“Your debts written off!”: Is it too good to be true?

posted by in Bad advice, Debt, IVA

This page contains information about debt solutions available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Debt advice in Scotland involves similar but different solutions. Before considering an IVA as a debt solution, please make sure you fully understand the risks involved when entering an IVA.

If you need debt help now, use our online debt advice tool Debt Remedy or call us. We’re a debt charity and we can help.

Debt wipe out

Can you rub out your debts?

We’ve all heard or seen adverts suggesting that it’s possible to get your debts written off. It sounds too good to be true, for one reason. It usually is too good to be true.

In some cases it’s a way of enticing people in debt to take out a formal solution. There have been other less than satisfactory solutions offered by fee charging companies over the years that were less than effective, although many of these have now been outlawed thankfully.

In many cases it would be better to talk to to a free, impartial organisation for debt advice (you can get debt advice by using our online Debt Remedy tool)

So what do they offer? For the most part “debts written off” means either an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA) or assisted bankruptcy.

Let’s look at these two in more detail.

An IVA is a form of insolvency that if you qualify for would see you in a legally binding arrangement with your creditors, overseen by an Insolvency Practitioner. IVAs usually last five to six years and in most cases creditors agree to write off a percentage of your debt.

An IVA is no easy ride and isn’t the best solution for everyone.

Assisted bankruptcy is where a company charges you a fee to help you go bankrupt. Although you can do this yourself if you want, some companies try to charge to help you fill in the official forms.

This article doesn’t cover all of the benefits and considerations of an IVA. For more information about IVAs and bankruptcy visit the StepChange website for free, impartial advice.

Statute barred

However, there is a piece of legislation called the Limitation Act which refers to something called ‘statute barred’.

This is the only real piece of debt law that could see your debt deemed unenforceable, after a period of six years.

Creditors are unable to legally pursue you for most unsecured debts if, after six years;

  • The creditor has not already obtained a County Court judgment (CCJ)
  • You or any one else owing the money (on a debt in joint names) have not made a payment
  • You have not written to the creditor admitting you owe the debt

So, I hear you cry, “All I have to do to get my debts written off is ignore the creditors and not pay them anything for six years!”.

Erm no, not really, that wouldn’t actually work.

As the above explanation suggests, if you start to ignore your creditors they’re likely to get in touch with you rather quickly and may even do this through the courts, by obtaining a CCJ or other debt collection procedure available to them.

“Okay, I’ll move house and not tell them!” some might shout.

That really won’t work either as it’s your responsibility to keep your creditors updated with your current address. Moving house and not telling your creditors where you’ve gone is seen as debt avoidance. This isn’t recommended.

The Limitations Act

Importantly, the act isn’t there to encourage debt avoidance or non-payment and some judges will take a dim view of this tactic. It’s there to protect people from being forced to pay debts that have ‘timed out’ through no fault of their own.

While the act does apply to most unsecured debts the debt doesn’t disappear and it’s not ‘written off’ but with the act in force the creditor can no longer enforce the debt through the courts.

Finally, the Limitation Act doesn’t apply to all types of debt and some debts such as benefits overpayments and Council Tax don’t need to take court action to enforce debts.

We find our clients are genuine in wanting to do their best to repay as much as they can afford to their creditors and at StepChange Debt Charity we want to do our best to give you the correct advice and guide you through the maze of legislation while being impartial and honest at all times.

We sometimes come across cases where a client is on a debt management plan (DMP) with us and out of the blue a creditor they thought they had paid off years ago gets in contact to ask for money.

If this happens to you we can look into the case and give you the best advice for your circumstances. If the debt is genuinely statute barred we can give you all the advice and support you need.

Otherwise the promise to have “your debts written off” is simply too good to be true.

Matthew worked as an IVA drafter prior to working in social media. In a former life he wrote scripts for Eastenders, Emmerdale and Hollyoaks. He has 3 chickens, 2 dogs and a rabbit.

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Tags Bad advice Debt IVA
  • Sam

    If my debt was based on an agreement signed as a deed not a contract does this also expire after six years? Please advise the below for both a contract and a deed. Does the lender still need a county court order before six years if they have a charge on my flat? What if they do not get a county court order before six years do the charge and loan both expire?

    • moneyaware

      Hi Sam

      Thanks for posting.

