A recent study shows that debt collection is big business and a staggering 20 million cases, worth a total of £12.7 billion, were passed to debt collectors last year alone. It is estimated that debt collectors typically earn between 10 percent and 50 percent of the money collected.
The debt collection practice is becoming more unscrupulous - something that is evident from the increase in the number of calls the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has received from distressed victims. It received 11,180 complaints last year, compared with 8,961 the previous year. What is more alarming is the fact that consumer groups claim this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Though the OFT has new powers to shut down rogue debt collectors, firms continue to chase even those people who’ve never missed a payment in their lives.
The study also shows that is usually household names, including utility firms and mobile phone providers, which often compound the problem by selling on questionable debts and leaving their customers at the mercy of these debt collection firms.
Though there are plenty of guidelines which are supposed to protect consumers, critics say they are hazy and not rigorously enforced.
Debt collection firms are regulated under the Consumer Credit act and must hold a Consumer Credit license. Currently, the OFT has no powers to investigate individual complaints and will intervene only if it receives many complaints about the same firm. The charity Citizens advice says: ‘We see cases amounting to harassment, where people get phone calls several times a day from creditors and debt collection companies acting on behalf of creditors, sometimes in the early hours or late at night and sometimes at work.
The charity further added: ‘We also see cases where firms contact neighbors and relatives to try to trace debtors. Besides being in breach of OFT guidelines, this sort of harassment can cause immense additional stress and anxiety to people already overwhelmed by debt problems. ’
Going by the report, it becomes obvious that those who are actually in debt should immediately seek debt advice to get their finances under control and to ensure that they are not harassed by the debt collecting firms. The debt advisors can advice you on debt solutions such as an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) or other debt management plans to help you repay your debt.