30 November 2005

02 December 2005

Mother warns of costly loan plans

A SINGLE mum is warning hard-up families not to get "ripped-off" by doorstep lenders this Christmas.

Jackie Murray, 34, claims she was "conned" into taking out a £500 cash loan just before Christmas, in 2003.

The mother-of-two, who already had a £9,000 debt, did not realise she would be paying back a total of £970 over the space of a year.

This meant she had to repay almost twice the amount she borrowed.

Having learnt her lesson, she is now warning other families living on the breadline not to give in to home credit firms.

And she welcomes an investigation being carried out by the Competition Commission into the ways companies such as Provident and Shopacheck operate.

The inquiry into the £2billion-a-year home credit industry was set up in December 2004 following a complaint from the National Consumer Council (NCC).

The commission has been investigating whether the home credit market prevents or distorts competition to the detriment to customers.

It will publish a report on its provisional findings next year.

Mrs Murray, of Taylors Lane, Sydenham, said: "The sooner people find out what these companies are up to the better.

"I was naive when I took the loan out. I thought the extra money just before Christmas would come in handy.

"It is the worse mistake I could have made and I would advise anyone to stay clear of any dodgy doorstep lender, especially at this time of year."

Gary Ellison, 38, of Manciple Street, London, who used to work for Provident as a doorstep lender in New Cross, said: "I feel guilty when I think about how I used to get money from people, who were mostly single-parent families.

"They were the easiest targets to get money from as they would want to buy presents for their kids from our catalogues. It was our way of keeping them on our books.

"This time of year just before Christmas was one of the best time to earn hundreds of pounds."

Mum’s ashes left on shelf for 9 years

A DISTRESSED son has slammed a funeral firm after it emerged his mother's ashes were still in storage nine years after her death.

Since 1996, Eddie Lengthorn has made weekly visits to Lewisham Crematorium believing his mum's ashes were scattered there.

He and other family members put up a memorial plaque in the grounds and have spent hours paying their respects.

But the taxi driver was left stunned earlier this month when he received a letter from Funeralcare asking what to do with his mother Iris' ashes.

The firm had been charged with the 56-year-old's funeral after she died of bowel cancer in November 1996.

In the letter, the company asked Mr Lengthorn what it should do with the remains which had been kept in a chapel at its base in Rushey Green, Catford, since the funeral.

Mr Lengthorn, who is the oldest of seven children, says he had a verbal agreement with staff the ashes would be scattered across the crematorium grounds in Verdant Lane, Hither Green.

The father-of-three said: "It feels like everything has been wasted. We believed her ashes had been scattered and we took comfort because she was all around us.

"The money spent on flowers over the years can be quantified but what about the tears and grief? You can't measure those."

The 41-year-old is also upset because it took nearly a decade for the funeral arrangers to get in touch with him.

Mr Lengthorn, of Towncourt Crescent, Petts Wood, says when he complained to Funeralcare, he was promised £2,000 compensation.

He was planning to donate the cash to St Christopher's Hospice, Lawrie Park Road, Sydenham, where Mrs Lengthorn died.

But Funeralcare, which is part of the Co-operative group, denies this and does not accept responsibility because it does not have written permission to scatter the ashes.

A spokesman says it is standard for remains to be left with the company for long periods of time.

He said: "We are sorry to learn of Mr Lengthorn's distress over his late mother's ashes, and as a gesture of goodwill, we have offered him any reasonable assistance in scattering his late mother's ashes, such as the provision of a funeral vehicle."

Mr Lengthorn now has his mother's remains and is considering where to spread them.

He said: "We may scatter them at her home in Catford or we may scatter them at the crematorium where we have been paying our respects all these years.

"Then we'll have closure."

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