When a solicitor served court summons on a debtor through Facebook in 2011, the legal fraternity and general public in the UK did take notice of it. It was the first ever incident in the country when social media was used to serve legal summons. It showed the social network can be used to force one to pay the debt or face the court.
Before the solicitor took to social media, she had exhausted all conventional means of contacting the debtor in question. She then applied to use the social networking site in East Sussex for permission to use the Facebook to serve the summons, showing up the evidence that the defendant frequently visited the social media website.
It is great to find that the courts are willing to embrace new technology. Creditors often face great trouble serving the summons to the debtors as they may not know their exact whereabouts.
Creditors or the debt collection agencies may deploy several means to locate the debtors. These include social media, credit card applications, self-supplied information such as phone numbers, voter registration forms, department of motor vehicles and change-of-address forms, etc. They may also employ tracers whose job is to locate a person’s whereabouts.
If a debtor is successfully traced, a court action can be raised and the summon or the other relevant papers served upon them.
However, not all traces will produce positive outcome and some debtors would manage to disappear successfully. Nevertheless, you have to raise a court action in any case in an attempt to recover the debt.
In such scenario, the law allows newspaper advertisement or walls of court service, but only when a Sheriff has authorised these means.
Service by newspaper advertisement: An advert is placed in a newspaper circulating in the area of the debtor’s last known address.
Walls of court service: The court papers are placed upon notice boards within the court for a period of time.
These means can be used by the creditors or the debt collection agency in the UK they have hired.