Credit card marketing condemned by charity

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The Independent Online

Citizens Advice, the nationwide charity which gives free advice to people in financial difficulty, this week accused the major credit card companies of "irresponsible marketing".

Citizens Advice, the nationwide charity which gives free advice to people in financial difficulty, this week accused the major credit card companies of "irresponsible marketing".

Teresa Perchard, the charity's director of policy, said credit card issuers used marketing techniques that placed too much emphasis on the speed and ease with which consumers could borrow money.

Ms Perchard said: "The major credit card issuers must be more responsible in the way they lend, starting with how credit is promoted to consumers. We want to see more transparency in what is being offered and how it has been calculated, with a fuller explanation of the terms and conditions, as well as simple ready reckoners to help customers work out if they can really afford to repay what they are being offered.

"All our research shows that it only takes a small change in circumstances for credit to turn into debt crisis. Individuals who are already over-stretched can be vulnerable to the promises of fast, easy cash from lenders."

A survey carried out by Citizens Advice last year, In Too Deep, found that the amount of money owed by the charity's clients averaged nearly 14 times their monthly incomes, which were generally very low. Sandra Quinn, a spokeswoman for the Association of Payment and Clearing Services (Apacs), the high-street bankers' club, said: "We have no issue with the Citizens Advice agenda for more responsible lending."

The problem has been highlighted by recent cases. In one a man committed suicide over £70,000 of credit card debt, and an elderly lady had 20 cards even though she was forced to live in a caravan.

Ms Perchard called on members of Apacs to stamp out the "seven deadly sins of irresponsible marketing". These were saying to potential customers:

* Look how fast it is to get a loan

* Look how much we'll lend you

* Look at the low interest rates (which you might not get)

* Look at these special offers and vouchers

* Look, you didn't even have to tell us you wanted more money

* Look - but with the help of a magnifying glass

* Look at how much marketing literature we can print and post to you.

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