Struggling with debt can be a tough position to be in but being hounded by debt collectors on top of that can definitely get very overwhelming.
I see a lot of people being distressed over debt collectors that are taking advantage of them because they don’t know what their rights are.
Today, I’ll be discussing how you can identify when you’re being treated unfairly by a debt collector and what you can do about it.
It’s not your fault. Complaints to the Financial Ombudsman have risen this year from 830 to 2,006, so it’s safe to say that you’re not alone.
Deal with your debt today and feel better tomorrow.
What are Some Ways in Which I could be Treated Unfairly by a Debt Collector?
There are a number of different ways through which you could be treated wrongly or unfairly by a debt collection agent or a debt collection agency.
Here are some examples:
- You were sent a debt collector letter that was purposefully made to look like an official court form.
- You’re being contacted via your phone several times a day or at irregular hours.
- You’re being threatened by your debts collector either verbally or physically.
- Your debt collector is implying that you may be committing a criminal offence if you can’t pay back your debts.
- Your debt collection agent has revealed information about your debt to your friends, colleagues or family members. A debt collector should only discuss the details of your debt with you and no one else.
How can I Make a Complaint about a Debt Collection Agent or Creditor who is Treating Me Unfairly?
If a debt collector or creditor treats you unfairly, then you have the right to make a complaint about them.
However, before you make any type of complaint, it’s important that you gather all the evidence you can to support your claim.
Evidence could be in the form of:
- Records of the dates and times during which the debt collector visited your home or called you on the phone. You can also write down or record what was said each time and who exactly you spoke to.
- Any documents or letters you may have received from the debt collection agency.
- Any witness testimonies from neighbours, roommates or any other people that live in your household.
Making a Complaint to the Debt Collection Agency
Before making a complaint to a higher authoritative body, it’s a good idea to complain about the agent to the agency that they represent.
In the case of a creditor harassing you, you can write directly to them as well.
You can present your evidence by sending copies of it to the agency via mail.
Be sure to send all of your letters via recorded delivery so that you have proof that your mail did indeed reach them.
You should also always send copies of documents to them and keep the originals to yourselves.
Mention in your email that what they did is against Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) guidelines and tell them how you want to be contacted in the future.
You should ask them to confirm and acknowledge this in writing so that you have proof in case you need it later.
Once you’ve sent your letter to the creditor, they have 3 days to respond. This could be either via phone or email.
Please note that a final official response letter may take longer but your creditor has to make contact with you in some way within 3 days after receiving your letter.
Your creditor also has to inform the Financial Conduct Authority about your complaint even if they respond to you within 3 days.
Making a Complaint to a Professional Authoritative Body
If contacting the agency directly does not solve your problem, then you’re going to have to get in touch with the authoritative which regulates them.
Which authoritative body you complain to will depend on what type of debt you have and what type of creditor you’ve taken on that debt from.
If you owe money to a bank, credit card company or building society, then there is a chance that they may belong to the Standards of Lending Practice and they may be using it as a guideline.
In this case, if you’ve already complained directly to them to no avail, then you can complain about them to the Financial Ombudsman Service. You must inform them that a certain creditor or debt collection agent is not adhering to the terms of the Standards of Lending Practice.
The Standards of Lending Practice is a guideline which ensures that debtors are treated fairly throughout the debt collections process.
Some of the guidelines stated in the Standards of Lending Practice include:
- Never harass or put uncalled for pressure on debtors.
- Inform debtors about avenues through which they can get good debt advice.
- Provide support and understanding to debtors who are vulnerable such as people with physical or mental disabilities.
- If the debt is sold to a debt collection agency, then that agency should also be following the Standards of Lending Practice.
You can learn more about complaining to the Financial Ombudsman Service by going to their website.
If a solicitor is harassing or annoying you on behalf of your creditor, then this would be considered to be professional misconduct.
In order to complain about the solicitor, you would first have to check where the solicitor is registered.
If the solicitor is registered in England or Wales, then you can complain to the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA). If they are registered in Scotland, then you should complain to the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC). If they are registered in Northern Ireland, then you can file a complaint to the Law Society.
You can complain about local firms to the Citizens Advice Consumer Service. They could help you get in touch with your local Trading Standards Office.
The Trading Standards Office would then investigate whether or not an offence has been committed or not.
Making a Complaint to the FCA
If you owe money to anyone, it’s more than likely that they are authorised by the FCA.
Every debt collection agency as well as creditors that are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) are answerable to them.
While the FCA cannot take up your individual case, they can most certainly refuse or revoke a firm’s licence if they suspect misconduct.
The firm could also be fined as a result of the information your provide in your complaint.
You can read more about FCA guidelines on their website.
What Should I Do if I have Borrowed Money Illegally?
If you owe money to a lender who is not authorised by the FCA, then there’s a high chance that you may have been mistreated by them.
These lenders are known as loan sharks and they operate in an illegal way. They usually charge extremely high rates of interest and threaten debtors with violence if they cannot pay the loan back.
Please note that loan sharks are breaking the law. They do not have the right to enforce the high rates of interest that they charge and the methods which they use to extract money from debtors are also highly illegal.
It is also worth noting that you are not breaking the law if you don’t pay back the debts that you owe to them.
If a loan shark is harassing or threatening you, then you complain about them without letting them know by going to this website: www.stoploansharks.direct.gov.uk.
There are a number of ways through which debt collection agents can attempt to exploit you in order to get you to make payments towards your debt.
In situations like these, it’s very important that you are aware of your rights and know of a way to fight back when you’re being mistreated.
We hope you found this information useful, please let me know if you have any further questions.