The Consumer Credit Act (CCA) gives you the right to be sent a copy of your credit agreement and a statement of your account for most loans, credit cards, catalogues, store cards and Hire Purchase agreements.
CCA agreements are important! If a creditor can’t find it then:
- you can’t get a CCJ for the debt; and
- you may decide to stop paying the debt.
This doesn’t apply to all debts. The Act doesn’t cover some old large loans (pre 2008 loans for more than £25,000), mortgages, some credit union loans, utility bills, many mobile debts or logbook loans. There are further details here about what debts are covered. And although the Act covers overdrafts, the right to have a copy of your credit agreement does not apply to them.
Sometimes asking for a CCA agreement is an excellent idea. But not always. It shouldn’t normally be your first thought if you are having trouble paying a debt. And it is not likely to work if your debt is still with the original creditor, even if it is with a debt collector – asking for the CCA normally only works if your debt has been sold to a debt purchaser.
How to ask for your CCA agreement
There is a template letter to ask for your credit agreement in this National Debtline factsheet. That factsheet also has a lot of information about CCA agreements and if you have any problems with one, talk to National Debtline.
This is not the same as templates asking for a copy of your personal information or making a Subject Access Request. If you want to find out if the debt is enforceable, use the specific CCA agreement wording.
Some points to be careful about:
- ask the current creditor for the CCA agreement, not the original creditor;
- you have to send a cheque or a postal order for £1;
- send the letter recorded delivery, keep a copy of it and the postage receipt.
Also read the rest of this article first! You need to know what you will do if the lender sends you the agreement and what if the lender doesn’t.
What happens if they don’t send the CCA agreement?
If you don’t get a copy of your CCA agreement within 12 working days of asking, the creditor can’t enforce the debt in court until they do send it to you.
If the creditor can’t easily find the CCA agreement they may send you an acknowledgement of your request. Something like the following is typical:
we acknowledge the 12 day time limit to provide this information but as we have to request the details from the original lender we anticipate that we will not be able to provide this within 12 days but hope that within 40 days we will have retrieved the information to comply with your request.
A 40 day period is often mentioned but doesn’t have any legal standing.
It’s very common for it to take more than 12 days to find the CCA. Don’t get excited because the 12 days has passed, it means nothing in practice.
I suggest waiting two or three months before you decide they can’t find the agreement and decide to stop paying them.
“Legal but not enforceable”
The letter from the creditor saying they haven’t found it yet should be clear that the debt is no longer enforceable but it still legally exists.
The creditor can ask you to pay the debt but, if you don’t, the creditor can’t do anything. They can’t hassle you to pay it. A polite letter every 6 months or a year is fine – frequent letters, texts or phone calls aren’t. This isn’t usually a problem in practice.
When a debt is unenforceable, that should be mentioned in any letters asking for payment. Here is what I suggested to a reader who was getting letters that left off this important fact: “Debt collector can’t prove it’s my debt but wants payment”
Here are some more implications of the debt being legal but not enforceable:
- if you claim a PPI refund, this may be set off against the balance you still owe.
- the debt can still be sold to another debt collector. Make sure you keep all the CCA agreement letters or emails so you can just tell the new creditor you asked for the CCA agreement on dd/mm/yy and you won’t be paying anything to the debt until it is produced.
- you may be able to leave the debt out of an application for a Debt Relief Order so it won’t count towards the £20,000 limit. See Can I leave a debt out of a DRO? for details.
- See below for the effect on your credit record.
“So I can just stop paying?”
If your reason for asking for the CCA was hoping that you could stop paying the debt, then you could stop after 12 working days.
But in practice many CCA agreements are produced in the next few weeks. So, unless you can’t afford the monthly payments, I usually suggest not stopping it immediately. Leave it a couple of months.
If the debt is in a DMP you will have to tell the DMP firm to stop paying it. Dent them the letter from the creditor saying they can’t locate the agreement.
You may find the idea of not paying scary. If you do, talk to National Debtline about this debt and the rest of your financial situation. It does help, being able to talk to a friendly expert!
I would allow the debt collector a couple of months before deciding that they aren’t going to be able to find it. Three months if you are feeling nervous.
There is a small chance that the CCA agreement could be found later. This seems to be rare – if the debt collector hasn’t found in in the first few months the chances of it turning up later seem very low.
“What about my credit record?”
Is this debt still showing on your credit record? Don’t assume it isn’t, check all three credit reference agencies to make sure.
If it isn’t on there, then it will never reappear, whether you pay it in full, in part or just stop paying.
A debt marked as defaulted will drop off 6 years after the default date:
- it will not drop off sooner because the CCA cannot be found;
- the balance will not normally be set to zero because the CCA cannot be found.
When the debt does not have a default date, if you stop paying now, a default will be added and it will then drop off in 6 years. Not good news! Read What should the default date be? and ask the original creditor to add a default date back years ago.
“Should I offer a low settlement amount?”