      To answer this question more specifically I would recommend that you speak to us. You can contact us by visiting http://www.stepchange.org/contactus.aspx and we’ll be happy to help discuss your options with you in more detail.

      I hope this helps, we look forward to speaking to you soon.


  • Brenda John


    Good day to you all my name is Brenda from Australia, for year i have tried to obtain a loan from the internet to set up a business but all i have get is noting but cheaters who have succeeded in taking the4 sum of $7,000 from me, but kept searching because i need the loan to enable me raise my business, one day i saw a comment online by a man from the USA name Micheal Rindels thanking the Kenneth Walters Loan Company for lending him a loan so I took the email of the company and contact them and to God be the glory they lend me a loan amount of $50,000.00 which enable me to start my business and become great. so my dear friend i give you this peace of advice to contact the Kenneth Walters Loan Company now because i know fully well that you will receive the loan from the company. Here is the company email address:kennethwalter.loanfirm@hotmail.com

    Good luck.

  • chrissy

    Hi, Can you put my mind at rest here. I was made Bankrupt in Feb 08, Discharged in Oct 08, Reason i had to go bankrupt was cause of the relationship at the time ended, He did not pay the mortgage and i was at the time on incapacity benefit, the house got repossessed and auctioned off. Anyhow today i have received a letter from a debt recovery asking for a shortfall of a mortgage, i am presuming its that house as i have not had another mortgage since. Can you confirm that i am not liable for this shortfall of £18,000, i am worried sick here!

    • moneyaware

      Hi there Chrissy, thanks for getting in touch.

      I would contact the mortgage lender and tell them that you went bankrupt and are therefore not liable with this debt. Tell them to speak to the Official Receiver who handled your bankruptcy and the court where it was processed. It might be a good idea to let your Official Receiver about this, too.

      Best regards


      • chrissy

        Thankyou Rachel for your reply, I rang my official receiver and I have to forward the letter to him and he is going to deal with!
        Thanks again

  • cara

    hi.can you put my mind at ease please.

    over 20 years ago my now ex and i took out a secured loan on are property of 4800, we split up soon after and my ex went bankrupt, but today i got a letter asking me to repay the loan.

    is it still down to me to pay, even though my ex went bankrupt for the house and loan on it.

    thanks cara

    • moneyaware

      Hi Cara,

      Thanks for getting in touch with us.

      The answer to your question depends on a few different things.

      You would need to find out what happened to the property when your ex-partner went bankrupt, this would help find out if there is still any liability to repay the debt.

      It’s unlikely that there is, as it’s been over 20 years and the debt may now be ‘statute barred’ under the Limitations Act. You can read more about this at http://moneyaware.co.uk/2013/10/statute-barred-debt/

      If you’re unsure what happened, I would recommend speaking to the Insolvency Service to find out, particularly since it’s been over 20 years now. You can contact the IS at https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/insolvency-service

      Once you have this information you’ll be able to find out what to do next. You can also talk to us by visiting http://www.stepchange.org/contactus.aspx

      I hope this helps,


  • cara

    Hi Rory.
    and thanks for replying so quick.
    the house got sold at auction for 25% of the value that we paid for it,
    and nothing has ever chased me for any money oweing on that property.
    the loan was secured on the house aswell.
    thanks again cara

    • moneyaware

      Hi Cara

      Thanks for getting back to us.

      If the house was sold at auction then there may have been a shortfall with either the mortgage or secured loan.

      For secured loans including mortgages, the creditor has 12 years to take further action to enforce the debt through the court for a county court judgement (CCJ) or other method of enforcement.

      When your partner declared bankruptcy their part of the debts will have been written off, however with joint debts it become the responsibility of the other party to pay the remaining balance.

      If no payments have been made and the creditor hasn’t taken further action against you then the debt could be ‘statute barred’ under the Limitations Act. This means that it’s now unfair for the creditor to take further action as they’ve had long enough to do this already. The law is designed to protect you, rather than as a way to avoid repaying debt.

      With this debt being over 20 years old, unless you’ve been paying something towards, acknowledged liability or the creditor had taken further action then it’s unlikely that you’re still liable to repay the debt. If the creditor had taken further action and you were unaware of this then they would need to prove this to you.

