UK broker Yes Loans 'misleading' customers

16/12/10

Newsbeat has done a special investigation after customers claimed the country's biggest loan broker had misled them.

Yes Loans helps people to borrow money, even if they have bad credit.

But some customers say the company isn't being upfront about their chances of actually getting a loan.

They're also accusing the company of not paying out refunds in time and even taking payment without proper authorisation.

Yes Loans are brokers, so they take customers details and shop around for the best loan deal.

They say they get 80,000 applications a month and that they find loans in 20,000 of those cases.

The company website talks about how they pride themselves "on the excellent quality of service" they give clients.

But in July 2009, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigated them after a series of complaints.

It said if they didn't clean up their act they could be fined or lose their credit licence.

Now, Newsbeat's investigation has thrown up a number of concerns.

Misleading customers

As brokers, Yes Loans must make it clear they can't directly approve customers for a loan.

However, a former employee has told Newsbeat they were trained to find ways around that.

"We were taught how to manipulate people to think they were getting a loan.

Martine George
Image caption Martine thought her loan had been approved, so paid the £69.50 fee

"We were encouraged to really overhype it, build them up to this massive sort of climax and they'd only hear certain little buzz words.

"The script wouldn't say, 'You've been accepted for a loan', but it would say 'Congratulations! You've been accepted as a client of Yes Loans.' And they would hear, 'accepted.'"

Martine George called Yes Loans about getting finance to set up an aromatherapy business.

She says the agent ran through exact details of the monthly repayments she would have to make, as well as interest rates.

Martine claims she even asked him why he needed more financial details when she had already been approved for the loan.

She said: "He had plenty of opportunity to say, 'No you haven't been approved for a loan and we're still taking details to find you a loan,' which he didn't."

So, thinking she had a loan, Martine was happy to pay Yes Loans their administration fee of £69.50.

But she never saw the £12,000 she applied for.

Yes Loans says it has listened back to the tape of Martine's phone call and they are happy their agent stuck to their official scripts.

But Newsbeat has spoken to several other people who all say the company made them feel as if they had definitely been approved for a loan.

A company spokesman said: "We are absolutely not misleading people.

"If there are cases when some people have misunderstood what we said, then we are very sorry they've misunderstood it.

"But that doesn't mean we've been telling lies.

"This disgruntled former employee is misrepresenting the training completely."

Card details

There's also some uneasiness about how Yes Loans takes payment.

Early on in the conversation the company asks for debit card details.

We were taught how to manipulate people to think they were getting a loan
Former Yes Loans employee

They want the card number, expiry date and the three digit security code from the back.

Newsbeat wanted to know why they did this, so went undercover, secretly recording a phone call pretending to apply for a loan.

The agent told Newsbeat: "We have to check you are who you say you are. Those three digits on the back, the CVV2 number.

"If you give me three fake numbers it will come back saying the card is not in your name."

By this stage in the call, there wasn't any mention of the £69.50 admin fee.

But Yes Loans spokesman Gordon Bon has admitted the reason they ask for the card details is so they can take a payment.

He denies suggestions the company is not being upfront enough.

"Mention of payment is made later. It's made perfectly clear. It's made well before the call finishes."

Unauthorised payments

Newsbeat has spoken to people who even claim Yes Loans took money out of their account without getting their proper consent.

We checked people who have complained about us taking a fee without authority. In 98% of those cases it's clear on the tape that authority was given
Yes Loans spokesperson

Tina Halpin says her conversation with Yes Loans left her confused.

She knew she had given her card details, but didn't believe she had agreed to any payment.

The company admits the agent on that call didn't get proper consent but insists Tina is a tiny minority.

"Too many people are saying things that are not true.

"We checked people who have complained about us taking a fee without authority.

"In 98% of those cases it's clear on the tape that authority was given."

Late refunds

When the OFT looked into Yes Loans last year they said the company had to make sure they paid out refunds to unhappy customers within 30 days.

However, people have told Newsbeat that's not happening.

One man got so sick of waiting for his, he took the company to court.

Others complain they struggle to get through to customer services and have shown Newsbeat several letters and emails to the company.

Yes Loans says these complaints are a small minority: "The systems are all in place to make the payments in 30 days.

"But yes, we make mistakes, and we apologise for those.

"There are a proportion of people for whom the service we have provided has not been as good as we want, and to all of those I apologise.

"We certainly would like to get better than we are and we are working on that."