News

'We can't be too soft'

Debt collector:

Embarrassing debtors with raised voices in front of their neighbours or colleagues usually gets the job done, debt collectors said.

Ms Yvonne Ho, 23, the manager at Singapore Debt Collection Service, said: "Of course we have to be unreasonable, so they know they can't cheat us. Only then will they panic.

"We can't be too soft on them."

To the debtors, the way debt collectors operate may seem out of line, but it is all a matter of perspective, said Mr Andra Chew, a business relations manager from Double Ace Associates.

"From the debt collector's point of view, it's embarrassment. But if you're the debtor, of course you will feel it's harassment," he said.

"For stubborn debtors or those who behave like a 'hooligan', raised voices are a must when dealing with them. We have to be louder to override the conversation."

LAW

There is no specific law regulating debt collectors, but their actions are bound by general criminal law, said a Registry of Moneylenders spokesman.

This includes the new Protection from Harassment Act (Poha) passed in Parliament in March. It will come into effect later in the year.

Under the act, any threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour is considered harassment. If found guilty, one can be fined not more than $5,000 and jailed not more than six months.

The spokesman added: "The Registry of Moneylenders ensures that persons who have been engaged in criminal conduct previously are not allowed to assist in any aspect of a moneylending business, including the collection of debts."

For now, debt collectors will only be liable to the Miscellaneous Offences Act, said criminal lawyer Gloria James, and that the Poha will be able to take debt collectors to task.

"Their actions are viewed as anti-social, plus it crosses the line. As such actions cause alarm or distress to the victim, he can even apply for a protection order," she added.

Borrowers who feel harassed by licensed moneylenders or their debt collectors should report the matter to the police or the Registry of Moneylenders, its spokesman said.

"Moneylenders found to have committed offences may have their licences suspended, not renewed or revoked by the registry," he added.