What happens when Debt Recovery goes to far?
There is many cases in Singapore of debt collection agencies harassing and abusing debtors. One such example was when a debt collector and five other accomplices to a food stall in Funan DigitaLife Mall. They proceeded to damage the stall and disrupt its business while attempting to collect the debt. On 16 November 2017, they were sentenced to four years and two months in jail. The debt collector was convicted of several offences, including unlawful assembly to commit harassment and mischief with common intention.
Other Debt Collectors in the News
Earlier, in September, a district judge had also jailed two legal debt collectors whose “aggressive behavior and insulting words in a residential area in the late hours, of the evening” would have caused public disquiet when they harassed a victim at a Chancery Lane House over an alleged debt of $7.48 million.
Debt Recovery Laws in Singapore
When an average Singaporean thinks about debt collectors, we naturally think about loan sharks and how they splatter red paint on doors or write “O$P$” on HDB corridor walls. While professional debt recovery agencies refrain from using such methods, there are some aggressive debt recovery agencies who use some techniques that may amount to harassment. At I.R.B. Law LLP we believe that everyone should know the limits of these debt recovery agencies so that you can stand firmly on your legal rights and not be simply bullied.
Code of Conduct for Debt Collectors in Singapore
The legal debt collection agencies in Singapore are expected to follow the industry’s Code of Conduct which was set up by the Credit Collection Association of Singapore (CCAS). The CCAS assists the debt collection agencies and the debtors by attempting to resolve their disputes, but it is important to note that the CCAS does not have the power to enforce the code of conduct.
What Can’t the Debt Collection Agencies Do?
The are no specific laws regulating debt collection agencies in Singapore. However, it is important to remember that the debt collectors are subjected to the same laws as everyone, and they are not above the law.
Examples of things a Debt Recovery Agency may do that breaks the law
In Singapore if five (5) or more people who have the common intention or objective with any of the criminal conducts listed under section 141 of the Penal code were to assemble they would be considered as part of an “unlawful assembly”, and they would be punishable under section 143 of the penal code.
Intimidation and violence
The finer details are found within the Protection from Harassment Act. Primarily in the Act, it is against the law to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior with the aim of causing alarm to someone or causing that person to believe that immediate unlawful violence will be used against that person.
If the debt collector unlawfully stalks the debtor and causes the debtor to be harassed, alarmed or distressed in the process and if the debt collector did so knowing that such an effect would have been caused he may be guilty of an offence.
Threatening Physical violence
The Debt Collectors are not allowed to threaten the debtors with any violence for the repayment of the debt.
If the Debt Collector sprays paint on your walls, throws paint or even sticks any posters or stickers on your property, they would be guilty of vandalism.
If the Debt Collector were to persistently disturb, torment, trouble or persecute you, they might be guilty of harassment.
Damaging or Taking possession of your belongings
Many debt collectors will try to make you believe they can tow your car away or seize your property if you don’t pay up. However, to do so, they would need a Writ of Seizure and Sale from the Singapore Courts to seize your property.
Impersonating Government Bodies
It’s illegal for debt collectors to pretend to be government agents, such as the IRAS or the Police. They are also not allowed to put up fake sites that mimic existing government agencies or to use fake government letterheads in their letters to recover the debts.
What Can I Do To Deal With Debt Collectors?
You should not let yourself be intimidated by debt collectors. If they overstep their limits and do anything that’s against the law, you should not hesitate to call the police. You can file a Protection Order if there is sufficient proof that they are harassing you. It is important to know that the debt collector has no more rights than any other private citizen to whom you owe money. You can also engage the assistance of an experienced lawyer. Your lawyer may be able to negotiate an instalment plan, or in cases where the bank is a creditor, help you to lower your interest rate. Hence, it is possible to come up with a manageable way to clear your debts.
In the future, if the need arises to borrow money, you should try getting a personal loan from reputable organisations, such as banks or financial institutions. You should avoid borrowing from licensed money lenders or loan sharks; they charge incredibly high-interest rate, and they are prone to engaging debt recovery agencies.
How We Can Help
At I.R.B. Law LLP we are well-versed in the area of debt recovery. Our experienced lawyers will always give you our honest advice and guide you through your situation as best as possible. We understand that being pursued for a debt is a stressful and emotional process. Contact us at [email protected] or call us at 6589 8913 to set up an appointment should you require our services.