The seventh in our 'ask the expert' series, which sees Kevin Boon of the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS) answer a question on debt collection.
Q: Hi, over the last year I have got myself in over £20,000 of debt though a gambling addition. I have managed to give up gambling and am in full time work but I am resigned to the fact that the only way to pay my debt is to give up my car - worth £35,000 second hand to a debt collector. My girlfriend believes my debt to be around £3000 and has already suggests selling the car - which she always considered too expensive - as a way to pay off what she believes to be a small debt. While I don't like lying to her I can see that by telling her I sold the car, when instead it went to the debt collectors, I can hide the extent of my debt from her, clear that debt and still have enough money remaining to buy the less ostentatious car my wife always desired. My big fear, however, is that the debt collector will reveal details of the debt to my girlfriend? Is this possible or does the Fair Debt Collection Act prevent collectors from revealing this kind of information to family members. If so, who exactly can they reveal details to? Thanks - Steve Dawes, Southend
A: Hi Steve, Thank you for your message. There are a couple of things we need to clarify. If the car is on Hire Purchase, you don’t own the vehicle until you have cleared the finance and fees so the only person that would be able to take the car is the finance company, unless you have their authorisation to sell it. If you own the car then a debt collector taking a car to clear debts is not standard procedure, unless the debt has been passed to a bailiff and the car has been levied. For a debt to be passed to a bailiff, you would have needed to have defaulted on a County Court Judgment, have unpaid magistrates fines or not paid your Council Tax. If this person is not a bailiff then you would most likely get more money for the car if you were to sell it privately and then you could try to offer a reduced amount to clear the debt. This is known as full and final settlements. You would then possibly be able clear your debts and buy a smaller more affordable car. With regards to your girlfriend finding out about your outstanding debt, debts are covered by the Data Protection Act and therefore if the collector/ bailiff were to discuss this with her, or any other family member, then they would be in breach of the act and you could make a complaint the Information Commissioners Office. If you would like to discuss any of the above points, you could call our helpline free on 0800 138 1111 or email us at email@example.com.
Having problems with debt?
Every Friday, Kevin Boon of the Consumer Credit Counselling Service will answer your questions and provide expert advice on the best way to deal with debt. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with 'Money Matters' in the email subject line.
CCCS is a national charity giving independent advice to anyone worried about debt, delivered free of charge by expert counsellors. Based in Leeds, CCCS is able to help people with debt problems wherever they live in the UK, through its free national telephone service (0800 138 1111), ten regional centres and online debt remedy service ( cccs.co.uk/debtremedy).Reuse content