UPDATE: if your household income has been affected by Coronavirus, you can ask Amigo and other guarantor lenders for 3 month payment break. During this time the lender will NOT be able to ask your guarantor for payment.
This applies whether or not you are making an affordability complaint, which is what the rest of this article looks at.
Guarantor loans are very expensive. Often the lender didn’t check properly that you will be able to manage the loan repayments without having to borrow more.
If proper checks would have shown that you couldn’t afford the repayments, complain! There is a template letter in this article to help you.
You can get an existing loan reduced so you only repay the amount you borrowed, or get a refund if your loans have been repaid
If your complaint is rejected you can send the case to the Financial Ombudsman (FOS) who is upholding a lot (90%!) of guarantor loan complaints.
If you are the guarantor not the borrower, read Complaining if you are a guarantor which has a different template letter to use.
What is an affordability complaint?
A loan is not affordable if paying it left you so short of money you had to top up the loan, or borrow more from another lender or get behind with bills.
Does this sound like you? Then make an affordability complaint.
Just making the payments doesn’t prove the loan was affordable! You may have been repaying with difficulty, taking out other loans, because you didn’t want your guarantor to be affected.
You can complain if you are still paying the loan or if you have repaid it all.
If you win your complaint:
- interest is removed from a loan you still owe, so you only repay what you borrowed;
- your guarantor is released from the loan; and
- you can arrange to pay the remaining balance at a reduced rate.
When your loans have already been settled, you get a refund of the interest you paid.
What should the lender have checked?
Guarantor lenders should have checked the loan was affordable for you before giving you the money.
The lender should have made sure you were likely to be able to make the repayments for the whole length of the loan.
Guarantor loans are large financial commitments. So I would expect a lender to have asked for evidence of your income, to have checked your credit record, and to have verified your expenses.
Some things a lender may have got wrong:
- It doesn’t matter if your guarantor is well off, the loan has to be affordable for you!
- You may have given said your expenditure was lower than it was, because you were guessing or desperate. The lender should have checked your figures.
- If you were self-employed or had wages that varied, the lender should have looked at how your income went up and down.
- The lender should have checked your credit record to see all your debts. If you had recently taken more loans or missed payments/defaulted, the lender should have been careful as your position was getting worse.
- When you top up a loan, the lender should check the new larger loan is affordable. If the current loan was causing you problems or your finances had got worse you shouldn’t have been given a larger loan.
If you feel there was something else unfair about your case, add that into your complaint as well!
What would a “fair solution” be?
If the lender or the Ombudsman decides the loan wasn’t affordable, this is what happens:
- The loan has been repaid, then any interest you paid should be refunded to you.
- The loan is still outstanding, then interest should be removed from the balance that is owing, so you only repay what you borrowed. Your guarantor should be released from the loan. The lender should accept an affordable monthly payment from you to repay the rest.
- Any payments made by the guarantor are refunded to the guarantor, not to you.
Will a complaint affect your guarantor?
Complaining won’t affect your guarantor if you carry on making the payments. The guarantor won’t be told you have complained.
If you stop paying the loan when you make a complaint, the lender may decide to get your guarantor to pay it. If you don’t want this to happen, you have to somehow carry on making the payments even though it’s hard.
If you can’t afford to carry on paying and you don’t want to hurt your guarantor talk to a debt adviser about your options in this difficult situation.
Making an affordability complaint won’t make things worse, and it may help in a few months time, but it isn’t an immediate escape from your problem.
Think about whether your guarantor also had a good reason to complain – see Complaining if you are a guarantor for details. If they win a complaint, they will be removed as a guarantor, which would take a lot of pressure off you.
How to complain to the lender
A template complaint to use
Send your complaint by email – here is a list of lender’s email addresses.
Use SAR AND COMPLAINT BY BORROWER as the email title.
Here is a template. Change it to describe what happened to you and delete what doesn’t apply.
If you would like some help with this, then go to your local Citizens Advice.
And do send bank statements!
It’s good if you can attach bank statements to your complaint. Send three months of statements before each loan or top-up and two months afterwards. So if you had a loan in August 2017, send statements for May-September 2017.
These statements will show how unaffordable your loans were. Don’t worry if there is gambling showing on the statements – that helps your case!
Don’t delay starting a complaint if you are trying to get your bank statements – just add them later. But now is a good time to get the statements as they can help your case.
