Posts Tagged ‘agreement’

When to Go Bankrupt

November 15, 2008

Since contemplating bankruptcy for myself I have generally advised against it. At the same time every person’s situation is different.

So noting the new figures for bankruptcy and the chilling of the financial ‘institutions’ to their customers I revisit the matter.

According to This is Money personal bankruptcies rose seven per cent in the third quarter, against a year before.

The number of families whose lives were turned upside down in the three months July, August and September is 13,653. Bearing in mind that bankruptcy lasts a minimum of a year, and that maybe it takes another five to recover, that suggests the number of families affected now are around 200,000 – and rising.

That will soon be one household in ten; an epidemic!

Apparently financial institutions are forcing these bankruptcies, just at a time when their own debt is being ‘socialised’ and they are walking away from their mistakes with their yachts intact.

However let me steer myself away from the politics of this…

While there may be cases where the banks will recover more in this way, than from an intelligent approach, my own experience tells me some of the banks are incapable of understanding the difference between different situations.

On the whole they will have less to gain from forcing bankruptcy, than from an intelligent agreement.

I always say it is better to talk to the creditor, persistently, than to just assume there is only one way to go… downhill!

When you do talk, or write, remember that one operative may have a quite different way of dealing with customers than the one sitting next to her.

You may have to contact a different department; or the Chief Executive Officer of the creditor. Don’t be afraid to. He uses the smallest room just like you do.

If you are in a position where you obviously cannot pay what is the point of wasting company resources chasing you? It is poor decision making on the part of the creditor.

And if you have assets what is the point of forcing a sale of them at a time when the cash gained will be minimal.

And if you are in a position to offer something, what is the point in saying ‘no’ if the offer presented to the creditor is reasonable in your personal circumstances.

It is surely all good accounting, and straight common sense.

Although knowing what I do about derivatives, toxic debt, dark pools and the other arcane forms of gambling in the financial casino I don’t think anyone can accuse the financial ‘institutions’ of being blessed with common sense.

Joseph Harris

Debt Control Man

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A Word For Debt Collectors

October 5, 2008

Preparing part of the step by step book I am hoping to have ready for you very soon I had to think about debt collectors.

And, in a way, I do have some sympathy for them. And moreso perhaps for their staffs.

There are, after all, one or two areas where their activities are useful. These are where the people who they are chasing really are out to cheat and maybe involved in scams of one sort or another. And they seem to have an expertise in hunting down people who move around.

That is a word for them in support. There is another word for them when they are making the lives of people trying to do their best a misery.

Putting aside the scurrilous game of chasing debts that are out of time or already paid, they cannot get involved unless the creditors call them in.

Now in my experience creditors call in debt collectors inappropriately. They call them in when there is a negotiation on the table. I have seen them called in when the creditor tells me I have eight weeks to respond to a letter.

I have seen them called in when a negotiation has moved on the the FOS. Once there, until the FOS reaches a decision the matter is in arbitration.

I have seen them called in erratically during early exchanges of a negotiation. And I have seen them called in even after an agreement has been reached.

And I have seen recovery teams within a creditor formed into an inhouse debt collection agency, with all the pretence of being a separate company.

So, while there are many things to be said about the manner of debt collectors, they really should be in the mix only after all negotiation, including the FOS arbitration, has been completed AND if here remains real reason to believe that default is deliberate; and that means NOT by assumption, by rote or by procedure.

And there are many things to be said about the manner of debt collectors. Here the regulators are very weak in enforcing fairness. But that deserves not just another post in this blog, but a whole book!

Joseph Harris
Debt Control Man

Negotiating With Creditors for Changes in Terms and Loan and Debt Schedules – 3

September 22, 2008

‘Terms’ covers a multitude of sins. It is really a reference to the small print. Bear in mind that there has been no real negotiation in setting up the loan. There is a take it or leave it view about this.

Among the things that are in the terms are ones about the creditor making changes without your agreement. This probably is in legal gobbledegook and covers almost every condition in the contract. Were I to face the need to argue any of this I would almost certainly look for the force majeure argument to be a major defence.

It really is part of the fair treatment argument, and thee are several areas where I am itching to get public debate started. But this will be after I have produced a good help for all those with debt worries.

