/ Money

Claims management companies come with two big catches…

Man stuck in a jar

Picture the scene; you get a call, telling you that you may be entitled to a refund for a product you know nothing about and didn’t even know you had – Payment Protection Insurance (PPI).

So what’s the catch? Well, you’ll be charged. But hey, it’s no win no fee, so if they don’t get your money they don’t get anything either. Or, they charge you a small amount, but again, it’s fully refundable if they can’t get it back.

Sounds fair enough. After all, you might not know anything about drains, so when the sink’s flooding you call a plumber. Or if you’re having trouble with ghosts, who you gonna call? Unfortunately the devil’s in the detail, and there are two key points that you have to consider:

1) The companies that claim to help you reclaim PPI aren’t playing by the rules.
2) It’s as easy as it can possibly be for you to claim yourself.

1. The companies aren’t playing by the rules

Our investigation found a huge range of problems with claims management companies. Firstly, there are the fees. Consumers are owed around £7.4bn by the banks, but these companies typically charge around 30% after VAT. So, with the average individual PPI compensation award from the Ombudsman coming to £2,750 we’re talking about the average consumer paying £825.

But there are also problems around what they define as ‘compensation’, and consequently what you get back. You might think they mean money you’ve paid and are being compensated for. Wrong.

Some firms include a reduction in future loan repayments as part of the compensation, so what you would have paid in future, and only a portion of it will be cash you’ll receive.

There were also issues around transparency. Because there’s a free service in the form of the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), CMCs have to make you aware of it – but two-thirds of the companies we spoke to didn’t. They’re also not allowed to suggest you’d have a higher chance of success, or get more back, using them instead – again six of the 25 we spoke to did.

What’s more, some of them charge money upfront, locking you in before you consider your options, and others call you up out of the blue offering to process a claim on your behalf. We’ve heard of people who didn’t even have PPI agreeing to let these companies look into their ‘claim’ and then being billed.

2. Unsure if you have a claim? Look into it yourself

Here’s the key – if you’ve been mis-sold PPI and you’re owed that money back, it’s yours, and you shouldn’t have to give up a portion to someone else. You might be uncomfortable dealing with your bank directly, but there’s loads of independent help available, and if you run into trouble there’s FOS – a free independent mediator – who will look into any dispute.

Finally, after years of fighting, the banks have given in and are now required to deal with your complaint according to prescribed guidelines. It’s not an exaggeration to say that – for an issue as complex as this – it could not be easier for you to claim yourself.

Comments

Recent advert for a claims management company claiming for you if your flight has been delayed. It did not state what their commission (fee, cut, …..) was. Where can I buy shares in these companies?

Have we become so lazy that we are unable to deal with our own matters (I would think if you are capable of booking flights you have the ability to reclaim any compensation due).

Perhaps Which? should produce a guide to making claims for all these items that might give compensation. Perhaps it does.

Beware of companies that have clauses in their small print which allow them to judge if a compensation offer is acceptable. I went with The FairTrade Pracice and they demanded a fee of 30% of an offer made by a bank. I didn’t want to accept the offer and wanted to go to the Ombudsman , but FTP demanded their fee with threatening letters and emails. This cannot be fair , no pun intended, you could be forced into accepting a low offer just to meet the very high fee demanded by companies like http://FTP.

I saw an advert on facebook for the Claims guys filled out the forms found out that I had over 2 grand owed to me, then found out by rbs i had past debts with them then the money would go towards repaying that, I was fine with that, what I was not told was I would still be charged over £1000 even if I did not recive any monies, they are now saying they will take me to court for ccj and send the bailfs in . but if not receieved any money please help

Bear75 says:
6 June 2016

I was referred by a friend, so trusted the source and was charged £500, which I promised would be returned to me as soon as the claim was sorted if there were no funds recoverable. The claims Co. thought I was entitled to over £5k, so the investment seemed worth it.
They promised me it would take no longer than a few months to sort the claim, which I hoped would go towards a holiday at the end of last year. It has now been around 14 months and the Co. are refusing to refund my £500 as the claim is still ‘in progress’…
They said they couldn’t get access to many of my accounts, so I had to contact the banks/building societies directly, wondering what on earth their part was… Now it seems ridiculously fraudulent for them to hold on to my money for so long, when nothing seems to be moving… What can I do about this? 🙁

Hi Bear75,
I am assuming your claim is for a PPI refund?

I have had several calls from claims companies wanting my accounts to check to see if I am owed PPI or claiming they know I am owed money that they will get back for me. I have never had PPI but they don’t give up.

Did your friend actually use the company and get a refund? If not, I would be rather concerned at handing over details of my accounts to persons unknown.

It might be a good idea to talk to Which? Legal. They will talk to you for free initially. Click on ‘Our Services’ at the top of this page for the phone number.

Good luck.

Hi Bear75, I’ve replied to your email. We suggest that you speak to the Legal Ombudsman about this. Information can be found here: http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/helping-the-public/#making-complaint

tracy says:
30 June 2016

hi i applied for ppi myself and was rejected. i asked a company to look for me and i received a cheque from bank of scotland. then the company asked for their fee which is very high. what happens if i do not pay them ?????

