Scam Alert: Vanquis Bank
You may - or may not - have seen a recent financial update relating to sub-prime lenders Provident Financial Plc. Their recent forecast for a full-year loss lead to a 90% slump in share prices, along with the revelation that their credit card division - Vanquis - was under investigation by the FCA.
Share prices dropped from the £30-mark to just 426p precipitating the removal of the CEO, Peter Crook, and the calls from investors that the investigation should have been disclosed sooner.
A few years ago I'd applied for a credit card whilst trying to identify the cause of an issue on my own credit file; it turned out that another bank had made a serious error and 'marked' my credit file. They've since resolved the error.
I don't remember whether my Vanquis application was completed or not but last year - two years after my original application - and after no further contact from Vanquis, I started receiving spam through the post.
After a SAR in which they refused to accept payment in any other method than a cheque by post to them, they refused to accept the SAR itself unless it was sent via post.
Neither of these reasons are allowable obstructions for rejecting a SAR.
After explaining to Vanquis via email over the course of the following month that I need their bank details to make an electronic transaction, and that the details they required for validation were supplied on the original SAR, they went quiet.
After receiving an NBA for failure to adequately respond to my SAR (and attempt to evade and obstruct), I was sent an email by another representative who stated that "Your request for information below has now been passed to me following your dissatisfaction at the prior outcome."
Ah - so legal threats are the only way to get a UK firm to comply with UK law?
Three months after the SAR Vanquis were asking me for payment via post / cheque and I was iterating that, I don't have a cheque book and to send me their bank details.
I explained that often organisations use the meaningless £10 fee as a dissuasive measure and - sure enough on the 3rd of October - Vanquis' representative waived the SAR fee. The reason for this emboldened text will become clear later.
The CR Legal & Regulatory Disputes Team Leader then told me that they would go and get the data involved. A little under a fortnight later she sent me another email with an update; they were still collating the data.
However after repeated attempts in following weeks to contact this same team leader, Chantelle (Customer Relations External) told me that Tracy was on leave but my request was being processed.
That was the last I head from Vanquis and I was forced to resort to the courts by mid-November.
I correctly followed CPR in filing and serving at the appropriate times, along with filing relevant certificates of service. I sent the defendant the PoC to the same email address that they'd previously corresponded with and received a delivery receipt.
Matters of Disagreement
The CCBC asked me to again send the detailed particulars - I replied including the certificates of service and the relevant documents. The court clerk apologised realising that I'd already submitted them to both the defendant and (not knowing any better myself) the CCBC itself.
In their defence, Vanquis claimed that:
- I had never paid the £10 SAR fee
- I had not served the particulars of claim
- They could not therefore file a proper defence
- the claim should therefore be struck out
From my own experience in data architecture I very much doubt that this is the entire data set. For example, as part of the original application process I was asked for my DoB. This was not present on the SAR response, and the data provided related to an address I had not yet moved to by the time the application was made. Clearly this SAR response was fabricated.
Due to a problem with postal delivery at my end - and after DQ's were submitted - I did not receive anything further from the courts or the defendants and assume that the case was struck out as a result.
Why Does This Matter?
- It took direct legal action for Vanquis to respond to my SAR - their response staff have little or no idea how to respond to such requests. Either their training is inadequate or they haven't established proper process at all. Along with the fact that they are being investigated by the FCA this does not inspire confidence that sensitive personal data is being handled with care
- A PLC which is regulated by the FCA has absolutely no excuse for not having enough budget, legal representative and advice for understanding it's obligations under EU and UK data protection law
- Vanquis lied about their reasons for refusing to respond to a simple request in papers lodged in a court of law. I'm not sure whether that's counted as perjury but it would have been exceedingly easy to disprove in a hearing
- I have it in writing from Vanquis that they were waiving the ridiculous fee, yet their defence attempted to reinstitute the requirement
- Vanquis retained data for two years and assumed that it was still
- appropriate to send marketing messages
- sensible to do any of the above despite having no contact for that entire two year period
- Vanquis in all likelihood retain applicant & customer data indefinitely
This is clearly a company in financial trouble who will do anything - including potentially monetising their contact database - to help shore up confidence in it's shareholders.
Choose more carefully from the multitude of other options.