Debt Collection letters

For the last 7 years I have lived in my flat. Lately I have been getting letters regarding collection of fees owed to Fitness First for someone who has not lived at this address in the time I have been here. I have returned to sender before, and called.

They basically claim they cannot do anything until the Royal Mail inform them that the person does not live there anymore, and me writing to them, etc does not count. Even if they get a letter with 'return to sender' on the envelope, unless the Royal Mail formerly notify them at the sametime they are not at that address, they will fail to act on it.

What can I do?

Replies

  • HazzoHazzo Forumite
    43 Posts
    register a complaint with the Information Commissioner's Office - see data protection at http://www.ico.gov.uk/
  • AstarothAstaroth Forumite
    5.4K Posts
    ✭✭✭✭
    Just keep sending them back unopened with return to sender addressee gone away/ unknown (depending on which is appropriate) - opening mail not addressed to you is a criminal offence and likely to get companies shirty even if it sent to your address.

    At the end of the day it is them wasting money chasing the wrong direction not you.
    All posts made are simply my own opinions and are neither professional advice nor the opinions of my employers
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  • I'm sure this situation was on Watchdog last Tuesday?
    Personaly i'd just throw them in the bin :rolleyes: i had the same here, the last person in this property had an outstanding fine to pay, all sorts of letters saying they would take his car :cool:
    I phoned them, had to open letter to get the number, told them he didnt live here, they asked for proof, i.e gas/elec bill i never did send any. All letters have now stopped.
  • tom188tom188 Forumite
    2.3K Posts
    You should not throw them away, but send them back unopened.

    Opening/interfering with another persons mail is a criminal offence as already suggested by Astorath.
  • asandwhenasandwhen Forumite
    1.4K Posts
    tom188 wrote:
    You should not throw them away, but send them back unopened.

    Opening/interfering with another persons mail is a criminal offence as already suggested by Astorath.

    its only a criminal offence if it is interfered with prior to delivery - once delivered to YOUR house you can open it.
  • tom188tom188 Forumite
    2.3K Posts
    asandwhen wrote:
    its only a criminal offence if it is interfered with prior to delivery - once delivered to YOUR house you can open it.
    Not so, see the advice below from Citizens Advice.
    Question

    When someone leaves a house, what is the law about passing on correspondence to them? Are you allowed to open it to find out what it is? Or do you have to pass it on?

    Answer
    The law on this issue is clear, as it has recently been confirmed in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000.

    Quite simply, it is an offence to open, destroy, hide or delay any post that is addressed to someone else. Post cannot be opened if it is to the addressee's detriment and without reasonable excuse. Reasonable excuse is not defined by the Act. This means your explanation for withholding post may not stand up in court.

    An example of a potential conflict is if a landlord opens a previous tenant's post in order to trace them. Post cannot be opened if someone knows or reasonably suspects the post has been incorrectly delivered. In addition, any post or post bag that is found in a public place must be returned to a post office without being opened.

    It is also an offence to divert someone's post in order to intentionally delay them from receiving it. An example of this could be where a person re-posts documents or cheques to delay the addressee from acting upon them.

    In addition to this, if you receive someone else's post by mistake, you should contact Royal Mail's customer services department. The mistake can be reported to the appropriate delivery office. The post itself can be delivered by hand to the correct address, re-posted in a post box or handed to a postal worker.

    Question answered by CAB
  • This is a rather old thread, but I thought it might be worth restarting, as it's one of the hits if you search for this subject online, and I'm not entirely convinced the answer given above is correct. The CAB tend to err on the side of caution with their advice. I notice it was repeated in last week's Daily Mail, where their finance correspondent (very patronisingly, I thought) told a correspondent that it was an offence to have opened someone's post (by which means he found out that someone was using his address fraudulently) and if he hadn't, he wouldn't have had so much worry.

    The Postal Office Act says:
    ]84. - (1) A person commits an offence if, without reasonable excuse, he-

    (a) intentionally delays or opens a postal packet in the course of its transmission by post, or
    (b) intentionally opens a mail-bag.
    (2) Subsections (2) to (5) of section 83 apply to subsection (1) above as they apply to subsection (1) of that section.

    (3) A person commits an offence if, intending to act to a person's detriment and without reasonable excuse, he opens a postal packet which he knows or reasonably suspects has been incorrectly delivered to him.

    (4) Subsections (2) and (3) of section 83 (so far as they relate to the opening of postal packets) apply to subsection (3) above as they apply to subsection (1) of that section.

    (5) A person who commits an offence under subsection (1) or (3) shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both.
    http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2000/00026--f. htm#84

    Now, fair enough, the CAB points out that reasonable excuse is not defined in the Act, but I would suggest that it would include suspecting that someone's using your identity or address fraudulently. Importantly, the Act states that 'A person commits an offence if, intending to act to a person's detriment and without reasonable excuse,' and it seems that this has been taken previously as meaning you have to do both, so therefore if you are not intending to act to a person's detriment (but rather, trying to protect yourself), it makes it a great deal more difficult to justify this as an offence.

    With the increase in identity theft, I reckon courts would be very reluctant to claim that someone didn't have a reasonable excuse for opening letters that turned out to be from debt collection agencies, for instance, particularly as that person's credit rating could be adversely affected if they didn't know about it and thus had been unable to lodge a notice of dissociation with the credit reference agencies.

    I'd be very interested to know if anyone has any more up-to-date info on this, particularly anyone with a legal background.
  • I had an instance of this when i moved into my most recent property. I was still getting letters for the previous occupant for up to 18 months after they had moved out. This caused me to be suspicious and quite rightly so. This person was applying for loans left, right, and centre and using an "old spare key" to get the post when i was at work. It turned into a huge legal mess with the police, as the landlord swore blind they had the locks changed before i moved in. I would probably try and contact the "if undelivered, return to sender" address on the back of the letter. If after a reasonable amount of time you are getting more than junk mail for the previous tennant, I would open it and refer the company to the landlord or the P.O. They may have a forwarding address for a person.

    The law is very sketchy about these things, as a few of the letters i had just opened without looking at the name on the envelope as i presumed they would be for me with coming through my door. A lot of people open mail not addressed to them without even realising it. Especially if they have been at the property for a number of years. You just assume any post is for you.
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