Which organisations are treating our clients unfairly?

posted by in Living with debt

People feel that they’re not being treated fairly by some of the companies they owe money to and borrow money from. That’s the message we received from our clients in our recent research into creditor and debt collector conduct.

Our research reveals the kinds of organisations that are most likely to make people feel unfairly treated, and the kind of unfair treatment they’re receiving. We’re campaigning for changes to be made in those organisations to help those in debt and to reduce unfair treatment.

Have you experienced similar issues to what we’ve found? Add a comment at the end of the article.

Unhelpful practices making debt problems worse

Our research suggests a large proportion of our clients have their debt problems made worse by unhelpful practices from the organisations they owe money to, making a bad situation worse. The three most unfair organisations according to our clients. 1. Bailiffs 50% 2. Local authority 42% 3. DWP 36%

Visit our Credit and Debt Collector conduct report page to see the full table.

The findings reveal that our clients feel most unfairly treated by bailiffs (50% of clients contacted by them felt they weren’t fair), local authorities (42%) and the Department for Work and Pensions (36%). Organisations such as high-street banks (21%) and credit card companies (20%) are further down the list, and while still having unacceptably high numbers, there notably fewer clients feeling unfairly treated.

These results show some that our clients are more likely to feel unfairly treated by bailiffs and public sector creditors than regulated financial services creditors, like banks. We think this could show that robust regulation of financial services is linked to fairer treatment.

How people are being treated unfairly

Our research also showed some areas of creditor and debt collector behaviour that are a cause for concern, such as unrequested credit card limit increases, the treatment of vulnerable people, and treatment of those in debt.

Unrequested credit card limit increases

43% of clients have had their credit card limit increased without asking for it

We found that unrequested credit limit increases made debt problems worse for 30% of those receiving them. Currently, credit card companies must provide the ability to opt-out of such increases, but we believe this research shows the need to change to an opt-in system.

Treatment of vulnerable people

83 per cent of vulnerable clietns said that at least one creditor didn't take their vulnerabilities into account

When asking clients about any vulnerabilities – beyond their financial vulnerabilities – the report finds that 83% of clients said at least one of their creditors didn’t take their vulnerability into account after the client made them aware of the issues.

Poor debt collection behaviour

Our research suggests that poor debt collection behaviour is a problem for many of our clients. Out of the 1,794 people we surveyed:

  • 42% had been asked to make payments they couldn’t afford
  • 41% received phone calls or texts at times they’d asked to not be contacted
  • 14% said their creditor asked them to take out further credit to pay off debts

This shows that bad behaviour from creditors and debt collectors is widespread. This is bad news because we know that this makes it even harder to repay debts. So better treatment of those in debt would help everyone, including creditors, as people would find it easier to repay.

What to do if you feel badly treated by a creditor or debt collector

Make a complaint.

It can be tempting to ignore it because you don’t want to cause a fuss. However, it’s important to let companies know when you’re unhappy with the service you’ve received. It’ll give them a chance to put things right but it also means they can address the root cause and other people will receive better treatment too.

Our website has useful advice on how to complain about a creditor, including some great tips on the right way to go about making a complaint, such as noting down the time of all your phone calls and the names of people you speak to, so you can refer back to them later.

It can sometimes be hard to know if you’ve been badly treated by a creditor. It’s reasonable for them to contact you about a debt from time to time, but they have to act within the rules and treat you fairly. If you’re not sure if they’ve overstepped the mark, we’ve got some examples of creditor harassment which may help.

What can be done about the issues we’ve raised?

Our research into creditor and debt collector conduct shows that there are some problems that need to be addressed. We’re calling for changes to help to improve the way people in debt are treated, including:

  • People who seek advice for debt problems should be given a period of six months to a year of ‘breathing space’, during which interest and charges are frozen and enforcement action is halted
  • The FCA should ensure that credit card limits are only increased where the borrower actively opts-in to this
  • Organisations should ensure their debt recovery practices and policies have affordable and sustainable repayments at their heart 

Read our full report to get all the details about our research into creditor and debt collector conduct, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

James Winterbottom has been a debt advisor for six years. Away from work he is an amateur app developer and writes fiction. James is a lifelong supporter of Huddersfield Town football club, which suggests he is either very loyal or very daft. He also likes to talk about himself in the third person in bio pages.

