Sprout Loans – Don’t pay them before you read this!

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Are you being harassed by Sprout Loans about your loan? Do you have loans you are unable to repay? Are you receiving threats such as being taken to court? Do you consider that the loan is unaffordable and you shouldn’t have been lent the money? If you are having these or other problems with Sprout Loans then this article is designed to help you. You might be able to cancel your loan and even obtain a refund.

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Who are Sprout Loans?

Sprout Loans offers short-term loans between £1,500 and £7,500 with a repayment period of up to five years. Sprout Loans is a direct lender based in the UK and a division of Asgard Financial Services, also offering consolidation loans and IVA early settlement loans.

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Do loan companies make it too easy to borrow money?

It is so easy to borrow money through lenders. The web is crowded with companies that are happy to advance you cash within a few minutes; to approve you for a loan of up to £1,500 in just seconds; to advance you money instantly without any credit checks. Many offer loans to people who have a “Very Bad Credit” history or who are already having difficulty repaying loans.

If Sprout Loans did not follow any of the laws below, then you could claim for a refund

Full Refund

Why you might have got into debt problems and what the government is doing to curb these loan sharks

It isn’t surprising that so many people get into debt problems with these organisations. The situation today is much better than it was a few years ago. Before new regulations came into force, the loan business was spiralling out of control, as were many people’s debts. At one time the loan market was over £2 billion, fuelled by irresponsible lending and astronomically high interest rates.

Unfair practices identified by the Financial Conduct Authority resulted in huge fines being imposed on many top players. These include Wonga, fined £220 million; and others like The Money Shop being collectively fined £15.4 million; plus a £1.7 million fine for Quickquid. Where money had been lent to people that should never have received a loan because of their “limited criteria” the customers received a refund. The medicine worked. Over the three years following regulation the number of loans issued fell from 10 million to 1.8 million and the number of lenders fell from 240 to 60.

Are you due a refund? Read through the next section in which we look at these new rules in some detail. If Sprout Loans is in breach YOU MAY BE DUE A REFUND EVEN IF YOU HAVE PAID OFF THE LOAN.

Read what to do if you can’t pay back your debt.

Government cap on loan interest and other charges

The Financial Conduct Authority has introduced a price cap to protect borrowers from excessive charges. These include:

  • A cost cap of 0.8% per day on the amount borrowed – this includes both interest and all fees charged.
  • A cap on default fees of £15 – after a default interest can still be charged, but it mustn’t exceed the original rate of 0.8% per day.
  • A complete cost cap of 100% – you should never be asked to repay more than 100% of the money borrowed.

These limits apply to all credit agreements that have an interest rate of 100% or more a year and that are due to be fully or substantially repaid within a year.

Additional regulations came into force in May 2017. They now must provide details of their products on a price comparison website authorised by the FCA and borrowers must be provided with a summary of the cost of borrowing.

If Sprout Loans is in breach of these regulations and is attempting to charge you more than they should, your credit agreement with them is unenforceable and they will not be able to make you repay the loan.

Is Sprout Loans authorised?

There is no doubt that many so-called loan companies are doing business when not authorised to do so. Only authorised businesses are permitted by law to make certain credit agreements. If they are not authorised, then they cannot enforce repayments. You can simply stop paying them and they can do nothing about it.

To check whether Sprout Loans is authorised, just enter the name of the company on this Interim Permission Consumer Credit Register search page. You can also search the financial services register here. If they do not have a valid up to date entry on at least one of these registers, simply stop paying them. They have no power to enforce the debt.

Other indicators that Sprout Loans might be operating illegally include a lack of information on the company website, information on the website that is out of date or different from the information that appears on the two directories, and non-disclosure of true APR.

How to complain about Sprout Loans

If you believe that Sprout Loans is in breach of the regulations and is treating you in any way unfairly, you have the right to complain formally, and if your dispute remains unresolved or is not dealt with within eight weeks, you can to escalate your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman.

You should collect together all the evidence you have including details of any phone calls. Write to Sprout Loans heading your letter with the word Complaint. The more detail you can provide, the better. You should also say how you would like the matter to be resolved.

If Sprout Loans fails to provide you with a satisfactory conclusion, you can take your complaint to the financial ombudsman. The best way of doing to is to contact them by phone on 0800 023 4567 or 0300 123 9123

If Sprout Loans has treated you unfairly, you may be entitled to a refund even if you have paid off the loan within the last six years. If so, you can expect to be refunded all the interest you have paid on the loan along with any additional charges. You should also receive 8% interest on these payments.

