BrightHouse announced in October 2017 that they were refunding nearly £15 million to customers who had been sold goods they couldn’t afford. Which sounded great and there were lots of happy newspaper headlines… but I pointed out that actually most BrightHouse refunds are quite small and many people aren’t getting one at all.
BrightHouse’s smaller rival, PerfectHome, announced a refund for 37,000 customers in March 2018.
This article looks at how you can complain to BrightHouse (or PerfectHome!) and ask for a refund if you don’t get one or you don’t think it’s big enough. It looks at:
- will you get a BrightHouse refund automatically?
- what is an “affordability complaint”?
- how big a refund could you get?
- a template letter to use if you aren’t still paying for the item
- what to do if you are still paying
- how to take your complaint to the Ombudsman if BrightHouse say No.
Will BrightHouse send you a refund automatically?
BrightHouse is sending letters with refunds to:
- people who cancelled a purchase but still made the first payments will have that refunded; and
- 81,000 people will get a refund because they bought an item between 1 April 2014 and 30 September 2016 and a computer check by Brighthouse has determined it wasn’t affo0rdable.
To find out if you will be getting a refund letter, call BrightHouse’s helpline on 0800 30 40 80.
If you get a refund, it would be great if you could post some details in the comments below – at the moment we don’t know a lot about what is being offered. That will help other people work out if they have been fairly treated.
You may think the refund isn’t enough, or that you had other items that should also be refunded… read the rest of this article because you can still complain!
What is an “affordability complaint”?
From 2014 BrightHouse has been regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Before then, it was regulated by the Office of Fair Trading. Both regulators have similar rules about responsible lending and affordability. These can be summarised as:
the borrower should be able to make the repayments without undue difficulty, whilst continuing to meet other debt repayment obligations and reasonable regular outgoings.
If you were struggling to pay BrightHouse and BrightHouse should have realised this before they sold you the item, you have an “affordability complaint”.
Things which show you were struggling:
- having to borrow more money every month, perhaps from payday loans or catalogues/credit cards, or
- getting behind with essential bills such as rent, council tax, utilities, or
- defaulting on other debts.
It is easier to prove that BrightHouse should have known you would struggle if:
- you had already missed payments on previous items you bought from BrightHouse, or
- the amount you were paying BrightHouse on all your purchases was a large amount of your income.
NB this article doesn’t cover consumer issues. If what you bought was poor quality or not repaired properly, send a query to the Citizens Advice national consumer service.
How big a BrightHouse refund could you get?
- a refund of the interest you paid,
- with an extra 8% interest per year added on top of that refund, and
- any problems on your credit record (late payments, defaults) deleted.
If you are still paying for an item that is unaffordable, the BrightHouse interest that was added on is deducted from what you owe. You should also be allowed to repay any that is left at a more affordable rate.
How far back can you go?
The Financial Ombudsman usually only looks at complaints about things which have happened in the past 6 years. If you bought something from BrightHouse more than 6 years ago, you probably won’t get a refund.
Who shouldn’t do this
Don’t ask for a BrightHouse refund if you are in a DRO – it could be ended if you get a large refund. If you are in an IVA or you have ever been bankrupt, it’s pointless as the refund won’t come to you.
A template letter to use if you aren’t still paying for the item
Here is a template letter asking for a refund on two items which you have finished paying for.
Change this letter so it talks about what you bought, when, and the problems you had. Delete bits that don’t apply to you. You can change it a lot – it’s just to get you started!
Also include your name, current address, current email address, and give your old details if any of these have changed since you bought the items.
If BrightHouse are giving you a refund for one item and you think it should be for more, add in a sentence about this.
The best way to send your complaint is by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. That is free, instant, can’t get lost in the post and you have a copy of what you sent. Put AFFORDABILITY COMPLAINT in as the title of your email.
What to do if you are still paying
Things are more complicated if you are still paying:
- BrightHouse have a new policy that you can return goods if you want, you won’t owe any more and your credit record will not be harmed. So if you have only recently bought something and it’s not essential you may want to think about returning it if you realise that it’s going to be impossible to get to the end of the payments or you just have cheaper options;
- if you are nearly at the end, then you probably want to try to make the last few payments rather than lose the item;
- if you make a complaint and interest is removed from what you are paying, this could make a big difference to whether you can repay the rest.
If you aren’t sure what to do or what the different options are, go to your local Citizens Advice and ask for some help.
You can use a version of the template letter above to complain to BrightHouse – change it so it is all “in the present tense” so it says you are complaining because you can’t afford the repayments, your income is only £x a week etc.
How to take your complaint to the Ombudsman if BrightHouse say No
If BrightHouse say No, or offer you what seems like a tiny amount to go away, you can send your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman. If you aren’t sure about doing this, why not ask in the comments below?
This is easy and free. The Ombudsman isn’t a court, it’s all done by email. You don’t have to use legal language or make a complicated argument. The Ombudsman just wants to know from you what you think happened and why it wasn’t fair on you.
The Financial Ombudsman has a “complain online” option which asks you for the details they need, such as your contact details, and lets you attach a copy of what you sent BrightHouse and what they replied to you.