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Debt Management

Volume 410: debated on Monday 18 August 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry how many licensed debt collectors operate in the UK; how many complaints have been received regarding the conduct of debt collectors, in each year since 2000; how many complaints have been upheld in each year since 2000; how many debt collectors have been banned from practising in each year since 2000; and if she will place in the Library a list of banned debt collectors. [129938]

The Office of Fair Trading is responsible for licensing and investigating complaints regarding debt collectors and other bodies involved in the consumer credit market.The current consumer credit licence categories do not distinguish between debt collection and certain other forms of licensed lending. However, a recent survey by the Credit Services Association, a major trade body for the sector, suggests there are approximately 400 debt collection businesses in the UK, 206 of whom are its members.Separate debt collection complaint data have not been recorded over the full period in question.In January 2003, the OFT set up a specialist team to deal with complaints regarding debt collection; issuing debt collection guidance in July 2003, which sets out practices affecting fitness to hold a consumer credit licence. There are currently 82 complaints under investigation.In 2000, the OFT issued 20 debt collectors with notices that it was minded to revoke, refuse or vary licences; 10 in 2001 and five in 2002 to March 2003.Data on adverse determinations have not been recorded over the period in question by industry type, and it is not possible to provide a comprehensive list of debt collectors that have had their licence refused or revoked at this time.Where there is insufficient evidence to recommend formal action, the OFT also issues warning letters to companies. This activity helps to secure compliance and enables prompt action if future evidence of breaches is received.Data on how many debt collectors have been banned in each year since 2000 have not been collated and this could be done only at disproportionate cost. The Consumer Credit Public Register includes details of everyone holding a licence, everyone who has applied for one, or had one revoked, suspended or varied. It is held by the Office of Fair Trading, and the public can search the public register by telephone or visit in person.