I don’t like being threatened, and I don’t like threatening anyone. Unfortunately I have just been forced to do so. Before I show you the letter I have just written, let me tell you the whole story.
In March 2007 I bought a Mazda MX-5 on hire-purchase. The agreement was arranged by a broker and the finance was provided by Black Horse. I agreed to the terms of the contract they proposed, which was for 4 years with the option to return the car after paying a little more than 32 monthly payments. In December 2009, I chose to exercise this option: I paid the “little more” and the £75 collection fee. End of contract; end of it being my car; end of relationship with Black Horse. Or so I hoped.
In January 2010 I got a letter informing me that I was behind on my payments on the Mazda and that I should call them to explain how I was going to pay. I called them to establish that I did not need to pay, which they agreed. I was told that the letters were nothing to worry about, that they would stop once Black Horse had sold the car, that I should ignore that one and all those in the future, that there was no possibility that the same automated system would dispatch debt collectors or affect my credit rating.
In mid-February I received a similar letter and had a similar conversation. At this point I wrote to the OFT’s consumer credit licensing division, who regulate consumer credit in the UK, to ask whether it was appropriate for a supplier of consumer credit to act in this way. I copied Black Horse but received no reply from either.
In mid-March I received a third letter, had yet another fruitless conversation, and then wrote to Black Horse to request that they address this problem. I again received no reply to my letter. I also talked to the main OFT consumer line who passed my complaint on to Trading Standards; I have heard no more from either since then.
In the past week, I had the credit limit on one of my cards reduced dramatically. I got a letter from my card provider informing me that it was because a credit reference agency had informed them that I was in arrears on an agreement with another credit provider. It didn’t take long to put the two facts together.
I called Black Horse yet again today, again to be told that the error cannot be corrected because their system does not allow it. I pointed out to the call-centre operative that “our system can’t be corrected” is not a valid answer to a request to correct information under the data protection act and that it needed to be rectified promptly. I suggested that she should pass the request on to her manager if she could do nothing. After having a chat with him she returned to say that he can’t do anything either. At this point I asked her to record my demands in my record and ensure they got to someone who can fix the problem in their system. She didn’t fill me with confidence that this was likely to happen, and indeed when the deadline I had asked them to call me back by passed without a return call I that lack of confidence was borne out.
I was, and still am, very angry about all of this. I have complied with the contract I signed; I am disappointed that Black Horse has chosen not to uphold their side of the agreement. I am disappointed that I was lied to when I asked if the error in their systems might affect my credit rating. I am extremely disappointed that my attempts to engage with them on the telephone have been rebuffed and that my attempts to engage with them in writing have been ignored.
I have therefore sent them the following letter, as a last resort before taking to the legal system to get this rectified:
15 April 2010
Black Horse Limited
25 Gresham Street
URGENT: ACTION REQUIRED TO AVOID LITIGATION
Hire Purchase Agreement Number: <agreement number redacted>
Over the previous 3 months I have contacted Black Horse (henceforth you, etc) on 6 occasions by telephone and on 2 occasions in writing to attempt to resolve the inaccuracy in your records which causes your automated systems to behave as though I am in arrears on a finance agreement. I consider that I have made every reasonable effort engage you in dialogue to rectify this error and that all of these efforts have been rebuffed or ignored.
This month your error has caused material damage to my life. Your automated system has propagated the inaccurate statement that I am in arrears to several credit reference agencies with the result that other suppliers of credit to me are reducing the amount I can borrow and/or increasing the interest rate on the money I can borrow.
Here is what you will do:
- You will correct the information in your systems to reflect that I am not now and have never been in arrears on a credit agreement with you.
- You will inform all of the credit reference agencies to whom you have propagated the inaccurate information that your previous communication was in error and that I am not now and have never been in arrears on a credit agreement with you. You will send copies of the correspondence you send to the credit reference agencies to me at this address.
- You will provide me with an affidavit confirming that as of the date it is drafted I am not and have never been in arrears on a credit agreement with you.
- You will pay my costs incurred while attempting to rectify this error in your systems, itemised as follows:
- Telephone calls: 76 minutes at 20p/minute = £15.20
- Postage costs: 41p + 41p + 41p + 74p = £1.97
- Time: 8 hours at £250/hour = £2000
- Total: £2017.17
- You will complete the above itemised requests before 18.00 on Tuesday 27 April 2010.
- You will call me on <telephone number redacted> between 18.00 and 19.00 on Tuesday 20 April 2010 to inform me that you accept the above terms.
If you comply with these requests, I will not file a claim in the county court requesting that the court order you perform items 1, 2 and 4 above. Please be aware that any such claim will include further costs incurred and interest charged at the official dealing rate of the Bank of England on 31 December 2009 + 8%.
You will pay for my time because you have known, since my first telephone call to you in 2010, that the information you hold on me is incorrect and that I must try to get you to resolve it. Your failure to resolve it in a timely manner is directly responsible for the time I have spent to date. The rate of £250 per hour is the market rate for my time: clients of my employer pay approximately £2000/day for my services or the services of those with equivalent skills and experience.
I am extremely disappointed that a well-known company such as yourselves feels that it is appropriate to deal with people in this way. It seems to me that maintaining inaccurate data for months after you have been made aware of the inaccuracy and agreed that it is inaccurate contravenes the data protection act. It also seems to me that notifying credit reference agencies that someone is in arrears when you know that to be false is defamatory.