Home News The ins & outs of debt collection in Singapore

The ins & outs of debt collection in Singapore

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“Debt collectors should be required by law to abide by a code of conduct to carry out their debt collection in a non-oppressive and non-intrusive manner.” — Seah Seng Choon, case's former executive director, Consumer Association of Singapore

Ms Lyn, who works with the collection agency Fast Debt Recovery Specialist Pte, and Mr Paul Ho, a data protection officer with Articulate Pte Ltd, spoke to TISG about the ins and outs of debt collection.

“It is very important that in the act of debt collection, the agency must abide by the rules of not harassing the debtor,” Mr Ho said. And when it comes to debtors’ rights, Ms Lyn pointed out that they should be treated fairly and not be bullied by collectors’ “unlawful behaviours.”

https://youtu.be/Ps2o9MFmQgI

Last year, stories abounded of fake Foodpanda orders that were placed just to harass debtors. Another story went viral of a woman turning her hose on the collectors who showed up at her gate.

No doubt about it, debt collection can be a tricky business in Singapore, and there have been times when debt collectors harassed or been harassed by debtors.

But debt collection is a time-honoured—and legal—profession, and despite some collectors resorting to unusual means, there are others who are simply doing their jobs.

Ms Lyn said that they believe in safeguarding their clients’ interests at all times in abiding by the laws.

Mr Ho also made an important point about privacy, saying that the debtor’s privacy must not be infringed upon, and neither should they be discriminated against.

Debtors, he added, have the right to clarify the amount of their debt, and if they ask a question about this, they must be given an answer.

And while there is technically no license within the industry, said Ms Lyn, collectors must work within legal boundaries.

When asked how far a collector can go, Mr Ho said that there is “nothing wrong” with shouting, but it should not cause the debtor to feel fear or intimidated.

He added that debt collection agencies must be mindful of  “touching, pulling or holding” the debtors, as this could prove to be “tricky.” They should also be careful when stepping into offices without permission, as this could be construed as trespassing.

As for the police, they would only be present, if ever, to ensure that there is peace throughout the debt collection activities. They cannot help either debtors or debt collectors, said Ms Lyn.

When asked what type of debt collection agencies people should choose, Ms Lyn said this depends on the client, who has the final say in the matter.

However, they should carefully review their contracts to determine liability for the consequences of the actions should they choose an aggressive debt collector, she cautioned.

More aggressive debt collection agencies might accidentally contravene certain laws such as invasion of privacy that would cause trouble for themselves or their clients, added Mr Ho.

Mr Ho admitted there are a number of “black sheep” in the industry who unfortunately give it a bad name, which is why he looks forward to legislation.

He did not, however, explain what type of laws he wants to see.

In 2015, the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) called for laws to be crafted that would define how debts can be collected, as well as for licenses to be granted to those in the industry.

“Debt collectors should be required by law to abide by a code of conduct to carry out their debt collection in a non-oppressive and non-intrusive manner,” then – case executive director Seah Seng Choon said.

And when this law is introduced, Mr Ho said he hopes, “the government will be lenient and allow the proper debt collection agencies to conduct their business in a normal and efficient manner.

There are over 150 licensed moneylending businesses in Singapore certified by the Registry of Moneylenders under the Ministry of Law. How many unlicensed moneylenders there are is unknown. Word to the wise: check out MinLaw’s database if you’re uncertain about a moneylending firm.

And of course, licensed firms work with reputable collection agencies to collect money owed. /TISG

Woman hoses down debt collectors, leaving one man drenched, “So fierce spray water dun need pay…”

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