Debt collectors warned off pursuing punters on Facebook
OFT will bitchslap agencies who send heavies onto social networks
Debt collectors should not be allowed to chase people who owe them money on social networking sites, including Facebook and Twitter, the UK's Office of Fair Trading has said.
The OFT issued new guidance today that warned banks, law firms, tracing agents and debt collectors that using social networks to track down debtors was "unfair or improper".
"Posting messages on social networking sites in a way that might potentially reveal that an identifiable person is being pursued for the repayment of a debt" was "acting in a way likely be publicly embarrassing to the debtor, either deliberately or negligently", the OFT guidance said.
An OFT spokesman told The Register that the practice was a lot like leaving voicemail or postcards that friends or family could easily hear or read, which could be distressing.
"When a company posts information on a social network, that information is even more in the public domain and could cause embarrassment or stress for the debtor," he said.
He added that chasing debts on social networks hadn't been a widespread issue so far.
"We've had a couple of complaints, which we've dealt with. We've spoken to the companies concerned and they stopped immediately," he said. "We'll continue to monitor how the guidance is complied with and we welcome any evidence of noncompliance."
Any debt agencies that continued the practice could have their consumer credit licence taken off them, the guidance said.
"In the present economic climate, with many people, including those who may be particularly vulnerable, in financial difficulties, it is crucial they are treated fairly by companies recovering their debts," David Fisher, the OFT's director of consumer credit, said in a canned statement. ®
Debt collection agencies have rules they are supposed to follow (and lots don't). They tend to purchase debt at 10% of it's value, so say you owed Company A £1,000, DCA would purchase that debt for £100 and then send you a bill for £2,500, even if the debt is statute barred (unable to be enforced, 5 years in Scotland, 6 in England/Wales). They will then use many underhand methods to get you to pay...
Phoning up your current workplace and informing your workmates about your debt
Phoning up your significant other and informing them about your debt
Taking you to court to obtain a CCJ even though the debt is statute barred.
Lots of DCA's are basically scumbags, worse than loan sharks, they will stop at nothing to try and get money out of you, posting it on facebook so all your friends can see it sounds like a method they would take, of course, the bad DCA's will read this post and think "shoot, why didn't we think of that?" and do it anyhow.
Google HFO Services and you'll find many horror stories about how DCA's treat people.
The law should be changed so that if a debt against you is sold you are offered first refusal at the same rate, many people would gladly settle at the amount the debt is sold for. From the banks point of view they are no better/worse off regardless of who pays it and if they are prepared to settle for less from the DCA why not settle for less from the person you are chasing.
And fictional/wrong debts too.
My parents had a HCEO push a letter through the door saying I'll be back later to take the car. Cue frantic phonecalls/traces to find that a) they didn't owe any debt and b) the company had just gone through the electoral role and checked the addresses to find the same name with the most expensive car.
My debts however were real and are now statute barred (6 years+), though I learnt lots of the nasty underhanded tricks they pull and now have a handy list for others to follow :-
Always ask for proof of the debt.... many have none, so it could be fictitious (had 2 of those in a year)
If they try and get you to sign ANYTHING refuse, whatever they say the reason it's most likely a lie to get you to sign a walk-in possession
never let them in, speak on the front.... sure it's embarassing but one foot in the door means they OWN everything in sight (except beds/cooker/essentials).
Most importantly never, ever agree a payment until you have concrete proof of the debt (from them). a single "token" payment restarts the 6 year statute limit.
Oh and keep as much as possible in writing.... voice isn't worth the paper it's written on :)