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Tags Living with debt
  • Freda Swift

    One of my creditors puts interest on my debt each month which means that I am hardly paying anything at all off the amount I owe. My other creditors have wavered the interest. Is there anything that can be done about this?

    • Farpais Buannaiche

      I had the same issue. I had two credit cards debts with the same bank: on one they stopped the interest; on the other they kept piling it on and I was making no headway whatsoever. For seven years this occurred. I wrote letters to them every six months asking for the reason the accounts were treated so differently, asking for the interest to be stopped on both, but nothing.

      It is my understanding, creditors are not obligated to drop the interest on a DMP – just keep putting in reasoned requests in writing. My bank only stopped piling on the interest when I lodged a formal complaint about them contacting me by telephone despite my having written to them several times (I attached copies of the letters) requesting that they only contact me by letter.

      • lynn

        I went to the Financial Ombudsman and they wrote to my credit card company who had refused to waive interest charges. They immediately did once the FSA contacted them and credited the interest I had paid..

    • moneyaware

      Hi Freda,

      Frarpais and Lynn’s comment’s below pretty much cover this. Your creditors don’t have to stop interest and charges (though we hope they do). However, if you feel they are being unfair you can make a complaint.

      There’s more information on our main website: https://www.stepchange.org/debt-info/your-rights/freezing-interest-and-charges.aspx.

      Kind regards


  • Tom Miller

    Hello everybody……….
    , I’m TOM MILLER LIVE IN USA ,. , I was diagnosed of Coronary artery disease (CAD) 2013,while my wife was diagnosed of Parkinson,s ,(CAD)is the most common type of heart disease and causes of heart attacks., I was told by my private doctor that I have only 4 months to live on planet earth, I was highly devastated , i was living my life in fear,so one day my friend told me about dr mapipa who cured her of emphysema.i thought she was joking ,then she told i must relax that’s she is not joking is for real ,i was so shocked ,so me and my wife decided to give it a try,so we contacted Dr mapipa via his email;drmapipaherbalmedicinehome(at)gmail(dot)com.he replied and told me he will cure me and my wife within 4 weeks,we believed and had faith ,then i gave my wife the money to purchase the herbal medicine .after purchasing ,he sent the herbal medicine to me through courier service,which we received within 2days .we don’t really spend much ,so after 4 weeks of usage ,we went back to our private doctor he confirmed that am (CAD) FREE and my wife was Parkinson’s free too.It was like a dreams, we were so shocked and happy as well ..thanks to Dr mapipa GOD will continue to bless you and your good works ..please don’t ignore this post is real ,is my true life story ..if you want to know more about dr mapipa check his website ,www(dot)drmapipaherbal(dot)weebly(dot)com …

  • brett kokkinos

    one of my creditors refused to give their their bank details so that they could take alternative action for example bailiffs. I then had to fill in a N245 form with the local courts to stop bailiff action. I can only afford £16 pounds a month which the creditor refused and the courts have now set a payment at £50 per month an amount that i cant afford. The creditor then forwarded their bank details to me on Christmas eve via a text. Is there anything i can do about this ?

    • moneyaware

      Hi Brett,

      Once you’ve agreed an amount using the N245 form, it’s up to you to make the payments to the creditor using the details they provide.

      The creditor and court will use the information you provided on the N245 form to make a decision on how much you can afford to pay, so it’s vital to include everything you pay for, and a realistic amount you can afford to pay.

      If you still don’t think you can afford to pay, you can ask the court to reconsider the order. Write to the court within 16 days of the postmark on the varied order (sent back with your £50 agreed amount) and give your reasons why you don’t think you can pay the amount the court has ordered you to pay.

      The court will arrange a private hearing for you and the claimant to discuss, with the district judge about your payments. If judgment was not made in your local court hearing centre, the case will automatically be transferred there before the hearing is arranged.

      You should then be be told when to come to court, and you should attend.

      If this is something you do decide to do, you should make sure you have as much information about your situation as possible, including your budget, other debts and income to justify your offer.

      If you need help putting together a budget to show this, or need debt help then our Debt Remedy online advice tool can help with this. Visit http://www.stepchange.org/debtremedy.aspx to find out more.

      I hope this helps,