I would like to know the answer to this also, I am in the Isle of Man and all the PPI stuff is not governed by the Financial Ombudsman for PPI payments from Isle of Man Banks. I dealt directly with my bank, I approached them 2 years ago and could not give them the information they asked for as it dated back 15-18 years. I filled in all the paperwork etc myself, dealt on numerous occasions with the bank, and the PPI company are now saying they want £2094 of me for basically doing nothing. I have paid the other fees for UK based companies, do I have to pay it for an Isle of Man offshore rebate?

Don’t pay, simple.

I claimed ppi through claim advisory group they did nothing I dealt with the bank over the phone and bank of Scotland sent me 3,000 they have asked me to pay £1.500 to them this is ridiculus were do I stand

Do not pay it, I would definitely not, no matter what they throw at you. It’s extortion, I’m asking the cmc I used as to what service they have provided, as it has took over 2 years to come to fruition.

If I do a PPI claim through a company do they receive the money take their share then send you your refund?

Only if they win!

If they do win your compensation claim they will take their cut before releasing your money. It is best to approach the organisation that owes you directly if you know who it is. If your claim is successful you will get all you are owed without deductions. The PPI claims company will not tell you who it is before they have had their slice of the cake, and possibly not even then.

Because of health and related issues I decided (years ago, maybe 2009) to use a company called Fast Track to chase for PPI on my behalf.
Over a period of 2 or 3 years they successfully got me 5 or 6 pay-outs of between 2 & 5000 pounds for which I was grateful (they took their 25% + VAT before sending me my cheques)
In the interim, I received courtesy calls/letters advising me of other failed claims and letting me know if they had referred any to the Ombudsman.
I have not had any contact for around 2 years now – UNTIL around 3 weeks ago when they informed me (letter) that the Ombudsman had overturned a failed claim with Marbles (originally refuted by Marbles in 2012) and that I would soon get an offer from them (Marbles) – Earlier this week I received a letter from Marbles stating that they would soon be refunding me over 11 grand! (12k+ less 20% base rate tax) and that if I was in agreement with refund amount I need do nothing but await cheque within 4 weeks.
Got a text yesterday from Fast Track congratulating me and saying that ‘documents in post’, – due documents arrived today – copy of letter from Ombudsman to fast track, and copy of Marbles letter to me. ALSO Fast Track invoice to me for 3714 pounds! (They even calculate their 25% + VAT based on total before income tax deduction!)
After approx 4 years of inactivity (the Ombudsman has dealt with this for that period – other than the odd catch-up phone call) is this fee justified? Do I have any argument against paying them?
(I should add that I was a successful business man up till 2010 – I have basically been a pauper for the last 4 years – hence you can imagine how I feel about ‘losing’ over 3k!!)

hi I used the claims guys to see if I had any ppi. The bank rejected one of my claims and I believe unfairly. The claims guys then sent me the financial ombudsman form to fill in. Just wondering if I have to include them in my complaint as the way I see it my claim through the claims guys has failed/ended. Thanks for any advise

I would suggest you stop dealing with the claims agents and go direct to the bank. If there is a valid claim the bank will settle it in full. If you go through an intermediary they will take a portion of your entitlement before handing over the rest.

I have just received a check from PPI but it came from the company its self not the claims guys they have rung me to say they want there fee of 546 pound do I have to pay them this I got 1659 bk I don’t no what to do help needed

It will depend on the contractual relationship between you and the compensation claims handlers. If you authorised them to make an application on your behalf and they did so then I expect you are liable to pay their fee. Check the terms and conditions on any document you signed. They might include an undertaking on your part to pay their fee irrespective of whether or not the repayment of your funds was as a result of their efforts. If they pursue you for payment try to resist until they issue a court summons, then offer 50% in full and final settlement on the grounds that they did not have to do any serious work to obtain your compensation. You could resist further and claim [if it is true] (a) that they offered to undertake the claim for you as a speculative venture before you were in possession of the facts thus putting you under duress, and (b) that they misrepresented the likelihood of you receiving redress direct from the company.

Hi I wonder if you can help me please ….

Back in May 2016 I was contacted by a claims co about PPI Claims. I decided to go ahead because at the time I wasn’t in the best frame of mind (I’d had a car accident and was on medication!) – now I would have thought much differently as I have done a lot of research on this!
I signed the Letters of Authority except for three which I did not want pursued, one of which was for Barclays. I did not send any of the three forms back and I still have them in my possession unsigned. Two months later I received a letter from Barclays asking me for more information on the claim. I was quite surprised at this as I had not signed anything to allow the claims co. to proceed. I did not fill in any of the forms and when I spoke to claims co. about a different claim I told them that Barclays had sent this form and I wasn’t interested in pursuing it at all and to cancel the claim. They advised me they would and made some comment about it being on their system four times and had not been updated. As far as I was concerned that was the end of it. A week ago I received a cheque from Barclays which was a nice surprise and I assumed Barclays must have continued on with the claim, (I assumed probably due to legislation they have to see it through). I have now received a letter from the claims co asking for 39% plus VAT of the total claim. I have read the terms and conditions and it does state that you do not enter an agreement with them to pursue a claim unless you sign the letter of authority. From my point of view they have continued with this without my permission and from what I have read in my research probably done very minimal in pursuing this claim. They are requesting this invoice is paid within 15 days. Today alone I have had 8 missed calls from them (which for me is harassment!). Any advice you could give me would be much appreciated. Please help ….

