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Ban debt collectors from bombarding households, warns Martin Lewis

martin lewis money saving expert - Andrew Crowley
martin lewis money saving expert - Andrew Crowley

Martin Lewis has urged the Government to stop debt collectors from harassing households over missed payments.

A report published by the consumer champion’s charity, the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, found that those in debt had been bombarded with texts, letters and calls – on some occasions within hours of each other.

It found in a survey that one in eight people who are behind on a bill had attempted suicide during the cost of living crisis. A further 11pc of households dreaded opening the post from banks; of those, almost half (49pc) had experienced suicidal thoughts in the last nine months.

One of the respondents, who asked not to be named, said a single debt collector had emailed, texted and phoned him twice each – and sent him a letter. One day, he said, the person contacted him seven times in seven hours, driving him to remove his SIM card and leaving him “more reclusive as a result”.

He added: “The sheer number of contacts scares me, it’s almost as if they are threatening and bullying me into compliance.”

Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, who serves as the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute’s founder and chairman, said the report’s findings were “particularly worrying” and left “a serious concern about the impact on the number of people who may consider taking their own lives”.

He added: “The sooner there are specific protections put in place to limit how and how often debt collectors can contact people about missed payments the better. Even the bastion of free markets, the United States, has tighter rules on that than we do.”

Mr Lewis said a new version of the Government’s Suicide Prevention Strategy “needs to ensure that it has a serious package of measures to tackle the suicide risk that the cost of living crisis is causing”.

Helen Undy, the charity’s chief executive, said the Government needed to learn lessons from the last recession, during which suicide rates increased. She said: “There is rarely a single cause for someone becoming suicidal, but it’s clear that the barrage of letters and calls bombarding people with debt problems is causing huge distress.

“It’s vital that the Government acts quickly to stop people being deluged in this way. Acting now could genuinely save lives as the cost of living crisis deepens in the coming months.”

A Treasury spokesman said: “We understand the negative impact financial troubles can have on a person’s mental health, and the Government is committed to supporting those in problem debt.

“Through our Breathing Space scheme, we have protected over 100,000 people who are unable to afford their debt repayments by pausing enforcement action, creditor contact and most interest, fees and charges for a 60-day period, giving them time to find a debt solution that works for them”.

Anyone can contact charity Samaritans at 116 123 at any time. You can also contact Anxiety UK on 03444 775 774, Mind on 0300 123 3393, and Calm (Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35) on 0800 58 58 58.