- Wed Jun 04, 2008 12:13 pm
Hello State of Origin 2 and Mower555,
I do not want you to think that you are being ignored. The problem is that no one here really knows what happens when one goes abroad and leaves debts in England.
I am in the same situation (although in a different country) and I have been on this forum for about a year now, and despite the help and goodwill of the other members, I am still completely in the dark as to my legal situation. (I shall not mention the moral one as it is obvious that I feel partly responsible for my debts. I say "partly" because, if the credit cards issuers and the banks had respected their initial obligations, I would not be in this situation. But when I took most of my cards, the APR - which I thought was contractual - was around 9 to 12%. Now it is about 35% and the rate of the BoE has actually gone down over the years ... So I feel cheated by the banks).
Anyway, there are a few basic principles which apply to all cases :
- The credit card agreement (if you signed one) made it very clear that only UK courts are competent to deal with any problem arising from the contract. This means that any other court is NOT competent to deal with it.
- Once you have left the UK and cannot be served papers in person by the UK court, the creditors cannot take you to court, unless they do so in absentia at your old address by arguing afterwards that they were not informed that you moved abroad.
- In the UK, debts are a civil matter, NOT a criminal one (unless it can be proven that you defaulted or cheated the banks on purpose). Therefore, you can go through customs and immigration as many times as you want and no police will be trying to track you down. I do not think that banks have access to immigration databases, therefore they would not know that you are back (unless you do something else which might give you away).
- If a creditor managed to get a CCJ against you while you were away, according to information widely spread on this site, only two countries - Germany and Canada - have legal agreements with the UK to enforce it. In the rest of the EU, they would need a European Enforcement Order and even though, one could go to court to fight it because most countries have legal system and protection so different from the UK's that a CCJ / EEO would probably clash with the local legislation.
- If there is a CCJ against you, after six years, it cannot be enforced without the creditor going back to court.
- Also, after six years, if you have not acknowledged your debts in writing or by paying towards them, they become stature-barred and cannot be legally enforced.
- Likewise, a creditor can pursue you for a debt only if they can supply the original credit card agreement with both your signature, the T&C and the bank's signature on it.
- If they sold the debt to a local debt recovery agency, it probably would not stand in a local court because the only paper you signed said clearly that only UK courts have the authority to deal with it.
- So, it all comes down to how much psychological pressure the creditor is able to put on you and how much you can take : phone calls, letters, possibly solicitors trying to use big words to impress and threaten you.
- Australia has probably a legal system somewhat similar to the UK's. Therefore, you should have access to a lot of legal resources locally to protect yourself.
- With regards MBNA and GVI, I also was submitted to extremely unfriendly behaviour from them (in fact, ten days only after I told them I was experiencing problems. They did not even have the courtesy to wait a few weeks so I could try to find alternative solutions). So I immediately wrote in very strong terms to the Financial Ombusdman and the MBNA CEO to complain against this lack of courtesy. I received a letter of apology from MBNA and they withdrew my account from GVI.
This did not stop a MBNA UK representative to tell me later that they did not care about the laws of "this country" (meaning England) because they are an American company and only American law matters to them.
Obviously, this is an ongoing matter for me, so I cannot say that my way of dealing works ... On the other hand, having lost my business because of severe and long illness and having no assets, I do not have any means to deal with my debts. So they cannot take what I do not have ...
It would be nice if a moderator were to say whether I got all the above right, as I am just another debtor like yourself, NOT a specialist ...
I think many people on the International Debt Forum would welcome having clear and definite guidance because the geographical distance does nothing to alleviate the worries resulting from unmanageable debts ...
Best of luck to all !