This is your five-month warning. In 124 days’ time, you will no longer be able to make a complaint about Payment Protection Insurance (PPI), the huge financial mis-selling scandal that has seen banks, building societies, credit card and loan providers compensate people to the tune of £34.4 billion.
Banks are paying out astronomical amounts of money to victims of this fiasco every single month – in February 2019 alone, customers who complained about PPI received more than a quarter of a billion pounds in compensation.
PPI is an insurance product sold alongside credit cards, loans and many other finance agreements. It’s meant to ensure that payments are made if the borrower is unable to make them due to sickness or unemployment.
But huge numbers of policies were mis-sold in the 1990s and 2000s, because the policyholders would never have been able to claim on the insurance. Sometimes they were told they had to take it out as a condition of getting a loan. In the worst cases, it was simply added without people’s consent.
This scandal has been rumbling on for years and in 2017, the city watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), introduced a deadline for PPI complaints. You have until 29 August 2019 to lodge a complaint about PPI mis-selling and get the compensation you’re owed.
As a financial journalist for more than a decade, I’ve been covering PPI for a long time. But even I admit that this deadline has come around incredibly quickly and – I’m ashamed to admit – I’m in the midst of making a complaint myself perilously close to end date.
Just a fortnight ago my wife and I were taking advantage of a free weekend, with our son at his grandparents, to get through some of the kind of life admin that gets completely ignored when you’re the knackered parents of a rambunctious toddler.
One thing that I cannot bear is how my wife allows her old email account to build up with unread messages – I begin to sweat with stress seeing that she has 5,000 unopened emails. So while she tackled the mound of baby clothes too small for our wee lad, I offered to clean up her inbox.
I’d successfully cleared around a third of these – about 57 per cent were about buying cheap Viagra – when I discovered a hidden folder labelled ‘Egg statements’. When I queried this with my wife, she casually mentioned that she had two credit cards and a loan from the now-defunct lender dating back to the mid-noughties.
Clearly, the urgency of the PPI deadline was lost on her.
Fortunately, it couldn’t be simpler to make a PPI complaint today. When the FCA introduced its deadline, it worked with financial companies to allow consumers to submit a complaint online, made claim forms easier to understand and offered support vulnerable customers who need extra help to submit a claim.
It has also launched a free helpline on 0800 101 8800, and on its website (fca.org.uk/ppi) published contact details of providers to direct your complaint too. Which? (my employer), along with companies such as Moneysavingexpert.com and Resolver, also provide free complaint-submission tools, template letters and FAQs to help you submit a complaint about PPI.
Going on to the FCA’s site, I was able to find out that Citibank was responsible for Egg PPI complaints for products held before 2011. I didn’t have the policy numbers of the accounts my wife held, so completed an online form on the bank’s website to see if she had PPI.
Just five days later, a letter came through the door, confirming that the insurance was sold on both credit cards and the loan that she had, and account numbers. Armed with that information, I submitted another letter requesting all information on the sale of the cover to help her build a complaint letter using a template on which.co.uk/ppi.
The bank has eight weeks to respond – and we could well be welcoming some compensation by the end of June, made up of the premiums my wife paid out for the policy, as well as the annual interest of 8 per cent.
What’s the moral of this story? If you took out a credit card, loan or mortgage in the past two decades, it’s absolutely worth checking to see if you were inappropriately sold PPI – and to get your skates on. Failing to act by 29 August could see you missing out on potentially thousands of pounds in redress.
And a final note – my experience has shown that it is really easy to make a PPI complaint on your own. You do not need to use a claims management company, who say they’ll do the hard work for you but could take almost a quarter of your compensation in commission.
It is you that fell victim to the biggest mis-selling crisis of a generation – you should be the one that fully benefits from the compensation due to you.
Gareth Shaw is head of Which? Money online