Debt Collection Agencies (DCA) are well known for threats and intimidation. Don't be fooled!
For a start - they are NOT bailiffs. They have no right to threaten a 'home visit' or suggest they can take any goods away. You can refuse to see any caller who arrives without an appointment, and you don't have to offer an appointment to a DCA.
They can demand all they like, but you do NOT have to tell them anything or agree to anything. They can ask how much you earn, but that's personal, they have no right to know. They can demand you pay the alleged debt off in full within 7 days, but you don't have to. They can demand you pay £50 a month, again - you don't have to.
REFUSE to speak to them on the phone. They can distort the conversation recorded on their computer screen and make out you agreed to sell your Granny to pay them. They WILL phone many times a day, to your home, mobile, work, parents - any number they think they can reach you on. You can send a simple letter instructing them NOT to telephone you, if they then call again you can take legal action against them!
Do not enter into an agreement to pay more than you can easily afford. That's if you want to agree to pay them at all. They have no powers, other than their own threats, to make you pay a penny.
Check the letters they send carefully - where does it say that they WILL send a bailiff round, or that they WILL remove your goods to sell at auction? No, it's always we COULD or we MAY - and even then, they cannot do that without a court making an order, which is what they could then ask the court to enforce. They cannot send a bailiff, they have to ask the court to do that. They cannot take your goods, only a bailiff can do that. You need to be aware what bullying and frightening tactics they use to try and scare you into paying - then laugh at their pathetic scheme!
If they really insist then turn the tables, tell them you are refusing payment on the grounds of intimidation and harrassment and that you would very much like them to take this matter to the courts, where you will file a counter claim for distress. This is NOT allowed under the OFT guidelines and can be reported. Make sure you have a written log of calls received and what they've said to you that has caused upset. Calling several times a day is distressing, even if you don't answer the phone.
One DCA company threatened to send a doorstep visitor to see someone about their alleged debt. It was a bit vaugue as to when they may actually turn up so that person spoke to his community policeman who called the DCA and asked them to confirm exactly when they were going to call, as HE wanted to be there - they backed off straight away.
Only a court can force a payment level to be set, and only after due consideration. If a case is ever taken to the court stage, and very few are, you can get lots of advice on CAG as to what to put in your defence. Make sure you file a defence and attend the court. Explain why you think the DCA was acting incorrectly. The judge has the power to set a repeayment amount, only if he feels the case is valid. That's why most never reach that satge, the DCA's know they are on dodgy ground.
However, if you are avoiding repayment of debt with the intention to defraud then the courts will take a serious view. They are good in helping people who clearly cannot pay through being out of work or on low incomes, but I had one guy who approached me to try and get out of repaying a loan he took out to buy a motor bike. He had heard that I offered advice in my local community and came to see me. He brought his documents and it was clear he had been making regular payments by DD to the finance company. What he wanted to do was stop paying, full stop, and not have to pay any more. He was single, on a darned good wage, and a bit of a fly boy - so he was sent packing!
If you do go through court and a Country Court Judegement (CCJ) is obtained then the DCA has to be paid. If you miss they can apply to the court for your goods to be seized by a bailiff, it is very serious by then - but, as I keep saying, it rarely reaches that stage. The court can set a regular payment rate if you ask them to, based on your income and outgoings, which the DCA cannot increase - despite them saying they can 'review' the case.
Take everything these people say as false from the start and you will be 95% correct most of the time - they can't even get their own names right.
The time when they may be right is if you stick your head in the sand and do nothing. They take you to court, you do not defend or even turn up, they get a judgement by default - you've not denied their action, the court sends a bailiff round - that is very real, but would be your own silly fault for not doing something about it when you had the chance.
But, bear in mind that it costs a lot of money to take a case to court. As a rule of thumb it would not be worth their while if the value of the account was under £2,000. It could cost a large percentage of that to apply to the court, with no guarantee that they would be able to get anything out of you anyway. Without any 'intelligence' on you, if you are working, own your home, have a car and so on, they may find that you are out of work and totally unable to pay. You could go to court on the day and really pee on their bonfire if you were in a situation like that!
If you defend the case they need to get a barrister to represent them in court, more expense. A lot of the time this is where they would try and settle out of court, they don't want the publicity for a start. They would quickly agree to drop the matter, perhaps even pay your costs.
The last thing they want is to go to court if there is any doubt of a win. That's why the banks stalled for so long on bank charges, preferring to pay up instead of having to reveal to the court, and therefore the world, just what cost is involved in bouncing a direct debit etc. The courts decided that the banks did not have to disclose the information and it was a agreed that charges could not be more than £12 each, which many banks took to be a new rate, not a maximum.
DCA's are much further down the chain. They rely on the agencies put in place to protect the consumer, by upholding the law, to be so over-worked that they cannot cope with the many complaints being made. The OFT and FOS both have massive backlogs of cases, awaiting action. Trading Standards will often refuse to deal with the public directly. So, the DCA will continue to apply their dodgy tactics to get people to pay, knowing that it's unlikely anyone can do anything about it.
Once you realise what a sham the DCA is you should no longer be frightened by them, their continued threats may even cause you to laugh as you realise what idiots they are. They know no better than to work their way through a pre-defined set of letters, in the hope you will cave in and pay them. The sad thing is that some people will, and the DCA lives on to fight another day...
Just to mention 'Field Agents', doorstep callers. Remember, they are NOT bailiffs. They have no more power than your paper boy. You do not have to let them in, or even speak to them. If they start to make a fuss then call the Police, especially if they make any threats or are intimidating. They often cause distress to families by telling children that mummy has to pay them lots of money, talking loudly so neighbours hear, even talking to people in the street to ask where you live as they have come to collect a debt...
No matter what they say, they cannot remove goods from your property. I caught one looking through a window, then writing down the items he could see, like TV, stereo, settee, budgie... What good he thought this would do I have no idea - apart from adding to the visible 'threat' of course.
A lot of these doorsteppers are part timers, trying to make a few bob by agreeing to call and try to set up an agreement for repayment. They only get paid if they succeed. If you tell them to 'go away', they may say they will come back - they usually don't as they realise they are not going to be paid for this particular case. They get very basic training, but hardly any explanation about the law.
Occasionally there may be one who is doing well at his job, through finding out just what he can and cannot do - and these are usually the 'friendly' type, who will smile and say they are there to help you sort it all out. Translated that means they will keep smiling if they think they'll get some commission out of this, watch their face drop if you say 'no' !