DEBT

Father set himself on fire after being hounded 'day and night' by loan sharks over £1,600 debt
antony breeze A desperate father doused himself in petrol and set himself on fire after being hounded by loan sharks over £1,600 of unpaid debt, an inquest heard.

Antony Jackson Breeze’s phone was “ringing day and night” with calls from debt collectors and pawnbroker in the weeks before his death. In August last year, the 36-year-old told his girlfriend Amanda Lowe he was going out to buy petrol for the lawnmower. Soon after, the dad-of-one walked to a secluded wood, near to the family’s home in Bolton, and set fire on himself.

He told a horrified onlooker who tried to put out the flames that he was in debt and had “had enough”. Mr Breeze was taken to Wythenshawe Hospital suffering from 73 per cent burns but died the next day. Bolton coroner's court heard Mr Breeze, who worked for engineering firm Webster Drivers, had been to see a counsellor over his £1,600 debt and lost a stone in weight in the weeks before his death.

But deputy coroner Alan Walsh declared an open verdict, saying he could not see how this would drive him to take his own life. Mr Breeze and Ms Lowe, his partner of nine years, had been planning to get married. The couple had a five-year-old daughter, Amy, and had hoped to have another child, the inquest heard. The couple, of Watts Street in Horwich, Bolton, had a supportive family and Ms Lowe's father bought the family a Ford Fiesta when they couldn't afford a car. Mr Walsh said: "He was anxious to provide for his partner and his daughter, and he was a good man who provided for them. “He was a man who had everything to live for and he was always looking forward to the future as a family unit. "Money is a natural concern of any family man and father at some point.

“His debts were not at a very high level, therefore I cannot understand why his debts would lead him to harm himself." On the morning of his death, Mr Breeze had been playing with his daughter before setting out to buy an electricity top-up card. He later told his family he was heading to the supermarket, before buying £3 of petrol in a can from a local garage and walking to a secluded wood.

Mr Breeze acknowledged two garage workers in an alleyway as he walked past – he reappeared moments later screaming with his body ablaze. One of the workers, Paul Tunnah, told the court: “The fire was high and vibrant. He was conscious throughout. I was trying to talk to him all the time." Mr Tunnah told investigators last year that Mr Breeze said he was in debt and had 'had enough'.

Firefighters praised Mr Tunnah for his 'heroic actions' in taking off his shirt to put out the fire - sustaining severe burns himself. Speaking after the inquest, a spokesman for Mr Breeze’s family said: "We are all deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic and untimely death of Antony.

"He was a warm, friendly, caring and patient man who loved his family very much. "The lives of those people who loved him will never ever be the same again. He is deeply missed and long-remembered by everyone."

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  • A relentless invasion as credit reference agencies rule the way you run your life
    credit score Another massive freemason ruse

    Credit reference agencies increasingly rule the way you run your life. These giant businesses know everything about where you live and how you spend your money.

    If you want to take out a mortgage then a decision about whether your application is accepted largely lies in the hands of some computer geek who has designed a program that analyses your credit file. In theory, it is perfectly reasonable for banks to look at your past behaviour before lending you more money.

    But the amount of data these firms control and the way it is being used is incredibly invasive. When things go wrong they seem to wash their hands and blame the banks. They were only obeying orders, they protest.

    Peter Lewis was so angry that his good name had been tarnished by a false credit report that he accused the reference firm of libel. You can see his point. After all, no one had checked the information that had been published about him. Even if you tell these firms your details are wrong, they’re not obliged to retract it, though they will pass on your complaint. They’ll let you put a note on your file, but I’d be amazed if a lender paid any attention to this.

    The banks have up to 28 days to deal with your dispute. If they fail to settle it, then you can take your case to the Information Commissioner. Through all of this, the incorrect report will remain on your file. As far as we know, no one has ever successfully sued a credit firm for libel. In practice, I suspect proving that your reputation may have been harmed could be problematic. A better course of action is to claim a breach of the Data Protection Act, particularly if you could establish some kind of financial hardship had been suffered — for instance, if you were forced on to a more expensive mortgage because your original application had been turned down based on incorrect information.

    It’s truly infuriating that you and I have so little power over the information these firms hold about us. They seem biased in favour of the banks. So don’t be fooled by any pretence that they have some kind of grand civic purpose or are providing a valuable customer service. All they care about is making as much money from your personal details as possible.

    Credit reference agencies are here to stay — so the balance of power has to shift. If they want the privilege of holding our personal details, then they must give us a free report every year, as happens in the U.S. If you don’t want your details to be sold on, that should be an option, too. It has to be presumed that consumers are innocent until proven guilty. If you report a mistake on your file, it must be removed.

    A bank should only be allowed to replace it if they can produce evidence of the missed payment. I bet that would speed up complaints. Only then will I believe that the credit reference agencies are acting in anyone’s interests other than their own.

    Delayed action

    Over the years I’ve come to the view that where regulators are weak, customers are disadvantaged. Firms simply cannot be trusted to do the right thing if there is any leeway in the rules or any sign of intransigence from watchdogs. Repeatedly we see the same misbehaviour from travel firms, airlines, car hire companies, and broadband providers when dealing with complaints. I can’t help thinking it’s because these businesses have no fear of regulators.

    And the same goes for energy firms. Like those we feature this week, I too was stalled by Npower. For 68 days I had £101 sitting in my old Npower account. Last week, I reported that it had asked for ten more days to send me a final bill. It failed to meet its own deadline (again), didn’t get in touch (again) and prompted me to call (again). Only after I asked for compensation was the dispute lodged as a formal complaint and resolved. Ofgem gives firms a generous eight weeks to sort out complaints before they are under any obligation to pass on the problem to the Ombudsman.

    But that’s eight weeks from the moment concerns are officially registered as complaints. Customers can then go weeks before having an issue taken seriously. Ofgem says credit balances should be given back whenever they are asked for. But this clearly isn’t happening either. It must bare its teeth. Energy firms simply cannot be allowed to sit on pots of our cash.

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  • Tories want credit reference agency data (Why not offshore tax dodgers then? Oh they themselves are at that ruse)
  • Credit Reference Agencies