To prevent the very rare occurrence of the CCA later turning up and to stop the odd polite letter, some people decide to offer them a really low settlement amount, say 5%.
You don’t need to do this! Not paying them anything is a perfectly good response in most cases! It is VERY VERY rare for a debt to turn up later.
If you want to make a settlement offer, it’s a good idea to stop paying them for a couple of months and then make the offer. That shows they can choose between your low offer and nothing. You cannot make a debt collector accept this low offer or complain they are being unfair if they don’t.
The only time when you really should try to get the debt settled is if it will still be showing on your credit record in a year or two when you want to apply for a mortgage. Then getting the debt marked as satisfied will help your mortgage chance a lot. But if the debt is no longer on your credit record or is dropping off soon, there is no need to do this.
What if they do send the CCA agreement?
How can you tell if it is right?
You have to be sent a “true copy” of the agreement – this doesn’t have to be a photocopy of the original agreement. It must be legible and it must include:
- your name and address when the account was opened;
- the creditor’s name and address when the account was opened;
- the terms and conditions of the account at that time, including the cost of credit (the Annual Percentage Rate), when you have to make payments and your cancellation rights; and
- any other other documents that were mentioned in the Terms and Conditions.
It doesn’t have to have your signature on it. Indeed if you opened the account online you may well have signed it “digitally” and there is no document with your physical signature – this is perfectly legal.
This may sound complicated but often it isn’t. Usually either the creditor admits they can’t find it or what they send you is fine.
What should you do when the CCA agreement is found?
This depends on why you were asking for the CCA agreement.
If the creditor has started a court case (you have been sent a Claim Form) then you may have hoped that the CCA agreement could not be found. But now you have it, that is not a possible defence so you need to think if you have another defence. Talk to National Debtline about your options.
If you were planning on making settlement offers to some debts and were hoping the lack of a CCA agreement could get this one settled very cheaply, that has been ruled out and you need to proceed with a more substantial offer.
If you are fed up with a paying an old debt for a long while with this going to continue for many years, then you need to look at your alternatives. If you just stop paying, you may get taken to court – especially as the creditor now has the CCA agreement ready to hand! If you have more luck with some other debts turning out to be unenforceable, can you now pay more to this one? Or is it time to look at insolvency or other options?
When should you ask for the CCA agreement – and when shouldn’t you?
A lot depends on your exact debts, who the original creditor was, who the debt collector is, and what your other options are for tackling them. So there isn’t a simple checklist here.
How old is the account and has it been sold?
The older an account is, the less likely it is that a CCA agreement will be found. It’s the age of the account that matters, not how old the debt problem is. You may have defaulted on a catalogue account a couple of years old, but if it was opened in 2006 that’s well worth a try!
For a debt that is still with the original creditor, I wouldn’t bother asking for the CCA agreement unless the debt was VERY old or you are getting letters from solicitors about court action.
If a debt has been sold once it is less likely the current creditor can produce the CCA agreement and this gets harder the more times the debt is sold on.
Court action and CCJs
If the creditor is seriously threatening court action, always ask for the CCA agreement. It is worth a try!
But when you already have a CCJ for a debt, it is too late to ask for the CCA agreement as the creditor doesn’t have to send it. If you have just found out about the CCJ you need to look at your options for “setting it aside“, not send a request for the CCA agreement.
All quiet about a debt? Then contacted?
If you haven’t been paying a debt for years and you aren’t being hassled by a creditor, you need a good reason to ask for the CCA agreement. It may be better to wait and see if you are contacted and then ask for the CCA.
But when you are contacted about a very old debt asking for the CCA agreement is a very good idea. In January 2019 a new court ruling has meant that it is now harder to tell if some old debts are statute barred, so even if you think your debt should be statute barred, it’s definitely worth asking for the CCA agreement as another possible defence.
Hoping to settle debts with a windfall
If you have a windfall – an inheritance or a big PPI refund say – and you have a lot of debt in a DMP for several years so most of it is with debt collectors, asking for CCA agreements before you make offers is sensible.
Thinking about bankruptcy, a DRO or an IVA
Where insolvency (DRO, IVA or bankruptcy) looks necessary, it can be a waste of time asking for CCA agreements, unless not paying those debts would make the rest manageable.
When you are have been contacted about a debt which not yours
If a debt collector says you owe money but you don’t recognise the debt, you should send them a Prove It! letter saying you dispute the debt. Here the CCA is only part of the picture. You may get sent a copy of the CCA in answer to this – if the name and address on the agreement are your and you did live at that property at that point, it is good evidence.
But keep focussed on the fact that what matters is proving who the borrower is. Here is a case “Debt collector can’t prove it’s my debt but wants payment” where a debt collector admitted the debt was unenforceable as the CCA couldn’t be found but wrongly still asked for payment.
In summary, asking for the CCA agreement is an uncertain process that can take months. If you have a lot of debts, make sure you are looking at the bigger picture, as well as thinking about the individual debts.