Julian Knight: Forget the soft soap, this plot to wipe debt is just greedy

Escaping what you owe on credit cards is a long way from refusing to pay bank charges

In my email system is the usual collection of crucial info, spam, dull announcements and the downright bizarre.

To be honest, the weird ones are usually my favourites. Included in this category are regular emails from the British Toilet Association – the winner of the Loo of the Year competition was the Eastgate shopping centre in Basildon, by the way – an invitation to take part in a Kent-based, women-only boot camp called GI Jane, and then last week a little nugget headlined: "Coronation Street star is consumer champion." That's a must-read in my world view. What was it? Well, actor Michael Le Vell, who plays grumpy mechanic Kevin Webster in the soap, is also, it turns out, a director of claims management group Ratio Money.

Ratio is busily engaged in trying to get people's credit-card debts written off due to a loophole in the Consumer Credit Act. The press release says that Mr Le Vell's firm had just got a client out of a £15,000 credit-card debt. "We believe thousands of people in this country who have loans and credit-card agreements that do not comply with the law can look to have their debts written off and any adverse credit rating removed from their records," the actor was quoted as saying.

This is not an isolated case; firms such as Mr Le Vell's are on the look-out for those who would like to escape their debts. To my untrained eye, the legal position of the claimants looks fuzzy and I can't say whether a test case would see them win or lose. At present, many of the lenders seem to be taking the same approach as to the original unfair bank charges claims a few years back and dropping their opposition when the cases come to court.

But this is where the similarities end. The moral darkness behind bank charges was that they were massively over-inflated, designed purely to boost bank profits, and they resulted in misery for thousands of consumers. With credit-card debts, the individual has had the money and now wants to get out of what they owe on, frankly, a technicality. For me, this trend represents nothing more than greed of the worst sort. If you borrow money, you have a moral duty to pay it back, period. There will be no campaign like we saw over unfair bank charges over this issue, regardless of the soft soap of the claims management companies.

What price conscience?

I'm often asked for advice on money matters, it comes with the territory. Last week, a friend wanted to know which fund was best for her workplace pension. Now she has a choice of 80-odd funds, but her employer – a charity – has said that it "approves" of only one of these funds, for being ethical. But a quick scan of the charges shows it to be one of the most expensive to invest in. With a pension, charges are absolutely crucial. Even a fraction of a percentage point on or off the annual management charge can equate to a few thousand pounds over the 30 or 40 years a pension runs. In fact, a look at the universe of ethical funds and their charges shows that they can be more expensive than their less-green counterparts. In short, as with organic produce, you're expected to pay extra for indulging your conscience.

Ceiling our fate

Public-sector pensions have a combined deficit of £1.1 trillion, the Policy Exchange revealed last week. That's more than the national debt and is utterly unsustainable. The Lib Dems want an urgent review of pay and pensions in the private versus the public sector and they are quite right. But I'd go further than this and freeze the pension schemes now in advance of any review. If you have a leak at home which threatens to bring the ceiling down you turn the water off first then investigate what has caused the problem and how to repair it. However, this Government of the living dead won't do anything about this most crucial of issues and, with every day wasted, the deficit grows.

Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Suite dreams: the JW Marriott in Venice
travelChic new hotels in 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

    Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Equity | New York

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...

    Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...

    Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

    Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

    Day In a Page

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect