I’m being harassed by debt collectors, is that illegal?

A credit company employee turned up at my work place uninvited and discussed my loan in full view and hearing distance of my work colleagues and customers. He was demanding money in front of all these people. Was this legal? Is there anything I can do about it?

It can be unpleasant to find yourself in a position like this. It’s never nice discussing the details of your financial situation within earshot of your colleagues, and this sounds like a particularly distressing situation.

If this action was taken by a debt collector from the company you have a loan with, this could be considered harassment and therefore illegal.

Harassment of people in debt by creditors or their agents is a criminal offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. The regulations prohibit aggressive commercial practices, including aggressive practices used by creditors to pressurise debtors into paying their debts.

The following examples of behaviour may constitute harassment:

  • Making demands for payment that are deliberately meant to alarm, distress or humiliate the debtor, their family or household
  • Contacting you too frequently, or late at night
  • Trying to contact you through twitter, facebook or another social networking site
  • Pressurising you to sell property (such as your home if you own it) or to take out more credit
  • Using more than one collection company or debt collector at the same time
  • Not telling you when the debt has been passed to another company
  • Using documents which look official (for example have a business logo) when they’re not, or saying a document is official when it’s not
  • Pressurising you to pay the debt in full or in large instalments which you cannot afford
  • Threatening you physically or verbally
  • Ignoring you if you say you don’t actually owe the money
  • Trying to embarrass you in public
  • Threatening to tell someone else about your debts, such as your neighbour or family
  • Falsely claiming to work for the court or to be a bailiff, or, in Scotland, a sheriff officer
  • Implying that action can be taken that is not legally possible, such as implying that your property can be taken without a court order
  • Implying that court action has been taken against the debtor when it hasn’t
  • Implying that not paying the debt is a criminal offence, for most it’s not

If you believe that the debt-collecting agency is harassing you, you should keep a record of when they call you, visit you, and send you letters as evidence that they’ve been harassing you. Then write to whoever you owe money to, quoting the fact that their agent has committed an offence under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. After that you could make a formal complaint to a trade association, trading standards, the Office of Fair Trading, a professional body about a solicitor or the Financial Ombudsman Service.

You can also seek further advice about the situation and any debts you might have from your local Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), or National Debtline on 0808 8084 000.

Answered by Citizens Advice Bureau on 22-Apr-2014

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