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The bailiff Robert Marshall was both lucky and unlucky, his luck was in when his video camera, which he used for filming debt collections, stayed on after it was dropped in the assault but unlucky to meet a man that was angry at being called upon to pay up on his debts who then tried to strangle him. Read - Debtor goes to jail for beating up a bailiff

Read more: Bailiff films himself getting assaulted whilst collecting on debts


But just why are house repossession figures stable and about to be revised downwards? Madness or genius?

Are you as amazed as I am that in the grips of this ‘double-dip’ recession, with high unemployment, household budgets under attack and wage freezes that house repossessions are stable? I have been astonished to read that the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) are thinking of revising downwards their forecast that 45000 homes will be repossessed this year.

Read more: Have House Repossessions Stabilised Enough to Warrant A Revision Downwards?


No one really knows how many debt advice websites there are on the net and whilst most adhere to the strict OFT guidelines on debt management, too many don’t.

There is nothing wrong with debt provided it is well managed and it has become a perfectly normal part of everyday life. For those that become ‘over indebted’ however, it can become a serious problem.

Read more: 7 point guide to spotting a dodgy debt advice website!


A guest blog by Katie Ford

All five epidodes of the new BBC 1 morning show My Worst Deal.

The series looks at the surprising financial dealings of financial bodies from the Big Banks to loan sharks. On Twitter, a lot of people were commenting on just how absurd it was that people were fooled by these deals, but when people are in the deepest, darkest of places, these deals can seem like the silver lining they’ve been hoping for.

Read more: My Worst Deal


It is surprising how many times I get asked this question!

If someone has debts in their name only then they are the only one that is responsible for it.  For debts that are in joint names, then in the event that one person cannot pay then the other named person is responsible for the full amount outstanding. It is not split 50-50 just because it is joint names.

Read more: Am I responsible for my partner’s debts?


At last the OFT is to review the payday loan industry after previously giving it the green light back in 2009.  After that decision we saw a colossal growth in the industry, which basically paved the way for payday lenders to charge the interest rates and late payment charges that they wanted to.  It also opened the doors to lenders from the US to come over here and fleece our consumers.

Read more: Payday loans are banned in the US, capped at 48% in other countries, why not here?


According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) 35,200 homes were repossessed last year, the lowest since 2007, news that should have us all jumping for joy.

All I ask is this, ‘Are we being complacent thinking that at least things are not as bad as they were in 1991 when 75,500 homes were repossessed?

Back then we never had schemes such as ‘Sale and rent back’ (SAR) and the ‘Mortgage Pre-action Protocol.’ Nor did we have a three year run of 0.5% interest rate!

The impact of ‘Sale and Rent Back’ Schemes

Let’s look at is the number of homes being sold by families to private landlords under 'Sale and Rent back’ (SAR) schemes, often referred to as ‘flash sales’. Now these schemes weren’t around in 1991 when house repossessions peaked at 75,500 but in 2008 the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) reckoned there were over 1,000 firms, plus a number of non-professional landlords who had conducted about 50,000 SAR transactions.

That was over three years ago so how many homes last year were sold under SAR  to avoid repossession and which don’t appear on the CML register ?

Government backed scheme

The Mortgage Pre-action Protocol, which commenced back in 2008, is one example of a government backed scheme which could act as a delaying factor in eventual repossession for some home owners, just postponing the inevitable and adding further debt and eventual repossession through deferred payments.

Credit card and redundancy payers

To add fuel to the argument, research by Shelter shows that an estimated two million people are using their credit cards to meet their current mortgage and rent commitments. And don’t forget those who are paying the mortgage from their redundancy pay.

Three year historic low interest rates

Many more households would have had their homes repossessed if Bank of England interest rates were at the same levels as in 1991 at the height of repossession figures, 13% in February dropping to 10.5% by September, compared to the current three year run of the Bank Rate being at 0.5%.

How many mortgage holders are there on Tracker and Standard Variable Rates (SVRs) paying around a third of what normal payments would be because of the current low Bank of England rate?

The positive side however is that are taking advantage of low interest rates and paying over the top each month in order to get their mortgage down and so they won’t be complaining.

But how many home owners are doing this and how many are twitching every time the Monetary Policy Committee meets to decide whether rates should go up and more to the point, where would the housing market be if we had interest rates comparable to those back in 1991?

