You might not have to pay Advantis Debt Collectors!
Are you being hassled by Advantis Debt Collectors? Do you owe money you are unable to repay? Are you being asked to repay debts you don’t owe? Are you being threatened about being taken to court? If any of these questions relate to you, then you might not need to pay them back!
Complaints about debt collection practices have more than doubled over the past year, rising from 830 to 2,006.
Why you are being contacted by Advantis Debt Collection?
Make no mistake – the debt collection business is huge. Debt collectors like Advantis Debt Collection come in several forms; many debt collection agencies are independent businesses; some may also be a business arm of a creditor such as a credit card company (sometimes hiding their real identity – see below); there are even individual sole trader debt collectors.
Independent debt collection agencies and sole trader debt collectors business model relies on purchasing debt at a fraction of its face value, possibly for as little as 20% of the face value, and making a profit by collecting all or a proportion of the debt. There are few morals involved; as far as they are concerned it is you who ran up the debt and you who is responsible for repaying it. They care nothing about you and your personal circumstances. Simply put, they tend not to be nice people. Read what to do if you can’t pay back your loan.
Check if you really owe the money
Is the debt money you really owe? The first thing to establish is where the debt has originated and how much you really owe. It is quite likely that the original debt, if there was one, has been inflated by various charges and interest, and could be substantially more than you believe you owe.
You should write to Advantis Debt Collection and demand a copy of your original credit agreement. If they are unable to provide this you have no obligation to make any payment to them. You may even be able to get a refund. See my most popular post for the guide on how to get a refund.
Can pay but won’t pay?
If you really do owe the money, then the road of least resistance is to repay the debt if you are able to do so, but if you can’t afford to repay it, or if doing so would prevent you from servicing more important credit such as your rent or mortgage, then try to make some arrangement with Advantis Debt Collection, perhaps offer them a temporary repayment plan.
How debt collectors can ruin your life
It isn’t unusual for debt collectors to employ questionable tactics that may or may not fall foul of the law. This might include pressuring and bullying threats, frequent phone calls sometimes made to your workplace and empty threats.
It can prove almost impossible to get the debt collectors called off. Victims say they have suffered sleepless nights and been afraid to open their doors in case bailiffs turn up.
Being pursued by Advantis Debt Collection could have a devastating effect on your life, leading to emotional distress, mental illness, and even suicide. According to the debt support trust, almost half of people who struggle with debt at some point consider suicide, and it was recently reported that a coroner raised concerns over debt-collection agency’s practices following the suicide of a debt-ridden courier. In their report into mental health and the credit industry (Walker et al, 2012) researchers from Brighton University concluded: “Debt clients frequently feel humiliated, disconnected and entrapped, with the process of debt collection having a clear impact on people’s mental health”. They called upon the government to tackle the problem of irresponsible lending and intimidating collection tactics.
Advantis Debt Collection and the law
The Office for Fair Trading (OFT, 2012) has published a set of guidelines for the debt collection business. To summarise these, Advantis Debt Collection should:
- Treat debtors fairly and not use aggressive practices, coercion, deceit, or be oppressive, unfair, or improper
- Be transparent and provide clear information that is not confusing or misleading
- Be considerate towards debtors experiencing difficulty
- Act proportionately taking into account debtors’ circumstances.
If you are being intimidated by Advantis Debt Collection who are not abiding by these guidelines, then you have a good case for reporting them to the OFT which has the power to remove their license.
Complaints about the tactics used by debt collection agencies and bailiffs themselves soared 77 per cent from 864 to 1,529.
To make a complaint about Advantis Debt Collection, you can use this online complaint form.
Some debt collectors pretend to be an external agency when in fact they are a business arm of the company you owe money. That is a clear case of deceit, though they are likely to claim that this information appears in the small print.
Understanding how Advantis Debt Collection operates
Understanding how debt collection agencies operate can help you defend yourself against them.
They are on a bonus
The Advantis Debt Collection agents who phone you are likely highly incentivised and are expected to collect a specified minimum amount of money per hour. Usually, there are daily and monthly bonuses and each collection they make contribute to that bonus. Hence, they will do what they can to collect some money rather than record a “No Payment” call, including making intimidating and threatening behaviour.
