Saturday 24 March 2018

Legal group seeks curb on 'cowboy debt collectors'

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

DEBT collectors must be regulated urgently in order to stamp out "cowboy operators" in the sector, a legal-support service warned yesterday.

Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) boss Noeline Blackwell said the Government must introduce a legally enforceable code of conduct.

She said FLAC offices were dealing with a rising number of complaints from people who said they were being harassed.

The sector has experienced huge growth in the recession. Anyone can become a debt collector and there are no rules as to how they should operate. Known criminals have set up as debt collectors.

Ms Blackwell said it was time to "get rid of the cowboys". This would deal with growing issues, such as how often collectors should call or visit debtors.

She said FLAC had represented a woman who suffered continuous harassment from debt collectors, who rang her constantly and called to her home.

They also turned up at her house when she was not there and asked neighbours about her, prompting suspicions that something was amiss.

The Irish Institute of Credit Management, which represents many collectors, companies and state agencies that are recouping debts, said it had developed its own code of conduct and that it agreed with the Law Reform Commission on the need for regulation.

A Department of Finance spokesman said it recognised the problem but was awaiting the final report from the Law Reform Commission before introducing new rules.

Irish Independent

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