Received a reply today from the chap I sent my Data Protection Act Subject access request to: Richard Cooke, Data Protection Officer, Citi Cards, CitiFinancial Europe plc, 1 Exchange Quay, Salford, Manchester, M5 3EA. He thanked me for my letter and cheque, accepting my request for data.
However, it goes on to say that if I wish them to provide me with any instances of manual intervention then I need to complete the enclosed form.
The form runs to seven sides of A4 but much of this is explanantory notes and it only takes a few minutes to complete. It also requires two forms of identification. They were happy to send me a variety of correspondence including statements without any further proof of identity, but require it for the manual intervention part of the DPA SAR. I am posting the completed form back today.
I asked Citi Cards some time ago to close the account but today found that they didn't action it. The account is still running with a zero balance. They had stopped sending me statements ...till this morning when one arrived in a separate envelope alongside their letter.
After sending their form with ID to the incorrect address stated on their form ("The Data Protection Officer, Compliance Department, 1 Exchange Quay, Salford Quays, Manchester, M5 3EA" it was returned marked "incomplete address" by Royal Mail), I sent it to the address I originally used for the Data Protection Act Subject access request as quoted on this site, "Richard Cooke, Data Protection Officer, Citi Cards, CitiFinancial Europe plc, 1 Exchange Quay, Salford, Manchester, M5 3EA" with no problem.
Citi Cards response to my PAR letter arrived today, 26 July 2006:
"Thank you for taking the time to write to me about the charges, which have been added to your Citi Card account.
On Wednesday 5th April 2006 the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) issued a statement regarding the default charges levied on customers by credit card issuers for breaches of contract such as making a late payment or going over their credit limit.
Within this statement the OFT has stated that it believes that those charges are too high and has recommended credit card companies review their position with a view to reducing their respective charges to a maximum of £12, unless there are exceptional reasons why a higher level should apply. Card issuers had been requested to review and respond to the OFT by 31 May 2006.
Although not a party to the OFT investigation that led to its report, Citi Cards is aware of the report and we have undertaken to reconsider our charges in light of the OFT statement.
In order to remain competitive with other lenders we have reconsidered these charges after a review of the market. From 28 June onwards we have lowered our charges to the OFT recommended rate of £12. This change is not retrospective in effect.
I understand that this was not the outcome you would have hoped for and if you would like an independent review of this, you may refer to the Finance and Leasing Association at the following address:
The Compliance Manager 4th Floor Imperial House 15-19 Kingsway London WC2B 6UN www.fla.org.uk
You may also contact the Financial Ombudsman Service. This must be done within six months of the date of this letter. I have enclosed their leaflet for you. If you have any other questions or would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to contact me on the number below and I will be happy to assist you.
In the spirit of fostering dialogue, I have just phoned CM to say that I disagree with the conclusions of the response letter. I also contend that the charges are unlawful based on over 100 years of consumer law. CM said that Citi Cards legal dept had reviewed the charges and said that they are lawful.
I said I disagreed and would therefore be sending my lba at 14 days from my original PAR letter. CM asked for the LBA to be marked for CM's attention so it could be passed by CM to their legal department.
However, I will wait till 14 days to send the LBA because it is generally held on this site that a Court would not be likely to see 2 x 14 days periods (i.e. 14 days for Preliminary Approach for Payment, followed by 14 days for letter before action) as unreasonable. Any shorter period could ultimately be open to question by a Court.
Please correct me if I am mistaken, but I have not yet seen any advice from Dave, Bankfodder, or any of the Moderators to recommend a shortened timescale, i.e. one of less than 28 days.
From 28 June onwards we have lowered our charges to the OFT recommended rate of £12.
Naughty, naughty!! The OFT did not recommend a rate of £12. They simply used that amount as a level above which they would take punitive action, whilst at the same time stating that £12 should not be taken to be a reasonable figure (or words to that effect).
I think you should send a copy of that letter to the OFT, Bean:grin:
They also used that phrase in their official Defence against my claim.
My response to the court was:
The Claimant would like add some clarity to the above statement. The statement suggests that the OFT has set a “new industry standard” of £12 for default charges. This is misleading. The OFT actually stated: Where credit card default charges are set at more than £12, the OFT will presume that they are unfair, and is likely to challenge the charge unless there are limited, exceptional business factors in play. A default charge is not fair simply because it is below £12. To suggest that the OFT has set an “industry standard” of £12 is a gross misinterpretation of the statement.
elsinore & mondayboy - thanks for your comments - I thought exactly the same when I received their reply, I completely agree with both of you.
