What about debt management companies?
Debt management companies offer debt advice or a debt management service, where they negotiate with your lenders and try to reduce your repayments. Debt management companies are required to be regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.
Be careful when seeking debt management services from online providers. Some firms may have misleading names that sound like charitable or government organisations. Some firms may also advertise free debt advice but they are actually a debt management company that will charge you a fee.
Commercial debt management companies charge fees for their services. In cases where they offer or advise you to consolidate your loans, there may be other costs and the interest rate on the new consolidated loan may be high. These fees and interest rates could lead to further financial trouble for you. Make sure you read and understand all their fees before you sign any agreement with a debt management company.
Always consider all your options if you need debt advice. You can get free, independent and confidential debt advice and money management services from the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS), which is government funded.
If you are considering using a commercial debt management company, you should find out the following
- Check if the firm will deal with all of your personal debts
- Ask if the firm is regulated and check that they are listed on the Central Bank of Ireland's Registers
- Ask what training/skills staff have
- Get a full breakdown of how much the fees paid to the commercial debt management company is and what these relate to. For example, do you have to pay for initial advice, the re-negotiated loan package or both? Do you pay a flat fee or a percentage of your debt?
- Find out how you pay the fees. Is it upfront, by instalments or at a later date? Are there extra charges depending on how you pay the fees?
- Ask if you will have to pay a fee even if the company cannot re-negotiate all of your debts
- If you re-negotiate your loan repayments check how much extra this will cost you overall
- Ask if the company is connected to other organisations that sell financial products
- Ask if your money is kept in a client account separate from the company's other accounts.
Each debt management company must comply with the relevant provisions of the Central Bank of Ireland's Consumer Protection Code and must have a complaints handling procedure. Any unresolved complaints may be referred to the Financial Services Ombudsman.