      If you believe the debt to be unenforceable then you can send a letter explaining this. There’s more information on how to do this at http://moneyaware.co.uk/2013/10/statute-barred-debt/

      I hope this helps,


  • moneyaware

    Hi Lisa,

    A good way to start is by looking at your credit report. You can get a free online credit report by visiting http://www.noddle.co.uk. This should show most debts you’ve taken out but might not show some older debts.

    If you’ve got other debts that you aren’t aware or aren’t showing on your credit report then you might need to try to find paperwork, letters or account numbers so that you can work out if there’s any balances left to repay.

    If you’re struggling with debt, bankruptcy might not be the only option and we can help you. You can speak to our free Helpline by visiting http://www.stepchange.org/Contactus.a….

    I hope this helps, please feel free to get in touch with us if you need any extra help.


  • helen fuller

    Today I received a letter from a debt collector “arrow global” firstly it was addresses to a name I married into in 2000 and divorced 2004!!! Secondly its for a debt sold by littlewoods to whom I have never knowingly purchased from, I say that because I believe some company’s trade by many names sister companies etc but I know I have never ever made a purchase from littlewoods. The original date of agreement was 25th October 1999!!!!! Interestingly when this was apparently taken out I was known by my maiden name so where they got the name that they did from is a little strange.

    It says the balance outstanding is 4th sept 2014 and £113.90

    It does say I can pay 50% off £56.95 in the next 60 days they will clear the remaining balance and the debt will be settled.

    I do not believe that I owe this money and even if I did surely after almost 15 years they can not chase me fgir it???? It the first time I have heard about this debt too!!!

    Do I really owe it and have to pay it back???


    • moneyaware

      Hi Helen

      Thanks for getting in touch with us.

      If you don’t recognise the debt then you could contact the creditor and explain this to them. They should be able to provide more information for you, particularly if they’re now the company responsible for collecting the debt.

      You can ask them to send out more information to you so you’re clear on what the debt was originally for. Because it’s been such a long time then the debt may now be ‘statute barred’ which means that the creditor has had long enough to ask you to repay the debt. You can read more about statute barred debts at http://moneyaware.co.uk/2013/10/statute-barred-debt/

      Once you have more information from the creditor this should help you understand more about where the debt has come from and why the creditor is asking you to repay it.

      I hope this helps


  • marian444

    I WANT TO APPRECIATE MIKE WILSON of guaranteeloanfirm28@gmail.com FOR HELPING ME WITH A
    PoiNt of selling my property to make ends meet. i saw a testimony of a man on
    how he got his loan from mike wilson so i also applied for a loan from
    the firm, guarantee loan firm and i got the loan with no stress i am really gratefull.

    if you need an urgent loan to start up a buisness, to pay your bill or to consolidate your debts or for personal use. apply from guaranteeloanfirm28@gmail.com.

  • Paul

    i have question… i had an IVA Blair Endersby) thay failed after 3.5yrs due to divorce, loss of job and loss of home. i continued to pay small amounts until i found new employment, aprrox 2yrs, since then i have payed a further 2yrs with a differnt IVA company (Pauplan). My question is, is there anyway my creditors will accept that i have payed an IVA for over 5yrs and release me from my debt.

    Kind regards

    • moneyaware

      Hi there Paul,

      As an IVA is a legally binding arrangement between you and your Insolvency Practitioner (in this case, PayPlan) we would not be in a position to advise you on this. Your best option is to direct questions such as this to PayPlan. You can also discuss anything regarding your IVA with the Insolvency Service: https://www.gov.uk/the-insolvency-service

      Best regards


  • Beverley

    If I’ve peen paying money off on a credit card debt for more than five years can I ask for this to be written off. The balance is being paid through a DMP and the balance is just over £7000.

    • moneyaware

      Hi there Beverley, thanks for getting in touch.

      I wanted to clarify some things with you as there’s some common
      misconceptions about how a person would have their debts ‘written off’.

      In your situation, as you have been paying this debt for quite some time, it would still be enforceable and it’s not likely that you would have the remaining
      balance cancelled. This usually only happens if the debt was somehow mis-sold
      to you or there was a period of time lasting 6 years or more that you didn’t
      hear from the creditor, make any payments on the debt or acknowledge
      responsibility on it in any way.

