Phillips & Cohen Associates Debt Collectors: How to Deal with Them

Phillips & Cohen Associates are a debt collecting agency and they chase debt on behalf of other companies, such as banks, utility companies and mobile phone companies.

Although you don’t owe the money directly to Phillips & Cohen, they buy the debt from another company, who will then spend time tracking down the debt.

The debt collectors might contact you by phone or letter – or both. They might even threaten to visit your home. If you have received letters like this, you may be panicking and wondering what to do. If you are in this situation, you are not alone, take a look at the Legal Beagles forum, where you will be able to read about other scenarios from customers dealing with Phillips & Cohen. This should give you a bit of reassurance that you are facing the same challenges as other people.

We will look at the actions you can take specifically to deal with outstanding debt, together with some advice and tips on managing debt in general and some tips to increase your income.

Who is Phillips & Cohen Associates Debt Collectors ?

Phillips & Cohen Associates is a debt collecting company. They buy debt from other companies and chase the debt to try and obtain full payment. Although they cannot visit your home or take your possessions, they are entitled to contact you about the debt, so it is important that you don’t ignore it. If you ignore it, it will just spiral and they will keep contacting you until you respond. This can be highly stressful and distressing. It is important to contact them when you receive the letter.

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Discussing the Debt with Phillips & Cohen Associates

The first thing to do after you receive a letter or call from Phillips & Cohen is to understand what the debt is referring to. Do not just pay the debt, make sure you owe it first. If you are unsure of the debt or it is not your debt, you should call Phillips & Cohen Associates on 0800 030 4101 in the first instance. Make sure you get confirmation in writing about the debt, even if your initial discussion is over the phone. It is imperative that you have proof that you owe the debt, and if possible, a breakdown of the costs.

Follow my ‘prove it’ guide with letter templates and get them to prove that you owe the money.

Making Payments to Phillips & Cohen Associates

It is better to pay your debt in one full payment, if you can afford it, but if not, you will be able to pay the debt back in instalments. It is important that you pay the most essential bills first before you make payments to your debt. For example, your mortgage/rent and utilities (gas/electricity) should be paid first. It is a good idea to sit down and work out your finances and budget available to make payments. If you can only afford a small payment each month, Phillips & Cohen Associates may ask for proof of your income. Ideally, you will be able to make substantial payments each month, as this will get the debt dealt with and cleared as soon as possible. Not only does debt have a consequence on your credit rating, it can also be highly stressful dealing with debt collecting agencies. If you owe the money, start making payments as soon as possible.

How to Manage Your Debt

We know that owing money can be highly stressful, especially if you are struggling to make payments. These are some tips for dealing with your debt.

  • Check your credit file – your credit report is a good place to start when trying to get your debt in order, and there are many websites or apps you can use to do this, including Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Make sure the debt registered on your credit report is debt you actually owe and start by contacting the companies you owe money to. Most companies will accept a payment, even if it is a small one. It’s better to start making payments, than to bury your head in the sand.
  • Use Savings – there is no point in having savings if you also have debt, it is counterproductive. Make sure you have paid of all your debt, or at least have payment plans in place before you even consider saving your money.
  • Personal Loan – if your credit rating is such that you will be entitled to a loan with low interest rates, it might be worth getting this, and consolidating your debt. This is particularly useful if you have a lot of debt, as it means your debt is only in one place. It is much easier to manage this way.
  • Minimum Credit Card Payments – it might be tempting to just pay your minimum payment on credit cards, but this can easily keep you locked in for years paying extortionate levels of interest. It is a good idea to try and pay off credit cards as quickly as possible. Try and make more than the monthly payment, as this will ensure it is cleared sooner, rather than later.

What If I Can’t Afford to Pay Phillips & Cohen?

If you can’t afford to pay the debt Phillips & Cohen are chasing you about, you should contact them to discuss the options in the first instance. There might be options to defer it for a few months or you may want to enter into an Individual Voluntary Agreement (IVA), which is available in Wales, England and Northern Ireland or a Trust Deed in Scotland. This will help you to write off a lot of your debit, but it will mean that you won’t be able to get any credit for around 5 years. It is important to do this with caution, especially if you are looking to take out a mortgage in the future.

What If You Don’t Owe the Money?

Debt collecting agencies like Phillips & Cohen are desperate to get payments on the account, and in some cases, they may chase you for money that is owed by someone else. If this is the case, do not make payments to them. If you don’t recognise the payment, you must get written proof from Phillips & Cohen that you owe the money, and a breakdown of the costs. Under no circumstances should you pay any debt you don’t owe.

