Prescription Begins Running on Default

In light of the decision of the Court of Appeal in the  English case of Doyle v PRA Group UK Limited (2019 EWCA Civ 12), I am grateful for Paul Tilley of Wannops LLP for sharing a decision of the Scottish Sheriff Appeals court that was decided in October 2018, and has not previously been published on the Scottish Courts Website.

The decision, PRA Group Ltd v MacPherson, considered the same point considered in Doyle, advanced by the PRA Group in the Court of Appeal, and that is when does prescription begins running in a consumer credit agreement?

The decision by Sheriff Principal Turnbull found it began running, not on breach of the agreement, but when a default notice was served.

MacPherson, it is understood, was relied upon by the PRA Group in the Doyle case.

Readers Questions

  1. Derek


    I have an old overdraft debt that I discovered on a credit search, which I believe should be statute barred.

    I haven’t paid any money into the account that the overdraft was on since January 2013 and havent written to the bank in respect of this during the period from then until now.

    I know the relevant date can be somewhat blurred in respect of an overdraft debt, however the credit report shows the account “resetting” a couple of times and the default date on the CR shows July 15, which means that it wouldn’t be statute barred which is a blow to me trying to eventually get on my feet.

    The Equifax report shows: (Jan-Dec)

    61-72 mths 000 012 345 666
    49-60 mths 666 666 660 012
    37-48 mths 340 123 888 888

    Which shows the debt as being more than 6 months old, then going to 0 and 1 month overdue etc to 4 months overdue, then 0 again before starting 1,2,3 months overdue before default in July 2015, which is over 2 years after I last paid any money paid into the account.

    Is this right? Why would it” reset” on these couple of occassions?


    1. Scottish Adviser

      Hi Derek

      I think rather than focusing on the dates the accounts reset, the important date to focus on is the date that prescription began running on.

      That date is the date the bank called in the overdraft and then sent a default notice. This appears to be in July 2015, so that is the date that prescription began running. There is recent case law on this after the Scottish Sheriff Appeals Court considered the matter in PRA Group Ltd v MacPherson.

      A similar conclusion was arrived at by The Court of Appeal in England in a similar case there.

      I would argue the debt wouldn’t prescribe until July 2020 at the earliest.

      The only explanation I can imagine for the debt resetting, is overdrafts are regularly reviewed and either reduced, called in or renewed. The resetting of them appears to be them being renewed to me.

  2. Scottish Adviser

    Hi Evelyn

    Unfortunately not. The decision of a Court in a case like this, is a statement of what the law is and has always been since the relevant law commenced, not just from the date of the decision.

    The decision could be over-turned, but it would need to be by the Inner House of the Court of Session (as a superior court).

    The decision, however, wouldn’t affect cases that had previously been dealt with and decided by the Courts.

  3. Evelyn

    Would I be correct in thinking that a debt claimed as statute barred before the decision of the case above would not be affected by that precedent?

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