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When it pays to complain

How good are you at complaining? It can take a bit of getting used to, but sometimes speaking up to your financial provider when you feel short-changed can pay.

For example, did you know that if you’ve had charges added for late or missed credit card payments or for going over your credit card limit you might be able to reclaim them?

This could particularly be the case if you’re struggling with debt.

Here, our colleague Caroline Laws shares her story of complaining about her financial provider and how she managed to get her charges refunded.

Credit card charges – my story

I’m usually very good at remembering to pay my credit card bill in full each month.

In fact, in the five years or so since I’ve had this card, I’ve never failed to do so. However, the one thing I hadn’t done was set up a direct debit to automatically pay the minimum amount because I figured I would never forget….. Until last month…

I set off on a cycling holiday out in the middle of nowhere for a few days, with limited WiFi access and all the freedom that brings from dealing with the chores of everyday life…. It was only when I got back that I realised that I was two days late in paying my bill…

I organised payment immediately and hoped that my credit card company would be lenient as I’m usually such a prompt payer. But when my next statement came through, they had cheerfully charged me a late payment fee and interest on top of that.

This was followed by a separate letter two weeks after I’d paid up telling me that they were obliged to inform me that under the terms of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 they were allowed to impose these charges making me feel like I was being hounded for debt.

Until that point, I was going to suck it up and pay the charges as penance for my oversight but the letter made me angry. The credit card company had escalated this and I was at least going to complain about it.

 

The power of complaining in action!

My husband had read an article that said I should ask for a breakdown of the £12 fee and interest charges and ask for them to explain how they justified it, given they had been paid in full only days after the payment due date.

‘Threaten to leave and take your business elsewhere. It’s worth more to them to refund you the charges and keep you as a customer than to see you go… Just see if they do.’

Picking my time to call, I was anticipating a weary, tense stand-off. The recorded message asked me to say why I was calling. ‘I want to complain about unfair late payment charges,’ I said tersely, ready for the “computer says ‘no’” response.

In a few seconds I was transferred to a person. I drew breath to launch into my explanation and was completely taken aback when the customer adviser started by saying ‘I’m just refunding all your charges, now’. I hadn’t said anything at all.

What a turnaround…. What a clever way to use customer service. I ended the phone call feeling that I had won a small victory, and also feeling really good about my credit card company. I promised to set up a direct debit, which I should have done ages ago. We laughed and joked about my oversight. He completely understood.

Of course, I imagine that if this ‘oversight’ happened again any time soon, they would not be so helpful but it just goes to show that taking the time to make one small phone call about something that really does seem unfair can save you money.

Have you complained before? Did you get your money back?

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