Debt Recovery Blog – when debtor tracing goes wrong

An elderly knight of the realm had bailiffs knocking on his door over an unpaid £5,000 gas bill – despite never having gas in his home.

Sir John Tavare, 91, and his 87-year-old wife Lady Daphne were stunned to say the least when a debt collector (knocking on their door) claimed they owed an unpaid £5,000 gas bill – despite never having gas in their home. According to various press reports a bailiff or debt collector claiming to be a British Gas official knocked on their door and demanded access to the property. Sir John and his wife, knowing they hadn’t had a gas supply in the property they have lived at for more than 30 years, thought they were the victims of a scam, as did police officers that arrived at the property to investigate the complaint.

A spokesman for Cheshire Police confirmed they had received a phone call, immediately after the visit. He said: “A call reported that a man who purported to be a debt collector was demanding money in an aggressive manner.”

Nick Tavare, the couple’s son, said his parents were deeply disturbed by the experience and accused British Gas of employing ‘bullying’ tactics without having first made sufficient checks.”  He added, “A man came along to see the gas meter. He refused to show any identification. When he was told there was no meter, he began to shout ‘If you don’t give me access to the house, I will come back with a bailiff in the middle of the night and kick the door down’.

Mr Tavare junior further added, “British Gas eventually conceded the house with the alleged debt has the same street name but a different post code – and a completely different name….How can it be that they can send debt collectors to a house that has no gas – without doing any basic checks first of all.”

It transpires that a Spokeswoman for British Gas confirmed: “I am very sorry for any upset and inconvenience. We visited their property in error and we have contacted Mr and Mrs Tavare to apologise and to advise them that we have updated our records to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

So how does this happen?

The break down in the debt recovery process here is sadly not uncommon and we hear of examples like this from all over the UK, day in, day out. The problem is two fold. First in so much as there is a data cleansing issue but also, secondly that there is a lack of ownership to correct any incorrect data.

That only a similar street name being the only link to pursue a debtor, as in this case, is worrying on so many levels. Not only does it cause undue stress to those incorrectly pursued, but mis-traces like this, were not even the house number or name of the occupant are correct, or that there isn’t even a supply of gas there have been overlooked, do little for the reputation of both the creditor British Gas, or the pursuing debt recovery firm, which was based in Cheshire.

Such mistakes also push up the general costs of debt recovery, not just to the creditors seeking the recovered monies but also to all debtors owing debts being pursued in this manner, through collectively increased fees, extra search costs, legal fees etc etc all of which are being wasted on pursuing the wrong person.

Is the debt recovery firm to blame?

It would be unfair of us to comment without knowing the full details of the case but it does seem (in respect of data) that the creditor, British Gas, owned up to their data being incorrect, and as such issued an apology. The wrong name, address and lack of gas supply served Sir John Tavare well as many don’t get the situation resolved so easily.

There are many reports in the press, and some we are personally aware of in which a report has been sent back from a debt recovery agent to the creditor client, citing incorrect data, only for it to be ignored and passed on to another debt collection firm.

The net result is that the mis-trace continues on and on, with incorrect debtors being pursued and no one listening to those being incorrectly targeted.

Liverpool Debt Recovery firm, CCDR offer debtor tracing services and when used, careful consideration is taken in respect of the validity and accuracy of any data, but it should be added that we don’t rely on a single source of data. As such we simply don’t encounter the issues made aware in this debt recovery blog post.

For more information call CCDR for a no obligation discussion about how we can reduce your debtor days, collect outstanding debts or trace gone away debtors.

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