Code of conduct mooted for debt collectors

Code of conduct mooted for debt collectors

A government advisory committee for moneylending is looking at the conduct of debt collectors engaged by moneylenders.

The committee, initiated by the Law Ministry last June, is expected to address this issue in its final report, to be released by the end of next month, Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah said in Parliament yesterday.

The 15-member panel had in November last year issued draft recommendations such as capping interest rates and limiting how much a person can borrow.

Ms Indranee was responding to a question by Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) on whether debt collectors should abide by a code of conduct.

Ms Foo had asked if the Government would consider instituting laws that govern fair debt collection practices such as those implemented in Malaysia, Thailand and the United States. She also asked if laws could prohibit debt collectors from using certain tactics such as faxing letters of demand to workplaces.

Ms Foo's questions come amid a spate of recent cases in which debt collection agencies employed undesirable tactics to reclaim debts.

In a case last month, debt collectors allegedly caused a scene at a Funan Mall foodcourt for two days in a row while trying to collect a sum of $21,000 owed by a stall owner.

They pushed the stall's cash register, rice cooker and bowls onto the floor, and the police had to be called in.

Ms Indranee said that even before possible recommendations are released, individuals already do have a means of recourse if they feel intimidated or threatened by debt collectors.

"For example, the Penal Code makes it an offence if hurt or threatening behaviour is involved.

"In addition, the new Protection from Harassment Act provides civil and criminal remedies against unreasonable harassing behaviour," she said.

She also said the Registry of Moneylenders conducts checks to ensure that individuals who have previously engaged in criminal conduct are not allowed to assist in any aspect of the moneylending business, including the collection of debts.

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

Ms Indranee added that the ministry would wait for the advisory committee's report before considering taking any steps about this issue.

This article was first published on February 13, 2015.
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