Claire – I think you are in a strong position to resist paying anything at all in respect of possible claims against Barclays. Without your signed agreement to proceed, the claims company has taken a risk in lodging a claim on your behalf. That was a speculation on their part which they cannot charge to you. Whether or not their action contributed towards the award of compensation to you is immaterial in your case. Howsoever Barclay’s became aware of a liability to you and settled it does not need to be explored, and you have a confidential relationship with Barclays that the claims company has no part in. Further pressure you on you to pay anything to the claims company would amount to harassment which you could point out to them in writing if you wished, but I think you can safely ignore any further contact from them.

Hi John. Thank you so much for your reply! You’ve really been helpful. I’ve had ten calls from them today! Do you think I should write to them about this explaining I never asked them to act on my behalf and dispute the invoice. Just worried that they will carry on calling and then they will lump a load of fees on for not paying the invoice! Your advice on this would be appreciated. Thanks again 🙂

Yes, Claire, I think it would help to do that, but say no more than is necessary. Something along the lines of what you wrote in your first comment above would be fine but just stating the facts. It’s best not to elaborate.

In view of the escalation of the phone calls it would be a good idea to now formally demand that they desist from any further attempts to contact you otherwise you will report them to the police.

I think the fact that the claims company are still trying to deal with you by phone shows that they realise they haven’t got any grounds to pursue you legally – if they had a good case for payment and were a legitimate organisation they would have made a formal claim against you in respect of the unpaid invoice. They are trying to worry you into submission so stand firm – the law will protect you. Please let us know how you get on.

Hi John it’s me again. I have had a reply from them today. They are claiming that I filled in a letter of authority for Littlewoods, which I agree I did (this was for a catalogue account). They have stated that Littlewoods is a subsidiary of Barclays and because I’d signed that particular form they have advised that their fee for the Barclayloan stands. I have emailed them and advised I’m going to take legal advice on this.
I feel like they have completely duped me! Any advice would be welcome. Thank you

Hello Claire – that is an interesting and alarming tactic by the claims company. I should be extremely surprised if Littlewoods [the retailer] was a subsidiary of Barclays Bank so I regard that as another mendacious attempt to pressurise you into acceptance. Littlewoods might be a client of Barclays [for business support and financial services including credit management] and they might have accounts with Barclays; Barclays might do their payroll and might own shares in Littlewoods; but none of that makes Littlewoods a subsidiary of Barclays. In any case, even if there was such a connection, it could not be taken to imply that in authorising the claims company to check for PPI charges in respect of your dealings with Littlewoods it gave them consent to extend that search to Barclays for which you had specifically decided to decline authorisation [and you still have the unsigned authorities in your possession]. I cannot believe the Court would uphold their argument, and if any terms in their contract stated or implied that in giving authority for a check on a particular company they had the right to trawl round any other credit provider which might happen to have a link to that company it would be ruled an unfair term and struck down. The law disapproves of fishing expeditions.

I think you were right to warn the claims company that you would seek legal advice, and it could come to that if they persist in their unreasonable pursuit of you. But there’s no need to press any solicitor’s buttons just yet – wait and see what happens next. You are entitled to seek an explanation from the company of how they justify their action and what they are relying on to legitimise it. If you have a local Citizen’s Advice Bureau that has a legal advice session you might like to see what their opinion on this would be.

This behaviour seems both ruthless and desperate to me. It worries me that many people might have been bullied and browbeaten by the tactics of this company into surrendering to their demands for payment of a spurious invoice when either they clearly have not done any work justifying such an amount of payment, or they have exceeded their authority and pursued a case on a false premise and against the wishes of the supposed claimant. Given that the claims company approached you and solicited your authorisation for them to speculatively pursue unknown potential compensation claims on your behalf puts them in a completely different position to a firm that you might have contacted of your own volition that would have a legitimate claim for payment in response to your instructions. I would say that their aggression itself puts a big question mark over the legality of their position.

Please don’t feel that you have been duped. I am convinced that this is an improper process that relies entirely on intimidation and coercion against people who are not in a position to defend themselves and not sure that the law will be on their side since sowing such doubt is part of their technique. Extortion and demanding money with menaces come to mind.

Hi John thanks so much for coming back so quickly. This is what they have said in their email ..,

Please note Littlewoods are subsidiary of Barclays.

The letter of authority signed by yourself clearly states “For the avoidance of doubt, your consent and the terms of this agreement relate to all PPI policies sold to you which we are made aware of by the providers or brokers”.

As Littlewoods are a subsidiary of Barclays and with your consent, the lender have released these loan policies to us and we have then carried out work on this claim.

In light of the above, you are liable for our fee as we have reached the desired outcome.

Do they have any grounds with this? I am not sure what to do next? Surely as you said before this is extortion as it is a fishing expedition? What is the point in signing individual forms if they can do this? I really wish I hadn’t bothered with this now.:(

Your help would be appreciated

Thank you so much 🙂

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shop_Direct

Someone is lying and I don’t think its Wikipedia. But it is owned by the Barclay Brothers who are nothing to do with Barclays Bank.

Can you give the full details of the company address and name, and signatory to the email?

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shop_Direct

Someone is lying and I don’t think its Wikipedia. But it is owned by the Barclay Brothers who are nothing to do with Barclays Bank.

