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International Day of Older Persons: Treat older customers properly & fairly

The 1st October 2019 is the International Day of Older Persons. Older persons can be vulnerable to a number of things including elder abuse, ageism, and exploitation. We hear often of the stories of carers abusing older people and employers not treating older people equally. But frequently older persons are more vulnerable to being fobbed off by big companies when it comes to consumer rights such as being mis-sold or not gaining redress when they are entitled.

woman on swing man looking at her and her at himI hear many stories about big companies not ensuring  vulnerable people are informed of their consumer rights and/or providing really poor service. Look at the story of 81-year-old aunt, who one  Winter was left 11 days without heating (one engineer even told her “Well at least you save on the bills”). Once I was told and got involved the matter was resolved within the day and my aunt received redress! However, others who don’t know how to complain are at risk of being exploited, not receiving the service to which they are entitled or not receiving the full refund.

Here are 5 of the top consumer rights that people can use to help their older friends and relatives this Winter:

  • Ofgem has Quality of Service Guaranteed Standards in place. They require suppliers and any organisations that represent them, such as brokers or third party intermediaries, to ensure that each domestic customer is treated fairly. When there is poor service and/or a delay look these up and quote from them!
  • Follow the company’s complaints process and if necessary contact the CEO (See ceoemail.com for contact details of all CEOs) if the matter is serious and/or you can’t get a satisfactory response. Outline clearly the issues and what you will do if you do not receive an acceptable reply, such as using the relevant Ombudsman.
  • The Consumer Rights Act 2015 states that all goods must be of satisfactory quality, be fit for purpose, last a reasonable length of time and match the description. Consumers are entitled to a full refund within 30 days of purchase and a repair or replacement after this time. Services must be carried out with reasonable skill and care. The company must put the customer back into the financial position in which they were in before the problems arose.
  • Look at switching energy every year. Use the various switch websites and cashback sites to check if you are on the cheapest tariff.

Energy, telecoms and other sectors have to abide by various codes of conduct. These, and all traders and service providers, have to abide by consumer law. However, many companies make it very difficult for people to complain, whether it be due to company ethos, processes or poor training. “The more we can do to help vulnerable people to assert their legal rights and not be taken advantage of the better.”

Electricity pylon Everything you need to know to complain about energy problems

 

All you need to know to make a complaint about energy will give you more information, advice and stories regarding energy and complaining.

 

 

 

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All you need to know about complaining to telecom providers

 

 

 

 

 

book Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

 

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! Advice, guidance, information,stories, templates and your rights!

 

 

 

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Everything you need to know about Payday loans

In the first six month of 2016, complaints to the Financial Ombudsman about payday loans more than tripled to 4,186 compared to the previous six months. The Financial Ombudsman has said this is because borrowers have become more aware of their rights.

Debt camel guest post on The Complaining Cow

 

I don’t think many people understand their rights in this area, so I asked Sara Williams, who runs the Debt Camel advice website and who is also a Citizens Advice advisor, to explain what these complaints were about and what to do about them!

What is a payday loan?
A payday loan is very short term loan at a high rate of interest. A typical example is if you borrow £200 to be repaid the next time you are paid – hence the name “payday loans”. The interest rates on these loans can often be over 1,000% APR.  Sometimes the repayments can be spread over a few months.

The regulator says loans should be “affordable”
You might think that at those interest rates the loans obviously aren’t affordable, but the regulator’s definition looks at whether someone can afford to repay the loan without experiencing adverse consequences.

In other words, affordable credit can be repaid on time and still leave you able to pay all your bills and cover your normal household expenditure. If the only way you could repay a payday loan is by borrowing again, perhaps from the same lender, or by getting into more debt with another lender, or not paying the rent or a utility bills, that payday loan was not affordable.

These affordability rules have applied for a long while. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) introduced tighter rules for payday lending since 2014, including capping the interest, but the previous regulator, the Office of Fair Trading, had very similar rules on affordability.

