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What to do when debt collectors keep calling

Sean LaPointe

Few things are as annoying as seemingly relentless calls from debt collectors. ‘Yes I know I have a debt that I will eventually have to pay, but I don’t need someone harassing and reminding me about it every day.’ Right?

While many customer service agents or company representatives treat people with courtesy and respect, the situation is often quite different with debt collectors. One thing you need to know, however, is that regardless of the amount you owe, the law protects you from being harassed through invasive and repeated phone calls from debt collectors.

Read on to find out what you can do when debt collectors keep calling.

How do you deal with these people?

The mistake I see a lot of people make when dealing with debt collectors is that they think they have to accept the demands being made or follow all instructions to the letter regarding debt payments. Many people are coerced, bullied or even fooled into thinking that the debt collector is actually trying to help them get their affairs in order. Often, such cooperation only encourages debt collectors to become even more invasive and continue calling repeatedly.

You should be aware that when it comes to debt collectors, the majority only have one goal: to get as much money from you as possible. After all, debt collectors are usually paid a percentage of the amount they are able to recover from you (sometimes it can be as high as 50% of the amount recovered). The average Brit has a credit card debt of £2,688 and if a collector is hired to recover it and stands to gain a significant portion of it, there’s a chance they’ll use every method in the book to meet this goal, including harassing you through constant phone calls.

Write a cease and desist letter

One of the best parts about debt collection regulation is that it gives you an avenue to never have to deal with debt collectors via phone calls. Through what is called a ‘cease and desist’ letter, you can inform the debt collection agency that you only wish to deal with the creditor directly and therefore do not want to be contacted by debt collectors. In the letter, you can also mention to the collector that any further contact will result in legal action from you. Under current regulatory guidelines, once the debt collection agency receives this letter, they must immediately stop contacting you.

To ensure that the letter is delivered, find the collector’s official mailing address and send the letter there. As long as you have proof of this letter (you can retain a copy), the law will always be on your side. 

What’s the downside?

The only downside to the ‘cease and desist’ letter approach is that you have to be consistent in writing these letters. This is because one letter written and delivered to a particular debt collector does not exempt other collectors from contacting you. Creditors often use a number of different debt collection agencies and may send several of them your way at different times.

However, as long as you dismiss every collector that is sent your way, you will remain in charge. Phone calls should become less and less frequent because at a certain point, the collectors will likely deem you not to be worth the risk of legal action against them or even a fine from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). They will most likely shift their focus to other debtors.

You have rights

If you are in debt, you have rights that protect you from actions by debt collection agencies that are unfair and improper. Some of these actions, as defined by section 7.9 of the FCA’s Consumer Credit source book, include:

  • Contacting you at unreasonable times or at unreasonable intervals (phone calls before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. can qualify as unreasonable).
  • Acting in a way likely to publicly embarrass you either deliberately or negligently (for example, calling you at your workplace or leaving messages with your employer or friends, leading to the disclosure of the fact that you are being pursued for debt repayment)
  • Providing you with misleading information (which can include claiming that your property or assets might be seized, claiming excessive or unenforceable charges, misrepresenting the legal position of the collector to the debtor, false claims of court judgements and so on).

The law prevents a debt collector from making demands for money that are aimed at causing distress, humiliation and alarm to the debtor because of their frequency or the manner in which they are carried out.

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 actually criminalises actions by persons that they know or ought to know entail the harassment of another individual. Repeatedly calling you outside reasonable hours or at your workplace can therefore be categorised as a criminal offence.

What to do if your rights are violated

If you think that the actions of a debt collector have broken the law or have breached the FCA guidelines, you can raise it with them before taking any further action.

However, you need to gather evidence of the actions – this can include a record of all calls made to you, the timings and the content of the calls. You can then inform the collector that you are aware of the FCA debt collection guidelines and believe that they have been breached.

Ask the collector to stop their actions and tell them how you wish to be contacted about the debt in future. If the collector does not heed your instructions and continues to repeatedly call you or harass you, then you can raise a complaint via the Financial Ombudsman or sue the debt collector in a court of law.

Key takeaway

Debt collectors who keep calling are simply annoying. If they call you frequently, at odd hours or at your workplace, this can be classed as harassment. By being aware of the FCA debt collection guidelines, you can take action to stop unwanted calls from debt collection agencies. You can call them and tell them to stop, write a complaint or even a ‘cease and desist’ letter through which you completely cut off communication with them.

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