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The UK's Top Debt Collection Agencies

Updated on March 3, 2015

Debt collection has become a lucrative industry in the UK. Most of the business flows through the financial markets, particularly in banking. In this instance a banking customer would have fallen behind with repayments on a credit card, loan or on the account itself through an overdraft. Should this account become defaulted this is where an agency will step in. They may act on the behalf of the creditor and receive a success fee on its recovery. The more likely route is that the account will be sold and the agency will become its new owner. They buy at a low price and then proceed to recover the full amount.

Outside of the financial sectors, accounts are commonly managed and sold in various other fields such as telecoms and utilities. All such debts being chased up are unsecured and so there is always greater risk involved. There is a smaller market for commercial debt recovery that involves disputes between businesses. Then there are public sector debts that covers collections for local authorities. The difference here is that bailiffs are primarily involved (they only cater consumer debts after litigation). They have more powers (based on their legal backing) compared to traditional collectors who can't do anything more than the original creditor. Unlike the creditor, they are however more likely to chase through court.

Summary:

~ A creditor's account falls into arrears and becomes defaulted.
~ This account is managed or sold on to a debt collection agency (DCA).
~ If a purchase is made then the DCA will buy low and chase the full amount.
~ Consumer markets are the most popular (financial, telecoms and utilities).
~ Commercial markets are less popular between businesses. Public sector recovery is also less popular.
~ Bailiffs are dedicated to the public sector. They may cover any case type though if the dispute has gone to court.
~ Bailiffs have more powers, whilst a standard collector has no additional power over the original creditor.

Note:

A bailiff has the law on their side that allows them to push the boundaries at the recovery stage. The concern with this is that they only have to hold a basic certificate. No credit licence is required and so their actions and protocols are not closely monitored. Many leading debt charities have voiced their concerns on this topic at the same time calling for industry changes in recent years.

Benefits and Limitations of Dealing with DCAs:

The main benefits are that these firms are highly specialised in the recovery process. They are in this instance more easy to communicate with and they are importantly more willing to accept payment plans in installments. Secure payment websites are commonly provided and alternative options to pay are typically available such as by bank transfer or Direct Debit. Once you have cleared any arrears you should get the default marked as "Settled".

The main limitations are that some collectors have a bad reputation for aggressive recovery tactics. This may include threats of doorstep visits or court action that can bring stress on to the debtor. They may also be constantly sending letters or phone calls until they are paid or a payment plan has been arranged. Some people may also feel uncomfortable with paying a company that they had no direct connection with. They simply purchased the account for a very low cost and are looking for the full amount.

Free Debt Management Plans:

If you don't wish to contact and negotiate with collectors then you can instead join a free debt management plan with Payplan or StepChange. There is no cost involved with either of these whilst paid plans generally come with excessive monthly fees. Both Payplan and StepChange have always received very positive feedback and once they are on your side they can quickly put an end to the abusive calls and letters. These companies are funded by leading financial institutions that is how they manage to operate at no cost to you.

Who Are the UK's Top Debt Collection Agencies?

The leading DCAs are most commonly aligned to the financial markets where the highest level of account volume is available. The more well known agencies purchase the account, rather than simply managing it. There is more potential profit in the sale that is why they prefer to take complete ownership. In order for us to get a good understanding of which agencies are the most popular it makes sense to compare data sources and so we did just this. The first study was made on DebtLine who are one of the UK's leading debt management specialists. They share the tally of debts associated between their customers and collectors.

We used this info to showcase the top rankings. At the same time we marked a variation score based on the volume of accounts (the highest score was 26). For the second data source, we researched search engine popularity through Google (who control 90% of all UK searches). The tool provided by Google shows how many searches are conducted for any such keyword each month. We took the data for the company search and also for any related keywords. This allowed us to gather up information and then compose another set of rankings that gave us further data to study.

DebtLine Rankings (Collectors):

1) Moorcroft Debt Recovery
2) Lowell Financial
3) Blair, Oliver and Scott
4) Wescot Credit Services
5) C K Edrupt and Co

Search Popularity (Collectors):

1) Moorcroft Debt Recovery (26)
2) Fredrickson International (22)
3) Lowell Financial (21)
4) BCW Group (17)
5) Wescot Credit Services (12.5)

Search Popularity (Bailiffs):

1) Bristow and Sutor (17.5)
2) Marston Group (9.5)
3) Rossendales (8.5)
4) Equita (8)
5) Chandlers (7)

Results:

The search popularity for bailiffs have also been added above. It is the other main rankings that we are most interested in. As shown, Moorcroft ranked in the top spot in both instances. The Lowell Group is also notable since as well as Lowell Financial they also own Fredrickson International and SRJ Debt Recoveries who they acquired through the purchase of the Interlaken Group. Collectively, this qualifies them as the top organisation although Moorcroft is the top single entity. Wescot has itself also been a key industry player over the years. One of the trends spotted was that all of the biggest agencies are commonly associated with the sale of banking debts (as expected).

With the bailiff rankings, Bristow and Sutor ranked at the top. The Marston Group is the main force though since their Holdings Group owns Rossendales and various other public sector firms. We could only go off the search popularity in this area since in the DebtLine rankings most firms ranked in low positions and some weren't even included. Many were simply drowned out in account volume by specialists on the consumer side. As a final note on the results obtained, we have only studied two sources of data and so this information is by no means comprehensive. There were certainly trends spotted though that was more so the case across the top results.

Have You Encountered a Bad Experience with a DCA?

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