The Office of Fair Trading yesterday hit out at debt collectors that hound debtors through social network sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
The OFT has updated its debt collection guidance to brand the practices as "unfair or improper". It also criticised collectors that contact debtors at unreasonable times, or at inappropriate locations, such as in hospital.
David Fisher, the OFT's director of consumer credit, said: "With many people, including those who may be particularly vulnerable, in financial difficulties, it is crucial they are treated fairly by companies recovering their debts."
Problems with debt collectors are growing, according to the Financial Ombudsman Service. It said complaints about debt collecting had risen by 59 per cent in the first half of the year and that it had upheld one in three debt-collecting complaints.
The debt charity Consumer Credit Counselling Service said the OFT should crack down on debt collectors who break rules which bar them from using social media to track down debtors.
Delroy Corinaldi of CCCS said: "Many debtors are understandably anxious to keep their debt problems private from friends and work colleagues – and the possibility of being contacted by a debt collector on Facebook or Twitter causes serious worry for many. Debt collectors should respect confidentiality."
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