I will shortly be sending a copy to the OFT, the FSA, my MP, and any other appropriate organisation (suggestions welcome) asking what action they intend to take. I will also be sending a letter to Citi Cards highlighting their misleading response and the fact that this pathetic attempt to mislead has resulted in my copying the letter to those organisations.
I included the following:
Some of the content of your letter is misleading. You state "From 28 June onwards we have lowered our charges to the OFT recommended rate of £12". The OFT did NOT recommend £12. I shall be sending a copy of your letter to the OFT and the FSA, inviting their comments.
I will address the matter of Citi Cards' misleading comments in full shortly, with quotes from the OFT as necessary.
No correspondence from the local county court yet to say the claim has been acknowledged or defended, but letter from Citi Cards dated 30 August 2006 includes their defence and an offer cheque for £91.
Letter reads: "I act on behalf of CitiFinancial Europe plc. Please find enclosed the Defence together with a cheque for £91".
Defence reads: "1. The Defendant is a credit card company whose registered office is at 87 Castle Street, Reading, RG1 7DX.
2. The Defendant admits that at all material times it operated a credit card business at 1 Exchange Quay, Slaford, Manchester, M5 3EA.
3. The Defendant further admits that the Claimant had a credit card account ("the Agreement") with the Defendant, which was opened in or about <date>.
4. The Defendant admits that the Agreement with the Claimant contains terms entitling the Defendant to levy default charges and that the Claimant agreed to the same when she signed the agreement.
5. The Defendant denies that the same are: 5.1 punitive in nature 5.2 unenforceable or invalid as being contrary to common law and/or the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977 or Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999; and/or 5.3 unreasonable under section 15 of the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, and puts the Claimant to proof that the clauses complained of are a disproportionate penalty clauses and/or unreasonable by reference to specific case law and/or by demonstrating that particular sections of the Acts and Regulations quoted apply.
6. The Defendant denies that it unlawfully debited the Claimant's account with default charges. The Defendant avers that all of the charges were levied against actual rather than "purported" breaches of the Agreement and puts the Claimant to proof as to why his failures to pay on time do not constitute a breach.
7. The Defendant admits that between <date> and <date>, the sum of £xxx was debited to the Claimant's account by way of default fees as per the Terms & Conditions of the Agreement.
8. The Claimant is claiming as a money claim a sum equivalent to that which she claims was unlawfully debited to his account over the term of the Agreement in late payment fees. This claim is entirely based on the recent OFT statement on the alleged unfairness of such default fees. The OFT stated that the level at which default charges , though not the principle of default charging itself, was unfair in the context of the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regualations 1999. It also reported that the charges were, in its opinion, a penalty contrary to common law principles of damages for breach of contract.
9. The Defendant notes that the Claimant believes a fair amount for his breach of contract would be zero and cites the Consumer Action Group as authority for this. The Defendant avers that this is an unrealistic level for such a breach and relies upon the OFT's own reported figure of £12 which was based on considerable evidence as to the business costs involved in running a consumer credit business in the UK, none of which either the Claimant nor the Consumer Action Group has seen. The Defendant avers that its actual costs exceed the £12 limit suggested by the OFT but accepts that this would render it uncompetitive in the marketplace and hence it has accepted the new, lower rate.
10. The Defendant has agreed to abide by the OFT report and adopt a lower level of the default fees which it has set at the new industry standard of £12. Over the lifetime of this account the Claimant has set its default charges at £25. Therefore the Defendant has made an ex gratia refund of the difference between these amounts and the current default charge of £12. This amounts to £91. This sum has been refunded to the Claimant by cheque.
11. The Defendant denies that it owe the Claimant any further monies claimed, whether on the basis of the case stated or at all.
12. The Defendant avers that the Claimant's claim is not a money claim but a damages action and further avers that the Claimant's interest calculation is not applicable to this action or, if it is applicable to this action, that it is set out without sufficient particularity and the Defendant puts the Claiamant to proof that this interest is owed. Specifically, the Defendant notes that the Claimant has claimed interest from the date each default fee was incurred, rahter than the date of any payment. As the Defendant is a credit institution and not a deposit taker, it cannot set off default charges against money held on account. As such, it can not be held liable for interest on a notionally paid debt rather than an actual one.
13. Save as otherwise admitted, the Claimant's Particulars of Claim are denied and each and every allegation in the Particulars of Claim is specifically denied.
STATEMENT OF TRUTH The Defendant believes that the facts stated in this Statement are true. I am duly authorised by the Defendant to sign this Statement.
Signed: ......................... .. Dated: 30/8/06 BS Solicitor for the Defendant"
Allocation Questionnaires (court form N149) were due to be returned to the Court on or before 10 October 2006. I returned mine yesterday.
