Rules debt management plan providers must follow
All debt management plan (DMP) providers must follow certain rules and guidance set out by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). These apply to anyone providing debt management services, whether or not they charge a fee.
This page explains more about the rules DMP providers must follow.
How DMP providers are regulated
Anyone providing debt management services must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for debt adjusting and debt counselling. This applies to all DMP providers, whether or not they charge a fee.
The FCA also sets out minimum standards that all the authorised firms must keep to. These minimum standards include:
Not misleading you
DMP providers mustn't mislead customers in any of their advertising, marketing or promotion. This includes things like:
- making sure any materials are accurate, clear and easy to read
- not making misleading statements, such as telling you their DMP will make you debt-free
- not saying that the company is working on behalf of the government, public body or a charity.
If a DMP provider does any of these things, they may be misleading you.
Transparency about fees
If a DMP provider charges a fee, it must tell you this in advance and give you a breakdown of how the fees will work. They must also explain how any fees you pay will affect the length of your DMP and the amount you will have to pay. If they don't, the fees may be unfair.
Not cold-calling you
DMP providers must not turn up on your doorstep unless they've been invited. They also mustn't send you marketing texts, emails or phone messages without your agreement. If a provider is contacting you in this way, you can make a complaint.
Giving you all the information you need
Before you sign a contract with a DMP provider, they must give you certain information about how the service will work, including your right to cancel, how much you'll repay and how long the DMP will last. They must also give you certain warnings in writing, explaining some of the risks of a DMP, including that your creditors may still take action against you or refuse to co-operate. They must also tell you how you can get free debt advice.
Advice given by DMP providers
Some DMP providers also give advice. If they do, this also comes under the FCA rules. Any advice a DMP provider gives you should be in your best interests, including whether or not you are offered a DMP. You must also be informed of the importance of meeting your priority debts, including mortgage, rent and utilities payments.
Any advice you're given must include:
- a realistic assessment of your financial situation
- checking your income, for example by asking to see pay slips
- checking your spending, although standard average figures may be used if appropriate
- a copy of the financial statement which is sent to creditors must also be sent to you
- warning about what could happen if you stop making payments
- an explanation of why your debt may increase if you make payments that are lower than the rate at which interest and charges are building up
- if the plan isn't producing results that are in your best interest, appropriate alternatives including withdrawing.
DMP providers must also follow other rules, including:
- referring you to not-for-profit advice organisations for more help, if this is appropriate
- having measures in place to identify and support particularly vulnerable people, such as those with mental capacity issues
- keeping you updated about the results of negotiations with creditors or developments in the relationship with them
- keeping you up to date with any developments or anything that's happened that might affect your DMP
- provide a statement of account if you ask for one
- respond to any complaints promptly and fairly
- give you copies of any correspondence and keep all the relevant information until the contract ends.
If you think your DMP provider is breaking the rules
If you think your DMP provider is breaking the rules, you can make a complaint.
You can find more about debt management guidance in the FCA Consumer Credit Sourcebook on the FCA website at www.fca.org.uk.