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Debt collectors warned off targeting social media

Debt collectors warned off targeting social media

Category: Debt

Updated: 27/11/2017
First Published: 19/10/2011

This article was correct at the time of publication. It is now over 6 months old so the content may be out of date.

Debt collectors have been warned that they should not be pursuing people through social media to contact debtors.

The warning comes as the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has reminded businesses that engage in the recovery of consumer credit debts of what is considered unfair practice.

The rules cover banks, law firms, tracing agents and traditional debt collectors.

It has set out specific business practices that it considers to be unfair or proper, including targeting people through Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets.

The OFT is concerned that doing so could expose people's financial problems on public forums.

"This is a welcome move," said Delroy Corinaldi, director of external affairs at the Consumer Credit Counselling Service.

"Many debtors are understandably anxious to keep their debt problems private from friends and work colleagues - and the possibility of being contacted by a debt collector on Facebook or Twitter causes serious worry for many."

Debt collectors have also been warned against contacting people that owe money at unreasonable times and at inappropriate locations, such as in hospital.

"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," said David Fisher, director of consumer credit at the OFT.

"This updated guidance makes clear the standards the OFT expects of all businesses involved in debt recovery, including debt collectors, banks and law firms."

In its guidance, the OFT also:

  • Warns against misuse of continuous payment authority to recover debts, such as making recurring attempts to recover a single repayment.
  • Highlights the responsibilities of all parties involved in the debt recovery process, including creditors, for the quality and level of information they maintain and exchange with others, in order to avoid the wrong person being pursued for a debt.

The OFT has shut down many debt agencies in 2011 and is warning firms that repeatedly break the law that they also face being wound up.

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