Erudio Student Loans

I’d like to write, and rant, a bit today about Student Loans and my ongoing troubles since the UK Government sold the remaining mortgage style student loans to a private firm, Erudio Student Loans, for a quick buck.

I was vaguely aware that something was happening when I caught a news story on the BBC last year entitled Ageing Student Loans Sold To Debt Firms. This of course isn’t the first time this has happened. As I mentioned in my earlier post detailing the rough history of Student Loans in the UK there was an earlier sale in 2008 when a few of the oldest loans were sold to Thesis Servicing and Honours Student Loans

My earliest loan from 1997, my first year at University, was sold to Thesis. I’ll admit freely admit that the sale caused me a bit of panic at the time, but as it turned out I didn’t really notice any material difference. The Student Loans Company was still responsible for administering loans and everything worked smoothly. Other than receiving separate account updates the system continued as before. I’ve deferred my loans every year since I graduated. Up until this year, which I’ll describe in a minute, the system has been straightforward. The Student Loans Company would send out a deferment application form in early March, and always at least eight weeks before the end of my deferment at the end of April. I would fill out the one page form, sign the declaration of earnings, include three month’s payslips and send the thing off to the Student Loans Company in Glasgow.

I’ve never once had a problem with the deferment process in the decade and a half that the Student Loans Company have run it, and any minor queries like a change of details were handled quickly and efficiently.

In November 2013 the Tory government announced it was selling the remaining Mortgage Style Loans to a new company called Erudio. I didn’t pay much attention as I assumed that, like the sale to Thesis, everything would continue as before with the SLC doing all the administration. With hindsight I wish I had paid a lot more attention to what was going on.

If I’m honest I should have started to question what was going on when my deferment form didn’t arrive at the beginning of March. Instead I assumed that they were running late. The advice from the Student Loans Company was to make contact if the form hadn’t appeared at least four weeks before the deferment end date.

I decided to wait. Still oblivious to what was coming.

At the beginning of april a letter arrived, but instead of the deferment form it was pack containing a Notice of Assignment from the Student Loans Company. A legal requirment to tell me that my Student Loans had been sold to a company called Erudio Student Loans. The letter noted that I was in deferment, and said that a deferment application would be sent to me before the end of my deferment period. There was no mention on the letter of the loan that had been sold to Thesis, and it was now less than a month until the end of my deferment period.

OK I thought. Maybe they’re behind sending out the forms because of the sale. I’ll wait a bit and see what happens.

I waited a couple of days, but nothing else materialised, so I gave Erudio a call and that’s when the fun started.

It took four attempts, on an 0845 number naturally, of about five minutes each to finally get through to a person. The first person I spoke to didn’t have a clue. They asked for a reference number that didn’t match anything on the letter I had, and then couldn’t find my details on their system even with my name, address, postcode and course details. The call handler asked me to call back later and laid the blame at the transfer of accounts from the Student Loans Company. The advisor said that there had been a lot of delays in sending out the forms, but it would likely turn up in the next couple of days.

I waited a few days, but when no form materialised I called Erudio again. This time the advisor told me that their systems had broken down, but when I asked for general advice about what happened when loans were split between two companies I was quickly told that the Student Loans Company were dealing with those specific accounts and I should contact them.

OK I thought. That makes sense. I’ll call the Student Loans Company and see what’s happening, but upon calling the help line number on the letter I’m greeted by a pre-recorded message telling me that my loans were to Honours, Thesis and Erudio and giving contact details for the three companies. The recording then cut off the call without giving the opportunity to talk to an advisor.

Some help SLC. Thanks.

I called the main SLC help line, but the advisor, while sympathetic, was unable to help and said the SLC were unable to deal with any of the mortgage style loans after the sell off. Though they were responsible for administering the Thesis and Honours loans. Deferment application forms need to be requested through those companies. Erudio, I was told, were running their own independent deferment process.

Nothing like the old call centre run around is there?

I’ll also point out that there’s absolutely no information out there for anyone in a similar situation to me. All four companies, Student Loans, Thesis, Honours and Erudio have completely failed to give any concrete advice on their website, or via their staff, as to the procedure for dealing with loans to multiple companies.

