Here’s the latest from the FCA, who have been trying to regulate the sale of Kirby vacuum cleaners, which have often been featured in various BBC Watchdog, Rip-Off Britain, Which? magazine and other consumer programmes. The company targeted older, often housebound and vulnerable people, signing them up to long term credit agreements to fund the purchase of a vacuum cleaner that was apparently worth over £2,000.
The judgement shows that the FCA will take action when it comes to finance arrangements for vulnerable consumers, and insurers and brokers alike need to treat such customers with extra care. In an eara of automated admin and online claims, it is easy to alienate older customers who might prefer a face-to-face approach to resolving complex claims. Holding firm on an automated settlement process might be seen as discrimination, or taking advantage of a vulnerable customer. Here’s the latest from the FCA;
The Financial Conduct Authority (‘FCA’) has successfully applied to the Upper Tribunal to strike out an appeal made by P.F International Limited, a franchise of the Kirby Vacuum Company. P.F. International has now exhausted its avenues of appeal. The firm had referred to the Upper Tribunal the FCA’s decision in November 2018 to remove the firm’s permissions for breaching its lending rules.
The Bristol-based firm sold and serviced vacuum cleaners in the South-West of England. Staff of P. F. International went door-to-door using cold call visits and high-pressure sales techniques with vulnerable consumers, in clear violation of a requirement on its permissions and the FCA’s principle of treating customers fairly. The firm also failed to carry out adequate affordability checks on customers’ ability to repay the credit and entered into credit agreements with customers even though customers had told them that they could not afford to pay.
Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, said:
‘We intervened early with this firm in order to prevent further harm to vulnerable customers. The firm simply failed to follow our rules and as a result vulnerable customers suffered.
‘Firms should look at the action we have taken and ensure that they are treating their customers fairly, particularly if they are vulnerable.’
The Upper Tribunal struck out the firms’ final appeal. As a result of the decision P.F. International will no longer be allowed to conduct any regulated activity, including recovering any regulated debts owed to it.
The FCA worked closely with both Bristol Trading Standards and the National Trading Standards South-West Regional Investigation Team. Collaboration with these bodies played an important role in gathering the evidence needed to prevent consumer harm quickly and effectively.