Archive for April, 2009

Hold on to your cash

April 22, 2009

I do not often discuss the wider economic picture here. This is because there is enough to discuss on issues of how to control one’s own affairs.

But I do feel that this is one of those times that wider events are going to impact on exactly that, and quite seriously.

My view of the direction of the British and of the world economy is extremely bleak. For me this is no recent conversion. For as long as I can remember I found the idea of exponential growth in a finite world merely disaster waiting its opportunity.

It is my belief that now the changes will be quite dramatic; if they are understood then there can be an orderly and planned move to the changes.

But in the interim you and I need our wits about us. And the first move is the opposite of the ‘wisdom’ from official circles. You need your cash more than some over-exposed company. You have no duty to spend. Rather you have a duty to think how you will manage in the next years if there is a drop in your income.

And – unless you are one of the few lucky ones – your income will not rise and is most likely to fall. This will look acceptable as deflation operates for a few years. But the actions of governments, and the continued thinking – that if you are in debt you should borrow your way out – promises a massive inflation following on from that.

In terms of debts and repayment, my advice is to is to ensure you have kept in your own pocket everything you possibly can; and I give advice on that elsewhere. While it may feel like a good idea to repay debt as fast as you can it may not be your best approach at this time.

In view of the difficulties ahead I may write more on the wider picture, but for now please think very carefully when faced with any expenditure – including repayments.

Joseph Harris – Debt Control Man
author: Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms


Does the FOS Work for Us?

April 14, 2009

I have earlier praised the Financial Ombudsman Service for its very existence.

My thinking is that it will act as a check on creditor failures to observe the rules, and that findings would take into account these rules in dealing as ‘piggy in the middle’.

Well I’ve been in ‘the waiting room’ of the FOS now for over a year and I am far less certain of this. Even more important I am very concerned at the extent to which the debtor has still to fight to get a proper hearing.

I cannot give you full details of the cases involved, since to mention the companies could well bring those savage legal departments sniffing like the monsters in any one of a thousand science fiction films! I can say that the process of the FOS is wearing for the debtor.

That process is three-stage. More if you take the delays into account.

The queue does of course relate to the changes in the volume of work, and the time it takes to train up; no basic criticism over that since it has to take the banks’ unfairness on its shoulders. and we know there is plenty of that.

First stage of actual process is with the adjudicator. Here one is dealing with a new process, so in essence it is necessary to repeat the arguments you have given to make sure they are fully understood, together with one’s perceived faults in the bank or credit card company response.

If you don’t like that – and from my experience don’t expect to – you can ask for the adjudication to be reviewed. If you don’t like that you can request your case go to an actual Ombudsman. Each time you need to re-present your case to some extent.

Now I am sure many people are happy with their experiences at the FOS so I am not going to dismiss its work out of hand, but sometime this year I will be dealing with an actual Ombudsman and that will certainly tell me whether I still have praise for the process.

Any way, for the umpteenth time now I am having to prepare my response to what I consider an appalling adjudication which reads to me almost like a letter from one of the companies.

I plan to write more on the service, and on the whole process, here, in my book, and on my website.

Joseph Harris
Debt Control Man

Dirty Tricks Uncovered in Debt Collection Department

April 13, 2009

The Sunday Times yesterday [12 April 2009] published an excellent report on its investigation into LloydsTSB debt collections department. The Insight team had a reporter working in the department.

This long article confirms what we have all been saying about the disgraceful treatment of debtors by the banks and other financial institutions. The Lloyds revelations are repeatedly described as ‘industry practice’. So this stands as a marker for other banks.

The only counters to the report are a comment about an annual inspection [Oh! Per-lease!!!] and a statement of ‘what jolly good chaps we are’ from the bank.

Staff are poorly paid and work to an incentive scheme. The pressure is on them and clearly there is either no monitoring or it is to push the staff harder. The latter is more likely. As I have always thought the problem is systemic and starts right at the top. People are mere milch-cows to them.

But we are people and, dammit, we now own the miserable organisation.

Some of the stories of the behaviour of these staff relates better to the wartime Gestapo and the old Soviet KGB.

The failure to observe the rules such as the Banking Code and the Consumer Protection Regulations is obvious. But, as I point out, we have to fight hard to remind these organisations of their duties.

Please note my encouragement and instructions as to how to do this here in previous blogs, on my website – where you will also find the first part of my book on sale: Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms: How to make Creditors and Debt Collectors Obey the Law.

Any incentive scheme is doomed to distort and cause difficulties. The biggest one of them all – the world casino run by the banks like Lloyds would you believe – has just tumbled the world into the worst disaster it has known for at least 80 years; and by some reckonings even longer.

So I think it is time they cleaned their act up and behaved like responsible parts of the society which protects them through Company Law, rather than as leeches –  a term they seem keen to make stick to them.

So my thanks – and I am sure yours – for such an excellent article which we know to be accurate, and a welcome support to efforts to get the law and its parts observed.

Joseph Harris

Debt Control Man

Low Cost Online Bankruptcy

April 11, 2009

Let me just apologise for the long gap in my blogs. Sometimes things do not go as one would like, and – as Robert Burns put it – The best laid plans of mice and men / Gang oft aglay [’aglay’ is Scots dialect for ‘awry’, or simply ‘wrong’ – ‘gang’ for ‘go’ – ‘oft’ is short for ‘often’.]


I am now back with some moderately good news for low income readers with debts below £15,000. A new service – DRO, Debt Relief Orders – is now in effect according to The Financial Times.


This enables those who qualify to become bankrupt for £90, as opposed to the £500 or so in court fees for the conventional service. Access is through a third party, with the Citizens Advice Bureaux the most often mentioned in reports and comments.


This can be a great relief to those caught in the debt trap with no way to pay, and with creditors or their debt collecting agencies harrassing [forbidden under the Consumer Protection Regulations 2008].


With the trend for the economy down the likelhood for most of us of getting an income to beat our present ones is small. And for the small debtor [and £15,000 is small today] this is a helpful possibility.


I have now my website – – open and the first part of my book on offer. My debtwiki has been massively spammed and I am just in the process of turning it into a conventional Debt Dictionary.

Look forward to your visit.

Joseph Harris

Debt Control Man