If you have been in arrears with your debts for some time or have received default notices, it is extremely likely that you will hear from a debt collector, although this sounds scary, it is the normal processes for the collection of debts.
There are specialist collection companies such as Moorcroft and Wescot who work with lenders and are targeted with collecting outstanding debts. The lenders sometimes outsource their collection to these type of companies and set up agreed terms which provide amongst other things that you are treated fairly during the collection process.
As an alternative lenders do frequently sell debts which have become “impaired” which means they have fallen into arrears. Debt purchasers generally buy the debts at a discount but are entitled to collect the full sum from you. The debt purchasers can apply charges and interest but only if this is covered in your original agreement.
If you are unsure as to whether your debt has been sold or is simply being collected, it would be best to contact the original lender and find out if the debt has been sold or not.
Any organisations dealing with debt collection which involves collecting debts which are covered by Consumer Credit Agreements must be regulated by The Financial Conduct Authority unless they are solicitors who will be regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The past few years have seen numerous debt collection companies exit the industry as a result of tougher regulation. They must demonstrate they have systems and processes aimed at “treating customers fairly”.
- Making sure they undertake data protection checks before they discuss your debts and your payment plans.
- Taking extra care to make sure you understand the debt collection process especially if you are vulnerable ie, struggling with a health issue or a disability or struggling to understand as English is not your first language
Door Step collectors
A debt collection agency can send someone to your house, these people are referred to as ‘field agents’ or ‘doorstep collectors’. If you do receive a visit, remember that these people are not bailiffs, you do not have to open the door or let them in if you do not feel comfortable in doing so. If you do open the door, make sure you ask for proof of their ID. The most important thing to remember if you do receive a visit from a ‘field agents’ or ‘doorstep collector’ is that they cannot remove any goods from your home. You also shouldn’t make any cash payments to them, it would be better to call the debt collection agency following the visit and set up an arrangement directly with them.
Agreeing a payment plan
It’s wise to engage with the collection company and agree an affordable repayment plan. To enable them to assess whether your offer is reasonable, they are likely to want details of your monthly income and expenditure. You can either complete one of their forms or supply your own. Check out The Debt Advisor Debt Calculator which will help you work out your monthly budget and also identify how much you are paying to other creditors you owe money to.
If you feel that this task is difficult and you need help, there are charities and specialist debt solution practices that can help you set up payment plans for you to manage yourself or that they will manage the plan for you. These companies must be regulated by The Financial Conduct Authority. The Debt Advisor Ltd offer debt management plans and we do charge a reasonable fee for this service which is deducted from your monthly payment.
If you do not engage and respond to the debt collection company’s efforts to collect the debt, they are likely to threaten court action which is a county court judgment. If you receive a county court claim form, this is the first step towards obtaining a judgment and it is vital you take action.
Once you receive the claim form you only have 14 days to reply, when completing the form, you have options as to how to respond:
- Admit the claim if you agree that you owe the creditor that amount of money, you will need to complete the form which will include providing a breakdown of your income and expenditure and show the court how much money you have available to repay to the debt.
- File a defence if you do not agree with the amount of money that the form states you owe. It is advisable to seek advice if you intend to go down this route.
- Submit an acknowledgment of service if you intend to defend the claim but need longer than 14 days to prepare the defence.
Struggling with problem debt
If you find you need some help with problem debt or have been contacted by a collection agency, get in touch. There a range of solutions depending on whether you are salaried or self employed or you are a director or shareholder of a limited company. Should you enter into a debt solution with us, fees will apply. If you would like our team to call you, please use our contact form.
All debt solutions need to be carefully considered. IVA’s are formal solutions and failure to keep to the terms can result in your IVA failing and you could end up bankrupt.
There is also free debt help and advice available through a variety of debt charities. For more information, we recommend you visit www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk.
The Debt Advisor is Authorised and regulated by The Financial Conduct Authority (reg no: 659920)