Can you give the full details of the company address and name, and signatory to the email?

Hi Patrick I thought that too! With regards to your question I would rather not do that as I don’t want there to be any legal repercussions. I would rather keep names out of it at this stage just in case I do end up having to go to court. I hope you understand. Any help you could give would be appreciated. Thanks 🙂

Thanks, Claire, for the quotation from the e-mail. And that’s an interesting point Patrick which makes this claims company’s behaviour despicable.

The Barclay Brothers own, or have a controlling interest in, a number companies but those companies cannot properly be described as “subsidiaries of Barclays”. It would not even be correct to call them “subsidiaries of the Barclay Brothers”. This was a deliberate and deceitful attempt to plant in your mind the impression that Barclays Bank is a party to your credit agreement and payment protection insurance policy with Littlewoods. In their efforts to confuse you they have clearly overlooked the significant fact that the cheque you received came direct to you from Barclays Bank, not from the Barclay Brothers, and not via themselves as claims chasers [claims handlers usually obtain the compensation from the relevant company and deduct their fees and charges before remitting the balance to the claimant; that this hasn’t happened is another clue to the fact that they are opportunistically trying to piggy-back onto a different matter in which they have no authority to act].

I am also perplexed by the phrase “PPI policies sold to you which we are made aware of by the providers or brokers” which is couched in obscure language that does not make much sense and would therefore be void for uncertainty in my opinion: who are these unnamed “providers and brokers”? It could mean Littlewoods [as the provider of credit facilities for your catalogue account] but would they have made any reference to the Barclay Brothers? And even if they did it was not the Barclay Brothers who sold a PPI policy to you. And so far as it is relevant to your claim against Littlewoods, and from what you have already explained in your comments, I don’t think you bought a policy from Barclays (the bank) either.

The next sentence in the e-mail about the release of the loan policies is a further attempt to confuse you and to build up the misleading impression that there is a connection between the cheque you received from Barclays Bank [I wonder how they knew about that] and your credit agreement with Littlewoods. And who do they mean by “the lender”? They are trying to make you think it is Barclays Bank but are careful not to name the bank as they know that might not be true. It is always possible that Barclays Bank do fund and underwrite the PPI policies issued by Littlewoods but the claims company are not saying that although you can be sure they would have done so if they knew that to be true. In any case, I expect your agreement was with Littlewoods themselves directly so any financing arrangements for Littlewoods are outside your cognisance so I don’t think their “we are made aware of” line has any relevance to you specifically and individually.

I presume the “desired outcome” is the one the claims company desired, but you did not desire them to claim against Barclays Bank and there is no evidence in their correspondence [other than to a vague allusion to work on the claim] that they have had any correspondence or activity of any kind with Barclays Bank on your behalf as they have not mentioned the bank once in the message.

The point you make about having to sign individual authorisations in respect of each claim is entirely valid and certainly undermines their argument. Such a catch-all term in their agreement with you is also unfair because as a party to the agreement you were not in a position to know how extensive or inclusive that term was and so would not be in a position to assess its import; it is so open-ended as to be unreasonable.

A further point – if the claims company achieved the “desired outcome”, why did they not inform you of that at the time? Because they didn’t know and only discovered subsequently that Barclays Bank had made a payment to you. Surely, withholding details of the results of their work on your claim was a breach of their contract with you?

I wouldn’t continue to correspond with them any more until they try to sue you for payment in which case you can consider your options. I don’t think it would be in your interests at this stage to argue your case through e-mails but you could acknowledge their response, which you have noted, and say you will take advice on its implications.

Hi John they have called me 9 times today all on different numbers which I know is them because I have them saved in my phone. They also sent me an automated text advising I will incur further charges if I don’t pay. Surprise surprise! My head is swimming with all of this! I’ve told them previously by email not to contact me by phone but they are still persisting! I answered a call in the end and told them not to contact me again by telephone. He was very persistent and was trying to get me to admit they had done the work and the fee was due. I didn’t say anything just kept saying not to contact me by phone anymore. 15 minutes after finishing that call they called me again! This is a living nightmare! I feel completely harassed!

Claire; I would suggest that you contact the Claims Management Regulator at the following address:-(They also have a phone number and email contact as well).
Claims Management Regulation Unit
Monitoring and Compliance Office
57-60 High Street
Burton on Trent
Staffordshire
DE14 1JS
They are responsible for investigating cases of poor conduct; but not poor service.

Claire – I endorse the advice that Castle has given you. The CMR is a branch of the Department of Justice so is an independent public service organisation. If the claims company calls you again you could also report them to the Information Commissioner’s Office because you have specifically instructed them not to.

To my mind this aggressive pestering is further evidence that they do not a have a leg to stand on legally and have to resort to bullying. Using different calling numbers is another example as they realise their action is an offence but by using different numbers they avoid detection. It was good that you stood your ground; do not admit to anything on the phone. It would be best if you could avoid answering the phone. Keep a log of the date and time of each call and if possible the calling number. I can appreciate how this sort of harassment can take over people’s lives so it is extremely cruel.