      You may be considering what we call a ‘full and final
      settlement’. This is when you make an offer to the creditor to pay the
      remaining balance off in one go. The total amount you would pay is usually less
      than what you would pay if you persevered with the monthly payments.

      We ourselves have a settlements team who can look at your situation and advise if a full and final settlement is something that’s suitable for you. We would stress however that you should only settle on your debts if you’re able to
      treat all of your creditors equally. Settling on just one or two debts could
      mean that your remaining creditors no longer consider you to be in financial

      We would also advise that should your creditors agree to settle
      that you always request that they confirm the settlement figure in writing for
      your records.

      I hope this makes things a little clearer.

      Best regards


  • gill

    i was a struggling single parent 15-20yrs ago i got into alot of debt loans to pay off loans etc, citizens advice sorted all my debt out, now 20ys later i have just recieved a letter saying my account has been sold and i owe 5.000, i dont know where to go with this, do i have to pay it after all these years

    • moneyaware

      Hi Gill,

      Thanks for your message. Given the age of the debt, it’s possible that the debt could be ‘statute barred’. Under the Limitations Act, this is a protection offered to prevent a creditor from recovering the debt after a reasonable amount of time. Although you would still owe the debt if it was statute barred, the creditor wouldn’t be able to take you to court to make you pay. You can read a bit more about it here: http://moneyaware.co.uk/2013/10/statute-barred-debt/

      If in the last six years you haven’t paid any money towards this debt or acknowledged it in any way, and your creditor hasn’t issued a County Court judgment (CCJ) against you, then it’s possible that this debt is statute barred.

      If you believe this to be the case, I’d suggest you write to your creditor to let them know. You can use this template letter for guidance: http://moneyawarecouk.c.presscdn.com/wp-content/uploads/Statute-barred-template-letter1.pdf

      I hope this helps.

      Kind regards,


  • guest

    Sorry to disturb you. I have received recently a letter from a debt collector from Littlewoods for an amount over £3000. I was bankrupt on 2005. That amount was written off. I just want to say what is the point to become a bankrupt if the lenders can come again asking for his money after 10 years. Could you please help me.

    • moneyaware

      Hi there,

      Thanks for getting in touch. If a debt is included in bankruptcy then it has been dealt with and the creditor should not contact you further down the line to recover the money.

      If this debt was included in your bankruptcy, I’d suggest you get in touch with the creditor to say you believe you no longer owe the debt and enclose any proof you may have that the debt was dealt with as part of the bankruptcy, as this may help to speed up the process.

      Often creditors aren’t updated when someone has been discharged from bankruptcy, so it may take them a little time to update their records.

      I hope this helps.

      Kind regards,

  • sharon

    Hi please can you help .. my daughter left school sept 2013 and started college after 2/3 months she didn’t like the course and wouldn’t settle there as she aspergers and learning difficulties. So tried for another college and was put on a waiting list and got told to wait for a place to come up, i informed child tax credit of this and income support knew of this and continued to pay me the child tax and chb. I honestly thought because my daughter gets dla that she must still get this as they were still paying me and knew the situation. As she turn 18 years old i phoned them straight away to tell them as i thought the money would now stop. They told me i shouldn’t have been paid and now owe them bout £7000. I dont work as i am a carer for my daughter and dont have the money now to pay it back. Should i be made to pay it back when they were informed and knew of the waiting list my daughter was on. Many thanks.

    • moneyaware

      Hi Sharon,

      Thanks for your message and I’m sorry to hear about your
      situation. What you can do now will depend on whether you owe the money because of Child Benefit overpayments or Child Tax Credit overpayments.

      You mention you phoned the Tax Credit Office to let them know about the change in your daughter’s circumstances. If the debt is to the Tax Credit Office, you could make a complaint to them and let them know that you already informed them of the change in circumstances. If you have any proof that you did this, for example if you also wrote to them, then this might help your argument. We don’t usually get involved in disputing debts, but if you’d like to make a complaint you can find out how on the Tax Credit Office website here: https://www.gov.uk/tax-credits-appeals-complaints

      If you owe the money because you’ve been overpaid Child Benefit, if you didn’t specifically make the Child Benefit Office aware of the situation then it’s likely you’ll need to pay the money back. The Child Benefit Office will usually write to you to let you know that this has happened, why it’s happened, and how you can pay it back.

