Posts Tagged ‘Banking Code’

New Lending Code 11: mental health, MALG guidance

November 23, 2009

183. Further and more detailed good practice guidelines have been produced by MALG and are available at: http://www.moneyadvicetrust.org/download.asp . The MALG guidelines will not be monitored and enforced by the Lending Standards Board. [Reproduced with the kind permission of the British Banking Association -see link below]

Because I had read many of the documents some time ago, and not got round to all of them, combined with a period when my attention had to be elsewhere, I had confused the guidelines with the submission to the 2007 review of the Banking Code, and both with some parts of the Consumer Protection Regulations.

Albeit, I have this clear now and apologise should I have attributed rule and regulation to a document which it is not in. But the effect of my comments is unaltered.

While the guidelines are given a somewhat detached status, since they are to be neither monitored nor enforced by the standards board, they remain specified good practice. As such they will figure in considerations of the actions of creditors and debt collectors in other places, and cannot be ignored.

The guidelines were of great value when they were published in 2007. While they are not directly included in the Lending Code they are, by this paragraph, made best practice in carrying out the previous 10 paragraphs. This is an invaluable advance for those affected.

While there is no mention of the other vulnerable debtors – elderly and poor – in the new code or in the guidelines, their link in the CPRs should leave no creditor in any doubt that similar care is required for them.

There are 15 main heads in this document and invaluable additions, such as a listing of relevant mental conditions.

In my judgement they leave creditors for no excuse to behave inappropriately in relation to those suffering, once the creditor has been advised of the condition involved. Nor, indeed, against those who fall into the other two vulnerable groups. I would add more to the vulnerable areas.

This is because of the extreme unbalance in the ‘playing field’ between the enormous companies and the defaulting individuals who have no experience or knowledge of the area. For that group of scurrilous companies – some of the biggest of banks – who follow an aggressive  path, I feel these regulations still lack the teeth that are needed to protect.

Well, I suppose these gripes are part of my shopping list for the next reviews in all areas!

That said I believe thanks and congratulations are due to all those who have worked extremely hard over many years to make these new paragraphs and  their guidelines part of the body of rules.

Joseph Harris, Debt Control Man
Author: Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms
http://www.controlyourdebtcrisis.co.uk
The new Lending Code is here http://www.bba.org.uk/bba/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=1758
The MALG 2007 submission to the review of the code is here http://www.moneyadvicetrust.org/download.asp
And the Treasury Select committee view is here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200405/cmselect/cmtreasy/274/27406.htm#a18

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New Lending Code 1: Lending, Debt and the Vulnerable

November 5, 2009

At the end of section 9, Financial Difficulties, there are eleven paragraphs headed ‘Debt and mental health’.

Inclusion of this is a huge departure from the previous section 14 of the Banking Code [most of which is now wrapped up in the FSA BCOBS]. It is about time this recognition of the vulnerable started, since the Treasury Select Committee was urging it in 2005 and the Money Advice Trust [a charity supported by the industry] in 2007, the two previous reviews of the code.

As the Lending Code includes guidance on treatment of micro enterprises this applies to these as well as personal customers. Fortunately the right of customers to represent themselves is not challenged here. As with debtors we have indeed moved a long way in understanding since the nineteenth century.

While this in no way puts the MAT or Treasury advice as part of the code, there is an instruction to British Banking Association members to take note of the guidelines published by MAT on behalf of the Money Advice Liaison Group, which is a forum with representatives from all parts of the finance industry, charities and government sections concerned.

While the more negative admission that the Lending Standards Board [new name for the Banking Code Standards Board] will neither monitor nor enforce them, the expectation of observance is clear and of value.

This is excellent news for vulnerable debtors, the mental health charities, the advisors and plain common sense.

Still a-ways to go for the full laying out of how to treat all vulnerable customers, but a welcome and cheering start. Such understanding bodes well for all debtors and all borrowers; perhaps paradoxically for all creditors as well.

