While we do our best to help defendants through the All About Debt forum and our website, we have to be careful what information we disclose. We are not talking about client confidentiality which is, of course, assured, but there is an issue when it comes to tactics and strategy.
Internet debt forums are not only used by defendants, they are a rich source of information for creditors together with solicitors and barristers from both sides. We have to be careful not to publish strategic information as this could have a negative effect on our client’s cases.
For example, we know for a fact that debt purchasers watch and sometimes even post on debt forums. On more than one occasion, creditors have threatened to report us to our regulators regarding posts we have published, which they consider to be damaging to them. We have had cases where creditors have turned up at court with printouts of our defendants’ posts on other internet forums, and used such information against our client, albeit unsuccessfully. For this reason, you also need to be careful when divulging case specific information. There is another internet forum, which does encourage users to post detailed information online. We do not agree with this approach, and no longer post on that forum.
Jo in particular, has been involved in Consumer Credit cases for many years and was involved in the ‘birth’ of the move towards fighting the creditors and debt purchasers. Years ago, it was possible to instigate claims in Consumer Credit debts. However, as this practice became more widespread, claims management companies started springing up, to take advantage. Unfortunately, as they increased the volume of cases being handled through mass publicity, standards fell, and poor cases went to court and were badly argued resulted in binding decisions. This meant that legitimate solicitors were no longer able to help debtors in this way.
A similar situation occurred with private parking fines. In 2015, a litigant in person lost his case, in which he was arguing that an £85 fine was unfair. This was not a binding decision, so had no serious impact on other cases. However, he decided to appeal to the Court of Appeal, in which he represented himself, and lost. Hence there is now a binding decision, which affects anyone in a similar position. This does not mean that fines cannot be challenged, but it does remove one element of the defence.
Just recently, a firm of solicitors that do some Consumer Credit cases and are active on other internet forums, lost a Consumer Credit case. Unfortunately, they then took this case to the Court of Appeal, and again lost. We do not know the details, but we do know that at some stage in the future, a creditor may be able to ambush us using this judgment. As we do not know the details of this particular case, it is impossible to say how serious the impact of this judgment will be for other debtors.
In summary, while we are happy to help wherever possible, there are certain lines that we cannot cross, and we trust that you will understand our policy.