Scotwest Credit Union Debt Collectors – Should You Pay?

If you have been contacted by Scotwest Credit Union Debt Collectors because you owe money, it can immediately make you feel unsettled and threatened. You may have gotten behind on a loan or a mortgage and be struggling to meet payments through no fault of your own.

Scotwest Credit Union may write to you by letter, text you or telephone and they may even get one of their representatives to call at your home to discuss your situation. It’s important, as with any creditor contacting you, not to avoid or ignore them. This will only make matters worse.

Here we take a closer look at Scotwest Credit Union and the steps you can take if they are taking action against you for payment.

You must understand that there is a legal structure for chasing after individuals who owe creditors and, if you feel that an organisation is not following the rules, you should seek appropriate advice.

Complaints to the Financial Ombudsmen have risen this year from 830 to 2,006, so it’s safe to say that you’re not alone.

Who is Scotwest Credit Union Debt Collectors?

Scotwest is a Lanarkshire based creditor which provides a range of loans, mortgages and savings products to people who live and work in the Scotland/s western region. They have been operating for nearly thirty years and are well known within the area.

Credit unions are not for profit member-controlled financial institutions. They don’t have charges and interest that are reinvested back into the business for the benefit of shareholders but use their profits to provide further loans for members.

They are normally used by people on low incomes that are searching for low-interest credit to buy essential items like cars, household appliances and consolidating loans.

An organisation like Scotwest Credit Union provides several benefits such as low rates on credit cards and loans and higher rates of savings accounts. They can also be more relaxed in who they take on as members and generally have a strong community presence. It’s easier for someone with a compromised credit rating to get the financial help they need.

Scotwest Credit Union will start by offering small, low-cost loans and once individuals have paid these off they can access higher levels of credit. In most cases, this allows people to get the finance they need while still controlling their finances.

In some circumstances, however, customers can get into financial trouble and have difficulty meeting their debts.

Why Are They Contacting Me?

If you have a loan or mortgage through Scotwest Credit Union, it doesn’t mean you are immune to getting into debt trouble. Because of the more relaxed acceptance among the local community, it can mean those taking out loans find themselves missing payments.

Losing your job or a loss of income can immediately have a big impact on any loan or mortgage repayment. Most credit unions operate ethically and make sure their customers can afford to pay back any loan but it’s not always possible to foresee the future.

On the whole Scotwest Credit Union have a good reputation for providing financial services to individuals in western Scotland ad have achieved good reviews over the years. There are some concerns, however, when it comes to how they handle debt collections for those that have fallen behind on payments. That includes making excessive calls and pestering individuals who owe money.

Is Scotwest Credit Union Legitimate?

Scotwest is a legitimate credit union and does have many satisfied customers. It has been incorporated as a credit union since 1991 and follows an ethical lending practice:

  • Address: Scotwest Credit Union Ltd, 13 Elmbank Street, Glasgow, G2 4PB
  • Telephone number: 0141 227 2390
  • Website: https://www.scotwest.co.uk/
  • Company number: 2151448
  • Incorporated on:1st January 1991
  • Board chair: David McRiner (since 2015)

In the recent past, credit unions across Scotland and the rest of the UK have become increasingly important for those on low incomes who need to access loan financing. They have played a significant role in moving households away from costly payday loan companies that normally charge exorbitant rates of interest.

What Actions Can Scotwest Credit Union Take Against Me?

First of all, Scotwest Credit Union encourage anyone who is having difficulty meeting their obligations under a loan agreement to contact them directly before things get out of hand. On their website they state:

“At Scotwest, we help members who are struggling with their Scotwest loans. If you are experiencing debt problems, make sure that you get help straight away by speaking to your lender in the first instance before it spirals out of control.”

There are several reasons why you might be unable to meet your loan repayments. That could include losing your job, having your income reduced or because you have an illness or injury that prevents you from earning money.

If you continue to miss payments and do not contact the company at all, they will generally send out a letter to make you aware of what support is available. When things start moving into debt collection territory, however, the letter will be a lot more aggressive. This kind of action by the organisation may involve follow-up calls.

This action is pre-warning you what will happen if you do not contact the credit union or repay the debt. They will normally give you short a period to pay the amount in full, stating that they have been trying to contact you for some time with no result.

The letter will include a note of the outstanding debt and any penalties or interest that have been added. The letter will also outline what will happen next if you don’t come to an agreement. That includes:

  • A visit to your home by one of their representatives to discuss the debt.
  • Court action which could result in a county court judgement or CCJ.
  • The possibility of being made bankrupt if the value of your outstanding loan is over £5,000 and Scotwest Credit Union decide to issue a statutory demand.
  • You will also be registered with credit agencies because of non-payment making your ability to get loans in the future difficult. 

It’s important to take action and reach out to Scotwest Credit Union if you have received a letter such as this. Unfortunately, many people stick their heads in the sand and try to avoid contact. That can often mean several calls a day coming through to your home or workplace.

This, of course, can be extremely stressful and only gets worse the more the problem stretches on. Scotwest has often been accused of being too aggressive when chasing after debtors although recent changes in the law have given individuals more protection. That includes when and how creditors can contact debtors.

Are They Likely to Instruct Bailiffs?

