The Central Bank has published the findings from its third thematic inspection of the debt management sector, which examined compliance in the sector with the Consumer Protection Code. The Central Bank identified deficiencies in the manner in which some of the 35 firms inspected (there are currently 55 authorised debt management firms) assess consumers’ circumstances prior to giving advice around the lack of use of the Standard Financial Statement document. Secondly, deficiencies arose where firms were unable to show that they had considered or communicated the actual or potential consequences for consumers of taking the advice given. Other deficiencies identified were: not providing information on debt management services prior to providing them; cases where debt management services were provided despite the fact that an agreement was not obtained in advance; failure to inform consumers of the reasons why a course of action proposed is the most suitable option based on the firm's assessment of his or her individual circumstances; deficiencies in the Statement of Advice issued to consumers or a failure to provide the consumer with sufficient time to consider the Statement of Advice; failures to obtain consent from the consumers to act on their behalf; and cases where there was a failure to provide updates to consumers on at least a monthly basis where negotiations with creditors are on-going.
The Central Bank has outlined its current supervisory strategy as inspecting entities shortly after authorisation, and challenging firms to demonstrate that they are embedding a positive consumer-focused culture in their firms. The Central Bank has written to all entities operating in the sector, requiring their compliance arrangements to be critically assessed in light of the findings.