What is economic and domestic abuse?
The Domestic Abuse Act emphasises that domestic abuse is not just physical violence, but can also be emotional, psychological, or sexual abuse, coercive or controlling behaviour, and economic abuse.
Economic abuse is where an individual’s access to resources is limited or controlled. For example, controlling access to money or resources such as food, clothing and other necessities. Economic abuse is often a form of coercive and controlling behaviour. It takes away someone’s capacity to support themselves, making them financially dependent on the perpetrator. It can also include exploitation and breaches of trust – such as spending someone else’s money or requiring them to buy things or take out debts. The Act makes economic abuse part of the statutory definition of domestic abuse.
We listen carefully and take care with all complaints that are referred to our service. But for some consumers who have experienced domestic and economic abuse, we know it can be difficult to talk about what happened. So alongside some of the detail about the types of complaints we see and can help with, we’re also sharing here some information about how we handle complaints, so people who might need our help with a complaint know what they can expect.
Types of complaint we see
People contact us when economic or domestic abuse has impacted them and their financial situation, and they think a financial business could have done more to help or step in. Or sometimes because they feel the financial business did something wrong and they've lost out as a result.
When we receive a complaint involving domestic or economic abuse, it often involves very complex or sensitive circumstances.
In most of the cases we've seen, the abuser is someone they know well, such as a partner, another family member, a friend, a relative or a carer. In some cases, the abuse is directly relevant to the complaint itself – for example where someone was coerced into taking a loan.
In other cases, it's part of wider circumstances that impact on financial matters – for example where someone has left an abusive relationship and is experiencing financial difficulty as a result.
People have come to us saying:
- I've been pressured into guaranteeing a loan
- Someone forced me to take out a loan in my own name for someone else's benefit
- Someone took out loans/credit cards/overdrafts using my name without my knowledge or consent
- Someone used my credit card or account without my knowing
- I've been pressured into letting someone use my card/account
- Someone stopped making payments to our joint loan/mortgage to punish me or ruin my credit record
- Someone made me take out car finance or insurance in my name for their car
- Someone put all our debts into my name and left me to pay them all
- Someone made me sign over policies or investments to them
We can also help people who say:
- I've separated from the abuser but we still have joint accounts and the business disclosed my address
- The abuser has left the property but won't agree to making changes – such as a reduced interest rate – to our joint mortgage even though I make all the payments
- I've escaped an abusive relationship – and I'm now experiencing financial problems or need some breathing space while I get back on my feet
What we look at
We handle complaints with discretion, tact, and can accept evidence in confidence. When you bring a complaint to us, we’ll talk to you about our process and any evidence we may need to see, depending on what your complaint is about. We’ll always explain why we’re asking for information, and give you time to provide it.
We’ll ask you to tell us about what has happened, and the effect you feel it’s had on your life. We’ll also ask about what you think will help to resolve your complaint, as well as details about the business you’re unhappy with.
If you can, try to keep any relevant evidence that will help us understand what’s happened. This could be things like letters, statements and notes; and you can send copies of these rather than the originals if that helps.
We know that in many cases, you may want to complain about a joint financial product, such as a joint bank account or mortgage. In these cases, we may still be able to help even if the product was taken out with another party who isn’t going to be part of the complaint, so this doesn’t have to be a barrier to getting in touch with us and seeing how we might be able to help.
How to complain
The first thing you need to do is complain to the financial business about what’s happened. They should look into things and reply within 8 weeks. If you’re not happy with their response, or they don’t get back to you within 8 weeks, you can bring your complaint to us.
We’ll check it’s something we can deal with, and if it is, we’ll investigate. In some circumstances, we can get involved sooner than that – but it depends on what the complaint is about and which business you’re unhappy with.
Bringing a complaint to us is free and we try and keep things straightforward and informal. But if you’d rather not tell us some things direct – perhaps because they’re difficult to talk about – you can ask a friend, family member or someone like a support worker to help you with the complaint and talk to us on your behalf.
There are several ways for you to get in touch with us – that might be through our online complaint form, or on the phone. Importantly, we’ll agree with you how you’d prefer to be contacted and the best times to get in touch.
Find out more about how to complain and how to get in touch.
How long it takes
We publish general detail about when you can expect to hear from us as we deal with your complaint. If there’s something about you or your complaint which makes things particularly urgent, let us know when you get in touch. Once your complaint is with an investigator, they will talk to you in more specific detail about timing and next steps.
Putting things right
If we find you’ve been treated unfairly by a financial business, we’ll ask them to put things right. This usually involves putting you back in the position you’d be in if things hadn’t gone wrong.
What this involves will depend on the nature and type of complaint. It might include, for example, asking the business to put things right by making changes to a product or account, paying you compensation for financial loss, or making changes to a credit file. We could tell it to do things differently for you in the future. And, where appropriate, we can also tell the business to pay compensation for distress or inconvenience it has caused.
Read more about our approach to compensation.
A consumer is coerced into being a loan guarantor by a family member
A consumer complains about a loan her ex-husband took out in her name
Detailed information for businesses
If you’re a financial business looking for information to help you resolve complaints, detailed information about our approach to complaints involving economic and domestic abuse can be found in the business section of our website.