The Local | 9 Nov 2012, 07:08
An additional 190,000 Germans fell into serious debt over the last year, according to new figures released by credit reference agency Creditreform, bringing the total number to 6.6 million - nearly one in ten adults.
A person is considered heavily in debt if they are unable to settle their payments within the foreseeable future. For an estimated 3.8 million of the most serious cases there is little chance of them raising themselves out of debt at all, the agency said.
On average, adults falling into this category have personal debts of around €33,000.
The most indebted place in Germany is Bremerhaven in the north east, where nearly one in five adults is heavily in the red. Wuppertal is also badly affected, as are many areas in the Ruhr region.
The increase in debt is apparent across all sectors of society, Creditreform said. Not just what they described as the “fun-orientated” under-30s, but those on a low income and also pensioners are increasingly affected.
Perhaps most shocking of all for the traditionally austere Germans is the "considerable" increase in middle-class debt.
Unlike elsewhere in Europe, very little serious private German debt can be ascribed to mortgages - just two percent of those heavily in debt are struggling due to having bought flats or houses, the report said.
Creditreform spokesman Michael Bretz said some companies, especially car manufacturers, make it too easy for customers to obtain credit - often with nothing to pay for the first three months.
Many consumers increasingly do not think twice about buying goods on hire purchase online, said the agency, especially high cost hi-tech products.
Meanwhile, the proportion of customers who end up defaulting on credit are usually the "best kept secrets" of most businesses, said Bretz.