If you owe money to someone you are their debtor. They are your creditor.
There are rules about how creditors can collect debts. They are entitled to ask you to pay your debts but they are not entitled to harass or intimidate you.
Contact between lenders and consumers
Under the Consumer Protection Code 2012, a lender that is regulated by the Central Bank cannot phone you about your loan without your agreement between 9pm and 9am, Monday to Saturday, or at any time on a Sunday or public holiday. They can only visit you in person if you have agreed to the visit.
The lender is not allowed to call you or to visit you at your place of work unless you are also living there, or unless all reasonable efforts to contact you elsewhere have failed. Only the person involved in the loan can be contacted about it. This means that your lender cannot contact your employer or a member of your family about your loan.
Private debt collectors
Instead of seeking repayment from you themselves, creditors sometimes sell the debt to a private collection agency. Such agencies are not subject to authorisation and supervision by the Central Bank.
However, if a lender that is regulated by the Central Bank outsources its debt collection activities, any agent acting on its behalf must meet the requirements of Irish financial services law. If it does not, the Central Bank can impose penalties on the lender.
If a regulated lender plans to appoint a third party to engage with you about arrears that you owe, it must write to you and explain the role of the third party.
To check whether a financial services firm is regulated by the Central Bank, you can check the register at registers.centralbank.ie.
If you do not engage with your creditor, they can initiate legal proceedings to recover the debt.
Harassment and intimidation
All debt collectors, including private individuals and debt collection agencies, are covered by Section 11 of the Non-Fatal Offences against the Person Act 1997. Under the law, they cannot make a demand for payment of a debt if:
- The demands are so frequent that they are expected to cause you or your family alarm, distress or humiliation
- They falsely suggest that non-payment will result in criminal proceedings
- They falsely suggest that they are authorised in an official capacity to enforce payment
- They use a false official document
If your creditor or a debt collection agency does any of these things, you can report the matter to An Garda Síochána. Anyone found guilty of offences under the Act can be fined or sent to prison.