Making Payments to Phillips & Cohen

If you can afford to make payments, you should give them a call and establish a payment plan with them. If you can only afford a small amount, you may be asked for proof of your earnings. The quicker the debt is paid off the better, and paying it always better than ignoring it, so this should never be an option.

Tips for Increasing Your Income

Dealing with phone calls and letters about money you owe can be highly distressing, particularly if you are in a difficult financial situation. If you have a low income, you might want to consider other ways of increasing your income. These are some tips for making a bit of extra income to put you in a better position to be able to pay off your outstanding debt.

  • Ask for Extra Hours – if you are struggling to pay off debt, it might be worth asking your employer (if you are employed) if you can pick up some extra shifts, even if it’s just for a short term. Most employers will be willing to provide extra shifts if the workload is high. There is no harm in asking the question.
  • Additional Employment – if you can manage it, it might be worth taking on some extra work, even in the interim while you have the debt hanging over you. It might involve working in the evening or weekends, but if it’s short term, it may be do-able.
  • Cashback Websites – there are websites where you can make money, just by shopping online. If you tend to order online, take a look at a cashback website first, such as Top Cashback. If you can make money when you’re shopping anyway, you may as well do it. Rewards are particularly high for utilities, mobile phones, and bank accounts. It is worth taking a look before you make any online purchase.
  • Cashback Credit Cards – there are also credit cards which will pay you every time you make a purchase. If you qualify for these, it can be really worthwhile and much more cost effective than a standard credit card.
  • Sell on eBay – most of us have clutter lying around the home which we no longer need or have never used. There is no point in accumulating these things, especially if you have debt you need to pay off. It makes more sense to sell your items on eBay. Even if you make a little money, it can be used to pay off some of your debt.
  • Cancel Subscriptions – it is extremely easy to order a subscription; you can quickly do it at the touch of a button. If you have a lot of subscriptions to apps, even if they are for a small amount, they can quickly add up and before you know it, you’re paying out £100’s every month. If you want to make the most of your money and pay your debt off, make sure you cancel any subscriptions you don’t need. It will make your money go much further in the long run.

Improving Your Credit Rating

If you are worried about your credit rating, there are some steps you can take to improve it, and you can get started straight away. Even if your credit rating is extremely poor, you can take steps to change it as your credit rating changes every month. These are some ways to repair your credit score.

  • Register on Electoral Roll – it is essential that you register on the voter’s roll, otherwise the credit company will not be able to locate you, and therefore, they won’t be able to offer you any credit. It is a simple process which can be done online and will only take a few minutes.
  • Pay Off Debt – start making payments to your debt, and it’ll improve your credit rating. If you can only afford small payments, just make those as even the smallest payments will start repairing your credit score.
  • Take a Credit Break – if you have a low credit rating, there is not much point in applying for credit, as you’re highly unlikely to be accepted. When you’re short on funds, there is a temptation to just keep applying for credit, in the hope that someone will say yes, but this is counterproductive. Making multiple applications will do more damage than good to your credit rating. It is better to refrain from making any credit applications, until you are in a better position to be accepted for credit.
  • Active Credit Card – it is important that you don’t just max out your credit card, as this will make it more difficult to pay back, and it will affect your credit rating. You should aim to keep your credit card active, by spending little and paying the full amount off each month. It will reflect well on your credit score, as lenders will see that you can pay the money back that you borrow.
  • Check Records – ensure you check your credit records regularly and keep on top of them. If you notice any discrepancies, make sure you get in touch with the relevant companies to inform them and ask them to rectify it. There are lots of issues with fraud so the best thing you can do is check your credit report regularly.
  • Pay Bills on Time – lenders want to be assured that you are able to pay your bills, otherwise they won’t want to lend you any money. It’s as simple as that. If you are constantly defaulting on payments, it will be detrimental to your credit rating. Always aim to pay your bills on time, as this will help keep your credit records in a healthy state.

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The Data Protection Act 1998 requires every data controller who is processing personal data to notify the Information Commissioner of any breaches no more than 72 hours after becoming aware of it unless they are exempt from doing so. Failure to notify is a criminal offence.  In addition, any FCA regulated firm must notify the FCA – ideally within 24hrs of discovery of a breach.

This document should be read in conjunction with our Acceptable Use policy and Information Security policy which form part of the Employee’s Handbook.  We are committed to protecting and respecting privacy.

This policy sets out the basis on which any personal data we collect from a consumer will be processed by us.

