Saturday 10 December 2016

Why online shoppers should be given 24-hour window to cancel orders - mental health charity

Katie Morley

Published 13/07/2016 | 07:50

Shopping bags
Shopping bags

Shoppers should be given 24 hours to cancel orders, mental health campaigners have said, as research shows millions of depressed people are buying expensive items they can't afford in order to make themselves feel better.

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The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, a charity set up by Martin Lewis, is calling on retailers and financial institutions to adopt new policies to help people suffering from mental health issues stay in control of their finances.

Under the proposals shoppers would be able to opt into a service which would delay expensive purchases by a day, allowing them to change their mind if they regret their actions.

It comes as research shows more than nine in 10 people with mental health issues spend more money when they’re unwell, while a similar number said they were at least two months behind in paying bills.

The relationship between money and mental health is toxic. Every day I hear from people who struggle to control their spending in periods of poor mental health.

Martin Lewis, founder and chair at the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute

The survey of 5,000 people, which was conducted by the charity, also found eight out of 10 respondents said online shopping was particularly hard to resist, while four in 10 found buying goods from mail order catalogues, which can be paid for in installments, were the most tempting way to borrow money.

The worry is that people suffering highs and lows as a result of a mental health condition are running into financial difficulties and even being charged "rip-off" overdraft fees as a result of their illness. For example, if they spend excessively during a period of mania or feel compelled to buy items to comfort themselves when experiencing low mood.

Last week research by Which? the consumer group, warned unarranged overdrafts exploit vulnerable groups as they can be more costly than borrowing money from payday lenders over the short-term. The cost of borrowing £100 for 28 days at some banks costs costs £90, up to four times higher than the maximum cost of a payday loan.

According to current estimates a quarter of the UK population, or around 17 million people, experience a mental health problem each year.

In one case dealt with by the charity, Paul Scates, who has bipolar disorder, ended up in £60,000 of debt after shopping for cars, luxury holidays and buying rounds of drinks for other people in expensive bars. And in another case Kris Ambler, a depression sufferer, took out two high-cost loans from doorstep lenders to pay for a holiday, building up £5,000 debt in a month.

Mr Lewis said: “The relationship between money and mental health is toxic. Every day I hear from people who struggle to control their spending in periods of poor mental health. While there is general demand from consumers for everything to get faster and easier – including shopping and accessing credit, for those with mental health conditions that make them prone to crisis spending this can be dangerous.

Polly Mackenzie, director of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, added: "Today we invite retailers and those working in financial services and mental health to join the conversation, to respond to our ideas and to show their commitment to a retail and financial environment that people need to stay in control."

Telegraph.co.uk

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