1. The issue I bring to CAG is a matter of alleged harassment of a Debtor by a Creditor. In that My wife and I allege that the course of conduct complained of constituted a course of conduct which on the balance of probability a reasonable man in possession of all the facts would consider to be harassment.
2. The Legislation
The relevant language of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 reads as follows:
Prohibition of harassment.
1(1) A person must not pursue a course of conduct—
(a) which amounts to harassment of another, and
(b) which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.
(2) For the purposes of this section, the person whose course of conduct is in question ought to know that it amounts to harassment of another if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct amounted to harassment of the other.
Offence of harassment.
2(1) A person who pursues a course of conduct in breach of section 1 is guilty of an offence.
(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or both.
3(1) An actual or apprehended breach of section 1 may be the subject of a claim in civil proceedings by the person who is or may be the victim of the course of conduct in question.
(2) On such a claim, damages may be awarded for (among other things) any anxiety caused by the harassment and any financial loss resulting from the harassment.
Interpretation of this group of sections
7(1) This section applies for the interpretation of sections 1 to 5A
(2) References to harassing a person included alarming the person or causing the person distress
3. We also allege that sections of both the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and the OFT Final Guidance on Debt Collection have been breached. As well as breaches of our right to privacy and BC's implied obligation of confidentiality owed to me, the First Claimant their customer.
4. To summarise, starting in mid 2006 I began to suffer some ill health. By November of 2006 I had been off work a number of months and my condition was still deteriorating. During November of 2006 I wrote to BC with whom I had a Credit Card account, requesting that they accepted a reduced monthly repayment on the ground of my suffering financial hardship due to the health issue.
5. From this point on and until approximately mid 2008 the account concerned was serviced in the varied manner. Then during the summer of 2008 BC bought up another debt in my name from another Credit Card Company.(Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Card Services) I claim that from this point on there followed a catalogue of utter confusion, errors and the alleged unlawful harassment acts on the part of BC.
6. Our case is that BC made mistake after mistake with the account, sent bill after bill and threatened the me with letter after threatening letter.
7. The Debt was then passed between a number of agents, and I then began receiving repeated, frequent and duplicated demands from them all. Each company vying for the payment.
8. We allege that there then begun a campaign of telephone calls and texted messages, again frequent and duplicated from the numerous companies, these calls, numbered into several hundred calls and spanned over two years. Starting in Approximately September/October of 2008 and continuing until February of 2010.
9. We claim that us and our witnesses will give evidence to demonstrate that nothing any of us could do, would influence or stop it. We will offer the court a large quantity of written communication all of which supports my case. I will argue that matters got so out of hand by the autumn of 2008 that I declined to communicate with BC by telephone, instead, I insisted that BC write to me.
10. We also allege that the calls received from BC and their agents were received on two different numbers, calls to our home telephone and calls to our son’s mobile. The calls then took four forms; Silent calls, manned calls, left messages and texts. Due to my poor health; a walking disability and my daily use of an IPAP lung ventilator for 9 hours a day, it is claimed that it was normally my wife who had to go to answer the home telephone. This disturbing both her rest and her work. Our son had similar experiences, receiving repeated and frequent calls from BC and their agents. The threats, texts and demands made to the son’s mobile telephone were similar in nature to the ones received by my wife and I on our home telephone.
11. It is claimed that the basic thread of the demands and threats was; that unless I made full payment of an outstanding balance of almost £9000 then BC or their agents would start legal proceedings, BC would send out a debt collector to our home and, BC would keep ringing until they got what they wanted.
12. We for our part wrote letter after letter to BC and their agents (Mercers and Calder) pointing out that I was very ill and that I was unable and unwilling to discuss matters over the telephone with BC.
Instead I suggested in my letters to BC that they contact me in writing and by so doing, there would be a clear record of what was said and done by both parties. I allege that BC very rarely responded to my letters and that when they did they evaded my points preferring instead to make their demands.
13. In 2008 when the calls and texts began I wrote to advise BC that they were in fact texting and telephoning my son on occasion and that this was causing both father and son embarrassment and breaching my right to privacy and confidentiality. There followed a number of other calls and letters on the subject but again nothing could stop BC's calls and texts to our son. This so much so it is claimed that the last call and message received from BC in February of 2010 was received on the mobile telephone which our son had been using.
14. My wife has given evidence that on two occasions she tried to telephone BC with her complaints, (with all the difficulty of getting through), but to no avail. Mainly her efforts and my efforts, letters and calls received no response.
15. Sometimes during the calls I claim we received apologies and assurances from BC that the calls would stop. Unfortunately we will give evidence that any comfort taken from the assurances made by BC was short lived as invariably the calls restarted usually within hours and the bills and threats continued.
16. Finally in January 2009 I complained to the Financial Ombudsman’s Service. I complained that our Christmas 2008 had been devastated by the barrage of calls received from BC and their agents. My complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service was upheld and the Ombudsman ruled in my favour in July 2009.