If your loan is considered to have been unaffordable you can insist that it is removed from your credit record and that the outstanding balance is cancelled.

The first step is to write to your lender stating your case and asking for compensation.

If you do not receive satisfaction within 8 weeks you can follow it up through the Financial Ombudsman by phone on 0800 023 4567 or 0300 123 9123.

New rules regarding Continuous Payment Authority

Most loan companies will want you to repay the debt using a Continuous Payment Authority (CPA). This provides the company with permission to take any sum they wish from your bank at any time they want. They are supposed to inform you prior to debiting your bank account, but many of them fail to carry out this crucial step. The result is you don’t know the money has left your account until you see your next bank statement.

If you are struggling with important payments such as your rent, mortgage or utility bill, and the money is taken by Sprout Loans ahead of these bills, you could end up in serious trouble even putting your house at risk.

New regulations mean that if the CPA fails to be paid on two occasions, no further requests to your bank account are allowed.

There are also rules governing the amount of money they can take using a CPA. No longer are they allowed to take partial payments. If you don’t have enough money in your account to cover the full amount of the payment due, they can’t take anything. Only if you agree that they can take a partial payment, they are allowed to do so, but you must give your permission in advance for them to do so.

When they do make more than two requests or they take a partial payment without your explicit permission they are in breach of regulations. You can report them to the financial ombudsman on 0800 023 4567 or 0300 123 9123.

What to do if you simply can’t afford to repay the loan?

If Sprout Loans has operated legitimately but you simply can’t afford to repay the loan, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself.

If you are paying them by CPA, standing order or direct debit, you should contact your bank and cancel these. Sprout Loans will no longer be able to collect payments automatically and you will retain control of your bank account. Your bank may advise you to inform Sprout Loans that you have done this, but you are under no legal obligation to do so; they will be unable to collect any money from you until you give them explicit permission to do so.

Of course, you will still owe them money so you must deal with that directly; while you might be tempted to do so, don’t hide your head in the sand. Your first approach should be to contact Sprout Loans and talk to them about your problems. They are obliged to treat you fairly, so you should be able to come to an agreement to reschedule your repayments.

By law, lenders must:

  • Indicate where you can obtain free independent debt advice
  • Hold off debt recovery for a reasonable period while you develop a repayment plan possibly using a debt advisor
  • Giving you reasonable time to repay possibly freezing interest and additional charges.

Don’t roll over your loan

Sprout Loans might suggest that you roll over the loan, but doing so is almost certainly a bad idea. You will be charged even more interest and additional charges leaving you in even deeper debt. By law loans can be rolled over no more than twice.

Getting debt help

There are several organisations that provide free independent advice on debt:

Are loan companies all sharks?

There is little doubt that loan companies receive a bad press. It can be argued that they also provide a valuable service by offering a credit line to people who would be unable to obtain credit from a bank or credit card. It is only when these companies place profits ahead of everything else and exploit their customers that they do real harm. While some sharks remain, the new regulations have made it much safer to use these companies. However, many people still get into debt problems.

If Sprout Loans are in breach of the regulations, then you are entitled not to pay them as the debt is unenforceable. If you simply can’t afford to pay, then contact one of the organisations we have listed above, they will provide the help and guidance you require.

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The term ‘you’ refers to the user or viewer of our website.

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Privacy Policy

The Data Protection Act 1998 requires every data controller who is processing personal data to notify the Information Commissioner of any breaches no more than 72 hours after becoming aware of it unless they are exempt from doing so. Failure to notify is a criminal offence.  In addition, any FCA regulated firm must notify the FCA – ideally within 24hrs of discovery of a breach.

This document should be read in conjunction with our Acceptable Use policy and Information Security policy which form part of the Employee’s Handbook.  We are committed to protecting and respecting privacy.

This policy sets out the basis on which any personal data we collect from a consumer will be processed by us.

For the purpose of the Data Protection Act 1998 (“the Act”), the data controller is Nerd FS.

By visiting and using our website the consumer is consenting to the practices set out below.

If our firm needs to collect data for any purpose not stated above we should notify the Information Commissioner before collecting that data.

