Being Unfairly Harassed By SLC Debt Collection

Bewilderment
Bewilderment Posts: 13
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edited 2 October 2021 at 4:52PM in Student MoneySaving

Hello,

I hope someone might be able to give me some advice about how to deal with this.

I suspended university studies in March 2018 due to severe illness. When students suspend studies due to illness a 60-day grace period is applied in which no repayment of student loan for that period is required. I did everything correctly and was assured by both the university and Student Finance England that this applied in my case.

In January 2020 (there was no explanation for the long delay) I received a demand from SLC for repayment of overpaid student loan. I knew it was incorrect as I sought a lot of financial advice when I left my course. When I contacted them, they said the rules for suspension due to illness had not been applied, but could not tell me why. They said someone would investigate and get back to me, then everything shut down due to covid and I didn’t hear anything more.

In January 2021, after no other contact, I began receiving letters from debt collectors demanding repayment of the erroneous amount. I again contacted SLC and explained the situation. After much confusion and delay they finally told me the illness suspension rules had not been applied because my university had not sent them a crucial form when I left my course, and that I needed to contact the university and tell them to send it. It took some time to get the university to do this, and SLC finally confirmed receipt of the form in May 2021, and said they would process it and correct the error. By then I had been receiving increasingly urgent letters, texts and emails from debt collectors for months. SLC claimed they could do nothing to stop this because the system was automated and their only advice was to ignore and “not worry about" the debt collection letters. I am very seriously ill and unable to leave home, and even making phonecalls is very difficult for me. I told them I was being caused a lot of stress due to no fault of mine, but they were not interested.

There was no further contact until a few days ago when I received a text from another, different debt collection agency, followed by a letter and an email, demanding I repay the still incorrect figure to SLC. Apparently they have not processed the form and corrected the error at all. I am no longer able to phone them due to deterioration of my health so I can only write to them, and I assume that once again this will take time to sort out. In the meantime, is there anything I can do to make them stop the debt collectors, and if this continues is there a way to seek recompense for the difficulties they are causing me? I am really struggling to deal with it.

Thank you!


Comments

  • tacpot12
    tacpot12 Posts: 7,845
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    edited 3 October 2021 at 8:06AM
    I would suggest that you write a letter of complaint to the SLC and to your MP. The SLC can and should be doing  more to stop you being chased for a debt you don't owe. 

    You should follow the procedure here: Complaints procedure - Student Loans Company - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) and should definitely be looking to escalate to an independent assessor asap.

    You can sue them for compensation in the civil courts for harrassment. You will need legal advice, and may be able to get this for free if you have home insurnace with legal expenses cover. If not, you might need pay a solicitor up front, or come to a No-win, No-fee deal where they win your case and keep 90% of your compensation (this is a fairly common outcome about fees!).

    There is nothing to stop you asking for compensation in your letter of complaint to the SLC, e.g. "I think I should be compensated for the significant suffering you have caused. I would be happy to settle this matter in return for £250, providing that the harrassment stops immediately".  
    The comments I post are my personal opinion. While I try to check everything is correct before posting, I can and do make mistakes, so always try to check official information sources before relying on my posts.
  • Thank you for the advice, I'll follow your advice with the letter of complaint. I don’t think I'll try to sue unless things escalate any further just because that would be an additional source of difficulty, but if they aren't cooperative I'll certainly take things further.

    Thanks!
  • tacpot12
    tacpot12 Posts: 7,845
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    Do post back how you get on. Your situation is quite unusual but it may help someone to know what has worked or not worked. 
    The comments I post are my personal opinion. While I try to check everything is correct before posting, I can and do make mistakes, so always try to check official information sources before relying on my posts.
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