Fianna Fáil has published a Bill to regulate debt collectors and stamp out criminal practices in the sector.
The proposals, introduced by the party’s Justice Spokesperson Niall Collins, include the establishment of an open register of debt collectors, a code of conduct for all operators and a ban on people with violent criminal convictions.
Deputy Collins explained, “The number of debt collectors in operation in Ireland has exploded since the recession. There has been a surge in ordinary people turning to debt collectors out of desperation, as they see no alternative way of getting the money they need to pay their bills and feed their families.
“Despite the fact that debt collection appears to be a booming business here now, there is still no regulation of the sector. This means that as well as legitimate businesses, there are unscrupulous operators who use intimidation, threats and sometimes violence against people in financial trouble. It has even become a profitable business for criminal gangs.
“It is clear that ordinary debtors need to be offered some legal protection. They need to be assured that debt collection agencies operate according to a strict code of conduct and cannot employ heavy handed practices to intimidate debtors. The Fianna Fáil Bill will ensure that only legitimate debt collection agencies are allowed to operate in the State, with thorough background checks on those employed by these agencies. Under our Bill, people convicted of violent crimes or intimidation would not be allowed to become debt collectors.
“Our Bill establishes an open Register of Debt Collection Agencies, a code of conduct for the practices of debt collectors and a range of limits on debt collection activity, making an offence to use inappropriate methods of collecting money from people. We include heavy penalties such as fines and removal from the register for individuals who break the provisions of the Bill, giving this proposed legislation real teeth.
“The Debt Collectors Bill 2013 has been moved in the Dáil and I am seeking to debate it at the next opportunity.”