      However if you feel you shouldn’t owe this money, you can also complain to the Child Benefit Office either online, by phone or in
      writing. You can find out more about how to make a complaint here: https://www.gov.uk/child-benefit-complaints

      If it turns out you do have to pay this money back, this is something we can help you with. We can discuss your financial situation with you in more detail and recommend the best way for you to deal with your debts. As a charity, the advice we offer is free and impartial, and we always have your best interests in mind. You can find out how to get in touch with us here:

      I hope this helps.

      Kind regards,

      • sharon

        Thank you for getting back to me. After the phone call on monday 23rd feb they told me then bout overpaying me as i shouldn’t be getting the payment they are still paying me. Many thanks.
        Subject: Re: Comment on “Your debts written off!”: Is it too good to be true?

  • moneyaware

    Hi there, thank you for getting in touch.

    From what you’ve told us it sounds like you would benefit from some free and confidential debt advice.

    The high court debt you’ve mentioned is a priority payment that you must stay on top of as best as you can. We can help you put together a budget to help you manage everything you spend out on from month to month. We can also give advice on any debt solutions that might be suitable for you.

    Our online advice tool Debt Remedy can help you put together a personal action plan in just 20 minutes. Alternatively, please visit our contact us page to find out how to speak to one of our advisors about your situation. You can find out more on our website: http://www.stepchange.org/contactus

    Hope this helps.

    Kind regards


  • peire

    Hi there can i please have some advise recently decided to try and sortmy debt problems out that are from 2013 i payed for 4 checks on trust online to see if i have any ccjs but nothing comes up so im not sure what to do can u please advise

    • moneyaware

      Hi Peire,

      Thank you for your message and it’s good to hear you want to take steps to deal with your debt. A CCJ would usually remain on your credit file for around 6 years, so if the debt is only from 2013 and no CCJs are appearing connected with your name on Trust Online then it’s possible that your
      creditors haven’t gone through the courts to recover the money.

      I’d suggest you have a look at your credit file to check the
      status of the debts you owe. Your credit file will have a list of your creditors and a recent balance of how much you owe to each. You can check your credit file for free using Noddle http://www.noddle.co.uk.

      Alternatively you could get in touch with your creditors and ask for an up to date statement of the debt and the transactions on the account. You can do this over the phone or using our template letter which you can find
      here: http://moneyawarecouk.c.presscdn.com/wp-content/uploads/StepChange-Debt-Charity-Right-to-information-request.pdf If you decide to send the letter then you’d need to enclose a fee of £1 to the creditor.

      If you think you’ll struggle to pay back the money you owe, I’d suggest you get in touch with us. We offer free debt advice and have a range of debt solutions which you can read about here:

      We’ll be able to have a look at your financial situation in more depth andrecommend the best way for you to deal with your debt. You can find out how to get in touch with us here:

      I hope this helps.

      Kind regards,


  • marc

    Hi. I have a DMP with yourselves. Today I received an email from a loan company in the DMP saying that I’m in arrears (obviously) and that they will be getting in touch with my guarantors for payment. Can they do this if I’m in a DMP?

    • moneyaware

      Hi Marc,

      Thanks for posting.

      When a person becomes a guarantor, it means they become liable for the payments if the person who took out the loan is unable to make them.

      Although you’re on a DMP, the loan company are within their rights to chase your guarantor for the payment as this confirmed in the original terms and conditions for the loan.

      If your DMP is a recent arrangement, it could be that you’ve received an automated letter from the loan company.

      It might be worth getting in touch with the company to see where you stand.

      I hope this helps,


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  • thompson

    Hello, my situation is quite complicated, so in the shortest version possible I will try to explain, me and my husband divorced almost 8 years ago, upon him leaving ,he declared himself bankrupt without me knowing, he had his debts in his name written off, but any debts that were in joint names were transferred to me, all 23.000 of them, plus the bankruptcy placed a charge on the house of 18.000 to be paid from his share of equity plus 7 percent interest a year when I decide to sell, since we divorced all I have ever been able to pay is a interest only mortgage, so at some point soon I will have to sell, there will be little or no equity in the house when I do so, I never walked away from the debts, I have always been of ill health so have never moved home as yet, I arranged on all debts over 7/8 years ago to pay a minimum payment of between £1 unto £5 a month, as you can imagine I havn,t hardly reduced the debts and the debts have been running for around 8 years , and nothing will change due to my illness, and is making me more ill every day, is there any way possible I could possibly have the debts written off .

