March 2019 - Members' Meeting roundup
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|Industry regulators & arbitrators|
There are a number of regulators that have an impact on the debt collection sector, either because they directly regulate some of our members or because they make rules that creditors (banks/utility companies/phone companies for example) have to comply with, which has a knock-on effect on the debt collection companies they use.
Below is a list of the most common regulators that have an impact on the debt collection sector. We have also produced a useful infographic to illustrate this. There are also organisations that can help with complaints if you have been unhappy with the response you have received to a complaint.
As we explain in the Your Rights section, the jurisdiction for these regulators and ombudsmen organisations is not always straightforward, so you might need to speak to them to understand whether they can help you. Alternatively, the advice organisations listed in the Help with your Finances section might also be able to help you understand which regulator or ombudsman is in a position to help you.
Regulators & arbitrators
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is the conduct regulator for 56,000 financial services firms and financial markets in the UK and the prudential regulator for over 18,000 of those firms.
The FCA's website contains a register of all the firms that they regulate, if you want to check whether a firm is regulated by them. This register can also tell you more about the firm, including what regulated activities it has permission to carry out. The FCA has lots of useful information for consumers, including the rules that regulated firms are required to abide by.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) is the UK's independent authority set up to promote access to official information and to protect personal information.
Data protection law gives the ICO powers to regulate the use of personal data in the UK. If you want to understand your data protection rights, or what companies can and cannot do with your personal data, the ICO will be able to help you.
We noted above that some regulatory bodies make rules for creditors, which could have a consequential impact on members of the CSA. Ofcom is one of those regulatory bodies. CSA members will sometimes be involved in the recovery of debts that are governed by Ofcom e.g. mobile phone; internet; television subscriptions. The providers of those services will have to comply with Ofcom's rules, even when they instruct a debt collection agency.
If you have concerns about the way the provider has behaved, you may want to contact Ofcom to better understand the provider's obligations. And if you want to complain about the provider, Ombudsman Services: Communications might be able to help you - their details are below.
Ofgem is the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets with the principal objective of protecting the interests of existing and future electricity and gas consumers.
Ofgem is another regulatory body that makes rules for creditors which could indirectly affect CSA members. CSA members will sometimes collect on gas and electricity debts, which are governed by Ofgem. The gas and electricity providers must comply with Ofgem's rules, even when they instruct a debt collection agency.
If you have concerns about the way the provider has behaved, you may want to contact Ofgem to better understand the provider's obligations. And if you want to complain about the provider, the Energy Ombudsman might be able to help you - their details are below. (In Northern Ireland, you may need to contact the Consumer Council about energy provider complaints)
As the economic regulator of the water sector in England and Wales, Ofwat’s role is to help the sector build trust and confidence with customers and wider society.
As with Ofcom and Ofgem, Ofwat is another regulatory body that governs a set of creditors and thus could have an impact on CSA members. Ofwat sets out the rules for water companies in the UK, rules which may affect the water companies' instructions to debt collection agencies.
If you would like to know more about the obligations of water companies, you may want to contact Ofwat. Complaints about water companies in England and Wales can be considered by the Consumer Council for Water; in Scotland, you'll need to contact the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman; and in Northern Ireland, you will need to speak to the Consumer Council.
The Consumer Council (Northern Ireland)
The Consumer Council provides free, independent support and advice for all consumers and businesses in Northern Ireland. It also has powers to investigate complaints about energy, water, transport and postal services, and to undertake research to understand local consumer issues.
Consumer Council for Water (England and Wales)
The Consumer Council for Water is the independent representative of household and business water consumers in England and Wales. They can help if you have concerns or complaints about your water company.
Set up by Parliament, the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) is the UK’s official expert in sorting out problems with financial services. If a business and a customer can’t resolve a complaint themselves, the Financial Ombudsman Service can give an unbiased answer about what’s happened.
The FOS can only consider complaints relating to activities that are regulated by the FCA. You can consult the FOS website or speak to them directly to understand whether a complaint might fall within their jurisdiction.
If you have an unresolved complaint about a gas or electricity company, the energy ombudsman may be able to help. They are approved by the energy regulator Ofgem to independently handle disputes between energy companies and their customers, which includes domestic customers and micro businesses. Their service is free to consumers and simple to use.
If you have an unresolved complaint about your internet or telephone provider, Ombudsman Services: Communications may be able to help. They independently handle disputes between communication companies that are signed up to our scheme and consumers (domestic customers and small businesses). The service is free to consumers and simple to use and they are approved by Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industry.
Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (Scotland)
The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) is Scotland’s ombudsman for matters relating to public services, including councils, most Scottish authorities and most water providers, amongst other areas. Further details about their jurisdiction can be found on their website.