17. During the Ombudsman’s investigation it became clear that BC were ignoring the Ombudsman’s communications too. On this I will offer the court copies of the chase up letters sent to BC by the Ombudsman. Which we believe will show the Ombudsman’s frustration. I suggest that these letters, and the Defendants lack of concern and response, demonstrate just how off the lead and out of control BC's attitude and ethics are.
18. As a result of the Financial Ombudsman intervention BC ultimately agreed to delete mine and my sons mobile numbers from their systems and agreed to change the preference on my account to written communication only. It was suggested by BC that they had taken these steps to avoid future issues. Unfortunately we allege that even before the Ombudsman had finalised his case BC resumed their calling and texting campaign again. There followed several hundred more calls. These calls climaxing again around the Christmas holiday of 2009, with us receiving 10, 12, or 14 calls in a day on some days and that these calls and texts continuing to the early part of February 2010 which is after the issue of this Claim.
19. I have stated that my wife and I have wasted many hours writing to BC in an attempt to communicate with them and stop the harassment we have suffered, more importantly, both of us were brought to a state of considerable anxiety, frustration and distress by the constant calls. I lived in constant fear, not knowing whether debt collectors would call at any time, whether I would have legal proceedings served upon me or whether the calls would just keep coming. It can be seen that even after giving assurances to the Financial Ombudsman Service that BC still continued with their campaign of calls and took my wife and I to the point of having to issue the current proceedings to stop the calls.
20. We claim that BC's course of conduct amounts to unlawful harassment contrary to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, that BC have also breached the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and have breach virtually every aspect and rules laid down by the Office of Fair Trading within their “Final Guidance on Debt Collections Activity”.
21. We claim £0,000 for distress and anxiety and £0,000 for financial loss due to time lost, loss of enjoyment of their home and their home life in dealing with BC and their agents. My principal object is to end my relationship with BC.
22. We believes that BC's debt collection policy is one based on harassment, that BC use the illegal tactics complained of in this matter and do so , knowing full well the levels of distress and damage they are causing. We also believe the acts we have witnessed have formed a cycle of events and that we have, during their long period of harassment, gone through almost three cycles of BC's harassment machine.
23. We believe that BC cannot blame their information technology or blame their acts on simple mistakes and omissions. We believe we can satisfactorily demonstrate to the court through witness and documentary evidence that BC knew of the impact their alleged actions. Or at the very least “ought to of known” the impact of their actions. And that the said actions complained of by my wife and I do so constitute a deliberate “course of conduct” and that the “course of conduct” amounting to the harassment complained of and was of sufficient “gravity” to be likely to cause distress, anxiety and loss to us, the Claimants, which is the test we have to satisfy, on the balance of probabilities.
24. I feel sure we are not alone in their suffering and that BC should be forced to change their business practices and policies complained of and, that this enforced change would be in the public interest. We maintain that BC were responsible and liable for not only their own actions but for the actions of their agents and had a duty to ensure the acts of all others were compliant with the law. We contend BC wanted all of the profits from the accounts but were unwilling to accept any of the responsibilities.
25. BC state that they deny each cause of action relied upon by us and puts us to proof of all matters alleged against BC.
26. I allege that it was I who had an account with them failed to keep up with repayments and that this resulting in arrears developing and consequently charges were levied and debited to my account. These charges were added to the balance each month.
27. BC make no admissions in relation to the operation of the second (Morgan Stanley, Goldfish) account which they claim they took over control of in October of 2008. BC claim they wrote to me in the January of 2009 stating that they acknowledged that a repayment plan which was established in June 2008 was in existence in relation to the Master Card account.
29. In the Defence BC make no admission as to the relevance of any complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service concerning the matters giving rise to the claim. BC makes no reference to the findings of the Ombudsman after his investigation or the alleged assurances given to the Ombudsman by BC in relation to their conduct towards me.
30. BC deny making calls to me in the October of 2008 and further more it is denied that any such calls were made by BC to me amounted to pursuit of an unreasonable course of conduct which amounted to the harassment of me. Instead they state that there was a default under the repayment plan agreed and that accordingly BC were reasonably entitled to attempt contact with me, so as to discuss the default and to make an arrangement for the default to be rectified.
31. BC make the point that both of the accounts I held and referred to in the Particulars of Claim were not linked.
32. BC deny that they harassed our son with “almost hourly” attempted calls from November 2009 onwards as has been alleged.
33. BC do admit that I had written to BC that BC was at all material times fully entitled to demand either a full or partial repayment of the balance due on the Platinum account and the Master Card account.
34. BC have denied all of the Claim stating that they have done no wrong; that they have done all that is required of them. BC contend that their conduct was all part of their normal business activity in an attempt to recover debts which were owed to them by me.
35. BC maintain that it is perfectly acceptable for them to treat consumers in the manner they did. BC impugn the allegations made in full and have argued that some of the incidents complained of by my wife and I simply did not happen.
36. BC have put me to strict proof and deny all of the Claim.
If anyone in CAG land has any ideas, law I could use or advice I would welcome serious input. My case is set for court in November and my battle against the Giant BC will begin in ernest.
Does anyone know of a Barrister that will take direct instruction on a case like this.
Does anyone know a good cheap barrister?
Wish me luck!!:mad2: