Money and Mental Health Statement on Black Friday

29 November 2019

This Black Friday, the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute is warning that people with mental health problems can be more vulnerable to making purchases that they later regret during flash sales – leaving them at risk of falling into debt problems.

It is also highlighting that these issues are being compounded by the failure of many of the UK’s top retailers to give customers clear and accurate information about how to return unwanted online purchases – leaving vulnerable shoppers out of pocket.

Previous work by the charity highlighted that people with mental health problems are twice as likely to regret online purchases most or all of the time (1), and are more than three and a half times as likely to be in problem debt (2). Common symptoms such as reduced memory, difficulties in processing information and increased impulsivity can make it more difficult for people with mental health problems to manage money and control their spending, 

And a mystery shopping exercise undertaken by the charity last year (3) also revealed that a fifth of top-ranking UK retailers (11 out of 50) are giving customers unclear information on how long they have to return online purchases, or misleading advice which suggests they only have 14 days in which to do so.


Commenting on these issues, Helen Undy, Chief Executive of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, said: 

“Most of us will occasionally make purchases that we later regret, especially during flash sales like Black Friday. But it can be even harder to resist impulsive spending if you’re struggling with mental health problems, and returning unwanted items afterwards can be an impossible task. As a result, many people with mental health problems end up keeping purchases they don’t want or can’t afford, which can leave them in dire financial circumstances. 

“We’d like to see retailers giving people more tools to manage their spending, such as the option to restrict the availability of online shopping or credit through their account settings, especially at times they might be more vulnerable like at night. 

“We also think retailers should make it as easy for customers to return items as it is to buy them. That means ensuring their returns policies are clear and accessible, particularly for people with mental health problems who may struggle to leave the house, pay postage fees or understand complicated terms and conditions.”


  • For more information or to set up an interview, please contact Brian Semple, Head of External Affairs at Money and Mental health, on 07935 216 804 or [email protected] 
  • Case studies are available


(1) Nationally representative Populus of 2,053 Britons online between 9 and 11 December 2016. Data was weighted to be nationally representative. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules; for more information visit

(2)Analysis of the national Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (2014) undertaken by NatCen on behalf of Money and Mental Health, and published in March 2019

(3) Mystery shopping exercise undertaken by Money and Mental Health in November 2018

About the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute

  • 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.
  • Helen Undy is a passionate mental health campaigner and became the Institute’s Chief Executive in 2018, having previously led the Institute’s impact and communications work.