Help pledged over bust bills firm
Thousands of consumers left high and dry after a bill-paying company went bust have been assured of help to manage household charges.
The Home Payments business shut its doors last Wednesday leaving 2,300 customers unable to pay bills and some facing further losses on savings.
The National Consumer Agency (NCA) said regulators in the banking, energy and telecoms sectors and other industry bodies have given a commitment to treat exposed bill-payers sympathetically.
However, NCA chief executive Ann Fitzgerald urged consumers to only use regulated financial firms, saying: "Customers need to act now and immediately contact all banks, insurance companies, utility companies and any other organisations they were making payments to through Home Payments and alert them.
"The NCA has been assured that customers will be treated sympathetically and receive help to manage their payments."
Home Payments was an Irish family-run business, established in Dublin in 1963. Its budgeting and payments programmes helped customers spread the cost of bills evenly over a year.
It went into liquidation last week with accountancy firm KPMG and Leahy & Co appointed by a court to manage the sell-off of assets. All bills on the books of Home Payments up to the end of July have been paid and the NCA said customers will be contacted next week advising them of accounts outstanding.
"We are strongly urging consumers to ensure that any financial service they use is regulated," Ms Fitzgerald said. "Any savings consumers have with banks, building societies or credit unions are covered by the deposit guarantee scheme, up to an amount of 100,000 euro per person, per institution.
"Any savings held with unregulated budgeting or bill payments service are not covered by the scheme."
The NCA urged customers of Home Payments to contact the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs) for advice on how to maintain payments, while also highlighting the 50 Credit Unions in Dublin which operate bill pay services or budget accounts.