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Monday 20 February 2017

Fear over customers' utility bills as payment firm shuts

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

Published 03/02/2012 | 05:00

A FIRM that paid bills on behalf of consumers has shut -- raising fears that some people who used the service may end up behind on their payments.

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Rents & Co, a bill-payment services company based in Crumlin, Dublin, wrote to customers this week to say it was closing.

The move follows pressure from the Central Bank to provide precise details on how quickly it was paying the likes of the ESB and banks on behalf of those who use the service.

Central Bank officials advised customers of the company to make contact with their creditors and to make payments directly themselves.

Calls to the company went unanswered yesterday.

Last summer, the collapse of another Dublin-based bill-paying service left consumers out of pocket.

People who had savings with Home Payments Ltd were told they would be lucky to get back one-third of their money back.

Customers were paying money upfront to Home Payments to handle their gas and insurance costs. And they were using Home Payments to save money, even though the firm was not regulated.

Audit

Accountants from Ernst & Young have been engaged by the Central Bank to audit up to a dozen bill-payment and debt-management companies.

The companies were told to submit to regulation from the Central Bank or cease trading.

Last week, the Central Bank advised clients of debt-management firm Dunne & Maxwell to stop making payments to it after finding that it was not passing on the money to banks and insurers for its clients.

It emerged that a director of Dunne & Maxwell previously had his credit licence revoked in the UK because he had undisclosed convictions. Adam Deering (30) was the director and secretary of Dunne & Maxwell.

It emerged the UK's Office of Fair Trading revoked the credit licence of a similar debt-management company, Maxwell Jacobs Ltd, in the UK in 2005.

Dunne & Maxwell was one of 12 debt managers and bill-paying firms that the Central Bank demanded present it with cash-flow forecasts for the next nine months.

The letters were sent even though the Central Bank does not have explicit powers to regulate debt-management and bill-payment companies.

Department of Finance officials have promised to implement a recommendation from the Law Reform Commission to regulate these firms.

Irish Independent

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