OUR CODE OF PRACTICe
1 GENERAL OBLIGATIONS
Excel-A-Rate (herein referred to as Excel) shall:
1.1 Conduct their business lawfully; comply with all relevant legislation, regulatory guidance, judicial decisions and general rulings of regulatory authorities.
1.2 Trade honestly, responsibly, ethically and treat customers fairly.
1.3 Behave at all times with integrity and endeavour to ensure, where applicable, that credit-brokers and all other persons with whom they have commercial relationships do likewise.
1.4 Act responsibly and with care in the day-to-day conduct of their business.
1.5 Not misrepresent facts to a customer concerning any aspect of a credit transaction. Excel will also take all reasonable steps to ensure, where applicable, that brokers and any other intermediaries do not misrepresent facts regarding such transactions to a customer but act with transparency in all dealings.
1.6 Respect confidential information supplied to them in the course of their business.
1.7 Ensure that credit documentation embodies, in plain and intelligible language, all the express terms and conditions of the agreement which affect the customer’s rights and obligations and are fair.
1.8 Provide adequate training for their staff and any other person who performs any duties on their behalf, bringing this Code and the principles contained in it to their attention and requiring them to carry out their duties in accordance with it.
1.9 Comply with obligations and any conditions which may be imposed by the Financial Conduct Authority (the FCA) with regard to their licence under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 (the Act) and the Consumer Credit Directive 2010 General Principles of fair business and practice.
1.10 To ensure that the customer is provided with a full explanation of the terms of the agreement and highlight the key risks such as the potential consequences of missing payments.
1.11 Ensure that the customer has all relevant information to make a reasonable assessment as to whether he can afford the credit and to understand the key associated risks.
1.12 Follow, where applicable, any requests conveyed by the Consumer Credit Trade Association (CCTA) and emanating from the Bank of England, the FCA (or other relevant authority), and the enforcement authorities.
1.13 Follow, where applicable, any guidance notes issued by the CCTA, which refer to this Code.
1.14 Ensure fairness in all dealings with customers including, but not limited to, our dealings with customers both before and after the making of the agreement or any related agreement and the manner in which those agreements are enforced.
1.15 To act with forbearance and consideration toward customers experiencing difficulties.
1.16 Ensure that our interest in any relevant vehicle is registered, within 24 hours of the making of the agreement, with a recognised Asset Finance Register such as HPI Ltd.
1.17 Excel shall not use Bills of Sale as a security instrument to finance the purchase of any goods sold to the customer by Excel or by any third party suppliers.
2 SPECIFIC OBLIGATIONS
2.1 Advertising and Marketing
2.1.1 Excel shall not use direct mail indiscriminately, shall act responsibly and prudently in our advertising and marketing and ensure that all their advertising is truthful and not misleading.
2.1.2 Excel shall ensure that all advertising and promotional literature is fair and reasonable, does not contain misleading information and complies with all relevant legislation, in particular the provisions of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 (the Act) and the Regulations made under it. This includes the inclusion and disclosure of the “APR‟ (where applicable) in the statutory form, where required by domestic and community law.
2.1.3 Excel shall ensure that all advertising complies with the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing, the Radio Advertising Standards Code, the Television Advertising Standards Code, OFCOM and other relevant codes of practice of similar standing.
2.1.4 Excel shall not engage in high-pressure selling or other aggressive sales practices such as pressurising a customer to sign up to a credit agreement without affording him the opportunity to consider the Pre-contract information (where appropriate), ask questions about the agreement and ask for and obtain further information and explanation.
2.1.5 All advertising carried out by Excel shall carry and prominently display the CCTA logo or reference to being members of the Consumer Credit Trade Association (CCTA). This will help customers identify that loans provided by the individual member are transacted to a high standard. We will also prominently display this Code of Practice on our websites and will make available hard copies to send on request to interested customers.
2.1.6 In this code and in particular clause 2.1 above, “advertising” includes every form of advertising including Internet Websites. The Consumer Credit Act 1974, s 189(1) makes it clear that any form of publicity is an advertisement for the purposes of the Act. “Advertisement” includes every form of advertising, whether in a publication, by television or radio, by display of notices, signs, labels, show-cards or goods, by distribution of samples, circulars, catalogues, price lists or other material, by exhibition of pictures, models or films, or in any other way, and references to the publishing of advertisements shall be construed accordingly.
2.2 Responsible Lending
2.2.1 Excel shall not engage in any behaviour that the Financial Conduct Authority considers may constitute “irresponsible lending‟. We must have regard to: “Irresponsible Lending-FCA guidance for creditors‟ and as amended from time to time.
