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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Rich increasingly 'sucked into debt'
Women shopping
The "live now pay later" lifestyle has its costs
Debt-collection agencies are dealing with an estimated 50bn of consumer debt, as multiple debts are catching up with all sections of society - not just low-income groups.

Debt affects all sections of society; it is a misconception that it is only people who come from poverty who have debt. Our clients come from a wide-ranging backgrounds

Amy Brown, CCS

Research has found that people are far more willing to borrow to finance their lifestyles, accumulating multiple debts because "luxury is now considered standard".

Even those who are traditionally good at managing their money - the so-called "prime" market - are increasingly finding themselves sucked into debt.

The report by Leeds University for the debt collection body the Credit Service Association, said that the plethora of easy credit was causing an "over-commitment" from consumers.

This is no longer confined to lower income groups or social groups C, D, and E.

Store cards

Debt is now less of a stigma and more a fact of life for many, according to the report.

Number of store cards
1998: 17.9m
2000: 22.1m

Credit-card lending has almost doubled over the past four years, while more people are paying back through structured personal loans rather than relying on their overdrafts.

Nearly half of the adult population - or 22m people - now own a store card, typically the easiest method of borrowing money.

UK consumer credit (1996)
Credit-card Lending: 11.9bn
Overdraft lending: 4.3bn
Personal loans: 24.5bn

Rates can be 30 times higher than the cheapest rates on the market - as much as 30%.

The Credit Service Association also says that consumers are losing 200m a year through credit-card fraud.

Amy Brown of the CCS, a free debt advice service, said: "Debt affects all sections of society; it is a misconception that it is only people who come from poverty who have debt. Our clients come from wide-ranging backgrounds.

UK consumer credit (2000)
Credit-card lending: 20.62bn
Overdraft lending: 5.73bn
Personal loans: 40.4bn

"Those most vulnerable are middle-income families in their early thirties and where they are a lot of demands on their finances."

For help with debt

  • "You wouldn't credit it. Ten things you never knew about credit law" - useful, relatively unknown tips on credit law, available on the OFT website (see link).

  • BBC News Online's "Q&A: How to manage debt"

  • The Community Legal Service has a leaflet on "Dealing with debt. Your rights", which can be obtained from the legal services website or telephone 0845 3000343 or e-mail

  • There are a number of free advice services to help you manage debts:

    Try Consumer Credit Counselling Service (0800 1381111), National Debtline (0808 8084000) or the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (020 7833 2181).

See also:

05 Sep 01 | Business
1.2bn personal debt crisis
30 Aug 01 | UK
Stretched to the limit
30 Jul 01 | Business
Q&A: How to manage debt
25 Jul 01 | Business
Crackdown on rogue lenders
26 Jan 01 | Archive
Caught in the debt trap
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