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Can my DMP be refused?

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in March 2012 published Debt Management (and Credit Repair Services) Guidance OFT366rev in which it addressed the responsibilities of creditors when dealing with third parties such as Debt Management Companies (DMCs) acting on a client’s or debtor’s behalf. This is some of what the OFT had to say in this publication:

3.48 ……. Creditors should not refuse to deal with a debt management business or third party (acting on the client’s behalf) unless the debt management business or third party failed to comply with the relevant consumer protection legislation and/or have appropriate regard to this guidance. Under such circumstances the creditor should be able to satisfy the OFT that it has an objectively justifiable basis for refusing to deal with the other party if asked to do so. Creditors who provide advice to customers should have regard to the spirit of this guidance.

3.49 Examples of potentially unfair or improper business practices include:

  1. Refusing to accept payments tendered, including reasonable token payments
  2. Refusing to engage, appropriately or at all, with a third party representative, such as a debt adviser at a free advice centre or a debt management business, or with a debtor developing his own repayment plan, unless there is an objectively justifiable basis for doing so
  3. Contacting consumers directly and/or by-passing their appointed representatives without permission to do so from the consumer or his representative, unless there is an objectively justifiable basis for doing so
  4. Where a creditor is in dispute with a particular consumer representative, not making its position immediately known to the consumer and the representative
  5. Operating a policy of only entering into negotiations about, and/or agreeing to freeze, interest and charges, if the consumer has engaged the services of a specific ‘representative’ with whom the creditor has an arrangement
  6. Inappropriately passing on consumer’s details to lead generators, debt management businesses, creditors, debt collectors or brokers

Complaints Handling

The OFT’s guidance document also sets out the standards expected in relation to the handling of complaints.

3.50 Licensees are expected to respond to queries and complaints promptly, appropriately and fairly, and explain any undue delays to consumers.

3.51 The Financial Ombudsman Service’s remit covers the consumer credit activities of all businesses holding a standard consumer credit licence and it has published rules on its website that set out in detail the procedures and requirements that licensees must follow when handling complaints from consumers. These rules apply to all businesses that are regulated by the FSA or the OFT.

3.52 Examples of unfair or improper business practices include:

  1. Not publishing or making readily available to consumers details of complaints procedures
  2. Failing to provide (or effectively publicise) a non-premium rate UK telephone number as a means by which consumers can pursue complaints
  3. Not acknowledging receipt of complaints promptly or at all
  4. Not providing a response to complaints within eight weeks of receipt (in accordance with FSA complaints handling rules – where applicable)

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