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Check who’s offering budget advice

PRESS RELEASE

A press release from the NZ Federation of Family Budgeting Services (NZFFBS), prompted by emergence of complaints against uncertificated budget advisers

Check who’s offering budget advice

It pays to check that you are being offered budget advice and not instead being sold some product or loan.

Anybody can set themselves up as a budgeting advisory operation. There is no national registration required for budgeting services or budget advisers. Budgeting organisations that affiliate to the New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services Inc must operate to a Code of Ethics and minimum standards and all budget advisers working in these organisations must be certificated by the Federation after a period of theory and practical training. By far the majority of, but not all, community-based budgeting services choose to affiliate to the Federation but some do not want to compromise their own autonomy for a collective good but may all the same offer safe advice.

Shirley Woodrow, Federation President says “Complicating matters in recent times is the emergence of more commercially styled operations that are responding to market opportunities created by the rising indebtedness within New Zealand. They have found a niche for themselves from people who are looking for a quick-fix. With client numbers remaining as high as ever and budgeting services struggling like all community groups, to hold and recruit new volunteers to be trained as advisers, not all can offer a same-day service. The increased complexity of consumer and contract laws and the size of personal debt make it unlikely that budgeting solutions will be found over-night. The problem is that some of these commercial organisations seem more interested in profiting from people when they are most vulnerable rather than educating people on how to look after their own budgets”.

In recent weeks the Federation’s national office has fielded three complaints from three different parts of the country about actions of people purporting to be budget advisers but who are not accredited by the Federation. In these cases the Federation is unable to influence the outcome of complaints as these non-affiliated organisations seem to account to themselves only. Some may rely on government or community funding and it’s then possible to complain to these funders.

“Occasionally mistakes can be made and it’s often only when things go wrong that people realise the difference between a budgeting service that has a national affiliation and one working alone” says Mrs. Woodrow. She added that when consumers use suppliers that are members of national associations they increase their protection because these associations can sanction their members when they do not live up to the agreed standards. “It pays often to check before using anyone for any service, and that includes budgeting advice, to see if they are members of professional or industry associations and are therefore prepared to be accountable to their peers for their activities and services” says Mrs. Woodrow.

The Federation advises people looking for budgeting advice to ask the organisation:
o What service are you offering me?
o What will it cost?
o What will I learn?
o Will I decide my own priorities?
o Can I cancel the service at any time?
o If something should go wrong and I need to complain will the complaint be independently investigated?
o Who does the budgeting service account to for its activities?
“Above all else seek help early”, says Mrs. Woodrow. “In this way a few days delay in accessing advice will not make much difference and it’s better to have advice before incurring debt than hope that someone can later make high interest and penalties go away. Small debt is a lot easier and quicker to manage than large debt in default”

Budgeting services that are affiliated to the Federation can be found:
o Listed in the Telecom White Pages under the heading BUDGET ADVICE SERVICES
o Through the Federation’s web page www.familybudgeting.org.nz
o By telephoning the Federation national office on 04 471 1420
o By e-mailing the Federation at nzbudget@xtra.co.nz

ENDS

#####

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