Hi John thanks for your response and thank you Castle for your advice. I am regretting answering the phone now after 9 missed calls in one day I just couldn’t take it anymore! I think I’m going to have to grow a very thick skin! I have a feeling they will carry on contacting me! I will contact the CMR if this continues. This feels like it’s taking over my life at the moment and you are right it is very cruel! I will not answer the phone again. I suppose I will get a threatening letter next! I’ll keep you updated. Thanks for all your help and advice.

Hi John I just thought I would give you an update … The company have continued to call me every day. They have also sent me another letter advising to pay immediately otherwise they will add 3% charges on every day! So I thought enough is enough! I took yours and Castles advice and called the legal ombudsman. From what I have told them they believe they can investigate and offered to write to the company on my behalf which they did on the same day! The company have called me every day even though I told them I did not want to be contacted by phone only in writing! They haven’t emailed me or written to me. I do not want to talk to them on the phone as I want everything documented in writing. They have upto 8 weeks to answer me and give a final response. If after that time they don’t contact me or we can’t resolve it the legal ombudsman will investigate. I would just like to say to yourself and Castle thank you so much for your advice. I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks, Claire. I hope you will soon get relief.

Hi John no such luck unfortunately! I have today received a final notice with 7 days to pay. They have stated that if I do not pay it then they are passing it to a debt collection agency. They further added that they may send a doorstep agent round or apply for a CCJ. They have not even mentioned being contacted by a legal ombudsman! They are also making out that I haven’t been in contact with them which is untrue! I emailed them shortly after receiving their invoice! I am at my wits end now! I am worried sick about this! If you have any advice I would really appreciate it. Thank you

I am sorry to hear this Claire, and I hope I am not making unjustified assumptions when I suggest that the seven day notice is a further development of their threatening scare tactics. Even if this ended up in court the treatment to which you have been subjected will undermine any case this claims company might put up, but I still do not believe it will go that far. At this stage I would suggest that you contact the Claims Management Regulator’s office again and explain the latest development. I can understand how worrying this is for you but please do not surrender. This company is trying to get hundreds of pounds off you with little justification but so far its efforts have cost them very little. Telling you that they will send a “doorstep agent round” before they have even issued proceedings and obtained a court order is another example of their intimidation. Getting a County Court Judgment is the only legitimate way they can claim any payment from you and it is clear they are not doing that at the moment, so hold your nerve. I am not surprised the company have not mentioned any contact from the CMR or Ombudsman; they are trying to kid you they are immune from official intervention.

Hi John thank you so much for replying so quickly I really do appreciate it. I will scan the letter they have sent me to the CMR on Monday. They keep phoning me daily I don’t know whether to speak to them or email them again in the meantime. What do you think I should do? Thanks

I don’t think you should speak to them or e-mail them, Claire. You have said all that needs to be said to them at this stage. I can’t believe they are persisting with this harassment other than for the purposes of wearing you down. There are legitimate ways to sue for payment if it is justified but they are not using them, which begs the question: how can their invoice be honest and genuine? Let’s hope the CMR tackles them quickly.

Hi John thanks for your quick reply as always. I will take your advice and not contact them at all. I’ll speak to the CMR on Monday and let them know how harassed I feel! They were really helpful and efficient. I’ll ask them also if they have sent the letter to them but they did email me the same day so I assume they must have done. I’ll let you know what they say. Thank you so much.

Claire W says:
15 November 2016

Hi John I spoke to the CMR and they advised to email the company and copy them in. I have done that so let’s see what they come back with. I also mentioned to stop contacting me by telephone. I have had 7 missed calls this week! I’ll keep you posted. Thanks very much 😀

Thanks for the update, Claire. That’s a good suggestion from the CMR; copying the Regulator in to your e-mails shows to the claims company that you are not on your own and they might lay off.

Hi John,
I was wondering if you could offer any advice.
In 2009 I contacted a CMC regarding a PPI claim with HSBC. I filled out all the necessary paperwork and waited. The CMC contacted me sporadically over 4 years whilst the FO was involved. In April 2013 I received a letter from the CMC saying that they were closing the case but if I wanted to purse with FO I could. Unfortunately at the time I was going through a traumatic divorce and I mislaid this letter. I continued to supply information to the FO and in 2014 I was awarded some money. I received a cheque from HSBC and within days there was a letter from the CMC asking for their share. (My bank had written to them as they thought they were still involved.) I contacted the FO as on more than two occasions they had advised that they had spoken to someone at the CMC in 2013 who had advised that they were no longer representing me which has been document in a SAR (Subject to Access Request).
I contacted the CMC by telephone and letter and asked for a copy of all letters from 2010 to 2013 and low and behold I received them all bar the one saying that my case was closed. On advice from the FO and MOJ I then sent cheque for £10.00 to the CMC asking for a copy of their SAR and sent it registered post on 17th July 2014 as I know all correspondence has to be listed as they were withholding the case closed letter. In the letter I explained that they had 40 days in which to reply. And I waited ….. and am still waiting for the SAR (the cheque was never cashed).
Yesterday I received a letter from the CMC saying I needed to phone them to discuss a debt management plan within 20 days or the were sending it to a debt collection agency!!!!
I haven’t heard from them in 2 and half years – and now this threatening letter what can I do?

