Bad debt collection: your rights as a consumer

Bad debt collection practices should be regulated action conforming to certain legal guidelines - unfortunately, most companies don't follow these strict rules because they know most consumer's aren't aware of their rights when it comes to debt collection. So, to help you along, here's a few general rules you should remember.


  • Selling debts on.

A company can legally sell your debt to another collection agency. However, you may find that you're contacted by more than one agency frequently regarding the same debt. Your debt cannot be passed on to another firm without your prior notification, nor can it be handled by more than two companies at once. Keep a list of all the companies who have handled your debt for later date; this act of confusing the customer is frowned upon by most regulating authorities and may help you in the future.


  • Contacting you.

Companies may only contact you between 8:00am and 9:00pm, unless you have specifically told them you may be contacted anytime. This includes e-mail, fax, phone calls and home visits. Bad debt collection often results in multiple calls throughout the day, so make a note about each call, what time this happened and where. A company can contact someone of your family to find your whereabouts but they cannot contact them more than once.


  • What they can say.

As well as there being general rules about bad debt collection companies contacting you, there are also a list of things they cannot say or threaten. For example, they cannot:

  1. Contact you by postcard, use a false name or use false contact information;
  2. Tell you that you owe more than you actually do;
  3. Tell you that you are guilty of a crime or can face imprisonment;
  4. Inform you that you will be sued for not paying the debt;
  5. Send you something that looks like an official court document but is not;
  6. Threatens to tell anyone about your debt;
  7. Continue to contact you, even if you request they don't in writing;
  8. Threaten to take your property or any belongings unless they have the authority to do so, which is usually rare as the case must go to court before formal bad debt collection action and removal can take place (you will be notified of this and it is rarely for debts except Council Tax).


If you're worried about bad debt collection companies hassling you, or think you're being unfairly treated by a collector, contact your local Citizen's Advice for information and support.

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