For the purpose of the Data Protection Act 1998 (“the Act”), the data controller is Nerd FS.

By visiting and using our website the consumer is consenting to the practices set out below.

If our firm needs to collect data for any purpose not stated above we should notify the Information Commissioner before collecting that data.

Whenever collecting information about people, our firm agrees to apply the Eight Data Protection Principles:

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The use of data for marketing purposes

For marketing purposes, there are two types of data:

Data obtained in-house

Data obtained from third parties

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We have taken measures to guard against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss, destruction or damage.

This includes:

Customers Right to Withdraw Consent

The customer has the right to withdraw their consent at any time. The withdrawal of consent shall not affect the lawfulness of processing based on consent before it’s withdrawal. However, it does mean you can no longer rely on consent as your lawful basis for processing. They withdraw consent by either of the following; putting this in writing to address details, by calling telephone number or emailing email address.

As the right to withdraw is ‘at any time’, it’s not enough to provide an opt-out only by reply. The individual must be able to opt out at any time they choose, on their own initiative.

In some cases you may need to keep a record of the withdrawal of consent for your own purposes – for example, to maintain suppression records so that you can comply with direct marketing rules. You don’t need consent for this, as long as you tell individuals that you will keep these records, why you need them, and your lawful basis for this processing (eg legal obligation or legitimate interests).

Subject Access Request (SAR)

One of the main rights which the Data Protection Act gives to individuals is the right of access to their personal information.  An individual is permitted to send us a subject access request (“SAR”) requiring that we tell them about the personal information we hold about them, and to provide them with a copy of that information.  In most cases we must respond to a valid subject access request within 40 calendar days of receipt.  Any business is able to charge a customer a reasonable charge of £10 for providing this data however it is not our companies policy to do so unless the request is excessive or unwarranted.  Any Subject Access Requests must be sent to a Senior Manager for processing purposes.

Third party requests are also permitted e.g. a friend or relative, a solicitor, a claims management company or other third party. Under the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Data Protection Principles, are not permitted to reveal such information to a third party without the authority of a customer. On this basis, for any third party SAR, we will ensure that we have a written record of authority held on file before we release any personal data.

Where there are two or more customers linked to one credit agreement and the request comes from one of these parties, we will provide the response to both parties

We are required to 'give' a copy of the executed agreement and any other document referred to in it and the required statement. In the FCA’s view, sending a copy of them by ordinary second class post will suffice. Guidance on what constitutes a ‘copy’ can be found in the case of Carey v HSBC Bank plc [2009] EWHC 3417 (QB).

The duty under the relevant section does not apply if no sum is, or will or may become, payable by customer under the agreement. This is irrespective of whether the agreement may have already been terminated.

We will promptly facilitate a SAR request, although we have up to 40 days to do so.  All staff are made aware of this during induction.  Refresher training will be provided on a regular basis.  Although the rules permit the Firm to charge a maximum of £10 for responding to the request for personal data, it is not the Firm’s own policy to do so.

Client consent to the application of the Act and their right to access to their records are included within the firm’s terms of business/client agreement.

Any data collected must not be excessive and must be relevant to the purpose and it must not be kept longer than is necessary.

Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)

The ICO has the power to issue monetary penalty notices of up to £500,000 for serious breaches of the Data Protection Act occurring on or after 6 April 2010, and serious breaches of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

Privacy

Our Privacy policy is in full view on our website.  This section must be read in conjunction with the Privacy Policy.

It is the responsibility of the senior management of our firm to ensure this policy is effective through monitoring and complaints procedures.

All employees, affiliates and ARs dealing with customers have a responsibility to read, understand and implement this policy and to hold their own valid and appropriate Privacy policy where appropriate.

The Firm holds a valid Data Protection license and it is bound by the rules of the Data Protection Act 1998.  The full extent of the rules can be found at www.dataprotection.gov.uk.

The 8 principles that the 1984 Act introduced are as follows.  Data must be:

Criminal offences

A criminal offence is committed by the Firm or an individual member of staff if they knowingly or recklessly:

Uses of customer information

When submitting application forms to banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions, this means that personal data will, by default, also be submitted.  In these cases, clients will be informed that their personal data may be used.

The Firm will request client consent before any transfer of data takes place.  Clients will be asked to confirm that they are comfortable to have their personal data used in one or more of the following forms:

Post, telephone, email etc. subject to the conditions of the Data Protection Act.

