Write Off Your Debts

Definitions

As the wording suggests, writing off your debts would be making them disappear.

For anyone burdened with large amounts of debt through credit cards and other loans, this would sound like paradise. All your debts - perhaps many thousands of pounds’ worth - wiped out at a stroke. It sounds too good to be true!

There’s an old adage in business: anything that sounds too good to be true probably is. It’s always sensible to ask the question, what’s in it for the companies offering to provide you with such a service?

Options for writing off credit cards and loans

There are various ways to write off some or all of your debts, including bankruptcy and Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs). We look at these elsewhere on this site. There are also consolidation loans that offer to take on all your existing debt so that you pay a single, and often lower, monthly payment. You can read about the pros and cons of this approach elsewhere too.

In this article, though, we’re looking at something else: the idea that your debts can just be written off because the original agreements were in some way invalid.

Who offers to write off debts?

If you’ve ever watched daytime TV, you probably already have a good idea of some of the names behind this. Many of these companies have sprung up relatively recently, and market themselves rigorously through advertising and cold-calling. Their exact offer varies, but basically they are all claiming that they might be able to help you have your debt written off due to a technicality.

Should I do it?

For

If it worked, this would be an attractive proposition. Having all your credit card debts written off, along with other loans: and all for just a small, one-off fee. So much for the plus side.

Against

On the minus side, there are three big problems:

  1. The companies might not succeed. Let’s face it, if they could guarantee success, lots of credit card companies and the banks behind them would be in serious difficulties overnight. But their financial clout suggests this is unlikely. No doubt a lot of the hype stems from the idea that bank charges were pitched at an illegally high rate, allowing millions of people in the UK to claim back some of these costs. But even this was recently overturned in the courts. There is scant evidence that this sort of approach wins.
  2. These companies charge a fee before taking on your case. Far from being 'small', the fee can be hundreds of pounds per claim; so if you have eight credit cards, you could be looking at paying out something approaching £4,000 before your chosen company even lifts a finger for you. And as we’ve said, there’s no guarantee they will succeed.
  3. The evidence from those cases that have been successful is that many are only partial wins: some of the debt is written off, or the creditor agrees not to pursue the matter further. But in either case, your credit rating could be severely impaired as the creditor could report your 'failure to pay' to the credit rating agencies - leaving you struggling to obtain credit again for a long time.

Verdict

In our view, it’s unwise to pay money up-front to this type of company. If you feel confident that you could win such a case, it would be far better to go with a 'no win, no fee' provider. Before doing even this, it’s sensible to look at some of the other options set out on this website.

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Updated on 12th January, 2010

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