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Credit Services Association

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Sir Bobby Robson Way

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Newcastle Upon Tyne

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Complaints Procedure

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Making a complaint

We work hard to ensure our Members act within the rules set by the industry regulators.

Please click on the following link and read our Code of Practice. If you think a Member has broken the rules of this Code you can make a complaint by downloading our Complaints Form.

Before making a complaint we would encourage you to carry out the following activities:

 

  • Go to the Members Directory and check whether the company you wish to complain about is a Member of the CSA. If you are still unsure, feel free to contact us. If the company is a Member of the CSA then we are able to help you with your complaint.
  • On first instance, we recommend you contact the Member company to discuss any issues you have and enquire about their complaints process. If you are still dissatisfied with the outcome then you can review our Complaints Procedure.
  • If you believe that the Member has acted in breach of our Code of Practice and the complaint meets the necessary criteria, please complete, sign and return the Complaint Form to our registered address.

CSA Complaints Procedure

 How we deal with your complaint.

All complaints must be submitted in writing, with a signed complaint form. We require the form to be signed so that we, and our member, have the requisite authorisation to share information.

The following is the sequence of events after the CSA receive a complaint form;

  • CSA receive a signed complaint form
  • CSA register the complaint and send a copy to the relevant member company
  • The member is given eight weeks to respond directly to the complainant
  • CSA get a copy of the response from the member company
  • CSA considers both positions and determines whether the Code of Practice has been breached
  • Appropriate action is taken (if required) to remedy the situation
  • If further information is required the CSA contact the relevant party (the complainant or the member company).
  • After a full review, the CSA provides a formal response to the complainant

 

If you remain unhappy with the outcome of the complaint, you may have justification to escalate the matter to our our head of compliance, Claire Aynsley, claire.aynsley@csa-uk.com.

 

Please note: The CSA can only intervene when;

  • a member company is in breach of the Code.
  • the company is a member of the CSA (we cannot act when the complaint is about the client of a member company, a bank or building society for example).
  • the information supplied by a member company appears from the facts to be incorrect.

Methods of Contact

 

Address

Credit Services Association

Complaints Department

2 Esh Plaza

Sir Bobby Robson Way

Newcastle-upon-Tyne

NE13 9BA

 

Why the CSA need a signed copy of your complaint

 

Top

29-06-2018

Fair play

By Peter Wallwork, Chief Executive of the Credit Services Association

Fair Share is an issue around which there are many opinions. As most will know, ‘Fair Share’ is a voluntary arrangement whereby the creditor is asked to pay towards the cost of giving advice and setting up and maintaining a payment plan, ensuring the service is free to the customer.

Whether the current system is ‘broken’, or in any way needs ‘fixing’ is a particularly moot point, and the subject of a recent Independent Review of the Funding of Debt Advice under the auspices of Peter Wyman CBE.

Wyman’s recommendation was that Fair Share should be continued but made truly fair in that all who benefit from it should pay. A contribution should therefore be made pro rata by all who receive payments from a Debt Management Plan within the Fair Share model, and that the contribution should be the full amount requested by the debt advice organisation requesting it.

The CSA’s principal position is that only the owner of the debt should pay the Fair Share and that whilst it should be paid at a rate that is deemed to be reasonably demanded by the respective debt advice organisation, there needs to be safeguards in place to ensure this cost does not escalate. It cannot simply give carte-blanche for those firms that operate under the Fair Share model to charge whatever they want.

Wyman recommended changes be made to our Code, and while they sound reasonable in theory, in practice they are fraught with issues. We would suggest that the fairest way of describing who should pay would be to think of it as those who benefit from the payments.

 

Commercially unviable

When an account is placed with a debt collection agency (DCA) acting as an agent for the owner of the debt (the beneficiary), the DCA is nearly always paid on a commission basis and typically on a similar or lower rate of commission than the Fair Share percentage charged. This makes it commercially impossible for DCAs to pay the Fair Share. In some cases, the creditor or the owner of the debt pays the Fair Share as well as the commission to the DCA. In other cases, however, they do not, or when they do, they often recall the debt from the DCA, leaving that DCA out of pocket.