In "Section G - Other Information" I stated the following:
"I, the Claimant, have provided a spreadsheet of charges and interest with the completed N1 claim form.
The Claimant seeks standard disclosure and inspection. There is some doubt that the Defendant, Citi Cards, is dealing in good faith as required by the fiduciary relationship. Citi Cards has fiduciary duty, and so has a duty to disclose the basis of it’s costs to me. I am perfectly willing to be bound by a confidentiality agreement regarding costs if truthful, proven, verifiable cost information is provided to me. If the Defendant can not fully substantiate costs of £25 per item, then it has been charging excessive penalties and should pay the claim sum to me.
The Defendant has offered a payment of £91 in the form of a Citi Cards cheque which I have not banked and will return to Citi Cards. This offer was based on the Office of Fair Trading setting a £12 cap on charges, but the OFT did not state that charges of less than £12 would necessarily be lawful, only that it would take legal action against those institutions who set charges at more than £12. It left consumers to claim for themselves if they considered the charges excessive. The Consumers Association, Which?, and The Consumer Action Group are examples of organisations who consider the charges excessive penalties. In response to Banking industry evidence, the Treasury Select Committee (EDM2227, 22 May 2006, "Transparency in Charging" section 49) said "accounting policies and bases for charging…some of which, on our preliminary analysis, are of questionable validity under the regulations on unfair terms in consumer contracts". "
I take it you would recommend sending the cheque back and informing the court, i did not recive my cheque until after i recived citis defence and my aq, i handed it back the same day i received it, so the court are so far unaware of this.
I think we are on the same timescale im a week ahead of you i think.
Any advice greatfully received.
Excellent other information by the way
Lloyds TSB (SARS) request sent 9th June 2006
£2191 Moneyclaim Issued 11/08/2006, Acknowleded 17th August Defence 14 Sep, AQ returned 5/10/2006.SETTLED IN FULL £2,670 26/11/2006/ Lloyds Credit Card SETTLED IN FULL £267 MBNA SETTLED IN FULL 15/09/2006 £829 Citicard (SARS) request sent 22nd June 2006 Moneyclaim issued 19th Sep, Defence and AQ received 5/10/2006, AQ returned 5/10/2006, part refund received 10/10/2006
GE MONEY SETTLLED IN FULL £400
Barclaycard Me and Mrs SARS sent 19/10/2006 settled £350
Welcome Finance PPI 2 accounts one settled £1018 waiting on other
GE Money PPI 1 account settled 8/5/2008 £560 2nd account SETTLED IN FULL £3,599.78p 15thAugust 2008
Lloyds TSB PPI CC complaint sent 10/04/2008
Black Horse PPI with FOS 20/05/2008
HFC PPI complaint sent 22/05/2008
...I take it you would recommend sending the cheque back and informing the court, i did not recive my cheque until after i recived citis defence and my aq, i handed it back the same day i received it, so the court are so far unaware of this...
Presumably the cheque is for the difference between £25 per item and their new figure of £12 per item.
It's entirely your call, if you think that Citi Cards have charged you excessively for any breach of contract then with no information to the contrary, you should be due your claim sum. They have had their chance to charge you fairly, IF they have not done so, they have been found wanting, and they deserve nothing. If they wish to argue that you agreed to pay their reasonable costs, that is another matter that is for them to raise and to be discussed in reaching any settlement.
If Citi Cards could send me a legally binding breakdown of their charges that showed they were entirely justified in taking £25 a pop, my argument against them would cease, but I doubt that is going to happen.
I would thank Citi Cards for their offer, decline it, state that the cheque has been returned, state that the claim continues, and inform the court that this sum was offered but has not been accepted.
Please don't pm me about specific questions unless you have posted and it has not been dealt with or unless the matter is confidential.
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Advice & opinions of BankFodder, The Consumer Action Group and The Bank Action Group are offered informally, without prejudice & without liability. Use your own judgment. Seek advice of a qualified insured professional if you have any doubts.
In my Allocation Questionnaire, I requested a month in which to negotiate a settlement.
I have just received from the Court a "General Form of Judgment or Order", dated 19 November 2006:
"IT IS ORDERED THAT
1 The claim be stayed until the 11 December 2006 to allow parties an opportunity to negotiate a settlement of the claim
2 The Claimant must by the 11 December 2006 inform the court in writing of the progress in resolving the claim since it was stayed. If the Claimant does not do so, then the claim shall stand struck out and the Claimant pay the costs of the Defendant, to be assessed
3 Any party affected by the order may apply within 7 days of service of it upon them to have it varied, set aside or stayed
Dated 06 November 2006"