Information Classification

 Definitions

The following definitions provide a summary of the information classification levels that have been adopted by our firm and which underpin the 8 principles of information security. These classification levels explicitly incorporate the Data Protection Act’s (“DPA”) definitions of Personal Data and Sensitive Personal Data, as laid out in our firm’s Data Protection Policy.

‘Confidential’ information has significant value for our firm, and unauthorised disclosure or dissemination could result in severe financial or reputational damage to us as an FCA authorised firm, including fines of up to £500,000 from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Data that is defined by the Data Protection Act as Sensitive Personal Data falls into this category. Only those who explicitly need access must be granted it, and only to the least degree in order to do their work (the ‘need to know’ and ‘least privilege’ principles).  When held outside our firm, on mobile devices such as laptops, tablets or phones, or in transit, ‘Confidential’ information must be protected behind an explicit logon and encryption at the device, drive or file level.

‘Restricted’ information is subject to controls on access, such as only allowing valid logons from a small group of staff. ‘Restricted’ information must be held in such a manner that prevents unauthorised access i.e. on a system that requires a valid and appropriate user to log in before access is granted. Information defined as Personal Data by the Data Protection Act falls into this category. Disclosure or dissemination of this information is not intended, and may incur some negative publicity, but is unlikely to cause severe financial or reputational damage to our firm.  Note that under the Data Protection Act large datasets (>1000 records) of ‘Restricted’ information may become classified as Confidential, thereby requiring a higher level of access control.

‘Internal use’ information can be disclosed or disseminated by its owner to appropriate members of our firm, partners and other individuals, as appropriate by information owners without any restrictions on content or time of publication.

‘Public’ information can be disclosed or disseminated without any restrictions on content, audience or time of publication. Disclosure or dissemination of the information must not violate any applicable laws or regulations, such as privacy rules.  Modification must be restricted to individuals who have been explicitly approved by information owners to modify that information, and who have successfully authenticated themselves to the appropriate computer system.

Designating information as ‘Confidential’ involves significant costs in terms of implementation, hardware and ongoing resources, and makes data less mobile. For this reason, information owners making classification decisions must balance the risk of damage that could result from unauthorised access to, or disclosure of, the information against the cost of additional hardware, software or services required to protect it.

Examples

Security Level

Definitions

Examples

FOIA2000 / DPA1998 status

1. Confidential

Normally accessible only to specified and/or relevant members of our staff

DPA-defined Sensitive personal data:

·                     racial/ethnic origin

·                     political opinion

·                     religious beliefs

·                     trade union membership

·                     physical/mental health condition

·                     sexual life

·                     criminal record

·                     salary information

·                     individuals’ bank details

·                     passwords

·                     large aggregates of DPA-defined Personal Data (>1000 records) including elements such as name, address, telephone number.

·                     HR system data

Subject to significant scrutiny in relation to appropriate exemptions/ public interest and legal considerations.

2. Restricted

Normally accessible only to specified and/or relevant members of our staff

DPA-defined Personal Data (information that identifies living individuals including:

·                     home / work address

·                     age

·                     telephone number

·                     schools attended

·                     photographs

Subject to significant scrutiny in relation to appropriate exemptions/ public interest and legal considerations.

3. Internal Use

Normally accessible only to our staff

·                     Internal correspondence,

·                     internal group papers and minutes,

·                     information held under license company policy and procedures

Subject to scrutiny in relation to appropriate exemptions/ public interest and legal considerations

4.  Public

Accessible to all members of the public

·                     Company filed documents

·                     Company websites

Freely available on the website.

Explicit Information Ownership and Other Rights of Access to Information

We recommend that departments and functions within our business explicitly designate information owners.

Other users may have rights of access to data according to the terms of engagement under which the data was gained or created.

Granularity of Classification

The sets of information being classified should, in general, be large rather than small. Smaller units require more administrative effort, involve more decisions and add to complexity, thus decreasing the overall security.

 Information Retention

There may be minimum or maximum timescales for which information has to be kept. These may be mandated in a commercial contract. Other forms of information retention may be covered by environmental or financial regulations.

Responsibilities

All ‘Users’ must obtain authorisation from their line manager before their classification request is submitted to Senior Managers. Nerd FS is responsible for assessing information and classifying its sensitivity.

Violations

A violation of our Information Security Policy and supporting policy documents will be investigated and consequentially may result in disciplinary action which could include the termination of employment contract for employees, the termination of contractual relations in the case of third parties, contractors or consultants.

A violation of this policy and misuse of the systems and applications within our firm may also be a breach of the Computer Misuse Act 1990; consequentially the company may at its discretion take legal action against an individual or organisation that is found to be in breach of its policies.

