The Bankruptcy Protection Fund, Consolidated Finance and Alpha Mortgages Manchester have been told to improve their practices.
Bankruptcies can be annulled by a court in certain circumstances, including when bankruptcy debts and expenses of the bankruptcy have been paid off in full or guaranteed to the satisfaction of the court.
Some businesses offer recently bankrupted homeowners a short-term loan secured on their property in order to repay all such debts and expenses and enable them to seek to annul the bankruptcy.
An OFT investigation found that the three companies had not been transparent in their dealings with customers and failed to adequately outline the risks involved.
The companies had also misled consumers about cancellation rights and, in one instance, failed adequately to take account of the needs of a consumer with limited mental capacity.
The requirements imposed set out that the companies must ensure that:
- advertising material explains the commercial nature and costs of the service and consumers are made fully aware of the links between the companies
- before entering into a contract, consumers are given clear and accurate information about the short-term loan offered, and that obtaining a mortgage or re-mortgage is not guaranteed
- before entering into a contract, consumers are given accurate information on the cost of the service and adequate warnings about the nature of the service, including that the consumers property could be repossessed in the event of non-payment of the loan
- before entering into a contract, consumers are informed of their right to cancel the agreement
- they do not provide bankruptcy annulment services where there remain doubts about a consumer’s capacity to understand the information provided.
Ray Watson, director of the OFT’s Consumer Credit Group, says: “Bankrupt people are in a vulnerable position. They need to be given full and clear information about any offer that is made to them. These requirements make it clear that the OFT expects full transparency and fairness from this sector, to make sure that consumers are not misled and do not find themselves placed in a worse financial situation.”