Whenever collecting information about people, our firm agrees to apply the Eight Data Protection Principles:

  1. Personal data should be processed fairly and lawfully
  2. Personal data should be obtained only for the purpose specified
  3. Data should be adequate, relevant and not excessive for the purposes required
  4. Data should be accurate and kept up-to-date
  5. Data should not be kept for longer than is necessary for purpose
  6. Data processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under this act
  7. Security: appropriate technical and organisational measures should be taken unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction or damage to personal data
  8. Personal data shall not be transferred outside the EEA unless that country or territory ensures an adequate level of data protection

 Duties

The same principles apply to when data is taken out of the office

Working at home

The use of data for marketing purposes

For marketing purposes, there are two types of data:

Data obtained in-house

Data obtained from third parties

Security Statement

We have taken measures to guard against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss, destruction or damage.

This includes:

Customers Right to Withdraw Consent

The customer has the right to withdraw their consent at any time. The withdrawal of consent shall not affect the lawfulness of processing based on consent before it’s withdrawal. However, it does mean you can no longer rely on consent as your lawful basis for processing. They withdraw consent by either of the following; putting this in writing to address details, by calling telephone number or emailing email address.

As the right to withdraw is ‘at any time’, it’s not enough to provide an opt-out only by reply. The individual must be able to opt out at any time they choose, on their own initiative.

In some cases you may need to keep a record of the withdrawal of consent for your own purposes – for example, to maintain suppression records so that you can comply with direct marketing rules. You don’t need consent for this, as long as you tell individuals that you will keep these records, why you need them, and your lawful basis for this processing (eg legal obligation or legitimate interests).

Subject Access Request (SAR)

One of the main rights which the Data Protection Act gives to individuals is the right of access to their personal information.  An individual is permitted to send us a subject access request (“SAR”) requiring that we tell them about the personal information we hold about them, and to provide them with a copy of that information.  In most cases we must respond to a valid subject access request within 40 calendar days of receipt.  Any business is able to charge a customer a reasonable charge of £10 for providing this data however it is not our companies policy to do so unless the request is excessive or unwarranted.  Any Subject Access Requests must be sent to a Senior Manager for processing purposes.

Third party requests are also permitted e.g. a friend or relative, a solicitor, a claims management company or other third party. Under the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Data Protection Principles, are not permitted to reveal such information to a third party without the authority of a customer. On this basis, for any third party SAR, we will ensure that we have a written record of authority held on file before we release any personal data.

Where there are two or more customers linked to one credit agreement and the request comes from one of these parties, we will provide the response to both parties

We are required to 'give' a copy of the executed agreement and any other document referred to in it and the required statement. In the FCA’s view, sending a copy of them by ordinary second class post will suffice. Guidance on what constitutes a ‘copy’ can be found in the case of Carey v HSBC Bank plc [2009] EWHC 3417 (QB).

The duty under the relevant section does not apply if no sum is, or will or may become, payable by customer under the agreement. This is irrespective of whether the agreement may have already been terminated.

We will promptly facilitate a SAR request, although we have up to 40 days to do so.  All staff are made aware of this during induction.  Refresher training will be provided on a regular basis.  Although the rules permit the Firm to charge a maximum of £10 for responding to the request for personal data, it is not the Firm’s own policy to do so.

Client consent to the application of the Act and their right to access to their records are included within the firm’s terms of business/client agreement.

Any data collected must not be excessive and must be relevant to the purpose and it must not be kept longer than is necessary.

Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)

The ICO has the power to issue monetary penalty notices of up to £500,000 for serious breaches of the Data Protection Act occurring on or after 6 April 2010, and serious breaches of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

Privacy

Our Privacy policy is in full view on our website.  This section must be read in conjunction with the Privacy Policy.

It is the responsibility of the senior management of our firm to ensure this policy is effective through monitoring and complaints procedures.

All employees, affiliates and ARs dealing with customers have a responsibility to read, understand and implement this policy and to hold their own valid and appropriate Privacy policy where appropriate.

The Firm holds a valid Data Protection license and it is bound by the rules of the Data Protection Act 1998.  The full extent of the rules can be found at www.dataprotection.gov.uk.

The 8 principles that the 1984 Act introduced are as follows.  Data must be:

Criminal offences

A criminal offence is committed by the Firm or an individual member of staff if they knowingly or recklessly:

Uses of customer information

When submitting application forms to banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions, this means that personal data will, by default, also be submitted.  In these cases, clients will be informed that their personal data may be used.

The Firm will request client consent before any transfer of data takes place.  Clients will be asked to confirm that they are comfortable to have their personal data used in one or more of the following forms:

Post, telephone, email etc. subject to the conditions of the Data Protection Act.

Information Classification

 Definitions

The following definitions provide a summary of the information classification levels that have been adopted by our firm and which underpin the 8 principles of information security. These classification levels explicitly incorporate the Data Protection Act’s (“DPA”) definitions of Personal Data and Sensitive Personal Data, as laid out in our firm’s Data Protection Policy.

