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Wonga escapes police investigation over fake legal letters

Payday lender Wonga will not face a criminal investigation for sending debt collection letters from non-existent law firms, the City of London Police has confirmed.

In June, Wonga was forced to pay £2.6m in compensation after the FCA uncovered “unfair and misleading” debt collection practices, including letters from non-existent legal and debt collection firms to customers in arrears.

It was later reported the case had been referred to the police because it is illegal to impersonate a solicitor.

The City of London Police says: “After a thorough review of all the material gathered we have concluded there is not sufficient evidence to progress a criminal investigation.”

The police says it met with the Office of Fair Trading in 2012 to discuss whether an investigation into Wonga’s debt collection practices should be referred to its fraud unit. It says a decision was taken that the OFT should continue with its own investigation.

In April 2014, the FCA took over regulation of the consumer credit sector and entered into discussions with Wonga.

The City of London Police says following the conclusion of the FCA investigation, it reviewed material to assess whether a criminal investigation was viable.

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Comments

There are 7 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. They did it, didn’t they? You can bet your boots that the FCA wouldn’t let off an IFA firm so lightly.

  2. I don’t get this. Surely if a company has deliberately misled clients by systematically pretending to be somebody they are not, they are committing identity fraud? So why no prosecution?

    Surely the letters themselves are evidence of that identity fraud?

  3. If they set the police on Wonga they’ will be forced to do the same to Lloyds, Barclays et al because they’ve already admitted that they’ve done it as well.
    Too scared as usual to take on the big crooks

  4. Good Mortgage Man 6th February 2015 at 12:26 pm

    Not sufficient evidence!? Absolute joke…

  5. This practice was not exclusive to Wonga. Historically it was pretty common amongst Debt Collection agencies and even larger household name firms including major banks and financial services providers to have used trading styles which suggest that the recipient (debtor) is being contacted by a third party. It was a basic psychological ploy to persuade the recipient that the matter is escalating and to try to persuade them to engage with them about their indebtedness. All they needed was a suitable new trading style on a letterhead and a different phone number from the regular line. I suspect that because they don’t actually say they’re solicitors there has been no crime. The name they use usually just looks like they are solicitors but on closer inspection on the letterhead they comply with company law and it’s clear to the trained eye who is actually writing to them. Most of the recipients will have no idea of course, they just see the legal sounding name. I’ve not been close to the industry for a number of years now but the practice was commonplace in the past.

  6. Don’t forget that the standard for proving a crime is different to the civil standard. The former must be beyond reasonable doubt and the latter on the balance of probabilities.

    I haven’t seen the evidence but I suspect that the letters never actually said ‘solicitor’ on them. Added to which you would also need to prove intent for a crime.

    Perhaps the previous commentators have seen the evidence?

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