Tuesday, 28 September 2010

OFT debt action

In view of today's news that the OFT is taking action to address widespread problems in the debt management industry, it seems appropriate to share our video about searching Government sites for debt advice. Action is most welcome in a market which impacts on millions, but Zero-credit would like to see more consumer protection. 

 

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/9153329 w=500&h=283]

 

Simply withdrawing licenses from unethical advisers is not enough. Government response has often passed its sell-by date before it's off the factory floor. How else did the OFT's High Cost Credit Review (June) miss Consumer Focus's critical information (August) that PayDay loans increased by 400% over the past four years?

 

We're not talking a niche or a minority here, consumers in financial difficulty are a whopping great cash cow, in which continual diversification is dodging the Colossus. Folk will try anything and everything to hide the fact that they're struggling and don't the cowboys just know it.

 

If we're serious about regulatory action, we need the political will to insist upon licensing clarity, operational search facilities and the removal of sponsored links attached to Government sites. Facing job and wage cuts, the very least the Government can do is to ensure consumers aren't scammed.

 

For instance, when there are two categories of debt counselling license - commercial and non-commercial - why aren't directories like Yellow Pages required to inform the consumer of this? Or indeed, when Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis can protect his content to the hilt with trademarks, why can't the UK debt charities? Come on, Westminster, get your EDMs out! 

 

The media too needs a wake up call. All too often, consumer rights and financial inclusion reporting is sullied by adverts for all manner of debt advice, high cost credit and managed accounts posing as basic. Oh how the Artful Dogders must laugh when the papers expose a crook, only to present others as seemingly well connected through Adsense. 

 

There's a role for professional dialogue here too and Zero-credit welcomes the news from The Debt Resolution Forum that this year's conference is open to not-for-proft agencies, advisers and DEMSA members too. There are some 15 million consumers struggling with debts in the UK. It's high time we took the situation seriously. 

Monday, 27 September 2010

contactless banking

Strawbs

Been reading a lot about contactless banking over the weekend - things like Oystercards and the dinner cards used in schools. Technobanking seems keen to roll itself out globally, to the sheer numbers who'd become banked through mobile devices. Safer they say...

High on the agenda is promoting contactlessness to replace small cash transactions - and it all sounds very convenient and quite convincing - until you think about market traders and community groups which depend on small change. How would we pay for these strawberries, for instance, lovingly quartered by a group of middle aged ladies to raise money at a village fete? How might the homeless ask us to spare some change? Perhaps they should not. 

It's of particular interest because last Friday we attended a local presentation by Christians Against Poverty, one of several charities aiming to tackle the rising tide of consumer debt. A key principle they teach is the use of cash - a view which we share at Zero-credit. Remove the visual and kinaesthetic prompts that handling cash entails and a significant proportion of consumers have no concept of what they are spending. Perhaps that's the point... 

Friday, 24 September 2010

Honestly?

We need your help... Besides the UnLtd award we're waiting on two other pockets of funding which are taking much longer to be paid than anticipated. We know it's just that scary wait before a business settles into regular trade, but things are looking tight - and one thing you can be sure of on Zero-credit, when we say tight, we mean tight.

We're going to trial a PayPal donate button on some of the creditfree posts to see whether you and other visitors feel like placing a value to our tips - we've already pasted in the html for Membership Applications and may go interactive sooner rather than later when we find out some more about payment schedules next week. Even so, if we've done something meaningful or useful for you, then we'd really welcome your appreciation right now:

[button removed, 06.11.10]

Oh yeah... and somewhere along the line, we'll work out the code to remove that annoying little query box ;-)

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Zero-credit Ltd - The Debtors' Co-op

Founded as a not-for-profit web project, Zero-credit combines anti-poverty and debt campaigning with creditfree living tips on a site that is free to use and free from advertising and sponsorship.

 

It's been so successful that the co-operative, Zero-credit Ltd, has been formed to trade in consumer information with a difference - the 15 million debtors in the UK are force to be reckoned with...

 

When consumers own the information used to promote products and services to them, there's a far greater chance that what's on offer will reflect need. Our aim is simply to shape financial services. Care to join us?

 

Emma Bryn-Jones

Business Development Director and Zero-credit Founder 

Zero-credit_emma

 

Zero-credit was born shortly after Easter 2008, over a good bottle of whiskey and a long chat with my brother, Tom. By the following Christmas, I had completed a book, only to learn that if it was to gain any readership I needed to master the arts of publishing online - no mean feat when I was a teacher at the time!

Armed with a copy of Mr Site Pro and a £70 logo, it took me six months to post anything at all, but zero-credit.co.uk went live on 9th June 2009 and on 23rd I became @Zerocredit_UK on Twitter. I was brass, crass and agonising and there are those who still find that I am!

It is for this reason that when traffic started to escalate from January (I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to @PhilCampbell for moving content to posterous) I determined to look at a co-operatve business to maintain the creditfree material as free to use and free from advertising and sponsorship. There were many more than me to shout the debtors' cause. 

After an Eureka moment with @MrIanThomas who pointed out that my combination of social research and teaching skills had the makings of a viable trade, I was able to persuade some fine people to join me in the quest for Zero-credit Ltd. The company was registered on 10th August this year.

 

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

We've won an award!

Image

Zero-credit has today received confirmation that our application for The UnLtd Millennium Awards Scheme (Level 1) has been successful. We'll be signing the paperwork over the next few days! As the award will pay for some seriously cool kit, we shall hold posting interactive Membership Applications to the site for just a touch longer. C'mon you want to see the bees knees on this site too, don't you?! As ever, many thanks to our most wonderful supporters - we could not do this without you!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Lo Go?

Zero_credit_new

Got a quote the other day to place logos on some of the Zero-credit founders' cars. The idea is to raise awareness amongst folk who don't use the Internet much. We could switch the white text for silver apparently and swap the red circle for black to go on a red car. What do you think?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Sealing the Deal

Photo

As we gear up to offer membership across the country there's been the small matter of a company seal to organise. Most seals come as part of a package, which includes a press, but it was hardly Zero-credit style to fork out fifty odd quid for this when Emma had her Dad's old one to recycle! Three creditfree cheers for the lovely people at Bolson's who will be saving us more than £20 with this much more eco-friendly option.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

First day in the office

Office

September has well and truly started with our first day in the Zero-credit office in the telecottage at Moira Replan - we must remember to take coffee next time! The management committee has met here a few times, but today was our first day of work! We met our local Businesslink adviser, who was very pleasant and completed a few more costings for some of the bids we need to submit.

It's been a busy week so far, with a massive trip to London during the tube strike on Tuesday, visiting the NFP Technology Exhibition at the Business Design Centre, as well as hooking up with the amazing @leashless to talk #collapsonomics among other things. The seminars at the exhibition were good, though much of the software was beyond our budget. Still, it pays to know what's out there and have the assurance that the freeware you're using is fit for the job.

The application form for membership will be finalised tomorrow night, so you can expect to see that online early the week after next. One of the worst things about starting up in the run up to a Bank Holiday has been co-ordinating all the account information for online payments, but we're getting there. That's all for now, and as ever, thanks for your support.