The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a warning recently to anyone considering taking out a loan to cover costs this festive season. They have reason to believe that at least 15 firms are offering Christmas loans to UK customers without official permission or authorisation.
Almost all firms and individuals carrying out consumer credit activities in the UK must be authorised by the FCA. However, there are still some firms that act without their permission. This leaves anyone who borrows from these firms vulnerable, as they won’t have the protection of a regulatory body to ensure they’re treated fairly.
While the sites listed by the FCA are simply not regulated, this also exposes a wider issue, that some loans could potentially be scams.
Who do the FCA want people to steer clear of?
The following firms are not authorised by the FCA but have been targeting people in the UK:
- Unemployed Easy Loans
- Lenders Club
- Christmas Loans
- Mistletoe Loans
- Affordable Payday Loans
- Fast Christmas Loans
- Need Xmas Loans
- Loan Point
- Christmas Loans
- Online 12 month Loans
- Just Jingle
- Christmas Loans Now
- 5 minute loans
- 3 Month Loans
- 12 Month Loans
[UPDATE 24 October 2016 – links removed to the above lenders]
You may be wondering why it’s a big deal if these companies have been OKed by the FCA or not.
Having authorisation and permission to trade from the FCA means greater protection for you and an assurance that the company will play by the rules. Having no protection could lead to unfair treatment such as inflated interest rates or upfront fees.
What can I do to protect myself?
The FCA strongly advise you to only deal with firms that are authorised by them. You can find out more by checking the Financial Services Register and Consumer Credit Interim Permission register. Here you’ll find information on firms and individuals that are, or have been, regulated.
If a firm doesn’t appear on the Register but claims it does, contact the FCA Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768.
I’ve used or have been approached by one of these firms – what can I do?
If you think you’ve been approached by an unauthorised firm or contacted about a scam you should contact the FCA Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768.
Be aware that if you give money to an unauthorised firm, you’ll not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service or Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) if things go wrong. If you have given any money to one of these companies, there would be no way for the Ombudsman or FSCS to intervene on your behalf.
If you’re struggling with your finances after taking out one of these loans, or if you think you need a loan to tide you over the festive period, we can help you put together a budget and look into any debt solutions that may be available instead. Our online advice tool Debt Remedy can help you put together a personal action plan in around 20 minutes.