To start with I’d suggest:-
1) Send another SAR to the CMC, (and if you get no answer make a complaint to the ICO)
2) Contact the FO and ask if they have any records/notes of their phone calls with the CMC which will back up your claim.
3) Contact the
Claims Management Regulation Unit
Monitoring and Compliance Office
57-60 High Street
Burton on Trent
Staffordshire
DE14 1JS

Amanda says:
20 November 2016

Thank you.
I think I need to respond to the letter I received yesterday but am not to sure what to say? Also as they have breached their 40 days to reply (by about 2 and half years) how long do I give them to send another SAR?
In the FO’s SAR of which I have a copy it clearly states : on the 25th April 2013 a TS Scott (FO) called CMC telephone number eg 0800 etc

Notes: Rang I-smart regarding the case. They confirmed that the case has been closed on their system and that they are no longer representing the consumer.

Do you think I have a case? I haven’t heard from the CMC for over two years and am still not in receipt of their SAR?

Amanda – I note that you mislaid the letter from the claims management company closing the case but has it come to light subsequently? Did you by chance send a copy to the Financial Ombudsman Service? By withholding it the CMC think they have got you over a barrel. I think you should take no action in response to their letter about debt management. They cannot recover any money from you without a court order so they cannot just instruct a debt collection agency to pursue you. It is best to do nothing on the telephone as it would be too stressful and give you no time to consider any reaction; so far as you can, keep all communication between you and the CMC in writing. I think Castle has given you all the advice you need for the time being – a Subject Access Request is a powerful instrument so if there is any delay or refusal to comply it should be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office. While that process evolves, and if the document remains withheld, there will no basis on which the CMC can take any action against you since you are awaiting disclosure of vital evidence.

Hi John, thank you for your response. In 2013 I was going through a particularly bad divorce. I remember the letter from the CMC arriving advising closed case but as the FO had advised that the CMC were no longer representing me I think I tore it up! Rather foolish I know but I wasn’t in a good place. As stated before I rang the CMC and asked for all written correspondence and they sent everything but not that particular letter hence me then applying for the SAR which they’ve completely ignored! This was requested 2.5 years ago do it was a shock to receive a letter on Friday threatening action!

Amanda – I have only just read your reply to Castle.

You can acknowledge receipt of the CMC’s latest letter if you wish but I don’t think there is any need to ‘respond’ to it for the reasons I gave in my previous comment. If you do write back, though, you could mention that you are in contact with the Claims Management Regulator, the Financial Ombudsman Service, and the Information Commissioner’s Office and that all correspondence will be copied to those bodies.

The CMC has 40 calendar days from the day they receive it in which to respond to your new Subject Access Request.

Who are I-smart, and how were they “representing the consumer”? The information you have obtained from I-smart could be crucial. Can you ask them for their statement in writing – an e-mail would do – since that will substantiate your claim that the CMC have no basis for reopening the case. The date they closed the case on their system could be critical so ask them for that as well.

In my opinion the CMC’s demand for a proportion of the compensation awarded by the FOS is opportunistic and without foundation since they took no part in obtaining it. If they had done so the FOS would have had correspondence with them that they should have disclosed.

Sorry John I should have mentioned that I Smart are the CMC. As mentioned before in the SAR from the FO it clearly states that on the 25th April 2013 a member of the FO rang ISmart and they confirmed that they were no longer representing me. It took a further year to win my case so why should it pay I Smart the whole percentage if any as they weren’t involved for 12 months. Also I heard from them sporadically during their involvement
Surely if the CMC were chasing payment shouldn’t I heard something from them before this letter, like a statement each month? But to receive a letter after2.5 years is odd?

Amanda – You should not pay anything at all to I-smart. They gave up on you and it seems they have done nothing to help you get the payment you belatedly received. They will probably send you threatening letters but I doubt they will take your case to court because they realise they can’t win. The lack of letters or statements from I-smart over the past two and a half years actually strengthens your position.

If you write in again could I suggest that you register on this site so that all your comments will be listed under your name and I can check to see if there have been any developments. I am not active on this site all day everyday and I cannot always guarantee to spot a further comment from you, especially when there is a lot of activity on the site.

Afternoon John,
Hope you’re ok?
Thank you for responding to my question, I do appreciate it.
The problem is I did sign a contract in 2010 giving authority to the CMC and there is a clause to say if I pursue it then they are still due the fees? But surely if a CMC closes a case (like no win, no fee claim) and I then undertook the work how can they still be liable for 30%?.
I am so worried about the letter I received last week, I know a company can claim up to 6 years but to have this come totally out the blue and I haven’t got £3,000. to pay?
I have on the other hand reported them to IOC regarding the requested SAR in 2014 that I’m still waiting to receive. I have complained through the Legal Ombudsman and also reported them to the Claims Management Regulator. It’s just this contract that’s worrying me? Surely with the poor service (ie duty of care) in a contract has been breached!!
I haven’t read all the small print but when the credit card company were forced to pay out my PPI they inadvertently contacted Ismart who agreedd the figure before I got the offer. If they closed my case what right did they have to do this – was that illegal?

Amanda – My opinion is that in telling the Financial Ombudsman Service that they stopped representing you, I-smart effectively accepted that there was no longer a contract between you and them. The contract cannot be revived just because the credit card company sent them unnecessary information. So far as I-smart were concerned it was over, they had given up, and closed the case. I don’t think what I-smart did after being consulted by the credit card company was actually illegal but I think they were trying to be smart and stitch you up. I can’t believe they didn’t know that they had closed the case, and if they really didn’t know then they should have done and should have returned the correspondence without comment.

