Misleading Advertisers 'Could Face Enforcement Action'

Businesses that mislead the public by claiming they can arrange for unpaid loans, credit cards or other consumer debts to be written off have been told to stop or face action, the Justice Minister has said.

Under new guidance, issued by the Ministry of Justice, it highlights misleading statements in adverts making dubious claims or leaving out important information which might breach consumer protection regulations.

Businesses making these statements could face enforcement action by the Ministry of Justice which might ultimately result in authorisations being removed.

Justice Minister Bridget Prentice said: "Vulnerable people facing debt problems need help and support. We have produced this guidance to protect innocent customers from being misled by businesses advertising easy and quick arrangements for outstanding loan, credit card and other similar debts to be written off and compensation to be obtained.

"We would urge anyone who is considering using a business offering such services to think carefully and seek independent advice before making any final decisions."

Ray Watson, OFT Director of Consumer Credit, welcomed the news saying: "The OFT will not hesitate to take enforcement of action against licensed claims management businesses who engage in unfair business practices by deliberately misleading vulnerable customers about the services they offer.

"Businesses should also be aware that if they offer debt counselling or debt adjusting services without holding an appropriate licence, they will be committing a criminal offence and risk prosecution, and that any agreements they enter into with consumers whilst unlicensed may be unenforceable."

The guidance is aimed at businesses offering claims management services for unenforceable agreements. Claims management businesses authorised by the Ministry of Justice have also been warned that when advising about the payment of debts or on rescheduling debts, they will need to be appropriately licensed under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 by the Office of Fair Trading.


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