ACROSS the UK it’s “Talk Money Talk Pensions” week. Almost a quarter of UK adults have less than £100 in savings and nine million people use credit to buy food or pay bills. A massive

22 million of us don’t feel we understand enough about pensions to make decisions about saving for retirement.

The idea behind Talk Money Talk Pensions week is to help improve financial wellbeing by encouraging people to talk about their money worries and seek free confidential help and advice whether online, over the telephone or face-to-face.

I want to talk about not accepting unfair or awful deals as a fait accompli. Don’t let a life draining money problem fester. You might be surprised to discover the law is on your side.

When we have difficulties in life, we are generally more vulnerable to exploitation or being ripped off. We all make bad choices. When it comes to financial products there is an inequality of knowledge.

The business knows precisely what they are selling. You don’t, and if your back is to the wall financially you may accept whatever is available. I’ve seen every manner of rip-off as a Glasgow law centre lawyer over 25 years. Financial products that plunge vulnerable customers into Dante’s nine circles of hell.

For example, a retired couple came into to see me threatened with mortgage repossession following a demand for £1.6m on a secured loan of £5,500. The loan had been taken out in the early 1990s and almost £30,000 had been repaid on an interest rate of 34%. Turned out there had been a small balance due. The mortgage was sold on to a big debt purchasing firm who applied over 20 years of eye-watering interest and charges on a compound basis.

I pursued a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) in London and the mortgage was discharged for just over £5,000. The family had been in turmoil for some time until then.

It’s never too early to seek help and in Glasgow we have a brilliant range of free advice agencies from community law centres, money advice agencies and CABx, funded by the council and others. Free and independent online help is available at:

Last week the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) introduced new rules to stop firms maxing out profits on “Buy Now Pay Later” deals. These offers are used by stores, retailers and catalogue companies where you get 12 months interest free grace before a balance has to be paid off. A third of consumers couldn’t clear their balance off within a year but were still being charged backdated interest on the full price – the FCA has now banned charging interest on payments made.

Before you can go to the FOS with a complaint you need to ask for a final decision from a business using their own complaints procedure or eight weeks has to elapse. This month, called for the eight-week rule to be reduced to two or four weeks.

I agree as with e-mails and online processes a two-month wait is too long. The FCA has the power to change that rule now.

The FOS decides cases on a common sense test of what is “fair and reasonable” in all of the circumstances. For actions from firms before April 1, 2019 the Ombudsman can award up to £160,000 and for actions after that date, up to £350,000. It also has very wide powers.

To give some examples. I had a client who was told he was being sold a 20-year mortgage by a high street bank, but it turned out to be a short-term secured loan for three years. The bank didn’t want his custom when he went off long-term sick and called-up the mortgage, but we persuaded the FOS to require the bank to restructure to a 20-year mortgage and pay him compensation for being hoodwinked.

Another couple I acted for were sold a £20,000 loan on interest rate of 16.2% just before they retired. It ran for 40 years – which disguised its cost – and the couple would have had to lived to 100 to pay it off. There had been no proper affordability checks undertaken.

The Ombudsman ordered the lender to release the couple from the agreement, effectively writing-off £100,000 in terms of the loan.

Businesses may take payments using the long number of your bank or credit card – a “Continuous Payment Authority” (CPA) – which allows firms to dip into your account anytime. You have a right to instruct your bank or credit card company to cancel if in dispute, but should take advice before doing so.

People are sold stuff which is bad for their financial health. Contracts that disguise costs. Contracts with sneaky charges in the small print. If in doubt free help is only an email or telephone call away in Glasgow.