The recent case of Idem v Ryan makes it clear that the Court will not be sympathetic to a debtor who complains about telephone harassment where the debtor doesn’t take the appropriate steps to protect their position.
In the Ryan matter, the debtors complained that the Claimant had contacted them unfairly, indeed the records showed a considerable number of calls, over 15 calls per day on some occasions, and over 255 calls were made.
The debt was subject to a dispute as the creditors title was disputed but sadly this wasnt communicated clearly to the creditor at the early stage. It is quite clear that if you have a dispute over a debt you cannot take it as red that the creditor will be able to work this out unless of course you tell them.
However, the problem with this case was that while the debtors asked the creditor not to call, they qualified the comments with either, we only want written communication or we will call you back later / please call us back later.
The Court took the view that while there was clearly a lot of calls, the relationship was not unfair within the meaning of s140A Consumer Credit Act 1974. The reason the Court took this view was as follows:
- When the debtors asked for a call back, they were inviting the creditors to call them. This cannot be unfair.
- When the debtors asked for only written correspondence, they never replied with anything of substance, thus the creditor was justified with commencing calls again in such circumstances.
- When the debtors did ask for the calls to stop, they did stop but because the debtors didnt follow up with a letter setting out the dispute the Creditor couldnt be held accountable where it didnt know what the dispute was.
The message from the Court is clear. If you dont want telephone contact by a creditor, you need to make it clear from the outset that you do not wish to talk to the creditor. You need to make it clear in writing to the creditor that you will not discuss the matter over the phone and crucially you need to write to the creditor setting out your dispute.
If you cannot afford to pay the creditor then this needs to be made clear, and if as a result you dont want to talk to them on the phone then you will need to make this clear in a letter to the creditor, otherwise if the creditor does overstep the mark he may have a get out of jail card to play.