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What to do if I dispute a debt?

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes a creditor might contact you about a debt that isn’t yours or the balance they’re asking you to pay might be wrong.

In either case, you need to get in touch with them to sort the situation out.

If you don’t, they may keep chasing you for money you don’t actually owe, and this could be recorded on your credit file.

What to do if you think a creditor is asking for the wrong amount

Sometimes the balance shown on statements or letters from your creditors might be higher than you were expecting.

First you should ask the creditor for a breakdown of all the charges they’ve added. If your debt is regulated by the Consumer Credit Act you have a right to be supplied with a full statement of account showing all the charges and interest added. This might explain why the balance is different.

If there are any charges shown which you think are unusually high, check the terms and conditions of your credit agreement or ask the creditor to explain them. In most cases, charges added to a debt should only be the actual costs incurred by the creditor. For example, if you miss a payment and the creditor sends you a letter, it wouldn’t be fair for them to add a fee that’s a lot more than the amount it cost them to write to you.

If the creditor won’t correct the balance of your debt and you don’t agree with their explanation, the next step is to make a complaint. If you’re not happy with the creditor’s final response to your complaint, or if they don’t reply within eight weeks, you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service. They can investigate the issue and decide if you’ve been treated fairly.

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What to do if you think a debt isn’t yours

Sometimes you may be contacted by a creditor or debt collection agency about a debt you don’t recognise.

Before you contact the creditor about this, think about the following:

  • Is it an old debt you’ve forgotten about? Sometimes there can be long gaps in contact from creditors, especially if you’ve moved house and not given them your new address. If you’re not sure, contact them to check when the debt was taken out and what address it was first registered at. In rare cases, if a debt is very old it could statute barred and the creditor may be out of time to collect it.
  • Is it a debt you know about which has been transferred to another company? If you don’t recognise the company, it could be a debt collection agency which has bought a debt from one of your creditors. Check the letter to see if it shows a creditor name or account number that matches a debt you have, or if the balance owing is the same. If not, contact the collection agency to check.

If you’re sure the debt is nothing to do with you contact the creditor and tell them. If they insist you do owe the debt ask them to provide proof, for example a copy of the original agreement.

If the creditor continues to contact you about the debt after you’ve explained it isn’t yours, the next step is to make a complaint. If you’re not happy with the creditor’s final response to your complaint, or if they don’t reply within eight weeks, you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service. They can investigate the issue and decide if you’ve been treated fairly.

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If you're worried about your financial situation get in touch with us for some free debt help. Debt Remedy, our online advice tool, can offer personalised advice and a recommended solution to help you deal with your debt.