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Word on the Street

Banks were held to account last week after the media accused them of putting profits before human lives by luring people deeper into debt. Responsible lending is top of the Financial Services Authoritys agenda and with debt at the 1trillion mark consumer groups are asking whos to blame.

So, this week Mortgage Strategy asksWho is responsible for the mountain of consumer debt?

Leslie Amos, 25, services assistant
I think it is peoples’ own fault. It is consumers’ responsibility to control their spending, it’s not the banks’ responsibility. I don’t believe in getting into debt and refuse to allow myself to do it. Banks could control interest rates more to help people but it is still up to people themselves. The government should take some responsibility. There should be the option of advisory support but I don’t think banks should pay off people’s debts for them. Banks are businesses and have to look after themselves. They can’t look after everyone.

Kate Richardson, 22, runner
Banks don’t lend easily in my experience. And they have not helped me with my debt situations in the past. Luckily I don’t have to start paying back my student loan until I’m earning enough but when I do start earning over the threshold I’m going to have problems. When I confronted my bank about my debt problem I was told there was nothing it could do and it failed to offer me an alternative.

Alex Teixeira, 30, model
I think you should be able to ask for help from banks for your debt problems and I feel they are understanding when people have problems. There are so many credit options available nowadays and this serves to increase the risk of people getting into debt. Debt is also caused by the consumer culture we live in. People are always being encouraged to spend. So parents, the media and the government all are partly responsible for the country’s debt problem. There should be more emphasis on educating children about the risk of debt.

David Browne, 57, sales director
I don’t think banks are responsible for consumer debt. We live in a designer world and teenagers just want, want, want all the time. Retail stores and commercial organisations are responsible for this. Banks are good at giving out umbrellas and then quick to take them back again. I think there should be more emphasis on education to change the belief that young people have the divine right to have everything they want in life. We live in such a materialistic world – money is king. People spend without thinking about whether they can afford it or not.

Freya Danson-Hatcher, 21, student
Banks are quick to extend overdrafts and when they do people find it too easy to spend. Furthermore, they don’t update account details until Monday so it’s hard to keep track of what you spend at the weekend. People of my age find it easy to get into debt – my flatmate has three credit cards. Banks should advise people about debt and encourage them to come in to discuss their debt problems.

Leeanne Hoffman, 22, secretary
I think it’s your own fault if you get into debt. People should be more careful about the way they spend their money. But I also think banks should have more control over what they lend to people. I would not get a credit card. Banks should be tougher on people by looking at their credit histories before lending them more money. Experts could advise people about debt troubles but I don’t think the government will be able to help.

Andreas Nasiopoulos, 44, head waiter
Banks are responsible. They lend money easily and then take it back with a knife. They know people in this country are going to spend money if they’ve got it so they provide the bait for the fish and the temptation is too much for many. People are too materialistic nowadays – they earn 20,000 but spend 25,000. And the government is also at fault. It should put limits on how much people can borrow depending on how much they earn.

Lahsen Agherrali, 46, waiter
Banks that lend to people who aren’t earning enough aren’t losing anything because they always make a profit and it’s just a drop in the ocean to them. Many rip consumers off because they take advantage of the fact that they need money. It’s stressful for people if they can’t pay it back.

Simon Jones, 28, music producer
I am sensible with my money as a rule but I think a lot of people don’t realise that taking out credit cards and loans can lead them to serious difficulties. So I suppose consumers are at fault for never thinking of tomorrow and spending beyond their means, but then banks and loan companies take advantage by preying on this weakness.

Mark Cousins, 35, DJ
It’s society’s fault. We live in a materialistic, want, want, culture that has got out of hand. Banks dangle money in peoples’ faces and they are seduced. It’s a dilemma – people should know better but if money is being shoved in their faces it’s hard for them to say no. I don’t know what the answer is but it probably comes down to education.

Elizabeth Cooper, 31, secretary
Banks should put a limit on what people spend but that would take away individuals’ right to choose. If banks stopped lending money, people would be unable to lead the lifestyles they want. People want to be up with the latest trends. Some get carried away and spending can become an addiction. But it’s not up to the government to determine how people spend their money. Some may genuinely need money but others will borrow it if it’s available and then spend it frivolously.

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