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NZ Credit Card Debit being Pursued in the UK

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First of all, thanks to the providers and contributors to this forum. I am really worried and happy to have found somewhere where I can try to get some answers.

 

Background:

 

I have been living and working in the UK for the past four years. In 2007-2008 my father was going through what was at the time temporary financial difficulties (loss of job & divorce) so I offered to allow him to use my NZ credit cards, on the basis that he would make the monthly payments. In 2009 he had a heart attack and was only working part time so was struggled to pay and basically no payments have been made since late 2009. As a result I have credit card debt to two NZ credit cards - one for NZ$16k (approx £7k) and one for NZ$15k (approx £6k).

 

I have two properties in NZ, but these are highly mortgaged and due to the credit crunch, the banks have refused me a second mortage to repay the credit card debt. I have looked at selling, but after paying the estate agent commission, marketing and paying the mortgage, there would not be enough left to pay the debt.

 

I earn a reasonable salary in the UK but have quite a bit of credit card debt on 0% interest and would struggle to raise a loan to pay the debt in full. We have also had a ban on overtime since this time last year, resulting in an effective 30% pay cut. In short, I am treading water in the UK. My wife is due with our first baby in the next few days and I really don't know what to do!

 

My father managed to raise some cash to make a couple of payments earlier this year and I have had a reasonable relationship with the credit management department at the banks (who know the situation) but the inevitable has happened and both have just been passed to DCAs in NZ.

 

Current Situation:

 

I got an email from one of the DCAs (EC Credit Control) in NZ a little over a week ago, asking me to call them. I should say that up until this point they had my UK phone numbers and email address, but most correspondence was still going to my fathers address in NZ. I called the NZ DCA on Monday and they said that they wanted immediate payment of the debt which was the original NZ$16,600 plus costs of NZ$4,700 making the total due immediately of NZ$21,300. I said that I would not consider paying the costs but had previously spoken to the bank (Bank of NZ) when I was trying to remortgage and they said that they would be willing to accept a full and final settlement of approx NZ$12k, so, if I could raise the money (and I didn't say I could), that would be the most I would be willing to offer. I asked her to send me the details in writing to my UK address (which I gave to her). She said that they had already sent a first demand (to my incorrect address), which they could not resend, but I would get a second demand in the next week.

 

Two days later a letter arrived from EC Credit Control, but this was from their UK based office with all UK registration details on which states:

 

"Our client has referred the above overdue account to us for collection, as you have failed to respond to their repeated requests for settlement.

 

Their instructions are to issue legal proceedings unless payment for the total account is made to EC Credit Control"

 

If the matter is taken to Court, out client will seek Judgement against you for their legal costs. The Court may also order that you pay their Court costs.

 

Failure to make payment will result in court proceedings commencing against you which after obtaining Judgement will result in you being listed as a defaulter throughout the United Kingdom. This will adversely affect your credit rating.

 

Payment must be made b cheque or credit card directly to EC Credit Control. A payment slip is attached at the bottom of this letter to be returned with your remittance"

 

Obviously this makes me concerned, as I am trying my best to deal with the situation via the NZ DCA, and I was not aware that there was any jurisdiction for this debt to be legally pursued in the UK.

 

After reading the forum regarding jurisdiction, and the Office of Fair Trading Debt Collection Guidance, final guidance on unfair business practices July 2003 (updated December 2006), I don't think that they can do this, but really want some advise on the following:

 

1. Considering that this has only just been handed to the NZ DCA (and has not reached court or anything), does the UK DCA company have any jurisdiction in pursuing me in the UK?

2. At what point (if any) of legal proceedings in NZ will they have jurisdiction to pursue the debt in the UK?

3. At what point (if any) could they register this debt in the UK and it go onto my UK credit record?

4. How can they pursue me for costs of 25% of the original debt. Does this not have to be in a reasonable proportion to the original debt, or is this subject to the contract that I had with the credit card company?

5. I have never admitted to the debt to the DCA (either in NZ or the UK), but may have in correspondence with the credit card company. Is there any reason for me not to admit the debt?

6. Can they pursue me to pay the full amount? No mention has been made of arrangements, or willingness to accept a full and final settlement.

 

I am a bit at a loss of what to do, but was considering writing to the UK DCA basically disputing their jurisdiction and the claiming that they are using unfair business practices as per the Office of Fair Trading Debt Collection Guidance, final guidance on unfair business practices July 2003 (updated December 2006):

 

Section 2.4g of the Office of Fair Trading Debt Collection Guidance, final guidance on unfair business practices July 2003 (updated December 2006) states that an example of an unfair practice is:

 

"... g. taking or threatening to take court action in the wrong jurisdiction, for example, taking action against a Scottish debtor in an English court unless legally justified"

 

As I am already being pursued by the New Zealand office of the company, and spoke to them on Monday 13th September, then I think that they are also in breach of the following:

 

Section 2.6 states

 

"c. using more than one debt collection business at the same time resulting in repetitive and/or frequent contact by different parties

 

d. not ensuring that the adequate history of the debt is passed on as appropriate resulting in repetitive and/or frequent contact by different parties

 

e. not informing the debtor when the debt has been passed on to a different debt collector

 

f. pressuring debtors to pay in full, in unreasonably large instalments , or to increase payments when they are unable to do so"

 

" i. disclosing or threatening to disclose debt details to third parties unless legally entitled to do so".

 

Collection costs:

 

Should I also ask for evidence of the contractual obligation I have with the creditor, to pay collection costs and that collection costs of 25% are fair and justified in line with obligation 2.10 b which states that such charges must be "based upon actual and necessary costs". I fail to see how they can claim to have spent $4,000 on collection of this amount so far (in issuing one email in NZ and one letter in the UK). I think that these charges are disproportionate to the original debt and in breach of section 2.10 e. Or should I have this argument with the NZ DCA, and just dispute the jurisdiction of the UK DCA?

 

I really would appreciate some advise on this subject. I am now looking at how I could sell one of the NZ properties privately (to reduce the costs of sale) to try to raise some money.

 

I cant afford to let my father bankrupt me in two countries!

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Hi Kiwi,

 

Wow, you are in a bit of a mess and I'm sure one of the competent CAG advisors will be along to assist you shortly. In the meantime, I can offer you some advice based on my own experience (Australian cc debt being chased in the UK).

 

First of all, you've made a couple of early mistakes which hopefully can be corrected (don't worry, so did I, but the great folks here at CAG put me straight). Rule number one is NEVER speak to the DCA's on the phone. If they think they've got you rattled, they will increase the pressure. Insist that ALL communication regarding the matter be in writing only - and if they call you, tell them again politely then hang up.

 

Secondly, I would check that the UK office of the DCA that contacted you is authorised by the FSA to collect debts in the UK. If they are not, ignore them and report them to the appropriate authorities - they have no authority to collect debts in the UK. If they ARE, then I'll leave it to others to advise you.

 

Thirdly, find out if New Zealand has a Financial Ombudsman Service like they do in OZ (I assume they do). If so, dispute the debt with the FOS - this will put a halt on any pending court action (they cannot take you to court whilst the debt is in dispute). This should buy you a few months to figure out your best strategy. In my situation, I've disputed the debt with the Australian FOS, reported the DCA to ASIC, and demanded that the DCA reveal all personal information they hold against me (as is my right under the Australian Privacy Act). That has them tied up in knots, and I haven't heard from them in weeks.

 

Your strategy needs to be to make it as difficult and expensive as possible for them to pursue the debt overseas. It's very expensive to do so, and if you make it very difficult for them, chances are they will give up.

 

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress.

 

W

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