In that situation you have almost certainly been charged unreasonably high interest rates. I am putting ‘unreasonably’, but the creditor would obviously argue the opposite. Yet if your rate has been increased and you phone to ask for it to be put down again it is almost certain that there will be some movement in your favour.

Even if you do not have debt worries and your credit rating has not changed it is likely that your interest rate has been increased. Bank of England interest rate has been at or below 5% for months, or longer! I can see a strong case for a rate of 8%, 10% – at a pinch 12%. But tell me if you can how 15%, 18%, 22%, 29% and even 40% can be justified.

With these rates i am making reference only to the big name banks, credit institutions and loan companies. I abhor, but am not here dealing directly with, the Mail Order companies that charge interest at all. as for those which charge a point below 30% and 40% I have no polite words.

And I am not directly talking of the appalling of the outfits like the Money Shop that charge rates northward of 100% p.a.; I have heard there are ‘payday’ loans that work out at up to 600%. For any rate that is above 20% I declare the regulators are asleep at the wheel. Indeed I would want enquiries into any rate that is more than 5% above Bank Rate.

So there are my markers. Interest rates are not simple, and confusion is deliberately employed. It is relatively simple to ensure that complex methods are simply not permitted. I know of no reason for having them.

Be absolutely clear that interest means you pay back to the creditor more than you originally borrowed. The higher the interest rate the more you pay back. In some cases, where the repayment sum is low and the interest rate not low, the debt can continue for ever!

If you do not understand interest rates believe me that a lot of people do not. If you are one you are not alone. Then seek advice. All the charities will be pleased to work out for you how you are placed with your own debt.

So do not accept that you must suffer unreasonable interest rates. You may have to argue it all the way to the Financial Ombudsman Service, but I hope that any creditor guilty of charging unreasonable rates will have their licence revoked, however big they are.

Joseph Harris
Debt Control Man

Your Debt Crisis, Making Notes

August 26, 2008

I don’t know anybody that really enjoys the nature and the discipline of making notes. And I most certainly include myself. But, in my view, notes you must make.

Unless you manage to come to a very quick agreement the debt negotiation can take months. I have four accounts entering their sixteenth month, and set fair for a few more. Don’t worry if they take time.

What is important is to realise that you cannot commit all that is happening to memory. Your memory is probably better than mine, but can you remember a phone call you made six months ago? Unless you are a rare person with a photographic memory I doubt it.

In negotiating for a settlement to your debt you will be approached by phone and by letter. Each time a record of some sort is placed on your computer file.

But will it be the same as what you believe took place? You won’t know; no-one is going to tell you. But your creditor will use that record to judge you, the debt, and how he wants to pressure.

So you must make a full note of the conversation. You can have pen and paper ready by the phone. Or ask the caller to wait while you get them, or get the file you have on that particular creditor.

And what should the note say? First the name of the caller, the company, and if it is not the original creditor the the name of that one. The date is vital, and the time of the call is important.

It is also a good idea to ask where the caller is based. The conversation will go differently if you are being called from a call centre in Bangalore, than if you are being called from one near your home.

You can interrupt the conversation to make a full note if you feel you need to. Sometimes a statement by an agent is so outrageous you want to make sure that it is recorded in full. The agent at the other end is making notes, and the conversation is also being recorded that end.

You are fully entitled to have the time to make your own notes, even to make your own recording if you have the equipment and the know-how.

If the creditor’s agent does make an outrageous statement you need to follow up with a complaint to a superior. This is best done in writing, since it makes a record that must be responded to. And it is available for the FOS or other third party to read and understand the failings of the creditor.

Recently, in a debt case before the FOS, I had a creditor pass the debt to a debt collector. I phoned the creditor and first received a helpful response and a promise of a return call. The young lady who returned the call refused to contact the FOS to confirm that the case was before them.

I now have a rather apologetic letter from the office of the Chief Executive Officer of that organisation. And I wrote to both the FOS and the Office of Fair Trading informing them of this failure.

How do you think the FOS will view that creditor when dealing with my debt case? And how will the organisation be viewed with other cases that go before it? And how will that look on the file of the Credit licence of that organisation at the OFT?

You have power to defend your position. Use it.

Joseph Harris
Debt Control Man