Debt Collection Harassment
There are several laws which cover harassment of debtors by creditors as well as recognised guidelines which set out what is considered unreasonable behaviour by creditors.
Administration of Justice Act 1970
My creditors keep calling me at work and late into the evening - are they allowed to do this and how would you advise I deal with it?
The Administration of Justice Act 1970 S.40 makes it a Criminal Offence for a creditor or a creditor's agent (often a debt collection agency) to make demands (for money), which are aimed at causing 'alarm, distress or humiliation, because of their frequency or publicity or manner'. Equally, a creditor will be committing an offence if they falsely imply that non-payment of the debt will lead to criminal proceedings; or the creditor pretends to be someone they are not e.g. a court official or bailiff. It is also an offence to send a person a document which looks like it has been sent from a court.
The Protection from Harassment Act 1997
If you feel you are subject to Debt Collection Harassment then this too could be classed as a criminal offence. Harassment can be verbal or in writing and would include making repeated calls to your workplace or in anti social hours. The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 makes it a Criminal Offence for any person to pursue a course of action "which they know, or ought to know, amounts to harassment of another person".
Debt Collection Guidelines
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has produced a set of Debt Collection and Debt Management Guidelines which sets out the types of debt collection practices which the OFT considers to be unfair. The guidelines do not apply to routine debt collection but are applicable to all accounts where payments have been missed, or are in arrears. The Guidelines include a section on 'contacting debtors at unreasonable times and intervals'. Whilst the guidance does not spell out the types/times of when contact should occur, it does provide a list of examples which it might consider unfair: repeatedly calling at unsociable hours, calling places of work, or calling on Neighbours and disclosing the reason they are making these enquiries.
Contacting a Creditor Who You Think is Harassing You
If you think a creditor has broken the law or has breached these guidelines- you should first raise it with the creditor or collector concerned. To start this process you will need to gather evidence. The first step is to record the times and contents of visits and calls, and to save any threatening letters. You should then write a letter of complaint informing the creditor that you are aware of the Debt Collection Guidelines and believe they are in breach of these as well as possibly been in breach of section 40 of the Administration of Justice Act. Ask them to stop what they are doing. You must however, tell the creditor how you would prefer to be contacted. If the situation does not improve you can make a more formal complaint against a creditor.
If the creditor continues to harass you then you can contact the following for further advice:
If the behaviour of the creditor (or any bailiffs or credit collection companies acting on behalf of the creditor) becomes at all violent or extremely threatening the Police should be informed immediately.
For immediate and free debt advice please call Payplan free on 0800 280 2816 or use our Debt Help Form to submit your debt problem online.