Being indebted to one or more creditors can be a stressful experience for anyone. While any contact from your creditors is likely to be an unpleasant experience, if you owe them money, they’re within their rights to contact you or send reminders to repay your debt. However, there is a fine line between reasonable reminders and unreasonable creditor pressure, or even harassment. In such circumstances, you could find it hard to differentiate between what is and isn’t acceptable.
They’re visiting your premises
In the UK, if you’re behind on payments to a creditor, they can apply to the courts for a County Court Judgement (CCJ) against you. If you don’t pay within 30 days, the CCJ will stay on your credit file for six years.
During that time, your creditors can send bailiffs and debt collectors. If the CCJ isn’t paid, creditors can apply to the courts to send High Court Enforcement Officers (HCEOs). If you do have debts you haven’t paid before they appear on your credit file, and you haven’t challenged the CCJ, a visit from bailiffs or debt collectors shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The rules regarding what bailiffs and HCEOs can do are complicated and vary depending on which type is sent. But typically, if your debt is business-related, your creditors should only contact you at your business premises and within business hours.
They’re contacting you excessively
Creditors are within their rights to contact you, either via post or telephone, to ask you to repay what you owe. Creditors aren’t allowed to contact you multiple times a day at unreasonable hours.
They shouldn’t use more than one debt collector to recover the debt, and they should keep you informed if the debt has been passed on to a debt collection agency. They shouldn’t contact you personally if the debt is business-related, either. If creditors have done any of these, they may have overstepped their boundaries, and you could have grounds to make a complaint.
Are they threatening you?
While your creditors can contact you with reminders to repay your debts or inform you of payment deadlines and what the next stage of the debt recovery process will be, they should never resort to threatening you into paying. If they have threatened or used offensive, aggressive language against you, your staff, or any persons close to you, you should complain to them.
Additionally, if the creditor encourages you to take out more credit, which could worsen your financial position, this would also be classed as harassment.
They’ve lied to you
Your creditors should never lie about what action they can take against you. For example, creditors shouldn’t imply they can repossess your home without a court order. Suggesting they have powers they don’t, i.e., being a bailiff or working on the courts’ behalf, is harassment, and against the law.
Unscrupulous creditors may imply they will get the police involved if you do not pay. In the UK, unless the debt is council tax, having unpaid debts is not a criminal offence, and the police won’t get involved.
What you can do about it
If you feel your creditors have overstepped their boundaries, you should collate communications between them and yourself, underlining any harassment which has taken place. You should complain, first to the creditors themselves, and then to a professional body, such as the creditor’s trade association, or if the creditor is your bank or credit card company, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service, or the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
Creditors are within their rights to contact you over an unpaid debt, but this shouldn’t extend beyond sending reminders or issuing court action following the proper procedures. If they’ve applied for a CCJ, bailiffs and HCEOs can visit your premises or home depending on the type of debt owed. However, creditors should reframe from contacting you excessively outside of reasonable hours.
Creditors should never resort to using threatening language against you, your staff or family members.
Lying to you about the powers they have and the action they can take against you, or threatening to involve the police, would also be considered harassment. If you have experienced these threats beyond what the creditors are legally allowed to carry out, you should complain to the creditor first, with proof of the harassment. If the creditor dismisses your complaint, you can try reaching out to a professional body such as the Financial Ombudsman Service, or the Financial Conduct Authority.