Erudio Student Loans has admitted over 500 people have mistakenly had money taken from their accounts – not the 50 it formerly said. All those affected have been refunded, but if you've had money taken and haven't had it back, let us know.
This week, MoneySavingExpert.com met Zach Lewy, founder and executive director of Arrow Global, which part-owns Erudio. Our meeting followed the major problems that emerged following the Government's sale of pre-1998 mortgage-style loans to Erudio last November.
See MoneySavingExpert.com's founder Martin Lewis' blog post The Government has sold people out over Erudio student loans for a full round-up of the issues.
The majority of these issues centre around the some 45,000 former students who took out loans between 1990 and 1998 and currently defer repaying the money, as they fall short of the £28,775 per year earnings threshold.
The issues occurred despite ministers promising there would be no real change for borrowers when the loans were sold (see the Student Loan Graduates deserve truth MSE News story for more).
MoneySavingExpert.com has been urging the Government to urgently clear up the confusion for Erudio customers, but despite receiving assurances from his department, Universities and Science Minister David Willetts has yet to provide a comment.
Here's what Erudio told us on a number of our key concerns. We've also asked it to become a company representative on our forum so it can reply to your questions there. It says it will look into doing this.
1. Payments being taken when they shouldn't and without notice
Erudio told us last month that about 50 people whose loans are deferred had mistakenly had repayments taken from their bank account by direct debit (see the Graduates have money taken from accounts despite deferring MSE News story).
MoneySavingExpert.com's editor-in-chief, Martin Lewis, challenged Erudio's numbers on Radio 5 live suggesting it was substantially underestimating how many people were affected when it said it was 50.
But it has now confirmed that after carrying out a thorough check, there were actually 531 people who had money taken incorrectly. It says this mistake has since been rectified and all those affected have been refunded.
If you've had money taken from your bank account and you haven't been refunded, please let us know via the forum link below. You should also report it to Erudio. If you don't get a satisfactory response, you can take your complaint to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.
You can also get a refund from your bank or building society under the Direct Debit Guarantee.
Customers whose loans were deferred when Erudio bought them from the Student Loans Company's (SLC) don't need to do anything until the end of their deferral period. Deferrals last 12 months before they have to be reviewed, at which point Erudio will send you a deferral form to complete.
If you don't complete and return this form, Erudio will assume you're no longer eligible to defer and will start collecting loan payments. The SLC has confirmed this is the same process it used.
2. The form is far more invasive
When the SLC operated the loans, there was a form to "apply for a deferral of repayment". But now there's an untitled form, which asks far more questions. It's also left many former students confused about what questions are compulsory and whether they will actually get their deferrals.
Erudio told us it's setting up a new deferral form, which clearly explains what it's for, and which tells customers which questions are compulsory or optional. It says it's working to incorporate all of the feedback received to date and will update the deferment form in due course.
It will also share this form with MoneySavingExpert.com before it's published, so we can put it to our users and then share this feedback. There's no date yet as to when the form will be updated, but Erudio says it will be this year.
It adds that customer feedback will also influence changes to its guides.
3. Erudio is handing over information to credit reference agencies
The SLC only registered information with credit agencies when someone defaulted, but Erudio is telling credit reference agencies about all those with outstanding loans that are deferred.
Erudio says it's promoting responsible lending by doing this and that accurate credit reports are important. It also says if it doesn't put data into credit agencies, it can't get any data out of them.
The Government says the terms and conditions of fixed-term student loans have not changed as a result of their sale to Erudio. But this is obviously a change to the customs and practice of the SLC's dealings with borrowers.
4. Poor customer service and delays processing deferrals
We've been inundated with reports of poor customer service from Erudio, as well as of lengthy delays processing deferrals.
Erudio outsources the servicing of its loans to Capita. It says poor customer service from its helpline is down to the fact it sent out a lot of letters about the sale, deferments, and direct debits in a short period of time, leading to a lot of people getting in touch.
It adds this was exacerbated by students who hadn't kept their addresses up to date, so had not received any letters and were confused about what was happening.
Erudio says it had extra staff working over the recent bank holidays to catch up on enquiries. It adds deferrals are now being processed much quicker, taking 21 days.