Whilst it could be argued that in some cases the DCA has not done the work of examining the income and expenditure of the customer, nor put in place a repayment plan, it is often the intervention of the DCA in signposting the customer to free advice that has resulted in the payment plan being created.

In other cases, the DCA will have undertaken considerable effort in contacting the customer, completing an I&E review and entering into a payment arrangement, only for the customer to subsequently seek debt advice on other debts and for the DCA to have the account withdrawn!

This is, of course, a commercial matter between the creditor and the DCA, but it is something that needs to be addressed or the vital role that an agency plays in achieving the right outcome for the customer may be lost. Indeed, the use of legislation to force the payment of Fair Share, without addressing this key issue, could be disastrous from this point alone. It also needs to be understood that the original creditor or debt buyer can find themselves paying three times over to support the debt advice sector: through the FCA Levy; Fair Share; and a voluntary charitable donation.

If all beneficiaries of payments were obliged to pay Fair Share, then the amounts raised would be more than adequate to fund the running costs of the organisations that charge them. Wyman’s report proposes that free-to-client providers should strive to achieve 20 percent efficiency savings over the next two financial years. It is an admirable notion, though one that would be near-impossible to police. Yes of course the sector should look to harness new technologies to ensure resources are not squandered, but a better way of ensuring they have the money to fund the vital role they perform is for a wider number of beneficiaries to contribute to the pot.

The Wyman report did not only focus on Fair Share, though it is perhaps the one area that prompts the fiercest debate. The concept of breathing space was also addressed. Any scheme that results in more people getting the debt advice they need, when the need it, can only be a good thing. However, we are campaigning hard to ensure that whatever Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) does propose, it does not as a consequence undo the good work that currently takes the form of what we describe as an ‘informal’ breathing space as described in the FCA’s CONC7 and also mirrored in the CSA’s own Code of Practice, which we believe already works extremely well.

 

Close scrutiny

The FCA Levy also came under scrutiny. Outside of Fair Share contributions, the report calls for debt advice to be funded solely via the FCA on behalf of the Money Advice Service (MAS). This means that only those firms that fall under FCA authorisation will pay. Whilst we acknowledge an argument that debt buyers and those organisations that lend for profit should be the first call for funding debt advice, we would also argue that if it is right for all recipients to contribute to the cost of payments from an organisation funded by Fair Share, then it is right for all to fund debt advice generally. We shouldn’t single out those debt advisors funded by Fair Share just because they find it hard to cover their costs.

We would argue that whilst it might be more difficult to collect a wider levy for debt advice, that should not mean it does not happen, as long as a fair formula can be agreed to acknowledge the fact that some are, as the report calls them, ‘unintentional creditors’ and that some make lending decisions and others including most of our members, do not. It would be entirely fair, for example, for the water, power and communications regulators, all of which are becoming more alive to the way in which they regulate the collection of debt in those areas, to also charge a levy within their regulatory perimeter (the unintentional creditors), the same way the FCA does for the MAS.

Of other areas discussed in the report, such as taking legal action only after a customer has been made aware of the availability of free advice, were not of particular concern since the use of enforcement agents by our members (other than for collecting Council Tax or parking fines) is following a judgement and again only if other methods of engagement have failed. Apart from anything else, litigation is an expensive option and one that our members would use only after all other routes had been exhausted.

We are concerned, however, that some of the less controversial recommendations, such as the use of the MAS Debt Advice Locator Tool could have the unintended consequence of frightening a customer away by convoluting the journey, just at the point they were receptive to being helped. It was also notable that the CSA is not yet represented as part of the MAS Debt Advice Steering Group, despite our members being key contributors to the cost of debt advice.

But on the principal discussions the CSA is agreed: we support the ambition of MAS to create a contribution formula that’s fair and equitable for all concerned. And that means the current funding models need to be refined.