OFT warns debt management firms over cold calls

Monday, 25 May 2009 08:00

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has warned six debt management firms to stop cold-calling consumers or face enforcement action.

Some of the cold calls gave misleading or inaccurate information to consumers, such as telling them they were one of the ‘few chosen individuals’ contacted as part of a government scheme to help wipe out consumer debt.

Others were transferred to a commercial debt management business on the pretext they were talking to a not-for-profit debt adviser and were not told there would be a fee for the service.

The OFT and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) received complaints over the calls and said these practices exploit people in a vulnerable position.

Nigel Cates, deputy director of consumer credit for the OFT, said: “Taking advantage of people who are suffering distress through debt problems is completely unacceptable and this practice of illegal or misleading cold-calling for debt management services must cease immediately.

“We will not hesitate to take action against any business that uses misleading calls to advertise debt management services.”

The OFT said it could not name the companies involved.

Regulations state traders cannot make unsolicited marketing calls where the subscriber has notified the trader that they do not wish to receive such calls, or where their number has been registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

Consumers who are concerned about automated cold calls should contact the ICO in the first instance.

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