OFT sets out new code of conduct

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The Independent Online

New guidance from the Office of Fair Trading could herald the end of unwanted emails, texts and answer-machine messages offering debt management advice or credit-rating help.

The OFT warned yesterday that any company that sent unsolicited messages, provided staff bonuses that could encourage them to promote unsuitable debt products for personal gain, or operated websites mimicking those of a charity or government body, could be stripped of their consumer credit licence.

The OFT said businesses were also expected to refer consumers to not-for-profit advice organisations, where appropriate, and to have effective measures in place to identify particularly vulnerable clients, such as those with mental capacity issues.

It comes after the watchdog threatened more than 100 debt management companies with losing their licence in 2010 following a major review of the industry.

David Fisher, the director of the OFT's Consumer Credit Group, said: "All too often it may be particularly vulnerable consumers who fall victim to poor quality debt advice and we will continue to take action against businesses that fail to follow our guidance."