Read more: House repossessions dip thanks to low interest rates but are we getting the real picture?


It’s hardly surprising to hear that consumer bankruptcies are down and everyone seems to be mystified as to why. I have a pretty good theory; it’s because of the ridiculous cost for an individual to find to go bankrupt, currently £700.

This coalition government increased the cost to go bankrupt by 37% back in March 2010 which has made it impossible for many thousands of consumers that need to go bankrupt as they cannot fund any other debt resolution such as a debt repayment program of an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA).

Some debt experts are saying that Debt Relief Orders are to blame as more people are turning to these. I agree to a point but not everyone can propose a DRO as they fail to meet the qualifying criteria. You are barred from offering a DRO is you have unsecured debts above £15,000, have assets worth more than £300, have disposable income to offer on your debts above £50, own a car worth more than £1,00 or are a house owner, irrespective if the house is in negative equity.

More of a concern is that the DRO level of £15,000 was set EIGHT years ago, what about the upturn of consumer indebtedness and inflation?

With unemployment levels at the highest for 17 years and more house repossessions likely, there will be an increasing need for some to be able to petition for bankruptcy. Ironically the extortionate fee prevents many from doing so.

The CAB have said that around 40% of the people they see that need to go bankrupt cannot afford the fee, the CAB are currently handling just under 9,000 NEW debt cases every working day.

I don’t believe tax payers would need to foot the bill of reduced fees because bankrupts actually do contribute to the cost of administering their case. All bankrupts are assessed to see if they can make any payments under an Income Payment Agreement (IPA) which is a legally binding written agreement between the bankrupt and the Official Receiver. The IPA runs for a period of 36 months, initial payments cover the cost for the administration of the bankruptcy order, after which creditors receive a dividend of the surplus funds.

Between 2007 -2010, 54,889 IPAs were implemented. These do not account for the sale of any assets such as vehicles or homes that belonged to the bankrupt, so in fact the Government does actually make quite a bit from bankrupts!

I wrote to the PM re the fees and am pleased to say that changes are afoot in the way consumers pay the fees, I have just participated in a 139 page consultation of a review of consumer bankruptcy, although I like what’s coming the downside is that there will not be much of a reduction in the fee, just a bit time to help find it!

The last debtor’s prison shut in 1869; that’s 143 years ago. Society, culture and attitudes have moved on, perhaps the government needs to as well.

More insolvency stats

Read more: Should tax payers foot the bill to pay for consumers to go bankrupt?


When personal data goes missing it’s just not good enough for a firm to simply write to customers saying “sorry, we have lost your personal data and here’s a website where you can learn about how you are at risk of identity fraud or theft if the data falls into the wrong hands. Read article Are consumers at risk as more Personal data goes missing?

This is it what Welcome Finance and Shopacheck have done following the loss of two tapes containing such data. If they have fallen into the wrong hands then this is a major concern as identity fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in the UK, so what more should  they be doing about it?

I looked at the Shopacheck and the Welcome Finance websites today and there is nothing about the data loss so any new customer looking at the site will be unaware of their problems.

According to one Shopacheck customer who has been in contact with me, the lost data contains names, address and dates of birth, telephone numbers and payment records. It seems that she, like all Shopacheck customers, and I suspect those of Welcome Finance, are being referred to a website www.identitytheft.org.uk and my initial thought was, so far so good.  But then the website mentions quite a lot about fraudsters and how you can be targeted if you have been a bit relaxed with your data but it could do more to promote and explain better how the consumer can get increased protection if they sign up to CIFAS (Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance System) or a credit agency.

My source also said that she had previously given Shopacheck her National Insurance number and in my book that’s more or less everything needed to start cloning someone’s identity. We are not talking about a low number of consumers here - 1.4 million could be at risk!

In my view it would be better for these two firms, and any other organisation come to that which loses data, to be made to pay for a year’s subscription for each customer to CIFAS and to membership of one of the credit reference agencies that sends an alert if the credit file has been accessed.

So apart from having to post presumably 1.4 million second letters at a cost of £504,000 do these two firms have the money to pay for this, and should they? I say yes to the latter. A free helpline, on 0800 8406 563, has been set up for customer.

If you are worried about identity fraud, and I would be in this case, then see our simple do’s and don’ts to help protect yourself, which can be found here.

Read more: Lost Data, should firms be forced to pay for customers’ credit reference and fraud preventive...



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