Money Advice Trust says only council tax, credit card and bank debts prompt more calls to the National Debtline
People running into trouble with debts owed to catalogue companies now outnumber those who struggle with rent, mortgages and payday loans, according to a debt charity.
More than 13% of calls to the National Debtline in the first quarter of 2012 were about catalogue debts, a figure that has increased year-on-year since 2007 from 8%.
The number of people struggling with catalogue company debts is almost on a par with those struggling with widely publicised energy debts. Only council tax arrears, credit and store cards and bank loans and overdrafts prompt more calls to the charity.
“Catalogue debts go largely unmentioned in public these days, but advisers at National Debtline hear from nearly 100 people every day struggling to repay such debts,” said Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, which runs the National Debtline.
“When buying from a catalogue, many people don’t realise they are signing a consumer credit agreement, which means the debt is enforceable in the courts. Additionally, many people don’t realise that missing a payment on a catalogue debt will usually invalidate any special low or 0% interest deal.”
A spokesman for the charity said the debts it was dealing with covered “everyone from Argos to Littlewoods to smaller name companies.”
Separate figures from debt charity the Consumer Credit Counselling Service has concluded that young people are being disproportionately affected by the deteriorating state of the economy.
It said this was compounded by high levels of unemployment among the under 25s, with one in four men in this age group and one in five women currently out of work. The charity said it helps about 40 people under the age of 25 every day.
“Unsecured debt levels are relatively low [in this age group], averaging £5,800, but because of low incomes and high unemployment the average take home pay for clients under 25 is £980 compared with £1,380 for the average client,” CCCS external affairs director Delroy Corinaldi said.
“While people of all ages are struggling, young people are at the sharp edge of this downturn. High youth unemployment and stagnating incomes mean we can expect an increasing number to fall into problem debt.”