[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 26 November 2005, 14:57 GMT
Card cheques 'could be banned'
A man holding a credit card
There is normally a higher interest rate attached to the cheques
Credit card cheques sent to people who have not requested them could be banned, the government has told the BBC.

Consumer groups have long expressed concern about the cheques which are often sent to people by their credit card companies.

There is usually a handling charge for their use and the amount spent is borrowed at a higher rate of interest than when making purchases using a card.

A government consultation launched on Thursday did not discuss a ban, much to the disappointment of organisations that deal with debt.

But speaking to BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme, Consumer Minister Gerry Sutcliffe said that following the consultation process: "If there is no case for unsolicited credit card cheques then we will do away with them. They could be banned."

Customer permission

The government promised in June it would talk to the high street banks about whether they should stop sending out unsolicited cheques.

The banks say the cheques are useful to customers and mailing them is a legitimate way to market their services.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Do you think they should be banned?
Or do you find them convenient and useful?

But consumer groups disagree.

Peter Tutton of Citizens Advice told the programme: "There is a number of problems. They can be more expensive than using a card in a way that people may not understand.

"[You do not have] the same protection that you would have if you used a card. And people get irritated by receiving them.

And he is also concerned about security issues: "People are coming into CABs who have found that things through the post have disappeared, they find things coming out of their account that they do not know about... another reason not to send them out unsolicited."

Written guidance

The government consultation which was launched on Thursday is asking for views "on what could be done to make sure consumers understand that using a credit card cheque is not the same as using a credit card".

It put forward four options for consideration, including regulation to ensure information on interest rates and charges is sent out with - or written on - the cheques.

On this Mr Tutton said: "The problem with that is that people often do not understand notices, or written information.

We would like to see a ban, We think it would be the right thing to do
Peter Tutton, Citizens Advice
"Surely the thing to do is make sure you do not send them to people they may not be suitable for.

"There should be an opting-in process rather than an opting-out process."

He welcomed the minister's comments about a possible ban, saying: "We see a massive increase in problems with consumer credit in the last 10 years, a huge increase in debt. A lot of that is with credit cards."

"We would like to see a ban, We think it would be the right thing to do.

"Of course the credit card industry is going to put up arguments against it, but those arguments do not seem particularly strong."

Under the provisions of the Banking Code, you can contact your card company to tell them not to send you any unsolicited credit card cheques.

You can respond to the government consultation by sending an email to credit.review@dti.gsi.gov.uk

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 26 November, 2005, at 1204 GMT.

The programme was repeated on Sunday, 27 November, at 2102 GMT.

RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific