Debt collection becomes illegal if the debt collector is not acting in an appropriate way – there are certain guidelines as to how they should go about their debt collection. If you are being harassed by a debt collector this is unacceptable.

What Is Harassment?

In UK law, harassment means unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of either violating the claimant’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

In the context of illegal debt collection this can mean:

1. Inappropriate contact.

This can take a number of forms. First of all, the correspondence that the debt collector sends must be in language that you understand and must properly explain the debt that you are in and the debt collection process that is going to be engaged in. This correspondence must not have the appearance of an official document such as a court form if it is not an official document. Secondly, the debt collector can only legally make contact with you through the appropriate means and at the appropriate times. It is illegal for them to contact you through social media, multiple times a day or at anti-social hours e.g. very late at night. Finally, if you have instructed a lawyer to act on your behalf, the debt collector must make contact with your representative not yourself if you have requested this. In all circumstances the debt collector can only contact the debt holder or representative about their debt, they cannot publicise your debt with other parties.

2. Inappropriate behaviour.

A debt collector cannot intimidate you, threaten you or embarrass you in public. Threats may be in physical form, verbal form or both. All forms of threat are illegal. The debt collector can only come to your home at the times which have been outlined in your correspondence. When they visit your home they must leave when you ask them to. They cannot come to other locations to collect your debt other than the location specified in correspondence.

It is illegal for a debt collector to make you feel that you are put under pressure to make payments which are over and above what you can financially afford. They cannot pressure you to change the payment schedule that you originally agreed to, e.g. so you have to pay off the debt as a lump sum or via larger payments. To add to this they cannot pressure you into selling your property to pay the debt.

Finally, your debt collector cannot act as a bailiff or suggest court action has been taken against you when it has not. Bailiffs have different legal rights to debt collectors. Debt collectors do not have the legal right to forcefully enter your property or to seize possessions to the value of the debt.

If you feel like the debt collector that you are dealing with is acting illegally, contact a lawyer immediately. You may also be able to lodge a complaint with the Office of Fair Trading.

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