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Let’s talk about clients’ responsibilities

I recently found myself sitting in a pub watching a football match. Those who know me know that football doesn’t rank high on my interestometer so as I supped my pint, my mind wandered to the increasingly vociferous and potentially drunk crowd surrounding me.

My understanding of licensing laws is limited but I believe licensees are not allowed to serve alcohol to those already intoxicated. If this is the case, the question arises of how anyone ever gets drunk in a pub.

This is an interesting example of how the rules governing an activity can be at odds with the desires of customers, leaving intermediary parties in a quandary.

I recently read about an individual taking legal action against a bookmaker. The customer closed his account under the national self-exclusion scheme, which allows those with gambling problems to stop bookmakers accepting their bets.

The case is complicated but the client placed bets again, lost a lot of money and sued the bookmaker for negligence. While a tragic case and one that was ultimately lost, it raises questions about the responsibilities of customers.

In the above example, while the customer was self-excluded they opened an account in a different name. Clearly self-exclusion can work but an intelligent mind driven by addiction can always get around such a system. Surely customers have responsibilities too? And how do the relatively black and white examples I’ve given relate to the mortgage market, which is a more complicated place? What about consumer responsibilities in the field of mortgage advice?

For example, just as licensees can be caught between regulation and drunken customers’ desire to get more drunk, brokers can be caught between Financial Services Authority regulations and clients’ desire to borrow what brokers may consider to be unaffordable sums. What should they do? Clearly, someone with a budget of £1,000 per month and prospective mortgage payments of £2,000 per month should be invited to think again.

But what if a client insists they have £2,000 to spare but their broker doesn’t believe they will cancel their satellite TV package and gym member- ship to make up the amount? More to the point, what if they do not follow through on their cancellations and subsequently struggle to make repayments?

Brokers can work hard to help clients in sticky situations but they can’t cut up their credit cards, so what are consumers’ responsibilities in the event their unsecured debts balloon? It’s time we started a debate on the responsibilities of consumers.

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