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OFT warns 12 businesses over unsolicited mailings

The Office of Fair Trading has issued warnings to 12 businesses over sending unsolicited mailings which advise consumers to cancel existing individual voluntary arrangements.

The mailings suggest instead that consumers opt for an alternative debt management solution such as bankruptcy instead.

The companies have four weeks to respond to the OFT.

The OFT says that some such mailings sent out to consumers misleadingly suggest to recipients they may have been mis-sold the IVA and/or that bankruptcy may be more suitable for their circumstances when this may not be the case.

The body says these mailings are being targeted at vulnerable consumers in IVAs by companies who appear to have accessed their personal contact details from the public register of people in IVAs which the Insolvency Service is required by law to maintain.

The OFT considers such claims to be in breach of its debt management guidance not only if they are misleading but also if they fail to explain the consequences of terminating an IVA agreement and going bankrupt.

They have been told to amend any misleading claims made in their IVA advertising and promotional material and to be more transparent about the possible implications for consumers if they do terminate an IVA agreement.

The OFT says it will consider taking action against any business that fails to address its concerns. This could include taking steps to revoke consumer credit licences held by the business.

OFT director for consumer credit Ray Watson says: ‘Tackling companies who are engaging in unfair business practices by targeting vulnerable consumers with misleading advice and information, particularly if it leads to consumers becoming more over-indebted, is a key priority for the OFT. We expect any advice and/or information given to debtors to be in their best interests and it should include a full explanation of the implications of offers or advice’.

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