Joseph Harris, Debt Control Man
Author: Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms
http://www.controlyourdebtcrisis.co.uk

Lending Code Arrogance

November 2, 2009

Since I wrote on this three weeks ago I have been trying to find the text of the new code. Only today have I managed to get hold of it, and it came into effect yesterday.

While my criticisms of Paul Ross, Retail Banking director of the British Bankers Association, still stand, I am happy to thank him for his prompt response today with the inclusion of the link. I needed that since the normal searches revealed nothing.

Click here for the pdf. But don’t expect it to be that easy! Clicking for the pdf here takes you to this link where the pdf link does get the actual document. To me this run-around is a further sign of the arrogance I now see as normal.

This means that no attempt has been made to make the new text, or its new wrapper, easy to find. Yet the actual text and the changes may have massive impact for debtors [as it may do for all who deal with the banks and financial institutions for credit services].

The contempt shown for debtors, for consumers and for their advisors matches the experience of dealing with the worst of the banks.

I will post a series of blogs describing the terms in the new document. At first glance they look like the old with new numbering. But putting effort into a comparison would delay the presentation to you and it might in any case be a good idea to remind ourselves of the obligations on bankers under this new version of parts of the old Banking Code.

My next blog will however be a further attempt to self-therapy to deal with the anger I feel over the run-around. I will speak of Members of Parliament.

Joseph Harris

Lending Code secrecy ‘is a disgrace’

October 12, 2009

I have just released this press release; as you see it is a matter of some seriousness

The new Lending Code, which replaces the credit and financial difficulties sections of the defunct Banking Code, is due to come into effect on November 1. Some nineteen short days away.

There is to be no public sight of these changes, nor any consultation process before these changes come into effect.

Specialist author Joseph Harris – Debt Control Man – has been trying to get sight of these changes since June. He has been told they will not be released until they are in effect on November 1 by Paul Ross, the man who is writing the new document for the British Bankers Association, in an email.

“This is a clear case of dictatorial behaviour,” declares Mr Harris. “It is a disgrace that no one concerned with the field, nor any debtor – whether defaulting or not – has any idea how the changes will affect them.

“Vince Cable was wrong when he said Gordon Brown had changed from Stalin to Mr Bean. On the basis of this secrecy and undemocratic behaviour he remains Stalin.”

Phone calls and emails to the FSA and the OFT result in classic Civil Service dropping the query into the new virtual filing bin.

“Even though there are many rules to help debtors negotiate the treacherous waters of finding the best way for their needs, too many creditors and debt collectors – including the biggest companies – do their best to sidestep them.

“Lack of a clear knowledge of what is happening among debtors and their advisors leaves these worst companies a window of opportunity to harass and bully particularly the poorest and most vulnerable debtors,” adds Mr Harris, author of Control Your Debt Crisis on Your Own Terms http://www.controlyourdebtcrisis.co.uk/book-cydc/cydc_Book_intro.shtml .,

“It is also a tragedy that the opportunity to include the requests of the Treasury Select Committee in 2005 and of the Money Advice Liaison Group has been lost.”

While most of the Banking Code is being operated as statutory Code of Practice directly by the FSA, the credit and financial difficulties sections move to the The Office of Fair Trading to sit beside the OFT’s duties controlling issue of Consumer and Business Credit Licences.

Joseph Harris, Debt Control Man

Banking Code Changes Update

July 27, 2009

In trying to sort the changes out, particularly in how they affect defaulting debtors, I have been led a merry dance.

I think I have emailed or phoned or both, almost every player in this game of musical chairs.

Finally I remembered that the last time I needed to make sense of this area I got sense from the Banking Code Standards Board. So my thanks to them once again.

I have since spoken to others to try to get detail of how exactly the changes will take effect from November 1. That is pretty close for all those who will be affected, especially the helping organsiations like the CABs and Law Centres.

It seems that while most of the Banking Code disappears into the winding corridors of the Financial Services Authority, the parts dealing with lending move to the Office of Fair Trading – except they don’t.

The wording of the new Lending Code [possibly that is the title] is to be managed by the British Banking Association, which has always done it, and it will be monitored by the Standards Board, which has always done that!