I hold the Student Loans Company particularly responsible for this lack of information as they’re the hub of the entire system and everything on their website screams, “your loans been sold off we don’t know and don’t care what happens next.”

By this point I was starting to get worried so I called Thesis, explained I hadn’t had a deferment form and asked for one to be sent. They couldn’t have been more helpful and organised one immediately. Then I called Erudio but despite calling at several points throughout the day I failed to get through. When I finally did get through the following morning the call handler had an awful attitude and acted like I had kicked in their door at 2AM in search of the family silver. They did find me on their system, and said a form would be sent out, but the advisor’s attitude didn’t inspire confidence in me.

My deferment date arrived without any further contact from Erudio, and lo and behold a direct debit had appeared on my account for ESL Ltd (Erudio Student Loans Ltd? I assume). It promptly pinched over a hundred pounds from my account without so much as a by-your-leave. This of course, as surprise direct debits are want to do, instantly put me overdrawn.

I went to my branch and spoke to an advisor. Explained that I had no idea who ESL Ltd were (though I had a suspicion), that I had not received an information on payment dates or amounts and that I had not signed any direct debit mandates allowing ESL Ltd to take money from my account. Since any one of those three thing breaches the Direct Debit Guarantee my bank were more than happy to simply reverse the Direct Debit and refund my money.

After a quick search on google, and finding a few dozen other people complaining on forums, Facebook and Twitter about having Direct Debits taken by ESL Ltd without any warning, I came to the angry conclusion that ESL Ltd was Erudio as I had suspected. Not they had taken the money without telling me, and without allowing me the opportunity to defer my loans.

I called their call centre, seething at their actions, and after a wait of several minutes I was connected with yet another utterly disinterested advisor. Yet again they asked for a reference number that I didn’t have, and they became less helpful as the call went on. I asked if they had been responsible for the direct debit, but the advisor fobbed me off saying that the payment didn’t show on their system and I should call back in three or four days. I refused and said that the payment should not have been taken in the first place as I was legally entitled to defer given my earnings. The advisor instead of listening decided the best course of action was to talk over me and repeat, “doesn’t show on system.” I asked for another deferment form and was told one would be sent. The advisor wouldn’t even offer an opinion, let alone an apology or explanation as to why I hadn’t received any forms and had money taken that Erudio wasn’t entitled to.

I’ve worked in call centres, and I know that these people are only doing a job, but they need to do a better job, have better training and be better supported than they are at the moment.

As for Erudio itself. As far as anyone can tell it’s ghost company. It only has a single direct employee, its director Mark Howard Filer, who incidentally is also director of 200 other companies at the same time. It seems they’re the public brand of a consortium consisting of a private investment fund called CarVal Investors, and the huge debt collection company Arrow Global. The call centre and administration seems to be entirely outsourced to a firm called Capita. That’s a lot of obfuscation for such a little thing.

It’s now the second week in May, and I have no deferment forms from Erudio. I have no clue to the system and process for people like me who are shared between two companies and truth be told I’m not holding my breath for any improvement on my situation. I assume the next thing I hear from them will be some kind of threatening letter with BIG BOLD HEADINGS IN BRIGHT RED INK demanding to know why I reversed my unlooked for Direct Debit.

In conclusion I’d like to say this to all current and former students who took out loans in, or after, 1998. Don’t let this happen to you. Education must not be something that’s bought and sold for the profit of shadowy investment funds and rich government spivs. It must be a inalienable human right in all civilised societies. The Tory government is already chomping at the bit to sell off the remaining student loans to private companies. The director of Arrow Global that part owns, and seems to be speaking for, Erudio has already described the mortgage style loans as a “practice run”.

Tell the fuckers where to stick it.

PS. Loan offering comment spammers. That goes double for you.

3 Responses to “Erudio Student Loans”

  1. 1 paul May 5, 2014 at 22:40

    In the same boat, although I did receive some forms from them I decided as I had no other communication from them not to fill them in as it was a lot more intrusive than the previous slc deferment forms. I decided to write the a letter sending in pay slips instead. i have had no reply from them and suspect this is going to be a pain in the backside for some time to come.

