“Dishonest,” “unfair” debt collection practice angers consumer authority

. ()

The Authority for Consumers and Market is taking debt collection agencies to task for their "dishonest" and "unfair" practices. According to the ACM, collection agencies regularly victimize consumers by confronting them with dishonest claims, with unwarranted costs and unclear accounts and by putting them under unacceptable pressure to pay.

"We see that the problems arise widely in the industry", said ACM board member Anita Vegter. "ACM and AFM (the Authority for the Financial Markets, ed) will join forces to tackle the problem effectively."

ACM launched an investigation into the collection agencies after receiving a number complaints from consumers through reporting center ConsuWijzer. The investigation revealed three main problem areas.

Many of the complaints received involved companies using unfair trade practices trying to cash in their collection. This usually involves follow up deliveries that the consumer has not agreed to, followed by a false claim and a collection process that makes the consumer feel under pressure to pay the bill.

ACM also found that collection agencies charge too high collection fees and other unfair charges. They also often give little insight into the breakdown of the costs, making it difficult or impossible for consumers to audit the accounts.

Lastly many collections agencies puts undue amounts of pressure on customers to pay. ACM found unacceptable pressure, for example threatening with powers they do not have, in 8 percent of the letters they examined. This includes threats of seizure of the consumer's bank account or forced sale of furniture.