KNOW YOUR RIGHTS AND DON'T LET THE RUDE DEBT COLLECTION AGENCIES TAKE LIBERTIES; the Readers' Champion
Byline: LESLEY CAMPBELL
BEING a debt collector must be one of the worst jobs in the world.
You have to call people who are stressed, depressed and frequently abusive.
But how can it make commercial sense to make that tense relationship worse by being off-hand, abrupt and rude? Surely the best way to get someone to pay a debt is to be pleasant?
I've made a number of calls recently to debt collection agencies on behalf of readers. And out of seven operators, only one could be considered polite.
One of the agencies I had problems with was 1st Credit and I wasn't surprised to read recently that the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) took action against them following an investigation earlier this year.
The OFT ordered the company not to issue statutory demands warning of bankruptcy where it was unlikely that proceedings would be initiated, and not to discuss legal action with consumers unless it was likely such action would be taken.
1st Credit must report to the OFT every six months, providing statistics on the number of enforcement actions they have taken against debtors.
The OFT have also used their powers on debt collection agency Mackenzie Hall after an investigation found that some of their business processes failed to meet satisfactory standards.
Mackenzie Hall were told not to "pursue debts where it has been notified in writing that there is reasonable cause to believe that the debt is in dispute, or pursue a debt where it has been notified in writing that the debt is statute barred".
In Scotland, the law states that a debt is statue barred and ceases to exist after five years, providing that it has not been acknowledged and that no claim has been made by the creditor.
Debt collection is closely monitored as some of its practitioners have employed a variety of tactics to coerce debtors into paying money which, in some cases, they did not even owe.
I took my findings to the body that represents the industry - the Credit Services Association.
Their spokesman said: "Collectors are trained to deal with a number of different scenarios and deploy a variety of different contact techniques to recover a debt. Increasingly, this is about engaging with a debtor and building a relationship with that debtor to ensure a satisfactory outcome. …