Check if a financial service has followed the rules

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

Financial services are companies like:

  • a bank or building society

  • a credit card company

  • a debt management plan (DMP) provider

  • a mortgage lender

  • a payday loan company

They have to follow rules to protect you and make sure you’re treated fairly. For example, if you’re struggling to pay back a loan, they have to help you.

If a company has broken the rules, you should complain to them.

If you’re struggling to pay back money you owe

The company must help you understand what’s the best option to pay back your debt.

If you’ve missed a payment, the company must offer you support to help you pay it back - for example, pausing interest and charges. They have to do this before they take further action, like taking you to court.

The company must also treat you fairly in other ways. It's worth checking these rules too. If the service has broken them, you'll have a stronger complaint.

Check what other rules financial services must follow

Financial services need to follow rules set by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). If they don’t follow them, you can complain. 

There are general rules that apply to all financial services - this is called the ‘Consumer Duty’. 

The Consumer Duty says companies should:

  • communicate with you in a way that suits you - for example, over the phone or in person

  • make it easy to cancel things like credit cards or a debt management plan

  • check you can afford any repayments

  • make sure promotions and advertising are clear, fair and not misleading

  • clearly explain complicated or 'risky’ products to you - for example, if you'll have to pay a lot of interest

  • consider complaints in a ‘fair’ way - for example, they should consider your situation 

There are also other rules certain companies must follow.

Banks and building societies

Banks or building societies must make sure their services are:

  • given with reasonable care and skill - for example, they must keep accurate records of your finances

  • provided when they say they will - for example, transferring money to an account within a certain amount of time

  • provided at the price agreed

If you think a bank or building society hasn’t done one of these things, you should complain.

Credit card companies

When you apply for a credit card, companies can’t discriminate against you. This means credit card companies can’t refuse your application because of your race, sex, disability, religion, sexuality or where you live.

If you have credit card debt

Credit card companies must help you if you’ve been in credit card debt for more than 18 months. This might include offering a way for you to pay back your balance over a reasonable period.

If you aren’t able to pay back what you owe, a company must help if you're struggling to pay back what you owe - this could include reducing or cancelling any interest or fees.

If you think a company didn't consider ways to help you, or didn't offer you different ways to pay back what you owe, you can complain.

Debt management plan providers

Debt management plan (DMP) providers must make sure:

  • they give you information before you sign a contract with them

  • any fees they charge are fair

  • they give debt advice that’s in your best interest - for example, letting you know if something other than a DMP would suit you better

If the DMP provider doesn’t give free advice, they must give you the details of a free debt advice provider.

The DMP provider must also review your plan regularly to make sure it still meets your needs - for example, that you can still afford your monthly payments.

You can check what other rules DMP providers must follow.

Mortgage lenders

Mortgage lenders must:

  • treat you fairly - for example, they should try to be flexible if you ask to change how you pay back a missed payment

  • not charge you a higher interest rate if you’ve missed a payment

  • not harass you about money if you’re in arrears

  • only contact you between 9am and 8pm

If you’re struggling to pay your mortgage, your lender must help - this could include reducing your monthly payments or taking a break from your payments for a few months. 

If you think your lender didn't consider ways to help you, you can complain.

Payday loan companies

Payday loan companies should check certain things and give you certain information before lending you money.

Payday loan companies must do things like:

  • make it clear how much it would cost you in total to repay a loan

  • tell you how and when to pay back your loan

  • check your finances or personal circumstances to make sure you’re in a position to pay back the loan

If a payday lender doesn’t follow the rules, you should complain.

Check what other rules payday loan companies have to follow.

Check if you can get extra support

You should tell the company if you’re in a vulnerable situation. 

You can be in a vulnerable situation for lots of different reasons. It could be temporary or long-term. 

For example, you could be in a vulnerable situation if:

  • you’ve recently lost your job

  • you have a health condition

  • you’ve had a change in your personal circumstances, such as a bereavement 

All companies have to follow guidance on how to treat customers in a vulnerable situation. For example, companies must make sure customers are treated fairly and their circumstances are taken into account.

Check how to complain to a financial service

If a company doesn’t follow these rules, you should first let them know about the problem. 

You can check how to contact them on their website or on letters they’ve sent you. 

If you aren’t happy with their response, you should make a formal complaint to the financial service. If the company has a complaints procedure, follow it - you can usually find this on their website. 

It's best to put your complaints in writing and keep a copy in case you need it later. This will help you to complain further if you aren’t happy with the outcome.

If you think the company hasn’t followed the Consumer Duty, you should mention this - tell them the Consumer Duty says companies must treat customers fairly. 

The company must give you a final response to your complaint within 8 weeks - or 15 days if it’s about a ‘payment service’. A payment service could include:

  • a direct debit

  • a bank transfer

If the company doesn’t reply to your complaint within this time, you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

Complain about a loan, bank or building society

If you have a problem with a loan company, you can use our loan template letter to help you complain.

You can also:

If you aren't happy with the company's response

You should complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). Ombudsman schemes are independent, free and impartial, so they don't take sides.

For example, you could complain if you think the company hasn't considered your circumstances, like if you're in a vulnerable situation.

You must complain within 6 months of getting a final response from the company.

Check how to complain to the Financial Ombudsman on their website.

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