In the United Kingdom, the debt collection business is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which oversees the conduct of firms that provide financial products and services to customers. In addition to knowledge of local rules and laws, debt collection also requires an extremely high degree of tact and sensitivity, as vulnerability is the central issue in the UK. The point here is that companies are obliged to treat customers fairly with due consideration for the customer’s individual circumstances.
The key feature of UK collections is to focus on making it easy for the customer to engage. A dogged approach that repeats the same thing over and over again, or appears to threaten, will not succeed and is more likely to force a customer underground. From my personal experience, fairness and sustainable arrangements will always deliver greater, longer-term success – also from an international perspective.
This also applies for the field service, which is still quite common in the UK. Here, too, it is a matter of acting in a friendly and cooperative manner. Nonetheless, field service employees are occasionally faced with challenging situations, for instance when encountering guard dogs. In order to protect all those involved, in some cases dog handlers are taken on by the field service. These ensure that such situations do not escalate and that, ideally, a solution-oriented conversation can take place.
The great importance of consumer protection was underlined by the almost 100-page Vulnerability Guide*, which was compiled in 2017 on the basis of research findings from the University of Bristol. The recently published CAP** Client Report reveals current insights on debt, for example the dramatic effects such as the need to sacrifice meals (26% at least once a week), social isolation (71%) and negatively affected health (72%). Alarming results, which underline the importance of proper consultancy and a vulnerability approach in debt collection.
* Vulnerability: a guide for debt collection – 21 questions, 21 steps
** Christians Against Poverty (CAP): A nationally recognized charity that works to help the most vulnerable out of poverty across the UK