Government consumer watchdog said such contact was "improper" and "unfair" and warned it could be a breach of the DPA
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has warned debt collectors not to use social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook to try to contact debtors.
The Government consumer agency said that although it has only been informed of a few instances so far, it is concerned that some debt collectors will make increased use of social networking sites to track down people.
"These companies leave a message on the person's social networking site or Twitter . This identifies to other people the person is being pursued for payments. It is unfair and improper," the OFT said.
"It certainly appears that it could be a breach of Section 55 of the DPA which states that companies have to keep people's personal information safe. The legality of posting details of people's personal debts on social networking sites that makes them public is highly debatable.
"We haven't had any complaints about this but if we did we would investigate," a spokesman for the ICO said.
The OFT has now revised the guidelines for debt collection agencies. "This was last done in 2006 and the consumer communications landscape has changed out of all recognition and social networking sites were not big like they are today," said an OFT representative.
The new guidelines also warn debt collection agencies about hounding people for payment such as contacting debtors at unreasonable times, or at inappropriate locations, for example when they are a patient in hospital.
The OFT also said it would be on the lookout for misuse of continuous payment authority to recover debts, such as making recurring attempts to recover a single repayment. Debt collection agencies must also be sure they are approaching the right person.
David Fisher, the OFT's director of Consumer Credit, said: "This updated guidance makes clear the standards the OFT expects of all businesses involved in debt recovery, including debt collectors, banks and law firms."
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