A debt charity has called for tighter laws after it revealed debt collectors harassed a “despairing” man seven times in seven hours.
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, a charity chaired and founded by consumer champion Martin Lewis, is urging the government to limit how often debt collectors can contact people.
The charity's chief executive Helen Undy told Good Morning Britain that a "despairing" person told them he received seven contacts in seven hours from a single debt collection agency.
This included two text messages, two emails, a letter and two phone calls, which he said left him “feeling harassed and persecuted”.
Undy said: “It’s vital that the government acts quickly to stop people being deluged in this way.
"Acting now could genuinely save lives as the cost of living crisis deepens in the coming months.”
Lewis added: “We know that being bombarded with letters, calls and threats of court action from debt collectors can lead people to feel hopeless, helpless and even contribute to people becoming suicidal.
“So, the sooner there are specific protections put in place to limit how and how often debt collectors can contact people about missed payments the better – even the bastion of free markets, the USA, has tighter rules on that than we do."
Money and Mental Health said that while guidance states creditors and debt collectors should not contact people in arrears “at unreasonable intervals”, it does not stipulate how often is too much.
It said repeated contact from money lenders can leave people feeling bullied and unable to see a way out of their situation.
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The charity is also calling for the government to update its national suicide prevention strategy.
A survey of more than 2,000 adults in November for the charity found 17% had experienced suicidal thoughts or feelings over the previous nine months as a result of the rising cost-of-living.
Lewis said: “It’s been 10 years since the government published its national suicide prevention strategy, and a new version is due imminently.
“We need the government to move quickly in publishing that, and hope that within it there is a recognition that financial problems are one of the broad drivers of suicide.
“It then needs to ensure that it has a serious package of measures to tackle the suicide risk that the cost of living crisis is causing.”
People who are in emotional distress can contact charities such as the Samaritans.
Help with debt problems is also available through charities such as StepChange and Christians Against Poverty.
National Debtline, run by the Money Advice Trust, also offers free, independent and confidential help with personal debt.