The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) of UK has imposed requirements on credit card lender MBNA to secure improvements to the way its in-house debt collection arm deals with customers in financial difficulties.

An investigation was launched by the OFT after Citizens Advice raised concerns about MBNA’s practices when dealing with consumers in financial difficulties or their appointed representatives.

OFT said that in in its investigation it found that the company was not being sufficiently clear when communicating with customers in financial difficulty who were offering token payments, and was in some cases failing to follow its own policy or procedures by bypassing customers’ appointed representatives.

As a result of the requirements, which take effect on 1 January 2011, MBNA must: make it clearer in letters sent to customers in financial difficulty that it will accept the repayment amount they have demonstrated they can afford to pay; and maintain its policy of only contacting customers who have appointed a representative to act on their behalf if the customer or the representative has given permission or confirmed that the representative no longer acts for the customer; or the expected payment has not been made and MBNA has made reasonable efforts to contact the representative without success.

The requirements do not preclude MBNA from sending statements of account or other communications in accordance with statutory obligations.

OFT director of Consumer Credit Group Ray Watson said OFT’s investigation found problems with the way MBNA communicates with customers in financial difficulties. MBNA has agreed that it will make its debt collection letters clearer and clarify its policies and procedures for dealing with appointed representatives.