Even if we assume that a contract was still in place between you and I-smart, then I think your argument would prevail that the company had been in breach of the contract anyway and failed to give you any service over a long period and did not press your case for compensation. Contract clauses that are unreasonable are not sustainable in law and can be struck down by the Court. I think a clause that binds people over a long period of time to owe money to a company against some unpredictable future event and where the company has done absolutely nothing to earn such a payment [and indeed has determined without notice to its client (you) to stop representing them] would be found to be inherently unreasonable and therefore void.

I presume you did not instruct I-smart to cease representing you but they decided to do that because they were getting nowhere with your claim. That was their gamble and they will have to live with the consequences. Your success through the Ombudsman without the claims company’s involvement should not turn into their windfall.

Hi John,
The FO telephoned them on 25th April 2013 and I can quote as follows: (This is in the FO SAR)
T Scott (member of the FO team)
Notes: Rang Ismart regarding the case. They confirmed that the case had been closed on their system and that they are not representing the consumer.

Whether this piece of info is enforceable as it’s only a call and not a letter I don’t know.

Regarding the contract: It clearly states on the front of their introduction page – We offer a no win no fee .
Then over leaf in the t&c’s it states : if you independently accept compensation based on a claim lodged by us and upheld by the company you will remain liable for the fee,

I can only state that if you sign a contract you do expect the company to do their very best and not give up as you said half way through? How watertight this contract is I don’t know? This statement seems rather unfair, I’m not saying that I don’t owe them anything as they did do some work but should be paid for their partial involvement.

Regarding the closing of my account as stated before I am not in receipt of this letter, and asked Ismart for copies of all correspondence, they didn’t comply so hence the SAR request to them. I do remember however that it did quote the T&C’s about independence!

Seems they’ve probably got me over a barrel. I am only hoping that the reason they didn’t send the SAR is because they haven’t kept detailed records? Here’s hoping!! And whether this will affect the outcome who knows.

Thanks for that, Amanda. The case notes from the FOS are crucial and although they are not a written record of the closure of the case by I-smart it is as good a record as is available in the circumstances until you get hold of the missing document following your issue of a new Subject Access Request. As I said before, I believe the contract terms are unfair and now entirely unenforceable by I-smart. I consider that you do not owe I-smart anything at all because they dropped your case. They can’t have it both ways! I think I-smart thought they were so clever and had you over a barrel but they have misjudged the position. Their closure of your case, which they will probably try to deny [but you have the record of the FOS conversation to prove it], has pulled the rug from under their case. They are a claims management company but they have mismanaged themselves.

Hi John,
Thank you for your response.
I’m off to see a solicitor tomorrow for an hour for free – I will let you know the outcome and thank you once again for responding to my questions.

That’s good, Amanda. You should be able to thrash it out within an hour. I hope the solicitor takes a strong line against the claims management company. You are not obliged to take a solicitor’ advice but it is usually unwise to ignore it. At least you should now be well primed with the relevant questions to ask.

Evening John,
Hope you are well.
I’ve had a really odd day ….. let me explain.
I attended my solicitors apt this morning and was advised that the authority document and the t&c’s stood, although if I could produce a SAR from Ismart we may be able to prove how much work they’d actually done to warrant their £3k fee and may be able to bargain the £3k down to a smaller figure. I was also advised that the fact they’d ignored the SAR was ammunition and also the fact that they agreed the settlement figure without my consent. I was told to wait for Ismarts response to my complaint through the Legal Ombudsman ( 8 weeks) and we could take it from there. Then the solicitor advised that to represent me and to ask the questions raised in the meeting would be £700.00 plus VAT. Money that I haven’t got. I felt hugely disappointed and left their office looking at a bleak future.
I then left for London for a meeting and on the way back received a call from an Ismart representative asking if we could chat. I advised I was driving and not in a position to take notes or record the conversation. I asked her briefly to explain the reason for the call and said I would phone her back. She said that Ismart had read through my case notes and had made a huge mistake admitting they had closed my claim in 2013 and advised the FO that they were no longer representing me!!! That they were waiving the fee and was I happy with that!! I said could I please have this decision in writing and ended the call.
A short time later she rang back to ask if I still need the requested SAR from Tuesday’s special delivery letter with the cheque enclosed and I said yes. I know this will take them an absolute age to document all correspondence, telephone calls etc between all parties, but hey they’ve put me through hell. All I can say to others is – complain the to FOS, the ICO, the Legal Ombudsman and the Claims Management regulator – I did and Ismart backed down!! down!!
Thank you John for your invaluable advice it certainly spurred to me on to take action – and I WON !

Sorry some parts don’t make sense cos I’ve had a large glass of wine!

Hello, Amanda. I am glad to hear your news. Obviously, it’s not over until you get that vital written confirmation that I-smart are no longer pursuing their fee. The legal niceties and the solicitor’s opinions no longer need consideration. You are right to insist on fulfilment of the Subject Access Request from I-smart in case this should ever bubble up again in the future; if nothing else it will complete your file. I think you can allow yourself a modest moment of self-congratulation for staying the course and I hope the outcome improves your 2016 Christmas.

Congratulations, Amanda, and I hope the wine was nice 🙂

Hi Ian,
Thank you for your message.
The one glass turned into drinking the whole bottle!

