Know your rights: January’s debt news

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Justice scales law

She must be freezing at this time of year

After all the build up Christmas and New Year now feels like it never happened, and it’s February already! Thoughts have already turned to the next consumerist event which is less than two weeks away; Valentines Day. (if this is you don’t forget to read our blogpost from last year on frugal wooing!)

If you’re more concerned with January’s changes in debt law and financial news that could affect you, then read on…

News from the Ombudsman

Like us, the Financial Ombudsman Service hears from a lot of people struggling with debt problems after the Christmas period. However they’d like to make it clear that they can’t help with money management or debt advice (that’s what we’re here for!) but they can help with you to resolve any financial disputes.

They can help to settle cases where you might feel that you’ve been treated unfairly and their most common types of complaints include:

  • People being chased for debts that aren’t theirs
  • Disputes about the amount owed
  • Concerns about the way a debt has been collected.

You can read more about what they do, how to contact them and some complaint case studies on the FOS website.

Complicated bank charges

Our friends at the consumer group Which? have carried out some research on bank charges, showing that unauthorised overdrafts are “too high, too complex and impossible to compare”.

One research volunteer, despite being a Maths PHD student, couldn’t even get his head round all of the calculations.

Which? will be highlighting this report to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the hope that they will take some action (the FCA is the organisation that is taking over from the current Financial Services Authority (FSA) by the end of this year).

Get the benefit

You might have heard in the news recently that the government is proposing a £26,000 cap on benefits. Bishops, backed by Labour and many Liberal Democrat peers, voted to remove child benefit from the proposed welfare limit saying that it will unfairly hurt children of large families. This may take some time before it’s enforced but could affect many families on benefits.

There are also plans to stop child benefit next year for families with a higher-rate tax payer, and The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) says the plan could become a tax on marriage.

On a slightly more positive note, millions of cancer carers are missing out on benefits that they’re entitled to claim on. A poll has shown that only 5% of the 1.1 million people in Britain who care for cancer sufferers have applied for financial help that they’re entitled to. If you think that you or anyone you know could be eligible, get in touch with us so we can advise you how to get it.

Are you entitled to a payout?

We get so many questions about reclaiming payment protection insurance (PPI) especially as payouts have hit a monthly record.

Many of our clients seem to be under the impression that when on a DMP you can’t reclaim. This isn’t true, and if you think you could be entitled to a refund it’s important that you don’t pay for a service that offers to do this for you. You can use this comprehensive guide from MoneySavingExpert to help you.

If you’re an IVA client you can also claim; read more in our IVA questions blogpost.

If the bailiffs come a-knocking

If you ever get to the enforcement stage, where bailiffs become involved, it’s really important that you don’t ignore the situation and get advice straightaway.

Bailiffs have not only featured in Hollyoaks this month but one particular firm is being investigated and certain collection rules have also been tightened.

And on the subject of debt collection you might think you’ll get away with it but don’t forget to pay your library fines – one council has employed a collection agency to help them recover the thousands of pounds they are owed!

OnlineDMP

News from within StepChange Debt Charity and if you’re a client of ours we’ve encouraging use of our fantastic OnlineDMP service. This service will help you to successfully manage your plan – you can use it to view your statements, tell us about changes to your details, find answers to questions about your plan and much more. You can log in here.

And finally…

We love to sing the praises of the good work that credit unions do and we’re happy about the new legislation that will allow them to grow. These new powers will make it possible for them to expand their services and compete directly with high street banks and other savings providers. It’s definitely something to bear in mind if you’re looking for financial products once you’re debt free.

That’s it for this month but don’t forget to let us know if you see something that your fellow readers might be interested in – we always love to hear from you. You can post a comment below or get in touch through Facebook or Twitter.

Pavan Gata-Aura is a qualified debt advisor with 6 years of experience. She enjoys spending time with her two children, fundraising for charities, has spent time volunteering in Africa and takes part in organised races.

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