How we may use customer data

 We may as a result of a consumer or a third parties’ interaction with our website/s obtain their personal data and process their information on our computers and in any other way.

By “third parties” we mean any lender, broker or affiliate who interacts with us in enabling a consumer to make a loan application.

We will use the information to manage their account(s), give them statements and provide our services, for research, assessment and analysis (including credit and/or behaviour scoring, market and product analysis) and to develop and improve our services to the consumer and other consumers and protect our interests.

We, and other carefully selected third parties, will use their information to inform them by post, fax, telephone or other electronic means, about other products and services (including those of others) which we believe may be of interest to them.

If they contact us, we may keep a record of that correspondence.

We will keep details of transactions they carry out through our site and of the fulfilment of their applications and their loan history.

We will keep details of their visits to our site including, but not limited to, traffic data, location data, weblogs and other communication data and the resources that you access.

In order for us to be able to collect and use personal data and / or to pass If they do not want us to use their data in this way, or to pass their details on to third parties for marketing purposes, customers must manually opt in to this agreement (See CONC section of this Compliance Manual).

IP Addresses

 We may collect information about their computer, including where available their IP address, operating system and browser type, for system administration and to report aggregate information to our advertisers. This is statistical data about our users' browsing actions and patterns, and does not identify any individual.

Cookies

 For the same reason, we may obtain information about a consumer’s general internet usage by using a cookie file which is stored on their browser or the hard drive of their computer. Cookies contain information that is transferred to their computer's hard drive. They help us to improve our site and to deliver a better and more personalised service. Some of the cookies we use are essential for the site to operate.

If they register with us or if they continue to use our site, they agree to our use of cookies.

Please note that our advertisers may also use cookies, over which we have no control.

Cookies can be blocked and a consumer may not be able to access all or parts of our site. Unless a consumer has adjusted their browser setting so that it will refuse cookies, our system will issue cookies as soon they visit our site.

Where we store data

The data that we collect from a consumer is stored within the European Economic Area ("EEA"). Such staff may be engaged in, among other things, the assessment and fulfilment of a consumer’s application, the processing of a consumer’s bank details and the provision of support services. By submitting their personal data, they agree to this transfer, storing or processing.  We will take all steps reasonably necessary to ensure that a consumer’s data is treated securely and in accordance with this privacy policy.

All information a consumer provides to us is stored on our secure servers. Any transactions will be encrypted. Where we have given (or where they have chosen) a password which enables you to access certain parts of our site, they are responsible for keeping this password confidential. We ask a consumer not to share a password with anyone.

The transmission of information via the internet is never completely secure. Although our systems exceed industry standards for security, and we will always do our best to protect a consumer’s personal data, we cannot guarantee the security of a consumer’s data transmitted to our site; any transmission is at their own risk. Once we have received their information, we will use strict procedures and security features to try to prevent unauthorised access.

Disclosure of information

We may disclose a consumer’s personal information to any member of our group, which means our subsidiaries, our ultimate holding company and its subsidiaries, as defined in section 1159 of the UK Companies Act 2006.

We may disclose a consumer’s personal information to third parties:

Credit Reference Agencies (CRAs)

When a customer makes an application for a credit, we will check whether they are likely to be able to meet the monthly payments and repay the loan.  However, we are limited in what we can actually do as we do not work directly with CRA’s as we are not eligible to do so.  We will work with what the applicant divulges on their fact find/application but we can only judge as accurately as the information given allows.

When we submit an application to a lender, it is normal practice for a lender to carry out a credit search with a CRA.  In the past, this would have left a search ‘footprint’ on the applicants’ credit file that may be seen by other lenders. Large numbers of applications made within a short period of time would adversely affect a customer’s ability to obtain credit, and they should always consider this before making an application for a loan.

However, the lenders that we have chosen to deal with offer a facility known as a ‘quotation’ search, which does not leave a footprint. This is in line with CONC 2.5.7 which suggests that during the ‘shopping around’ process of the customer, the lenders that we promote should only use a ‘quotation search’, which does not leave a footprint.

Access to information

The Act gives a consumer the right to access information held about them. Your right of access can be exercised in accordance with the Act. Any subject access request may be subject to a fee of £10 to meet our costs in providing them with details of the information we hold about them.

Changes to our Privacy Policy

 Any changes we may make to our privacy policy in the future will be posted on our web page, and, if appropriate, notified to consumers by e-mail.

Questions, comments and requests regarding this privacy policy are welcomed and should be addressed to moneynerduk (at) gmail.com.

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