Enforced debt collection thousands of complaints

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Police and bailiffs forcibly evict tenants in Brixton, scattering their possessions on the street – enforced debt collection is soaring
Police and bailiffs forcibly evict tenants in Brixton, scattering their possessions on the street – enforced debt collection is soaring

ENFORCED debt collection, aggressive bailiffs, aggressive customer service tactics, breaches of confidentiality and hiking the size of the debt are just some of thousands of complaints the ombudsman has received, prompting the service to put out a new statement yesterday calling for ‘empathy and flexibility’.

Caroline Wayman, chief ombudsman and chief executive of the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), said: ‘In the past three years we have investigated thousands of complaints from consumers about debt collection companies.

‘We have seen cases where a lack of empathy or flexibility from businesses can create more problems for people who are struggling, and who may be in vulnerable circumstances.’

In 2018, the FOS dealt with around 3,300 inquiries about debt collection and took on more than 1,000 new complaints for investigation. Jonathan Reynolds MP, Labour’s Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury, commented:

‘The rising number of complaints about debt collection is an alarming reminder of the stress and anxiety that people are facing in the Tories’ low-wage, high-debt economy. One-in-three complaints about debt collection were upheld in the last quarter, showing that a considerable number of people are being exploited.

‘We need real action on debt, not Tory indifference and government policies that are forcing more people into debt. Labour will cap interest on consumer credit, introduce a £10 an hour real living wage and scrap student fees to end what has become a debt crisis under this government.’

The ombudsman also said complaints about payday loans have nearly doubled during the first nine months of the current financial year compared with the whole of the previous financial year. There were 32,774 payday loan complaints between April and December 2018, compared with 17,256 for the whole of the 2017-2018 financial year.