2.2.2 Where Excel makes available agreements comprising a balloon payment option, representing the full loan amount (also known as the principal), We will only agree to make that option available where our customer is proposing to enter into the agreement which is wholly or predominantly for their business purposes (a business carried on or intended to carry on). Where that is the case, Excel agrees:-
(a) to offer both balloon and capital repayment options to the customer and to provide adequate explanations of the key features and risks of each of the agreement options in order to place the customer in a position enabling him to assess which agreement (if any) is adapted to his needs and his financial situation. Freedom shall be given to the customer to select the payment option that is best suited to his needs and financial situation;
(b) to carry out reasonable specific assessments of affordability in order to establish from the customer that sufficient funds will be available by him to repay the loan in a sustainable manner and in full at the end of the contractual term;
(c) that where credit is granted to a customer on the basis of a balloon payment option, the term of the agreement shall not exceed 12 months. In addition, any subsequent agreement entered into with such customer, as a result of their inability to pay the final balloon payment on the earlier agreement, will be repayable by periodical capital and interest repayments of an amount not greater than the amount of the periodical interest only payments in the earlier agreement.
2.3 Explanations of the credit product
2.3.1 Before the customer is bound by any credit agreement or offer, Excel shall provide the customer with Pre-contractual information (PCI) (where applicable) by means of the form required by law at that time. We shall explain to the customer that they may take away the PCI to consider the terms of the offer of credit before the making of the agreement and the customer should be afforded such an opportunity.
2.3.2 Excel shall provide adequate explanations to the customer, in order to place the customer in a position enabling him to assess whether the proposed credit agreement is adapted to his needs and to his financial situation by explaining, but not limited to:
(a) the Pre-contractual information to be provided;
(b) the risk, on default of the agreement, that additional interest and default fees may be charged;
(c) the risk of losing the asset (usually a vehicle) on which the credit is secured, how it would be repossessed, and the loss this could entail;
(d) that repossession can result in significantly higher additional costs and may not clear all of the debt owed;
(e) the customer’s right of withdrawal
2.3.3 Where Excel has clear grounds to suspect that the explanation provided has not placed the customer in a position whereby he is enabled to assess whether the agreement is suited to his needs and his financial situation, we shall provide further explanation to the customer.
2.3.4 In all circumstances Excel shall provide the customer with an opportunity to ask questions about the credit agreement. We shall also advise the customer how to ask for further information and explanation about the credit agreement.
2.4 Assessment of affordability
2.4.1 Excel shall, before granting credit or increasing the amount of credit to be provided to the customer, undertake an assessment of the creditworthiness of the customer to assess the borrower's ability to undertake any proposed credit commitment, or specific additional credit commitment, in a sustainable manner, without the customer incurring (further) financial difficulties and/or experiencing adverse consequences.
2.4.2 The assessment of affordability shall be based on information and evidence obtained from: (a) the customer, having provided evidence of his ability to repay the credit; and b) a credit reference agency, where necessary.
2.4.3 Excel shall take particular care in relation to applications for credit from young people in the age range 18-21 years.
2.4.4 Excel shall continuously monitor our credit granting practices and our assessment techniques to ensure that we are prudent and realistic in the prevailing economic circumstances. We shall not be less rigorous in assessing the customer’s ability to repay by reason of the sole fact that security is offered.
2.4.5 To the extent that we use credit-scoring techniques, Excel shall abide by the principles set out in the publication “Guide to Credit Scoring 2000”, as subsequently amended or updated. Where we do not use credit-scoring techniques we shall make clear to a declined applicant whether or not a refusal relates to a credit reference agency report.
2.4.6 Excel shall ensure that where a customer is refused credit and believes the refusal to be unreasonable the customer is given the name or title of a senior official who will review the application.
2.4.7 Excel shall provide appropriate assistance, in the form of information and guidance, to young (as defined in 2.4.3) and/or vulnerable customers.
2.5 The Regulated Consumer Credit Agreement
2.5.1 Excel shall use plain and intelligible language in all agreements, Pre-contract information documents and communications with customers. We shall use prescribed wording where that is required by law.
2.5.2 We shall ensure that our agreements (and any related agreements) with consumers do not contain unfair contract terms.
2.5.3 Excel shall, where applicable, advise customers of the contractual interest rate(s) applicable to their agreements for credit, the basis on which default interest and charges, repossession charges and any other charges are calculated and, when they will be charged.
2.5.4 Excel shall advise customers how any agreed variation of the terms and conditions of their agreement will be notified and shall give customers at least 14 clear days written notice before any variation takes effect.
2.5.5 Excel shall comply with all statutory and other reasonable requests by customers for information about their agreements and accounts within 14 days of receiving a written request or otherwise within the period specified by law.
2.5.6 Excel shall supply copies of documentation and statements of account as required by law and within the prescribed timescale.
2.5.7 Excel-A-Rate Business Services Ltd where applicable, shall comply with its legal obligations in relation to the provision of Pre-contractual information and the 14 day right of cancellation in respect of distance contracts under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation & Additional Charges) Regulations 2013.
