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ombudsman news

issue 109

April/May 2013

Q&As

doorstep bother

Our charity does a lot of work in our local community to help vulnerable people. We've been told that there is a "doorstep lender" operating on one of the estates we visit. Apparently he comes round once a week to collect his payments from residents. We've also heard that people have been finding it increasingly hard to pay because the interest rate seems to be changing all the time. How can we advise the people we help?

Home-collected credit providers - often known as "doorstep lenders" - are licensed by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). The consumers who have borrowed money should have been given a credit agreement that sets out clearly how much interest is payable and when.

If the lender has changed the interest rate without giving the consumer notice - or in a way that hasn't been agreed - this could mean that something isn't right. To get some guidance on whether a financial business is covered by the ombudsman service, consumer advice workers can call our technical advice desk on 0207 964 1400.

If the lender isn't licensed by the OFT, this could mean that they are acting illegally and Trading Standards and the police may need to be informed.

it's good to talk

I am an IFA who is part of a network - so if a complaint is made about me it's dealt with by the central complaints department. I've been told that if a consumer complains about me, I'm not allowed to contact them to discuss it. I find this very awkward - especially when the consumer is someone I have known for many years and I feel that we could sort it out before it comes to the ombudsman. Why can't I speak to them?

The ombudsman service would never try and stop businesses from talking to consumers in the early stages of a complaint before it comes to us. In fact, we think it's the best way to sort things out.

But your contract with your network is a private matter - and it's not something we could get involved in. You might have a legal obligation to follow a certain process, so it's probably best to speak to your network about this.

image: ombudsman news issue 109

ombudsman news gives general information on the position at the date of publication. It is not a definitive statement of the law, our approach or our procedure.

The illustrative case studies are based broadly on real-life cases, but are not precedents. Individual cases are decided on their own facts.