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Loan firm promises probe after papers found in street

SENSITIVE INFORMATION ... Liz Garlinge with the Buy As You View documents she found in the street.

SENSITIVE INFORMATION ... Liz Garlinge with the Buy As You View documents she found in the street.

RED-faced bosses have apologised after papers outlining debts owed to a high-interest loan company by South Tynesiders were found discarded in the street.

Liz Garlinge, 55, was leaving her home in Honeysuckle Avenue, West Harton, South Shields, when she saw the highly sensitive document lying on her drive.

She was stunned to find the personal details of 32 customers across the borough who have loan accounts with ‘Buy As You View’.

The South Wales-based company offers loans to pay for household goods – with clients paying off debts by feeding coins into a meter connected to their television set.

The information included customers’ names, addresses, telephone contact numbers, the balance of their debts – most between £1,000 and almost £6,000 – their last payments and the arrears on their accounts.

The firm has apologised and has launched an investigation into how the information came to be lying in the street.

BT worker Mrs Garlinge said she believed the people identified would be “mortified” if they knew such personal information had been put into public view.

Mrs Garlinge said: “This is such sensitive information and this is a complete breach of data protection.”

“I was just leaving for work when I saw it beside my bin on the drive. The people named on the sheet would be mortified if they knew this had happened and that their debts and personal details were there for anyone to view. I rang the company to ask them to come and take the sheet.”

It is believed the data was lost when a Buy As You View collector was on his rounds emptying payment meters.

John Smith, Buy As You View’s marketing director, called the breach of data “regrettable and awful”.

He apologised to the customers identified, and pledged to carry out an internal investigation into what went wrong, but said the error was something which only happened on “very rare occasions”.

He said: “Protecting our customers’ information is extremely important to us and we have very, very strict policies and procedures in place.

“We recognise that our customers’ data should be protected. This is a severe breach of policy, and we will investigate this thoroughly and take any necessary action. What happened was regrettable and awful and we apologise to the customers for this breach.”

The firm operates by installing payment meters to a borrower’s television, and requires a regular deposit of coins to stop it being switched off.

The loans make the cost of buying a £200 TV or washing machine closer to £500, once the interest is added up.

If a customer does not keep up with the payments, they risk being cut off halfway through their favourite TV show.

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul

 

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