    • thompson

      I’m guessing I’m a lost cause , I seem to hit a brick wall whichever way I turn feeling pretty desperate at the min .

      • moneyaware

        Hi thompson,

        I’m sorry for the delay in getting back to you and to hear you feel like you’re hitting a brick wall. First of all, you’re not a lost cause. Being in debt doesn’t define you, and by getting in touch with us you’ve taken a big first step towards improving your situation.

        I’d suggest you give our helpline a call and speak to one of our advisors. They’ll be able to look at your circumstances in more detail and work out the best way for you to deal with your debts. We offer a range of debt solutions, which you can read about here: http://www.stepchange.org/Howwecanhelpyou.aspx
        An advisor will be able take into account your full financial situation and recommend which debt solution is most appropriate for your situation.

        Many people who contact us feel that their situation is
        complicated or hopeless, but with the right debt advice and support, it’s something that can be made much more manageable. You can give our helpline a call on 0800 138 1111. It’s free to call from landlines and major mobile
        networks, and is open from Monday to Friday from 8am until 8pm and Saturdays from 8am until 4pm.

        I hope this helps.

        Kind regards,


  • Sara

    Hello, I wonder if you can clarify something please? My husband ran into financial difficulty in 2011/2012 and his debt to creditors is around £25,000 – 30,000. One of the creditors also placed a CCJ on our flat. My husband has been paying small monthly payments to each of around £5. We have two young children and there is no equity on our property which is in his name. I am unsure whether bankruptcy would be his only option and I am worried that if he does this, we will lose our home and my own savings which are around £12,000. The debt is not in my name, so does this mean any assets I have do not apply? Can you advise please? Many thanks!

    • moneyaware

      Hi Sara,

      If your husband went bankrupt then only assets that the court think he has a share of would be affected.

      If the savings you mentioned was money that your husband had given you the week before he went bankrupt then the courts would see it as his money. If he had no link to it then you’d be able to keep it.

      I’d suggest your husband come to us for in depth debt advice so we can let him know what his options are. If bankruptcy is the best option we’ll support him through the process and be able to talk over what assets might be affected.

      If the property is in negative equity then it’s less likely it would be lost throuh bankruptcy. Again, this is something we can cover in more detail if he gives us a call.

      Here’s our contact details: http://www.stepchange.org/Contactus.aspx.

      Kind regards


  • Nick

    So basically the company will declare you bankrupt on your behalf, write off 100% of your debt and charge you a fee of 25-30% of what your debt was.

    • moneyaware

      Hi Nick,

      If you’re referring to assisted bankruptcy then this often refers to a company that would help you complete bankruptcy forms and offer information on how to declare yourself bankrupt for a fee.

      Apart from the usual costs to declare yourself bankrupt, you shouldn’t need to pay a third-party to help you fill out forms or paperwork.

      There’s lots of free advice you can get around what solutions are best for you and more specifically bankruptcy. If bankruptcy was the best way to deal with your debts then we’d offer free advice.

      I hope this helps,


  • Ash

    I went bankrupt approx 5 years ago, and have been discharged but i still have 2 companies writing to me? how can i stop this? as i cannot rebuild me credit rating while they are still writing to me?? thanks ash

    • moneyaware

      Hi Ash,

      It might just be an administrative mistake by these companies. If you let them know that you’ve gone bankrupt then they should hopefully back off.

      If not then I’d suggest speaking to the Official Receiver’s office that deal with your bankruptcy and they should be able to set these companies straight.

      The companies involved should also clear any incorrect information from your credit history too. If they don’t you could make a complaint.

      Kind regards


  • Gemma Minty

    Hi, i recently wrote to MKDP about an account that they claimed to be mine, they refused to accept over the phone that i didnt know anything about it so i wrote a letter and explained that i never had this account and that even if it was mine, it would now be statute barred. (I left hsbc having cleared the only account i ever had with them and i left them because of fraud, so i believe this to be a fraudulent account) Anyway, they wrote back and have said that they have investigated my account and they have now closed my account and that the balance is now £0.00. Does this mean it has been written off entirely? or just that they will no longer persue it? Thank you.