UK court rules automatic deductions from benefits without notice unlawful
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UK court rules automatic deductions from benefits without notice unlawful

A UK court Friday ruled that third party deductions (TPDs), automatic deductions from benefits to pay overdue utility bills, are unlawful and a “breach of the obligation of fairness.” Until Friday, companies had no obligation to consult the debtor before issuing a TPD.

Justice Cavanagh ruled that, whilst their consent is still not required, debtors must at least be given an opportunity to respond to requests for TDPs. The court suggested that any chance for debtors to argue their case is crucial as they “will be close to the breadline and, if a deduction is wrongly made, a delay of even a few weeks could cause real hardship.” The UK, soon entering winter, faces one of the worst overall cost-of-living crises in recent times. TPDs are only taken where it is “in the interests of the family.”

However, recent reports suggest that 20 percent of those facing TPDs simply turn to credit in order to pay day-to-day bills. Regardless, Justice Cavanagh argued that TPDs are stillthe best available option for troubled debtors, noting that “[l]egal action by the supplier will be worse for a customer than a TPD, because it will give rise to additional costs, it is inherently stressful, it will adversely affect their credit rating, and it gives rise to the risk of bankruptcy.”