It is an unfortunate fact of life that the debt advice industry has its share of unscrupulous operators.
So it is good news when the BBC has recently reported that The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is taking action against more than a dozen debt management companies. These companies are deliberately misleading consumers by using website addresses similar to not-for-profit organisations.
“With increasing unemployment, more people could run into financial difficulty and we are concerned that at the point where they are most vulnerable and seeking advice, they are being deliberately misled by people who are trying to gain a commercial advantage from them,” says Ray Watson, director of credit at the OFT.
Citizens Advice has been worried for some time about debt management companies using words that could give the impression they’re connected with government organisations or the CAB.
“We are very pleased the OFT is now taking action,” says Teresa Perchard, director of policy at Citizens Advice.
“For several years now, we have been getting reports from people approaching the CAB who have been worried about sites and telephone calls they have had from people operating advice sites who have names very similar to ours. This action should mean that we see an end to that.”
So whether you are an individual or a business owner, if you have financial difficulties how do you make sure the people from whom you seek advice are reputable? A good starting point is to look for a firm of Licensed Insolvency Practitioners. These are qualified professionals who are licensed and closely supervised by the BERR (formerly known as the DTI).