This page contains information about our general approach to complaints about financial difficulties. If you’re looking for information specifically in relation to Covid-19, please look at our dedicated page that contains information for consumers about complaints in relation to Covid-19.
Can you help with complaints about financial difficulties?
Being unable to pay money you owe can be really worrying. Money worries might be because of something entirely outside your control, such as unemployment or illness. It's also completely understandable to be anxious about talking about the problems you're having.
If you’re in this situation, speak to your lender as soon as you can. That way, you have the chance to agree an approach that works for you both. This can help you avoid making a bad situation even worse.
Your lender should listen to you and treat you fairly. There are rules and approaches they're expected to follow to help you.
Types of complaints we see
Some of the complaints we've received from consumers include:
- I’m struggling to make my payments and my lender isn’t helping me
- I’m being treated harshly or unfairly by my lender
- I’m being charged more for going over my limit
- My lender has made my financial situation worse
- My lender won’t accept what I’m telling them I can pay
- I’m unhappy with what my lender has offered to do
Most of the complaints we see are about:
- whether people feel their lender is doing enough to help them
- if they have made things worse by restructuring their borrowing
- if they added interest or other charges
- if the lender isn't being sympathetic to their situation
How to complain
If you're concerned about financial difficulties, talk to your lender first. They need to work with you constructively to help you reach a solution.
If you can’t reach an agreement, and you’re unhappy with your lender’s response, then you should make a formal complaint to them. This will give them the chance to put things right.
They have to give you their final response within eight weeks for most types of complaint. If you're unhappy with their response, or if they fail to get back to you, you can get in touch with us.
Find out more about how to complain.
What we look at
In the same way as for other types of complaint, when a consumer contacts us about financial difficulties we’ll ask:
- Did the business do everything it was required to do?
- And if they didn’t, have you, as their customer, lost out as a result?
Our answer to a complaint will reflect what’s fair and reasonable in the circumstances. And in considering what’s fair and reasonable, we’ll consider relevant law and regulation, regulators’ rules, guidance and standards, codes of practice, and what we consider to be good industry practice at the time.
When looking at a complaint, we’d expect to see that a lender responded positively and sympathetically to a borrower in financial difficulties.
'My debts have been building up recently, and now my card has been declined at the supermarket’
Leanne was at the check-out with a trolley full of shopping and a queue behind her, when she was told that her card had been declined. Her debts had been building up and she was fed up of borrowing more money and being broke. She called us.
How we helped Leanne
Leanne told us that she just needed some breathing space – and a bit of help managing her debts. We put her in touch with a free debt charity. They worked with her to start reducing her debts. They offered her lender more affordable repayments that left Leanne enough money for the essentials.
‘My dad is being chased by a debt collector and we don’t know what to do’
Jon found out that his dad was being called by a debt collector at several points throughout the day. His dad had told them that he couldn’t afford the payments they were asking for, but they still kept calling.
How we helped Jon
When Jon called us and told us about his dad’s situation, we decided to speak to the debt collector on his behalf. It seemed that although they’d been chasing Jon’s dad – they hadn’t tried to find out how much he could actually afford to pay.
We felt this was unfair. We told them to work with Jon’s dad to find an affordable repayment figure. We also asked them to compensate him for the unnecessary stress and inconvenience they’d caused him.
'I’ve had a letter from a debt collection company – and I’m worried they’ll send the bailiffs round’
Lewis was struggling with his loan repayments, and he knew they were overdue. He’d ignored the letters from the loan provider, but when he got a letter from a debt collection company, he was worried that he’d get bailiffs knocking on his door.
How we helped Lewis
When Lewis called us we explained that companies should only use debt collectors as a last resort. We also suggested that Lewis work out how much he could afford to pay back. We then contacted the loan company on Lewis’s behalf and talked through his problems to stop any further action being taken.
A consumer says options were not explained when she wanted to exit a hire purchase agreement early because of financial difficulties
Judith took out a hire purchase agreement for a new car, but a month after taking out the agreement her circumstances changed. It meant that she wouldn't be able to make the payments on the agreement, and realistically wouldn't be able to for a long time. She got in touch with the lender and asked if she could hand back the car and leave the agreement early.
The lender told Judith she'd have to do this under a process called voluntary termination. This was a right she had in her agreement (and in statute) which allowed her to hand back her car early on the basis she was liable to pay half of the agreement (and some items such as arrears and any charges for damages). For Judith, this came to around £10,000 and the lender offered to set up a repayment plan if Judith couldn't afford to pay this in one lump sum.
Judith said there must have been a better solution for her than this. The lender said there wasn't, so Judith came to us to make sure that this was right.
How we helped Judith
When we looked at what had happened, we didn't think the lender had considered Judith's best interests because it didn't explore any alternative ways that she could exit her hire purchase agreement. We thought the lender should have considered and clearly explained another option which would allow Judith to hand back the car, sell it, and deduct the proceeds from the total amount she owed - a process often called voluntary surrender. Even though Judith hadn't fallen behind in her payments at the time, we thought the lender should still have considered it as a matter of good practice.
Under this option Judith would most likely have owed the lender around £6,000 - considerably less than she did under the voluntary termination option. This was because the car was brand new and still worth a considerable sum. It was also because Judith was very early into her finance agreement so would have likely received quite a big amount in the sale proceeds of the car.
We thought if the lender had explained this to Judith along with the likely implications of both exit options, it's more likely she would have chosen the voluntary surrender option.
We asked the lender to put Judith in the position she would have been if it had let her exit her agreement by voluntary surrender - reducing the total amount she owed under the agreement by the proceeds of the sale of the car. We also asked the lender to come to suitable repayment agreement for the remaining amount she owed after this.
You can get debt advice or help with your debt problems for free. Contact the Money Advice Service for information and advice about managing your debts.
Detailed information for businesses
If you're a business looking for information to help you resolve complaints, find out more in our detailed information about handling complaints about financial difficulties.