Debt Collector & Bailiff Harassment

If you have had Debt Collectors coming to your door it can often be unnerving, especially if they are threatening and are demanding the immediate payment of your debt.

Debt collectors are not bailiffs. This is important to remember as some companies can give you a false impression about who they are and will threaten to take away your possessions or may even threaten you (although it is an illegal practice it has been known to happen). A Debt Collector can only ask that you pay the amount, and you don’t have to speak with them if you don’t want to.

These types of tactics are not legal and if you are a victim you should not stand for it! Make sure that you contact the local trading standard office giving them as much information as you can, such as the name of the company and even the person in question and their badge number. If the situation becomes threatening, then call the police straight away.

Dealing With Harassment from Debt Collectors and Bailiffs

Harassment in this way is a criminal offence and there are several laws and guidelines which cover this type of harassment, and it is important that you are aware of what debt harassment means as well as understanding what your rights are.

Administration of Justice Act 1970

Section 40 of the Administration of Justice Act makes it a Criminal offence for debt collectors to make demands for debt payment frequently or “subject him or members of his family or household to alarm, distress or humiliation”. The debt collector cannot falsely lead you to believe that criminal proceedings will start if you fail to pay it, provide false court documents or pretend that they are bailiffs.

Here is section 40 of the Administration of Justice Act in full:

1. A person commits an offence if, with the object of coercing another person to pay money claimed from the other as a debt due under a contract he-

  • harasses the other with demands for payment which, in respect of their frequency, or the manner or occasion of making any such demand, or of any threat or publicity by which any demand is accompanied, are calculated to subject him or members of his family or household to alarm, distress or humiliation;
  • falsely represents, in relation to the money claimed, that criminal proceedings lie for failure to pay it;
  • falsely represents himself to be authorised in some official capacity to claim or enforce payment; or
  • utters a document falsely represented by him to have some official character, or purporting to have some official character which he know it has not.

2. A person may be guilty of an offence by virtue of sub-section (1) (a) above if he concerts with others in the taking of such actions as is described in that paragraph, notwithstanding that his own course of conduct does not by itself amount to harassment.”

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997

Through The Protection from Harassment Act 1997, harassment can be classed as a criminal offence. It is an offence to:

  • “Cause harassment, alarm or distress” which must happen on at least two occasions and can be verbal or written.  An example of this type of harassment would include continued calls to your workplace.
  • “Cause fear of violence” which again must happen on at least two occasions.

Office of Fair Trading

The Office of Fair Trading have published a guideline of what they deem as harassment by creditors. The following is taken from their Debt Collection Guidance documents which give advice on how debt collectors should treat debtors fairly:

1: “It is unfair to communicate, in whatever form, with consumers in an unclear, inaccurate or misleading manner.” This means that debt collectors should not mislead debtors with documents which look as though they have been issued from the court, give false information, mislead the debtor into thinking they are bailiffs and use confusing legal terms.

2: Those contacting debtors must not be deceitful by misrepresenting their authority and/or the correct legal position. 
This means that debt collectors can not give the impression that they work for a court, or imply that action will be taken when it will not such as bankruptcy proceedings.

3: “Putting pressure on debtors or third parties is considered to be oppressive.” This means that debt collectors are not allowed to pressurize you into selling goods, use multiple trading names, ignore disputes, pressurize you to make payments that you cannot afford or make verbal or physical threats.

4: “Dealings with debtors are not to be deceitful or unfair.” This means that debt collectors are not allowed to send letters that are not addressed correctly because they are unsure of the debtors details, refused to deal with appointed third parties and refuse to suspend action if the debt is being disputed.

5: “Charges should not be levied unfairly.” This means debt collectors are not allowed to add any unreasonable charges or claim collection costs where this is not appropriate.

6: “Those visiting debtors must not act in an unclear or threatening manner.” This means that debt collectors should give you full details about when they will visit, leave the property when asked and not to visit at inappropriate locations such as the workplace.

What To Do Next?

If you have debt collectors demanding payment or you are struggling to make repayments in anyway, then you need to get help.

Our advisors can offer you profesional advice and information about all aspects of debt; and if you are struggling then we might be able to offer you a monthly payment plan that you can afford.