Words are powerful.
What we say and how we say it, can have a dramatic impact on the reader, whatever the format of the text.
When the text in question is a debt collection letter, and the recipient is a vulnerable debtor, the impact of ‘words on a page’ can be monumental.
It is for this reason that The Treasury has confirmed that, from as early as December 2020, Debt Collection letters will include ‘less threatening’ language and ‘less complicated’ terms, written out in plain English.
For nearly 40 years the terminology and formatting of these letters has remained relatively unquestioned and unchanged, with capitalised sections included to strike greater fear into the heart of the reader.
But these are debt collection letters?
Surely, they’re supposed to be something to raise alarm, otherwise how and when will the debt get paid?
OK, whilst some people might see this another win for the so called ‘snowflake society’, we take a different view...
Mental health is rightly at the forefront of the national conversation these days, and it is widely accepted that receiving a confusing and potentially intimidating debt collection letter could have an adverse effect on an individual who may already be struggling.
If simplifying and making the letters less ‘scary’ saves just one person from spiralling into a mental health crisis, then surely it is still worth it.
We certainly think so, as over 100,000 people attempt suicide each year due to debt worries, and there are well respected voices who say that this measure could actually save thousands upon thousands of lives.
Words really are powerful, hey?
So powerful that they have to be chosen and used ever so carefully...
From December of this year, firms will have six months to ensure that their letters comply with the following rules:
- Default notices will now use more accessible and less threatening language.
- Creditors will be able to replace legal terms with more widely understood terms.
- Letters will no longer contain capitalised text, and instead use bold or underlined text.
- Letters will signpost to sources of free debt advice.
This last one is vital, and something that we at #TeamCES are big believers in.
If you know where someone can get help, and believe that they need pointing in that direction, don’t wait for someone else to do it, help them out.
The power of the written word is huge. Let’s use it wisely.