What powers do debt collection agencies have?

Written by Tom James on 17 May 2019

You will probably have heard of debt collection agencies, but who are they and what can they do?

What is a debt collection agency?

A debt collection agency, also known as a debt collector, works on behalf of your creditors to collect debts you owe. They will deploy their agents to contact you or visit you to ask for any outstanding debts that need to be repaid.

How are debt collectors put in power?

If you haven’t responded to your creditors, or acted on their demands, they may well seek help from a debt collection agency to intervene. The debt collectors are likely to receive a fee from your creditors for successfully collecting your money.

Debt collectors could be put in place to save your creditors time and money. You will be made aware that this is happening and who the debt collectors are, so you can be sure that the new people chasing you for money are legitimate.

What are debt collectors allowed to do?

Debt collectors are allowed to pursue you for any money owed to the creditor(s) they are representing. A debt collection agency can do this by:

  • Writing to you
  • Calling you
  • Sending a doorstop collector to visit your home (these people have no lawful power to take anything from you, unlike a bailiff)

hat can debt collectors not do?

A debt collection agency is not allowed to harass and persistently contact you. The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) guidelines state that customers must be treated with ‘forbearance and due consideration’. Harassment can come in the form of excessive phone calls (hourly, for example), threatening letters and aggressive behaviour from people who visit your home.

If a debt collection agency contacts your family, friends or work colleagues without your permission, they are in breach of FCA guidance. Furthermore, if they disclose any information about your debts to anyone without your permission, they are breaking the law. You will be expected to pay back your debts, but you do have the right to be treated fairly.

How to complain about a debt collection agency

If you feel that a debt collection agency, or creditor for that matter, has been harassing you or behaving inappropriately, you can seek advice. First of all, you should contact the person/company who is harassing you and ask them to only contact you via one communication stream – letter or phone for example. They have a duty to your creditors to contact you but they cannot persistently send you threatening letters or call you throughout the day.

If you find that a debt collection agency is ignoring your request to stop harassing you, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service and ask them for advice. Always keep a record of your communications for your reference, as you may need them in the future.

Can I stop a debt collection agency from contacting me?

You cannot prevent a creditor or debt collector from contacting you if you are in arrears. They are within their rights to try and claim their money back from you fairly. However, if your debts are piling up and you can’t handle them anymore, a debt solution may be exactly what you need.

If you opt to take out a debt solution, you could be free from creditor contact, depending on what solution you take. Some debt management companies, like PayPlan, offer free advice and can help find you a suitable debt solution if required.

Get debt help and advice

You don’t need to worry about debt alone. Find out more about debt and receive free, professional advice from PayPlan at www.payplan.com

Our advisers are here to help and they will be happy to talk to you about your financial situation. Get in touch today by calling our freephone number: 0800 280 2816.


Filed under Living in Debt

This article was checked and deemed to be correct as at the above publication date, but please be aware that some things may have changed between then and now. So please don't rely on any of this information as a statement of fact, especially if the article was published some time ago.

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