Debt collector harassment

Helene Mueller
eCollect support team

Debt collector harassment is generalised as an act of violation by a debt recovery agent against a debtor and his rights as a consumer. Such agent can be part of a DCA (Debt Collection Agency), a debt lawyer, a debt purchaser or the creditor himself. This behaviour usually includes psychological constraint actions with offensive character. As the whole debt recovery process is governed by different law, the legal acts’ aim is to prohibit such actions of humiliation, abusing and repression debtor’s rights as a consumer. Debt collection harassment is, by no means, tolerated by law and breaching debt recovery acts is considered as a severe violation of government and international law. Applying any kind of pressure to an indebted subject is illegal and unethical as well.

Debt collector harassment tactics

Although debt collection agencies are aware of which methods are in breach of debtor’s rights, some recovery agents employ such tactics in order to collect delinquent amounts from consumers. Every country has its own debt collection acts and laws, but there are internationally generalised rules for harassing practices.

A debt recovery agent is not allowed to implement phone calls and letters addressed to the debtor, which possess abusive character. As such are considered contacting the debtor on national holidays, outside the accepted time frame, and during weekends. If the subject of debt asked the DCA (Debt Collection Agency) not to contact him again, but instead to reach his solicitor, the agency has to conform to this request. If the agent continues calling or writing the consumer, this will be officially considered as debt collection harassment. According to some law organisation, as the UK Office of Fair Trading, collectors cannot reach a subject of debt by using social networks’ communication, such as usage of Twitter, Facebook, etc. Due to the same UK organisation, a creditor is not in the right to transfer debtor’s case to a third- party DCA without consumer’s knowledge (such information has to be provided in writing to the subject of debt).

When sending letters in writing to the debtor, a DCA has to implicate the real name of the collection agency and the company of the creditor. Any different or false name included in the letter violates debt collection’ laws. The recovery agent does not have any right whatsoever to include additional charges to debtor’s account, which are not pointed out specifically in the local / state law of the country.

A debt collector cannot treat the second party (debtor) with legal and court actions that cannot take place or will not be carried out, as this is to be false information. The first two are no longer used for people in debt and the last one is in breach not only with consumer’s rights as a debtor but also with his rights as a human being. The same second party cannot be intimidated with arrest, prison or physical violence. A creditor or a collector has no right to proceed to legal or court actions if the debtor hasn’t been contacted before and several unsuccessful attempts of debt recovery have not been in evidence.

A DCA can call an employer or a family member if he cannot contact the indebted subject, but only if the agency keeps the matter of the call confidential. If the debtor has requested not to be contacted at his place of work, but the collector disregards this request, such action is again deemed as harassment.

An enforcement agent, bailiff or debt solicitor does not have the right to enter debtor’s property without his consent and invitation. Although the aforementioned agents are authorised to seize debtor’s personal belongings, they cannot carry out such operation, unless they present legal court document for confiscation or repossession or property to the consumer.

No collection agent has the right to pursue a default payment from a debtor after its limitation period has passed. Statute- barred debts are marked as legally uncollectible after the elapsing of the time- frame, specified in local / country laws. If the creditor or the agency, acting on his behalf, hasn’t attempted to collect the amount within this period of limitation and the debtor has received no written or oral reminder about his past- due payment, the debt will be considered as out of its limitation period. If an agent continues to contact the subject of debt after the time- frame has elapsed, this action will also be marked as debt collector harassment.

Anti debt collection harassment legislation

Each country operates with different state and local laws to prevent debt collector harassment. In the UK some of the main regulators (acts and organisations) are the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (ext. link 3), the Financial Conduct Authority (ext. link 4) valid not only for UK and Wales but for Northern Ireland and Scotland as well. For limitation periods of statute-barred debts in the United Kingdom, Scotland and Ireland are valid: The Limitation Act 1980, the Statute of Limitations Act for Ireland, the Limitation Act 1973 for Scotland, etc.

Australia regulates debt recovery harassment by the Australian Consumer Law; Germany- by the Federal Office of Consumer Protection, etc. The U.S. and its states control debt harassment methods by legislating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Federal Trade Commission, etc.

Used literature & external links