2.5.8 Excel shall assist customers seeking advice and guidance.
18.104.22.168 Excel shall advise individuals proposing to give a guarantee or other security for a customer’s liability that:
(a) by giving the guarantee or security he or she might become liable for payment of the loan amount instead of or in addition to customer;
(b) he or she should seek independent legal advice before entering into the guarantee or security.
22.214.171.124 Excel complies with the requirements of the Act where guarantees and other securities contain a clear and prominent notice to the above effect.
3 DEALING WITH CUSTOMERS EXPERIENCING FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES
3.1 General Policies
3.1.1 Excel shall establish and implement policies and procedures for dealing with customers whose accounts fall into arrears that are fair, clear, not misleading and we shall fully comply with both the word and spirit of the section entitled “Handling of Default and Arrears‟ of the FCA Irresponsible Lending Guidance.
3.1.2 Excel’s policies and procedures for dealing with customers whose account falls in arrears makes specific provision for, amongst other matters, the fair and appropriate treatment of vulnerable customers such as those known to or reasonably believed to lack the mental capacity to make relevant financial decisions at a particular time.
3.1.3 Excel shall consider cases of financial difficulty sympathetically and positively, treat customers in default or arrears difficulties with understanding, forbearance and due consideration and encourage our customers to contact us should they experience financial difficulty.
3.1.4 Excel shall, where appropriate, refer customers to debt counselling organisations and notify customers where they can get free advice, such as Citizens Advice Bureaux, Money Advice Centres, National Debtline, the Consumer Credit Counselling Service or Consumer Direct. Excel will work with debt counselling organisations to assist their customers.
3.1.5 Excel shall suspend, for a period of not less than 30 days, the active pursuit of recovery of a debt from a customer in default or payment difficulties under circumstances in which a bona fide debt advisor is assisting the customer in agreeing a repayment plan.
3.1.6 Excel deals with most actions to recover outstanding accounts in-house but if we pass a customer’s account to another person to collect overdue payments, such as a debt collector or solicitor, we will inform the customer. Excel will always choose debt collection firms who agree to abide by this Code or the Credit Services Association Code and the FCA Debt Collection Guidelines.
3.2 Enforcement and Debt Collection
3.2.1 Excel has due regard to the Debt Collection Guidance issued by the Financial Conduct Authority (the FCA) and in particular shall not engage in any unfair business practices identified in that Guidance.
3.2.2 Excel shall have due regard to: “Irresponsible Lending - FCA guidance for Creditors‟ and in particular shall not engage in any irresponsible lending practices identified in that Guidance under the heading “Handling of Default and Arrears”.
3.2.3 Excel shall ensure, by reviewing annually our debt collection procedures and those of any third parties we employ, that we conform to high ethical standards and allow for proper consideration of the customer’s circumstances and in particular:
(a) encourage customers in financial difficulties to inform us of their difficulties at the earliest possible moment (and we will endeavour to respond sympathetically, without prejudice to our rights);
(b) provide in all relevant correspondence the name or title of a specially trained member of staff who may be contacted if difficulties arise; and
(c) take into consideration, before determining whether to enforce an agreement, all information supplied by the customer or otherwise in relation to the cause of any default and the customer’s future ability to repay. If the customer has disclosed multiple debt problems, Excel shall inform the customer of the availability of advisory services.
(d) consider and wherever possible agree a reduction or variation of the amounts of payments or payment holiday to assist the customer
3.2.4 Excel shall suspend the pursuit of recovery of a debt from a borrower, under circumstances in which notification has been given and/or it is reasonably believed that the borrower lacks the mental capacity to make relevant financial decisions regarding the management of his debt at that time, unless or until a reasonable period of time has been allowed for relevant evidence to be provided as to the likely impact of the capacity problem on the borrower's ability to manage his debt and deal with a debt recovery business. The appropriate means of collecting evidence, in appropriate circumstances, could be to use the standard Debt and Mental Health Evidence Form (DMHEF), developed between Money Advice Liaison Group (MALG) and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
3.2.5 Excel shall not impose charges, of whatever nature, on customers who are in arrears unless the nature of those charges are disclosed at the Pre-contract stage and are limited to doing no more than covering our costs.
3.2.6 Excel shall allow for alternative, affordable, payment amounts when the borrower or his appointed debt advisor or representative makes a reasonable proposal.
3.2.7 Excel shall regard the lawful seizure of a secured asset as a serious enforcement option, to be taken only when attempts of have failed with the customer, to mutually agree a realistic and sustainable arrangement to clear arrears.