Going to court and instructing bailiffs is an expensive business and it is normally a last resort for any creditor that is owed money. It’s important to note that at least part of that cost will be transferred onto you as the debtor. It can quickly mean that the amount you need to pay back spirals dramatically.

This only happens if you have a CCJ against you, however. Initially, Scotwest Credit Union may send their representatives to try and collect the debt from you. These third parties have less legal weight and limited powers behind them compared to official bailiffs when it comes to collecting money.

Is My Home at Risk?

The short answer to this is no. Scotwest Credit Union cannot simply make you sell your home. If a CCJ has been made against you and you fail to make the payments requested, the court can force you to sell your home to meet the debt but this only happens under exceptional circumstances when the amount of debt is large. It’s unlikely that individuals using a credit union would be subject to this type of pressure.

What is an Attachment of Earnings Order?

An Attachment of Earnings Order means that repayments are taken directly out of your wages and paid to Scotwest Credit Union. Again, the company cannot do this on their own and force you to comply. There needs to be a CCJ in place and the court has to order an AEO in the first place.

Can I Stop Scotwest Credit Union Contacting Me?

The short answer is that you can’t. But you can stop them from harassing you. There are rules that organisations like Scotwest Credit Union need to follow when chasing up a debt. For instance, they can’t contact you at unreasonable times of the day and they should not contact you at your place of work unless you have agreed that they can do so.

Most debt collection agencies and creditors will abide by your wishes of how you want to be contacted but that does mean you have to reach out to them in the first place and keep communication constant.

In some instances when there has been no contact, a company like Scotwest Credit Union will send out its debt collection representatives to visit you. There are several things to note here:

  • First, this is not an enforcement agent or legally appointed bailiff.
  • If they pretend to be one, it is a criminal offence.
  • They must have proof of ID on them.
  • You are not obliged to let them in your home or even open the door.
  • You can ask them to leave at any time and they must abide by your wishes.
  • They cannot remove any property from your house and you don’t have to make cash payments directly to them.

What Happens if I Ignore Them?

Ignoring regular requests for debt payments and not fulfilling your obligations will mean that Scotwest Credit Union may begin to escalate their action. That can lead to your debt growing and your credit rating being affected. In the final stages, it can also mean that you are given a county court judgement.

While it can be daunting when debt collection procedures begin to happen, bear in mind that the organisation will more often than not want to reach an agreement on future payments and will try to do their best to help you out.

What Are My Options?

You should contact Scotwest Credit Union if you are having trouble meeting your repayments for a loan or a mortgage. The earlier you can intervene and take a proactive approach, the better the outcome is likely to be.

1. Do You Owe the Debt?

This might seem a little curious to start with but financial institutions do make mistakes. If you have already paid off the debt (perhaps after numerous reminders), it’s important to contact Scotwest in writing and by telephone to inform them.

2. Contacting Scotwest Credit Union

Once you find that you have a problem with repaying a debt it’s important to contact Scotwest Credit Union rather than wait for things to get worse. They will generally look at your current income coming in and what you have going out. This will hopefully give you some options for what you can pay back and it can then be reviewed over time.

3. Setting Up a Payment Arrangement

The next step is to set up a new payment arrangement that suits both sides. You must be confident that you can meet this as further default can lead to more assertive action from the credit union. That’s why it can be beneficial to work with a third party debt management company or charity.

4. Staying in Contact

Finally, it’s important to stay in contact with Scotwest Credit Union if your circumstances change. It is far better to be proactive and take the first step rather than wait for them to start pushing you for payments again.

What is an IVA?

An IVA or individual involuntary agreement is for people who are having great difficulty with their debt and allows them to spread their repayments over a much longer period. In Scotland, it is more commonly referred to as a trust deed and is available to anyone who has debts over £5,000. The arrangement goes through an insolvency company and means that all interest and charges are also frozen.

In a recent submission to the Scottish government, however, Scotwest Credit Union stated that it did not get enough return form trust deeds compared to debt arrangement schemes (where the individual promises to pay back their loan in the normal way):

“In Scotwest we have seen an average return on DAS of 92% compared to only 12.5% average return from PTDs. There is a massive gulf here between these two debt solutions and the financials indicate that the main reason we can see for this is the high level of fees which are attached to PTDs.”

That can mean they are more likely to be flexible on debt arrangement schemes and you may well be able to negotiate a better repayment schedule.

Summary

Organisations such as Scotwest Credit Union are a safer option compared to payday loan companies but they are not without risk. If you do get into trouble with repaying your loan, it can have huge consequences for your peace of mind and mental health, not just your credit rating. That means not overstretching yourself and being confident that you can repay any amount borrowed in the first place.

It’s important to ensure that you maintain contact with your creditor even if things are very tough. If you fail to do so, you can expect the calls to increase and more threatening letters to come through the door.

Scotwest, like any other creditor, needs to make the books balance. The fact that they deal with consumers that are at the lower-income end of the market means that they are experienced in dealing with defaults. The most important point to focus on is that they are not your enemy and talking is far better than ignoring.

References

CONC 7.3 Treatment of customers in default or arrears (including repossessions): lenders, owners and debt collectors

CONC 7.9 Contact with customers

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