‘Confidential’ information has significant value for our firm, and unauthorised disclosure or dissemination could result in severe financial or reputational damage to us as an FCA authorised firm, including fines of up to £500,000 from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Data that is defined by the Data Protection Act as Sensitive Personal Data falls into this category. Only those who explicitly need access must be granted it, and only to the least degree in order to do their work (the ‘need to know’ and ‘least privilege’ principles).  When held outside our firm, on mobile devices such as laptops, tablets or phones, or in transit, ‘Confidential’ information must be protected behind an explicit logon and encryption at the device, drive or file level.

‘Restricted’ information is subject to controls on access, such as only allowing valid logons from a small group of staff. ‘Restricted’ information must be held in such a manner that prevents unauthorised access i.e. on a system that requires a valid and appropriate user to log in before access is granted. Information defined as Personal Data by the Data Protection Act falls into this category. Disclosure or dissemination of this information is not intended, and may incur some negative publicity, but is unlikely to cause severe financial or reputational damage to our firm.  Note that under the Data Protection Act large datasets (>1000 records) of ‘Restricted’ information may become classified as Confidential, thereby requiring a higher level of access control.

‘Internal use’ information can be disclosed or disseminated by its owner to appropriate members of our firm, partners and other individuals, as appropriate by information owners without any restrictions on content or time of publication.

‘Public’ information can be disclosed or disseminated without any restrictions on content, audience or time of publication. Disclosure or dissemination of the information must not violate any applicable laws or regulations, such as privacy rules.  Modification must be restricted to individuals who have been explicitly approved by information owners to modify that information, and who have successfully authenticated themselves to the appropriate computer system.

Designating information as ‘Confidential’ involves significant costs in terms of implementation, hardware and ongoing resources, and makes data less mobile. For this reason, information owners making classification decisions must balance the risk of damage that could result from unauthorised access to, or disclosure of, the information against the cost of additional hardware, software or services required to protect it.

Examples

Security Level

Definitions

Examples

FOIA2000 / DPA1998 status

1. Confidential

Normally accessible only to specified and/or relevant members of our staff

DPA-defined Sensitive personal data:

·                     racial/ethnic origin

·                     political opinion

·                     religious beliefs

·                     trade union membership

·                     physical/mental health condition

·                     sexual life

·                     criminal record

·                     salary information

·                     individuals’ bank details

·                     passwords

·                     large aggregates of DPA-defined Personal Data (>1000 records) including elements such as name, address, telephone number.

·                     HR system data

Subject to significant scrutiny in relation to appropriate exemptions/ public interest and legal considerations.

2. Restricted

Normally accessible only to specified and/or relevant members of our staff

DPA-defined Personal Data (information that identifies living individuals including:

·                     home / work address

·                     age

·                     telephone number

·                     schools attended

·                     photographs

Subject to significant scrutiny in relation to appropriate exemptions/ public interest and legal considerations.

3. Internal Use

Normally accessible only to our staff

·                     Internal correspondence,

·                     internal group papers and minutes,

·                     information held under license company policy and procedures

Subject to scrutiny in relation to appropriate exemptions/ public interest and legal considerations

4.  Public

Accessible to all members of the public

·                     Company filed documents

·                     Company websites

Freely available on the website.

Explicit Information Ownership and Other Rights of Access to Information

We recommend that departments and functions within our business explicitly designate information owners.

Other users may have rights of access to data according to the terms of engagement under which the data was gained or created.

Granularity of Classification

The sets of information being classified should, in general, be large rather than small. Smaller units require more administrative effort, involve more decisions and add to complexity, thus decreasing the overall security.

 Information Retention

There may be minimum or maximum timescales for which information has to be kept. These may be mandated in a commercial contract. Other forms of information retention may be covered by environmental or financial regulations.

Responsibilities

All ‘Users’ must obtain authorisation from their line manager before their classification request is submitted to Senior Managers. Nerd FS is responsible for assessing information and classifying its sensitivity.

Violations

A violation of our Information Security Policy and supporting policy documents will be investigated and consequentially may result in disciplinary action which could include the termination of employment contract for employees, the termination of contractual relations in the case of third parties, contractors or consultants.

A violation of this policy and misuse of the systems and applications within our firm may also be a breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990; consequentially the company may at its discretion take legal action against an individual or organisation that is found to be in breach of its policies.

