Being in debt can place significant stress on a debtor’s personal relationships, professional life and even their health. However, the situation can be exacerbated if the debtor feels they are being unfairly treated by the people they owe money to.
Under UK Law, creditors have a right to contact you in order to recover unpaid debts. The permitted methods of contact include email, letters, phone calls or even visiting your home. However, the law also requires that they act within a certain code of conduct and adhere to particular protocols when pursuing that debt. If they deviate from what is considered to be reasonable, you may find that you are able to launch an official complaint.
The Financial Conduct Authority
It pays to be aware that any company that offers consumer credit services must be registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The FCA is the body authorised to grant ‘interim permission’, allowing, among other things, those companies to implement debt-recovery procedures. However, the FCA has also set out clear guidelines detailing a code of practice that their members are required to abide by. Among those rules, members are expected to:
• Treat debtors fairly
• Clearly state their intentions and actions
• Give the debtor a reasonable amount of time in which to repay the debt.
What Constitutes Unfair Treatment?
Reputable firms and debt-recovery agencies will always abide by the codes of conduct set out by the FCA. However, there are less scrupulous companies out there, who may not adhere to these protocols. In cases such as these, it’s worth remembering that certain behaviours, practices and types of conduct have been declared illegal. These are defined as harassment or unfair behaviour and include:
• Sending communications that falsely appear to be from a court
• Making contact at unreasonable times of day or night and with unreasonable frequency
• Refusing to give statements of balance concerning the debt
• Falsely claiming to have legal powers
• Talking about your debt with members of your family or your employer
• Using legal or technical jargon that confuses you
• Encouraging you to repay your debt by borrowing more money
Are you Dealing with who you think you’re Dealing with?
In the event that you feel you are being harassed, it’s important to know exactly who you’re dealing with. Creditors often pass debts on to outsourced companies. If they do this, they can no longer pursue you for that money; it is now the responsibility of the delegated debt recovery agent. However, creditors must inform you of their decision to pass on that debt, in writing, before the event.
How to Launch a Complaint
What are your rights in a situation where you believe you are being treated unfairly by a creditor? As with any legal situation, evidence is crucial to demonstrating that harassment and being able to support your case. In the first instance, you should make a record of any letters or communications you have received from the creditor. It’s also worth noting the dates, times and number of visits or phone calls you have received. If possible, you should document who you spoke to and the content of the conversation.
The next step is to write to the creditor, via letter or email, and ask them to cease the harassment. You can explain how you’d like communication to continue and remind them that their current protocols are in breach of the guidelines set down by the FCA and could result in legal action. Keep copies of all communications you send.
If the creditor fails to acknowledge your requests or simply does not abide by them, you may wish to complain to a professional body, such as the FCA or any trade associations the creditor belongs to. In this instance, it’s a good idea to seek the services of a professional solicitor, who will be able to identify if your case is worth pursuing and, if it is, which avenues are the best to take.