The lesson here is if you are able to be strong and stand up to threats from Advantis Debt Collection, knowing that their threats are empty, you can to some extent turn the tables. Keep them talking but just don’t pay. You will still owe the money, but at least you won’t have to pay that day.
Automated call technology
You might be tempted to simply not answer calls from Advantis Debt Collection, but when this happens agencies often employ automated call technology that will attempt to phone you say every half hour until you do eventually answer. Sometimes if you do pick up the call is silent; the calls are simply being made to intimidate you.
If this happens to you make a note the frequency of the calls. Such behaviour on the part of the debt collectors is in clear breach of the OFT guidelines. Tell the agent that you will be reporting them to the Financial Ombudsman.
The best way to contact the Financial Ombudsman is by phone on 0800 023 4567 or 0300 123 9123
Bad cop, good cop
Bad cop, good cop is a tactic frequently employed, and often is highly effective. When subject to such an approach you are likely to be subject to relentless calls some of which are abusive and harassing, but with the occasional polite and friendly enquiry. This change in attitude can happen in a single phone call where the agent starts off politely but should you fail to make a payment their behaviour becomes abusive. Nor is it just relentless phone calls. Frequent threatening and sometimes sinister letters are another common practice. The total process is designed to eventually wear you down, to break your will so that eventually you will make a payment.
It is difficult to stand up to such behaviour, which is exactly why they use it. But again, you should try to stay strong if you possibly can. Report it to the OFT using this online complaint form.
Embarrassing you by talking to third parties
If someone apart from you answers the call then agents frequently attempt to embarrass you by discussing your debt and financial problems with whoever answers the call. This could be a family member at your home, or it could be someone at your workplace. This is certainly illegal behaviour and breaches not only OFT guidelines, but also other privacy laws.
Again, such behaviour should be reported to the Financial Ombudsman on 0800 023 4567 or 0300 123 9123
Deceit and lies
If everything else fails some debt collectors feel they are immune from the law and will apply some very nasty forms of leverage. They might pretend to be calling from the court, that they are a bailiff and will be visiting your home to remove your possessions, possibly even threatening you with criminal prosecution.
Never give them permission to visit you and if they do then never let them into your home and if you feel physically threatened then don’t hesitate to call the police.
Don’t let them wear you down
As we have seen, debt collectors such as Advantis Debt Collection are relentless and their behaviour could be responsible for mental ill-health and even suicide. Standing up to Advantis Debt Collection requires a degree of strength and courage few people possess. But there is help out there. Ultimately you need to get out of debt, but you need to do so in a controlled manner that will minimise your pain and distress. Ultimately all debt problems are solvable.
Getting help with debt
There are various kinds of help with debt available: there are not-for-profit agencies who exist to provide one-to-one help for you, and there are commercial debt management companies whose aim is to make money out of you. The former should be your first port of call. Some of the important agencies include:
- Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) provides extensive help with debt and should help you stop debt collectors contacting you if you are able to show you are seeking help and are trying to repay your debts.
- Christians Against Poverty (CAP) provide free debt help.
- StepChange provides free online debt advice helping people take charge of their debt.
Writing off your debt entirely
It is possible to write off your debt entirely through an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA). This is a formal agreement to pay the debt collectors an amount you can afford as a one-off sum or as monthly payments and the rest of the debt will be written off after a defined period, usually five years. This must be carried out by an insolvency practitioner.
Find a local licenced IVA insolvency practitioner here.
An alternative is a Debt Relief Order (DRO). This is only available if you are left with £50 or less each month after paying your household expenses and you don’t own your home or other assets worth over £1000.
To apply for a DRO you will need to go through an authorised debt advisor. You can find a list of authorised debt advisors here.
Despite warnings from professional bodies, government guidelines, and other measures the behaviour of many debt collecting agencies is atrocious, leading vulnerable debtors into mental illness and even suicide. However, it is possible to fight back, especially with some help from the agencies mentioned in this article. While it’s not as simple as just refusing to pay, you can reduce the amount you must repay and spread your repayments over a period you are comfortable with. Certainly, you can stop their bullying and by reporting them to the Financial Ombudsman they may even lose their licence.