Evening John – yes it was totally unexpected – I will let you know if and when the letter arrives from Ismart waiving the fees. In the meantime thanks for your time.

Thanks, Amanda.

Hi John,
Hope you are well.
I received a letter sent by registered post from ISmart advising their mistake and waiving the fees, they also are completing my SAR for free as they returned my cheque for £10.00! Thanks for all your invaluable advice.
Happy Christmas and New Year everyone

Well, that’s a fantastic result, Amanda. It would seem that I-Smart are a more honourable company than I initially gave them credit for – there are so many rogues out there. I think you did all the right things and got your just rewards. Have a good time yourself and enjoy the relief from anxiety.

Hi John thanks very much for your advice. I have written to them today just stating the simple facts. I will let you know when I hear back from them. Thanks again.

I would be very grateful if some of you could give me some advice about a possible PPI claim. I have paid a mortgage for 20 years which is finally over. Now I am alerted to the possibility that I may have paid PPI all these years. The problem is that I do not know if I did and I cannot find the original contract. Should I ask directly the Bank? But to make things more difficult the original Bank I signed the contract with has changed and fused with other companies over the years. In other words: is there a way to know if you paid PPI when you do not have the original contract? Thank you very much.

Bice – First, find out which bank is the successor to the original bank and approach them direct. You can search the Financial Services Register on the website of the Financial Conduct Authority to see which institution you should approach. You can then make a claim and I would advise you to do it yourself and not to use an intermediary. The process is straightforward and designed for use by account-holders themselves. If you need help the company should assist. You should not need to have the original contract so long as you can provide essential information such as the name of the original mortgagee [bank], the address of the property concerned, relevant dates, the amount of the loan if you can remember it, and whether you were the sole mortgagor or it was a joint mortgage. You might have to provide some identification evidence. It would be helpful to learn how your claim experience goes so please write in again in due course. Good luck.

Customer compensation bureau from Salford Manchester advertise as no win no fee. They’ve sent me a letter saying they are closing account . Because they have failed in claiming ..now they want me to pay a fee fir the admin …can they do that..help I’m panicking …jon

Looking at their website term 3.6 says “If your claim is unsuccessful…….the client will not be liable for any charge”.

i used a claims management company back in 2011 and made a successful claim.I paid the monies i owed to the claims management company.The money offered from the back was in full and final settlement.I have now been contacted by the bank to say they have reviewed my earlier payment themselves and have decided i am to be awarded more compensation.As the bank have done this themsleves as a re assessment do i owe the claims management any further money, as they originally made the first claim on my behalf?

I if I were you I certainly wouldn’t tell the claims management company about the reassessment and supplementary award. If they do discover it and demand a percentage you should reject it and see what happens. I don’t think they would have a leg to stand on.

You might like to read the comments from Claire W above and the advice she has been given.

what do i do about paying fees to a claims company when my bank have said the are not disclosing what ther settlement is because they thought the signitures from the claim company wernt the same as what had been signed on the forms

how will they calculate what i owe if the bank wont disclose the settlement figure

Ste – You have not given us much to go on, but are you saying that your bank and the claims management company you are using to claim compensation for PPI miss-selling are in disagreement over whether your claim is valid? If that is the case you will either have to await the outcome of the claims process or you could refer your case to the Claims Management Regulator [in respect of your claims management company] and the Financial Ombudsman Service [in respect of your bank] on the grounds that they are not handling your claim properly.

I presume any payment you need to make to the claims management company will be a certain percentage of any actual award of compensation by your bank. This amount would normally be deducted by them and the balance would be passed on to you. Obviously until you find out whether or not your claim is successful, and for how much, you will not know how much you will receive and how much the claims management company will get for handling your claim. I assume that a process of negotiation is under way between your bank and the claims management company over the discrepancy in signatures and, understandably, neither side will disclose the position at this stage. You should prepare yourself for possible disappointment but there is an appeal process via the FOS.

Splendid work JW. Hats off to you.

And of course to those people who had the sense to use Conversations.

I hope Citizens Advice is just as good. I suspect in fact a letter from them would be pretty dynamite in terms of CM companies backing off.

Hi, I am having a right old time with a CMC called Bank Smart. I engaged them in 2013 to pursue a claim from a loan company and when it was unsuccessful they sent me an invoice for their services (they sent one letter to the loan company and the loan company told them I was not entitled to anything ) and a cancellation fee that they alleged I sent them via email.

Since then I have been subjected to letters, phone calls and debt collection letters, even one visited my home in September and I would not speak to him. I have asked for a SAR today as they have sent a letter advising me due to non payment they are applying to the court for a CCJ against me.

My argument is I feel that they mis sold their services, their fees were not transparent enough and I recall that they sold their services under a no win no fee agreement. I want to see exactly what I signed up for as I don’t have any paperwork from them and don’t remember signing anything. I have sought legal advise (they said that these companies send out threats in mass as they always get some payment from those too afraid to stand up to them) and have placed a complaint with the MOJ today. Even if I have to end up paying them I will make sure they are exposed for their barbaric practices. Please everyone be warned to Avoid this company, they trade as Symmetric Systems (Bank Smart) based in Truro.

if i dont pay them what can they do red star financial once they get me money for which i done most of work.