StepChange Debt Charity response to FCA early arrears thematic review
13 December, 2016
In response to the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) thematic review of ‘Early arrears management in unsecured lending’, Mike O’Connor, Chief Executive of StepChange Debt Charity, said:
“This review is very welcome and adds substantial weight to the argument that people in debt need better protections. The FCA’s evidence shows that the treatment of people in arrears is inconsistent across the sector and leaves people facing a lottery as to whether or not they will get the advice and support to help them get back on their feet.
“The variable picture the FCA describes accords with what our clients say about their experiences with creditors. Consistency is crucial when people have multiple creditors, and consistency in forbearance is particularly critical.
“We have long argued for the introduction of a statutory ‘breathing space’  scheme. This would help to ensure that people seeking debt advice are no longer subject to the patchwork of procedures and voluntary forbearance schemes offered by creditors, and ensure that those in financial difficulty get the protections from spiralling debts and enforcement action that they desperately need.”
Notes to editors
Breathing Space would see people who seek advice for debt problems given a period of six months to a year in which interest and charges are frozen and enforcement action halted, in order to give that person time to get advice to recover their finances. Where people can repay their debts at an affordable rate and within a reasonable time, these protections should continue. These protections would only be accessible when recommended by a regulated debt advice agency.