If you’ve missed an urgent invoice reminder, An unexpected visit from debt collectors can be highly stressful, and particularly if you’re not sure of the reason why – debt collectors typically represent the last course of action for companies that you’ve been lent money by, and can take many different forms – it’s important to know how to deal with them, and where you stand legally in terms of complaints and resolving any financial disputes. What, then, are some of the best approaches you can take to pushy debt collectors?
Primarily, you need to remember that intimidation shouldn’t be part of a debt collectors’ strategy – try and get as many details out of them as possible if they turn up at your door, and don’t let them into your home, as you’re not legally obliged to in the same way as bailiffs. You should be able to request a copy of your credit agreement from the lender, and should then be able to negotiate with the debt collection agency that the lender has hired to figure out exactly what’s expected of you.
There may also be cases where you’ve been mistakenly targeted as the result of a mistake with addresses – someone who owes money may have lived in your flat before you, and never updated their details. If this occurs, and the debt collectors that visited you were particularly aggressive, you can report them to Trading Standards. If you do owe money, though, make sure that you set up a written confirmation and repayment schedule, rather than handing over cash.
Don’t panic if you can’t pay immediately – debt collectors can’t make aggressive demands on your doorstep, and you should be able to set up some kind of practical repayment plan with a lender or debt collector. Seek advice on how best to handle these repayments with organisations like the National Debt Line and the Citizens Advice Bureau – these groups will also be able to advise you if you’re concerned about overly aggressive tactics from debt collectors.
Again, it’s crucial to know who you can contact if you’re having problems with particular debt collectors – the Office of Fair Trading should be your first point of call, and you should consider calling the police if debt collectors are making threats, or are turning up at unreasonable times of the day to harass you and your family. Remember, debt collectors don’t have the same legal power as bailiffs, and can’t enter your home. Seek compensation through the Financial Ombudsman Service if this happens.
Moreover, you need to be aware of your rights under the Protection from Harassment Act of 1997, which prohibits debt collectors from using unfair intimidation tactics to try to draw money out of you. In this way, when or if you receive a visit, keep calm, and try to get as much information out of the collectors – ask for a request in writing, get their number, and remember to take down as many details as you can about any concerning behaviour to pass on to the authorities if needs be.