Consumer complains about distress from credit company over outstanding balance

Financial Difficulties Up to £5,000 Debt Distress and inconvenience

Christine got in touch because even though she'd taken the right steps to "shelve" her credit card debt, she says the way her credit card provider dealt with her on several calls had led to a severe downturn in her mental health. She felt her provider should pay her £10,000 compensation for her distress.

What happened

Christine had a large outstanding balance on her credit card. She called her credit card provider explaining she was in serious financial difficulties and had significant mental health problems. Her credit card provider agreed to consider “shelving” her debt, meaning that she wouldn’t have to repay it, but said she’d need to send in documentation evidencing her medical conditions and the fact that she was unable to work. Christine sent the documentation requested and, having heard nothing back, called again. She spoke to the specialist support department who she’d been dealing with and who she’d explained her history to.

The first person she spoke to didn’t take the matter seriously and wasn’t helpful. The second person she spoke to said that the documentation she’d sent in wasn’t enough, and when Christine questioned this they hung up on her without any warning. Christine says she was feeling extremely vulnerable when she called, and that the calls and the way they were handled led to a complete breakdown in her mental health. She said things got so bad she sought support from her doctor after having suicidal thoughts.

Christine complained to her credit card provider who accepted that they hadn’t handled the situation well. It agreed to “shelve” her debt and offered £750 in compensation. Christine didn’t, however, feel that this was enough, and said that her credit card provider should pay her compensation of around £10,000 because she’d need to rebuild her life.

What we said

We considered Christine’s request for a much larger amount of compensation. We thought the credit card provider should increase its offer but not to the level Christine was seeking. We thought it ought to have been foreseeable to the credit card provider that terminating a call abruptly in the circumstances would have a really significant impact on Christine – particularly as they were aware of her mental health struggles. We accepted Christine’s trust in her credit card provider had been shattered by the calls, and saw evidence from her doctor that she ended up feeling out of control. We also concluded that it took Christine weeks to get over the events that brought her to crisis point. Taking into account the impact the calls had on Christine’s mental and physical health – which went beyond distress and upset – we decided that her credit card provider should pay £2,000 in compensation.