Thursday, 11 October 2012

Office of Fair Trading Code of Guidance

OFFICE OF FAIR TRADING CODE OF GUIDANCE Many activities could count as harassment. It is important to note that “anything done by a person which is reasonable” when trying to recover a debt, is not considered to be harassment. Both the Office of Fair Trading and Trade Associations (run by the credit industry) have produced guidance on what activities may be considered harassment and should therefore be avoided by creditors. The following list is taken from the new Debt Collection Guidance for holders of consumer credit licences. Creditors are warned by the Office of Fair Trading under the Debt Collection Guidance that the following practices are "considered unfair": “IT IS UNFAIR TO COMMUNICATE, IN WHATEVER FORM, WITH CONSUMERS IN AN UNCLEAR, INACCURATE OR MISLEADING MANNER.” This includes: * Letters that look like court claims * Not making it clear who the company is or what their role is * Unhelpful legal language * Not giving balance statements about the debt when asked * Contacting you at unreasonable times even when asked not to * Asking you to contact them on premium rate phone numbers. “ THOSE CONTACTING DEBTORS MUST NOT BE DECEITFUL BY MISREPRESENTING THEIR AUTHORITY AND/OR THE CORRECT LEGAL POSITION.” This includes: * Claiming to work for the court or be a bailiff * Implying action can be taken that is not legally possible such as implying they could take your property * Using a business name or logo that implies they are a government body * Implying that court action has been taken against you when it hasn’t * Implying not paying your debt is a criminal offence * Threatening to take court action in England if you live in Scotland or the other way round. “ PUTTING PRESSURE ON DEBTORS OR THIRD PARTIES IS CONSIDERED TO BE OPPRESSIVE.” This includes: * Contacting you too frequently * Pressurising you to sell property or take out more debt * Using more than one collection company at the same time or not telling you when your debt has been passed to another company * Pressurising you to pay in full or in large instalments you cannot afford * Making threatening gestures or statements * Ignoring disputes about whether you owe the money * Trying to embarrass you in public or threatening to tell a third party about your debts such as a neighbour or your family. “ DEALINGS WITH DEBTORS ARE NOT TO BE DECEITFUL AND/OR UNFAIR.” Examples include: * Sending letters addressed to “the occupier” or discussing the debt with someone without knowing if they are you * Refusing to deal with an adviser acting on your behalf * Not accepting reasonable offers or passing on payments you make * Refusing to freeze action if you dispute the debt. “ CHARGES SHOULD NOT BE LEVIED UNFAIRLY”. Examples include: * Claiming collection costs when the original credit agreement didn’t allow this to happen and making you think you are legally liable for the costs * Not putting the specific amounts that can be added for collection costs in the original credit agreement * Adding unreasonable charges. “ THOSE VISITING DEBTORS MUST NOT ACT IN AN UNCLEAR OR THREATENING MANNER.” * Collectors should explain the reason for any visit and give you notice of the time and date they will call * They shouldn’t visit if they know you are ill or vulnerable and if they find you are unwell or distressed they should leave * They should not come in if you do not want them to and should leave when you ask them to * They shouldn’t visit you at work or somewhere like a hospital. source:

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