When I first wrote my blog regarding my pay day loans experience, I didn’t expect much to happen. One thing for sure, I knew I was going to get an earful from my family which of course happened. Yes, I was silly for getting myself so deep in debt and managing to go a year; possibly two without people finding out, but what made me even sillier was assuming everyone would be angry and disappointed in me.
From my point of view, getting into debt is like the grieving process. Denial, anger, depression and acceptance. I chose to ignore the fact that I was in trouble, burying my head into the sand, naively thinking that all would be well. When I finally realised I was knee deep in debt, I wrote my blog. I was angry that these companies could get away with charging ridiculous amounts of money. I was angry about getting myself into this mess.
I was diagnosed with severe depression and starting taking anti-depressants, I attended CBT to deal with my anxiety; I was signed off work for a total of 6 weeks. My appetite disappeared and I lost 2 stone. I had lost touch with my friends as well as myself. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I’ve always been full of energy with a smile on my face regardless of the situation but things changed dramatically. Those were the darkest days of my life, but if it hadn’t of been for my family I wouldn’t be here today to tell you about my experience. Finally, I accepted the fact that I was in trouble.
Since my first series of blogs, I’ve appeared in The Mail on Sunday, The People, The Independent, my local newspaper, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio four, Sky News x 2, ITV News and ITV Daybreak x 2 telling them all my story of how I was trapped in debt and exposing these companies for the legal loan sharks they are.
Recently, it’s come out that one of the main pay day loan companies, Wonga, have sent out letters from fake solicitors, they have over-charged innocent people when charging their ridiculous fee’s and they have accepted the fact that they failed to carry out affordability checks, causing thousands of people like myself to spiral into debt. Thousands of people have supposedly received refunds and compensation yet only a few hundred have actually received this money. It’s ironic how they take their time to pay back what‘s owed yet when they want their money, they throw their toys out of the pram and destroy your credit rating.
In October I received an e-mail from Wonga stating that they had failed to carry out the appropriate affordability checks (or none!) and wrongfully loaned me money. Considering I was borrowing from at least 4 other pay day loan companies, it doesn’t take a scientist to work out they shouldn’t have been lending to me. I was furious to say the least. If it hadn’t of been for The FCA, I highly doubt they would have ever admitted that. It was a little victory to have my debt of £969 would be written off and peace of mind knowing that my credit rating would improve.
I sat at home one night and decided to calculate how much in total I was charged for fee’s and interest since 2010. After calculating and re-calculating, I worked out that I had borrowed £9, 260 and was charged £2071.35. That’s a total of £11,301.35. Sickening right? In the email, it states anything paid previously of said debt they were writing off would be refunded, so I decided to give them a call. When I finally got through after waiting for at least 10 minutes, I was greeted by the rudest man I have ever spoken to. I explained to him what had been happening. I asked for a refund of £242.07, the amount I had paid from my running debt previously. He told me that this would not be refunded and that anything paid after2nd October 2014 would be refunded (despite that information being ‘missed’ off the email.) I then proceeded to tell him the emotional effects the company had caused me. I informed him that I had suffered with depression, mainly caused by pay day loans. His response? “You need to take responsibilities for you actions.” I went quiet for a few seconds, absorbing what he just said to me. I started shaking with anger, my blood was boiling. I’ve worked in a mental health setting for the past 6 years. I have battled with people discriminating against my clients for having mental health problems for 6 years, and I was not about to let this little vermin down the phone tell me to take responsibly for having depression. How dare he? Yes, I have taken responsibility for taking the loans, if I hadn’t, would I really be parading my face across national television and writing blogs about it?
I continued to keep my calm despite the disgusting comment. If he wasn’t going to refund part of the money, I wanted it all refunded. I was met by another smug comment of “I don’t deal with historic debt, if you want to complain you’ll have to email.” (Despite on the website it states you can complain by calling them) After going round in circles for a few minutes and feeling more and more agitated by this man, I hung up the phone. If he wanted an email, he’d get an email.
I have been a customer with Wonga since I was 20 years old in 2010 and fell into a trap of debt, relying on pay day loans each month to survive. During my time in debt with your company, I was taking out several loans with other companies. I emailed your company asking for help on 17/05/13 but did not receive a reply.
In light of the announcement made regarding wrongful lending due to affordability checks, I received an email from your company stating that I was indeed affected by your company and my current debt of £969.29 would be “written off”.
When I received the email stating I was affected by the affordability checks, I decided to look at my bank statements from 2010. To my absolute horror, with your company alone I have borrowed £9, 260 since February 2010, with the charges of £2071.35, I have paid £11,301.35.
The email that I received states anything that I have paid of my current debt would be repaid. I repaid £242.07. I called your company regarding this only to be spoken to rudely by your customer service, with the gentleman stating that anything paid after 2/09/14 would be refunded. The gentlemen at the end of the phone also told me that I should take responsibility for my actions. I feel this was very poor customer service. I asked to make a complaint (which it states that you can do by phone on your website) and he told me I could only do by email.
I feel I have been treated wrongly by your company from the start as if you were to carry out the correct checks from the beginning, you would have realised I could not have afforded your loans.
As a result of pay day loans, I was diagnosed with severe depression. Your customer service comment of “you should take responsibility” is incredibly hurtful and unprofessional. Your company has caused a lot of hurt and worry that was not needed, not only by myself, but by my family too.
I feel I am entitled to a refund of £2071.35, or at least a partial sum of that total. I do not wish to take legal action, but will do if necessary.
I await your response.
Miss Ami L Jarman”
Not long after I sent the email, I was contacted by Sky to see if I would appear on the news again to talk about my experience and to discuss the new cap on the interest rates. I jumped at the opportunity, anything to put Wonga under pressure.
Two weeks went by without hearing a word from Wonga, so I contacted them on Twitter. Several tweets later and still no response. I received a couple of tweets from other people saying that they haven’t heard anything about their apparent refund they were told by wonga they would receive. Finally, I got a reply asking for my email address so they could “look into” my complaint. Fast forward a week, and still nothing.
I was contacted by BBC Radio four asking if I would appear on their show to talk about Wonga. The producer emailed Wonga herself to query if my complaint had been looked into, yet again, nothing.
I decided to make an official complaint to the financial ombudsman, who have been nothing but helpful. They looked into my complaint and supported me throughout, even offering to look into the other companies that were lending me money when I clearly shouldn’t have been. In America, pay day loan companies are only allowed to lend to customers after checking that they do not currently have loans with other companies. If they do, they don’t get the loan. Simple.
I recieved another email from Wonga, I had butterflies in my stomach. Was I getting my money back? Opening the email, I saw an apology. They were apologising for the possibility that they may have overcharged me. Infuriating.
A week or so later, I received a phone call from the Financial Ombudsman and they completely agreed with my complaint and have instructed Wonga to refund all fees and interest I’ve paid since the beginning of 2010. Currently, Wonga are calculating the costs and will be in touch with the final amount I will receive. (Who knows when I’ll be getting that nice little sum in my bank account.)
After a long, stressful battle with pay day loans, I can finally sleep at night knowing I have one less thing to worry about.
If you’re reading this and you’ve been wrongfully loaned money from Wonga, complain and get your money back. Don’t take no for an answer, and if they’re being stubborn, contact the financial ombudsman. If you want help or someone to talk to, please get in contact with the CAB, financal ombudsman or even myself. You can find me on Twitter (@SYG_ami)