Enough is enough: 200 million pieces of direct mail sent to the deceased

The issue of student loan debt in the US is proving to be a big one as pundits predict the market is reaching crisis point. A recent report revealed that nearly 40% of borrowers could default on their student loans by 2023. It is therefore unsurprising that loan companies are resorting to any means possible to recoup their cash – including demanding their money back from deceased customers.

One such instance which has recently hit the headlines across the Pond, is that of Sean Bennett. In 2005, Sean took out a student loan, in 2010 he graduated from college and in 2011, when Sean was 23 years old, he sadly passed away following a car accident.

Once Sean’s parent advised the loan company of his death they received a letter of condolence explaining that the organisation had a policy of forgiving debt if the recipient dies before they have repaid. Mr and Mrs Bennett therefore drew a line under the debt. However, in 2017, five years later and totally out of the blue, a bill for $48,824.82, arrived which included $9,219.27 in unpaid interest and fees. It is unclear whether the loan company has reversed their deceased policy or if this bill has been sent in error, however, either way it is yet another example of an organisation’s insensitivity to the bereaved. In today’s data-rich and technology enabled environment such approaches are inexcusable.

Only a few weeks ago we wrote of PayPal’s similar demands to a widower, and these are not just isolated occurrences. Companies every day are sending communications to customers that have passed away causing significant distress to the people that are left behind.  In fact our research shows that close to 200 million mailings were sent to dead people in the UK last year alone. With the advent of GDPR and a greater onus on customer responsibility it is time this figure was significantly reduced.