SINGAPORE - Six debt collectors caused a ruckus at the Food Junction foodcourt at Funan DigitaLife Mall during lunchtime last Thursday while demanding payment from a stallholder.
When the debt collectors from Double Ace Associates were done, the floor of the Chinese soup stall was littered with empty bowls, styrofoam boxes, a rice cooker and a cash register.
A plastic spoon and a plastic container with condiments were thrown into a pot of soup.
The men, who were wearing dark blue polo shirts with the words "Debt Recovery Unit" on the back, targeted the stall at 1.20pm, said a witness.
"They walked into the stall and helped themselves to bowls of soup," a patron at the foodcourt, who gave his name only as Mr Cai, told Lianhe Wanbao.
When the 24-year-old salesman tried to buy soup, the men told him that the stall was not operating.
He also saw them push the cash register, rice cooker and bowls onto the floor, and throw things into the pot of soup.
Mr Cai then left the food court, but when he returned at lunchtime the next day, the debt collectors were there again, this time with a banner that read "Attention. Debt Collection in Process."
Police officers and members of the mall management were also present.
Stallholders told The New Paper they noticed a commotion at the stall last Thursday.
One of them, who declined to be named, said: "It was during the busy lunch hour, so we had to attend to customers. The debt collectors were talking in raised voices and gesturing aggressively."
Mr Frankie Tan, the owner of Double Ace Associates, was at the scene on Friday to negotiate with the stall owner.
When interviewed by TNP, Mr Tan claimed the mess in the stall was not created by his employees.
He also maintained that they only added condiments to the soup pot.
Mr Tan said: "Our main aim was to stop his business from operating, but we did not destroy any property in the stall."
In order to embarrass debtors, debt collectors often use tactics such as shouting or putting up attention-grabbing banners, he said.
He added: "Clients engage us because their debtors are not cooperative, so such confrontations are necessary."
The 53-year-old stall owner, who gave his name only as Mr Zhang, told Lianhe Wanbao that he owed a supplier $21,000, but never expected the supplier to hire a debt collector to chase the debt.
Mr Tan said the case has been settled. TNP was unable to reach Mr Zhang to confirm this.
The police confirmed they received a call requesting for assistance at around 1.20pm last Thursday.
The case has been classified as a case of mischief. Police investigations are ongoing.
No specific law on debt-collector harassment
There is no specific law regulating debt collectors, but their actions are bound by general criminal law, a Registry of Moneylenders spokesman said.
This includes the Protection from Harassment Act that was passed in Parliament in March last year.
Under the Act, any threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour is considered harassment.
If found guilty, one can be fined up to $5,000 and jailed up to six months.
The Registry of Moneylenders spokesman said: "Borrowers who feel harassed by licensed moneylenders or their debt collectors should report the matter to the police or the Registry of Moneylenders.
This article was first published on January 22, 2015.
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