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In Focus Risk

Taking collections seriously

Professional collectors take an informed approach to their work and will always support struggling customers

Peter Wallwork Chief executive, the Credit Services Association

Ask a politician, journalist, or average person on the street about debt collection and they are bound to have an opinion. Not many, however, would understand the sheer scale and professionalism of the modern-day debt collection agency or debt purchaser, or be able to quote their contribution to the UK economy. To every debt, there is a creditor, and for

an economy to thrive and grow, outstanding debts need to be collected where possible. This is as true in the consumer world, as it is in business. Indeed, it is an irony that we applaud businesses for collecting money owed, but can be not quite so generous in our praise when it comes to consumer debt. Crucially, all our members adhere to a

strict code of practice, recognised by industry regulators, the government, and other relevant bodies.

Complaints With such huge volumes of debt to manage, and so many accounts, it is not surprising that the complaints are raised, and many can be quickly resolved. Agencies today have highly sophisticated customer services teams, and well-established processes for ensuring any complaints are quickly and successfully managed. Occasionally, too, a complaint will reach

the Financial Ombudsman Service, but thankfully this is still the exception. Indeed in many cases, involvement from professional collectors can be the positive catalyst to resolving complaints where debts have often accrued due to a breakdown in the relationship with the creditor. Getting people to talk and communicate

has always been the core business. Collectors try to find a mutually beneficial resolution for a customer where a creditor has failed

42 February 2019

to make that contact in the first place. Managing the repayment of an outstanding balance that could affect a credit rating, and putting money back into the economy is to everyone’s benefit. And if the customer is unable to pay or it transpires they should not have to pay for another reason, finding a solution is key. We know that when small debts are not resolved, they tend to escalate into bigger financial problems over time. However, of all the issues around personal

finances, anything labelled as ‘debt’ is still often considered taboo, even when it is easily resolvable. We are also still seeing circumstances where people are encouraging customers to ignore contact from debt collection agencies in a bid to make the problem ‘go away’. Such guidance usually

comes from unsolicited sources on online forums and unfortunately their advice does not help and can result in things escalating in a way that is of detriment to the customer. Collectors are not afraid of complaints;

genuine issues will always be heard, disputes will be taken seriously and members will do their best to find a resolution. The message is a simple one: if you are in

debt, and are struggling, then speak to the debt collection agency or debt purchaser concerned and invariably they will find a way forward, or direct you to one of the debt-advice bodies to act on your behalf. If you have a genuine complaint, then

similarly speak directly to the agency and, if that agency is one of our members, then you can if you need to, also raise it with us if you feel you do not receive a fair outcome.

Indeed, it is an irony that we applaud businesses for collecting money owed, but can be not quite so generous in our praise when it comes to consumer debt

Conclusion No business can ever be perfect, all of the time. Mistakes will happen and complaints are an everyday part of business life. By understanding our industry better, and the new issues we face, we should between us ensure that the vulnerable are looked after, and those with a genuine complaint have their complaint satisfactorily resolved. CCR

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