Being in debt is not usually something people are comfortable with others knowing. It can be a difficult situation that some people are powerless to stop. Sometimes things just don’t go our way and we’re left in a hole with no obvious way out.
When debts aren’t settled, debt collectors are usually never far behind. However, although it’s their job to recover money, the business of debt collection must be conducted in accordance with the law. It must be done in a professional manner which includes respecting someone’s personal information and data privacy rights.
The law is the law!
Under the Data Protection Act, personal information can be private and must be protected. Not just anyone and everyone should be able to access it; only those who are authorised.
Even those who are authorised to access personal information must access it in a specified and meaningful way. Usage of personal data must be for a specific and specified reason. Whilst it’s in use and being stored, it needs to be done in a secure way to stop an unauthorised third party illegally accessing it and risking misuse.
These principles are laws and must be followed by everyone, including debt collectors.
A sensitive subject
For most, debt is a sensitive subject. People who have it usually don’t tell anyone about it; sometimes not even their spouses, family or friends. Sometimes it’s because of pride; for some it’s the perceived embarrassment. Whatever the reason, it’s a personal thing. Sometimes, people don’t want to unnecessarily worry their family and friends. Tenants may not want landlords to think they can’t keep up their rent, or employees may not want employers to think they can’t manage money.
Even though a debt collector’s priority as a business is to get money back, they need to do it properly and in a fair way. Debt collectors should not use abusive, unfair or deceptive methods to collect money. This usually means they can’t tell the people around you or publicise that you are in debt, which could be a way of trying to push someone in to paying it off ASAP.
They should not, in most circumstances:
- Tell your spouse or family (generally);
- Turn up suddenly at your work;
- Send letters or leave a voicemail to your work;
- Publicise your debt or involvement with the debt company.
Such action shouldn’t be used to pressure you in to paying. Obviously, if you ignore their requests and don’t respond, they may be forced to resort to further measures to collect the money you owe. However, that is normally a last resort and should be treated as such. Debt collectors should only do what is necessary.
Debt collectors have a sensitive job that should be a discrete service. Even though it can sometimes be a difficult job collecting money when people refuse to work with them, they still need to show respect to those in debt and the fact that no one likes being in debt.
Companies are allowed to pass debts on to third-party collectors. They should notify you of this in writing, but the passing on of debts is not usually seen as a breach. However, if information about your debt is leaked or breached in a way it shouldn’t have been, there may be a case to answer for; especially if it causes you financial damage or undue stress and emotional harm.
IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.
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