  2. 2 ErudioNonsense May 6, 2014 at 09:41

    I know what you’re going through! I got as far as the Erudio deferment form. A lot of it had changed from the old, simpler and less threatening/stressful SLC forms. In summary, it was clear they were adding information requests and conditions that were new and which you were not legally obliged to give or agree to, yet also that they would probably claim your form was incomplete and try to take the money or take you to court if you did not fill it all in. A catch 22 situation.

    In the end I didn’t fill in all the form, and only gave information that I used to give the SLC.

    My main issues with the forms:

    1> It is not clear which bits you’re legally required to fill in, and which you aren’t (e.g. you aren’t legally required to give them an email address!). This is obviously done on purpose, since they want to obfuscate the differences in order to make you give more information than you have to. They don’t need to know who owns the house I live in, or what my phone number is (I don’t communicate with companies like this by phone, since I want a record of every interaction). Yet their letter says that even “omissions” can result in prosecution. They use this to trick and threaten you into giving information you do not have to give and make no indication of which is which to leave you in the dark on purpose, and so that you give them information they are not entitled to. I also know we are not generally meant to give out personal data like our National Insurance number and tax codes except to the relevant public/Govt bodies. Hence I held back lots of this information (yet I still gave out more than I did in the past). In the end I his information from my self-assessment tax return that I didn’t want them to have (e.g. phone numbers and so on) but left in the financial details.

    2> They also make claims about the “agreement” which I am not sure are right. Yet I didn’t have copies of the agreement anywhere even from when I took out the student loan with the SLC: it’s something I’d never thought about before. I asked Erudio for copies of the agreement and heard nothing back. Luckily the SLC did send me copies (even though they sold the loan on), and it is interesting how little detail there is in the agreements.

    3> Erudio they seem to be threatening that they can blacklist you for defaulting with credit agencies, trying to scare people: yet if you never earned enough to be legally required to pay it back then you are not defaulting. Their whole tone is much more aggressive, which is stressful and worrying to deal with.

    4> It’s annoying that they say “You may be entitled to defer”. No: if you aren’t earning enough, you CAN defer. It’s part of the original agreement. They make it sound like it is up to them.

    5> Their final deferment section makes you sign the agreement otherwise they claim it is an invalid application (i.e. they will start taking money off you even though they shouldn’t) – yet it is worded to give them lots of extra power to go to people and say they are authorised to collect personal information about you (all the “I understand that…” bits). So you are caught between two options, neither of which are right. My position was:
    “actually, I don’t know if that is true or not that they have this power, since I am no legal expert; therefore I cannot sign anything saying that I understand something which may or may not be true. If it is true then I don’t need to agree to it. If it is not true that they have the legal right, then I am not going to agree to it.”
    It is ridiculous to force people to say they understand complex legal issues which may or may not be correct, only a lawyer could do that. If I signed it I would be lying – the only honest thing is not to sign it (but then they will probably start taking money off me when they shouldn’t) or to delete the bits that I can’t honestly agree to. I went with the latter, deleting clauses I didn’t agree with, then signing it after scanning the completed form for my records.

    6> Erudio are a pain in terms of communication (well covered by you). As I have already said, I asked Erudio for copies of the agreement and heard nothing back. This is typical of them – my emails did not receive responses and I couldn’t get through on the phone. I wanted their guide booklet as a PDF or online but it wasn’t available, I had to scan it in myself for my electronic records: Erudio don’t want to make life easy.

    7> The Direct Debit issue was another one. I don’t trust Erudio not to take money out under the pretence that my deferment form was incomplete, or that they made a mistake (something you experiences). Therefore I did not fill in a new Direct Debit form for them. As far as I am concerned, if I reach the repayment threshold then fine, I will give them the details and start paying back; but I earn well under that and it is not likely to change before the 25 years expire and the loan is cancelled. It may break the terms and conditions but I don’t think that is a criminal act: I have good reason for thinking those terms are unfair. I trusted the SLC on this, but do not trust Erudio, and evidence is showing we are right to adopt that position (i.e. that they will take money and just claim it is a “mistake” if you notice).

