We were extremely disappointed to read that the FCA had put out public warnings regarding one of the brands that Quick Loans is linked to. Once again the FCA is enforcement signalling - whilst really doing nothing. We have written to them asking them to explain their defamatory allegations. These are highly damaging to our reputation.
Earlier this afternoon we received an email from a well respected journalist asking if we had any comment regarding the Financial Conduct Authority's warning to the public to stay away from one of our sites. That site in question was unemployedloans.co.uk.
As a company we pride ourselves on being ethical and have never had a complaint lodged with the FCA, we have never charged any upfront fees and stayed away from all that PPI nonsense.
This is why we are taken aback. Whether deliberately or by accident the FCA has taken a shot at us and we believe this is unfair and their allegations are unfounded and defamatory. 24 hours after making this statement, they are currently hiding from us and nobody will answer our questions.
Below is a breakdown of what has occurred.
1) The Warning
2) Enforcement Signalling
3) The FCA understanding what is actually happening?
The Warning Itself
The FCA says:
"We have published this statement in order to warn investors against dealing with unauthorised firms. We believe this firm has been providing financial services or products in the UK without our authorisation. Find out why to be especially wary of dealing with this unauthorised firm and how to protect yourself from scammers."
Now this is news to us here at Quick Loans. The unemployedloans.co.uk site is unable to take any orders and the application form doesn't work, in fact it isn't connected to anything because we have never used it. The site is what we call a "blue sky thinking" site.
Sometimes we launch sites that are not active, we gauge the traffic or demand and then decide if we can make a business model out of it. We have many of these types of sites, but most will never see the light of day. The sites are not performing any authorised tasks and therefore don't need any authorisation. UnemployedLoans.co.uk went online around January 2016 and we forgot it was even live. Reloan.uk is another one that is a blue sky thinker that doesn't actually do anything.
If the FCA had genuine concerns about the site, would it not have been prudent to test the site? Take screenshots etc? After all, isn't performing these tasks without a licence a crime? Don't crimes need evidence to be prosecuted?
This brings us to our next point - enforcement signalling.
We don't feel that the FCA are interested in the enforcing of rules; what they are interested in, is looking like they are enforcing rules. This is something we have witnessed over the last year or two.
A few things to think about: Why haven't they got evidence of the site unemployedloans.co.uk committing a crime? They don't have evidence because it never broke any rules.
That's not really the point though.
If they would have tried to get evidence, one of two things would have happened. They would have:
A) Found that no breach of the rules had been committed and therefore no need for a defamatory statement on its website. Or:
B) they would have got the evidence they would have needed to prosecute.
In our opinion, the fact that they didn't try the aforementioned is the worrying part.
They never even tried contacting us or attempting any basic checks.
If the FCA were serious about enforcement why did they not contact us and ask us for our views or attempt to take the site down? Our sites are authorised with the FCA on their interim permission register. They have all of our details.
The ownership of the website is very clear:
Within minutes of the FCA warning going live we received an email asking for comment. As you can imagine, we were surprised and somewhat confused as we had not had any issues with the site previously and had certainly not had any issues raised by the FCA.
Why did the FCA not just ask us to take it down? I just don't get what they are up to. Surelly if the site was such a risk, why not contact the owner and get them to take it down. That's very basic stuff is it not? What are they hoping dodgy sites actually do? Just disappear on their own?
Within seconds of looking at the FCA's warning, it was clear to us what was happening.
The FCA's warning contains a series of phone numbers that they say scammers are using. We can spot that the numbers linked to this scam are the ones that we have spent the last 6 years warning people about - in fact over the last 2 years it's gone to hyper levels of scamming and we have been doing our best to keep people in the loop. Again very basic checks on Google regarding these numbers would have led the FCA to the truth.
There are two schools of thought here. The first is that the FCA doesn't want to admit that it can't do anything about the scam because the people performing it are out in India (that doesn't really hold up though, they put warnings out about our sister company site Self Cert and we are only in Prague)
The second (which we think more probable) is that they don't want to admit that their own intervention with the payday price cap has forced people into the hands of scammers. They were warned beforehand and they chose to ignore that advice. Now fraud in the financial sector is out of control; victims are so desperate that they will hand over money in upfront fees because they have no other choice but to try and get credit from somewhere.
In our view, the FCA should just post that there is now an epidemic of fraud and alert people to the scale of this.
If that isn't the case, we are afraid we have to consider a final point.
Could it be true that the FCA just don't have any idea what is really going on?
Here is one example that is currently ongoing and will demonstrate the scale of the failings at the FCA.
There are two massive lenders in the Guarantor sector who's numbers do not add up. Anyone with a simple calculator and a little knowledge of calculating APR's would be able to spot these in an instant.
These lenders had incorrect numbers in their Representative APR breakdowns that have to appear next to all trigger words like "Apply" etc.
Now the FCA has to take responsibility here because these companies have had these wrong costs on their websites from the days of the OFT. The FCA would have had to go over these websites with a fine toothcomb to then give them their full permissions and yet somehow they don't spot these glaring errors.
Now we aren't going to name and shame these two large lenders. It's none of our business, people can go check the breakdown of costs for themselves. We checked two and both are still wrong even to this day. If this gets out, borrowers would have a massive claim because the costs they were given for a loan were wrong - factually wrong and it's all documented. There is nothing these two lenders can do to change that. The costs presented to customers are understated by around a £1000 each.
Ultimately, in our opinion, the FCA doesn't care, they are enforcement signalling again and again. They take the fees but don't do the checks, it must be very embarrasing. All they care about are things appearing to be in place and brushing complicated things under the carpet. The warnings have to appear in the right place or there is hell to pay, who cares if the warnings actually add up - who checks?
Again we are disappointed, we've worked hard over the years to gather our repuation. These warnings hurt me personally and all of this could have been avoided by someone within the FCA just doing some very basic checks.
At the very least, they should have taken the time to contact us, asked us to take it down if they truly thought it was a risk to anyone, answer our questions regarding the basis of their warning - 24 hours later and we are still waiting.
None of these things happened.