Office of Fair Trading
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Debt trade association gets OFT code approval

Debt trade association gets OFT code approval

OFFICE OF FAIR TRADING News Release (140/08) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 2 December 2008

The Debt Managers Standards Association (DEMSA) has become the first trade body within the debt management industry to successfully secure approval for its code of practice under the OFT Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS).

Debt management companies act on behalf of consumers to help clear outstanding debts by negotiating with creditors and facilitating repayments. In return for their services, these companies are generally paid a fee by the customer.

DEMSA currently has four members, who between them deal with around 38 per cent of all fee-paying debt management cases handled in the UK.

Consumers using companies that are members of DEMSA are guaranteed a better standard of customer service than the law requires. The OFT only approves codes that have proved effective in safeguarding and promoting the interests of consumers beyond the basic requirements of the law. These companies have agreed to :

* a set of comprehensive monitoring procedures including inspection visits, monitoring of telesales with potential customers, checks on marketing, advertising and web sweeps,

* an independent disciplinary panel to ensure that the code is complied with and enforced,

* a range of sanctions including warnings and ultimately termination of membership for dealing with non-compliance,

* protection of all clients deposits or prepayments by the use of separate ring-fenced accounts,

* an obligation that they will use fair terms and conditions and provide
clear written pre-contractual information for customers,

* regular customer satisfaction surveys so that problem areas can be identified and addressed so that the code can be developed and improved for the benefit of consumers.

Consumers wanting to use a DEMSA member can now look for the OFT Code Approved logo on company advertising and literature.

John Fingleton, OFT Chief Executive said :

'DEMSA has undertaken a rigorous assessment to achieve OFT Code Approval, and I congratulate them on their work to improve standards for consumers using their services. Consumers can be confident that where they see the OFT Approved Code logo they will be treated fairly, and that an effective redress scheme is available if this is not the case.'

Michael Land, DEMSA Chairman said :

'We are delighted to have achieved OFT code approval after working closely with the OFT and members to ensure the highest standards for consumers. We are especially pleased to have become only one of eight trade bodies to currently have gained this approval.

'It is now even more important, with so many people needing expert debt advice and help, to be totally confident when dealing with our members. DEMSA expects that several more debt management companies will be joining as members after they have passed the rigorous DEMSA requirements.'

NOTES

1. The OFT's Consumer Codes Approval Scheme consists of two stages. During Stage One the code must meet the OFT's published core criteria, which contain measures designed to remove or ease consumer concerns about undesirable trading practices. In Stage Two the code sponsor must prove that its code lives up to the promises made in Stage One by demonstrating that the code is being effectively implemented by its members and that consumer disputes are properly resolved.

2. DEMSA originally submitted its code for assessment under the OFT's code approval scheme on 20 November 2001. It completed stage one on 23 June 2005. See PN 121/05 for further information.

3. The four DEMSA members are Chiltern Debt Management, Gregory Pennington, Debt Management Associates Ltd, and Loan Management Services Ltd.

4. The Enterprise Act 2002 gives the OFT powers to approve and promote consumer codes of practice that meet the OFT's core criteria. The OFT's Consumer Codes Approval Scheme aims to promote and safeguard consumers' interests by helping consumers identify better businesses and to encourage businesses to raise their standards of customer service. See PN 31/01 for further details.

5. See the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme section on the OFT website for further information and a list of approved trade bodies.

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