By Laura Noonan
THE number of people financially blacklisted for not paying their phone bills almost tripled in the first half of the year, as record numbers of cash-strapped individuals and business failed to pay up on time.
Banks, credit unions and local authorities are all pursuing record numbers of bad debtors to the courts, leading to a 50pc surge in the overall number of people served with registered judgments in the six months to June.
These court-obtained judgments are the most severe legal remedy for bad debts, short of court orders requiring the sale of assets.
Figures compiled from debt watchdog Stubbs Gazette’s data shows a total of 2,185 individuals and companies were served with registered judgments in the first six months of the year, up from 1,453 during the first half of 2007.
The total amount owed was €32.6m, giving an average debt of €14,920.
And the trends have gotten even worse in July, with the total number of registered judgments more than doubling compared to July 2007, while registered judgments by phone companies almost tripled.
“There could be no clearer indicator about the high level of unaffordable debt in the country,” said Consumers Association boss Dermot Jewell.
“I can understand that bills need to be paid, but as we see more people in these situations we need to find less drastic measures to deal with debt.”
Banks and financial companies, meanwhile, registered judgments worth €4.5m in the first six months of the year, up 70pc year-on-year, as higher interest rates pushed borrowers to the brink.
County councils were also among the most enthusiastic pursuers of debts, as their registered judgments almost quadrupled last year to €1.175m, largely relating to unpaid rates and water charges.