Unsurprisingly debt collection companies have to adhere to stringent guidelines set by the Office of Fair Trading. Debt collection is legal, but only if it is completed in the correct way. If you have been contacted by a debt collector there are a few things which must be the case for the debt collection to be fair and legal:-
– Licencing: almost all debt collection companies will be licenced. You can easily find out if the debt collection company which has contacted you holds a ‘consumer credit licence’. A list of all the companies who are licenced in this way is publicly accessible on the internet. Just search for the Consumer Credit Register. You will then be able to look up the firm who have contacted you.
– Transparency: the debt collector should be completely transparent with you about their reasons for being in contact with you, who their employer is and who they are. There is absolutely no reason for you to be confused about who you are dealing with and the amount of money you owe. They should be clear with you at all times about the process by which they will be collecting your debt. You should know about all the visits they are going to be making to your house. If a debt collector is not clear with you and you do not understand who you are dealing with or the situation you are in with your debts, this is unfair and you may be able to make a complaint.
– Behaviour: a debt collector must act in an appropriate way towards you. When they make visits to your property they should be at a fair time – i.e. not at anti-social hours such as very late at night – and the debt collector should leave your property when you ask them to. They can only visit you at the location which has been agreed and cannot come to alternative locations such as your place of work. When they are engaging in the debt collection they must not harass you or threaten you.
– Legal representation: if you have instructed a solicitor to act on your behalf, the debt collector must make contact with them, not with yourself. You may find that asking a solicitor to act on your behalf will make the debt collection experience a lot less stressful for you.
– Bailiffs: a debt collector is not a bailiff. They cannot lead you to believe that they are one. They also do not have the same legal rights as a bailiff does. They cannot seize your property to the value of your debt and they cannot enter your home forcefully.