How we may use customer data

 We may as a result of a consumer or a third parties’ interaction with our website/s obtain their personal data and process their information on our computers and in any other way.

By “third parties” we mean any lender, broker or affiliate who interacts with us in enabling a consumer to make a loan application.

We will use the information to manage their account(s), give them statements and provide our services, for research, assessment and analysis (including credit and/or behaviour scoring, market and product analysis) and to develop and improve our services to the consumer and other consumers and protect our interests.

We, and other carefully selected third parties, will use their information to inform them by post, fax, telephone or other electronic means, about other products and services (including those of others) which we believe may be of interest to them.

If they contact us, we may keep a record of that correspondence.

We will keep details of transactions they carry out through our site and of the fulfilment of their applications and their loan history.

We will keep details of their visits to our site including, but not limited to, traffic data, location data, weblogs and other communication data and the resources that you access.

In order for us to be able to collect and use personal data and / or to pass If they do not want us to use their data in this way, or to pass their details on to third parties for marketing purposes, customers must manually opt in to this agreement (See CONC section of this Compliance Manual).

IP Addresses

 We may collect information about their computer, including where available their IP address, operating system and browser type, for system administration and to report aggregate information to our advertisers. This is statistical data about our users' browsing actions and patterns, and does not identify any individual.

Cookies

 For the same reason, we may obtain information about a consumer’s general internet usage by using a cookie file which is stored on their browser or the hard drive of their computer. Cookies contain information that is transferred to their computer's hard drive. They help us to improve our site and to deliver a better and more personalised service. Some of the cookies we use are essential for the site to operate.

If they register with us or if they continue to use our site, they agree to our use of cookies.

Please note that our advertisers may also use cookies, over which we have no control.

Cookies can be blocked and a consumer may not be able to access all or parts of our site. Unless a consumer has adjusted their browser setting so that it will refuse cookies, our system will issue cookies as soon they visit our site.

Where we store data

The data that we collect from a consumer is stored within the European Economic Area ("EEA"). Such staff may be engaged in, among other things, the assessment and fulfilment of a consumer’s application, the processing of a consumer’s bank details and the provision of support services. By submitting their personal data, they agree to this transfer, storing or processing.  We will take all steps reasonably necessary to ensure that a consumer’s data is treated securely and in accordance with this privacy policy.

All information a consumer provides to us is stored on our secure servers. Any transactions will be encrypted. Where we have given (or where they have chosen) a password which enables you to access certain parts of our site, they are responsible for keeping this password confidential. We ask a consumer not to share a password with anyone.

The transmission of information via the internet is never completely secure. Although our systems exceed industry standards for security, and we will always do our best to protect a consumer’s personal data, we cannot guarantee the security of a consumer’s data transmitted to our site; any transmission is at their own risk. Once we have received their information, we will use strict procedures and security features to try to prevent unauthorised access.

Disclosure of information

We may disclose a consumer’s personal information to any member of our group, which means our subsidiaries, our ultimate holding company and its subsidiaries, as defined in section 1159 of the UK Companies Act 2006.

We may disclose a consumer’s personal information to third parties:

Credit Reference Agencies (CRAs)

When a customer makes an application for a credit, we will check whether they are likely to be able to meet the monthly payments and repay the loan.  However, we are limited in what we can actually do as we do not work directly with CRA’s as we are not eligible to do so.  We will work with what the applicant divulges on their fact find/application but we can only judge as accurately as the information given allows.

When we submit an application to a lender, it is normal practice for a lender to carry out a credit search with a CRA.  In the past, this would have left a search ‘footprint’ on the applicants’ credit file that may be seen by other lenders. Large numbers of applications made within a short period of time would adversely affect a customer’s ability to obtain credit, and they should always consider this before making an application for a loan.

However, the lenders that we have chosen to deal with offer a facility known as a ‘quotation’ search, which does not leave a footprint. This is in line with CONC 2.5.7 which suggests that during the ‘shopping around’ process of the customer, the lenders that we promote should only use a ‘quotation search’, which does not leave a footprint.

Access to information

The Act gives a consumer the right to access information held about them. Your right of access can be exercised in accordance with the Act. Any subject access request may be subject to a fee of £10 to meet our costs in providing them with details of the information we hold about them.

Changes to our Privacy Policy

 Any changes we may make to our privacy policy in the future will be posted on our web page, and, if appropriate, notified to consumers by e-mail.

Questions, comments and requests regarding this privacy policy are welcomed and should be addressed to moneynerduk (at) gmail.com.

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