And the OFT will, er, enforce fair treatment, and it has always done that!

So welcome to the new-old, different and unchanged system.

Well the changes have to be re-written, but it seems there will be little time for picking up any errors in wording or possible interpretation. And I understand nothing new will go in before 2011.

Not the advice of the Treasury Committee of 2005, nor that from the Money Advice Trust on behalf of MALG in 2007 – nor anyting else.

Well nothing of help to debtors, anyway.

Let you know what more comes to light.

Joseph Harris
Debt Control Man
http://www.controlyourdebtcrisis.co.uk

New Banking Code?

June 24, 2009

I assumed that the take over of the Banking Code by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) is going to make a much more useful regime, from the point of view of the debtor.

Now I am far less certain.

Catching up on material like the comments to the last review of the code, and comments on the FSA proposals, I find that the FSA proposals appear to change from the rule approach to a ‘principles-based’ one.

Now your guess is as good as mine as to what that means. Next month the FSA is to publish its proposals – for adoption in November. Do keep an eye open for these proposals.

The Citizen’s Advice Bureaux (CAB), for example, expresses great concern about the proposed changed of style and the fact that the enforcement will be even less than the limp penalties under the British Banking Association (BBA) regime.

CAB points out that the very ones who are most likely to suffer are the vulnerable, the very ones that any system of regulation is most vital to. And, boy!, what grand quagmires lie ahead for interpretation of principles.

The ordinary debtor already faces a seriously uphill struggle. The information most needed is obscure, the area is one they are not familiar with, and they face trained and professional takers backed by massive organisations who wear their legal departments like the six guns of a ‘black hat’ in western films.

The FSA, the FOS and the OFT are all supposed to be making that ‘playing field’ more level and refereed. With this change in prospect my fear is that the field will turn into a blood bath of the innocent. Just like Peterloo.

[Peterloo happened shortly after the Battle of Waterloo and named as a disgraceful mirror of that greatness. It happened on St Peter’s Field near Manchester in 1819. This peaceful meeting was demanding the reform of the parliamentary system – déjà vu!

The crowd of over 60,000 unarmed civilians was charged by cavalry. The whole history of the period was one of the two Britains; that of the industrial and agricultural owners and that of the ordinary people. At least Peterloo shamed the political leadership and reforms followed.

The great 1832 Reform Act was one and the introduction of a civilian police force another. The latter unarmed in response to the shame of Peterloo.]

Joseph Harris
Debt Control Man

Card Firms Giveth, Card Firms Taketh Away

November 28, 2008
How is it, that when I saw Peter Mandelson was involved, I started looking for the catch?
Our Business Secretary with Gareth Thomas, Consumer Affairs Minister, held a meeting with credit card companies [not sure who came, but I’m looking!] to get more time for debtors to organise their affairs. The target was described as ‘breathing space’. http://uk.reuters.com/article/personalFinanceNews
Now I am not even sure how that fits with the information that the reason for the meeting was to express concerns to the representatives about the high level of interest rates charged on credit and store cards.

And a joint statement declares: ‘…the … industry would report back in two weeks’ time [sic – note superfluous “…’ time…”] on a set of fair principles to help card borrowers to manage their debts… [my italics and my disgust!].

I’m not asking you to share my despairing feelings about the poor grammar from senior members of the government, but I am asking you to note how debtors will be hurt, not helped, by all this.

Bear in mind the Consumer Credit Licence, the Consumer Protection Regulations 2008 and the Banking Code all give much better protection than a set time. Not to mention the directives of the European Union Commission – of which Lord Mandelson was, until recently, a Commissioner. Is he with the people or with business?

AND let us be quite clear, this is an attempt to steal the right to represent oneself. An attempt to breach ancient British law.

The new dictatorial requirement will be that ‘…customers in difficulty would now get 30 days grace … IF [my emphasis] a debt advice agency was [not “is”, note] helping … a repayment plan…’. Further in this from this arrogant group ‘… could be [my emphasis] extended for a further 30 days subject to demonstratable progress being made…’.

