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Up to 20,000 to lose savings in bills company collapse

UP to 20,000 people had their savings wiped out in the collapse of the Home Payments Company.

Thousands of householders, the majority of them in Dublin, have lost money handed over to pay bills, including mortgages.

As the shocking scale of the Rathmines-based company's collapse became apparent today, it emerged that customers now have no chance of compensation.

The National Consumer Agency (NCA) warned that up to 20,000 may be affected and that those involved -- many of whom used the company as a savings as well as a bill-payment facility -- had lost the money they deposited.

NCA chief executive Ann Fitzgerald said: "The savings they had there are probably gone. There's nothing we can do about it."

She added that there would be no compensation "because it is not regulated".

“People used it as a savings club as well as a bill payments service. We’re talking about potentially thousands upon thousands of people. One figure of 20,000 has been quoted to me. This was a big corporation running for over 40 years.

“Because this company is outside of the regulatory system the people that use it are totally vulnerable,” she added.

There was no answer today at the homes of the two O’Connor brothers, who are directors of the company, and locals speculated that they may have travelled to a holiday property in Wexford.

Eamonn O’Connor lives on the Firhouse Road in a gated house with planning permission for a group of detached houses on his land.

Conor O’Connor lives on nearby Carriglea Drive, where the blinds were drawn and a BMW sat in the driveway, but there was no answer at the door.

One woman who has lost €3,000 to Home Payments is Betty Costello from Kilnamanagh in Tallaght.

“I just wonder how many are out there, how many people were affected,” she said.

The NCA has now set up a group to help customers affected by the closure.

The group will work to identify solutions for customers who still owe mortgage and utility payments, having already paid the company to look after these.

Home Payments helped people to look after their household bills by spreading out payments for utility bills, mortgage, rent or insurance.

The company collected money on a monthly basis by calling to customers’ doors or through direct debits and standing orders. It charged a consultation fee of €25 and up to €6.65 a week for the service.

Accounts for the company show that it lost €130,000 in the year up to March 2010. They also show that it owed its lenders €7m last year.

NCA chief executive Ann Fitzgerald has described the situation as “appaling””and called for greater regulation of the debt management industry.

An unsigned statement, published on the company website, blamed failed investments in property for the closure and said the company was currently in discussions with lenders to restructure its debt.

The directors are listed as Niamh Ryan of Templeogue in Dublin, Eamonn O’Connor also of Templeogue and Conor O’Connor of Firhouse in Dublin.