/ Money

Baines & Ernst offers an £8k prize – but woe betide the losers

It’s not often that I’m gobsmacked, but debt management company Baines & Ernst has just sent me some truly tasteless marketing, targeting potentially desperate consumers with its new prize draw offer.

According to the debt management company (DMC), the average household has debts of around £8,000 excluding mortgages. In response, Baines & Ernst is running a prize draw to pay off up to £8,000 in credit card debt, overdrafts and loans for one winner. The money will be paid directly to the victor’s creditors.

Beware the Ts and Cs

So what’s the problem? It’s all in that mystical phrase ‘terms and conditions apply’. A spokesman for Baines & Ernst said: ‘There’s no catch, all you need to do is complete the competition entry form and provide some brief information about the amount you owe.’

But there’s more to it than that. The T&Cs state:

‘Any personal information which is provided to Baines will be used for the purposes of running the prize draw and by Baines and associated group companies to contact you […] regarding products and services that may benefit you.’

So it looks to me like Baines & Ernst is more interested in flogging you one of its debt solutions if you’re one of the unlucky prize draw losers. The phrase ‘Existing or previous customers of Baines are not eligible to participate in the prize draw’ rather gives the game away.

And just look at the personal data you have to provide to enter the draw: name, telephone number, postal address, email address, unsecured debt value, number of creditors, date of birth, housing status, income and if any accounts are in arrears.

The T&Cs also state: ‘Please print a copy of these terms and conditions for your records. They will only be available here until the prize draw closes on July 3rd 2012.’ And yet, the company will be able to target you with promotional marketing long after this date.

Who’ll fall into the marketing trap?

So yes, one lucky winner may well ‘have their money worries wiped out in a flash’. But what about the thousands of others who are potentially at risk of being sold a debt management plan or IVA with fees they wouldn’t have to pay if they went to a free alternative such as the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) or National Debtline?

Not only does this tasteless prize draw risk raising the hopes of desperate borrowers, it could also lead to people being targeted by the company for one of its fee-charging debt solutions. Which, I guess, is the whole point of this outrageous Baines & Ernst offer.


This will lead to many being marketed costly debt management plans which charities such as CCCS offer for free.

I agree that this is highly irresponsible, though I don’t see that the company is breaking any law.

I would like to see credit restricted to essential items, so that people are less likely to get into serious debt. Credit cards are great but should be paid off automatically by direct debit to avoid accruing debt and large interest charges. These measures will not help those who are desperate but could help prevent others falling into the trap of spiralling debt.

Maureen Harrison says:
29 January 2014

I was the winner of this competition get in touch because this has turned into a poisoned chalice.

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