The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has called on the debt collection and debt buying industry to help crackdown on unscrupulous practices.
Addressing the launch of the Australian Collectors and Debt Buyers' Association (ACDBA) in Melbourne, ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, launched an issues paper jointly produced by the ACCC and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, Debt collection practices in Australia.
The paper is a summary of the major issues identified during information gathering activities undertaken by ASIC and the ACCC in 2008, reflecting feedback provided by a range of stakeholders including consumers.
Mr Samuel welcomed the creation of the new debt collection peak body, which provided a unique opportunity to improve relations with consumers and their advocates about industry conduct.
Mr Samuel said the ACCC recognised that the number of complaints about debt collection was statistically low given the level of activity in the sector, however further investigation was warranted due to a combination of:
- the nature of debt collection complaints received
- the impact of misconduct on consumers, particularly the disadvantaged
- the reluctance on the part of some consumers to complain, and
- the lack of awareness by some consumers of their rights or ability to complain.
"The ACCC and ASIC take allegations of this nature seriously and are currently investigating a number of consumer complaints. Both agencies will closely scrutinise all complaints and take enforcement action where necessary. Concerns about the potential for poor debt collection activities and poor compliance are heightened with pressures stemming from the global financial crisis."
Mr Samuel said that to promote confidence in the industry it was vital consumers were protected from unscrupulous and illegal behaviour.
Mr Samuel urged the industry to take note of consumer feedback and apply pressure on those operators whose misconduct damages the reputation of all industry participants. The ACCC welcomes the development and implementation of the code of conduct proposed for ACDBA members.
A copy of the speech will be available on the ACCC website. The issues paper will also be available from the ACCC website at www.accc.gov.au/debtcollection.
Feedback on the paper can be forwarded electronically via firstname.lastname@example.org or posted to - Debt Collection Feedback, Compliance Strategies Branch, ACCC, GPO Box 520, Melbourne VIC 3001.
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