    This really caused me lots of stress. I couldn’t sleep on a number of occasions, worrying about whichever option I take. Whether to agree to it all and find I’ve given info I don’t want them to have, and agreed to things I shouldn’t; or base it on what I think is right, then worry they will refuse deferment and take money they shouldn’t, or blacklist me with credit agencies and I’ll have to fight that; or I cancel the Direct Debit, to stop them taking money they shouldn’t, but then I get taken to court. I know people who have dealt with debt collection agencies, hounded by phone calls and visits and letters and threats. I don’t fancy being in that position.

    On the other hand, I refuse to be conned or bullied.

    So at present my deferment period is due to end. I sent them all the information (with proof of posting) well in advance of the deferment period ending. According to my agreement I earn far too little to pay it back. I suspect they will ignore my form as “incomplete” and start trying to take money out. I am going to make sure there are no direct debits for them, since they are not entitled to take my money. I now know I am not the only one in this position. At the end of the day, this may involve them taking people to court to resolve these issues, though more likely is that they will threaten that, forcing you to spend time and money preparing and getting stressed, hoping you will back down: then cancel at the last moment after wasting your time. They don’t want some of these things they are trying to be tested in court, because if they are shown to be unfair they will have to stop using them; better to use as much threat as they can but not go through with it (even though you will have to prepare and get legal advice as if they were, since you can’t know for sure).
    Sorry for going on – I have been so worried about all this, it’s good to find that I am not alone. I’ll make sure I have no direct debits in Erudio’s name tomorrow. My deferment period ends soon and I have heard nothing from Erudio.

  3. 3 Bec96 May 6, 2014 at 11:08

    I’m also in the same boat, every person I spoke to at erudio told me something different. I tried cancelling my DD but it was put back in place. My bank complained and rang their bank, only to have abuse hurled at them and be told to stop phoning them and ring the 0845 number – this was how they treated my bank enquiring about an illegal DD that they cancelled. I tried speaking to them and was told the same! They are erudio bank and set up the DD, they are responsible for doing so illegally even if they don’t want to be.

    I am disabled and was told all money given to me counts as income, I am still below the threshold, but when you include things like money for a carer, additional top up for my adapted housing and money for further adaptations that pushes me very close. I’ve been told income related benefit doesn’t count, but was then told it does as it is money to live on. I was advised by an adviser to cancel my direct debit (see above) the latest communication from them was to tell me that they are taking in excess of 28 working days to undertake a deferrememt and will take money in the meantime (my deferrment runs out within 28 days of them getting my form), so I was told the following:

    1. if it is refused I will be placed in arrears and debt collection procedures begun and if they they agree I am allowed a deferrment later they will cancel the arrears and debt collection procedure ‘somehow’.

    2. If it isn’t refused, will result in no money to pay my carer and therefore breaches my contract with the carer, no money for getting to hospital, but say erudio it would be refunded ‘eventually, somehow by someone’

    Obviously they recommend option 2.

    My mp was useless telling me the government never promised not to sell off our loans and if the new company want to do this then they can it’s nothing to do with the government. I took out the loan because it was a government loan, and not subject to private loan company problems, I was told to do this by my university as I was struggling so much to live just on the grant money they gave when I was at university and due to my course couldn’t manage a part time job on top (which I had intended to do) I’d refused when told to by my college advisor as I didn’t trust the SLC or government. I couldn’t have gone to university without out the loans, and I know they are a debt, but this is totally unacceptable way to behave, the whole point was you must be earning a certain amount, and nowhere did it say money given for a carer/ adaptations to your home would be considered as income for purposes of repayment, I was even asked at one point what the limit was on my credit card!!

    On a slightly related note I also had problems with my grant as well as despite them taking into account parents income there was no legal way to get your parents to pay the top up to whatever grant you could get, something else I experienced. Basically I should have known better than to trust a government loan!

    I will never earn enough due to now being registered severely disabled, and having to struggle with national and local cuts to benefits and services and I am really struggling to cope with this bunch in top.

    The form was done with as much information as I and my carer could do, but as she had also spoken to them the chances are they will take the money regardless just because they are treating people like criminals for deferring.

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