[Please note: The scenario described in this article is fictional, however the advice listed is factual]
So you’ve had your light bulb moment and you’ve taken that big step and contacted us about your debt problems.
You feel relieved that you’ve admitted you need help and speaking to a debt advisor who explained all your options and offered you some helpful advice.
You’ve been recommended a debt management plan (DMP) and for the first time in ages you now have a plan of action and a way to help you deal with your debts.
Then you get a phone call…
It’s from one of your creditors. At first you think it must be a mistake, you know that we’ve already contacted them on your behalf and they’ve already had one month’s payment through your DMP.
The person on the phone is asking for a higher payment; they’re mentioning doorstep collectors, court action and possible even enforcement agents, unless you pay more!
You get off the phone as soon as you can. You call us immediately as something must have gone wrong.
Your debt advisor explains that the creditor did accept the payment but that they’re within their rights to contact you and ask for more.
This is not what you expected.
How can the creditors be allowed to keep contacting you when you’re making your best efforts to repay them through StepChange Debt Charity?
When you first enter a DMP most creditor action will be to continue the debt collection process. Once you have maintained the DMP for a couple of months, creditors often begin to accept the plan as they have seen your income and expenditure and they can see that your offer of repayment is reasonable and realistic.
Some creditors might decide to continue asking you to make higher payments, even when it’s clear you are paying all you can afford. They are allowed to do this, but it doesn’t always mean you can afford to pay more.
The creditors are also within their rights to contact you by phone, as you have provided this phone number to them, and because you have broken your credit agreement with them.
What are your rights?
Let them know you’re in touch with us and taking our advice. Ask them politely not to call for extra payments as you have already told them about your circumstances and will send detailed information in the form of a budget through the post.
What to do
If a creditor keeps calling…
Set up ‘caller ID’ on your phone or block numbers from a withheld number. Only answer calls from numbers that you recognise. You are within your rights to do this.
They keep ringing and ringing…
Write to them and ask them to remove your number from their records and correspond in writing only. You must continue to open all statements and letters from your creditors but you won’t have to speak to them by phone any longer.
The phone keeps ringing…
If they become so frequent or are made at inappropriate times you may feel like they’re harassing you. Tell them you will make a complaint if they continue to call.
The mobile keeps ringing…
Write to the creditor making them aware that you are unhappy with the number or frequency of the calls.
They still continue to ring…
Make a formal complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service detailing the times and frequency of the calls.
Importantly: if they are actually going to do anything, like court action, you will be told formally by a letter, not over the phone.