Is debt management social?

Another point of view on whether debt management companies should be using social media from guest blogger Emma Bryn-Jones of Zero Credit.

Guest blogger Emma Bryn-Jones, from consumer cooperative Zero Credit, questions whether debt management is social.

Ignorance is bliss… or is it? Can we safely say that what you don’t know cannot hurt you? When we eat a duff meal or employ a rogue builder, are we any safer for not knowing that the products and services are dud? No! We depend on an array of recommendations, quality and standards labelling to help us. The same is true of credit.

In a country where average household debt is approaching £60,000 compared to an income of less than £30,000, we have a collective responsibility to manage a change in circumstances. Some of us may very well continue to meet our repayments, but for those of us on shorter hours, lower wages or made redundant, a decade of easy credit is a tough habit to kick.

What the credit industry has failed to recognise is that when a product or service ceases to be exclusive, any problem with it becomes mainstream. This is precisely the dilemma we face with personal borrowing because so many of us have walked into 90% plus mortgages, loans, credit and store cards, that our economy depends on spending beyond our means.

Far from addressing the problem, we seem to be crafting a Dickensian throwback, with people who are struggling, cast as fraudulent wastrels, who deserve everything they get. By turning a blind-eye to no credit checks and dodgy debt advice, survivors of the crunch define their superiority over perfectly good people who cannot sort the wheat from the chaff.

Let us be clear. A good credit history shows evidence of repayment. If you still owe money, there is always a risk that you may fail to repay it and with some £1450 billion in outstanding bills, it is not in your interest or mine to fool anyone into parting with money for a scam. Your security depends on another’s ability to repay.

Like it or not, debt management is integral to our credit history and it is as important, if not more so, to manage credit well when things go wrong. For this reason, I welcome debt management charities and companies to social networks because they encourage people to talk openly about the issues that affect them.

Of course, there are charlatans, as there always will be, but discussion creates a record of integrity that is hard to fake. From CCCS moneyaware, combining light-hearted movie quotes with more serious reminders to keep borrowing manageable, to ThinkMoney’s contributions to the managed banking debate, we are quite literally richer through dialogue.

I may not agree with ClearDebt’s Andrew Smith when he discusses credit caps with Chris Goulden of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, but my goodness do I welcome the fact that someone who works for a debt management company actually considers and cares about people on low incomes.

I think it would be a mistake for the OFT to restrict social networking amongst debt management professionals because if banking and borrowing can continue to like, comment or share, so too should those who pick up the pieces when it all goes wrong. To prevent people feeling so isolated that insolvency is their only option, social media needs a debt management voice!

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Comments:5

  1. The credit scoring system need to be updated. It seems very wrong that an adverse comments against your credit rating are on your credit file for 6 years making it hard to get credit on good terms. Sometimes things happen that are beyond your control and you end up not being able to get credit for 6 years.

    1. Attended an excellent presentation from Experian yesterday. Their advice is to use the facility to comment on circumstances that have affected your ability to repay as this will ensure an individual has to review your credit application and make a subjective and informed decision. It may not always change the outcome, but it gives you more control over how your records are perceived. We shall be posting more on this at http://blog.zero-credit.co.uk in the near future.

  2. Emma, I agree with your closing paragraph in answer to the question if industry restrictions on companies and organisations (and their representatives) usage of social media is appropriate that it would be a mistake. I’ve expressed elsewhere that I regard it as a right of companies, hey even a duty(!), to use the channels to talk to people about debt. After all any problem aired is a problem shared and the first thing any debt counsellor or organisation be it @Zerocredit_UK  or other will advise you to do is to talk to someone, even if it is not in public or on the internet be it discreetly, anonymously or in full view, but at least to talk with someone about matters. And those that do talk will attest that it is a cathartic experience to talk about debt. There is always help, arguably more than ever. Let’s that continue.

  3. Our response to the OFT: http://blog.zero-credit.co.uk/our-response-to-the-ofts-debt-management-guid suggested that all debt advice organisations should have a transparent social media policy. Our mystery shopping experience indicates that charlatans will be harder to route out if communications are forced underground.

    Those that are quality and standards minded, be they companies, charities or other NFPs will want to demonstrate a track record of exemplary behaviour. Model that and make it explicit and it will be far easier for the consumer to recognise that they are dealing with a reputable body. The only decision they have to make then is whether free or paid service offers the best outcomes for their circumstances. Transparency is crucial.

  4.  Why these debt managament plan exists i don’t know. They say they give you a proper advice when you are suffering from adverse credit but rather than that they led people to further web of bad credit.. These type of services should be banned completely.

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