Best Consumer Campaign

Stop the Debt threats

@mmhpi  #debtthreats

intimidating debt letters can leave people feeling panicked and unable to see a way out of their situation.

The Campaign

The ‘Stop the Debt Threats’ campaign successfully changed decades-old rules that forced lenders to send intimidating letters to people in problem debt — and that contribute to people becoming suicidal. 

Money and Mental Health research showed that over 100,000 people in problem debt attempt to take their own life in England every year. Many factors can contribute to people becoming suicidal, but members of their Research Community – a group of 5,000 people with lived experience of mental health problems – said that intimidating debt letters can leave people feeling panicked and unable to see a way out of their situation. 

Rules in the Consumer Credit Act actually forced lenders to send these intimidating letters, featuring large blocks of threatening and confusing language. They also had to include advice that people should consult their solicitor or local trading standards board, instead of signposting to free debt advice. 



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The Change

As a result of the campaign, the Government announced in October 2020 that it is changing Consumer Credit Act rules on ‘default notices’, the most distressing debt letters. 

The language in these letters will be simplified and made less intimidating, with jargon explained. Text will no longer be written in shouty block capital letters, which will make them less alarming. Instead of advising people to consult their solicitor or trading standards, the letters will now include signposting to appropriate sources of free debt advice. Firms will need to have these changes in place by June 2021. 


The Future

This is not the end of Money and Mental Health’s work to reduce the psychological harm caused by intimidating debt collection practices. In the coming year, they will continue to push the government to change the rules on other types of debt letters, and to introduce better regulation of the bailiff industry.  

Who else was involved?

The Money and Mental Health Research Community of people with lived experience of mental health problems, who were at the heart of everything, and whose passion and ideas drove the campaigning activity.  

More than 30 national charities backed the campaignincluding the SamaritansCitizens Advice and Mind, along with support from six financial services firms.