In 2014 the FCA made Wonga give refunds and loan write-offs to many customers. This was the first time there was any publicity for the concept of affordability and payday lending.

The principle of affordability isn’t a special rule for payday loans. It applies to all lending, from bank loans to credit cards. But it tends to be easier to show a payday loan is unaffordable because the repayment amounts are so large, having to repay the full loan immediately, not just a small proportion each month.

Repeat borrowing is likely to be “unaffordable”
A lender can check for affordability in various ways, such as looking at your credit record and asking about your income and expenditure. But they should also take into account how much you have previously borrowed from them.

Payday loans are meant to be used when you have a temporary difficulty. If the lender can see that you have been repaying their loan and then borrowing again (or you kept extending the term by “rolling” the loan) for month after month then this doesn’t sound like a short term problem.

In this sort of situation that the Financial Ombudsman is often deciding that the lending was unaffordable and that the lender should have realised this after the first few loans. In a typical decision, the Ombudsman says that the interest paid on the unaffordable loans should be refunded, 8% statutory interest should be added and the loans should be deleted from your credit record.

How to complain
If you have borrowed from a payday lender and you think your loans were unaffordable, you should think about complaining to the lender.

Email is the best way to do this, so you have a record of what you have said and a date-stamp on it. I have published a list of emails to use for complaints to payday lenders.

Your complaint needs to tell your story, explaining why you feel the loans were unaffordable for you, and ask for a refund of interest paid. This doesn’t need to be complicated, you don’t need to quote laws or calculate the amount of a refund. If you would like to see an example template letter, there is one on my How to ask for a payday loan refund page.

Follow the Tips for complaining.

At the bottom of that page there are a lot of comments from people making these sorts of affordability complaints. It’s a good place to look if you want to get a feel for what sort of reply you may get from the lender and how long it might take.

If the lender says No or doesn’t reply
If you get a rejection from the lender, or you are offered an amount of money which seems very low compared to the amount of interest you paid, then have a think about your case.  If you just had one or two loans from the lender and you repaid them on time, it probably isn’t worth taking this any further.

But if you feel that you were caught in “the payday loan trap”, having to keep borrowing every month, or if you told the lender you were in difficulty and they ignored this, then take your case to the Financial Ombudsman. Also do this if you don’t get a reply within eight weeks – that is the time the Ombudsman says you have to allow the lender to resolve your complaint.

It’s easy to put in a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman – you can do it online or over the phone.  The process isn’t speedy, it will usually take a few weeks for someone called an adjudicator to start looking at your complaint. It can take several months if the payday lender is slow about replying to questions from the adjudicator. Most complaints are settled by the adjudicator, with both sides agreeing, but some go to the second stage where they are looked at by an Ombudsman.

The Financial Ombudsman publishes anonymous details of some complaints which you can look up if you would like to see more about the cases that are being considered.

Payday lender regulation has improved
After the FCA became the regulator for payday lenders, it introduced important protections:

  • from July 2014, lenders were not allowed to “roll” a loan more than twice;
  • new restrictions on their ability to take money directly from someone bank account via Continuous Payment Authorities; and
  • from January 2015, the cost of payday loans was capped at a maximum of 0.8% per day and a total cost cap of 100% to protect borrowers from escalating debts.

These measures have removed many of the worst excesses of the payday loan market in Britain. They have also had the desirable side effect of making some of the least scrupulous lenders decide to exit the market.

But although standards have improved a lot, the Citizens Advice report Payday loans after the cap – Are consumers getting a better deal? in August 2016 found that many payday lenders are still not conducting proper affordability checks. And borrowers who didn’t have an affordability check were nearly twice as likely to have trouble repaying their loan as those who remembered being asked about their ability to repay.

Adequate affordability checks are an essential safeguard for borrowers. It is good that the Financial Ombudsman is recognising this and giving redress to people who were caught in the payday loan trap.

For advice, guidance, tips, consumer rights and laws on other areas for consumer  GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!