Banks sending Wonga-style threats
Barclays, Lloyds, Halifax, RBS and HSBC are among firms who sent customers letters which appear to be from separate law firms, while energy supplier Scottish Power and Anglican Water have also been using the tactic.
Barclays has demanded money with the name Mercers Debt Collections while Lloyds has used Sechiari, Clarke and Mitchell Solicitors since at least 2011, which is actually its in-house legal department.
Lloyds subsidiary Halifax Bank of Scotland meanwhile has used the name Blair, Oliver & Scott to chase debts.
Wonga was recently made to cough up £2.6m to 45,000 affected customers by the Financial Conduct Authority for threatening customers into repaying debts with legal letters from fake law firms.
Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, has called on the FCA to consider making all lenders using the practice pay compensation.
He said: “It is dishonest of lenders to disguise letters chasing people for money as being from third parties.
“People who are heavily in debt are under immense financial strain and need to know where to go for help, not be harassed by bogus companies exerting undue pressure and in some cases charging them for it.
“It can be very distressing and intimidating for people in debt to receive letters from debt collectors. Debt collection letters must be clear about who the actual letter is from, what the debt is for and how borrowers can get independent advice if they need it.
“The FCA needs to carefully examine cases where debt collection process aren’t clear and consider whether compensation for customers is appropriate.”
Barclays dropped the name Mercers Debt Collection this week while Lloyds is phasing out the name Sechiari, Clarke and Mitchell Solicitors.