If the lender comes back and asks questions
Amigo has started asking people who complain to answer some questions about their loan application by text or email.
If your mental health is not good and they make you feel anxious, you do not have to reply at all. Amigo has to respond to your complaint. They can’t reject it simply because you ignore these questions.
There are a lot of reasons why people may not have accurately completed an application form – see Payday lender says I lied. A lot of payday lenders have made threatening noises about this and so far as I know nothing has ever happened when someone has taken their case to the Ombudsman.
A lender should have asked enough questions about your income and expenses and verified your answers before they give you the loan. Lenders know people are often rushed, desperate or don’t know clearly what their budget looks like. You may have hoped the loan would be affordable as it would be cheaper than your payday loans – that doesn’t mean it was affordable!
If you have sent them bank statements (which is a very good idea!) the best reply may be to ignore their questions and just say “You can see my income and expenses from my bank statement which I have sent which shows how unaffordable the loan was. I look forward to getting your response to my complaint.”
If you want to reply, keep it short, don’t write an essay. If you filled out the application very quickly and don’t remember what you said, just say that.
What to do with your personal information (SAR) when you are sent it
Copies of personal information (SARs) are often sent out by post, so if you have moved, make sure the lender has your new address. You should get the information within 30 days. It is often sent on a CD with a password.
This information is not the lender’s response to your complaint. Most lenders will send that separate from the SAR, usually a few weeks later.
You don’t need to do anything with the SAR, just keep it safe. You have asked for it now so that you have the details in case the lender rejects your complaint or makes a poor offer so your complaint has to go to the Ombudsman.
Taking a complaint to the Ombudsman
If the lender rejects your complaint, go to the Ombudsman
Lenders seem to reject many complaints and hope you give up! So don’t be surprised if a lender says No, the loan was affordable or We based our decision to lend on your application which was inaccurate.
If the lender says No, or you haven’t had a reply 8 weeks after sending your complaint, send your case to the Financial Ombudsman (FOS).
This is free to do and easy – you don’t have to quote laws or regulations. You can just send FOS the complaint you sent the lender. And if they have replied and said something that’s wrong, mention that as well.
If you want to add more details, read How Subject Access Request information can help an affordability complaint. But you don’t have to do this – a short FOS complaint is fine.
Don’t delay in sending a case to FOS – it has to go within 6 months. And while you have an “open” complaint at FOS, the lender cannot take you to court.
If only some loans are refunded, is this fair?
Sometimes a lender will say that just a few loans are unaffordable and remove the interest. Which is good, but should it be better?
If the rejected loans caused you difficulties and led to you needing a top-up, send your complaint to FOS and say you think the earlier loans too should be refunded. See Amigo have only offered a partial refund – what should I do? for more details.
Are you likely to win your Ombudsman complaint?
From mid 2019, a lot of guarantor loan complaints are being upheld at FOS.
Guarantor loans are large and people are winning their case even if they only had one loan.
One Ombudsman decision went into a lot of detail so I have summarised it here: Ombudsman – Amigo did not check properly that a borrower could afford the loan.
Here is my summary of some other FOS decisions in mid 2019: Guarantor loans – more refunds being paid!
Cases are also being won against other guarantor lenders, for example UK Credit.
It is much simpler to win a case at FOS than a court case. If Amigo or any other lender has already started a court case against you, Citizens Advice can help you get the court case “stayed” (that’s legal jargon for put on hold) while you take an affordability complaint to the Ombudsman.
Complicated cases & help with guarantor loan complaints
If you want help with these complaints, Citizens Advice can help. Every Citizens Advice has access to the national Specialist Debt Advice Service if this isn’t something an adviser has come across before.
Leave a comment below this article to discuss what to do or talk to Citizens Advice if:
- your guarantor has made a lot of payments.
- you are bankrupt, in an IVA or a DRO – read guarantor loans & insolvency .
- you have a CCJ from the guarantor lender – read guarantor loans & CCJs.
- if your debt has been sold to a debt collector.
Do not use a Claims Firm or a solicitor that is acting as a claims firm. There are two good reasons why you should avoid them:
- they will probably do a very poor job. They are not experts. They won’t put time into looking at your personal case.
- if you win a case but still owe a balance, this is usually just reduced. But the claims firm will expect you to pay their high percentage fee immediately even though you have not received any cash refund and still have the rest of the loan to pay.