It Is Not A Crime To Be In Debt!

Many individuals in debt are often subject to unnecessary harassment by lenders. Arguably, it can be justified in some cases whereby the borrower stops paying and fails to inform his/her creditors of the reasons why. However, in a lot of instances creditors work under the rule of "he who shouts the loudest gets paid" and will therefore annoy, badger, disturb and exhaust to get paid, in other words to "annoy or trouble constantly".

So What Is Harassment?
There are many more forms of harassment, but these are the most frequent ones;

• telephoning at work, creating embarrassment and fear of dismissal.

• making nuisance visits or telephone calls at inconvenient times.

• calling or writing to neighbours on purpose knowing they are not the debtor.

• threats of personal visits, this is sometimes detailed in letters giving the impression that creditors have greater powers than they really have.

So What Can You Do If You Are Harassed?
Install an answer facility on your telephone so that can screen incoming calls.

If your telephone number is not known to creditors then dial 141 before making calls to them to withhold your number. Contact your service provider to see if they can bar specific telephone numbers to stop unwanted callers.

Keep a record of all the telephone calls, including the ones you make. Note the date, time, name of the person and lender or agent with whom you spoke with, briefly what was said. Also note what day it is because it may be reasonable to telephone you on a weekday, but 8.30 in the morning on a Sunday is not acceptable.

If a creditor cannot contact you by telephone then their only recourse is to write to you. Therefore, keep copies of all your correspondence to and from creditors for reference purposes.

Will The Police Get Involved?
Only if it becomes a serious offence such as violence, blackmail or fraud will Police normally express an interest.

What Legislation Is There That Helps Me?
Section 40 - Administration of Justice Act 1970.

Section 4A - Public Order Act 1986.

Section 1 & 2 - Malicious Communications Act 1988.

The Protection from Harassment Act 1997, ("the Act") the provisions of this Act are quite complicated and unfortunately cannot be covered in an article such as this. It is an interesting piece of legislation with potential repercussions for creditors. In the circumstances, I have highlighted below what I consider to be the most relevant provisions.

The Act was introduced to deal with stalking offences, however, Section 1 can be applied to creditors harassing debtors whereby a person is guilty of this offence if they pursue a course of conduct that they know or ought to know amounts to harassment of another. The debtor would need to prove conduct, i.e. on more than one occasion.

In defence, a creditor can claim that they were;

• pursuing under an enactment or rule of law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any enactment.

• the course of conduct was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime.

• or that the pursuit of the course of conduct was reasonable for the protection of himself or another or for the protection of his or another's property.

The Act also allows a debtor to issue civil proceedings, criminal if serious, through the Courts and if the claimant is successful then damages may be awarded for any financial loss and anxiety caused by the harassment. This occurred in the case of Turner v Halifax, a further report on this can be found at under 'hot news' section.

Is There Anything Else I Can Do?
In minor cases it may only require representation to be made to the creditor's head office, with evidence if possible, this usually stops a 'rogue' employee, if this fails to arrest the conduct than contact Trading Standards Officer or the particular Trade Association that the lender belongs to. Another contact is the Office of Fair Trading, OFT, who grants Consumer Credit Licences to lenders, they will have records of previous complaints against any such creditor.

It is fair to say that if the debtor/borrower is obstructive and ignores all reasonable attempts of contact from the creditor/lender and does not adhere to the contractual or agreed reduced payments, then a creditor will claim in defence that their action is justified and not many people will argue against this.

Remember, being in debt is not a crime, so insist that you are treated properly and politely at all times.

More information on all debt advice as well as how to reclaim those bank charges can be found at or by telephoning 01376 563 365.

In the preparation of this article, every effort has been made to offer the most current, correct and clearly expressed information possible. However, it is not intended to serve as legal advice and you are encouraged to consult with professional advisors for advice concerning specific matters before making any decision.

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