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Thursday, 12 May 2011

MBNA Credit Card Debt Collection Calls: Torture or Just a Blooming Nuisance?

Hard on the heels of my last blog posting about the proliferation of intrusive nuisance calls from Claims Handling companies currently riding the wave of the PPI Mis-Selling scandal, I was intrigued to stumble upon this story.

A Devon businessman, Keith Harrison, recently had over £20,000 of credit card debt written off in the British High Court, after suffering months of aggressive telephone calls and letters, initially from MBNA and subsequently from a debt collection agency.  Link Financial bought Mr Harrison’s debt off MBNA in 2008, and proceeded to pursue it by bombarding his home phone number with calls.

 The judge commented that this was tantamount to torture, due to the frequency and hostility of the calls. Mr Harrison received a total of over 700 calls, and on one occasion received 15 of them on a single day.  That would certainly be very annoying, I would agree.

His business ran into financial trouble in 2007, almost 10 years after he took out his MBNA card. Apparently he was distracted by family problems, when his mother, wife and daughter all fell seriously ill within the space of a few months.  He took his eye off the ball, neglected to invoice some customers, started to run out of cash and incurred credit card debts he was unable to repay.

But doesn’t everyone suffer from ill-health and family problems at one time or another? All the more reason to make sure that bills are paid and the family’s financial needs are taken care of, I would have thought. Yes, the health and well-being of wives, husbands, children and parents must come first, of course. But in times of family stress and hardship, we, as responsible adults, must ensure that our business, household and financial obligations are not neglected. 

The judge was critical of the bullying behaviour of Link Financial and MBNA, but ultimately ruled in favour of Mr Harrison on purely technical grounds.

Contrary to the requirements of the Consumer Credit Regulations of 1983, MBNA failed to supply him the terms and conditions of the card.  The bank denies this, but was unable to prove the paperwork had been issued at the time the card was taken out.

The judge said:
"I find that neither with the application pack nor with the card was the claimant sent the MBNA terms and conditions…It is perfectly clear that the legislature regards it as desirable that such documents should be provided”.                                                                                                      

Card issuers beware.  Make sure you not only comply with legal requirements, but keep the paperwork to prove it.

I do have some sympathy with Mr Harrison. Debt collection agencies are notoriously persistent in pursuing creditors.  It is undeniably upsetting to be on the receiving end of constant , unremitting and aggressive calls from uncaring hard-nosed call-centre staff. I know; I have been there myself.  Not that I am a debtor, I hasten to add.  It happened to me when my mortgage provider, who shall be nameless, made a mistake and accused me of owing them the princely sum of £102.

 There followed six months of aggressive letters and persistent phone calls from a series of call-centre staff.  Some of them were unpleasant and aggressive; most of them were quite sympathetic and helpful; just trying to do their job and earn a living.

I had to explain the situation umpteen times before it was eventually resolved. Stressful, yes.  Annoying, yes.  But torture?  Try telling that to someone who has had their fingernails pulled out. It was just an annoying feature of modern-day life.  We deal with it, and then move on.


  1. The High Court described this as torture. I did not. I simply pointed out we had a Terminally ill patient in the home, and had asked MBNA not to call for that valid reason. That person has now died, and their final days were spoilt.

    My business was not in trouble, and I did not run up debts irresponsibly. On the contrary, the MBNA 34.95% interest rates did that all by itself when I disputed their behaviour, excessive unlawful Charges and ramped interest rates, not to mention their failures to comply with The Consumer Credit Act 1974 on many key and mandatory issues.

    Written communications with MBNA and then LINK Financial were never broken, there was simply absolutely no need for the 1,500+ "machine gun" telephone calls.

    Please do check the facts before making such comments.

    Keith Harrison

  2. Sorry Keith, I shouldn't have attributed the 'torture' comment to you.

    My posting does go on to say that MBNA failed to comply with the Consumer Credit Act.

    It also makes the point that being subjected to a barrage of calls from debt collection agencies is an extremely stressful and annoyiing experience, especially when they are unjustified.

    Apologies for any offence and condolences for your loss.

  3. I have now edited this posting to correct the error pointed out by Mr Harrison.

  4. Hello Charlotte!

    Many thanks.

    One issue that has not come out, is the fact I had paid MBNA back far more than I had ever spent.

    There was a net flow of cash to MBNA over the 10 years of over £4,500.

    The real legal argument was about the way they had manipulated limits, interest rates and charges, such that the end result was effectively all interest and charges...which the High Court prevented LINK from gaining any benefit from.

    They nearly got away with it too, but made the mistake of engaging in obscene levels of Harassment thinking few would challenge them.

    The real evil is the Securitisation games that MBNA plays behind the scenes, i.e. they issue a Card with a large balance, immediately Securitise it, agree a set rate with the Bond Holders where they get to keep a percentage of the interest, but it is an agreement where they get to keep anything above that.

    You may spot where that then heads.

    Thereafter they push things to ramp up their cut, irrespective of how well the Borrower manages the Account. Eventually something gives, as it will in the end via a strategy of limit rises, rate ramps and the inevitable unlawful charges, and they then exploit the situation.

    They ramped my rates to 24% in 2004 and I was so busy I failed to notice, mainly because the rate was stated as a Monthly rate, so I missed the small looking jump.

    Hit a snag, as can happen to anyone, and it becomes a self-licking lollipop. I was caught with the balance near the limit, when at other times I had paid it off in full.

    The final stages of the game run out with the interest rates set at 34.95% to "help you" when in reality this just balloons up the final figure, before the inevitable Tax Write Off and Debt Sale.

    It's almost automated, and divorced from the true spending. It's also divorced from the Act's obligations.

    The full story is deeper and darker than the limited details published so far.

    Sadly, this behaviour is not isolated to MBNA.

    I took a huge gamble to stand up to this, flip side would have been financial ruin if I had lost. It was a matter of principle.

    Keith Harrison

  5. Its great post with detail info...!!!! Plastic cards

  6. I am being called by MBNA up to 20 times per day, they even call my mobile - As I have only ever given this number out to a few close friends and relatives I have no idea how they acquired the number. The thing is - I have NEVER had any MBNA products, credit cards, loans, nothing. And I don't owe any money. I have pointed this out to the (Asian) callers, I have emailed MBNA, I have contacted Trading standards and the CAB, all to no avail, the calls keep on coming. I have bought a caller display phone which does help. But as they call from so many different numbers (I have a record of 12 different ones they have called from) it has got to the stage where I am no longer answering my phone at all. This is awful, and should surely be illegal harassment.

    1. Commiserations, that sounds awful. There does seem to be an unwelcome proliferation of cold calling from Asian call centres lately. They usually manage to ring me when I am in the bath, or in the middle of cooking a complicated meal. Most annoying. It does make me laugh though, when they claim to be called David, and say they are calling from the UK!

  7. Glad I escaped all this, got my credit card paid off and them cancelled my card not long ago. My advice is Pay your card off ASAP cancel it and go with someone else. MBNA are unscrupulous!