3.2.8 Excel shall not, except in exceptional circumstances such as proven identity fraud, consider seizure of any goods unless-
1) the amount of the customers arrears shortfall is no less than the equivalent of:
a) the sum of the last two payments required to have been made, under a monthly paid agreement, before that time; or
b) the sum of the last four payments required to have been made, under a weekly paid agreement, before that time; and
2) the requirements of section 87B (Notice of Sums in Arrears) of the Act have been complied with prior to serving a Default Notice under section 87 (1) of the Act.
3.2.9 Excel shall, upon the lawful seizure of a vehicle, hold the vehicle in safe keeping for a period of not less than 7 days to allow the customer to make representations to resolve the matter. We shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that seized goods are sold for the highest obtainable market price.
3.2.10 Excel shall not apply for a charging order on a customer’s home (the property) to secure an outstanding debt, except:
(a) if the outstanding debt is more than £500 and,
(b) the customer has agreed a schedule of repayment and has failed to adhere to the same.
3.2.11 Where Excel have obtained a charging order under 3.2.10(a) and (b), we shall not seek an order of the court for the sale of the judgment debtors home where the amount outstanding is less than £25,000 and only then as a last resort.
4. THIRD PARTY PURCHASERS
4.1 Excel shall afford innocent purchasers of vehicles, that are subject to a Bill of Sale, the same protection as afforded under the Hire-Purchase Act 1964 Part III – “Title to Motor Vehicles on Hire- Purchase or Conditional Sale‟, but only insofar as title shall transfer to the innocent purchaser in the event that we failed to register our interest in that vehicle with a relevant Asset Finance Register Company within 24 hours of execution of the agreement.
5. DEBT COLLECTION AGENCIES
5.1 Excel shall ensure that any Debt Collection Agencies they employ shall be licensed under the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
5.2 We shall monitor those Debt collection agencies compliance with the Consumer Credit Act 1974, regulations under that Act, relevant codes of practice, debt collection guidance issued by the Financial Conduct Authority and this Code insofar as it is compatible with the foregoing.
6. DATA PROTECTION AND CONFIDENTIALITY OF INFORMATION
6.1 Excel shall respect personal information supplied to us by customers and shall inform customers of the purposes for which this information is intended to be used and disclosed, before it is given by the customer.
6.2 We shall observe a strict duty of confidentiality about our customers (and former customers) personal financial affairs and shall not disclose details of customers accounts or their names and addresses to any third party, except for the purposes of filing with credit reference agencies and in the following cases:
(a) where we are legally compelled to do so;
(b) where there is a duty to the public to disclose;
(c) where our interests requires disclosure;
(d) where disclosure is made at the request, or with the consent, of the customer.
Excel shall not use exception (c) above to justify the disclosure for marketing purposes of details of customers‟ accounts or their names and addresses to any third party, including other companies within the same group.
6.3 As we use the services of credit reference agencies and/or fraud prevention agencies we shall ensure that any information we supply about our customers and the conduct of their accounts to credit reference agencies and/or fraud prevention agencies is complete and accurate.
6.4 Excel shall at all times comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 when obtaining and processing customers‟ personal data and shall explain to customers that they have the right of access, under that Act, to their personal records held on computer files.
6.5 Excel swill advise customers of their right not to receive marketing information from the member or a third party with whom the member is connected. We shall comply in that regard with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003.
7 COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE
7.1.1 Excel will deal promptly and at an appropriate management level with complaints. We have a complaints procedure and will furnish information on request about our complaints procedure. Customers will be told what further steps are available if they believe that the complaint has not been dealt with satisfactorily. These steps include the complaint being referred to one of our senior managers, to the CCTA and the ultimate resort of the unresolved complaint being referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
7.2 Customer Complaints
The following shall apply to complaints made by a customer of Excel in relation to customer transactions.
7.2.1 If a customer makes a complaint in relation to an account or an agreement with Excel, we shall, in the first instance, refer the complaint to a senior member of staff, for consideration. A copy of the Company’s Complaint’s Procedure will also be supplied to the customer.
7.2.2 Where a complaint cannot be resolved to the Customer’s satisfaction, the customer shall be entitled to seek resolution by the Financial Ombudsman Service.
7.2.3 Nothing in this Code restricts or is intended to restrict the rights of a customer or Excel to pursue remedies through the Courts or the Financial Ombudsman Service.
8 PREVENTION OF FRAUD AND MONEY LAUNDERING
8.1 Excel will satisfy itself about the identity of a person seeking to enter into an agreement or to open an account and assist in protecting its customers against fraud and money laundering.
8.2 Excel maintains and implements fraud prevention and anti-money laundering procedures and client identification procedures and train their staff in operating such procedures.
8.3 Excel complies with all relevant legislation and guidance relating to the prevention of fraud, money laundering and client identification including relevant Money Laundering Regulations and guidance issued by The Joint Money Laundering Steering Group.
8.4 The Company will maintain an Information and Cyber Security Policy and train staff to comply with the policy.
We are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.