‘Don’t panic and don’t pay’, says advice bureau

STAFF at Newtownabbey Citizens’ Advice Bureau have warned people not to panic if they’re approached by debt collectors demanding payment for bills that have already been settled.

District Manager Pat Hutchinson MBE said advisors at the CAB’s Dunanney Centre office have had to deal with a number of queries recently from people asking about their rights when it comes to dealing with debt collectors, particularly when they have already repaid the money they owed.

Mrs Hutchinson said the office has received around a dozen such calls in the past few weeks, including one from a client who is being chased for money debt collectors claim she owes for electrical goods purchased more than 15 years ago.

“If you are approached by a debt collector for a debt you have already paid you should tell them it has already been paid and tell them to take it up with the original creditor.

“If you have it, show them proof that you have already paid the debt, but the onus is on them to prove that they haven’t received payment.

“Contacting the original creditor to confirm you have paid it and getting them to contact the debt collector would also help, but again the onus is not on you to do this,” she explained.

Mrs Hutchinson’s advice is simple: “Don’t panic and don’t give in to their pressure. You should not have to pay twice.”

“If the debt collector still chases you for the debt you should make a complaint. If they don’t resolve the matter and the debt was for borrowing regulated by the Consumer Credit Act - like a credit card, store card or a personal loan - you can ask the financial ombudsman to look at the case.

“You should also make the OFT and the debt collectors’ trade body - the Credit Services Association - aware of any problems, because chasing people for disputed debts breaches OFT guidelines and the CSA’s code of practice,” she added.

For free, independent advice contact Newtownabbey CAB on 028 9085 2271 between 9am and 4pm each day, or email newtownabbeycab@citizensadvice.co.uk