 2018, having previously led the Institute’s impact and communications work.