My own experience is that I have negotiated for myself with 11 companies, and none of these negotiations were completed inside the incredibly restrictive 60 days of this great gift from the keen brain of the Lord Mandelson. In fact I have four negotiations which are taking over 18 months.

Who is to judge, in the terms of this carve-up, what is demonstrable progress. In negotiation one is in a starting position of disagreement, and the idea that one side or the other may be an arbitrator is nonsensical and dictatorial.

And, by the way, what about the role of the Financial Ombudsman Service which this undercuts in the most destructive way – certainly from a debtors’ point of view.

And the industry has ‘…agreed to look at [my italics] its practice of risk-based re-pricing…’. Readers of this blog will know I wrote a series of articles many weeks back on the disgusting level of interest rates. That the government has only just paid attention to we ordinary people who are truly hurting shows how little regard it has for us.

A government spokesman is reported to have said the government is ‘unhappy’ about ‘increases of up to 10 per cent OR MORE [my emphasis]’.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I want a government that is raging angry about such profiteering and instead of inviting the sector to make the debtor’s position worse is prepared to actually make them obey the existing regulations.

That the negotiations appear to be set on limiting our options, and not improving them is worrying to say the least.

Are we truly in the middle of the new Feudalism, my fellow serfs?

Joseph Harris

Debt Control Man

debtcontrolman.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

 

Interest Rate Action 1 of 3 – Complain

July 31, 2008

Creditor Complaints Procedures and FOS

We have got so used to being told what to do by big companies, and have placed so much trust in them that it comes as a shock when we find their feet are of clay. Similar to the day we realised our parents do not know all the answers to everything!
So realising that the credit offering companies are more concerned with their profits and bonuses than with our needs is a bit of a culture shift. Alright I exaggerate a bit – but not as much as you might at first think.
The question then is what to do about it.
We have more power than you might think in this. And that power is in complaint. Not at the pub across a pint of beer, or in bed at night to our partners.
To be effective complaint has to be focused and clearly thought through. So let us start with the companies’ own complaints procedures.
We start there because it may be that we can get a quick result, and save the further effort. But don’t count on it!
There is a second reason. Only after we have completed that procedure can we take the issue to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS); and this latter is worth doing.
If you are being charged an interest rate that is higher than 18% a year on a credit card [that is 1.5% a month] or than 9% for a term loan, or 18% on direct mail you do, in my opinion, have cause for complaint about that interest rate.
Even those cut off points are high rates to me, but we have to find points that are not themselves going to be cause of argument. Anything above these levels while Bank Rate is below 6% is usurious, and therefore immoral in the terms accepted by three major western religions for thousands of years.
Somewhere on your statement should be information about the complaints procedure of that company. It is a requirement for all members of the Banking Code and even non-members are expected to conform by the FOS.
The main points to get across about any sharp upward change in your rate at any time recently is that it is unfair and unreasonable. ‘Unfair’ is an important term in the Consumer Protection Regulations 2008 and the test of reasonableness is basic to British law.
You will need to make sure you put both the old and new interest rates in and point out that Bank Rate has not increased by even one percent in the period and therefore there is no case for this force majeure change to the rate charged to you. In part you should remember this letter will form part of what the FOS will work from so it needs clear information in it.
Send this letter off and wait for the answer. You should get an acknowledgment and usually about eight weeks later a final response.
If the final response does not reduce your rate to a sensible figure you send a formal complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. This will take a long time because the service is terribly overloaded already. But wait patiently and you should get a positive response. The FOS has the power to force the creditor to change the rate and/or make the company pay compensation.
Get the appropriate forms from the FOS website.
A lot of such complaints will encourage the FOS to raise the matter with the regulators.
See also the next two blogs I am preparing Interest Rate Action 2 of 3 – Complain which deals with contacting the Office of Fair Trading and Interest Rate Action 3 of 3 – Complain Which deals with the Financial Services Authority.

Joseph Harris
Debt Control Man