With total UK consumer debt, including mortgages, reaching over£700 billion for the first time , consumers are being urged to:
-Compare the interest rates and Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) of different lenders. Shop around for the best deal - usually, the lower the APR, the better the deal, but check all the terms carefully, including the length of the agreement.
-Get good impartial advice if you are already in debt before you borrow yet more. Ignoring your debts won't make them go away. Be very wary of companies offering to 'consolidate' all your debts into one payment - some charge very high rates of interest over a long repayment time, making it hard to break the cycle of debt.
Welcoming the campaign, Cllr John Farrow, executive member for community safety, said:
'By shopping around and taking time to think through the consequences of taking out credit, you may help to avoid debt problems occurring in the first place. However, escaping the vicious cycle of debt can be daunting, which is why it is so important to seek good, impartial advice at an early stage before you sign up to any agreement that you don't fully understand.'
To help consumers get access to advice about credit and debt, Oxfordshire trading standards has joined forces with the Oxford money advice project to provide a telephone helpline during National Consumer Week. In addition to the usual consumer advice helpline (operating every Monday to Friday between 8.30 am and 5.00 pm on 01865 815000) the dedicated credit and debt helpline will be available from Monday 12 to Friday 16 November between 10 am and 3 pm and the number is 01865 815400.
Free advice leaflets, posters and budget planners are available through citizens advice bureaux, trading standards and from the office of fair trading website at www.oft.gov.uk or by telephoning 0870 60 60 321.
Free help on credit and debt issues can also be obtained from the following organisations:
- Citizens Advice Bureaux
- Independent Advice Agencies through the Federation of Information and Advice Centres (FIAC) on 020 7489 1800
- The National Debtline, which has a 24 hour answering service on 0808 808 4000
- Consumer Credit Counselling Service on 0800 1381111
- Direct Debit Line on 01323 481111