For many people recent months have brought about the financial meltdown of their personal finances. Individuals who have previously been welcomed by banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions have found that their credit ratings have plummeted because they have suffered difficulties keeping up previously agreed repayments through becoming unemployed, put on short time or some personal misfortune. Others may have just got used to managing their finances by borrowing more when needed.
Whatever the reason for the person’s fall from favour with the credit rating companies, the result is a resounding No from their usually compliant bank, mortgage company or credit card company.
So purchasing a car needed to get to work to take up what will hopefully be a job offer is out of the question, or is it?
A quick search on the internet will bring up a plethora of loan and finance companies who claim that the worst credit rating coupled with court judgements is not a bar to getting the loan you require, apparently from them.
So anyone desperately needing to get a loan (for whatever purpose, these companies are not fussy) is likely to be persuaded by the positive advertisements. What happens then?
There will probably be a free phone number which will be answered by someone trained to say yes to your request for a loan, but there the positive experience will end. You will give all your personal and financial details together with a ‘refundable administration fee’ usually around £60 and be told that your loan documents will be with you in a few days.
Now at this point you may have become aware that you are not dealing with a loan company, but with a broker, someone who will try to find a loan company to lend you the money you require. However from the complaints about these companies it appears that it is not always made clear before you part with your administration fee.
It is probable that you will hear nothing for several days, so you will call the customer services department, probably using a premium rate line and be kept hanging on at real cost to you. You will be told that your loan is being processed, but wait a few days….and so it goes on.
To be balanced, these companies do find loans for some applicants, but what we are concerned about is the way they treat those for whom the cannot get a loan. The last thing they want to do is to refund the administration fee, so here are the tricks to watch out for:
Long holding times on premium customer service calls
Assurance that your loan is being processed despite being told the same thing over a few weeks
Unable to give you the name of the loan company who is processing your loan
Requesting information from you that you have already given them
Asking if you know someone who will guarantee your loan
There is evidence that the loan broker may also own a real loan company (different name) and they get you an offer from that loan company with high interest rates or requiring the personal guarantee of a third party or other onerous terms that you find unacceptable. They can then claim that they got you your loan, but you refused it, therefore no refund.
These are all delaying tactics, because once they tell you that they have failed to get a company to lend to you, they must refund your administration fee and from the complaints received, they do not make it easy. In fact we would like to know how many people just give up and write the money off. You will again have to hang on the premium phone lines, letters will go unanswered and threats to involve Trading Standards, Financial Ombudsman or to take them to court will not bother them.
After further cost to you and enough pressure from you, a refund will be forthcoming, however they will deduct a process fee of, typically £5. The remaining £55 will barely cover the cost of your time and phone calls and there will be significant delay.
To avoid such problems, before you pay them any money, search the company name followed by the word ‘complaints’ and it is probable that you will find blogs containing the experiences of people who have used the company.
If you do still want to proceed ask the company for their terms and condition especially in respect of refunds of fees and get them to confirm that they are brokers and do not lend themselves or are not connected to a loan company.
Why are these companies allowed to get away with what they do? Well, if enough real evidence is passed to the Financial Ombudsman and the Advertising Standards Authority, the pressure from consumer organisations can bring in protection against bad practices. Just complaining to the blogosphere is not enough, make sure that you direct your experience to someone who can make a difference and bring about change.