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People in financial difficulties ‘will receive fair and appropriate support’

Vicky Shaw
·2-min read

Borrowers in financial difficulties will continue to receive “fair and appropriate support” after a deadline to apply for a coronavirus-related payment holiday ends on March 31, the City regulator has said.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said that as demand for payment holidays reduces, lenders will provide a range of tailored support based on customers’ individual needs and circumstances.

But it said some firms have more to do in implementing tailored support, with some staff lacking experience.

Sheldon Mills, executive director for consumers and competition at the FCA, said: “As we move into the next phase of the pandemic, we want to reassure consumers that they will continue to receive fair and appropriate support. We encourage those in difficulty to contact their lender to discuss their options.

“We’ve been monitoring how firms are providing support and found they have responded well to the challenge of providing tailored support, but there is more to do. We’ve set out where firms need to improve in a report on how they are implementing tailored support.”

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The FCA said consumers have generally been able to get support as they have come to the end of a payment holiday, and it has not identified any systemic issues with firms’ ability to meet demand from customers seeking further help.

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All firms it assessed had vulnerable customer policies, and 94% of mortgage firms and 64% of credit companies had reviewed or added to them in light of the pandemic.

But the FCA said due to new staff recruitment during the pandemic to meet demand, there has been a significant increase in inexperienced staff helping customers, which may lead to an increased risk of harm.

The regulator said firms are expected to ensure all staff are adequately trained and have appropriate oversight of new staff to ensure the right support is provided to customers.

Some firms could also improve ease of access to non-digital support, it added.

It also found instances of customers having to click on multiple boxes to reveal additional text to help them make decisions, which could slow down the process or lead to them making decisions which are not in their best interests.

The FCA also published finalised guidance for firms to ensure that mortgage customers whose homes may be repossessed are treated fairly and appropriately.

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