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JillSlaven
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I'm trying to help a client in debt - where should I write to. She's extremely vulnerable.

Good Afternoon, I'm a Money Advisor at a local council, trying to help a client who has a depressive, addictive disorder.  She has various accounts with Virgin Media and Virgin Mobile and has lost track of what they are all for. I would like to get clarification of these, as there are various direct debits coming off throughout the month, leaving her unable to pay essential bills, such as her mortgage, council tax, utilities.  Her financial situation is making her mental health worse, and she regularly self harms.  She is unable to contact you directly to sort this out, so she has asked us for assistance. 

I understand she has 9 or 10 mobile accounts, some of which could be for i-pads, and at least 1 television package, although it looks like there are various direct debits coming off to Virgin Media throughout the month. 

Where should I write to to ensure she is put on a vulnerable person's register, and get details about her various accounts?  I am able to provide her signed authorisation confirming we can act on her behalf and medical evidence from her GP, I just need to know where to send it to get a prompt response. Thank you. 

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Martin_N
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Re: I'm trying to help a client in debt - where should I write to. She's extremely vulnerable.

Hi JillSlaven,

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We certainly want to do everything we can to assist. 

What I will do now is private message yourself on this platform to advise on how best to proceed.

^Martin

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Martin_N
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Re: I'm trying to help a client in debt - where should I write to. She's extremely vulnerable.

As confirmed in our private message we are now investigating this and will reach out as soon as possible. 

^Martin

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JillSlaven
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Re: I'm trying to help a client in debt - where should I write to. She's extremely vulnerable.

Update - I have posted a new message, as Virgin Media have refused to engage with me as a debt advisor, despite recommending on their website that people in financial difficulty contact Money Advice Scotland for assistance. 

They have advised my client that I need to get Power Of Attorney over her finances in order for them to discuss a repayment plan with them.  My client is extremely vulnerable and in a lot of debt.  I fail to see how paying for a solicitor and associated legal costs will assist my client in any way. 

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Ashleigh_C
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Re: I'm trying to help a client in debt - where should I write to. She's extremely vulnerable.

Hi there @JillSlaven

 

I am so sorry to hear that your client is experiencing this, I understand how incredibly difficult this situation must be for her and we would like to do all we can to assist. 

 

We only able to speak to the account holder or a third party if they have power of attorney, this is due to DPA and it is a legal requirement for us to meet this. 

 

We do have some more information available online here on how to register for POA. 

 

Thank you. 

Ash_C
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JillSlaven
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Re: I'm trying to help a client in debt - where should I write to. She's extremely vulnerable.

No - it is not a legal requirement to have a Power of Attorney in order to discuss someone's account with me.  Otherwise I, or any other debt advisor, wouldn't be able to operate.  We correspond daily with banks and other financial institutions on behalf of our clients as they have given their written authorisation, instructing us to act on their behalf - which Virgin have been provided with - by letter and email on several occasions now. 

If it is Virgin Media's policy, however - that is a decision Virgin's management team have made.  As you are no doubt aware, a Power of Attorney, is a legal document which requires the advice of a solicitor, which incurs further costs for someone you already know is struggling financially.  If it is Virgin Media's intention to put a customer further into debt, when they have sought assistance to resolve the problem, then that is extremely irresponsible behaviour of your management. 

Moreover, a Power of Attorney would grant me control over my client's finances - which is not something I, nor my client wish or require.

Virgin Media are hiding behind the General Data Protection Regulations 2018 because they are unwilling to help vulnerable people.  We fully comply with these regulations and act in the best interest of our clients - your customers. 

You state on your website that people in financial difficulty contact Money Advice Scotland for assistance.  Please explain why Virgin Media recommend this route if you refuse to deal with us.  As explained previously, all other financial institutions and indeed telecom companies - all fully compliant with Data Protection Law - respond to Money Advisors like myself, but Virgin Media refuse to. 

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Ashleigh_C
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I'm so sorry for any distress this is causing for your client @JillSlaven I can assure you that we do want to do all we can to assist. 

 

I can see you were chatting with a colleague of mine via the PM they have reached out again for you to see if there is anything else we can sort for you both.

 

Thank you very much again. 

Ash_C
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JillSlaven
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Re: I'm trying to help a client in debt - where should I write to. She's extremely vulnerable.

Your colleague "reached out" to me by saying someone from Virgin Media would call me back - definitely within 7 days, but that was a week ago. 

I have sent several letters and emails - all with my client's signed authorisation for me to act on her behalf, as well as medical evidence from her doctor detailing her psychiatric issues, and no one from Virgin Media has responded to me. 

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Ashleigh_C
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Re: I'm trying to help a client in debt - where should I write to. She's extremely vulnerable.

I'm so sorry to hear you haven't been called @JillSlaven I have confirmed with my colleague and he will be reaching out today. 

 

Thank you and so sorry again for the inconvenience this has caused for both you and your client. 

 

 

Ash_C
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JillSlaven
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Re: I'm trying to help a client in debt - where should I write to. She's extremely vulnerable.

Despite waiting for 7 hours - nobody from Virgin Media has "reached out" to me today - and it is now 6.30pm.  I will be available again from 9am Monday, 6th December, if anyone else wishes to "reach out" to me.

Meantime, I'd like to draw your attention to the FCA Guidelines which state 7.12.2 

firm must not: refuse to deal with a not-for-profit debt advice bodydebt counsellordebt adjuster or with another person acting on behalf of a customer, unless there is an objectively justifiable reason for doing so;

The FCA Guidelines also refer you to the previous OFT Guidelines (3.9)which state A Firm must not use Deceptive and/or unfair methods

Examples of  unfair or improper practices are as follows.....

  1. refusing to engage, appropriately or at all, with a third party representative, such as a debt adviser at a free advice centre or a debt management business, or with a debtor developing his own repayment plan,
  2. contacting debtors directly and bypassing their appointed representatives, without permission from the debtor or his representative, unless there is an objectively justifiable reason for doing so. 

Where those seeking to recover debts refuse to engage with (or bypass) third party representatives and contact debtors directly, the OFT may require them to satisfy it that there was an objectively justifiable basis for doing so. For example, it may be objectively justifiable to contact the debtor directly where repeated efforts have been unsuccessfully made to communicate with the debtor’s representative. Operating a policy of refusing to negotiate with certain third party representatives or with a debtor developing his own repayment plan would not, in the OFT's view, constitute an 'objectively justifiable basis' in this context.

Perhaps your Management Team may wish to consider their position in relation to the above, in preparation for my complaint to the FCA and the Financial Ombudsman. 

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