Debt happens when a person falls behind on their accounts and payments. This can happen because of loss of job or income or because of unexpected bills and expenses, among other issues. When an account falls behind, then a creditor has the right to seek payment via phone call reminders, correspondence and other communication. However, there are laws in place to protect people from harassment from creditors.
Who Are Creditors
When money isn’t paid on an account, then the group or people a person owes become creditors. These groups may decide to pursue payment via reminders and phone calls. However, they may also hire collection agencies to hunt down the payments or could sell the debt to a third party group. Whenever a person contacts an individual about an overdue account, they become the creditor.
Rights of Creditors
Debt collectors have the right to seek repayment. However, they cannot harass people. Thus, creditors are allowed to call phones during business hours or reasonable times of the day. Such individuals can only visit a home if they are invited and if they have specified when the day and time they will arrive. If at any time they are asked to leave, the creditors or collectors need to vacate the property. All letters need to be clear and honest about who the sender is, why they are contacting the individual and how repayment can occur. Specific information must be included about the amount of the debt.
Offending or Harassing Behaviours
Without permission, creditors may not visit a person’s home or workplace or try to embarrass them in public. If permission has been granted, such visits must only occur on a pre-determined date and time. Any threats or gestures are prohibited and defined as harassment. Any letters or paperwork sent by a creditor needs to state who the items are from. Additionally, there should never be any pressure from debt collectors to pay the debt in full or to sell property to pay this balance. At no point can the creditor threaten people with jail time or legal action when they cannot actually do this. If harassment has occurred, it is important to contact law enforcement.
When harassment has happened, it is up to people to be clear with creditors that such actions need to stop. People should not only say this in person or over the phone but put this in writing. When demanding that harassment ends, one should remind creditors that this is against the law and that further action will be taken if the creditor continues the harassing behaviour. Individuals need to be clear about when they would like to be contacted and how.
Start Collecting Evidence
If a person is being harassed in England or Wales, he or she needs to document everything. This protects the victim in case law enforcement and the courts have to get involved in the situation. People should make notes about how many phone calls are received a day, at what times and when the individual asked for the actions to stop. Additionally, it is important to save all correspondence between the creditor and individual. If witnesses have seen the harassing actions, they should document this too and explain what they saw. This evidence may be needed of the harassment does not end and law enforcement decides to take action against the individual or group.
Act on Threats
No one should accept threats of any kind. This means threat of violence or threat of legal action. Creditors should not be intimidating people who have a debt that needs to be repaid. This is harassment and should be dealt with quickly and efficiently.
If a creditor is convicted on harassment in Wales or England, then there could be a fine, prison sentence or both. People found guilty of harassment under the UK’s Protection from Harassment Act may end up serving up to six months in prison and could have fines. Victims of such harassment could also ask for pain and suffering and associated fees in a civil court.
Exceptions to the Act
The offending actions are pardoned if the creditor was trying to stop a crime from happening. Additionally, if proof can be made that such behaviours were reasonable, then the alleged harasser could avoid fines and prison time. Law enforcement and consumer advocates have more information about such exceptions and when evidence should be collected against a creditor. When in doubt, one should turn to such professionals. However, no one should allow possible exceptions keep them from contacting experts in the field. When in doubt, it is best to ask.
No one should fear picking up the phone or feel like they are being threatened by a creditor. If a person is worried that they will be brought to court, have been misled by a creditor or have physically threatened, then it is time to ask for help. The United Kingdom’s Protection from Harassment Act 1997 protects people from such actions. There are severe penalties in place so that citizens do not have to live in fear or be lied to by creditors. This protects consumers who may have fallen behind on their bills.